Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Spots Of Ink

Yep. Yet again, I haven't updated this for ages, what with the social life and finishing the revisions for Vellum and trying to hack Ink into shape. I've still not written up my adventures in Nu Yoik and I promise I'll get round to some more exegesis on Bin Laden's speech, because someone has to. For now I'm going to use another stalling tactic and chuck in a wee excerpt from what I'm working on just now. To that end, here's a taster from Ink:

* * *

He sits in the cafe, sipping at the thick sweet tar somewhere between Italian espresso and Turkish coffee. Hints of rosewater and liquorice, bitter sediment at the bottom. On the tabletop, the page of the book is lain face-down in front of him, his charcoal name smeared by the act of flattening the crumpled paper. He's just about to turn it over to see - just to see - if it has anything useful to say, when a hand comes down on top of his own and the man with dirty-blond hair scrapes a chair up beside him, sits in it and says:

- Sure and ye'd be better not to do that right now, here, where everyone and anyone could see it, like. Because you and me both know what it is, sure - Christ and I could smell the angel skin a mile off - and, well, let's just say there's some as would cut your right arm off just to get their greasy fookin fingers on it. Not their right arm, mind. Yours.

The man peels Reynard's hand from the page, picks it up and folds it, gives it back to Reynard.

- Ye want to keep that tucked away for now. Christ, don't ye know that there's a fookin war on?

Reynard puts the vellum in his pocket, numb with questions.

- King Finn, says the man.

He waves at a waitor.

- Kave, grazzis.

Reynard finds himself shaking hands.

- No doubt yer a little confused and all, having only just arrived right in the middle of things, but sure and isn't that life for ye? It'd be nice to think that the little folk like yerself and yours truly would be in on the grand schemes of the Powers-That-Be right from the off, but sadly that's not the way it works. No, we're just the ones wake up one day and realise that the world's gone fookin mental and it's us that has to deal with the big pile of shite the Powers-That-Be have gone and got us all up to our eyeballs in.

Who? What? Where? How? Why?

- Anyway, if I could make sense of it to ye here and now, I would, believe me, but, ye see, that's your job - if ye'll take it, like. And seeing as how yer carrying that wee bit of the Book about with you, I hate to say it, but I think ye'll find it's what yer meant to do. To make sense of it all.

The Irishman takes his coffee from the waitor, smiles and nods his thanks.

- Cause sure and it doesn't make any fookin sense to me, he says.


Saturday, November 06, 2004

Bin Laden's Speech - Part One

Some notes:

Praise be to Allah who created the creation for his worship and commanded them to be just and permitted the wronged one to retaliate against the oppressor in kind. To proceed:

So humanity exists for the worship of a divine creator, justice is a divine command and vengeance a divine blessing. The entirety of life and death is driven by spiritual purpose. How different is this from the fundamentalist Christian worldview? More to the point, how different is it from the worldview which supplants God with America-as-ideal, blessed America, revered not just as what was founded but as the founder itself, America, creator of democracy, which commands justice in its Constitution and which vindicates retaliation (“They attacked us” says Bush)? Bin Laden’s argument is spurious - based on a spiritual and irrational faith that finds the source of all justice in a mythic moment of creation - but so is that of the fundamentalist Christian. And so is that of the Americanist whose faith resides in God-Blessed-America.

Peace be upon he who follows the guidance: People of America this talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan, and deals with the war and its causes and results.

So, listen up, America, says Bin Laden, here’s how to stop another 9/11. And here’s why it happened in the first place - 9/11 and Iraq and, perhaps, the whole sodding jihad/crusade of West versus East. Of course, the first question is, why should anyone listen to a madman like Bin Laden? How can we trust the word of someone like him? We can’t. We don’t. The only real “solution” for a terrorist like Bin Laden, we know, is capitulation or eradication. It’s a black and white choice, and we know where we stand. We do not listen to the demands of terrorists. Right? Wrong. We do not answer the demands of terrorists, but we sure as hell listen to them, because the terrorist is only the most extreme articulation of an ideology, a reaction in the form of bloody violence rather than peaceful protest, and one which we’d do well to understand, if only to counteract it. Know thy enemy. Only a coward or a fool closes their ears to the ravings of a madman, turns their back and walks away. Listening to someone is not the same as agreeing with them... unless you are so lacking in judgement all your certainties are second-hand, derived from ideologues and authorities, from the words of others, in their speeches or their books. But then it might well be argued that every dogmatic - Islamist, Christian, Americanist - is exactly that. Fools and cowards so unsure of their own personal capacity of judgement that they can listen only to their given orthodoxy of cause and effect, since to listen to another’s would be to risk contamination. So let’s have the balls to listen to Bin Laden’s so seditious words:

Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom.

