I would like to write about this paper and pen problem. It’s a curious sensation to write that sentence. In writing about the implements that allow me to draw these lines, I am rendering them abstract. Of course, I’m actually reading the original sentence from my notebook and typing it into the computer, a further abstraction. And the whole thing feels like an artifice and a paradox, like the sentence ‘I always lie and that’s the truth’. Such artifice succeeds to make sense only through the act of ‘unasking’ and it feels like we have become masters of it.
Robert Crumb is America’s most famous contemporary cartoonist and he has lived in Paris for 25 years. The day after the assassination of (among others) satirical cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, Celia Farber from the New York Observer called him for his comments. She remarked that there must have been many such calls from journalists from his native country. Crumb replied –
“No, you’re the only one. You don’t have journalists over there anymore, what they have is public relations people. That’s what they have over in America now. Two-hundred and fifty thousand people in public relations. And a dwindling number of actual reporters and journalists.”
Back to this pen and paper. I could describe them in great detail or I could take a photo of them to go with this article. Still, it wouldn’t be this pen and this paper. What is an object in my hand has already become a subject: a subject of your imagination.
Perhaps conservative Muslims feel the same about their Prophet. That by depicting him, by personifying him, you depersonalize him to them.
Many people feel the same way about fictional characters, such as James Bond and Jack Reacher. Though I don’t think there were death threats made when Tom Cruise was cast as the the six foot four, built like a shit brick house Reacher of the novels. And I doubt that the Broccoli family will need 24 hour police protection if they cast Idris Elba as the next 007.
But such comparisons are facetious, aren’t they. I mean this pen is in my hand. I can feel it against my fingers. I feel and hear the contact with the paper through its nib as I write and the muscles working to transcribe the mind’s activity, drawing letters, words and sentences. Perhaps Mohamed is that present in the mind of Muslims, guiding their hand. Can it be the same Mohamed that guides the hand that beheads a hostage that also guides Jewish hostages in a supermarket to hide in a cold store? Of course, it can’t be. But where do we draw the line?
Let us continue to unask. Here is a couple of paragraphs my hand is guided to write –
A paradigm that subjugates women to function primarily as child bearers has an evolutionary advantage over those that value women as equal to men. Such a paradigm, if hosted and tolerated within a society that values human rights would thrive. Because such progressive societies have lower child mortality rates, welfare states and mitigate against prejudice in accessing state resources or employment in the public sector. Meanwhile, in the private sector, large and extended family ties are advantageous in building networks of mutual support that legitimately exclude outsiders and enable economic prosperity without the necessity of integration. Such a paradigm would, like a parasite, take over and then consume the body of the tolerant host society.
Can you see how with paper and pen I can activate neural networks in your brain which might very well be causing your body to secret hormones and give rise to emotions that are preparing your body to take action. Please bear with me. Let me continue…
Of course, the paradigm of which I am talking could be a religion such as Judaism or Catholicism but in this context let us rest on Islam. If statistics are correct, Muslims need do nothing different to what they are doing now for Europe to become a theocracy in the next century.
Notice again how by drawing these lines I am forcing you to draw yours. That is always the action of thought – to draw lines. Lines between what you can accept and what you can’t; who you are and who you are not; where the pen ends and the hand starts; between the inner and the outer; between you and me.
Let’s not unask for a moment. Let’s ask. What if there are no lines?…Anywhere! I understand the huge resistance to this, those of us who are under the poverty line, kettled by a police line or forced daily to tow the line. But right now, in this moment, relax completely and try and find lines anywhere that aren’t just in your imagination. It might help if you close your eyes also.
Of course, if you are anything like me there were lines everywhere: lines of thought streaming down like the credits for the Matrix movies.. Slowed down, the thoughts are seeking, drawing definitions, distinguishing what is and what isn’t. But such lines only appear to us because of a meta-paradigm, a pernicious parasite to which we are all hosts, and which like the cursor of this computer, compiles a linear narrative. This is the mother of all lines, the line to end all lines…Here it is….I….
I draw I like an Escher drawing. When this line disappears all the others do too. So stop drawing conclusions. Stop drawing distinctions. Simply ask where are those lines, really.