Fifty Shades of Decadence, One Shade of ISIS
The “Islamic State” has gone full Genghis Khan during the past week — beheading 21 Christians on a beach in Libya, incinerating 45 hapless souls in a northern Iraqi town, linking up with Boko Haram in Central Africa, establishing cordial ties with al-Qaeda, and watching contentedly as apostles of jihad inflicted death in Denmark.
From its origins as an insolent rogue state in the deserts of northern Mesopotamia, ISIS has turned itself into an international brand. Alienated young Muslim males, resigned to perpetual poverty and defeat in this life, are buying its promise of apocalyptic glory. Kill infidels for Allah, be killed in return, enjoy eternal bliss.
As a cultural hypochondriac, I see ISIS as an especially aggressive cancer. The tumor has metastasized now, spreading its malignant cells throughout the Muslim world and beyond. I have no doubt that Libya, Central Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan and Pakistan will provide much-needed nutrients for the growing tumors.
Malignant cells have already turned up in Europe, and Italy fears a deadly incursion from Libya. (Ironic that Libya encompasses territory that once belonged to Carthage, ancient Rome’s perennial foe during the pre-imperial era.) America seems safe for now, but it could be a matter of time before we see ISIS-inspired terrorist acts spreading to these shores.
Meanwhile, how was America occupying itself as the ISIS cancer flared up? We were flocking to see Fifty Shades of Grey at the local Cineplex. The bestselling bondage novel, now a major motion picture, set the all-time box office record for a February opening, despite less than stellar reviews.
I’ve never understood the appeal of pain and humiliation (or domination, for that matter) in the bedroom, so I’m hopelessly out of touch with this “BDSM” mania. (It’s no longer a simple S&M, of course, and I imagine they’ll keep adding initials as the trend expands to include pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality and other toppling taboos.)
Maybe I really should rechristen this blog The New Puritan. As a hardwired proponent of traditional Western values, I have to cringe at the oddly joyless decadence of contemporary American popular culture. Porn has gone mainstream, from the twerking posterior of Miley Cyrus to the numbing exhibitionism of Kim Kardashian to the current frenzy over handcuffs and leather harnesses. The innocently naughty cream-puff sexuality of a Marilyn Monroe, so alluring in its time, seems like a distant dream now.
I have to wonder how a culture steeped in dark debauchery will stand up to the militant vitality of ISIS and its legions. Yes, we need to cajole the established governments of the Middle East to fight ISIS and kill the tumor at its root. Egypt and Jordan have finally started to look alive, but it’s unlikely that the coalition will be able to beat ISIS on its own. If we eventually engage the foe in battle, as it appears we might, we could be looking at a new Hundred Years’ War.
You can capture territory, but you can’t capture religious fanaticism. Kill a thousand fanatics, and a thousand more will take their place. To win a conventional war against ISIS, we’d have to slaughter every last jihadist — an impossible (and not especially honorable) feat.
No, it will take more than the power of arms to stop this cancer. We need to show the jihadists that our way of life offers more than theirs… that our freedom opens the door to a noble and bountiful life.
I’m just not sure, given the current dilapidated state of American culture, that we’re in any position to tout its virtues.
Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate.