Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The case for Cat Stevens

Dear Hannah,

My original response to Cat Stevens becoming a Muslim and changing his name to Yusuf Islam was calling him a traitor.  My opinion, as with anyone else who trades England for Islam, is that he's still a traitor; but as there are many different brands of traitors out there, what kind of a traitor is the question we ought to be asking ourselves today.

The invariable impression you get when listening to Tea for the Tillerman and any number of hits on it, such as Wild World and Hard Headed Woman, isn't only that Cat Stevens was a gifted musician, but that he was a good and substantial person.  Too good, in fact, to remain too long in the music industry of the 1970's.  Any knowledge of the music industry of the era, with its rampant drug use and obvious exploitation of artists and the ritual violations of underage groupies, combined with outright occultism and an ugly left-wing radicalism, would be enough to drive anybody with a soul away -- assuming he wasn't there for the purpose of evangelism.

How long was he supposed to sing Where do the children play? until he realized he had to leave?  And where was he supposed to go?  And further than this, how long could anyone associate the sights and sounds of ugly-souled artists with Western Civilization before deciding we were rotten?  The world of musicians, like Hollywood or any other industry, has never been capable of supporting itself.  It relies upon oceans of almost faceless worshipers; an epicurean cult often mobilized for the purpose of revelry, pressing against each other in ugly venues and aging amphitheaters for the sole purpose of getting their vibe, their mentality, a sense of meaning and purpose and pleasure in people nobody should ever idolize, and from lyrics that nobody should be instructed by.  

It's difficult to say, because so many of Cat Stevens's hits have an almost secular holiness about them, that Cat was a man with a message.  I believe in a man like Cat's case that having too many good messages means that he is the message.  And the problem with so many messengers (if it can even be called a problem) is that they eventually realize their inadequacy.  Too fragile to live for a century, too finite to change the world, and too humble to admit they give any meaning, the sensitive artist slash prophet needs something much bigger than himself in order to live.  We only regret that Christians, diverse as they are in their approaches to Jesus, were considered inadequate when Cat realized he needed a conversion.  Christianity, or at least the two forms of it that his parents respectively embraced, hadn't been enough to save them from divorce; and it hadn't been able to resist the radicalism and depravity of the 60's or even the dead quasi-Pharisaical moralism of the 50's.  And if Western Civilization was animated by the Holy Spirit, it's only safe to say (from a sensitive, non-Christian musician's perspective) that He was at best nonexistent, and at the very worst intentionally delinquent.

We needn't go too far into the fact that Judaism, while giving its followers a universal narrative and being an alternative to Christianity, was never good at attracting followers; not only because of its ridiculous (and thankfully almost always half-attempted) legalism, but the fact that Jewish people are probably the most unpopular religionists worldwide -- at least partially because other people are considered unclean by the Jews.  And Buddhism, when it comes down to it, is very nice for calming your nerves, but it does very little to animate your hopes.   The only real alternative to Christianity, other than joining the walking-dead atheists or the permanently confused agnostics, is Islam -- at moment the fastest growing religion in the world, and the only one being taken seriously as a legal system.

That Islam is also the religion inseparably associated with sex-slavery (which is objectively worse than promiscuity) and tyranny and terrorism (which are arguably worse than warfare) should inevitably damn a man whose sensitivities led him away from the Post-Christian West.  But Islam is not all slavery and terrorism.  It is also the hope that mankind can be pure if we want to be.  It gives men a chance to clean themselves up (or something like it, anyway), and a handbook for how to do it exactly.  Christianity is general and complex and because it is general and complex it is oftentimes confusing -- like life.  The nature of Christian theology also makes it unintelligible to many; including Augustine, who said that denying the Trinity means losing your soul, but attempting to understand the Trinity means losing your mind.

Islam seems to be better for simpletons and people who just want to play by the rules; and especially for people who are too timid to come up with rules for themselves.  So far as I'm aware it also allows you to have an enemy.  And Cat Stevens, after years experiencing the worst of Western Civilization, not only realized that mankind needs rules, but that mankind has an enemy.  An enlightened and thoughtful atheist, perhaps unaccustomed to seeing us at our worst, might say that our enemy was personal weakness and what's generally referred to as a lack of reason.  To Cat Stevens, in the thick of a catastrophic and almost sudden moral collapse, countered only by an increasingly senile fundamentalism on the right and the saccharine and smarmy stupidity of The Jesus Movement on the left, the enemy very much appeared to be Satan.

We can't really excuse Cat Stevens for picking the only religion it's popular to defend by saying that criticism breeds more terrorists.  No other creed or religion is offered the same defense because everyone knows that the defense is incriminating.  But I believe that by asking ourselves why Cat Stevens threw us all under the bus we're asking the wrong question.   We should be asking why such a soulful, thoughtful, and talented man ever felt we had less to offer him than something as backward as Islam.  And I think the reason we haven't asked is because it leads to something more uncomfortable than a great man becoming a traitor.  It leads us to look in the mirror.

Your father,

P.S.: A short while ago, a Pakistani woman known on Youtube for obscenities and twerking and classlessness in general was murdered in what the Muslims commonly refer to (and frequently condone) as an honor killing.  But even more disturbing than this; even more disturbing than anyone putting his hands around his sister's neck and squeezing until her lifeless body crumpled on the floor, is that a dangerously large number of Westerners are mourning her because the only solution to Islamic fundamentalism they can think of is another goddamned Kardashian.  It's true that the Islamic fundamentalist will kill your body.  But the liberal Westerner equates his freedom with the killing of a soul.  It's not enough that he is allowed to be disgusting.  In the long run his "liberty" requires you to not even be disgusted.

*Despite the creation of the Jewish state, it's worth noting that no country in the world is either interested in or capable of enforcing Mosaic Law.  A recent speech by Benjamin Netanyahu to our Senate proved this, when he reminded us that unlike his Sharia-compliant neighbors, the Israeli state was uninterested in the killing of gays.

While we may applaud him for his humanity, his humanity is rooted in his inconsistency.  The Law upon which his identity is based is hostile to non-believers, illiberal in the extreme, murderous towards heretics and gays and slaves and Sabbath-breakers, and wholeheartedly interested in the supremacy not only of Jews over non-Jews, but of the Jewish nation-state over other nations.

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