The Roots of Fanaticism

By batsman 

Often when I interact with people I find there are always those who genuinely fail to understand and those who pretend not to understand. There is of course no way to tell the difference in a scientific way. If you deal a lot with children, you will understand what I mean. It boils down to gut feel and your understanding of body language, which is relatively reliable. The proof that your gut feel is right depends on later episodes when interacting with the same person. Sooner or later, later experiences and episodes show up the frauds and the genuine persons.

I have stories for both those who genuinely fail to understand certain essays or issues and those who only pretend in order to win arguments. 

When I started to learn English I felt totally lost. You might as well ask me to learn Greek. However through persistence, I began to understand not just the language but the beauty of it. Then I thought I would try to read English poetry to increase my appreciation of the English language. Again my comprehension failed me. English poetry was like another language altogether, but eventually, I suppose I got to understand most of the poetry I read (I hope at least to a certain fairly advanced level). 

To those who genuinely do not understand some essays and issues, I can only say please be persistent and creative in your attempts at understanding. Eventually you will get it if you try hard enough and try to depend more on yourself than on others. Try to seek understanding from many sources rather than from one single source or one single person or one single group of persons who claim to be the experts. There are many frauds around, including some who qualified as teachers and preachers for I can honestly say some teachers created more confusion in me than understanding. 

When I was older I was forced to learn calculus as part of the education syllabus. It was like getting lost in a quagmire of funny symbols. Again through persistence, I suppose I got the gist of it – at least enough to get me to college. 

But there was a strange secondary realization from the calculus episode. I realised that some of those who were worse off in their understanding of calculus than I was were strangely some of the most fanatical supporters of science and mathematics as opposed to religious concepts. 

Science and mathematics were fashionable and trendy those days and religion was not. I realized that these people just wanted to be on the winning team and the more fanatically they supported the winning team, the less people questioned their credentials. It was as if something magical rubbed off on them when they showed their fanaticism and loyalty. They became icons of science and mathematics and by default became “experts” in calculus as well. 

Needless to say, the same goes for Darwin as well. When discussing faith and religion, Darwin inevitably crops up. I realised too that some of those who were the most fanatical champions of Darwin and natural selection did not really understand the concepts all that well. They were just trying to win the argument and be part of the winning team. 

I suppose it is the same with football as it is with religion as well. The more fanatically one supports the winning team, the more status one has and the bigger the hero one is. 

Whether status comes with material rewards is another thing. Some people are satisfied with achieving just status – just like Pavlov’s dogs. The pleasure of salivating is often greater than the pleasure of eating. As they say in marketing – it is the sizzle that matters, not the meat, although connoisseurs may beg to differ. Still, one cannot deny that dogs are some of the most fanatically loyal animals around. Of course you might also say that the pleasure of serving a powerful master contributes to the characteristic behaviour of dogs as well. 

In politics, both sizzle and meat are important for there are quite a few Pavlov’s dogs around. I suppose those who go for the sizzle are the dogs and those who control the meat are the masters. 

Masters being what they are, are quite creative in controlling and training their dogs. For example, the US superpower is definitely a master. In spite of the fact that it created the Tonkin Gulf incident to excuse the carpet bombing of North Vietnam (it did not even need a good excuse to bomb Laos and Cambodia, doing most of it in secret – and oblivious to the loud noises, dead people and big craters bombing normally produces), and in spite of it creating the WMD issue to excuse the bombing and invasion of Iraq (often with depleted uranium bombs and munitions it claims to hate so much and causing untold human suffering and misery to bring to the Iraqi people the twin gifts of human rights and democracy), people still believe it – just like Pavlov’s dogs, people go for the sizzle time and again without fail. 

I don’t blame them. Much of the sizzle and illusion still remain suspicions and have not been proven and the proven ones are cast back into doubt and neglect again and again by the propaganda machine of the master. For example, the Holocaust created as an excuse to firebomb bomb Dresden and nuclear bomb Hiroshima is just a suspicion for the skeptics and so is the creation of 911 an excuse to invade Afghanistan and launch the war on terror in spite of the bravest efforts of Michael Moore and TDM. I guess much of the sizzle is actually the smell of money and people forget or ignore a lot of things when they smell money. 

You could also say that UMNO is also definitely a master. After Sodomy 1, we are now entertained to the spectacle of Sodomy 2. Again much of the manipulation and illusion is just suspicion. For example, the phenomenon that frogs jump because of habit and money (or the smell of money) not principles is just mere suspicion. Nothing has been proven yet. 

Yet there is a strange realization that in spite of the similarities between UMNO and the US superpower who both use techniques of bluff and illusion, there is also a fundamental difference and it relates to Islam. 

Naom Chomsky in his book on the Russell Lectures (Problems of Knowledge and Freedom) correctly predicted that the US superpower after having created the spectre of demoniacal communism to bring terror and fear among ordinary Americans (to justify what is essentially unjustifiable genocidal foreign policies and actions as well as home policies which are extremely biased towards military industries and high finance) will need to create another spectre once the spectre of communism has faded. What he did not foresee was that such a demoniacal spectre was to be Islam. I suppose nobody could have foreseen that the US would be as desperate as to choose a band of malcontents hiding in remote vastly inaccessible mountains and armed only with retro weapons and a militant version of Islam could cause so much terror and fear among ordinary US citizens, but I suppose the master IS the master. 

To persuade those with a decent level of intelligence, the US superpower needs to link Islam with nuclear bombs just as they linked Saddam with WMD. This scapegoat it finds conveniently in the form of Ahmadinejad. I have no idea why Pakistan is not a suitable candidate and Russia with its massive arsenal of nuclear weapons is no longer a danger to US national security (that the Soviet Union was made out to be) or China which still claims to cling to demoniacal communism should not be, based on nuclear capability and conflicting ideologies alone. These days, with the fading of the spectre of communism, even North Korea is deemed less of a threat than Iran which is now an embodiment of the new spectre in the same way communism was at one time. 

So it is not just US citizens who are terrified, but apparently some Malaysians as well. Again I have no idea why. 

But this is precisely where the apparent fundamental difference between UMNO and the US superpower lies. The US superpower targets Muslims, while UMNO uses Islam cynically to cow its own non-Muslim citizens. Yet there is good relations between the US superpower and UMNO. Of course the excuse is that the US only targets fanatical fundamentalist Muslims for genocide while UMNO only uses moderate Islam to cow non-Muslim citizens. Good Muslims are never targeted by either the US or UMNO. 

I submit it is only the fanatics among both Muslims and non-Muslims trying to be part of the winning sides and Pavlov’s dogs trying to serve their masters who believe this excuse (or don’t believe but still champion it). The masters of bluff and illusion get away with it again. 

The tragedy is, the more they get away with it, the closer the danger of senseless war and ferocious violence.