Islam Undressed: Dark Premonitions
(revised from a Feb 6, 2003 NRO article by John Derbyshire, with permission)
Am not sure quite what's going on, or what drives me to pursue this work. Possibly the Sympathetic Fallacy is playing tricks with my soul. Still, I hope at springtime to open a window to hear birds and smell flowers, but know those sweet simple sensory images will likely seem surreal once again this year. The air has been sort of quiet lately, but such serene relief is fleeting as something keeps whispering it is only the calm before the storm. It is not quite visible with the naked eye, but one can sense a force like ‘The Nothing’, that malevolent entity in the ‘Never Ending Story’, nibbling at the edges and poised at any moment to gobble up our entire world. I fear that, as Myers says, we may be sailing off the edge of the world, into the realm of chaos. Don't get me wrong, I have no specific cause to be obsessed with apprehension. As a single father of several young children I am much too busy to waste thought and energy chasing ghosts or slaying windmills. Perhaps it is too much reading J. R. Tolken and C. S. Lewis that put me in this frame of mind, or pushed me deeper into it, or perhaps it is the endless string of news releases filled with violent manifestations cascading down my consciousness and sucking hope dry. Masked terrorists on TV resemble too much the dreaded ‘Uruk Hais’ of Saruman the White in ‘Lord of the Rings’. All these crazed, mindless groups acting in lock-step waging Jihad seem exactly like minions of the ‘Borg Collective’ …intending to assimilate our society. The phrase ‘resistance is futile’ disturbs both my dreams and drifts into daytime thoughts.
Anyway, it didn't start like that. In the numbness following Sept 11th my spirit self-comforted with the idea that truth, right and the American way would prevail once again, believing every foe would soon repent or be destroyed. Then I read a piece by Paul Johnson in the Spectator reprinted below, its first sentence reading as follows: "The sound of the explosion was so loud, so prolonged, and so unusual that I knew at once I was listening to a historical singularity." There followed a great wind sweeping over his London house, in the library of which he was sitting, and something that felt like an earthquake.
Stepping up to the flat roof of his house, he saw "destruction on an immense scale." He saw London being consumed by a vast swelling ball of fire and smoke. It is all described with terrific fluency and vividness, in just a thousand words, with the skill that comes easily to a man who has written a shelf-full of thick books and innumerable pieces of throwaway journalism. What he is seeing is the detonation of a hydrogen bomb, a megaton-scale nuclear weapon. "As the darkness increased and the compensating fire drew nearer, I grasped that the catastrophe would soon swallow up my house and me, too..." In the last paragraph, of course, he wakes up. Johnson's nightmare was the more striking because he normally doesn't write like that at all. A levelheaded, practical sort of fellow, worldly and very knowledgeable about politics, he usually has his feet firmly on the ground. Johnson's dream still lingers, buried in the nether portions of my consciousness, ready to reappear like a sudden thunderstorm to ruin any bright sunny feelings.
Then there is the stuff about wacko North Korea having nukes, and reports of Iranian Mullahs receiving streams of prominent representatives from the Muslim world like a wedding reception, all paying honor and seeking favor for some achievement of nuclear proportions. Libya also, had mature programs previously well hidden until recently revealed, and Syria may have inherited the bulk of forbidden Iraqi arsenals and programs. The successful Israeli strike on the North Korean supported nuclear facility in the desert of Syria proves their interest in nuclear mischief. Thinking about that, it dawned on me, as it has on many others, that there has been some qualitative change in world affairs. In the past, scary as it was, all nuclear nations had long histories, and ancient imperial or grand-republican political traditions - traditions, that is, of responsible governance. None of them was fundamentally nihilistic, with a desire to do mischief in the world just for its own sake on a nuclear scale. That state of affairs has gone on for decades, and lulled us into thinking it was permanent.
It wasn't. The genie is now out of the bottle. Now nutcase nations or pseudo-nations like North Korea and Pakistan have nukes, with Iran soon to follow. The base principle upon which deterrence is based, which served us so well since 1949, has broken down. The world can’t even seem to convince Iran to forgo its nuclear ambitions by bribery or economic sanctions. Deterrence only works with responsible people, people who give a damn, and who, if they plan conquest, plan it the old fashioned way - armies, battlefields. It is useless against Mohammed Atta, or any nation that cares to use his sort as proxies.
Well, those were the lines I was thinking along. Then I started to notice how many other people were thinking the same way. "Thinking" is actually the wrong word. This isn't something thought so much as something felt, something in the air. And what I really didn't like a bit was that the people who are thinking it are people I have found to be pretty reliable guides to what is going on in the world. The things people say in conversation nowadays! - things like: "It'll take another 9/11...". And then there is the image of the guy living on Long Island, waving his arm at the busy suburban landscape beyond the window of a diner, and saying: "When New York City's been taken out, all this real estate will be worth zip." Nobody talked like that ten, five years ago. Nobody even thought those things.
Is something unspeakably horrible going to happen? I don't know for certain. I'm only saying that there is something in the air - a grimness, a bracing. Perhaps I'm just scaring myself over nothing. As in all times, the future casts its shadow over the past helping us to forget it, but the past ever projects its image into the future to form it. I can't shake off the feeling that we are living, right now, in that chill shadow cast from recent and distant Islamic history. Surly we have come to the end of a golden age of relative peace and security, and there are nasty things lurking in the not too distant future. Is chaos the only option left for our great Western society obsessed as we are with consumption and self-absorption?
Look at us! Look at the gross vulgar overflowing fat wealth we live amongst! Look at the great cars that 20-year-old kids drive 300 yards to the mall, to buy things they don't need, gadgets to pack into houses already overflowing with gadgets, clothes to cram into closets stuffed with clothes. Look at the work we do, sitting in humming cubicles scrolling through screens full of words and numbers as our wealth grows. Look at the bright, airy schools our kids attend, to be taught that their ancestors were moral criminals, their parents are liars, and their culture is a sham. Look at our popular heroes, all self-absorbed rock stars, sports icons, or made for movie fantasy personalities. Look at our "reality TV" programs, where people with empty heads wallow in infantile hedonism. Look at our fool politicians and diplomats, pouring over their poll numbers and UN resolutions, playing tug-of-war with pork while young men with burning eyes slip silently into our cities with boxes, canisters, cargoes, vials, and suitcases curiously heavy.
As they arrive at our unprotected borders, while entertainment Icons live in a make-believe world continue using their popular influence to undermine national values. Hollywood weenies like Martin Sheen and Sean Penn rake in millions playing soldiers in films like "Apocalypse Now" and "Casualties of War" and then, in real life, give the finger to those who really wear the uniform and risk all to defend us. Violent rappers get rich issuing songs like "Cop Killer", and "Die, die, die, pig, die! Fuck the police!". Michael Moore denigrates all of us in his hate America propaganda film "Fahrenheit 9/11". The elite from among us (Actor, Artist, Intellectual, Union leader, Tenured Faculty, Judge, Lawyer, ACLU, and powerful advocacy groups including left-leaning media) arrogantly live their lives demanding the full measure of entitlements and freedoms paid for by the blood of the kind of men they disparage. Young people at universities regurgitate excessive relativism leaving campus with no core, no love of country, and no willingness to sacrifice for it.
For decades now we have selfishly chased vanity, postponing and/or limiting our offspring, thus limiting the available pool of young men and women we wish to call upon now for our protection. Is there enough, are they strong enough? One wonders why Osama bothered to create such a fracas to kill 3000, and why he did not simply sit back and watch with satisfaction as we continue to do it to ourselves, on a scale orders of magnitude higher, using the arbitrary tool of abortion. From the surviving young who do walk amongst us, premonition often prompts me to look hard into their eyes and hearts searching for strength, but probing the windows into their souls has revealed a vast cavernous emptiness bringing little comfort. Look at this proud tower! And feel its foundations tremble.
There Arose out of the Pit of Smoke a Great Furnace by: Paul Johnson (7 Dec 2002)
The sound of the explosion was so loud, so prolonged and so unusual that I knew at once I was listening to a historic singularity. Indeed, it may not have been an explosion: more a catastrophic global event. Was it the end of the world? As the initial noise fell in volume, though it did not cease, a pentecostal wind swept over my house in Notting Hill. It faces north into the street, and the air current came from the south, as I could see from the trees bending over in our south-facing garden. I was sitting in my library, in my habitual chair near the French windows, and was astonished to see fallen leaves plastered on to them and held there by the fierce wind. Then I felt movement. It was not like an earthquake, which I had experienced in South America. In such tremors parts of the earth's crust crack and move in relation to each other, to produce disorientation and dizziness. It was, rather, as if the entire earth moved, as a unit, but out of its regular axis.
Despite the feeling of movement, I went to the bottom of the stairs and began to climb them, up to the top floor, where a glass door in my bathroom leads out to a flat roof. It was midday, but I became uneasily conscious that I was ascending not into light but into darkness. There was no disturbance inside the house and the roof door opened easily. But once I stepped outside I knew I was in a different world, and that the constants of the old, familiar one had changed utterly. The noise continued but spasmodically, ranging in its decibels and nature in an erratic and unpredictable fashion. It was now, audibly, the noise of destruction on an immense scale. The wind, too, came in gusts. I feared the wind. I was beginning to fear everything. The light, or rather the comparative absence of light, was sinister. To the north, the sky was blue, yet there was no daylight. The light was thickening. When I glanced south, into central London, I saw why, and I began to get, for the first time, an inkling of what was taking place.
