Paradise of Storm

Tag: ISIS

On the Stupidity of Reza Aslan

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by Guy Walker

When Reza Aslan wakes in the morning, he laughs one cold slithering laugh. The dull profanity of the morning sun spills through the soiled linen curtains and across his eyes, and he opens them to a shaven clawless cat licking his earlobe. He pets the thing with only his fingertips, in short painful strokes that cause the old imbecilic feline to erect his backside and wheeze a muted cry. “Good boy, Mohammed, my bald little prophet,” he sneers prudishly. Aslan heaves himself up from his cot, white padding spilling from a tear in the corner, and pours a bowl of curdled milk, and kneels to all fours, lapping up the bits of fermented solids as the cat stares patiently on. “Did you know I’m a professor? A scholar!” he stammers in between selfish gulps. “I’ve been on CNN!!” He slams his fist on the corner of the bowl, sending the watery cottage cheese through the air, and begins sobbing, little ponds of tears and drool pooling on the checkered floor. The cat turns away indifferently, Aslan’s incoherent exclamations fading into the distance, into soft brittle anthems of self-pity as the cat curls into a ball in a dim sun spot on the red hirsute rug.

There are only three books on his only book shelf: The No Cussing Club, by McKay Hatch, A Shore Thing, by Snooki, and the Quran, the latter of which is embroidered in gold leaf and plastic gems, with a small fan blowing on it at all times. He holds the book up close to his face, and flips through its entirety with the edge of his thumb like it were a flip book. “Ahhh, the prose and subtle paean of God’s last revelation. This book gets me every time,” he says gazing wonderingly at the peeling linoleum wall, as a gang of ants drag a dead cockroach across the floor.

As Aslan saunters off to the rusting ivy-ridden gates of UC Riverside, where he teaches creative writing to a decaying group of toothless meth addicts, a tattered white king pigeon defecates on a passing wagon pulled by hyenas below. Reza’s lips tighten into a churlish aristocratic pose of disgust, and he repositions his spectacles as he notes in his notepad about the eminent whiteness of the pigeon. Clearly, it’s not just the dark colored pigeons who shit on things. Down the crumbling avenues of swollen rubble, the braided petrified trees all lay fallen across their horrible patches of ashen grey earth, all usable soil blown off in the storms a decade ago. A gaunt hairless dog with violet skin limps across the road, and Aslan swings around light poles, skipping in a haphazard menacing sort of way. He obsesses never to step on a crack on the sidewalk, because as a child, he heard from someone who heard from someone that if he did it would break his mother’s back, and he never grew out of the belief. Hopping from cement parcel to cement parcel, his professor-edition leather satchel embroidered with “Yes, I actually AM a professor,” swings aimlessly around his neck, as he sings, “Cracks on the sidewalk! Cracks on the asphalt! Crack in the ghettos, crack in my butt! Violence is here, and violence is there! But if a Muslim kills you, it’s not Islam’s fault!” He wipes the frothing saliva off his chin with a baby blue bib, and stops next to a tumbleweed to take a shit.

At this point, a Smerdyakov-looking mujahideen runs by wielding an AK-47, his beige and heavily soiled shalwar kameez fluttering in the coruscating morning air, but his chronic steatopygia slows his fanatic religious momentum to a gross and lonely stagger. There’s not many people left to kill in the world, but still, the man is chased by a gang of bailiffs, their scintillating armor blinding the few people around. Aslan moves quickly and intersects the gun-gilded officers, and like Moses parting the Red Sea, he throws both hands into the air, erect as a giraffe dick, and declares “BEHOLD!! FEAR NOT! THIS MAN IS NOT DOING IT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM! Also, Christians do the same.” But the mujahideen stops, turns around, and replies, “No, I’m definitely doing this in the name of Islam. It says right here, ‘And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory—We will bestow upon him a great reward.’ Or here: ‘And fight them until there is no fitnah and the religious, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease—then indeed, Allah is seeing of what they do.’ Or here: ‘If they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.’” Aslan responds sharply, “I don’t think you know this yet, but I’m a professor of religions. I know things other people don’t. You’re not doing this in the name of Islam.”

The truth is, Reza Aslan is a passive-aggressive apologist who manipulates the truth through his own denial. In a 2007 debate with neuroscientist Sam Harris, Harris postured that it is the role of Aslan and other moderate Muslims in the public eye to steer Islam more towards being a religion of peace, rather than the predominant opinion at the time to prosecute those who draw cartoons of Mohammed, or hacking off the genitalia of their girls en masse. Aslan responded by turning away from this offer, and repeating his qualifications as a public figure. “[T]here’s a reason I don’t write books on neuroscience. I write books about what’s going on in the Muslim world because I have an expertise about what’s going on in the Muslim world.” It’s a pubescent puerile argument to try to win a debate by declaring how smart and qualified you are. It doesn’t argue anything substantial or meaningful; it’s a crude fuliginous declaration of “Trust me, I’m an expert,” which, fittingly, is actually the name of a book that Aslan has essays published in. “Trust me, I’m an expert.” It’s such a pandering offensive idiom, something akin to Trump’s pasted together lexicon of entropic elitism. It admits that the person didn’t get a degree for the supposed purpose of a degree—to think critically and argue constructively—but rather for the sole and shallow purpose of saying they have a degree.

In a viral Youtube video titled “The Stupidest Interview Ever,” when a Fox News anchor tried to argue that Aslan didn’t have the right to write a book about Jesus because Aslan himself is a Muslim, Aslan kept repeating over and over, “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” “I am a historian.” “I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament.” The truth is, not a single one of these claims is true. He only has one PhD, which is in sociology. He is not a professor of religion, but rather of creative writing, at the University of California, Riverside, that barren wasteland of meth addicts, tract houses, bros, and dust storms. Yet he continues to posture himself as a scholar and historian of religions.

