The Parthian Shot1
“But the essential of religion lies elsewhere. Religion belongs primarily to the realm of action. Beliefs are not fundamentally knowledge to enrich our minds; their principal function is to give rise to acts.”
Emile Durkheim, The Religious Problem and the Duality of Human Nature (1913)
Commerce is the only worldwide revolutionary movement—and proves it daily. President Bush summons the free world. He agrees completely with my view: truly a world is under attack and not just the U.S.A., and in so doing he acknowledges the existence of another world. Cover up that world, which I can’t endure to look on2—and if you can’t cover it up, then destroy it. Let’s invade Iraq. Why mess around with all the riff-raff, given our megatons and especially our tactical nuclear weapons, so-far unused… How tempting. The world has become a film by Stanley Kubrick, and Iraq one by Tarantino.
There is democracy in Spain, isn’t there? So why aren’t the Spanish people issuing death sentences against the strategists who got them into this mess? Were those strategists expecting to go on defying the Arab nation with impunity, a nation humiliated for the past four centuries? Now, after so many centuries, we are witnessing the first victories of this old conquering nation. Further, since the official truth holds that Spain is a democracy, then, accordingly, aren’t the people sovereign, the Sovereign, proper noun? The Arabs aren’t fooled: unlike ordinary anarchists or Basque separatists, they don’t assassinate mere figureheads or puppet ministers (which would only delight everyone—obviously not the aim of these Arabs. They aim to displease and they accept responsibility for their wickedness. So praise them in this world of good-thinking people, where even the bad dare present themselves as good and respectable.) No, they attack the real sovereign, or the one so proclaimed by all the newspapers, radios and televisions of the Western world. The critique these Arabs apply is ad hominem (and also, alas, ad personam), for they take literally the openly stated claims of the free world. Among the sovereign people are some who are innocent (in the sense of simpleminded) and who wonder why Arabs are attacking the civilians of a country where peace reigns. But that country is making war on Iraq. How stupid to find those attacks surprising, given the loyalty of the Arabs who, like Hitler, clearly announce way in advance what they are going to do, and when the moment comes, they do it. They take no one by surprise (not even President Bush, so they say), from a strategic viewpoint that is. But they reserve the right of tactical surprise. That is all that they have, and what the U.S. does not.
Today, the Arab-Muslim nation is the world nation. Petit Robert Dictionary: “Nation: A human group, generally quite large (indeed!), characterized by the consciousness of its unity and a willingness to live together.” Precisely. According to V.S. Naipaul, non-Arab converts to Islam strive to be more Arab than the Arabs. They soon will be more Arab than Muslim.
What is the assassination of one archduke good for if not to trigger a world war among world powers? As for the archduke, there are plenty more fish in the sea. But to trigger a worldwide civil war, it’s preferable to assassinate civilians en masse. The State of the United States is intent on being the defender of the civilians of the free world, which means that free-world civilians are no longer able to defend themselves on their own, that they are not free, while Arab civilians can attack them with or without the complicity of pro-Muslim states or even the C.I.A. Arab civilians still have what free-world civilians have lost. The latter are now nothing more than human resources—a well-suited, cynical, but not very Kantian expression—Stalin still had the politeness to say “the most precious capital.” Consequently they are dealt with “en masse” and, obviously, not solely by their assassins. Mass man is treated everywhere and always as mass man. So there he is, held hostage to suffer for the sinister pranks of the strategists. When strategists goof, human resources go “poof”. Popu is forever being shit upon.3 Every day the television heaps insults upon him—why not? Poor Anders, who died in despair, observed as early as 1956 that this world conforms to the images it produces (matrix theory not in the mathematical sense but as in die casting).4 This very world induces the desire to bomb it. Arabs, even strict Muslims, go to see disaster films too. I regret that Anders did not live to see this splendor, to see his theory confirmed on a global scale. Further, since President Bush is a Texan, it’s more effective to wastehis free (as in free-range) cattle than to attack his person. A rancher’s cattle is sacred! But most of all it makes him look bad before the world cartel of cattle ranchers. What kind of a cowboy lets his cattle get wasted by outlaws? Arabs attacking human resources: an abominable crime. But the Arabs are not the only ones attacking them and, above all, it is not they who created them. They are innocent of that crime, which is much worse than their own. The point is that they do not want to become human resources themselves. How can they say that to be finally understood? As the Situationists used to say, in a world where submission is universal and glorified, freedom is necessarily criminal. What do those Arabs want to do? The greatest harm to the greatest number. But that’s exactly what the free world does to those who live in it, and the opposite of the official truth proclaimed by the English ideologues of the 18th century: the greatest good for the greatest number. The greatest harm for a human being is to be reduced to the state of a human resource.
