Three Good Ways to Answer the Islamic Jihad

No one has done more to keep the alchemical flame well-lit in American letters than the prolific publisher and author Richard Grossinger. His most recent book, “On the Integration of Nature: Post-9/11 Biopolitical Notes,” is an occasionally whimsical, often profound, and always engaging collection of observations, reflections, reviews, memoirs, recommendations, quips, and asides that ably put his talents on display. DharmaCafe is pleased to offer the first of three brief excerpts from one of America’s most important (and unjustly neglected) writers.

by Richard Grossingerimage

On Slavoj Žižek’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Though we almost certainly cannot (and will not) negotiate with jihad (and its decentralization makes effective negotiation impossible to enforce anyway), we can do a number of things that would be significant, even crucial, in determining the outcome of this conflict, the type of world our grandchildren will inherit. Here are our options:

I. We can begin the long, slow process of retooling our economy and culture so that we are not immured into exporting unjust policies and then enforcing them militarily. We can reexamine actions of ours that exacerbate America’s conflict with the Islamic and developing world. Even if we choose not to change any of them, we can exercise restraint in our rhetoric (for instance, demonstrating that we at least understand opposing viewpoints and consider them credible and moral). We can avoid needlessly and gratuitously aggravating the crisis by boasting, demonizing, oversimplifying, and otherwise misrepresenting the “enemy.” We can drop the word “evil” from our vocabulary because it has a way of turning the tables on those who self-righteously invoke it against their enemies.

If we cannot ameliorate our relations with hardcore jihadists who clearly hate us, we can at least try not to preen and pontificate, to incite support and sympathy for them, to sow desperation so that people in the developing world sacrifice their lives as the only way to regain pride and self-respect. The behavior of the United States under the second Bush regime encourages millions of poor and/or Islamic peoples on the sidelines, who otherwise eschew violence, to cheer clandestinely for our comeuppance.

If you were a child in the streets of Gaza or Karachi, whose picture card would you collect: Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush? Who looks like “the man”?

The “liberation” of Iraq followed by Abu Ghraib and the massacre at Falluja was a textbook al-Qaeda recruitment campaign—hours of free nightly advertising on al-Jazeera for Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, playing along-side the Sharon regime’s demolitions of the houses of the families, friends, and rumored friends of suicide bombers. Why would Osama want regime change in the U.S. when he can manipulate the Bush Administration into igniting his revolution? His cross-hairs are on Earth 2052, not the 2004 North American election.

Bush has taken a good twenty or thirty years off America’s period of grace before it has to defend itself on its home turf. That is how he will be remembered—as neo-Crusader chump if the Muslims get to write the account, and as the worst president in American history, hands down, if we luck out survival after him, four more years or not.

Look at how dangerously debt-ridden we have already become in financing his imperial adventures. Future generations will look back on this binge in outraged disbelief. What were Bush and his cohorts thinking? Did they not see that the bill, incurred in a time of relative (if deceptive) plenty, would come due in an era of impoverishment and famine? Did they not understand that the ultimate price of the Iraq War was the mortgage of their own grandchildren’s future to rising superpower China and the oligarchs of the Sahara and Central Asia?

From a practical standpoint, we cannot bludgeon and exterminate all the Islamic fundamentalists and other opponents of the American way of life, especially as (over the coming decades) their exponentially exploding populations, mired in poverty and crushed by global capitalism, reach critical mass. A trans-formation in our world-view even without a formal cessation of hostilities or surrender to jihadist demands might gradually alleviate what will otherwise become—has already become—a battle to the death between the guerrilla deeds of those who wish to exterminate our parasitic civilization and our own apocalyptic flails to keep the oil pumping, build fortresses around our malls, and preempt their deeds with mercenary armies and missile shields.

z. Five percent of the world’s population streaming along highways crammed with SUVs, an empire guzzling a quarter of the world’s oil production and consuming an equivalent share of the planet’s resources cannot begin to address the real basis of the global conflict of which al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam are early fever blisters—in fact, has no ethical high ground at all. In addition, the Bush Administration has made matters worse by underwriting and even subsidizing waste, ostenta¬tious gluttony, and pollution while boycotting international treaties to halt eco-degradation and economic exploitation.

We have the illusion that we have earned this cornucopia because we are godly and well-managed; we see ourselves as shining knights, the hope of humanity, not craven imperialists and wanton despoilers. We condescendingly inform the world that this is wealth we have created, not appropriated. We claim to be the most generous people on Earth. No wonder our hubris rankles tribes among whom generosity is measured not by handouts but the heart itself.

3. We can develop new policies that, while not significantly impacting the popularity of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbolah, etc., begin to present creative, spiritually acceptable, even Koran-compatible alternatives to jihad. Feeding the malnourished, taking the traumatized and homeless into communities, treat¬ing the victims of plagues, halting genocides and relocations, placing orphans in families, decommissioning child armies, air-lifting relief after natural disasters, tabooing slavery and forced prostitution, dissolving corporate strangleholds on indigenous populations all could provide outlets for an energy that wishes to serve Allah (or God) and seeks missions of redemption and purification rather than accumulation of goods and wealth. America’s aggressive consumptionism and vulgar huckstering, its self-righteous attempt to spread ideology (corporate hege¬monies dissimulating as “freedom” and “democracy”), clearly cannot be concealed from the rest of a street-smart planet. You cannot hide an elephant at a bazaar. What al-Qaeda has begun, other terrorist movements will carry to our shores, even if every current jihadist haven is bombed back to the Stone Age.

The Stone Age is where they are coming from. That’s home.

We are stuck in a double-bind/double blackmail defined by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek: “If we simply, only and unconditionally condemn [9/11], we ... appear to endorse the blatantly ideological position of American innocence under attack by Third World Evil; if we draw attention to the deeper sociopolitical causes of Arab extremism, we ... appear to blame the victim which ultimately got what it deserved.” He goes on to propose that we adopt both positions simultaneously; “each one is one-sided and false.” This is not to suggest a shared guilt that cancels out each violent act by its antipode. We should fight terrorism in all its forms, according to a definition that includes American and Israeli terrorism and the “terrorism” of transnational corporations that impose more subtle and insidious “9/IIs” on local and indigenous populations. “... [T]he choice between Bush and Bin Laden is not our choice; they are both `Them’ against Us.

“[America must] finally risk stepping through the fantasmatic screen that separates it from the Outside World, accepting its arrival in the Real World, making the long-overdue move from `A thing like this shouldn’t happen here!’ to `A thing like this shouldn’t happen anywhere!’ This is the true lesson of the attacks: the only way to ensure that it will not happen here again is to prevent it happening anywhere else.”*

Okay, let’s see where we get by the tenth, reverential commemoration—9/II/II; let’s see what happens before the Guatemalan calendar runs out in 2012.

*Slavoj Žižek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real (New York: Verso, 2002), p. 49.

Thank you, Richard.  You have expressed so powerfully and concisely the tumultuous miasma of feelings and concerns that I and many of my peers carry around with us these days, hardly knowing how to communicate it all, feeling increasingly isolated, alienated, unable to reach out to those around us existing within the narcotic bubble of illusion, sustained by material comfort and convenience of habit. 


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