While on CNN, he argued that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not a Muslim problem but a central African problem. But David Pakman from The David Pakman Show refuted this vague claim with specific global numbers: seven of the top eight countries listed by UNICEF with the highest rates of FGM in Africa were predominately Muslim countries. Egypt has a 91% FGM rate, Sudan 88%, Somalia 96%, Guinea 96%, Sierra Leone 88%, Mali 89%. And beyond Africa, Pakman shows, Kurdish Iraq has a 72% FGM rate, Indian Shia Bohras have a 90% rate.

Aslan went on to say in the CNN interview that countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Turkey are free and open societies. But in Malaysia, 93% of Muslim women had their clitorises hacked off. In Indonesia, 98% of women. These astounding rates of barbarism are not some fringe ineffectual minority as Aslan tries to argue by using Saudi Arabia as the most extreme example because they don’t let their women drive cars. Numbers as high as these require serious reevaluation of our tolerance for certain aspects of certain ideologies. In a Vice article publish in 2015 about female genital mutilation being on the rise in Malaysia, a 19-year-old Muslim girl openly shares that she is “circumcised because it is required by Islam.” In the Quran, circumcision is described as a tradition for men, but a duty for women. The delights of uncontrollable pleasure, of our only refuge from this desert twirling hell, has been hacked away in the name of an invisible deity. This mass violent insanity should be reason enough to disprove the existence of any benevolent higher power.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, 68% of the world’s Muslims believe governments should abide by Sharia law (chopping off the hands of thieves, death to apostates, beating of wives, death to homosexuals, the stoning of adulterers, and an assortment of other savory tenants of obedience).

Aslan has many times proclaimed that “a Muslim is whoever says he’s a Muslim,” which leaves us to doubt those who say Islamic terrorists are not Muslim. If a Muslim is whomever he or she declares themselves to be, then, by Aslan’s own definition, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and other such terrorist groups are very much Muslim. Extremely fringe populations admittedly, yet nonetheless Muslim. And to Aslan’s credit, in a speech he gave at the University of Toledo in 2015, he admits that if ISIS says they are Muslim then they are Muslim. But then he continues: “If you want to blame religion for all of the bad things that religion does, fine. As long as you are willing to credit religion for all the good things religion does.” He credits the thousands of Muslims fighting ISIS as one of the notable virtues of Islam, as coruscating evidence that Islam is also a force for peace. The flaw he makes here is ISIS is killing in the name of Islam, while the thousands of people who also happen to be Muslim are simply resisting against these insane goat-fucking men who are ransacking their homeland and raping mothers and daughters. These resisters are doing so not in the name of Islam, but by necessity, by a survivalist’s instinct to protect where one lives.

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April 2016, Aslan made the baseless claim that “right-wing terrorists have killed far, far more Americans since the attacks of 9/11 than Islamic terrorists have. You are more likely in this country to be shot by a toddler than you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist […] So yes, we are under threat of terrorism in this country, it’s just not Islamic terrorism.” But according to the International Security Program, in the United States 94 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists since 9/11, and 48 people have been killed by far right wing attacks. The toddler fact is seemingly true, which, if a gun advocate gets killed by his own toothless newborn whilst shitting in his diaper, then Darwinism has worked again and nature has necessarily thinned its herd.

In all his prudish passive aggression, Aslan declares he writes books about the Muslim world because he has “an expertise in the Muslim world.” But he doesn’t. He hurls himself into his classroom at UC Riverside, constructed with glued chunks of plaster and horse hair, and opens his three-ringed binder, pushing his glasses up to the top of his nose with one finger. He clears his throat of all its phlegm, and begins a lecture on punctuation. Because after all, he has an expertise in creative writing.


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When We Sing, When We Throw Stones

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It seems like we’re on the edge now. A teetering fragility of peace, everyone at their respective political rallies—either there in support or there in protest—everyone frothing at the mouth, eager for a good excuse to stab each other in the throat. Every day there’s another viral video of Trump supporters mobbing a protester, and Trump himself cheering them on—bucktoothed white men draped in camo-gear attack a black man, or huddle around a Muslim woman and call her a whore, or punch a songbird, or claw at sunsets, or eat cereal bowls filled with pinecones and Natural Ice. They salute their blotchy-skinned leader by uniformly rubbing their crotches. And all hell breaks loose.

The Trump rally in Chicago that was canceled last week is testament to the cowing tribalism in and around politics these days; it’s more of a foreshadowing of the violence to come, just another transitory episode in the evolutionary buildup of street gangs killing each other over heteronomous trade deals, who’s leader has better hair, and the lawfulness of a penis touching another man’s butthole. The spurious autoschediasticism of the protest ended in very minor clashes  .  .  .  little blood was actually drawn, but there was lots of yelling and name calling, with Trump finally declaring that his freedom of speech was hijacked. Many Bernie campaign posters were seen at the demonstration, but Sanders himself quickly denied any involvement. Hillary Clinton condemned the protest by tweeting the old adage, ‘Violence has no place in politics.’ Even Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted ‘People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters—they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.’ The only reason for writing out someone’s Twitter handle is in the hope that they will read it and retweet it. Not that the pop star astrophysicist is necessarily a Trump supporter, but he is trying to make some sort of vague taxonomical clarification, maybe striking the flint of the dialectic, a baseless claim that protesting against a wistfully nostalgic form of imperialism is an offense to freedom itself.