Only a renewed “spirit of conquest”—the spirit that has always moved Islam (with a long dormancy period suited to its growing embitterment)—is today capable of standing up to the only worldwide revolutionary movement: commerce. Islam is therefore the only worldwide counter-revolutionary movement. It’s the re-reconquista. Consequently, Islam’s spirit of re-conquest is the only spirit of resistance today—this is sad to say, but true. The Arab-Muslims are neither “Negroes” nor Serbs5; they have the means to defend themselves, or at least to take cruel revenge. They are not innocent. They can do almost as much harm as their adversaries. In short, the “good people”6 reproach the Arabs for being able to defend themselves. What impertinence, don’t you agree? The Arabs are the redskins of the world. Will they end up the same way? Will mediocrity triumph over genius again? Victor Hugo was pessimistic because Waterloo was not the definitive victory of mediocrity over genius. Napoleon is no more, but Bin Laden is. Once again mediocrity has to worry about its future. Bush is bent on being done with the Muslims; he wants to inculcate those obscurants with a little commercial civilization—call it commerce at gunpoint or the rip-off of Arabia. There’s one hitch though: Arab or non-Arab, there are 1.5 billion of them. Will the hold-up of the century fail? “God exhausts the schemes of the deniers7; they lavish their resources to cut off the path to God (70 billion dollars already!). Let them lavish, for afterwards they will feel only bitterness, and worse, will be defeated.”
Naipaul reproaches the Muslims for having only faith and no technology. But at least they have faith, and they know marvelously well how to hijack for their own ends the technology that they could not invent. (They still have some problems with SIMM chips; they won’t make that mistake again.) One thing escapes Naipaul: Muslims constitute an international nation; they can strike whenever and wherever they want, which is something the Serbs cannot do no matter how strong their fervor. Under those conditions faith proves to be a formidable weapon. The Muslims are hopeless at taking out patents but exceedingly strong at wreaking vengeance on a world scale. A century ago Arab ferociousness was a literary cliché in the works of Balzac (Lost Illusions) or Flaubert (Madame Bovary). If the herds of human resources were not scandalously innocent, i.e., strictly incapable of doing harm, innocent due not to virtue but to inability, — La Rochefoucauld addressed that issue: “One cannot call someone good who lacks the ability to do harm.” — if they were not eternal minors, incompetent in the sense of Roman law; indeed if they were not like cattle (yet even cattle are capable of vengeance via the pranks of the prion),8 then that spirit of re-conquest would not be necessary; it would not even be possible.
The Arabs have truly struck the guilty ones—guilty of servitude. If the Arabs do not say, in their brutal style, how contemptible the conditions of life are for the herds of human resources, who will? In this self-celebratory world, a world where praise is an industry, who will say it? What are the Muslims’ five daily prayers in comparison to the permanent auto-celebration—day in and day out, over the air and in the press—of this perfect world, so democratic, so free, so beautiful? Muslims submit to their god out of love or respect. In the free world, human resources are bribed into submission. In the free world, it is not the faithful who pray to their god but God himself who hustles them for cash. An entire caste is assigned to that task. In the free world, God is an industry. Die, bastards. If the Arabs hold the free world in contempt, it’s because it’s contemptible. At last some men have the means to say so, loud and clear, at the risk of their lives.
The problem is not with the Arabs, it is with the free world. The problem with this world is precisely that, being peopled by prisoners, it alone is free. Engels observed the same thing about England in 1840. The ineptitude, cynicism, vulgarity, money-grubbing, pettiness and brutality of this world is a permanent insult to humankind before being an insult to Allah. That is why the Arabs gave this world a lesson in generosity (“altruistic suicide” according to Emile Durkheim), as well as a lesson about the world. Today any American hayseed knows where Mecca and Madrid are, which was not the case a little while ago. The United States: a big island. A New York friend of mine describes his country in two words: myth and lies, which means that, for Americans, history no longer exists nor will it ever again exist. America forever. Myth and lies: those two words also fit well with the free world. The crime is enormous because the free world is an enormous, permanent insult to the human race, with its big, fat socialists dining in the finest Parisian restaurants and its stern, impeccably dressed WASPs attending countless board meetings. This world will not rest until it turns every man into a boor (kâfir in Arabic, translated by Berque as a “denier”): For God, the vilest of animals are the deniers, because they do not believe. “You who believe, if you encounter the deniers in battle formation, do not turn your backs to them.” And … it will grow (the world or the punishment, we don’t know yet), it will grow and grow … because it’s Spanish.9
So it is precisely because of the strength and perfection of U.S. weapons that only civilians can do what those Arab civilians are doing. A state that would do likewise would be immediately annihilated, something Kadhafi clearly understands. A world has begun to resist and, what is remarkable, has done so for purely human, i.e., spiritual, reasons. Spirit is with them. I suppose that the “Muslims of France” and elsewhere will agree to begin “a radical critique of their view of the world” when the herds of human resources begin their own radical critique of their view of the world, which in their case is not their view at all but their masters’, one they get from Le Monde and the New York Times. All that human resources know how to do is obey, complain, moan, vote (for Charybdis or Scylla),10 moralize, and rant and rave against Le Pen—that convenient scarecrow. As during the time of the Turkish occupation and the Haidouks,11 when the master is at his balcony and lets his chechia 12 fall into the courtyard, startling the human resources, the rollerbladers fall on their faces and the married queers go limp. Long live the Haidouks, those terrible bandits! Gentlemen Human Resources, you, who feel complete solidarity with one another because you are totally separate from one another (cf. Marx and Durkheim), shoot first! Criticize yourselves first! Visibly, the Muslims—and not just the Arabs—shit on “your” democracy, which is only your masters’ democracy, the buddy democracy, the democracy of rogues and rollerbladers, a democracy of lofty moral standards and a single motto: “If I catch you, I’ll screw you” (stricto sensu in Iraq). I, too, shit upon it. That, by the way, is the only thing I share with the Arabs, other than faith, obviously. Simply put, our religions differ but our faith is the same. There are many religions but only one faith, because there is only one object of faith, whatever name you give it. That object has many names and, in fact, the only thing we know about it is its names. They all have the same meaning. They are synonyms. On the other hand, as the insightful Tocqueville pointed out, how can you ask a religion that interferes in politics to be open and tolerant? One might as well have asked the Christian State of the King of Prussia in the time of Marx—a state that meddled in religion, in religious politics, and gave a religious character to political matters—to be open and tolerant. We know what followed: Bismarck, a fist of iron in an iron glove, German unity, coal, steel, war (then, the encore, a new fist of iron in a new iron glove, mixed with madness and Keynesian ministers). The spirit of conquest, right? It’s fortunate that a world based on mass prostitution should fare so poorly. There would be no morality if it were to fare well.
Because people often leave school these days unable to read (they were taught to “sight read”), to preclude any misunderstanding I want to make clear that when I attack married gays it’s not the gays I’m attacking but bourgeois marriage, the most ridiculous institution there is, paired in this case with aggressive militancy and presented as the pearl of the Occident. Gay marriage: what a huge step forward for freedom and humanity. In demanding the right to bourgeois marriage gays repudiate themselves (supposedly “proud” but evidently ashamed of not being like everyone else, they make their shame official. That’s really the last straw: militant conformism, have your cake and eat it too. “Mommy, help!”13), and they offend the memory of Alan Turing, who was atrociously martyred by English bourgeois prejudice. Let it be known too that I am for the legalization of marijuana and of bestiality, but also for the formal prohibition, upon penalty of death, of roller-skating by anyone older than twelve. Why such a draconian punishment? Because public safety is at stake. Everyone knows how prickly the Arabs are, so we must avoid doing anything that may irritate them. They might bomb Paris Plage14 (I don’t mean Le Touquet, that charming village that, in addition to charm, possesses an airport where one can land a plane normally if one has learned how to land). Furthermore, it would be counterproductive to lead them to believe that they’re dealing with children, though it’s too late now, they already know. Bush Junior never grew up. He wants to play with and break his tactical nuclear toys no matter what. Why didn’t his daddy finish the job ten years ago and deliver the Iraqis from their terrible, jocular dictator? Because he feared an alliance between the Shiites of Iraq and the Shiites of Iran. Frustrated by all that, the C.I.A. (always up to no good) laid a trap for the poor Iraqi Shiites, as we all know. I hope the Shiites will make their so-called liberators pay dearly for that. Ten years ago the Sunnis were rich, moderate, respectable, bourgeois, westernized. But nobody was paying attention to the Wahabites (who are behind the Saudi fortune) and particularly to the Salafists. In those ten years the Sunnis thoroughly earned their bad reputation, equaling that of their Shiite enemy brothers. Praise them. Bad reputations are the consequence of having displeased the C.I.A. and the president of the United States. The American leaders are trying to use in Iraq the same methods (myth and lies) that they’ve used so successfully with their own human resources “at home.” Iraq has no human resources, but it still has men. The United States is a desert—not Iraq, at least not yet.
“I swear by the time, most surely man is in loss, except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.”
2 Molière’s Le Tartuffe: “Cover up that bosom, which I can’t endure to look on. Things like that offend our souls, and fill our minds with sinful thoughts.”
3 Popu: Céline’s neologism in his pamphlet Mea Culpa, written on his return from Russia, to refer to “the people” (in French: population, populace, populo).
4 Günther Anders (1902-1992), philosopher and essayist, author of Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen (“The Obsolescence of Mankind”). Cf. Le Site de Jean-Pierre Voyer : « Debord est un homme que je corrige toujours » ; also the Web page of Harold Marcuse http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/anders.htm.
5 Meaning that the Arab-Muslims are not in a state of submission, contrary to the other two groups. (The original French term, nègres, is translated here as “Negroes”, the term also used by Malcolm X and other black rebels to refer to blacks, and people of color in general, in a state of submission.)
6 Bush’s “good people of America” with a play on words: gens bons (good people) and jambon (ham).
7 Those who deny, who do not believe (“les dénégateurs”)
8 The infectious agent in mad cow disease
9La Périchole by Jacques Offenbach: « Il grandira car il est Espagnol. »
10 Sailors navigating the narrow Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy fell victim to either of two sea monsters: Charybdis on one side or Scylla on the other.
11 Courageous resistance fighters in the Bulgarian people’s struggle for freedom from their Ottoman oppressors, 15th-18th centuries.
12 A distant cousin of the European beret, from Andalusian times.
13 « Allô maman, bobo », song by Alain Souchon about a sad young man with very low self-esteem.
14 Paris Plage: Name of both the well-known beach in Normandy near the town of Le Touquet and, only recently, of the banks of the Seine in Paris during the summer months when they are off-limits to automobiles.