what the fundamentalist believes
January 7, 2015, 9:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , ,
Mitra Tabrizian | Iran/England | City, London 2008

Mitra Tabrizian

The most dangerous fundamentalism today is banking. Nevertheless, there are other fundamentalisms that harm us, as there always will be: religious, political, racial etc. Salman Rushdie has a beef with the religious variety; he wrote a book which caused a fatwa and sent him underground for at least a decade. He wrote the sentences below.

Fundamentalism comes from fear and increases it. The fundamentalists I have known are fearful; some see the world – and themselves – as hopelessly sinful, and act out of this corrupted, helpless milieu. They learn codas and truths – which are perfectly useful for moderate lives – but eventually make them too inflexible, too hard, to be useful for real life with real living people. The effects of fundamentalists in our communities are legion. They’re not just killing with bullets. The net effect is reduction of freedom and joy. We can all testify no doubt – to a different degree than Mr. Rushdie – to this loss.

The solution is to allow joy to reenter our lives; joy will stamp out fear; joy is our normal state of being which has been usurped by fear. Rushdie makes a short list to start us off below; it’s expandable of course: don’t believe what they tell you, love the world, act out, dance, say what you think, wear what you like, demand justice, indulge, flirt.

Here is Rushdie:

The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love. These will be our weapons. Not by making war but by the unafraid way we choose to live shall we defeat them. How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.

Salman Rushdie

certainly beyond love
June 3, 2012, 6:18 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Mike Wallace asked Ayn Rand – the enfant terrible, agent provocateur, crack pot in chief of American economic and political life – about love.  She had a dispensational view:  love is reserved for the few who love themselves.

Rand embodied fundamentalism in extremis.  It haunted her entire life:  she was born into communism and ended her life in Manhattan preaching a new form of fundamentalist capitalism based on greed.  Is it any wonder her views on love were so lonely and alienating and final?

Here is a sad excerpt from Wallace’s interview from 1959:

Wallace: “Christ, and every other important moral leader in man’s history, has taught us that we should love one another. Why then is this kind of love, in your mind, immoral?”

Rand: “It is immoral if it is placed above one’s own self.”

Wallace: “And then if a man is weak or a woman is weak then she or he is beyond love?”

Rand: “He certainly does not deserve — he certainly is beyond.”

Wallace: “There are very few of us that would, by our standards… that are worthy of love — is that your view?”

Rand: “Unfortunately yes — very few.”

Wallace: “You are out to destroy almost every edifice in contemporary American life — our Judeo-Christian religion, our modified government-regulated capitalism, rule by the majority will. Other reviewers say that you scorn churches and the concept of God — are they accurate criticisms?”

Rand: “yes.”

1959 interview of Rand by CBS’s Mike Wallace

the degradation of intelligence
January 18, 2011, 7:33 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , ,

I was wandering with a friend through a lower east side neighborhood in Manhattan, having just moved into town and relishing each new street and bar and topic that came up as we ambled along and talked.  He had moved to the US three years prior, and I had been here – in another city – for over ten years.  But now I was new to New York and he was my guide.  Too, he was a confessor of sorts for me to test my ideas about the strangeness of life in America.  And so on that day I made some generalizations between bars, including one about my bafflement about our love affair with dumbing down, our anti intellectualism.  His answer surprised me both for how quickly he reacted and for the content.  I asked, why do I always feel like I can’t have an intelligent conversation with anyone, friends, acquaintances, colleagues?  He said, because in America you have to pay for your education.

This is George Monbiot on the degradation of intelligence in the US. Regardless of personal politics, it is a topic worth taking a dispassionate look at.  Topics include fundamentalism, darwinianism and slavery.  A really clear if biased discussion of a big problem for a society that continues to describe itself as free.

From the article:

Like most people on my side of the Atlantic, I have for many years been mystified by American politics. The US has the world’s best universities and attracts the world’s finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage.


Susan Jacoby’s book The Age of American Unreason provides the fullest explanation I have read so far. She shows that the degradation of US politics results from a series of interlocking tragedies.

Continue reading

thickening things
July 19, 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: brave new world, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Some people are dangerous by their clarity.  For instance, some Kings and Presidents were, and are:  if not benevolent, their certainty would certainly act to destroy lives.  But not just kings.  I have friends who have inherited the divine right:  God told me, they say.  They’re not just saying it either, they believe it.  Here is another way:  to live in the uncertainty of meaning, whether divine or the liberal humanist version.

A quotation from Terry Eagleton’s — he calls it deeply embarrassing — book The Meaning of Life:

Religious fundamentalism is the neurotic anxiety that without a Meaning of meanings, there is not meaning at all.  It is simply the flip side of nihilism.  Underlying this assumption is the house-of-cards view of life:  flick away the one at the bottom, and the whole fragile structure comes fluttering down.  Someone who thinks this way is simply the prisoner of a metaphor.  In fact, a great many believers reject this view.  No sensitive, intelligent religious believer imagines that non-believers are bound to be mired in total absurdity.  Nor are they bound to believe that because there is a God, the meaning of life becomes luminously clear.  On the contrary, some of those with religious faith believe that God’s presence makes the world more mysteriously unfathomable, not less. If he does have a purpose, it is remarkably impenetrable.  God is not in that sense the answer to a problem.  He tends to thicken things rather than render them self-evident.

Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life, p77


author / Terry Eagleton

book / The Meaning of Life