Hillary Clinton pointed to the families of the Charleston, South Carolina victims from last year’s shooting, They “came together and melted hearts in the statehouse,” she said. In her eyes, we should melt Donald Trump’s barely beating heart into a bloody fondu of love and youth. If you see a woman being raped on the street, you should protest peacefully, from the other side of the street, of course, making sure you stay on the sidewalk.

The epistemological axiom that “violence has no place in politics” is a queer Democritean slogan, something that dismisses the entire historical resumé of politics. At the end of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, a Win/Gallup poll declared the United States as the greatest threat to peace in the world. In the 1980’s, Clinton supported the Contra insurgency into Nicaragua. She supported invasions of Haiti in 1994, Bosnia in 1995, and Kosovo in 1999. In her words, she “urged [Bill] to bomb” Yugoslavia. She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and backed the US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, and later the US bombing of Libya, creating the power vacuum that allowed ISIS to overtake the country. In other words, violence has everything to do with politics, as long as you are rich while doing it. It’s the same reason a black woman can go to prison for 12 years for a little baggie of weed, but when HSBC launders billions of dollars to Columbian and Mexican drug cartels, no one sees a single day behind bars.

There is something pedantic and selectively fussy about claiming that “violence has no place in politics.” It clearly does. The question is, what part do we as regular citizens play in the arena of political violence?

Take a look at Black Lives Matters, for instance, who made a strong presence at the Chicago rally. Black Lives Matters was formed for the same reason as when the Black Panther Party was created back in 1966: they were both a response to unchecked police brutality against black kids. But the Black Panthers initially began with armed citizen patrols, monitoring the activity and behavior of Oakland’s police officers. Black women with afros would stand on the streets with rifles. Panther leaders were assassinated or falsely charged with murder. J. Edgar Hoover called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” Black Lives Matters, on the other hand, barges into libraries and chants its club’s name into the ears of students studying innocently. There was the Weather Underground, formed in 1969, as a radical left-wing faction of the Students for a Democratic Society, in support of the Black Panthers and other militant left-wing groups. Its core principle was a militant opposition to the Vietnam War, as it initiated actions intended to “Bring the War Home.” They broke Dr. Timothy Leary out of prison. They bombed government buildings and banks, they initiated the “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago, and issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government. There is widespread belief that Martin Luther King could not have achieved what he is attributed with if it were not for Malcolm X’s more militant approach. When antiwar protestors grew by the thousands outside of Nixon’s White House, President Nixon turned to Henry Kissinger in fear, asking for assurance that they wouldn’t break through the fence. When then President George W. Bush was asked what he thought about the antiwar demonstrations outside his White House, he skillfully responded that they pleased him—the evidentiary freedom of speech that American citizens have is why we were going to war, he said, so the Iraqis will one day have the same. Where are Brutus and Cassius? Where is the emerald sword that can pierce the sky? The ennui of our passivity is the force that doesn’t actually want to change anything. It organizes marches, waves banners around, and chants its cheerleader haikus  .  .  .  but we know this is merely for the ends of self-congratulation. We know we are merely swirling our farts in the wind, cheering each other on, finally flirting with women who proudly show off their armpit hair.

In Walter Benjamin’s Critique on Violence, the state needs and creates the conditions for a monopoly on violence. “Violence, when not in the hands of the law, threatens [the law] not by the ends it may pursue but by its mere existence outside the law.” The antipodal fringe barricades itself against the powers of the state through what is termed Divine Violence—that inevitable reactionary force, preserving the gorgeous brawn of the sovereign. It is completely “law-destroying,” completely at odds with the systemic coercion of the state. It’s merely and wholely a strike at power, to value justice and principle over the law. Slavoj Žižek sees divine violence as an inevitable response against the superstructure. Men ought to scare where they must. But even the so-called radical Left today feels it should disassociate itself with the Jacobin paradigm. In Žižek’s Robespierre of the “Divine Violence” of Terror, he writes, “what the sensitive liberals want is a decaffeinated revolution, a revolution that doesn’t smell of revolution.”

Donald Trump was rightly criticized for saying he would kill the family members of terrorists. This is dangerous talk. The problem is that Barack Obama already has. In a drone attack, 16-year-old American-born son of Anwar Al-Awalki was killed, and Obama has never answered questions addressing this. This is perhaps more dangerous, for the left slowly accepts that this is just the way things work. In an interview with CNN, Trump warned of riots if the Republican Party handed the nomination to another candidate. “I think you’d have riots,” he said. “I’m representing many, many millions of people  .  .  .  Bad things would happen.”

The Chicago protests were a glimpse of what could be, however grand and gorgeous and tragic. I don’t know. I’m too drunk to tell anymore. All I know is there is too much light, too much life to tell anymore. Too much everything. All it is is just an eruption of stars and worlds.

To Respond to Massacre

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by Guy Walker

Following the most recent Paris attacks, with at least 129 dead, how do we respond to something so tragic? We weren’t there, and most of us won’t be so directly affected. But the streets are aged by massacre, a senescence of speechless sorrow, everything hardened ever so gradually. How to we respond privately, or in collective masses, or in international political theaters? To wholly offer our hearts without coming across as trite and insincere. As gobs of columnists and bloggers clamor to offer their analysis, to sit hunched behind their glowing screens, describing the events with calm succinct reason, to offer answers of blame or justice or patriotism, we feel something missing. As writers, we give an air of egotism, as if yelling in the storm, “Listen to me! I have an alternative point of view!” In the very least, a response mustn’t ever make it about ourselves.

