I need world peace right now, because I’m in the middle of something. Actually, we all have something better to do with our time. Being on a news diet has made me extra sensitive. Try not reading the news for three months straight, and you’ll be horrified at what’s presented to you when you finally decide to catch up.
I had no intention of posting any non fiction asides in the middle of this important phase of my creative work, but this Islamic State kidnap, torture, kill for the camera boondoggle has gone past ludicrous and into straight up cartoon gaga. Is this actually continuing, right now? A group of ragamuffins in balaclavas has brought shame to the manicured Toastmasters acting as leaders of industrialised nation states.
I’d once written in my Gravatar introduction that the very tools that we use to destroy each other can be used to build us up, or was it vice versa. Social media was used to spread a snuff film around the world, and Rupert Murdoch’s wet nurse, Piers Morgan, has gone versus himself in the Daily
Pail Mail. He now wants all Muslims to watch a snuff film, because he feels it will cure them of their sympathy for these mass murderers. I didn’t watch the video, and couldn’t make it through a single one of the news reports on the situation.
What the Jordanian pilot’s sadistic execution drew from me was first a memory, and then understanding. When the Taliban destroyed a large statue of the Buddha in Afghanistan in the early noughties, I received sympathetic phonecalls and emails from almost every corner of the planet. People wanted to know if I was okay. At the time, the video footage was on a shortlist of the most horrific things anyone had seen. It was a moist backwardness, a soiled intolerance.
I was a new expatriate, and a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist, which was not something people at home “get.” They think going to temple to meditate for an hour is like a snack before meals: “Go to church, too, to even things up.” I think not. I respect the religious beliefs of others because it wasn’t always a courtesy offered to me.
I respect your religion to a point, though. I’m openminded to a point because, I am familiar with the mindset of the people who destroyed that statue. Living outside of my home country has afforded me many privileges. One of them is meeting people from almost every culture, race and creed.
I know that burn the prisoner mindset very well. It is a baked in lacquer of determined retrogression. It is tinged with envy towards the unattainable. There is no dislodging it. Nothing can wash it away. No amount of exposure to other cultures, no invitation to exhibit or present at international conferences can shake these people of their conviction that they’re supreme and have the right to dictate the way things are. Theirs is an unshakeable narcissism.
At home, we have a disparaging term for that. We would say they’re “country people.” It’s a vicious objection to anything that falls outside of a narrow parameter of prescribed knowledge. What is not understood must be destroyed with spite. I touched on it in a separate essay, but that was in relation to the Charlie Hebdo issue. I had forgotten the Buddha’s demolition and how I felt the blood seemingly drain from my body.
Of course, I know it’s just a statue, so that’s not what had frightened me. I felt as if I was in mortal danger. For what? Not praying five times a day? I stopped telling anyone I was a Buddhist after that. I definitely did not say it to Muslim friends or acquaintances, because I liked them and I didn’t want them running off. Mind you, now I’m a different creature and I defy anyone to coerce me into any minimum position.
I know that in Islam, religious sculptures are forbidden. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” Exodus 20:4, is the Christian version of that. I remember, when I was about four or five, my grandmother screaming at one of my uncles. Almost all of her sons had an artistic or creative gift, and his was for carving wood into works of art. The walls of my home were decorated with paintings, ceramic objects and wooden sculptures. All of them done by my uncles. I remember her angry shouting after he had used an axe to destroy the wooden pieces, which his new family, a Pentecostal church, had called “graven images.” She was so angry, she forgot to use her favourite adverb, raasclaat.
When I catch up with colleagues who are Muslim, I make sure not to adorn myself with any jewellery that has religious symbolism. Otherwise, I have to answer lots of questions and justify everything. I wear plain clothing. I can adjust my behaviour to that extent, and that should be it. My life is not forfeit.
What is my point… The words can’t form, but it’s something in the region of, we’re all in mortal danger of being burned alive by rigid and closedminded people. They don’t kidnap and torture us, but they hold us hostage with their approval. I’ve already been told to shut up about what I’m presenting here in this installation, and those memories came back.What if I weren’t in the safe haven provided by an industrialised country? What if I were a wife and mother whose husband threatened to kill her because her imagination was expanding beyond the scope of that allowed by her religion? What if I were stifled by low self worth and fear of negative appraisal?
The most important question is, how does one stamp out Islamic State and its promoters, because that’s the only way forward. The Islamic State has nothing to do with religion. It is another way of saying “greed” and “barbarism”, which are both versus Islam. It is everywhere, in the “Are you doing God’s will, which I know, because I know what God says, and you can’t challenge me because God wouldn’t like that” and the “I’m my husband’s inflatable sex toy and won’t wear tights because sexual feelings are bad” and not just the “Pay us $200 million or we will kill this man who’s risked his life to save his friend.”
For my part, I’ll continue publishing this installation. I’ve already taken a great deal of time and effort to create it. I will enjoy the benefits of having a voice, a personality, coherent thoughts, a healthy love for myself, access to technology and a willingness to acknowledge that others are doing the same.