Sunday, March 14, 2010

Martin Amis among the Children

I just put my hold in at the Toronto Public Library for Solar. I imagine it will be fun, and somewhat thought-provoking.
Judging from Nick Cohen's Guardian Review, McEwan riffs on an evening Martin Amis suffered, described in more detail in a further Cohen post.
The story would be funny if this were funny. But it reaches its first deeply revealing moment here:
The meeting grew angrier as he explained the obvious. So in a conciliatory spirit, Amis attempted to find common ground. ‘Would all those in the hall who think they are morally superior to the Taliban please raise your hands,’ he asked.
Only a third did.
The audience, the genteel and well-educated of London, I would have voted as being morally superior to the Taliban. Apparently, Amis even tried to convince them.
Shaken, but undeterred, he sought to win the rest round. It’s not only that the Taliban throw acid in the faces of women who don’t wear the veil, he said. It is not merely that they execute teachers for the crime of teaching girls to read and write. On top of all of that they ‘black out the windows of houses where women work so that they have to live without sunlight’. Surely you fine anti-sexists, anti-racists can put aside your post-modern relativism for a moment and accept that you are a little better than that?
In the end Amis understood what he was up against:
‘The only people you are allowed to feel morally superior to are the Americans and the Israelis.
And such reflexes contributed to another moment that evening:
This was the signal for everyone else to bail in, raining shibboleths down with great fury: Israel, they cried. What about Israel? Won’t somebody think of the Palestinians! This, of course, despite the fact that I don’t ever remember Amis or Anthony saying anything anti-Palestinian. Remember – this is the liberal world, where disagreeing with Islamism is the same as hating Palestinians. Because, in this world, Palestinians aren’t people – they’re a rhetorical device. You’ll score points in every argument as soon as you mention them.

Amis attempted to rally with a quick point about Israel being surrounded by hostile countries, but Morris slapped him down with the unanswerable “Oh my God, he’s defending Israel now”. Alas, in defending Israel, the once mighty pocket dynamo Amis had forgotten to defend himself. He reeled against the ropes, exposed. Badly exposed.
Then, the final hammer blow. A grizzled old heavyweight rose, extended an arm in Amis’s direction, and proclaimed to the audience “You could read views like this man’s in the Daily Telegraph!” With this, the fight was over. For if there is one thing worse than killing Palestinians, which Amis obviously does on a daily basis, it is having a view that might, possibly, be agreed with by someone who writes for the Telegraph.
I'd like to think that in years to come stories like this will be unbelievable. Maybe as unbelievable as Western left support for the Communists.
But it really is like this, and there are the small number of those who likely all felt somewhat the same way in their twenties, who, like McEwan and Amis, grew up, leaving the rest in their infantile reflexive postures (though the bogeymen have changed to new reflexive ones).


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