Josie Pagani: It’s just a stupid film

by Josie Pagani / 06 October, 2012
The real enemy is fundamentalism.
Josie Pagani

Salman Rushdie was right when he said the correct response to a stupid film on YouTube is to say it’s a stupid film on YouTube, and then get on with the rest of your life. The violent fundamentalism of religious utopians protesting that film was rejected by thousands of protesters in Libya, chanting “No more al Qaeda” and “The blood we shed for freedom shall not go in vain.” French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy reminded us who the real enemy is: not some amateur film-maker, and not America. The enemy is fundamentalism. The poor and the angry burning and rioting on the streets are not the ones manufacturing the outrage. The uprisings are sponsored by reactionaries opposed to democracy because liberalism threatens their power. They want a counter-revolution against the Arab Spring. I’ve never liked utopias. Too much about improving people, not their lives.

  • The good news is that Salman Rushdie is still alive, 23 years after fundamentalist Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini dumped a lethal fatwa on him for writing The Satanic Verses. When I was a teenager in England, Rushdie used to stay in a safe house with a Kiwi in a village nearby, where he would dine with members of the New Zealand literary establishment. So he has paid a heavy price for his isolation. If he had changed his name to Salman DotRushdie, put on weight and adopted a German accent, the Americans would be hunting him down and the fundamentalists would have an awkward choice about which one was the greater Satan.

  • We have our own fundamentalists in New Zealand. They long ago declared holy war on inflation and today demand human sacrifices. A steady trickle of job losses and business failures has become a flood: Solid Energy, Nuplex and KiwiRail all cut jobs on the same day. Fisher & Paykel may be going to China. Norske Skog is scaling down and Rio Tinto is threatening to pack it in. We’re losing export jobs because Imams Joyce and Key say the natural order has One True Reserve Bank, and its supreme authority is impervious to logic, evidence or reason. Inflation is satanic. Allahu Akbar.

  • The Right fear inflation because it erodes the value of assets. If you’re on the right, you instinctively want to look after your stash. Gold is Great. If you’re on the left, your instinct is to support those who use capital – people who work for wages, and businesses who employ people. The fight over monetary policy is a scrap between those who say that if you work hard, you should get ahead and those who have already made it. Sounds like a job for Camp David.

  • But at least one long jihad has ended. The US Defense Secretary dropped by to say they’ve forgiven us for the war crime of being nuclear-free. We’re now allowed to send our ships to Pearl Harbour, alongside Japan who were forgiven before us for the presumably lesser crime of actually bombing the US. People are patient about reconciliation and impatient for conflict.

Josie Pagani is a political commentator and communications consultant.


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