I’ve mentioned here before that I find reading opinions that differ from mine to be stimulating.
Of course, sometimes the thought stimulated is “this person is a fucking idiot”. Such a person is Paul Spinrad.
In a guest blog post on Boing Boing called “Re-engineering fundamentalism“, he notes the following:
It seems to me that every so often, the dominant political and cultural machine grows so large and incestuous that it loses its connection to people and makes them feel powerless and irrelevant. When this happens, in the West anyway, there’s inevitably a revolution of words, of back-to-basics and idealism, against the image-conscious, superficial, wealth-obsessed Babylon. Because it’s based on words, people can place their trust in it fully and spread it, and it will continue to make sense over time. It doesn’t propagate through image, might, or personal influence. This empowers people again– perhaps simply by making them feel empowered.
Big examples are the formation of Christianity and Islam, and the Protestant Reformation. Today we see other fundamentalisms. But the inevitable next one doesn’t have to be intolerant and destructive. If we engage with the task of developing it, rather than avoiding it and leaving it to others, it can be a nice one.
This was my reply:
The last line of this piece is the stupidest thing I have ever read on Boing Boing, and a candidate for the stupidest thing I have ever read online.
The point Mr. Spinrad painfully fails to grasp is that *fundamentalism itself* is a damaging mindset. It doesn’t matter which text or set of ideas – the Bible, the Koran, On The Origin of Species – are taken as inerrant, it’s the act of declaring an idea as absolutely true and trustable which causes the harm.
Fundamentalism stops the questioning part of the mind from working. It is a failure of imagination. It leads the victim to believing those who do not share their beliefs matter less than they do. The results of this are rarely pleasant.
A ‘nicer fundamentalism’ is about as helpful a concept as a cheerful serial killer.
I would also note that at no time does Spinrad attempt to show how fundamentalism can be re-engineered, or even a basic grasp of either the history of thought and belief or any understanding of how fundamentalist belief works. And don’t even get me started on the puerile dualism of “back-to-basics and idealism” versus “the image-conscious, superficial, wealth-obsessed Babylon”.
This is not something I say lightly… actual fundamentalists make more sense than this shite.
(Oh – and anyone considering witty remarks along the lines of “you’re being fundamentalist too” can fuck right off. If I was in a better mood I would explain the difference between a passionately held opinion and an inflexible one. But right now, I’d rather offer you a spoon to eat my sick.)