Here's a line from Michael Pollan's NYT review
of Greg Critser's new book Fat Land
, which is about how fat Americans are:
So instead of seriously entertaining any public solutions to what he has so convincingly demonstrated is a public problem, Critser ends by imploring us to eat less, get off our duffs and, incredibly, bring back gluttony as a leading sin.
Public solutions, please, we're begging for public solutions! How can you write about a public problem without entertaining public solutions?
Great term, that. "Public solutions". Avoids the nasty connotations that "government regulation" has. Since obviously we're not going to eat less or get off our duffs, it's imperative that the government step in. But where is George W. Bush on this matter? I smell a winning issue for Democrats (and trial lawyers). I can hear the campaign slogans now: "The Republicans only want to lower your taxes (and so do we, now), but we want to lower your fat intake too!" Or how about "Lean cuts not tax cuts!" Okay, so it's not as pithy as "Make love not war".
But certainly we ought to start hearing more about Big Beef and Big Food joining the evil Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and Big Timber axis. I would favor the epithet Big Pig over Big Pork because the rhyme is really cool. Big Milk is already widely known to be evil, thanks to PETA, but somehow I haven't yet heard the term. It's less well known, regrettably, that Kansas politics is corrupted by Big Corn, and that you get nowhere in Wisconsin unless you kowtow to Big Cheese (those Krafty bastards!).
But remember that it's not just overeating; it's also the sedentary lifestyle which is to blame. So we also ought to hear about the evils of Big Video and Big Celluloid (yeah, hold your breath). Big Trek, studies have shown, has added 1.2 pounds to every American (when averaged across Trekkers and the general population). And Big Harvest Gold has made washing dishes and clothes as easy as pressing a button (I'm looking at you, Amana), with the result that millions of Americans no longer have to get off their asses and perform mind-numbing yet physically rewarding menial household labor. As for me, I want to sue Phil Donahue for training me to sit home and watch afternoon TV on my fat ass all day. He featured such compelling controversies, I couldn't help myself! It was beyond my evolutionary control. Now I mainline Springer twice daily. Millions of other viewers are suffering from the same condition. Clearly such a public problem demands entertaining a public solution, or at least humoring a public solution until it gets bored and goes away.
The Islam Show
In the Western tradition, nothing is sacred. Everything can be and eventually is criticized and ridiculed. Politics, religion, heroism, honor, truth- none are immune. If you happen to take something seriously, you must realize that many others don't take it seriously at all, and they don't have to either. These others who disagree with you may occassionally be quite blunt about it too, which is to say obnoxious. And the West is becoming ever more profane- pornographic even- about it.
Compare the controversies surrounding popular criticism of Christianity in the West with controversies over criticism of Islam. Well, there's not much of a comparison, really. "Life of Brian", "The Last Temptation of Christ", "Piss Christ". These cover satire, controversial interpretations, and scatological commentary. Oh, and there's "Jesus Christ Superstar" for all your musical needs. And if you like your Jesus gay, as I do, there's "Corpus Christi". Christianity could only fight these assaults with words and (rather limp) protests. It couldn't silence or threaten or kill anybody. Compare this to the Muslim reaction to "The Satanic Verses" or Nigerian reporter Isioma Daniel's innocuous remark about Mohammed. Fatwas are cheap.
One part of the solution has to be the removal of Islam from its place beyond criticism, satire, and ridicule.
Much of Western academia seems not very helpful when it comes to scholarly criticism, with a few notable exceptions. For the most part, their criticism is reserved for our own Western institutions. In a perverse kind of Orientalism, Western multi-culti's generally don't criticize Islam, which must above all be treated with repsect; who are we to judge and the rest of it. That's a mistake.
But the rest of us can surely engage in unscholarly satire and ridicule. Some artist with a full bladder ought to tackle Islam's symbols. Add Mohammed as a character on "South Park"; he can have an affair with Jesus. Put him on Broadway: all-singing, all-dancing, five performances a day.
And after the Western media machine has completely processed Islam, cheapened its symbols and tenets, and exhausted that rich content stream, we can go back to Elvis or the Amish or something. But until then, we can have fun laughing at them.