Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Crapper's Bida: Tres Moderne

Islam is at war with Modernity, stuck in a primitive mind-set and hysterical at the sight of the changing world around them, a world far more functional than their own, better in every way other than in familiarity, one thing people cling to regardless of its general harm.

A news reader on a generic t.v. science show once noted that sharks did not evolve in a period between 500 to 50 million years ago. Moslems give the impression they would like to be like those sharks, but without that change in the past 50 million years or so. Too bad for them that we did crawl out of the slime to stand on our own two feet. Now those pockets of resistence have to go the way of all flesh, like it or not. The world does change, and it changes in ways that are obvious and unsettling to those who cannot cope with change of any sort, who fly into violent tantrums at the thought of bida, of innovation of any kind. Too bad for them. These modern times of ours will pass away into newer times, and in in 500 million years no one will even remember this particular post. Life goes on, and Islam, a pocket of resistence to change has to dry up and blow away--or some such thing.

Ours is a time of revolution, though many of us are so accustomed to it as the staus quo that we don't think of ourselves as revolutionaries at all. In shark years, 1776 and 1789 are nothing at all; but in Moslem years these few past centuries are the end of the world for them, the end of the parasitical fantasy life of roaming and raping, pillaging and murdering at will and at random. Napoleon's landing at Alexandria put the end to Islam for good and ushered in the end of Islam for all of eternity.

Our lives as a species changed fundamentally then too, though we accept it as the norm, and as good norm, this age of modernity. We gained the advantages of personhood and individual rights, concepts that have gradually over the past 200 odd years grown to fit us as we've grown to fit them. And along with freedom, privacy, liberty, equality, and brotherhood we also gained the advantages of the Industrial Revolution, something so ordinary in our lives today that it is inconceivable to return to anything like the 1990s, a time without access to the Internet. Islam, on the other hand, is still living in the remnants of the Middle Ages, and desires strongly to remain there, at any cost, even at the cost of life itself.

For many of us, to give up the advances of the past ten years of computer technology would be an unbearable hardship. To look back to the 1780s is impossible for any but the most stone-hearted of historians. Hobsbawm, in The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848, writes:

What does the phrase 'the Industrial Revolution broke out' mean? It means that some time in the 1780s, and for the first time in human history, the shackles were taken off the productive power of human societies, which henceforth became capable of the constant, rapid and up to the present limitless multiplication of men, goods, and services. This is now technically known to the economists as the 'take-off into self-sustained growth.' No previous society had been able to break through the ceiling which a pre-industrial social structure, defective science and technology, and consequently periodic breakdown, famine, and death, imposed on production. (Hobsbawm: p. 43.)

In roughly 200 years we have gone from starving peasants in primitve conditions living like modern-day Moslems to a world of modern technology and Human progress, not only as fact but as attitude, expectation, and right.

The Industrial Revolution was not indeed an episode with a beginning and an end. To ask when it was 'complete' is senseless, for its essence was that henceforth revolutionary change became the norm. It is still going on; at most we can ask when the economic transformations had gone far enough to establish a substantially industrialized economy, capable of producing, broadly speaking, anything it wanted within the range of the available techniques.... By any reckoning this was probably the most important event in world history, at any rate since the inventoion of agriculture and cities. (Hobsbawm: p. 44.)

Islam died the day the Mamluks ran away and Napoleon's forces shelled al-Azhar. The modern world arrived on the shores of Egypt, and nothing can be the same ever again. Even our own lives cannot be as restricted as they were ten years ago.And yet Islam and our dhimmi collaborators wish to drag us into a false nostalgia for the golden age of the early caliphate of the 7th century.

Ah, but Islam does not wish to give up our modern technologies. They do not and never have contributed to it, and they've resisted it on religious grounds, as we note in Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers or in Peter Mansfield's primer, The Arabs, and elsewhere:

"Although it was the Arabs who introduced paper into Europe in the 8th century (after learning how to manufacture it from the Chinese when they captured Samarkand in 704) they rejected tmechanical book printing for centuries because it was an infidel invention unsanctioned by God." (Mansfield p:. 117)

"Islam's first printing press, which flourished in the first half of the 18th century, printed in all 17 books...." (Bernard Lewis: 2001, p. 140.) "Islam's first printing press was introduced in 1728. Started by Ibrahim Muteferrika, a Hungarian seminarist in Turkey." (Ibid: p.28.)"Had to close his shop in 1745. The mullahs prohibited printing presses." Mansfield: p. 157.) Printing was "banned on the grounds that the word "Allah could be composed in type that would be cleaned of ink by a brush that could contain pig bristles." (Boorstin: pp. 543-47.)

How does it happen then that Islam is addicted to our technology today? V.S Naipaul writes numerous times in Beyond Belief that Moslems incorporate Western technology into the world of Islam as objective realia shorn of its ideological subject; and they refuse to admit to themselves that the technology is inherently Western due to the mode and means of its production, that it is objectively capitalist and therefore objectively Western in its underlying meaning and sentiment. Technology is Western, and for Moslems to ignore that would be like Jews ignoring the origins of medical texts produced in Nazi Germany. In the West we do not use medical illustrations from Nazi Germany regardless of the acurate detail and benefit they might somehow possess and transmit. It is fruit from a poisoned tree, and yet Islam does not see the same poison in Western technology. It cannot, because otherwise Islam would still be living in the Dark Ages, living, for example, without electricity. But further, the Islamic tradition is to steal technology from others for its own use and prestige, a hold-over from its origins as a tribal warrior code of hunter/gatherer nomadic bandits. But the contradictions of Modernity and Islam are so glaring that only a definitive split in the Moslem's conscious mind can account for the easy use of capitalist goods produced by Modernity.

