Monday, October 25, 2010

Lauren Wilkes Booth converts to Islam. No, I don't have a gun.

British ex-prime minister Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, has become a Muslim. She's reading the Qur'an. She's on page 60 already. As Albert Camus points out about Communists, "First they convert, then they learn the dogma." If this genius had become a Communist, she might have realised that religion is the opiate of the people. Oh, wait, she knows that.

I know a fair number of Communists in this city, and when I run into them on the street I always ask if they've converted to Islam yet. None so far, but it's a matter of time till they all convert. It's the new wave for stupid people who like to think of themselves as intellectuals, for group-think parasites who want to be part of the "in crowd," for anti-social types who want to be part of a gang. It's a comfortable identity for the lost and stupid. I would suggest Nirvana instead.

Tony Blair’s sister-in-law has converted to Islam after having a ‘holy experience’ in Iran.

Broadcaster and journalist Lauren Booth, 43 - Cherie Blair’s half-sister - said she now wears a hijab head covering whenever she leaves her home, prays five times a day and visits her local mosque ‘when I can’.

She decided to become a Muslim six weeks ago after visiting the shrine of Fatima al-Masumeh in the city of Qom.

‘It was a Tuesday evening and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine....

Read more:

This idiot, like most idiots who convert to Islam and those who stand on the side-lines cheering Islam just like straight women gush about their gay friends, want to be seen as cool people who know things more fully than those they fear, i.e. the normal and well-adjusted individuals who struggle through a difficult existence as well as possible, sometimes successfully in spite of all the hardship that life entails. For the fearful, for those who are afraid of themselves as empty beings with no quality, there is the group to fill them.

Ed West at The Telegraph writes,
[I]slam is, unlike any other faith, more than just a religion – it is also a political idea. And ever since the decline of socialism and Left-wing intellectuals’ abandonment of the working class, third worldist “anti-imperialism” has become the radical chic of choice, especially so with the Holy Land conflict. And what better way of embracing the politics of the 1968 generation than by submitting to Islam?

I like Kurt Cobain. No, I don't have a gun. Booth can visit me any time. I'll suggest Nirvana.

More at:


truepeers said...

It wouldn't be much of a religion that one converted to via the dogma.

We all have, and need, some kind of relationship to Otherness. We are all alienated from (the source of) sacredness as a matter of course, but that just means we are full of need to better understand it, because full of conflicting desires to approach it and run from it.

For those who don't have a relationship to a divine monotheistic Other, I suppose you're right that the spirit of the age encourages many to make some cultural Others into idols. In which case, if Booth is making Muslims into idols, and if she eventually gets around to asking where these idols take one, i.e. what kind of divinity do they help one figure, will she be closer or further away from grasping Muslim dogma, as it pertains to the unknowability of Allah and to the evils of idolatry?

A cynic might think some amount of idolatry is inevitable given Islamic notions of a divinity who is completely Other (because one cannot really live withough some conception of the divine one knowingly or blindly worships). In which case, maybe Islam really is for the Booths of the world, notwithstanding the dubious dogma.

truepeers said...

I was just listening to Ravel's song cycle, Sheherazade, and wondering if Booth will get accused of Orientalism.... (as if!)

The great thing about the Western tradition is that it is an opening to a universal anthropology: the Judeo-Christian thinker becomes, with the Renaissance, fascinated with all the other cultures of the world and wishes to integrate these into some universal understanding of the human, his myth and ritual. Of course, this is a path strewn with dangerous obstacles. For example, one may be apt to forget just what universal truth has pushed us onto this path to start with - just what it is about our tradition that allows us to seek a universal truth behind all mythologies (I think it is the revelatory truth of a divinity who leads us away from propitiatory sacrificial violence and towards an anti-sacrificial understanding of the divine imperative, as Rene Girard & Co. have identified). We are apt to forget the core of the Western revelation, to substitute the anti-mythical or "deconstructive" truth of the Judeo-Christian God with some romanticized notion of human cultural Others. We are scared at the implications of the Judeo-Christian truth and turn away at the threshold of a fuller understanding.

Complicating the picture is the fact that our esthetic masters, like Ravel, can really do beautiful things with the mythology of the Other. And while beauty is a genuine property of every mythology, we often highlight it at the expense of forgetting the sublime violence that is with beauty from the start.

Ravel's Sheherazade is a beautiful piece of music, but the texts of the songs are taken from the poems of an "Apache", "Tristan Klingsor", whose ethics leave much to be desired.