But within hours after the attacks, politicians and pundits used the dead to leverage it to their own squalid advantage of a boorishly flaccid authority. Ann Coulter—more of an aging lurching ghoul than anything else, as she strokes her blonde hair continuously through every interview she’s ever given—called for an end of Muslim immigration into the U.S. entirely. She immediately tweeted about gun control: “too bad there were no concealed carry permits.” Newt Gingrich tweeted similarly. This type of political cynicism is the worst of the lot, turning the deaths of the innocent into puppets of various gross agendas. Even so, in the United States alone, there’s an average 36 gun-related deaths every day, a Paris attack every four days. There’s been 142 school shootings since the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. One of the true breakdowns in journalism—if you can call it journalism—was when Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera began crying on television because his daughter happened to be at the soccer game when the suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium. Not that the bomb wasn’t significant. But Rivera made the attack about him. The Fox headline was “Rivera’s Daughter Among Paris Attack’s Survivors.” In a stadium of 80,000 people, when not a single person inside the stadium was hurt, when President Hollande himself was in the stadium, this headline is all spectacle, casting a net of egotism among the wounds of massacre.

A day before Paris, there was Beirut: two suicide bombers killed 43 innocent civilians in the suburb of Bourj el-Barajneh. There is no option for a Lebanon flag for your Facebook profile. There is no #PrayforLebanon circling the newsfeed. Before that there was a suicide bombing at a funeral inside the Al-Ashara al-Mubashareen mosque in Baghdad, killing 19. When the U.S. bombed the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, killing 19, there were no mass prayer vigils, no patriotic empathies. At least none that were televised. Is 19 not enough to pray for? What’s the threshold for justified heartbreak? 25? 100? Of course not. The terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices last January, killing 12, sent shockwaves around the world, uniting Western leaders in a demonstration of linking arms together. This is not to diminish the horror that the Parisians faced and continue to face, that the heartbreak that the families will likely never overcome, but there is a discrepancy in the attention paid to violence, and especially for the responsibility for that violence. We are a tribal bunch, mourning only for our neighbors with skin or gods similar to ours, in this Sophoclean age of war and political-speak. And people have always excelled at leveraging their pious superiority in a desperate attempt to justify their cruel animality.

When my boss texted me, simply with “You see the news in Paris?” I knew immediately, and with all certainty that it was a terrorist attack. This is the modern age. Before 9/11, ‘news in Paris’ could mean anything from student demonstrations to a sporting event to nudity on the streets. Today, the predictability of terror is itself monstrous. Terrorist attacks, school shootings, cops killing black kids—the new-age ecchymosis of hysteria is clearly far too normal, blending into the fabric of dehumanized misery, like Adorno’s ‘identity thinking,’ no single person is real anymore. It just becomes ’19 dead’, ’43 dead’, ‘125 dead’, like scales of death, weighing out how much we as distant witnesses should feel.

As friends discuss their own analysis of the situation, simply as ‘sick bastards’ and ‘obviously Muslim’ and other barely literal grunts of shock and tribalism, we feel unable to truly feel the madness of it all. For now, there is too much noise. As storms of tweets and retweets fill every last corner of clean air, as only the most thoughtful and humane of your Facebook friends give their profile picture a blue, white, and red filter, (if duck face selfies through French symbolism is human enough) offering empty prayers, counting virtual likes as if they were nods of approval, as we graffiti #PrayforParis across the Internet in a sort of robotic clicktivism, we know deep down this doesn’t actually help. Maybe a little needed communion, but what more of a response can we give on this brittle stage of grief?

Immediately following 9/11, American flags flew from every edifice, every child’s little hands, in an understandable effort to collectively stand strong. But the actual response to 9/11—the military and political response—is what is most worrying. It’s because of our military response that ‘news in Paris’ is expected to be terrorism. It is old news that ISIS would not exist today were it not for the U.S. response, illegally invading Iraq, catastrophically outweighing the death toll and misery seen on September 11th. While initially invading Iraq, Paul Bremer—head diplomat in Iraq—issued Order Number 2, effectively putting 400,000 former Iraqi soldiers out of work, dissolving Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. The U.S. finances Saudi Arabia, oppressing its own and neighboring populations. Saudi Arabia has beheaded more people this year than ISIS has. President Hollande called the attacks an ‘Act of War’, but he also admitted arming the Syrian Sunni rebels. This is no longer news. The scaling up of violence by the State is predictable, monstrous, and grotesque in its ease. Pointing only to religion as the culprit—and religion certainly is a culprit—is merely an excuse for us to not look at our own actions, our government’s own oblique responsibility. As actors of beauty and freedom and war, we have only our own leaders to press upon, to not breed into dogmatisms and systematic violence. As one Charlie Hebdo cartoonist wrote, “Our faith goes to music! Kissing! Life! Champagne and joy!”

The Solar Anus

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And here’s the final touch, for Mary’s sake:

By mixing love with cruelty I’ll make

A penitent inquisitor whose words

Turn Seven Deadly Sins to seven Swords!

Then, heartlessly, for pure perverse delight

I’ll plunge them, one and all, with all my might

Deep in your merciful, still-beating Heart,

Your throbbing, sobbing, sweetly bleeding Heart!

-Charles Baudelaire

There is too much dust to keep our eyes open any longer. There is too much heartbreak to run any further. This is it. The desert swells into one huge praetorian barrenness. A starving hyena squats near a dried up creek, his gaunt balding legs quivering in the moonlight  .  .  .  he makes an unpleasant face, pushes once more, and a little dehydrated turd falls from between his legs. In the vampish human encampments, words such as love and rain and beauty are forbidden, and exchanged with butt, stuff, fart, and steatopygous.

