Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Sphinx

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes.
Instantly the whole previous picture vanished.

I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam.

Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny

at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches

of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun.

--Reflections in a Toolshed, C. S. Lewis

Think from outside the box;

collapse the box and take a fucking knife to it


His richly philosophical intellect was not

at any time affected by unrealities.

To the substances of terror he was sufficiently alive,

but of its shadows he had no apprehension

--The Sphinx
, Edgar Allen Poe

Reader Terrible recently brought the Edgar Allen Poe story The Sphinx to my attention as an analog to the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©). In that this 165 year old story succeeds so well it should be noted.

Much as the pre-Socratic Heraclitus reckoned the sun must measure about the size of his foot, as he reckoned the latter spanned its circumference, so the spooked protagonist in The Sphinx apprehends a terrible menace (not this Terrible) through his window. It is only when his rational house mate explains to him the source of his fright that he is able to release his fixation and see the apparition for the benign thing it is.

So Islam is now an idee fixe for those who would support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over lunch I met with an otherwise well-educated friend, a college instructor. Realizing of course that this is the Deep South and he is a Christian, but this Navy veteran is convinced -- on the basis of "testimony" he has heard from "recovering" Muslims -- that Islam is the devil's creed, and that all Islamic people are bent on killing Americans.

He confuses their dogma and prayers with their potentiality,
and sees their doctrine as a pathological thing to be exterminated, a la Spengler.
"They want to kill YOU -- they pray 5 times a day to kill you!
" he told me in all sincerity. "That's fine," said I, "as long as they must then go about their day herding their goats, making their yogurt and so on." I asked him if he thought his country willing to go door-to-door and kill every heathen Muslim. He agreed that is what it would take.

He has been made so fearful -- so repelled -- by this group of people, that
he and his fellows see that as a reasonable objective. As with the protagonist in Poe's story, he is possessed of an "abnormal gloom" and fixation on "omens" (the Book of Revelations being one of their guides.)

Of course, if they were true students of the Good Book, they would understand the proscriptions against the hastening of the End Times.
Instead, their loyalty goes to the false prophets who look like them on FOX news.

They are prey to the age-old xenophobic fear of The Other, The Infidel. They do not realize that they are also The Other.

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Blogger Terrible said...

One of my literary pet peeves is that Poe is so well known for his horror stories while his best work, the fantasy and political satire stuff, collect dust.

Your Navy vet friend might be shocked to learn a bit of history and find that hundreds of years ago when Christians were slaughtering unbelievers by the thousands and launching crusades against those they prayed to kill that the Muslim world was a healthy civilized place of science, literature and art. But then again that would go against the illusion he's fallen into.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 10:28:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

Quote of the day - found in comments on article at AntiWar.com about SecDef Mullen running his mouth.

"I am anticipating the day when the possession of Tibet and Afghanistan will be represented as vitally necessary to the security of Kansas and Nebraska. There is no logical end to this elastic conception of 'security' short of the conquest of the whole world."

William Henry Chamberlin, Dec 1940

Looks like that day is here Mr. Chamberlin.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 10:29:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

tacitus, the roman scholar and philosopher (money quote: they make a desert and call it peace)

also saw through the scam of endless security. he saw the existence of the standing army as the biggest threat to peace and commerce. he was the inspiration for our founder's aversion to the same institution.

by the reckoning of tacitus, the legions themselves created the border wars by looking for fights. they were always incrementally expanding the borders, which, in turn, aroused the hostility of the next group in line.

he didn't blame them. he knew that armies fought because that's what they do. he proposed many times that the standing army be dissolved, that the romans return to the citizen soldier concept they had during the days of the republic.

of course, the emperors would have none of that. they knew that the legions were the base, and often sole support of their power.

armies of true believers are very dangerous things. they are capable of the most heinous of acts.

the crusades, while couched in religious terms, were naked grabs at wealth and commerce. jerusalem and gaza were important because they were placed bestriding the shortest overland connecting route from the mediterranian and the indian ocean (now the location of the suez canal).

my favorite crusade was the "children's crusade" of peter the hermit. he roamed europe gathering young children around him. he preached that the infidels would be cowed by the purity and innocence of the children and would lay down their arms when that was shown to them.

he sold the kids into slavery in constantinople and retired from the ministry.

regardless of any other explanations given, the chinese siezed tibet to be a platform for their missles. to them, tibet represented the artillery man's ultimate high ground. from tibet, the chinese missles instantly became capable of reaching the continental united states.

i'm not saying it was a justifiable move, but tactically, it was sound. and tibet was far from anything resembling a paradise. it was a fuedal state where 90% of the population labored mightily to keep the ruling monks and lamas wrapped in silks and praying in front of golden statues in lavish temples.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 11:08:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

he is a Christian, Wow aren't they fun but I loved this.

he sold the kids into slavery in constantinople and retired from the ministry.

I think I'll take my atheist self out side a chop some kindling

Oh, what did Gandhi say he liked their god he just didn’t like their christens.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 11:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Terrible and jo,

Thank you for the excellent quotes (which I shall crib, later.)


You, along with the others, present such a full picture of the problem.

I do hope you occasionally post your terrific summaries (like this one) to various newspapers.

If people only understood their history (farther back than their birth dates) ... But, I s'pose it is not in the leaders' interest to have a fully educated mob, for they could not then shove through their follies, right?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 4:29:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Underground Carpenter said...

Hi Lisa,
Great post and your usual sparkling writing. Like you, I'm amazed when "good Christians" talk about the "evil brown infidel menace".

Now I'm gonna have to read some Poe. I just thought he was a horror author.

Minstrel Boy,
Damn. Now I'm gonna have to read some history. That was one of your best comments ever. Thanks for turning the word count down.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 8:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

Underground Carpenter, his non-horror stuff is very much worth reading. But a lot of the political satire is hard to understand although obviously very biting. The trick is to look up a bit of the political history of the time he was writing in. I think he'd have some very insightful things to say about todays bizarre political climate.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 2:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Publius said...

Ranger, next time you see your buddy, tell him for me that based on your thumbnail sketch, he's:

1. A non-thinker.

2. Unfit to teach impressionable youth if his beliefs about Islam are so crude and simplistic.

3. A coward if he supports the killing of all Muslims to assuage his fears.

4. Even more of a coward if he won't do the killing himself, but expects agents of his government to do it.

5. No "Christian" in any sense of the word.

6. Just another poor, pathetic, frightened American.

Friday, December 11, 2009 at 6:46:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


While harsh, your assessments sadly hit the target. He is terribly impressionable to what the news, his news, delivers him.

FYI: You might be surprised by how many of his teaching cohort share his beliefs.


Friday, December 11, 2009 at 8:46:00 PM GMT-5  

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