Salman Rushdie has issued an eloquent denunciation of the fanatics who slew 12 in Paris in the name of their god:
I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.
I showed Rushdie’s statement to my friend Swamp Rabbit and said, “That pretty much sums it up, don’t you think?”
“Almost,” the rabbit said. “But this story ain’t about old-school religion — Muslims and Christians and whatnot. It’s about somethin’ bigger.”
We talked it out. The rabbit’s point was that the murderers in Paris are political ideologues more than they are religious fanatics. Their religious convictions, if they have any, are bound up in their socioeconomic grievances. They and their fellow fanatics want to punish the West — not so much for disrespecting Muhammad as for disrespecting them. They profess to be killing on the behalf of the powerless. Religion isn’t really the primary issue in this story, any more than it was in Northern Ireland during the time of the troubles.
The rabbit noted that old-school religions have run out of steam in the West, except among Bible-thumping Republicans in red-state America. That the dominant religion in the modern secular West is free-market capitalism. That hardcore capitalism continues to widen the gulf between the world’s haves and have-nots, setting the stage for a large-scale backlash on the part of the have-nots.
“Yes, but at least we Westerners are free to criticize, satirize and disrespect capitalism and its high priests,” I said. “Capitalist fanatics don’t shoot people for making fun of the Koch brothers or Wall Street or ExxonMobil.”
The rabbit opened the door of my shack, letting in the cold air. “Wake up, Odd Man,” he said. “Capitalists run the government. They own the TV and newspapers and all that. They ain’t gotta shoot no critics. They just drown ’em out with propaganda and use the propaganda to start wars against the have-nots.”
“They’ve done a good job of that,” I conceded. “But I think you underestimate the power of satire.”
Maybe so,” he said. “But not as much as you underestimate the power of money.”