I've had cause to become familiar with some number of dysfunctional behaviours of mind - we may call it abnormal psychology. I've been reminded quite forcefully recently of the borderline personality, characterized by a pervasive instability of self-image, of affect, of relationships - in other words, the self doesn't interact well with either the inner or the outer world. Reasoning tends to be emotional; judgments tend to the black or white; self-injury is common and self-destruction not infrequent. Somewhere between two and fifteen percent of a typical population may display such behaviour. Perhaps twenty percent of all psychiatric hospitalizations are due to this diagnosis. Not a small or a rare problem, then.
Is it possible that cultures, or religions, might suffer such an affliction?
I cannot say what Islam is. I do not know its existential reality. I do not concern myself with the arcana of its doctrine. I don't care about its times of quiescence - the hibernating bear is of only academic interest. I know only what it shows itself to be. Alas, we are, none of us, judged by our finest moments - praised perhaps, but not judged. We are judged, and rightly, for our failures. How then shall we judge Islam? What is its effect in the world currently? The question is mere rhetoric. Of the seventeen or so wars currently going on in the world at this moment, in every case one of the opposing sides is Moslem. There is a fifty-fifty chance that for any given terrorist event, the perpetrator's name will somewhere include a version of "Mohammed."
Here's the problem. There needs to be a difference between what is offensive and what is incendiary. These two ideas need to be sufficiently distinct that they evoke different responses. Such is not the case, with Islam. There is no offence that is not incendiary. And that is a very troublesome problem indeed. Because we in the West not only make, but rely on, the distinction. In fact, this is what defines us, describes the foundation of our culture. If I'm vulgar enough, some big dude may give me the whooping I deserve. Alas for him, the law does not recognize the concept of "fighting words." A jury may certainly acquit him, and perhaps rightly - but that's just another beauty of our system, where law is balanced by justice and common sense. We tolerate ambiguity.
With Islam as it presents itself in the streets, my intemperate speech requires a whooping - well, a stoning. For what I wrote in "Piss Christ," were I sufficiently important, a fatwah would be issued against me. And really, don't I seem like a pretty reasonable guy? - maybe too opinionated, maybe too sure of myself, but more concerned with being right than with sounding right? And even if I'm just utterly wrong, and even if I'm insensitive, or downright offensive, even the ACLU would theoretically defend me. (Laugh Out Loud.) Point being, the marketplace of ideas has been such a central idea to us - it is the plaza, the agora of our polis. The bazaars of Islam, sad to say, have no offerings, no wares of freedom. What do they have?
In the late 1850s a rumor swept through
Islam, I'm vulgar enough to say, is a lunar cult - attested still in its crescent. Allah (al-ilah - "the god") was Mohammed's local and dominant moon god, Sin, made grand. Al-Ilah had - has - three daughters: al-Uzza, al-Lat and Manat, acknowledged in the Koran in the so-called "satanic verses"- which were expurgated and repented of by Mohammed - he was, you see, "tempted of Satan" to write them. But I digress. The moon is a universal symbol for the irrational - from folklore to Golden Dawn to Jungian psychology. It may be mere wordplay for me to require a genetic relationship between its occult lunar past and modern - well, current - Islam. But the fragility of Moslem character that at the hint of a rumor must rush en mass into the street and rant and riot and burn makes that case far more forcefully than any words I could string together.
There is in astronomy the phenomenon of the terminator, that line on a celestial body that divides day and night - the eternal glooming that rings a globe. Likewise, the borderline personality forever hovers in the perpetual twilight between psychosis and the merely neurotic. And it is not inapt, I think, to notice that Islam - lunar, crescent moon Islam - as it manifests itself through its public actions finds its most characteristic expression in the shadowland of irrationality, oppression, violence and destruction. The required perspective to see this, however, can only be achieved at a very great distance. Alas, dogma bears no wings.
What then? What hope? I turn to grand old Milton, writing of blinded Samson in his Palestinian agony:
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse,
Without all hope of day!
Every poet writes on themes that move him, that speak to his soul and urge, compel his soul to speak. We do not know with what tears these words of Milton were written. We know they would have come from blind eyes - that Milton, the incomparable Milton shared this affliction with mighty Samson. What we can know is this: to speak of what might have been could flood the world with tears. Islam could and might have turned from darkness to light. But prophets of hate have turned that flock to the dark wilderness, and they would make a wilderness of the whole world. Well might we weep - but we must, well, keep our powder dry. Because they are coming, and they bring darkness with them, and they carry long knives. They enjoy killing, and they want to die. I suppose that answers the question. Islam has made itself psychotic.