The British horror novelist, Clive Barker, called it “The Great Grey Beast, February” in his chillingly illustrated work “The Thief of Always". In that tale the little boy main character feels “swallowed whole” by the month itself and I have always been able to relate. It’s a short little month but it’s a real bastard of one too.
I have a friend who also can’t stand February and every year we commiserate about the misfortune and gloom this month seems to bring about. A kind of Grand Etheric Slump falls upon us, making the usual Doom that runs amok across the world seem somehow more desperate, fraught with hopelessness and tinged with the reek of unavoidable disaster.
With that in mind let’s see if we can figure out why every time I check world news lately it just seems like a live traffic feed of the fast track straight to hell. We’ll try to take these one at a time since, as I’ve been away for some time, there’s a lot to cover.
“SWEET FANCY MOHAMMED, IT’S JUST A CARTOON, YOU RUBE”
When I lived in Cairo, back in the early ‘90’s I recall an uproar which concerned a major Arabic film called “The Immigrant” which was about, if I’m remembering it correctly, Joseph, of the Many-Colored-Coat, and his time in Egypt. This film, also, violated the same rough basis for the whole cartoon uproar.
The Cairene Literati came out in force to support the director, Youssef Chahine and there were riots and demonstrations all over the place, there. During all the fracas, which lasted some time, Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz got himself knifed in the throat for a novel he’d written sometime in 1959, which was also believed to be not in accordance with the same basic belief, and is, in fact, banned in Egypt for being “blasphemous” .
The idea stems from a basic a prohibition on depictions of the human form in Islam. Now, I’ve been told, by People in the Know, that it’s because to try and mimic the human form would be an insult to God, Who Alone, Creates in Perfection. To depict forms of holy people, the Prophets, and Patriarchs, and people of their ilk, is considered particularly forbidden and taboo.
This is why, in mosques all over the World, one does not find any kind of human form represented. Islamic art and architecture is filled with ornate linear and leaf-and-vine designs simply because artists of the time had to express themselves without exploring the human form. Intricately paneled coffered ceilings and finely detailed rosettes took the place of the statues and tapestries of the west in sacred art.
In Persia, sometime after the Islamic Conquest (637-651 CE), there are depictions of the human form which are, themselves, considered blasphemous by some, but even in these tapestries and texts images of holy or revered personages are depicted with a white cloth or linen that covers the features of the face. This is done out of deferment to the Almighty.
When I first heard about the unrest in the Mid-East over these cartoons I had two I.V. ports, one in each hand, and both were fiercely at work rehydrating and filling me with all maner of fluids and nutrients and stuff that does all the things to the body that Gatoraid and vodka doesn’t. From that perspective it didn’t seem all that bad. The unrest, not the bed rest.
I thought: “So what? If one looks for kindling one can start a fire, right?” But this was before there was a death-count involved. It was not yet February, then, and I thought, “Surely, something that happened back in September of last year won’t come back to bite the world on the ass.”
Ah, but let us not underestimate the Great Grey Beast, oh Freaky Ones, nor let us forget the general malice and distrust with which we are viewed, here in the West, by our Mid-East and Muslim neighbors.
Within days it was open season on Danes. It seems someone had indeed sought kindling and the fire had grown out of control like a Colorado wildfire. Then, after some carefully considered rage, the hatred turned to the West in general. That old Thousand Years of Mutual Culteral Indifference is what came back and bit us all on the ass.
Suddenly, the question became one of Freedom of Speech, or Freedom of Religion, or Freedom of some such shit or the other. Then, to complete the comedy, those Pinheads in the Iranian government made the Danes look good with their call for a Holocaust cartoon. They did this, they claim, because they wanted to make a point about the limits of Freedom of Speech and secret political agendas.
The mainstream media finally stopped covering a lot of crap about it, then. It had run it’s course, it seemed, and beside that, they didn’t want to touch that Holocaust cartoon story too much. After all, it’s not a Muslim Day of Remeberance…Nor are there Islamic Rememberance Sites and museums all over the place.
Hell, people are still dying over those stupid drawings but it’s no longer newsworthy. Truth is, it’s not about freedom of speech. I mean, if it were about that then it would not have reached this point. Look, People, Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean we always have to like what’s being said. Fact is, as a general rule, I like to dislike mostl things people say until I've had the time to have a good think on them. However, it does mean defending the right of the babbling bastard to have their say so.
Freedom of Religion is another thing entirely and does not belong in this conversation. That one means the freedom to worship as you like. The USA has some crazy cults around. A lot of those cults are actually taken seriously here. But again, nowhere does it say we must like it. Nor does it say we must be nice. It says we cannot break laws while disliking it.
That novel that Mahfouz got knifed over was a retelling of a biblical tale. It was an allegory that has been handed down through Time as much as the story of King Arthur or the Star Wars Saga. Some people didn't like it and so one of them stabbed the Old Man in the neck for it.
I’d like to say that I’m unbiased about all this but I can’t. I don’t see where stabbing a senior citizen in the throat during his afternoon tea makes any sense. I don’t know how God, or Joseph, or Mohammed, would see violence over their image, in any way, as something good.
I think the real misconeption here is that we, Americans, are not really Free. The truth, my Freaky Ones, is that, no matter what one does or says, someone else should always have the right to bitch about it. Freedom is a great power and, as Stan Lee taught us,with great power comes great responsiblilty. Let’s not fuck it up.
Well, that about covers that…Next time:
My take on the Cheney shooting…Remember…I’m a Texan so that should be fun…Until then, My Freaky Darlings, remember…It’s all fun and games until someone brings a lawyer or a bomb.