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'The Lunatic Fringe' by
Fatima Shahnaz

The Lunatic Fringe


Mad Hatters may now rejoice at the topsy-turvy state of our world spiraling into a theatre of the absurd. Grand Guignolesque blood-sports have become prime time public entertainment, not random acts of terrorism, just status quo. The ‘CNN syndrome’ is a mind-numbing process of desensitization. In schizophrenics, that means being out of touch with reality. Chaos is the new world order. No longer are the clinically insane marginalized as inmates in lock-ups and funny farms. Today, if you’re Mad, you wear a Hat! And hats come in the bio-diversity of shapes, hues, geographic size. In a borderless world, the dumbed-down brain is manufactured in the grubby sweatshops of a shrinking global village. And according to village lore, the tom-toms spread like wildfires. People-power is on the march again in the Middle East, with revolutions from Egypt, Yemen to Tunisia, and if the Queen of Hearts has her way, heads may roll all the way to oil sheikdoms. In Sudan, shades of the murdered Englishman Gordon and pith helmets haunts the African psyche. In Iraq, it’s Dick Cheney’s Macbeth in a pith helmet.

“We are what we eat” was the dictum of vegetarians of yore. Now, we eat what we can (metaphorically speaking), inferring our fellow man. We gnaw our way in an MNC (multinational) corporatist feeding frenzy for oil, minerals, flesh, bones all the way through starving Africa, teeming Asia, the sizzling rotisseries of southern ‘sheesh kebabs’. With the economy rubbled under Ground Zero, the West goes hungry too, although Sarah Palin (with her macro killer instincts) may end up harpooning the seal population of Alaska, maybe stray polar bears too. The oceans, drying up (according to eco-pundits), depleted of fish, the mountains of glaciers. In this looking-glass world, gigantic Alice – Gulliver – has shrunk to a Lilliputian. They say it’s a question of perspective. Whose?

If you read through media spam, the uber-morons of history’s trash-bins have allegedly taken over the momma-and-poppa shop of a medieval system of catharsis i.e. “sex-and-violence “made in America.” Except now, collective amnesia to war has become its opiate, an addiction as big as Dubya’s ‘Big Oil’ Big Government. Blame it on the Muslims, we’re told, the failing economy, the failed states, the failed governments. Some one’s behind it all, no doubt the brownskinned barbarian knocking at the gates of Christendom! (Even Obama’s in the dock, half-white, half-Muslim: does the depraved logic make him ‘half-President?’) It’s all part of the upside-down state of affairs, Plato’s magic shadows on the wall of myth-making. In consumer societies, the public consumes the imagery of hate, misconceptions, miscommunications. The mythic ‘enemy at the gate’ justifies our war-machine, our weapons industry, our weapons of mass destruction to eliminate the ‘useless eaters’. (The end of Social Security and the welfare state will kill off the rest.) The predatory forces prey on our fears of the unknown, the ‘other’. Random shootouts are purges killing civilians, like Nazi era public executions to pacify would-be rebels. Fears of bombs in basements keeps us in doors, in fortress cities, behind duct-taped windows and homes. People-power is checked, moral conscience stupefied, right and wrong screwed up so the absurdity and superstition of the virtual world thrive.

Incapable of dealing with reality, we live in our surreal cyborg existence. Early this year Katie Couric suggested that Sitcoms like “The Cosby Show” would be a solution to Anti-Muslim bigotry in America. This is just one surreal twist in the direction the advanced state of current depravity has taken. A Muslim version of the show might help change attitudes of “seething hatred,” she said, enthusing “I know that sounds crazy, but the Cosby Show did so much to change attitudes about African Americans in this country, and I think sometimes people are afraid of things they don’t understand.” In an interview comedian Mo Rocca replied he’d been to “fancy schools” but couldn’t “tell you five things about Islam.” We’re right in the anthropological domain, where kids and families need feel-good sitcoms with wild-eyed, saber-rattling Arabs, Osama bin Laden wanna-bes, falling on their knees to tell you they’re reformed alcoholics, or born-again Christians, mere ‘babes in the Bush’ mode? Would the same media czars who blitzed us with anti-Muslim propaganda now preach Islam to our children? Couric’s definition of “crazy” might explain why we’re shooting bats with BB guns –and why they’ve now infested the proverbial ‘upstairs,’ the belfry with its Molotov cocktail of anti-depressants, sedatives for kids, mind-numbing pschyotropic drugs exported from Afghanistan.

