Thursday, July 9, 2015

Feudal Reveries

Reading Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel's essay on jihadi poetry in the June 8-15 New Yorker, I was intrigued by how their description of the "culture of jihad" (cult might  have been a more apt word than culture) could easily be applied to the "culture of confederacy":
The culture of jihad is a culture of romance. It promises adventure and asserts that the codes of medieval heroism and chivalry are still relevant. Having renounced their nationalities, the militants must invent an identity of their own. They are eager to convince themselves that this identity is not really new but extremely old. The knights of jihad style themselves as the only true Muslims, and, while they may be tilting at windmills, the romance seems to be working. ISIS recruits do not imagine they are emigrating to a dusty borderland between two disintegrating states but to a caliphate with more than a millennium of history.
One might paraphrase, "The cult of confederacy is a cult of romance. It promises adventure and asserts that the codes of ante-bellum heroism and chivalry are still relevant..." Notable in these anachronistic fantasies is that the recruits imagine themselves to be medieval knights, Southern gentlemen. In other words, the transit back in time also represents a profound elevation in social class.

"Gosh, if only I had been born a thousand years ago, surely I would have been king!" Obviously the recruits to these anachronistic reenactments have a deficient understanding of probability and statistics. They wouldn't have been knights or gentlemen, they would have been peons. They wouldn't have been writing (or reading) poetry and brandishing swords. They would have been illiterate, wielding a hoe.

People should be careful what they wish for. Especially when it's nostalgia.

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