Monday, September 18, 2006

Yes Your Holiness

Do you ever get the eerie feeling that the major public events of our day have been scripted by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay?

The story so far:

The pope, delivering an address at his old University, decides to use a quotation from a discussion between a Byzantine emperor and a Persian scholar, on the theory, presumably, that any discussion of contemporary moral values most usefully begins by examining obscure conversations in the 14th century. Pop culture references from medieval arcana, the Pope thinks, will help the issue seem more immediately relevant, and besides, a dash of the old Paleologus wit is always good for a few laughs.

Incredibly, Islamic fundamentalists misinterpret what the Pope is saying! Even though he hasn't actually said that he agrees with the statement, even though he's just quoted it and then made no comment about it, they imply that he actually believes it himself. Who would have thought that Muslim fundamentalists would prove so quick to provocation, so blind to the niceties of deductive logic? I mean okay, so we know that Islamo-fascist rabble rousers have used jokes by obscure Danish cartoonists to trigger violence, but who would have imagined they would try something similar when the official head of a major world religion quoted anti-Islamic statements in dead earnest?

Having recovered from the shock of this entirely unexpected response, the Pope and his advisors now find themselves in a bind. The rabble rousers are demanding an apology. But how do you apologise for something you claim not to have said? The Pope can't say "I'm sorry I said Islam was a violent religion" because he's already said that he never said that. He tries to weasel his way out of it by saying he's sorry for the 'reaction' his words caused.

But the rabble rousers aren't having any of it. Never mind that the first time around they blithely ignored the fact that quoting a statement by someone else does not imply agreement with it. This time they're more than happy to split hairs, pointing out that the Pope hasn't actually apologised for what he said, which, of course, he can't because he never really said it.

Meanwhile, somewhere in a parallel universe, Joseph Heller is laughing himself silly.

The irony of all this: The point of the Pope's speech was apparently that we in the modern world tend to rely too much on reason.

Ya, right.

Categories:

14 comments:

Szerelem said...

"Meanwhile, somewhere in a parallel universe, Joseph Heller is laughing himself silly."

No doubt.

Anonymous said...

Ditto for any religious controversy of the past or the future..

Space Bar said...

just in case you missed this:

http://www.jesusandmo.net/2006/09/18/fire/

:D

Perspective Inc. said...

"Yeah Right!!" sums it up for me!

Rookie said...

Oh the irony! Asad Abukhalil expressed a similar sentiment about "reason" and about "Bush waging a war to bring about peace" on NPR Forum today:

http://www.kqed.org/programs/program-landing.jsp?progID=RD19

Lakshmi said...

In times as incredibly sensitive as these, it would have been prudent to not even have any such reference in the speech, I'd think. It amounts to inviting trouble, methinks...

Heh Heh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
km said...

I'll accept the Pope's apology if he shows up at my doorstep and air-guitars to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs". Nothing less.

qsg said...

What I can't seem to understand is, why do human beings think that they have the power to protect or destroy a religion...doesn't that thought alone negate the power of religion?

I would invoke Joseph Heller too, but then, I am almost scared to talk about anything that is more than this second old - who knows, who might get upset...! ;) Catch 22 indeed! :D

Falstaff said...

szerelem: :-)

anon: I disagree - most religious controversies are just banal. Very few achieve these kind of sublimely comic proportions.

space bar: Nice. Thanks.

perspective inc: Ssssooo tempted to get into the debate about the right well to spell yeah, ya?

rookie: Yes. More evidence that irony, not God is the supernatural force to believe in.

lakshmi: Perhaps. The trouble is, if we start waiting for less sensitive times we'd pretty much never say anything.

km: Now, now, let the Pope badmouth Islam all he wants, he'd better not start f***ing around with Sabbath. Otherwise there really will be hell to pay.

qsg: I know. I mean when you think about the fact that the other side's eventually going to hell anyway, all this squabbling hardly seems worthwhile, does it? I mean what's an apology less or more compared to an eternity of suffering?

NB: Heh heh: Am I hallucinating again, or did you have a comment up here at some point?

Anonymous said...

"The pope, delivering an address at his old University, decides to use a quotation from a discussion between a Byzantine emperor and a Persian scholar, on the theory, presumably, that any discussion of contemporary moral values most usefully begins by examining obscure conversations in the 14th century."


Adorable as your sarcasm is, the 14th-century emperor's thoughts may not be as antiquated as you'd think, considering that the international reaction from the Muslim community indisputedly proved the pope right.

Perspective Inc. said...

Yeah Ya whatever tickles you! :)

Falstaff said...

anon: Whatever. As far as I'm concerned the pope's speech proved nothing, except that he's a crap public speaker. I think any real attempt to reduce religious tensions has to be based on mutual respect for each other's beliefs - and I see no signs of that from either the pope or the people demanding that he apologise. Which makes sense, of course, given that any real progress on eliminating religious differences would make these parasites irrelevant.

perspective inc: :-)

Astha said...

Well said Falstaff. When I heard it on news, I had this weird moment where I thought- maybe ten years down the line when humanity has managed to destroy itself and the earth- someone might look back at this moment at think 'hmm, one dumb comment and another clueless world leader is all it took to wipe out mankind!'

Anyways, I think you'll enjoy reading this: http://blogs.bnet.com/leadershipnow/