On the other side of the world is New York. All that’s left is a gross phallic ruin that was once our Statue of Liberty, the garland matriarch that was once our symbol of hope against the storm, something akin to Gatsby’s green lantern, except this time it’s for the Atlantic migrants dreaming of something better than peasantry and old beer. But Mrs. Liberty has since crumbled into something more resembling of Stonehenge. Now, the streets of Times Square are empty, filled only with a vile flashback of a great party. And the smell is horrifying. City-wide sirens that were meant to alarm the people in the event of something catastrophic, instead play the discordant echoes of Justin Bieber, singing “Baby, baby,” again and again until it slows down into the moanings of lost innocence.

But it wasn’t the bankers, or the drones, or Israel. It wasn’t even Kanye who ruined the earth. It was our own abject nihilism, quitting on life before we were old enough to start it. Take the assorted facts you learn on any given day. For example, these are the things I learned today: Olive Garden served 700 million bread sticks this year, two gay twins just made a porno called Twincest, One Direction has 21.5 million followers on Twitter, planet Earth is amidst its sixth greatest extinction of all time, and I’m still drunk after trying to recover after three months of heartbreak. Once you have made your list, climb to the top of the highest structure around, rip your shirt off, and scream as loud as you can, “Does anybody really feel anything!!”

Because it’s easier to complain about the servile Persesian misandry within our current political structure than it is to run for Congress yourself. It’s easier to sign another online petition that calls on Obama to end any one of his Peace Prize-winning wars than it is to blockade and stand alone in front of the deploying tanks. It’s easier to feel smug about deleting your Facebook account in search of real-life human interaction, only to realize we’re all wallowing in the same cursory dream, searching somewhere for splendor and beauty, swiping frantically through our phones, stalking cafes and pool halls and libraries and parks and pristine wet pastures, trying to hang on to a better memory of Beauty, to the august suffering of romance, to all that tragic light that once made us human. It’s like trying to hang onto the memory of the first person you loved, all the while choking in its madness. I don’t know the answer; it could be hidden in Baudelaire’s poetry: “And, drunk with my own madness, I shouted at him furiously, ‘Make life beautiful! Make life beautiful!’” It’s the reason any of us pretend to do more than sleep and eat and fuck. It’s the reason you can find a guy on the internet play the clarinet with a carrot he hollowed out himself, or why you can get an organic spray tan down the street for only thirty-five dollars. We’re standing on the edge of life, screaming “Make life beautiful!”

Southern Iraq was once a land covered so thick with cedar forests that light couldn’t touch the ground. The Sumerians cut down all the trees. But their excuse is the tragic tale of Gilgamesh disobeying the gods by cutting down the forest, and the gods plaguing the land with drought and fire. The once verdant terraqueous globe now defiled and betrayed, by 2100 B.C. the soil had eroded and depositories of salt had ruined all future agriculture. We are not the infant species we wish ourselves to be: the Mayans collapsed due to overpopulation and over-farming; the Minoans cut down all the trees; so did the Nazca of Peru; so did the Rapa Nui of Easter Island; many of the cultures from the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras did the same; the Anasazi overpopulated and died of thirst; the girning nomads of the last ice-age killed off all the megafauna of North America; the first migrants of Australia 50,000 years ago did the same.

In our tragic pursuit of Beauty, we kill the heavens. “A kiss is the beginning of cannibalism,” is what George Bataille said, and he’s never wrong. We turn the verdant aching thrones of life itself into a bleeding nihilistic cough. All love turns to heartbreak, that’s a fact. And if not heartbreak, it turns to lame routines and the stinking decay of ennui, which is worse than all the blinding enthusiasm of heartbreak. But we can deal with heartbreak—we write books or songs, we create art, we sleep with a bunch more women, we drink heavy amounts of alcohol. And it passes somehow  .  .  .  I guess. But it is in Bataille’s concept of base materialism where we find the rather banal origin of our hatred for the beautiful—why we kill the oceans and the forests and the animals and each other en masse—for in base materialism is the origin of the beautiful and the bad and everything else. Not unlike Spinoza’s neutral monism, base materialism describes the fabric of all existence as neither physical nor mental, but rather a vital base matter that underlies everything. It lies entirely in experience, immune to all rational conquest, making base materialism not material at all. It’s stupid in its obvious generality: everything is what it is, deal with it. I was in an alleyway the other day, minding my own business, and an old man with horrible teeth came up to me and went on an incoherent polemic about graffiti and insanity. “Shit is shit! Deal with it,” he said up close to my face. I tried to argue with him but he had a gun in his backpack, so I didn’t.

In Bataille’s L’Anus Solaire (The Solar Anus), he references the sun as the provider of all life that can also cause unimaginable death and suffering through its unbounded energies. And the anus itself is the symbol of the inevitable waste and tragedy that dominates much of the landscape. By mass there is seven times more plastic in the ocean than plankton. There is the Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch. One of the largest human-made structures on earth is the Fresh Kills Landfill of New York, covering over 2,200 acres. The Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. The Three Mile Island nuclear explosion. The Kuwait oil fires of 1991, burning off six million barrels of crude oil into the atmosphere and surrounding environments. The eccocide in Vietnam through the large-scale spraying of Agent Orange and other chemicals. The Sidoarjo mud flow, caused by gas blowout wells. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone, the hypoxic zone from the nitrogen and phosphorus agriculture runoffs from the Mississippi River. The dioxin contamination of the Love Canal of the 1940’s. Minamata disease of Japan, from Chisso Corporation’s severe mercury poisoning of its wastewater. The electronic graveyard in Guiyu, China. The Baia Mare cyanide spill. The shrinking of the Aral Sea. The Chernobyl Nuclear Explosion. The Bhopal Disaster. The Great Smog of 1952. The massive asbestos contamination from vermiculite mines in Libby, Montana. The list is endless. But as the old man with bad teeth said, “Shit is shit! Deal with it.”

