Wednesday, February 08, 2006

False idols, graven images, cartoons and Snickers pie

There has been much talk of fame lately. Annie Lennox started it. She said, in a pre-Christmas interview in the Sunday Times that we don’t have famous people any more, only infamous people – and thus we value misdeeds over good deeds. Big Brother took it all mainstream and now the hubbub is chattering about chavs and wondering when people will stop being famous for getting their baps out and start being famous again for doing good things, like discovering Penicillin , and inventing TV so that people can get famous by getting their baps out on it.

But has fame ever been louder than infamy? Sure, the Logies are world famous in Australia as the local TV awards, but outside that hallowed land, how many people rate John Logie Baird, Karl Ferdinand Braun and Guglielmo Marconi over Pamela Anderson, Jodie Marsh, Dolly Parton, Lara Croft, Jessica Rabbit, Janet Jackson and other famous wearers of breasts.

It is easy to stay infamous and hard to stay famous. In the short term, infamous people become the but of jokes, and urban myths and remain the currency of conversation for generations – it’s easy to joke about Pete Burns and his gorilla coat, but hard to joke about Christiaan Barnard, or the Dalai Lama – famous people just get respected into irrelevance. In the long term, the misdeeds of the infamous - the genocide of Hitler, the violence of Genghis Khan and the blowjobs of Cleopatra – carry them into legend.

Of course the Christian Right is about to say, “Jesus is famous for being good!”, but is he? Moses, Jesus, Mohamed so famous that they are almost as well known as Ronald McDonald (Who I would discuss, except that he is too powerful). But are they famous for being good, or were they infamous first?

They were rebels: Moses led the Jewish slave rebellion against the Egyptian Pharaoh, followed immediately by the Great Running Away (or Exodus, to use the professional term); Jesus drove the merchants from the temple (and inadvertently started the Zionist domination of commerce conspiracy theory) and put the Pharisees offside by being more holy; and Mohamed rebelled against the corruption of God’s word by Jews and Christians by presenting a revised edition – a very nice re-branding effort there. All three were infamous before they were famous.

One of Mohamed’s key sticking points was the worship of graven images. He accused Christians of being more interested in worshiping statues of a crucified Israeli and his mother than the God they represented. That is why Muslim zealots are so touchy about representing images of any of God’s creations – especially people – and the stated reason for Arab countries' impressive performance in geometrically based decorative arts. (Although I do have a private theory about an advanced knowledge of geometry and a need to show off, which I may expand in the future.)

Given this background, you can see why Muslim scholars, over the years, were particularly averse to having images of The Prophet around. They would hate to be accused of worshiping Mohamed, when they should be worshiping Allah. And so it became accepted that you didn’t depict The Prophet, and in a way, that became a kind of worship in itself.

So all those riots about the cartoons that depict The Prophet – the murder, the screaming, shouting, hared and bile – comes from the fact that a bunch of people who have not seen the cartoons are upset that good Muslims everywhere may be corrupted into worshiping a pencil drawing of a bearded man. In my limited experience of these things, satirising something rarely leads to us believing init, but you can judge for yourselves, thanks to Tim Blair. As for the murder and mayhem, it is being whipped up by a bunch of irresponsible imams who gave up on Allah long ago, ignoring the message and worshiping the book - just worshiping another graven image of God’s creation.

Of course religious zealots are not the only dangerous ones. Now our tastebuds are threatened by food fascists attacking Anthony Worral Thompsons’s Snickers Pie. It is a monumentally unhealthy, but it’s just a dessert. It’s not meant to be the cornerstone of your diet, just some party food that you might eat once or twice, then never touch again. That might be enough for normal people, but like all zealots, the food fascists have a weak resolve. They know that they will be the first to crack (if they haven't already) unless any temptation is legislated out of existence. Of course it makes the zealots easy to spot: they will be the ones walking out of the supermarket with organic mascarpone and a roll of puff pastry hiding the five snickers bars at the bottom of their shopping bag.


At Wednesday, 08 February, 2006, Blogger Damien said...

God bless Annie Lennox.

My wife recently told me that she was giving up Hello and OK magazines (those bastions of infamy and, as you so genteely put it, breasts) for the likes of Private Eye because she was sick of funding Katie Price's career. Being a women's perogative, I noted she was reading one of those magazines again this week - but I feel a stand is in the process of being made.

On the topic of graven images - did you see the Times political cartoon today? Gordon Brown at his desk drawing various offensive cartoons of Tony Blair. I had tried to put a comical view on the whole affair over the weekend, but to no avail. I couldn't come up with the thousand words to come anywhere near that picture in the Times today.

Anthony Worrel Thompson is lobbying for the return of turkey twizzlers, Iron Bru and deep-fried Mars bars to handy convenience machines at your closest secondary school. I've heard Asda might be buying into it.

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