Opium trails and arms cartels … Is that why the ‘lunatic fringe’ has taken over Gun Laws? Or is the Gun Lobby running the porn shops of America, prior to leasing them to Abu Ghraib’s sado-masochists? It’s a lopsided world where once- respectable politicians hunted down mafia dons and crime. Today, the mafia has more credibility than corrupt politicians, who get to loot, rape and pillage more than the criminal fringe any day, as the current state in India, where poster-boys for politics are scam-artists and con-men, attests. Plus they’ve got the kangaroo courts on their side! So we go out in the streets wearing our Big Mac Happy Meal faces because the circus is coming to town, probably in preparation for the Mad Hatters' cotillion ball! Leading the bandwagon, you can see the Hindu God Siva’s ‘baraat’ (or wedding procession) which in its cosmic hey day consisted of all sorts of dancing animals at the front of the cortege, beating on drums and percussion instruments – goats, cats, monkeys, birds … Imagine the mind-blowing cacophony. You’ve got to read between the lines of the para-normal, the soundbytes of Orwellian Dr. Strangeloves like British Prime Minister Tony Blair (who ‘trumped up’ the British intelligence lie about Saddam’s absent WMD to mass-murder Iraqis) running the world. This witch’s brew would make living in Siberian gulags of absurdity look like the Club Med. As for the mind-altering ‘swamis’ in Indian ashrams who preach to you about finding your ‘inner child,’ these days they’re busy making bombs to kill Indian children. The Hindu ‘saffron brigade’ has launched the body-soul mantra of terrorism as a sacrosanct nationalist act. Once proud in the Brahmin tradition of Indian non-violence, they’ve now converted to terrorists who blow up national trains, railways stations, mosques, and Muslim holy places. Innocent Muslim youth, the stereotypical ‘usual suspects’, have been rounded up and tortured in retaliation for these acts by Hindus. (If it doesn’t make sense, you do the math!) The lives and careers of these young men have been liquidated. That, of course, is routine savagery in banana republics far away. In the U.S.A. you’d be accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ if you said Israel tortured Palestinians, or inflicted ‘state terrorism’ on them. Of course, blaming Muslims for the world’s toxic state of affairs is normal, rational. Would it be ‘irrational’ to wonder why Americans shoot their own Congressmen and women in the head, and why their elected representatives are living under eliminationist terror-tactics? Maybe the old police state is making a comeback: the excess of blabbermouthing in the capital of the ‘free world’ has allowed disturbed people not only to act out on their fantasies of violence, but to propagate them through inflammatory ultra-right-wing hate-mongering rhetoric. One thought this wave of bloodletting compulsions was left behind in the dark and shady prisons of Iraq, in the dungeons of faraway ‘black sites’ of the CIA, where other sadists, foreign rapists and sodomists carried out these ‘extraordinary renditions’: waterboarding (considered only half-torture by Bush, Rummy and Co.), tortures for the Pentagon and other American facilities. This was because the clean white consciences of Americans should not be soiled nor tainted by (God forbid!) such monstrous acts, and the sitcom culture, sports, Disneyland popcorn-popping kids would not be exposed to the Jekyll-and- Hyde daddies running around selling WMD, chemical agents, killer drones etc to starving millions abroad. And sufficeth to say these executioners were not your black-hooded Muslim terrorists in ski-masks but just your ‘boy-or-girl-next door type’- redblooded Americans just cleaning up the attic for democracy and freedom to flourish among tin-pot dictators and savages! Call it a case of ‘imperial hubris,’ manifest destiny,’ but the neo con lexicon was executed with missionary zeal.