As an example of what we are up against, I will attach an English translation of "Asie" the first Klingsor poem in Ravel's song cycle, below:

truepeers said...

Three poems by Trisfan Klingsor

1. Asia
Asia, Asia, Asia:
ancient and marvellous land of nursery tales
where imagination sleeps like an empress
in her forest filled with mystery.

I would like to leave with the schooner
rocking tonight in the harbour
mysterious and solitary,
spreading its purple sails at last
like a huge night-bird in the golden sky.

I would like to leave for the islands of flowers
listening to the song of the wayward sea
to on ancient, bewitching rhythm.

I would like to see Damascus and the towns of Persia
with light minarets in the air;
I would like to see beautiful silk turbans
above dark faces with white teeth;

I would like to see eyes dark with love
and pupils shining with joy
against skins golden like oranges;
I would like to see velvet clothes
and robes with long fringes.

I would like to see pipes in mouths
surrounded by while beards;
I would like to see grasping merchants with shady
and cadis and viziers
who with a mere crook of their finger
dispense life or decth at will.

I would like to see Persia and India and then China:
pot-bellied mandarins under parasols,
princesses wilh slender hands,
and scholars arguing
over poetry and beauty;

I would like to linger in the enchanted palace
and, like a foreign traveller,
contemplate at leisure landscapes painted
on fabrics in frames of pine
wilh a figure in the middle of an orchard;

I would like to see murderers smile
as the executioner cuts off an innocent head
with his great curved oriental sword.
I would like to see paupers and queens;
I would like to see roses and blood;
I would like to see deaths from love or else from hate.

And then to return later dreams,
to recount my adventures to those who would know of
raising, like Sindbad, my old Arab cup
to my lips from time to time
to interrupt the tale artfully ...

Dag said...

I suspect that Booth would follow a "religion" that practices human sacrifice to the extent as did the Aztecs if it followed the collapse of Communism, rather than, as does, Islam. Islam just happened to be the next thing on the road. It's the latest manifestation of anti-Modernity. She doesn't care what it's about other than that it is hostile to Modernity.

Modernity is, more than anything else, about the practice of free thinking, which, in previous days, was a euphemism of atheism. But it is also a plain reality that Modernity is Privacy. That maddens the kind of person Booth is: that the sacerdotal society she seems to love is gone, that the communitarian order is finished, and that individuals are free, whether they like it or not, to choose for themselves their lives as they live them. It is a freedom that exposes them to themselves as they are. thus, being no one and nothing in themselves, they flee from their emptiness to return to a shared identity of any powerful group to lose themselves in. That's why she doesn't care about the dogma. All she wants, all they want, is the identity and the security of the powerful host.Sacrality means nothing to them, I'm pretty sure. Anything will do so long as it protects them from their freedom.

Dag said...

I think most people prefer to have answers regarding the sacred given from authority, even if they hate that authority, so long as that authority is seen as powerful. Then hate becomes love, love of Stalin, love of Hitler, love of any oppressor who torments, so long as it can be seen as ultimately powerful. Then the sufferer can see himself as deserving, whether of hatred or love or just plain suffering. Life gains meaning. Power is the godhead, and the sufferer is "recognised" and validated as a being, not some atomic nothing-being who has no meaning whatsoever among others just like him.

Dag said...

"We are apt to forget the core of the Western revelation...."

Your whole comment is wonderful, as always, but I fear it is beyond the actual condition of man's grasp of the meaning of life. Who, really, has known the core of the Western revelation to any extent except, and perhaps, the limited few who ponder such things well?

The peasant in the field, the flaky elitist with nothing to think about in terms of the struggle for existence, the average guy living and raising a family, they have no time for such things, or the talent to think them through. It's given. Ideas are given to them and they live with them, happily or not. I think that's the problem with such as Booth et al.

There are ideas from above, and they must be chosen freely by the private individual, even the choosing of slavery. In choosing slavery, one might call it "daring" and counter-cultural. It's that that makes me ask the Communists if they've converted yet to Islam, my reason for expecting that they will. Freedom to be oneself is a curse if one is no one.

Dag said...

Tristan Klingsor seems to me to be one of those typical philobarbarists who, like D.H. Lawrence or Virginia Wolfe, like a murderer or a rapist, see "others" as set decorations in a theatre of their minds: that others are simply the stuff of the dramaturge. With the end of the Western revolutionary working class, the philobarbarist has chosen to attach his manipulations on, for example, "the poor" in the heartland, or "brown people" or some other such abstraction, to satisfy his need to "play" dolls and toy soldiers.

