But for surrealists blasphemy is a crucial political weapon, not just because of the distress it causes to the religious institutions and their millions of dupes, but also because of the disarray into which it throws the apologists of the liberal ‘democratic’ state whose so-called defences of liberty are thereby unmasked as hypocrisy.
When examining the current furore over European newspaper cartoons of Mohammed, we prefer to start not from ‘freedom of speech’ as an abstract liberal principle but from a recollection of the actual events. The recourse to abstract principle – to wishful thinking about what the world ought to be like rather than an assessment of what the world is actually like – is a standard manoeuvre of liberal argumentation, and as such we reject it. Let us then be clear from the outset that the publication of these cartoons in a despicable right-wing Danish newspaper was a racist act deliberately intended to provoke a reaction from muslims. Perhaps the ferocity with which certain politicised muslim constituencies worldwide have risen to the bait has taken the protagonists by surprise, in which case they might justly be regarded as naive, but naivety is not innocence.
In the wake of this provocation, wholly predictable battle lines between the ‘religious’ Middle East and the ‘secular’ West have been reaffirmed, and thousands around the world have dug into their entrenched positions. This ‘clash of civilisations’ manoeuvre serves only the interests of militarism, imperialism and state power, and surrealists are not about to fall into line with it by defending ‘western’ values. In our view neither ‘eastern’ nor ‘western’ civilisation is worthy of the name, and we would wholeheartedly welcome their immediate mutual destruction.
From our vantage point in the UK, the double-bind in which both the press and the government now find themselves has highlighted the extent to which all talk of ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ under the liberal state is, quite simply, bullshit. The Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, for example, has affirmed the right to free speech (how generous of him!) while declaring that that right should not be used to insult or cause offence. In other words, you have the right to free speech, but you do not necessarily have the right to exercise it. The mantra of ‘respect’ and ‘responsibility’ has been repeated by press and politicians alike, and it demonstrates that the so-called basic rights and freedoms of liberalism are in reality little more than favours for which we are expected to be grateful and which we should not mistake for genuine possessions to be used at will.
We therefore have little interest in defending free speech as it exists in our society, the tawdry gift of a hypocritical ‘democracy’. Surrealists are unruly children who say what we like regardless of whether the grown-ups grant us permission. Nor are we about to support the right-wing and/or liberal press just because it engages in blasphemy, any more than we support muslim protestors just because they set fire to the outposts and symbols of European states.
The goals of surrealism are to change life and transform the world.
To change life means the total destruction of all forms of religion, not just religion as institutions and material powers but also as a set of private beliefs which are, quite plainly and without exception, a pack of lies. In pursuit of this goal we urge all people to revolt, to blaspheme, to voice their contempt for all religions worldwide.
To transform the world means the total destruction of what currently passes for ‘western’ civilisation, with its alienation, exploitation, militarism, patriarchy, racism and self-destructive anthropocentrism, no less than the total destruction of all forms of religious law, Islamic or otherwise. In pursuit of this goal we urge all people to seize their own freedom and to fight their oppression, whatever form it takes, with all the weapons at their disposal.
Both of these goals entail the abolition of the state, whether in its secular or its religious guises: the state is the enemy of all life on earth, and anyone who looks to the state either to guarantee her/his freedom or to protect her/his dignity is nothing other than a fool.
Surrealists stand up for blasphemy, but not as a token of ‘freedom’ under a liberal regime, nor even as a simple expression of secularism: blasphemy can only have any sense or value for us insofar as it is part of a wider movement of total revolt, in the pursuit of genuine freedom – the eroticisation of the world, the everyday incarnation of poetry, the permanent revolution of Mad Love, in short, the unending, ecstatic explosion of THE MARVELLOUS.
SLAG ~ SURREALIST LONDON ACTION GROUP
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