Monday, June 12, 2006

Baghdad Bubba

Reuel Marc Gerecht is repulsed by the aesthetics of al-Zarqawi:

ABU MUSAB AL ZARQAWI is among the least interesting Islamic terrorists since modern Islamic terrorism took shape in Iran and Egypt in the 1950s and '60s. Compared with Osama bin Laden, with his elegant prose, his appreciation for redolent historical Muslim narrative, his seemingly conscious imitation of the Prophet Muhammad, and his refined, almost feminine movements, Zarqawi was Islamist trailer trash, a crude man whose love of violence was unvarnished, organic, perhaps perversely sexual. But Zarqawi was a man of his age: He is a big red dot on the graph charting the Islamic world's moral free fall since modernity began battering traditional Muslim ethics, with ever-increasing effectiveness after World War One.

Or, was he just a droog?

Consider a particular movement, a particular cult, a particular leader. "We're going to find that the guy who leads this group is arrogant, narcissistic, hubristic — and by that I mean he's going to have an ideology. He's going to believe he's 100-per-cent right. And he's going to be completely opaque to counter-evidence." What gets lost, continues Peterson, is individual integrity. "The way to become resistant to totalitarian ideology is to understand that you have individual responsibility for your life."

The examples in literature, as in history, are innumerable. Consider Anthony Burgess's droogs (A Clockwork Orange) or the shuddering power of Jack in Lord of the Flies. "Listen all of you. Me and my hunters, we're living along the beach on a flat rock. We hunt and feast and have fun. If you want to join my tribe come and see us. Perhaps I'll let you join. Perhaps not."

"The moral," wrote Golding of Flies after its publication, "is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable."