Sunday, July 25, 2004

BS on a budget

I have to tip my hat to C for finding entertainment on a budget. It's like the girl can sniff free movies, gallery talks, food and concerts from a mile off.

So I shouldn't have been so surprised at the entertainment value of 'Survivors' by Zion Ben Jonah, a book she purchased for the handsome sum of 15p from one of those random floating nutcase Christians who seem to favor large crosswalks and Oxford street’s shopping areas.

I tend to feel quite left out most times as nutcases don't approach me. Though I try to look as vulnerable as possible when passing by, there must be something about me that shouts “I think you’re a fraud and would adore ripping shreds off you with my teeth.” I’ve even tried wearing floral print – to no avail.

So I am left with but two choices. The first is to approach them, which doesn’t yield the joy it should. Only the most zealous fruitloop doesn’t mind a rigorous questioning - but because they are zealous fruitloops, they seem to leave their minds at home suspended in formaldehyde, only to be brought out to complete tax forms and enjoy TV quiz shows. Answers to genuine enquiry often involve quotes from the bible, quaran or L. Ron Hubbard text of choice.

The other method is to live vicariously through C and read the materials she brings home. This is far easier and is less likely to lead to arrest for civil disobedience.

‘Survivors’ is some leagues beyond being just a bad book. A book needs some coherence from one paragraph to another. This is just a graphic tale centering around the concept of a Rapture being brought on by a god traveling around in a big crystal pyramid.

It does unintentionally answer some fundamental questions, though:

Neville was there too, and he had some exciting news to announce about something he had learned from his angel.
“You know how we were able to send and receive email without a service provider?” he said. “Well, it was all being processed through a control room up here. This whole place can disappear into another dimension. It was out there all the time, tapping into the worldwide web to process our mail. That’s why we never received a bill form Web Wonders after they destroyed it.”

Another dimension, eh? M immediately wondered what the SMTP server was set to in Outlook. Suggestions included pop.heaven.xtra.dim, port 666.

I have been entertaining myself for days now, just flicking the book open at a random page and reading until I find something immensely amusing.

Overall, though, I realise that something much more important is revealed by this text. It doesn’t gloss over the more radical notions in Christianity – in fact, it revels in its lunatic fringe-ness. There is no attempt to hide the fact that the religion is a cult of death:

Life for most of us today has to do with more and more comforts, more and more luxuries, and less and less preparation for death.

…which is the way I like it, really. Bring on the luxuries and comforts and stave off death with every fiber of your being and every resource at your disposal.

But where else have we seen this kind of thinking lately? Where have we recoiled against a philosophy that encourages its followers to head toward and embrace death if it is a part of the ultimate goal of dissemination of ‘the truth’ according to some book or some prophet or some god? Isn’t there a distant echo of men with beards praying minutes before hijacking aeroplanes and perishing in a glorious and (obviously) sanctified fireball?

Bottom line is – I don’t think there’s much of a difference between your fundamentalist Christian and your fundamentalist Islam extremists. Both think they’re right, both think that some ‘god’ creature is on their side and both firmly believe that the deaths of infidels (and their own deaths) are fully justified for the cause.

Seeing overtly religious leaders like Bush perform mental somersaults to convince themselves that their belief system is somehow very different to the one that they are fighting is amusing.

Give Christian leaders (nicely hardcore fundies, the ones that still like the old testament) the same powers as the Taliban had and you would quickly see exactly what your friendly neighborhood pastor really thinks a woman’s role is. Kiss science goodbye, give a parting glance to evolutionary theory and enjoy your last moments of intellectual freedom because you would be heading toward a stifling and frightening dark age. There would no longer be debate, only conformity or heresy.

Although it may be expedient to allow men like Bush to fight regimes such as the Taliban, this expediency will come at a cost. By sitting silent and allowing the enemy of our enemy think they have our tacit approval, aren’t we just strengthening their authority and their position in the world?

And here’s where I become slightly sulky and despondent, wondering at the matted mess of a political system we have in the west.

Happily, though, I also like to pay a little more than 15p for my entertainment, so today’s visit to Waterstones yielded my very first Heinlein and a biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. You really do get what you pay for.


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