An anecdote: A Black guy was sitting near me having coffee uptown, and a couple of White guys passed by, one saying to the Black guy, "Hey, you are my friend and I want my companion here to know so." [I paraphrase.] The Black guy got pissed off, and said, "You ain't no friend of mine. I don't have friends like you. I don't even know you." [No paraphrase.]

The White guy was devastated. His friend was embarrassed. The Black guy was fuming. I was impressed and wanted to say hello to the Black guy but couldn't because he'd think I was saying hello to a prop. A lost friendship.

Booth and others I'm sure, see Islam as a Black guy they can show off to their friends. It's not about the sacred, it's about the terror of being no one. It's the pursuit of safety in the world where no one cares.

A poem I can't find, from Quebec,

Everybody wants everyone to love them;
But nobody, nobody, loves everyone.

Everybody want to be Marilyn Monroe;
But nobody wants to be the audience.

truepeers said...

It's not about the sacred, it's about the terror of being no one. It's the pursuit of safety in the world where no one cares.

-but that terror is shared and the only way to mediate it is for the "group" of no ones to know itself as a group, to give a sign of something as sacred (the Black guy, as long as he's willing to play the victim, is sacred to those people, i.e. he is a sign by which they show they are cool and non-violent, that they respect and don't want - though this is their mythological self-deception - more victims). They can't live in some perfect "privacy" and no one does. Your idealization of modernity strikes me as an abstraction that doesn't account for much of reality. Yes, the energetic charge of any given source of sacrality is ever diminishing since the origin of man and the first sign. A Nike swoosh is not so sublimely powerful - or is it? - as was the gestured re-presentation of a fleshy beast that became man's first sacred feast. But we never do without multiplying centres of shared attention, or sacrality (even if only to resent them, like Obama). Freedom requires people to construct and share signs of what is or should be sacred, important - like "privacy", or "the individual", or "freedom" itself. Free thinking shouldn't be too neatly assimilated to atheism or you end up simple-minded, like Dawkins. The structure of thinking about the human remains "religious" even after we have given up belief in God - how else to account for Green religion, or Dawkins followers? That question of belief in "God" really isn't the issue; the issue is whether anyone can really pretend to be radically different from Booth, anthropologically. DOn't we all need shared signs and isn't our fight to get the right ones, the freer ones, and not entirely to bitch about those who need them (as if we don't) and who hence are always seen to be turning back to the unnecessarily primitive, as if the primitive is not always going to be with us to some minimal, necesary, degree?

truepeers said...

There's no such thing as a truly atomic nothing being. We have a global economy/society that produces and consumes both of which require a lot of integration and sharing of sign. The latest product advertisement, the school textbook, the workplace rules, the debt and currency wars, may not strike you as being dependent on sacrality, but from what other kind of creative process could they have emerged? How does "atomic man" create and share in a way that is radically different from that which creates religion? What are the money tokens that bank computers trade instantly and incessantly if not signs of sacrality?

Yes, most people who have a life and raise families are not themselves the creative actors, and so are "given" their signs of sacrality but that's not to say they do nothing to renegotiate them and modify them, which is a kind of freedom.

Freedom is always a curse and I don't think if only one is a "no one". Freedom only really exists when one, if even once or presently a prince, has to confront the fear of being or becoming a no one. The old magic is wearing thin and one, i.e. one's group, needs a new bag of tricks. Freedom is that taking of a risk that could result in something or nothing and that, to be something, will require others to accept (and negotiate) or reject your signs of freedom. Most people don't want to be free, i.e. to go first; they only want to negotiate what others propose but that is a secondary kind of freedom. But this is not just a modern condition.

The radical force of Judeo-Christian religion is that it asks us to identify with prophets who are not princes, who in most cases do not have much worldly power, and yet who were nonetheless courageous enough to put themselves in fear of nothingness and - without simply bowing down before the local Pharoah - find ways to make signs by which we can all transcend that fear of nothingness in some new shared freedom. It rubs off even on the ordinary Joes who just receive the Jew-ish signs. The ordinary Joe at the seriously evangelical church is not a Booth; he knows about worldly sin and evil and human sacrifice as realities that must be fought.

truepeers said...

The modern world was made by free "no ones" because Western religion made "no ones" sacred.