So rational argument is clearly not Osama’s strong point, contrasting Bush’s characterisation of al Quaida as enemies of freedom with a statement about the interdependence of freedom and security, one with which Bush, I suspect, would not disagree. Without security there is no liberty; the true lover of liberty must defend that liberty, must be vigilant against those who would destroy it. How exactly is this a contradiction of Bush’s claim that they hate freedom? No, what it is, actually, is a simple assertion, contrary to Bush only in so far as it throws his own claim back at him. We are upholding freedom. We, like all free men, defend our security in order to defend our liberty, because we must. Bush or Bin Laden, the claims are identical. Bush or Bin Laden, the claims are, at best, simplistic and, at worst, plain wrong. As much as liberty and security are co-dependent, so also are they forever in conflict. A free man does need to forfeit some security for the sake of liberty. And a free man needs to forfeit some liberty for the sake of security. It doesn’t take a genius to recognise that liberty and security are not completely compatable and that any viable society must negotiate a compromise between these two competing ideals, in order to make them realities. It’s a matter of negotiation, moderation, pragmatism informed by ethics, ethics informed by pragmatism, no? No, not according to the dreamer for whom the ideal is the reality. Forget the contradictions. Forget the complexities. Simply place Liberty and Security up on pedestals and worship them from a distance. Pray to them. Pray for them. And when someone says you’ve made the world less secure, say that it’s in the cause of Liberty. And when they say you’ve made their life less free, say that it’s in the cause of Security.

If so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike for example - Sweden? And we know that freedom-haters don't possess defiant spirits like those of the 19 - may Allah have mercy on them.

Could it be, perhaps, because attacking Sweden is not going to get you the same level of international airtime, Osama, as an attack on the “Great Satan”? Could it be, perhaps, because while America is not, perhaps, the paragon of democracy it likes to see itself as, it is the major political, economic and cultural power of the 21st Century and thus the biggest target? Could it even be, perhaps, because you hate it as a latter-day whorish Babylon or - more accurately - as a latter-day Byblos, Sidon or Tyre, those great Phoenician city-states of trade and industry, so bourgeouis and decadent with their scarlet and purple silks and linens, so reviled by the ranting prophets of the Bible? Could it be for the exact same reason that the evangelical Christians hate the “new Sodom” of San Francisco? Could it be because the faggots and the harlots are always the ones that those like you revile, because you simply cannot brook the kind of liberal tolerance that does not stone them for their sins? You need not worry, Osama, because with Bush in charge those faggots won’t be getting married, and those harlots won’t be having abortions. The Americanists and the Fundamentalists possess that same defiant spirit. They, like you, are proud of their righteousness. They, like you, are proud to stand up against the weak wills and moral corruption of the civilised, the cultured, the decadent, to be “defiant spirits”, as you put it, in the face of sin. They, like you, could not possibly be freedom-haters. You are too filled with hatred for the libertines to hate the liberty itself.

No, we fight because we are free men who don't sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation. So shall we lay waste to yours.

And so the question must be asked: Which nation? Iraq? Afghanistan? Saudi Arabia? A Pan-Arab Islamic State. Which nation does Bin Laden owe his allegiance to now, after those years in the Islamic Jihad training camps, amongst the Taliban? What nation do any of those young jihadists in those training camps all round the world claim as their own? Algeria, Pakistan or the Sudan. Bali, Indonesia or wherever. Would it be disingenuous, would it be politically incorrect, for someone whose political palette includes fairly liberal splashes of socialist Red, environmentalist Green and anarchist Black to suggest that for Bin Laden and the idealists he attracts, there is only one nation that really matters: Islam? For Bin Laden and his jihadists there is no Iraq, no Afghanistan, only one vast Palestine that stretches from North Africa to Indonesia, under the yoke of the infidel and the Zionist. It would be nice to think that when the jihadists talk of freedom, of oppression, of their nation laid waste, they mean simply that much smaller Palestine, that tiny state that one day might just get its freedom and in so doing end the problem. Certainly that nation is the crux of the whole conflict. But it has become a symbol and, in part, sadly, it also serves to mask that other symbolic nation at the heart of it all. The two exist in the same space, both geographically and intellectually, Palestine and Israel, homelands of the dispossessed, holy lands of mosque and synagogue, inimically opposed it seems because each claims dominion in the name of their God. One broken up and settled, the other denied and threatened, in a way these two nations are no longer discrete political entities. There is only that two-faced symbol now, Israel-Palestine, Palestine-Israel, with Jerusalem as its unofficial capitol. Jerusalem, as Edward Whittemore said, is everyone’s holy city. This symbolic Israel-Palestine, Palestine-Israel, we might say, is everyone’s holy land - if everyone, that is, consists of Muslims, Jews and Christians. Whittemore had a character in his novels who dreamed of an Israel where Muslim, Jew and Christian could live together in peace. He also had three other characters playing a twenty-year-long poker game for control of Jerusalem. Bin Laden, Sharon and Bush would perhaps not have been out of place in Whittemore’s fiction, though he, at least, might have written them with more humanity, still blinded by their visionary dreams of national identity, seduced by the myths, confusing freedom and security, but with more empathy for their enemies, more sense that as this one lays waste to that one’s nation, as that one retaliates in laying waste to the first’s, at the end of the day it is the same nation, everyone’s nation. But it seems that our three players prefer a game more ruthless than poker, and two of them at least are playing for far more than just Jerusalem. For Bin Laden and Bush one wonders if there are really any borders to the conflict, any corners of the world they do not seek to “liberate” from the enemy, that they would not lay waste in their jihad/crusade.