'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Mohsin Hamid - Living in the age of permawar
NB - This beautifully written meditation on the contemporary human predicament demonstrates the nihilist quality of time as we live it today. Perhaps it has been with us longer than the writer believes, but that is immaterial. For as Hamid says, we humans have built great superstructures of law, belief, politics and violence out of our fear of the Death we see reflected in ourselves. This is the reign of annihilation, or what he calls permawar. It is entirely up to us as to how long we allow this insane situation to continue.. DS These are anxious times. Terrorism seems an ever-present
threat. We watch porn on computers. We are addicted to our phones. For some,
religion offers answers … The novelist reflects on what bonds him with the rest
Chapter one: fear of cannibals
You occasionally think living in Pakistan is an
advantage. Since so much is obviously unsayable, you have developed a
heightened sensitivity to the ways in which power operates on speech, not just
there but everywhere. It is like living in a desiccated nook on the cliff wall
of some dry, desert valley. Looking out from your nook you can see the forces
of erosion at work. Erosion reshapes everything. One day soon, though hopefully
not very soon, your nook, too, will be gone.
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great
mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that
murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a
newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death
will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose,
perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders
are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly.
Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young,
sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between.
You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together
to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of
being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We
face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or
countries. But never all together.
Death divides us because often it assumes human form. It
makes of one of its future victims a present instrument. And so we humans have
come to fear each other. And, because we humans can clearly be beaten, as
adversaries we are far more attractive than Death itself, and so we humans have
come to plan and scheme to defeat us humans, to build great superstructures of
law and belief and politics and violence out of our fears of the Death we see
reflected in ourselves.
There is no shark, we 7 billion shimmering fish say, there
are only cannibals.
Chapter two: the permawar
You do not know when it began. Perhaps it commenced at the
end of the northern summer and southern winter of 2001. But when it started
does not matter now. What matters now is that it is upon you.
It is there when you go to your favourite cafe for your morning
coffee in Sydney, or to your local
supermarket for your day’s groceries in Paris, mindful of the bearded
fellow with a backpack who enters after you, shutting the door behind himself
carefully, almost – could it be? – with excessive politeness, transforming in
your mind’s eye the rectangular plate glass of windows into bits of shrapnel,
just for an instant, before you banish the thought.
It is there when you drop your children at school in
Peshawar, watch them troop off through a single fortified gate in a high,
razor-wire topped wall, as a sniper gazes down upon you, not a scene from a
school, surely, but from a penitentiary, a maximum security prison for the most
violently insane, an inside-out jail that asserts that it is the vast world
beyond that has gone ravingly homicidal, and only the tiny space within that
It is there when you board an aircraft and are limited to
liquids in containers smaller in size than your fist; when passengers who look
like one another are randomly selected for additional screening.
It is there when you sit on a hillside in Yemen or
Afghanistan and hear the sound of a flying machine somewhere overhead, unseen
in the night sky but not unseeing in the night sky, and you count your breathing,
one two three, and hold your child close and wait for it hopefully to pass.
It is the state of fear you slip in and out of, curated by
the entertainment business that is the news, produced by politicians who feed
on division, and starring artists who understand that horror is the true medium
of the avant garde.
It is everywhere and never-ending, returning with renewed
force whenever it seems to have begun to ebb, the greatest trick ever pulled by
the greatest mass murderer, Death, who has convinced his victims to fear