Graeme Wood’s fine piece refers to the “hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned” in this lies much of the attraction of ISIS; the idea of a magic doorway, an irrevocable turning. The world is treated like a book to be read, signs to be spotted and correlated with the central text. You can ignore, (read kill) what doesn’t fit. You cut the world down to your size.
The deformation of faith by imagination, coexistent with the deformation of imagination by faith is one of the most powerful and intractable human processes. It is made more intractable by the way in which electronic representations of the world have gradually chipped out an ambiguous set of brain procedures neither fully “in” nor fully “out” of local reality.
I can’t get my head round the idea of blowing these flesh and blood entities, these people, away – no matter how much I may fantazize about grandad rides shotgun, no matter how much I itch to set up (western values) martyrs-r-us.com.
Nor do I get full satisfaction from dropping back into larger, safer, perspective but what hit home clearest from Graeme Wood’s piece was his assertion that we are in the presence of a millenarian movement. Everything seems to fit. War and war movies have made a generation, perhaps two generations, of uncertain youth susceptible to the trumpets and the angels of death.
The christian millenarians of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries morphed into the english revolutionaries of the seventeenth century and the communists of the nineteenth according to the classic thesis of Norman Cohn. (The Pursuit of the Millenium Paladin 1970)
Those christians showed the same blind devotion, the same willingness to uproot and travel to battle, the same unforgiving ferocity and the same belief that once thru the gates of hell honey would forever flow and so on. They had complicated end-games involving battles, encircled remnants, second comings and so on. So yes, we have to be ready to say these muslims are behaving like other humans have in the past – it is a human problem about people at the weak end of the stick adapting to change, and in the past these things blew themselves out. Pity is, now we have a gigantic paranoia’n’security industry that likes to huff at the flames.
God – and I’m using the word to refer to the idea – has always had strange bed-fellows. The great joke of placing much of the oil beneath arabian sands has now come fully home with all its hollow, deathly chuckles – the minds of these people out there rushing, running overspeed, at the same time to the seventh century and the techno gadget twenty first are bound to be disordered, bloody. So much coffee, so little alcohol. These people are doing our dirty work for us, shaking up the middle east map. Can we turn away and, shooting blindly say, “It’s the price of oil” echoing Kipling’s “The price of Admiralty” Evolution, the genetic market place, will sort it out. Meanwhile what price Dabiq for the football world cup venue 2026?