Naipaul relates the story of a Pakistani peasant who sits in squalor and hates modernity: "His world had shrunk to a hut in a crumbling village. He was prepared for even that to crumble away further, once the faith was served." (Naipaul: p. 89.)

There's something to be said for the security of the primitive world of fascism and violence, not what Hobbes would write but this, the dhimmi mantra of philobarbarism, the cry against modernity for all its real and imagined problems:

[Modernity] has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his 'natural superiors,' and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash-payment.' It has drowned the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiam, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom--Free Trade. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary,the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classe All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind.(Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto. 1848; rpt. 1987: p. 23-24.)

Some few of us at least are fond of Modernity, and we see little benfit to longing for the fascist past of the Rightly Guided Caliphate. Forget for a moment the simple joys of the Internet. Before deciding whether modern living is evil and that we should return to the world of the 7th century, sit for a while in private contemplation and look at the big picture of Modernity, as in the example below.

Thursday, February 25, 1999


Some crap about toilets

Venice Buhain
The Daily

Sanitation is one of those miracles of modern life that seems invisible until something goes horribly wrong and it fails to be there for our septic needs. It usually takes some emergency - such as being stranded on campus at 9 a.m. on a Sunday - to remind us how vulnerable we are without our toilets.

It is a misconception that the appropriately named Thomas Crapper (or Sir John Crapper) invented the modern toilet. This common story probably was made popular by the 1969 book, Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper, by Wallace Reyburn. While there really was an English plumber named Thomas Crapper who sold toilets throughout England with his last name embossed on them, he developed no real advances to modern sanitation. Reyburn, who also later wrote the satirical book Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra, may have known about the 19th-century plumber, and made a few assumptions, but it's not clear that Reyburn's "biography" of Crapper is meant to be satirical.

Like Shakespearean plays, flush toilets are a gift to our modern era from England's Renaissance. Sir John Harington, an eccentric poet and inventor, invented a flush lavatory in the late 16th century and installed one in Queen Elizabeth's residence in Richmond, Surrey.

However, it took several centuries of advances in plumbing and city planning for England's sewers to catch up to the modern convenience of automatic handling of human waste. As recently as the late-19th century, enteric fever and typhoid seemed to attack upper class households at a higher rate than the lower class households. It was determined that the cause was inadequate sewage management. More upper-class than lower-class people did their business in the comfort of their own homes and, consequently, had more exposure to waste matter. When Edward, Prince of Wales, caught typhoid while visiting the Countess of Londesborough in 1871, it started a national crusade for redesigning the septic and sewer systems.

Toilet technology continues to progress. Mark, a Sales Representative at plumbing supply company Keller Supply, says that new federal regulations require that newly installed household toilets lower their water use from 3.5 to 1.6 gallons. (Mark asked that his last name be withheld.) He notes that some companies at first had trouble manufacturing toilets to meet the new standard, but there are now pressure assisted systems that help maintain a satisfactory flush. However, the basic flushing mechanism has remained mostly the same as the old standard toilet with which most college students are familiar.

At first glance, it almost seems as if Rube Goldberg could have invented the flushing mechanism, although on closer inspection, the toilet is a delightfully elegant and uncomplicated machine. The handle lifts a flapper or rubber ball blocking the flush valve at the bottom of the tank. All the water in the tank flows into the bowl, and the flapper falls back into place. This sudden change in weight in the bowl causes the water to be sucked down. There is an extreme bend in the drainpipe that acts as a siphon - gravity pulls the water down the drain.

The toilet "reboots" itself in an equally elegant fashion. An air-filled rubber ball is attached to a lever that is in turn attached to a plunger that blocks the tall water supply pipe. This entire mechanism is charmingly called a "ballcock." When the toilet is flushed and the tank is empty, the ball drops to the bottom of the tank, the lever lifts the plunger, and water can pass from the ballcock into a different pipe that fills the tank. As the tank fills, the ball is lifted by the water, and the lever replaces the plunger which stops flow between the supply and the pipe. In some toilets, a "float cup" attached to the plunger does the work of the ball and the lever.

The bowl has a separate fill tube, which also works by a siphon. One end of the flexible tube is attached to the water supply pipe and the other end dangles into a tall "overflow pipe," which fills the bowl slowly. When the weight of the water in the bowl reaches a certain point, the bowl stops filling, and the water fills the overflow pipe, until it reaches the end of the fill tube. This blocks the siphon and stops the water supply.

There's a lot more to flushing troubles down the drain than meets the eye.

Sources: Adams, Cecil. More of the Straight Dope.

Wright, Lawrence. Clean and Decent.

Reyburn, Wallace. Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper.

"Harington, Sir John." Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Basic Plumbing. Sunset Books

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