Martin Amis, abandonment of reason
September 11, 2007
i — As richard pointed out with alacrity in comments here, Amis’s attempt at grand irony in claiming that the designation “9/11” is fitting because “these numerals are, after all, Arabic” is somewhat undercut by the fact that these numerals are not, in fact, Arabic, but Indian in origin. They are called “Arabic” by convention only because they were popularised to Europeans by Arab mathematicians. ((The existence at all of Arab mathematicians at any point in history, let alone at a point when Europeans were doing little but grunt and fuck, is itself rather inconvenient to certain conceptions of Arabs as eternally backward and unscientific.))
ii — This part, I must say, really does read as though it was written by Craig Brown:
The solecism, that is to say, is not grammatical but moral-aesthetic – an offence against decorum; and decorum means “seemliness”, which comes from soemr, “fitting”, and soema, “to honour”.
Why did Amis not want to give the etymology of “decorum” directly before slyly translating it into “seemliness”? Because Latin decorus simply means “fit” or “proper”, with no necessary connotation of “honour”, and so cannot fit into Amis’s heroic-moral scheme of we noble rational westerners v the perfidious insane enemy.
iii — A propos of the perfidious insane enemy: Amis insists, rather boringly now to any aficionado of his previous fatwas on the matter, that Al Qaeda and their ilk are “mad” and “irrational” – indeed, not only are they mad and irrational, but everyone connected to the only possible historical analogies for their actions, viz., Bolshevism and Fascism, was also mad and irrational. They all partook in:
the rejection of reason – the rejection of the sequitur, of cause and effect, of two plus two.
Yes, even Hitler and Stalin. They did not believe in cause and effect, or in the fact that two plus two equals four. ((As perhaps Amis meant to write, or might have written if he had thought about it, since “two plus two” is not in itself a proposition inviting acceptance or rejection.)) How Hitler gained power, or how Stalin micromanaged the military defeat of Hitler, all the while rejecting any belief in cause and effect, must remain a mystery to the devotee of Amisian historiography.
Not content, however, with such plain idiocy, Amis further hopes to approach or mime profundity by smashing words together so that distinctions of meaning are burned away:
Reason, moreover, is one of our synonyms for realism, and indeed for reality.
My initial response to which is: “No, it just isn’t, you whiffling sententious dolt”; but perhaps in comments a reader will be able to offer an example of a sentence in which “reason” really could function as a synonym of either “realism” or “reality”, if not both.
But anyway, the poverty and indeed moral as well as analytical cretinism of such claims about the enemy’s supposed madness and irrationality has already been argued here at unspeak.net in past posts such as Functioning insanity and Irrational movements, so it need not detain us again, unless you really want it to.
iv — Perhaps the most startling part of Amis’s screed is the passage in which he wearily laments the moral cowardice of the modern “liberal relativist”:
We are drowsily accustomed, by now, to the fetishisation of “balance”, the groundrule of “moral equivalence” in all conflicts between West and East, the 100-per-cent and 360-degree inability to pass judgment on any ethnicity other than our own (except in the case of Israel).
So in Amis’s view, we actually should be able to pass judgment on an “ethnicity”, tout court and qua “ethnicity”? Should we be allowed do this with regard to “any ethnicity” at all, or are we winkingly being invited to imagine a specific “ethnicity” that particularly invites our contempt? Which “ethnicity”, exactly, might Mr Amis be thinking of, or silently passing judgment on?
Well, so it goes: the contemporary pro-TWAT mind, in its macho abhorrence of “relativists” and its tumescent glee at the idea of a clash of civilisations, slips all too comfortably into implicit endorsements of racism. Happy 9/11, readers.