“The fools among the people
Will say: “What hath turned
Them from the Qiblah (1) to wish
They were used?” Say:
To Allah belong East and West:
He guideth whom He will
To a Way that is straight.” (2:142)
“As long as we possess the body, and our soul is contaminated by such an evil, we’ll surely never adequately gain what we deserve – and that, we say, is truth” – Plato (399 BC). (2)
Western society(-ies) have lost faith in science and religion as they came to represent systems of corruption and oppression; thus the steadfast belief in democracy within the Western world lies upon globalisation and materialism. ‘Globalisation holds the truth for which we are searching’ though the West: a world economy where equality and financial security govern the global system of politics. But wait. The World Trade Centre is struck down. A new reality is born. Globalisation is now seen as corruption, thus democracy also joins the list of corrupt systems, and we are being awakened to a reality that was always there, but never realised. Using the analogy in Swift’s Gullivers Travels, where the islanders of Laputa required awakening from their thought, or reality by ‘flappers’:
“I observed here and there many in the habit of servants, with a blown bladder fastened like a flail to the end of a short stick, which they carried in their hands. In each bladder was a small quantity of dried pease, or little pebbles (as I was informed afterwards). With these bladders they now and then flapped the mouths and ears of those who stood near them, of which practice I could not conceive the meaning; it seems the minds of these people are so taken up with intense speculations, that they neither can speak, or attend to the discourses of others, without being roused by some external taction upon the organs of speech and hearing; for which reason those persons who are able to afford it always keep a flapper…in their family, as one of their domestics, nor ever walk abroad or make visits without him.” (3)
In the same way, the collapsing of the World Trade Centre was our ‘external taction upon the organs of speech and hearing’, which enabled us to reassess the situation of the world in regards to history, religion and politics. It gave the world an opportunity to explore and investigate the ‘reality(-ies)’ that we have come to believe and hold up as the ‘truth’. This negating event was a chance for progress, not necessarily a ‘war against terrorism’, but a war for ‘truth’ against both the Islamic and democratic doctrines of faith.
Our reality(-ies) then, of the East and West or Islam and capitalism, are rooted in the concept of possessing the righteous ‘reality’ or ‘way of life’. The two collide with each other and lead to destruction. Perhaps the collision will ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity itself? How do we fight back? What use is the ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ we have gained? We fight through common sense and reason, but how does the world stand to reason when reason is at the core of the debate?
‘Knowledge’, ‘reason’, ‘truth’, and ‘false truth’ are key issues which have been discussed. Our ability to be constantly curious and our insatiable appetite for ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ are arguably innate qualities unique to humankind. We are in an eternal pursuit of the beginnings, the middles, the ends, the how, why, where, what and who we are and of those with whom we share communications, we are faced with a dilemma of a myriad of possible answers. What then, is the ‘truth’? The only solution we can rely upon, is that there is no solution. We are unable to provide definitive answers as we cannot experience the events which we question, historical moments have already been experienced, present moment is experienced through a combination of past and present: we do not have access to the ‘real’ future. All ‘knowledge’ is subject to human value and interpretations, in turn, human value and interpretations are subject to idiosyncratic belief systems, surrounding environments and social conditioning. We are searching for ‘purity’ or ‘truth’ and we discover ‘truth’ in invisible terms such as ‘God’ or ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ or in visible terms such as ‘money’ or ‘profit’. Is God therefore our ‘real’? We have problematic concerns in regards to this notion as God does not possess material presence.
Material wealth is necessary to Western society; it connotes (the materialist) concepts of social status and personal wealth. This materialism stems from the non-belief in an afterlife which is the binary opposition to the Islamic absolute belief in an afterlife. Thus Muslims advocate Islam as a being the ‘right path’ and kamikaze missions involving self-explosives are of no consequence; the fundamentalists have absolute faith that their existence in life and death are in the name of Allah. As a religion and faith, Islam aims to unify and prepare humanity for life after death. This reinforces the Islamic conception that there is an inaccessible, concealed and parallel narrative, the Truth proper or the ‘true’ reality to which we cannot reach until after death. However, Islamic fundamentalists and democratic leaders claim to own this ‘truth’ now, in ‘real-time’.
“The human race…human nature…compassion or benevolence” (4) are interpretations encompassing both the physicality (appearance), and spirituality (empathy) of the term ‘humanity’. The physical sense of humanity is shared in the consumerist materialism of the capitalist society which is typical of the Western World. The spiritual collective within the Western World us effectively absent, de-essenced and replaced with the material notions of Baudrillard’s reality simulations bearing no relation to the original reference of ‘truth’.
So, whose rhetoric must we believe and whose God is dead? Zizek’s solution is to “reject this very opposition and to adopt both positions simultaneously…there is no choice between these two positions; each one is one-sided and false” (5). We must note the changing circumstances and adapt accordingly, the notion of itjihad must emerge in both Eastern and Western societies, instead of the re-asserting of fundamentalist attitudes. Our uniting element is therefore to embrace ‘totality’, where the experience of our common humanity allows for the integration of empathy and critical analysis. The objective of our common spiritual humanity would be the protection of utopian peace, instead we concentrate on our differences when surely, ‘difference’ is a value that as humans, we must all share and value within ourselves, locally within our communities, and globally within the world?
The notion of ‘reality’ then, is a human construct that functions to provide us with ‘meaning’. In the same way that Nietzsche proclaims the death of God through the re-establishment and adherence to the Bible and Christianity, we can proclaim the death of Islam through the re-establishment and strict adherence to the Qur-an, and the death of democracy through the re-establishment of freedom. Thus, in constructing and reinforcing our versions of the ‘real’ through our belief systems, we have in fact murdered the ‘real’ (6). The reality principle is a myth that becomes an illusions to (attempt to) create an allusion to the ‘truth’: “reality is but a concept…[it] implies an origin, an end, a past and a future, a chain of causes and effects, a continuity and a rationality” (7) through Lyotard’s grand narratives. However, the ‘real’ has been dislocated in that it no longer bears reference to its original. The ‘real’ can never be recaptured or regained regardless of the fundamentalist ideology(-ies), of either the East or West, that continue to be propagates into the endless depths of the ‘utopia’ that we wish to achieve: even humanity itself, is unable to save us.