Meanwhile, killer vegetarians continue to wonder why there’s so much violence in America? Is it because there’s too much consumption of saturated fats? Or is it through consumerism of too much red-blooded Texas steak (like the British with their Mad Cow syndrome)? Or is anyone still listening to the MIT Prophet of doom in the high tech wilderness, poor Noam Chomsky, ranting about brainwashing, mind-control, the stupefied state of an abject, infantilized public? The beefsteak-eating scenario has long backed the theories of pod-people and erstwhile leftists, who fingerpointed that the ‘MadDonaldization’ of imperialist societies led to a fate similar to the decline of the lead-eating Roman Empire. But let’s not go as far back as crucifixions and the pagan Romans! Being pilloried at the stake may be closer to home. The supernatural haunts the modern mind, benighted with Nostradamus prophecies, holograms in the air, superstition; and the strategies invented by the medieval Inquisition, torture, terror, witch-hunts and fanatic propaganda have made masses huddle in subservience to martial law and new avatars of Torquemada, Bush 42, the handmaiden of the oligarchs’ executioner. With ‘shock and awe,’ an amnesiac public, comatose media, the American psyche was sanitized against warfare in Indian territory (correction: not the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of American Indians, but Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistani civilians and anyone else standing in the line of fire.) How easy, then, with the abjectified tax-payer or mutinous factions easily co-opted for a hill of beans! And if push came to shove, Big Brother steps in with a new wave of Crack and cocaine that never fails to squelch dissent among the proles. In the event these tactics don’t work, more persuasive methods are in order, and the ‘final solution’ is always readily available: new assassination squads target American rebels anywhere, any time. One of the prime features of upside-down democracy these days is that political discourse is definitely a no-no. Learn from history: the prophet of non-violence, Mohandas K. Gandhi, might have survived if he’d chosen the fakir’s bed of nails over politics. At least, he’d get a good night’s sleep. Last spring reported a surge in threats against members of Congress up by 300 percent. According to Paul Krugman in “Climate of Hate (January 9, 2011) “a number of people making those threats had a history of mental illness – but something about the current state of America, has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.” Does that mean we have mini-Mes, little Hitlers, running about with BB guns? Blame it on the airwaves. Clarence Dupnik, the Sheriff who dealt with the Arizona shootings in January of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Judge John Roll blamed the media, as if there was a deadly virus, a contagion, in the air people breathed. “The vitriolitc rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” Those who listen to the toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line. Krugman diagnosed America’s dysfunctional killing sprees. “It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements.”

Wrong, Mr. Krugman: it isn’t just an American sickness: it has metastasized, carcinogized, globalized. In India, a Hindu right-wing politico suggested castration as a remedy for Muslim males. In Pakistan, the Chief Minister of Punjab, the major state, was assassinated for his defense of secularism, with a growing rift between the ‘uleima,’ the religious orthodoxy, and secularists in that country. The divide is an open sore among the world’s God-People, creating fear, disorientation, confusion. The shoddy state of American society in Krugman’s eyes, or the wider world, the new Inquisitions and mental gulags imprison the will against remedy or protest. It sounds Pollyanna-ish to think “The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.” That, from the Mad Hatters’ angle, isn’t the version of the Queen of Hearts who would just wave, “off with his head!” Then, on to business-as-usual: who’s next, Madame Guillotine?



Fatima ShahnazFatima Shahnaz, Ph.D. Sorbonne University, is a professor of Political Science in a university in India. Author, journalist and President of the India Peace Organization, an advocacy for international human rights and global peace; she has written several books including fiction, politics, poetry and humanitarian issues. In 2010 she was given the citation of the Government of France as “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,” “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters” for her service to international culture, literature and service to civilization.


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