It’s all so sad, when the pure yearning child asks his parents why bad things happen, why evil rages wild in the night. Why does Boko Haram (not to be confused with the 1960’s rock group Procol Harum) abduct 300 school girls in the night? Why has the self-proclaimed Islamic State kidnapped up to 7,000 women and girls? This last December they released a formal guide that outlines the capture, punishment, and rape of female non-believers. These days, if one mentions ‘catholic priest,’ we think immediately of pedophiles. William Kellogg, founder of Kellogg’s cereal, created Corn Flakes with the hope that such a boring food would kill all sexual appetite. I’m not kidding. He advocated for the circumcision of boys and girls alike. These instances are to good sex and true love what environmental pollution is to human industry. It’s the Solar Anus we need to destroy, and the heavens to restore.

I don’t even like Bataille, his prose and life were shit. I want the Sun and not the Anus. I just want to make life beautiful again. I really don’t know, I’m going surfing.

The Return of Nietzsche: God is Alive and Well

by Guy Walker

(Originally published on http://www.paradiseofstorm.tumblr.com on October 16, 2014)

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The spider hung from the elm tree from one thread of silk, about to cast its web as the buff cornfed scenes of the middleclass passed by, humming along in their Priuses, squinting into the setting sun, or staring intently into their own private glowing rectangles. The sky could only sigh with fabulous ennui as the cloudless weight of another torrid sapless evening rolled in. It hadn’t rained for months, and before that it was just a distressed cough of moisture that fell rather than rained. The pigeons still limped as usual—that didn’t change with the drought—and the humans were still achieving their various tasks of import, like driving around getting ‘Thank You’ cards, or picking up soy milk, or buying Halloween preparations, or attaching a 1977 filter to an image of their 2014 life. Various scenes of normality ticked throughout the biscuit-colored towns: a cat tossed the headless body of a mouse around on the sidewalk; a boy wearing a huge helmet bicycled towards Main Street, then stopped to pick his nose; a man sneezed as he collected the mail in his bathrobe. The setting sun warmed all the west-facing stucco walls of all the track houses throughout all those endless miles of suburban bourgeois happiness, and the sprinklers were soaking another lawn, their expensive drops flying and pummeling the little ants as they tried to run for safety from their exhausted flood. The banausic hum of humanity was wrapping up another day.

A blonde lady wearing her favorite leopard-print fedora—she had several—pulled into her driveway in her red convertible mustang, and reached down to reposition her panties between her short skirt. She took off her sunglasses, looked at herself in her rearview mirror, and sighed. She didn’t know it, but the Universe really didn’t care for her. But she had a half-emptied baggie of Prozac in which all the pills were crushed into a fine mephitic powder, into which she scooped a sizeable bump with the long red fingernail on her pinky finger. After sucking in all that ashen voodooed happiness, she pinched her nose, wincing, feeling the sting. Her fingers dripped with blood, and she mumbled a bad word, and wiped her nose with her hand and looked in the mirror again, and her whole upper lip was smeared with blood, and she heard voices and footsteps and rustled around to find a tissue that was still clean.

Good evening Mrs. Freeman, a female voice said sweetly.

Mrs. Freeman looked up, her leopard-print fedora crooked on her head, her big Jackie Kennedy sunglasses hiding her tears, blood dripping sweetly from her nose. O hello Aaeesha, she smiled. Aaeesha means Life and Vivaciousness in Arabic, but Mrs. Freeman had always thought it a queer nondescriptive word, like Shampoo or Scissors. Aaeesha stood there, looking sweet but concerned, her eye still healing, her thin mauve burka tickled in the evening breeze, her two young children hiding behind her dress, and she offered Mrs. Freeman a tissue.

The spider paused to watch the two women interact. He didn’t know anything about race relations, or the recent clamor to be the most politically correct, or the recent televised debates about the intrinsic misanthropy within Islamic religious belief; he didn’t know which pew poll was most accurate in describing Indonesia’s support for Sharia Law (some estimates are in the upward range of 70 percent); he only considered Nietzsche’s fifth book in The Gay Science: We do not by any means think it desirable that the kingdom of righteousness and peace should be established on earth (because under any circumstances it would be the kingdom of the profoundest mediocrity and Chinaism); we rejoice in all men, who like ourselves love danger, war and adventure, who do not make compromises, nor let themselves be captured, conciliated and stunted; we count ourselves among the conquerors; we ponder over the need of a new order of things, even of a new slavery for every strengthening and elevation of the type “man” also involves a new form of slavery. The spider considered for a while as he strung his gossamer thread from end to end, as the patient Darwinian clock ticked away, pausing, watching as Mrs. Freeman accepted the tissue, excusing herself for yet another unsightly occasion, wiping her nose and trying again to smile to the children.