The whole of the southern view was occupied by a dense, swirling, expanding and ascending column of smoke. It was many miles wide and already tens of thousands of feet high. Though five miles distant at its nearest (I guessed), it was moving with great speed, not so much horizontally as vertically. It was punching a colossal hole in the sky, filling it, then finding fresh energy to punch another, so that at intervals the column was encircled by giant haloes, stretching out vast distances into the stratosphere. I could not see the top of the central column. It was covered by one of these haloes, which was now stretching into the northern portion of the sky, so producing that progressive light reduction I had already noticed. I call the column smoke, and some of it was smoke — the result of a giant conflagration — but most of it was dense, throbbing, twisting cloud, white and grey vapour, of the kind emitted by the steam-engines of my childhood but on an unimaginable scale. How had so much water — or whatever it once was — been turned so swiftly into trillions of square yards of foggy miasma, still piling itself up at high speed into the stratosphere and beyond? What incalculable force had done this monstrous thing?
As my eye fell to the bottom of the column, I began to grasp the source of its power. A white incandescence, low by comparison with the column but still perhaps a mile high and 20 or more broad, filled the skyline of the south horizon. Its fiery heat mitigated the gloom caused by the towering cloud above obscuring the sun. As my eyes grew accustomed to looking at this radiant epicenter, I saw that it was composed not only of white-hot elements, but also of fiery red particles, orange and blue flames, shooting heavenwards like the gigantic tongues which leap out of sunspots thousands of miles into space. There were also sporadic flashes of white, caused, I assumed, by continuing detonations on a stupendous scale. The epicenter was spreading steadily; or rather not entirely steadily, for it moved in spurts and formidable leaps, as well as munching and digesting its periphery. It was alive, this prodigious sore or cancer in London's heart, expanding its frontiers all the time. It had swallowed and vaporized all Westminster, and sucked out the entire contents of the Thames and turned them into thick clouds. It had gone down the river at thousands of miles an hour, engulfed the City and its tall towers, vaporizing steel, concrete, glass and water as it punched and thrashed and pounded the streets of massive buildings into nothingness — or, rather, minute particles of its flaming column, surging high into space. Now it was crumpling and atomizing St James's.
The glittering, searing edge of the immense fire, with its bottomless black crater beneath, advanced before my eyes, having snuffed out Buckingham Palace and the Mall in an instant, snapped at Mayfair with cavernous jaws, swallowing it in three rapidly succeeding mouthfuls, while simultaneously devouring all Belgravia in one tremendous gulp. Appetite unappeased and seemingly unappeasable, it was now guzzling up Hyde Park, its trees whooshing into brief candles of flame, the Serpentine quaffed and vaporized in an instant, the Round Pond licked away in one fiery rub of its tongue.
As the darkness increased and the compensating fire drew nearer, I grasped that the catastrophe would soon swallow up my house and me, too. This was not an episode, like an earthquake, leaving a giant print on the earth in a minute of time, but more like a volcano, spreading its lava with all deliberate speed over a vast area. How many billions of tons of high-explosive equivalent had gone into what I assumed to be the detonator, at ground level, of an enormous hydrogen device, I could not guess. Yet, surely, even the largest blast conceivable must be of limited duration, and its immediate physical consequences reckoned in minutes, not hours or days. But there was no sign yet of an end, or even a diminuendo.
I suddenly noticed that I was not alone. At my feet, or very near them, was a curious congregation of creatures. First, there was a fat wood-pigeon, who usually gives me the widest of berths for he knows he is not a favorite. He was motionless, cowering, his feathers dank and bedraggled as though he was in a cold sweat. There was a crow I had never seen before, more composed than the pigeon and looking about him with alert eyes. There was the hen-thrush, who nested in the tree a few feet from my study window this year and produced a brood: no sign of them — flown off, perhaps, already — and she was clearly frightened, too. Above all — and I was strangely comforted to see him — was Randolf, or Randy, my audacious squirrel, not bold now, however, but sitting stock-still in terror, waiting for a doom which he could not evade by flight. It suddenly struck me that these varied creatures, enemies or competitors as a rule, were crowding together for comfort, and looked to me for salvation. But how was I, or anyone, to render help in this Armageddon, or apocalypse?
At that point I became aware that my eyes were open, and focused on family photos near the foot of my bed, all steady and correct. Behind my head, my beautiful crucifix, carved by a holy monk in the hardest of woods, hung motionless, not a millimeter out of place. The sun was wintry, but it shone nevertheless.