I have recently had several cyclical threads and entries where I posted back to other entries. I don’t particularly like doing that a lot but if unfortunately, here is another one :p This one’s about the Dan Simmons post (I talked previously about this here and here). Hopefully, I will not talk about this particular topic again but since I have contemplated much about Dan Simmons’ motives for his April message and since he promised to reveal all in his May message, I just had to comment on the May message 🙂
Basically, Dan seems to imply that the contents of the April message wasn’t his thoughts (and of course, he wasn’t that kind of person) but that the message was actually him presenting the viewpoints of various other individuals. As an explanation (or excuse) for this method, he goes to quote a few other people (again) saying that the only way to learn is to explore what goes counter to your beliefs. However, what struck me most about the whole message was the fact that Dan does not actually say what he thinks or feels or believes – he simply parrots other people (taking extracts from other works to supplement his message) and so seems to be saying, this is what others think. However, whether he’s actually asking people to make up their own minds, or is trying to make up their minds for them, remains slightly unclear.
One thing that does emerge as you read between the lines though, is that Dan Simmons has already made up his mind :p Dan Simmons, like so many others, seems to be convinced that there is an "Islamic" threat (or possibility of one). Sure, he throws around a few modifiers such as jihadists or Wahabbists from time to time but it is clear from the inferences he draws that he believes that Islam as a religion is aimed at sowing war and terror on the "infidels". He goes on to quote several verses from the Qur’an to support his point of view. What he forgets (and what most militant Muslims forget – or ignore for their own warped purposes) is that while the word is often translated as "infidel", what it actually means is "non-believer". It doesn’t sound as bad when you shout "Death to the non-believers!" though, does it? :p
I believe that the Qur’an is the word of God, given to his prophet – but that has nothing to do with this discussion. What is pertinent however, is that the chapters of the Qur’an were not revealed all at once. They were revealed at different times to deal with different situations. When a verse talks about "non-believers", it often as not is talking about *Arab* non-believers at that time as not. But of course, today, people twist it around (especially in translation since a word can have many different shades of meaning and the translator gets to pick which shade they want, even though that might differ from the original intent) and say it says "death to infidels" and that means Jews and Christians!
I am not trying to be an apologist for the terrorists who kill innocents in the name of Islam. That is wrong and there are no two sides to that. But what I do want to stress is the fact that though these people might call themselves Muslims, by the core beliefs of Islam, they are not really Muslims. So this is not an issue of Islam against the rest of the world or against the West but about human stupidity, greed, fear and prejudice against other humans. The biggest concern I have about Dan’s message is the fact that he is quick to label things. He labels the West as life-affirming and all of Islam (or most of it) as evil. This is fine and dandy if we lived in a rational world where people made up their minds by thinking about things logically. But no, we live in a world where people go about shooting people in turbans (no matter what their religion or nationality) because they might be Muslims – and mind you, this happened in the "life affirming" West :p
There are other things which are even worse which happens in the life affirming West that Dan ignores. But my point is not that the West is bad or that a country is bad or that a religion is bad – they are not. The problem is that people are not rational. They like to put labels like "us" and "them" on things because it makes it easy to know who to cheer and who to hate. When somebody who is supposed to know better (like the Islamic clerics that Dan talks about) comes along and tells them all these big name authors say that Islam is bad and that they are going to wipe us out, do you honestly believe that most of the people who read Dan’s message are going to stop to actually think if all of that makes logical sense? Or are they going to start hating something that they don’t even totally understand? Hating what we don’t know, we’ve never done that before, have we? :p
If you’re a writer, you should think about what you’re going to write. Perhaps try to present a balanced perspective. If you write a story and it sounds like vitriol, maybe you shouldn’t try to defend it by saying that before the World Wars, an anti-German story would have sounded like vitriol too. That you’re just pushing the envelope. If you’re a writer, you know that there is also something called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, Dan says at the beginning of his May message that if you’re expecting polemics, apologetics, politics or reinforcements of your own prejudices, that you would be disappointed because his was a writer’s website. But then again, I thought a writer’s job was to write about what he feels – not what others think. But that’s probably just me :p