Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

This is a picture embedded in a crazy ass forward that made its way to my inbox this morning. I have a relative in Pakistan who has a tendency to forward alarmist information about computer virus threats, warnings about temporary tattoos, and yes, the occasional insane call to protest because some western institution or the other has managed to affront Islam. Now to embark on this discussion is a bit difficult for me, of course. I write for a meagre audience, but an audience of westerners, and I'm not totally comfortable airing the overly sensitive small-mindedness of my people here for others' derision. But this latest conspiracy really deserves to be shared.

The gist of the email is this: In a blatantly provocative move, a bar serving alcoholic drinks has opened in a structure on 5th Avenue in New York City, a structure modeled on the Ka'aba, a sacred edifice central to Islam and located in Mecca. This bar, according to the wastrels who crafted the forward, is but the West's latest insult to Islam. Of course, as most readers of this blog know, the picture above is not of a bar; it is the fabulous and newish Apple store near the old FAO Schwartz on 5th Avenure. In American parlance perhaps it is referred to as a Mecca of Iphones. Inside, there is a genius bar where bearded and tubby gentlemen serve you bottomless chagrin and condescension, instead of PBR's. In the picture above the store appears under scaffolding, and thus resembles the Ka'aba.

So what to make of all this? I don't know. Today Obama made an apparently riveting speech in Cairo (I have not heard it yet)-- though by all accounts he failed to apologize for Steve Jobs' heresy. Today our President took a proactive move to bridge a yawning chasm, even as he puts other stresses on the structural integrity of that bridge. But do email forwards like this temper whatever hopes we may have for a shared future with the developing world's Muslim population? They may, but here for me is the rub: While in this world there are quite a few crazy-ass Muslims who confuse nihilism for piety, who have made Afghanistan their homebase, who are funded by petro-dollars, and who our governments are right to destroy, the majority of outraged Muslims (not the majority of Muslims, mind you) are like my relative -- intellectually vapid, unpersuaded by reason and fact, and constitutionally incapable of turning their critical lens inward (at the affronts committed in Islam's name throughout the Swat Valley for instance?). That is to say, the majority of outraged Muslims are like the majority of outraged non-Muslims.

And here's the point I want to make. Let me put down my latte, and turn down NPR to make it. These Muslims are no different than our own home-grown crazies, the ones demanding Obama's birth certificate be presented for their personal inspection, who want all taxes eliminated, who blame their own failures on illegal immigrants. An absence of reason, tribalism, pigheadedness -- these are the hallmarks of crazies of all stripe, American and Pakistani. We spend a lot of time thinking--and given the President's actions today, he spends a lot of time thinking -- about the twain and how it shall meet. But perhaps the twain has met.

It doesn't matter the creeds. We are asssailed on both sides by an absence of reason.

No comments: