“Political Islam is not anti-imperialist, even if its militants think otherwise. It is an invaluable imperialist ally … Political Islam has always counted in its ranks the ruling classes of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan … Political Islam is not the spontaneous result of authentic religious convictions … Political Islam was constructed systematically by imperialism, supported of course, by obscurantist reactionary forces and subservient comprador classes.”  Samir Amin.

Religious fanatics are easy to manipulate, so people with agendas in problematic areas (like Afghanistan) turn to them when they need naive dupes. Islam (like Christianity, Judaism, Marxism, etc.) is not a religion of stupidity any more than it is a religion of war. But it can become a tool for manipulating stupid people, especially when those people are desperate (which makes us all stupider: put us in dire straits, and we start trying stunts we would never pull ordinarily). The fundamental problem is that every single historical civilization creates and relies upon hordes of stupid people (some naive, some desperate, the most dangerous both).  Society is always creating people with naive expectations, and then shoving them towards leaders who promise to deliver.

I think of the funeral speech of Pericles as remembered by Thucydides. “I want you to fall in love with Athens,” the demagogue says. Later fanatics will have a similar message (desiring us to love society, the nation, the people, and so forth). The simple fact of the matter is that love makes people stupid, especially when it is directed toward incoherent abstractions whose most coherent shape in human history is the process known as war (a mass of folk get together to attack or resist other masses of folk: all of them kiss flags, salute the emperor, shed tears for the fatherland / motherland, invoke the gods, babble about abstractions like liberty or tyranny, etc.).

A more honest Pericles: “I want you all to get really, really drunk, and then bet your life that I know what the fuck I am doing.” Sounds like Trump.

—Joseph Gresham Miller