Mrs. Freeman and Aaeesha are part of that very rare breed of animals who don’t fight the setting sun to stay alive, who don’t still lurk the sodden currents for a drink of water, or dig away in caves with their squatting ape-man tribe. They fuck once a week, water their grass three times a week, watch Youtube videos of cats befriending owls, and search for the best parking spots at the gym—in other words, they’re just two regular ‘ol ladies trying to kill time before time kills them. Because once food and water and shelter and sex are won, Misery leads you to the shrieking grave. Wars are the obvious choice—they’re the easiest burdening romance to fix any boredom. Ferdinand Celine described it as “the minions of King Misery,” as he slopped in the shit-ridden trenches with his other Frenchmen, throwing bullets towards the Germans, screaming obscenities through the night. ISIS isn’t raping women by the thousands, or burying children alive, or beheading American journalists for any reason different than the US is bombing innocent villages in Yemen, or outsourcing their kill lists to Somalian warlords, or funding the Israeli occupation at an average rate of $6.6 million a week for the last 66 years, or funding and training deathsquads in Latin America, or establishing worldwide regimes of torture—they are violently bored nihilists who already wish they were dead themselves. Nietzsche pinpointed this over a century ago, arguing that our love for “danger, war and adventure,” didn’t arise out of intrinsic barbarism within the human animal, or within religion itself, but rather out of our need to never be captured. War is the collective scream to rid the Self of boredom, to assure that the Self will never be captured. It’s one last attempt to fuck the arid landscape before the sun goes down.

Last week’s debate on Real Time with Bill Maher, including Ben Affleck and Sam Harris, in which each other passed blows on whether or not some humans enjoy death and pillagery more than others, resulted in a long maelstrom of intellectual bitchfights, including Glenn Greenwald, Reza Aslan, some guy named @dan_verg_ and many others, all trying to yell who and what is more violent. As the impish grunting ape-men who so patiently evolved into high-fashioned bristled intellectuals of late night HBO talk shows argue about if Islam is intrinsically violent, they are all doing the same thing: merely trying to kill before being captured, trying to wear wings on the delusions of animals. Aspiring intellectuals still debate whether or not Hitler or Stalin’s epochal venom had anything to do with being anti-religion. But Hitler was also a vegetarian, making a dangerously good case that vegetarians are potentially evil centaurs at heart. He also enjoyed petting his German Shepherd, Blondi, posing the threat that dog owners are annoying life-killing Archfiends. But within religion itself, after “the crusades, the multiple blessings of wars, warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child,’ justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men” (Violence in Christian Theology), and after Haun’s Mill massacre and the Mountain’s Meadow massacre, after countless kidnappings, suicide bombing, mass murders, assassinations, airline hijackings, in which only Communism as an ideology is responsible for more deaths and violence than Islam, after Israel really fucked everything up for everyone, turning to Deuteronomy 7:1-2 or Deuteronomy 20:16-18 or several others to follow explicit instructions from God to the Israelites to search and destroy other tribes, after countless tribes conducting human sacrifice and religious self-flagellation, one might begin to wonder if religion just maybe have the possibility of somehow or someway be related to violence across the world. There was the Constantinian shift, embroiling Christianity with government. There was the Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I. There was the Roman Inquisition. There was the Muhammad cartoon crisis, resulting in mass violent protests, including the burning of European embassies, death threats, even an attack with an axe on the cartoonist himself. During the siege of Beziers in 1209, a Crusader asked Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric how to tell the Cathars from the Catholics, to which Amalric replied, “Kill them all; God will recognize his.”

As for ISIS’s relation to the core teachings of Islam, Ben Affleck and Sam Harris are saints of reason, probing us to look ever deeper into the dark glory hole of religion: pew polls suggest a 99% support for Sharia Law in Afghanistan, 74% support in Egypt, 91% in Iraq, which would involve death to apostates, stoning of adulterers, and chopping off the hands of thieves. On the other hand, many leaders of ISIS have been held captive at one point in U.S. military prisons, something that the photos that leaked from Abu Ghraib don’t suggest helped U.S. relations with radical Islam. Reza Aslan, a Muslim himself, assures the world that Islam preaches neither peace nor violence, (even though the ISIS leaders have repeatedly turned to the pages of the Quran to justify their actions). Sam Harris wishes to believe that if religion ceased to exist altogether, there would be peace. Glenn Greenwald is just stoked he’s selling books now. And Ben Affleck already slept with J. Lo, so he really doesn’t give a fuck. What they’re really debating though, has nothing to do with radical or normal Islam at its core, but rather why man will never fill his lust for “danger, war and adventure.” By Lacanian theory, the whole point of this desire is to never reach it. A kingdom of righteousness and peace was never meant to be reached in the first place (which is why Muslims must die rightly in order to reach their paradise of virgins) . . . Lacan argued that wants and needs can be achieved with a rather urgent ease, but desire is the eternal elusive lust that we must always pursue but never catch. By pursuing his kingdom of righteousness and peace, man will create his wars, his little swelling torments of belief, his tragic flatulence of salvation. It’s the ape who throws the most feces wins.

Man loves his war in troops. He loves his slavery in droves of bleeding Prozac trolls, everyday another heartbreak as the sun sets and the sleepers fall asleep. Too bad, too bad, too bad.

As Aaeesha and Mrs. Freeman part ways, and head to their happy private lives, a fly catches in the spider’s web. All eight legs move him across to the writhing desperate fly, and he begins wrapping him in a spool of silk, tickled in the evening air.

ISIS, the Beautiful

(Originally published on http://www.paradiseofstorm.tumblr.com on July 5, 2014)

by Guy Walker

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They are pushing further and further, routing through the scarred and desperate areas, their borders swelling like the scare of some empyrean sickness you see spreading on a world map. But instead of the Plague, it’s the world’s wealthiest and most well-equipped militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a separated division of Al Qaeda. It’s like the angry kid growing up, he’s just a little more sophisticated and a little more angry this time. Their caches of weapons and U.S. antipathy are already substantial, already tromping through police stations and security posts, taking possession of more and more stockpiles of weaponry. Predominately Sunni Arab militants, ISIS “has already seized large swaths of northern and western Iraq, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-most populous city,” reports the Los Angeles Times, also “reportedly snatched the equivalent of close to $500 million in cash from a Mosul bank … “its riches easily eclipse those of Al Qaeda under Osama bin Laden.” They have taken hold of weapons stores from multiple Iraqi army divisions, collecting munitions enough for some 200,000 soldiers.

This is the Sunni’s most luxurious war, like some tragic parade of death, it marches through the desert and seizes oil fields and cities like they were new frontiers. They are recruiting children as young as ten years old, convincing them that “Allah chooses you” to fight for the Islamic state, to restore the caliphate as a literal successor to Muhammad. But they aren’t just another rebel group, they aren’t an accident of hate that swelled in the exhaust of war. ISIS is the maturing grandson of U.S. occupation and military training. As the U.S.-trained Iraqi army and Iraqi police forces flee their posts like roaches on a kitchen floor, and ISIS militants seize U.S.-made armored Humvees, a helicopter, rifles, rockets, trucks, and a myriad of other munitions, the U.S. has again unwittingly armed the enemy. And the U.S. response to ISIS as a growing threat is not that unusual: arm and train the opponents of ISIS. President Obama now seeks $500 million from Congress in order to train the “moderate Syrian opposition.”

Arming the opponent of the current threat to the United States is nothing new. Facing an unforeseeable future war with U.S. trained, equipped, and financed militants is also something of a favorite pastime for the U.S. government. Most famously since World War II, the United States has trained, equipped, and financed the opponents of their current opponents, only later to fight against their former perversions of allies. In World War II, the United States befriended the communists to fight the fascists. In the Cold War, they took the fascists under their wing in order to fight the communists. As Soviet and British forces occupied Iran, taking it as their own oil state, the U.S. used Iran’s airports and roads to transport around $18 billion worth of military aid to Stalin. But then there was the Cold War. Quite literally, the CIA enlisted former Nazis as their own. Mikola Lebed, for example, led a Ukrainian “terrorist organization” (as described by the CIA itself), was later recruited by the Agency and described as “rendering valuable assistance to this Agency in Europe.” During the Korean War, the CIA dropped guns and ammunition into Burma, arming general Li Mi and his band of nationalists, pointing them to fight Mao’s advancements. They did not advance. Twenty years later, the CIA ignited another war in Burma to kill off the heroin labs and the global drug empire Li Mi and his men created. In 1953 the U.S. attacked the same Guatemalan army forces they originally trained to topple Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. In 1959, several officers of the intelligence agency described Fidel Castro as an ally, offering that he deserved U.S. guns and money. The U.S. poured billions of dollars worth of arms into Afghanistan, into the hands of Islamic guerrilla warriors, in order to fight off the Soviets. Hence, the Taliban. Hence, Al Qaeda. A seemingly endless war on terror is in effect. And too often it’s armed on both sides with U.S.-made weapons. In 2010, the ATF allowed guns from the U.S. to pass freely into the hands of gun smugglers so they could be traced to the Mexican drugs cartels. The operation was named Fast and Furious. They lost track of the guns, hundreds of them, one of which was later used in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Since late 2013, and perhaps even earlier, the U.S. has been sending weapons to Syrian rebels, many of which are falling into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, another Islamic terrorist organization, as described by the United States itself.

$500 million to train the “moderate Syrian opposition.” Modesty to save the Middle East. Because the moderate opposition—armed with glistening caches of western weapons and a stipend of half a billion dollars—won’t turn their backs later. Western thought has always loved its modesty. Modesty to rule them all. Modesty—that is, armed-and-heavily-trained-and-financed-modesty—has always loved its promise of furthering war. It’s a symptom of western thought. Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics argues that the moral good always lies between two extremes, that moderation is a virtue of the great. No one less than Alexander the Great turned to Aristotle’s philosophy as his own, looking to modesty as a virtue of his own, later slaughtering hundreds of thousands who were apparently not modest enough. Nothing has improved since Alexander. The West has just outsourced its imperial construct with a little more tormented hilarity than it has before. A modest opposition doesn’t exist here. There was nothing modest about the Afghani rebels who fought back the Red Army. We know that now. And today there is nothing modest about Jabhat al-Nusra, who affirms its allegiance to Al-Qaeda, who has orchestrated various car-bombs, suicide attacks, assault of military bases, assassinations of political figures, who fighters have been filmed eating human hearts. The weapons will invariably end up in the hands of the enemy. It’s never done otherwise. These momentary allies, poised like gurgling perversions of chanting friends, don’t likely believe in a coming American Dawn. Because it’s just another violent tragic dawn.

If Aristotle wrote a book on ethics, and Alexander drew pictures of swords and horses in its margins, then the U.S. government wrote the treatise on peace and said more guns could achieve it. According to the New York Times, the United States tripled their weapons sales in 2011, primarily driven by the Persian Gulf allies and their concern of Iranian ambitions. The United States sold $66.3 billion worth of weapons oversees in 2011, more than three-quarters of the global arms sold. It’s impossible to account for those weapons. Fast and Furious was supposed to be a controlled operation, and it lost control, losing track of its weapons. It’s impossible to know how many of those $66.3 billion worth of weapons ended up in the hands of the enemy. And it’s impossible to know who the ally really is. Because the ally has before so often turned towards the enemy.

Alexander never satisfied his diabolical lust for modesty—there was not enough world for the world’s most modest. And no republic has ever lived more than three hundred years—and the United States is now two-hundred and thirty-eight, and is giving weapons to angry men in the desert. So another sort of plague spreads across the ancient dusty frontier, and America celebrates another birthday.

 

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