Carol made the mistake, as she occasionally does, of taking a closer glance
at some of the weird stuff stacked on the floor of my study, awaiting an eventual
promotion upstairs to one of the rooms filled with action figures, comic books,
and fantasy/horror/science fiction novels. What she saw this time was the title
of a collection of Golden Age comics reprints. The featured character was The
Super Wizard Stardust by Paul Karasik. (If it helps you take all this a tad
more seriously, the back cover features a blurb, written, I assume, before he
died, by Kurt Vonnegut.) The art is strangely stylized, and the superhero looks
uncannily like the British hero Marvelman.
like to think comic book creators knew more than they let on, and that in this
case “Stardust” reflects “Zardusht,” another version
the title Carol saw was a quote from a dastardly supervillain in one of the
stories: “I shall destroy all the civilized planets!” Understandably,
she kind of shook her head at such silly extravagance. What a wholly pointless
design for any intelligent being, supervillain or not! Why would a Lex Luthor
or a Dr. Sivana, dastardly as either may be, cherish such a plan?
But I suggested
that such a villainous sentiment, though rankly absurd, is altogether plausible!
After all, does it not correspond rather notably to the ideology of Al-Qaida
and its congeners? These nuts are a caricature of the old James Bond villains.
They form an independent international terrorist organization bent on world
domination. One big difference: Goldfinger and Dr. No at least had some ideological
or self-aggrandizing motivations, but not Osama bin-Laden. No, he and Mullah
Omar and the whole rotten gang are trying to destroy Western Civilization and
making that phrase look an awful lot like a redundancy in the process.
they put in its place? Some superstitious and tyrannical theocracy in which
men have more affection for goats than for females of their own species. At
least they treat them better. A regime in which public hangings replace sports
events in otherwise abandoned soccer stadiums (the Taliban). A world in which
a man is rubbed out by thugs for daring to get a European-style haircut (Baghdad
insurgents). A world in which terrorists are stupid enough (Hamas) to believe
the deadly hoax of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic concoction
of the Czarist secret police to inflame persecution of Jews.
well enough that one may readily point to moderate, literate, humane Muslims
in plenty. And yet these good folk would be the first beheaded by their zealot
coreligionists if the latter took power.
I not prisoner to the one-sided Eurocentric perspective? Should I not be open-minded
enough to grasp that the Islamofascists are pursuing the Good as they see it?
Of course I know they are. But they’re wrong. Or let me put it this way:
if they are right, then the universe is a mad-house and God is a devil. Hitler
thought he was right, too. Bluebeard (i.e., child-sacrifice murderer Giles de
Rais) famously prayed, “Evil, be thou my good!” In effect, that
is just what the murdering minions of Al-Qaida have done, and anyone who thinks
negotiation with them is possible is a fool. Their whole reason for existing
is to take a stand and not to budge an inch. It is budging an inch that they
believe sends one to Hell. No, they must be destroyed, and it is only a matter
of tactics. If we do nothing, if we are so impotent as to believe the Iranian
Hitler Ahmadinejad cannot mean what he says, we are only broadcasting that our
civilization is decadent and perhaps deserves to fall to the savages. Because,
left to their devices, they will pursue the goals we once relegated to two-dimensional
comic book villains: “I shall destroy all the civilized planets!”
you get such rants from me and not from milder-mannered commentators who sagely
nod their heads and mumble about “sanctions” and “compromise”
and “packages of incentives”? Maybe it is because, unlike them,
I spend my time reading comic books rather than foreign policy quarterlies.
But I think my sources are more appropriate than theirs given the character
of the present threats. Our geo-political specialists are playing the game of
diplomacy, and so deeply into it are they that they can’t help expecting
that everyone else is playing it, too. And some are. Negotiations do sometimes
work. But the enemies of our civilization (and that of “all civilized
planets”!) have more the mentality I encounter in comic books. They are
supervillains who want to bring down civilization because they hate everything
we love about it.
secular analyses of Islamofascism and what to do about it are like psychiatrists
who insist on understanding the insane by the canons of sanity. Forget it: it’s
never going to work. Lacan, Foucault, and Derrida saw that. Our enemies are
collectively crazy. As individuals they might not give themselves over to such
pursuits. But they have fallen in line with a collective ideology that renders
their culture (or faction) quite insane. We must learn to decode their Mahdist
craziness, their apocalyptic insanity.
I see it
as a matter of Jungian archetypes. The secular policy wonks don’t reckon
with such factors. Archetypes are not on their maps, only money, weapons, national
prestige. Others, like me, can see that we are, as we were in World War Two,
engaged in a death struggle with the forces of Evil, embodied in an Axis of
Evil. We can see there is a larger dimension to the conflict, and that we must
engage it. World War One and the Vietnam War, e.g., were not archetypal struggles
in this sense. Not all wars are. But this one is, this War on Terror. And that
is because our enemies have made it one.
say the Islamofascists have identified too closely with a chosen archetype and
become inflated with it, producing fanatical insanity. If President Bush were
actually looking how to steer this conflict into the fulfillment of biblical
prophecy (as some critics slander him as doing), he, too, would have become
inflated by an archetype with which he too closely identifies. But he doesn’t,
as far as I can tell. (Criticize him as you will; I don’t care. Just don’t
get it wrong.) But he sees what many of his critics do not see: there is a larger
dimension to the present conflict. And if we refuse to recognize it, we will
be at a significant disadvantage compared with our fanatical enemies who put