Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Decline of the West - with honesty and courage

I am greatly impressed and moved by Michel Houellebecq's novel "Platform". He has the courage to speak his mind, which has the scale of an average European white collar worker, and his words reach obvious but hardly ever spoken truths.

This is a story of a personally unattached European bureaucrat, who professionally deals with government sponsorship of modern art, for which he feels a tolerant contempt, and who gets involved in sex-tourism initiatives through a young woman to whom he becomes deeply attached. Their story is played out, like a truly romantic story, on the frontlines of a clash of civilizations - Christian West cooperating with Buddhist Far East against the monotheistic Middle East. It culminates in prescient depiction of a terrorist attack on Western tourists in Thailand.

The novel takes us through accounts of difficulties of Westerners of making intimate or at leastc close contacts with each other - absorbed in work, sacrifice for the good of the family, immersed in meaninglessness of entertainment and of modern art alike, people lose sight of the value of pleasure - carnal and sexual pleasure which can lead to deep emotional connections and love. On social scale sexual relations lead to cultural assimilation. The epitome of this loss is the image of Paris sex clubs - dominated by S&M practices, which the author considers a dehumanized form of sexuality. The other side is the culture clash between the poor, mostly Islamic immigrants of the suburbs and a bit richer, but more secure in their position, native French. The French, and the West in general, is unable to accept the influx of the immigrants flowing in prinicipally under the symbols of the repressive religion of Islam.

The author speaks his mind about world religion through the mouth of one of his characters. Islam and Judaism are the most inhuman religions because they are monotheistic with no easy mediation between man and God, whereas Christianity and Buddhism allow a variety of middling deities that allow these faiths to be more accepting of human desire for earthly paradise. The novel is pessimistic not only because it ends in an Islamic slaughter of Western tourists traveling to Thailand to purchase safely quality sex services. It also shows how the West has abrogated its hedonistic pursuits, by condemning the purpose of tours to South East Asia, and resigning itself to S&M, capitulating to the Abrahamic wing of Christianity.

The West is indeed decadent, in the writer's view, but still has something to offer in its dying days. Probably the money of Europe could be an ally of the hedonistically inclined places in Asia, Africa and South America. What about the money of America? I am afraid it will want to join the Abrahamic phalanges.

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