A quick post about poetry and the attack on Paris
Murray read a series of poems from his new book, Shaggy Magpie Songs. A piece that went down particularly well described a meeting between the young Murray Edmond and Jean-Paul Sartre beside the Waikato River. The two men talked extravagantly, and perhaps drunkenly, about the meaning of life, before the great philosopher made a pass at a young woman who had wandered out of the local pub. The woman and Sartre ended up jumping in the Waikato. Murray ended up bemused.
The audience loved the poem, and not only because of the half-mocking, half-reverential Left Bank accent in which Murray delivered Sartre's lines.
With his intellectual bravura, unabashed concupiscence, and political elan, Jean-Paul Sartre represents much of what I admire about French culture, or a part of French culture. Sartre also represents the antithesis of the life-denying creed of ISIS. No wonder that the suicidal volunteers of ISIS aimed their weapons at the Parisian streets and cafes that Sartre made into a workshop.
The Islamophobes who have responded to the Paris atrocities with demands for the mass deportation of Muslims and the carpet bombing of Middle Eastern cities are the corollary of ISIS, rather than genuine opponents of the group's ideology. When they assert that secular Islam is a contradiction in terms, and that a true Muslim is a violent opponent of civil society and democracy, they echo the pronouncements of ISIS.
The Islamophobes claim that the collective punishment of Muslims is necessary if ISIS is to be defeated. They cannot acknowledge that ISIS is being defeated right now, in the Middle East, by secular Muslims. In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books Jonathan Steele describes how left-wing Kurds, whose militia include hundreds of female volunteers, have liberated a series of towns from ISIS and created their own state in northern Syria. Auckland's Kurdish community has marched down Queen Street to show its support for the fight by their compatriots against ISIS.
The Kurds defeating ISIS in northern Syria have much more in common with Jean-Paul Sartre than they do with the likes of the late and unlamented Jihadi John.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]