According to anecdote, Stalin one day exclaimed: 'I am surrounded
by a lot of blind kittens!" without suspecting for a moment his own
participation in that blindness.
Bill Maher and Ben Affleck are Right. Maybe not in their arguments, but in their presentation of something guiding both of their ideologies, capitalism. No, this is not an article reducing Islamophobia and the all too easy knee-jerk reactions so prevalent in the media today down to one issue. However, one of the many features of capitalism, for those who don't know, is the privatization of property. One thing that capitalism has done here in the West has imbued us all with a rationale that vindicates the desire for our perspective to be equal to that of a universal right.
Of course, the fatal naivete that comes with this, is that our opinions don't have an affect on anyone else. If one thing is for sure, we all know this is not true. We all know Fox to be a pet project of the Right, and yet is popular enough that its carnivalesque news theories are treated as gospel. In the confrontation between Maher and Affleck what we encounter is the very crisis of a media-saturated society looking for the next 'hit'. We live now, in nothing less than the society of the spectacle. We all want the hype of the circus. We want to feel involved. We all want to be activists, philosophers, actors, and X-Factor champions. We want to be told what to believe, this is why the debate is so popular, people don't want to think outside of it, people don't want to realize their own implicit participation in something like Islamophobia, it might mean we have to change something.
This is essentially what occurs in the recent controversy over the the 'rape joke' that aired when Stewie from the Family Guy is with Bart Simpson and makes a joke about rape over the phone. Most would have been fine if it was inferred, but the fact that it was directly referred to enraged many people. This has happened with the conversation, the fact that Maher and Affleck were in a passionate disagreement about an issue within Islam touched a social nerve. What is this social nerve you ask? That of our folk epistemology. In short, its how we culturally evaluate what we think is true and how we have come to think those things are true. In this context, the media, capitalism, historical racism (yes, Ferguson included), religious fundamentalism, and power amongst many other issues are all major players in the case of ISIS and how America/Americans have handled the beheadings, threats and its misinterpretation of Islam.
The typical presentation of an argument like this, is that one has to be right, and the other has to be wrong. It's the oversimplification of choice, dumbed-down to the mundane reduction of such a complicated situation into two choices. This brings up another issue we have to address, which is that of dualism. The religious nuances within Islam cannot be cut into generalizations(Maher) or cannot be presented without their issues(Affleck). Both perspectives are naive. Dualism cheapens human experience and the possibility of a future for us all. ISIS is not Islam. Islam is not ISIS. Sure, one might affect the other, but not necessarily equal to it. Yes, are there humans who believe in Islam who have attributed a fundamentalist reading of the Quran to justify evil behavior? Yes. But this does not mean all Muslims are fundamentalists or terrorists. We have to get this out of our head. Like all other religions, Islam must go through reform.
I recently interviewed Zudhi Jasser, the President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum For Democracy who says it much better than I can, about the need for us all to work together in forming a better society and for reducing the pernicious spirit of Islamophobia today:
"Thus, for Islam to go through a reformation which allows it to lift up the universal principles of liberty, human rights, modernity, and reason, we Muslims must have the courage of our convictions to carry it out. We cannot do this without the support of non-Muslim allies, who need to both recognize the problem and the need for Muslims like those of us at AIFD to be empowered. For Muslims to reject both tyrannies of ethnic fascism (ie Arabism) and Islamism, this will need a third path of liberty."
(Please see the whole interview here).
Rather than running to war like a cocaine addict, we must think differently about each other, about Islam, about ISIS. This isn't some blind plea to not take into consideration all of the issues with ISIS and just hug each other, but we've tried war for centuries. Let's be creative. Like Malala Yousafzai states we need to consider peace as this third 'path of liberty'. It's too easy to scapegoat peace and it's many definitions when all we have been exposed to in history is war.
What we need is for the general populations to rise up against the state initiated-military machine and demand other ways of finding restitution. As Marx said: "All forms of the state have democracy for their truth, and for that reason are false to the extent that they are not democracy". The archaic language of dualist ideology and theology isn't cutting it anymore. Problems can't be reduced to right or wrong, peace or war and etc. We need discourse and creativity not to rely on history to dictate to us our options. That is myopically irresponsible and a puerile defense of the zombification of the masses to do nothing more than just complain about it on Facebook.
I think Russel Brand is right, we need a revolution. But we need it now. Let's not become victims of academic Leftist thought where we artfully speak of revolution and never do it. This is why Russel is good for the Left. But, we need all of us in society to rise up against the machinations of ideology and the systems that imbue us with the lie that we need them. Rather than become some Marlowe-esque Faustian epic of detritus, and just give our souls over to folk epistemology.