Friday, 14 June 2013

The riddle of Rushdie- revenge of the Anima

Salman Rushdie, from childhood, stood out in three respects
1)  verbal dexterity and linguistic prowess
2) outstanding logico-analytical left-brain skills  making him a good scholar marked for success in our ‘enlightenment’ day-time culture.
3)  Rushdie had a powerful anima, in other words a strong right brain, and ability to process information in this non-linear, visual /symbol dominated hemisphere. 

This meant that his transition from childhood heteronomy to autonomy happened at both the level of submission/internalisation of the law (Kantian autonomy)- thus qualifying him to be a spokesman of the ‘Enlightenment’- as well as the level of the anima, the unconscious.
 My guess is that Phantasms of early infancy were what he mapped the powerful but unpredictable beings and forces around him onto. (His father, bitter at being denied 'Heaven Born' I.C.S status by reason of a trifling technicality, developed problems with alcohol and had a chip on his shoulder against the son he himself had insisted on Anglicizing).

Thus following the non-linear, ‘magical’, adventures of these phantasms enabled Rushdie to achieve autonomy- not in the complete sense of having a fully predictive model of his milieu inside his own head- but a feeling of familiarity, a sufficient sense of security to be able to follow the adventures of those phantasms in the knowledge that ultimately wisdom would be gained, everything explained.
In other words by putting himself in the hand of his anima- like a foreshadowning of Al Khidr in a Sufi dastaan- Rushdie would gain a intuitive type of wisdom.

If it is the case that left brain logic operates in a binary manner- good/bad, boy/girl/ etc- whereas the spandrels of the anima permit a more complex, multi dimensional ranking of judgements then it follows that Rushdie’s strong anima would give him superior tolerance, by making him less judgemental and moreover have further boosted his powers of observation by reducing cognitive dissonance. In other words, he, Rushdie, gets a comparative advantage as actor or novelist.

However there is a price to being anima ridden. The anima rebels strongly against changes in its milieu which cause the left hand side to impose a new ‘Universal Law’ to regulate cognition and therefore behaviour. The anima’s night time rebellion forces the individual into a manic protestation of ego-unassailability  against an abrupt and abject reversion to infantile heteronomy,which takes the shape of attitudinising, posturing, in other words turning into a prancing ninny. Now elite coteries have a soft spot for  prancing ninnies- they consider ninnydom a hallmark of authenticity, while prancing is a ticket to the inner circle . Indeed the Cambridge Apostles cult of Nous rapidly degenerated (or, if you actually went to Cambridge) achieved apotheosis as the cult of the prancing ninny.
Now the psychology of migration is actually (for most people) about a strenghtening of left brain autonomy- i.e. the emergence from the thymotic to the legalistic and contractual. Thus, though elite sub-cultures may encourage their ethnic college chums to represent the migrant as prancing ninny and ludicrously celebrate this as a reclaiming of authenticity, no actual migrant (i.e. a guy who moved for a better life) does this. Rather you see migrants focusing on legal and institutional matters. Nostalgia is a different kettle of fish- it brings on poetic or mystic reveries but, clearly, it is not of such stuff that prancing ninnies are made.

If Rushdie was to achieve ego-integration he would have needed to compartmentalise his life- the enlightenment part of himself working with others in a rational Weberian organisation, the prancing ninny- who at any moment (by the clemency of the anima) might turn into a real mime- like that Memphis who could communicate the whole of the Pythagorean philosophy with a twitch of his butt cheeks- the prancing ninny part of Rushdie could have been employed in experimental theatre or lunatic fringe politics or cult religion or something like that- while the anima ridden part of Rushdie could have had a night-time career as a fantasy novelist. In other words Rushdie could have followed his phantasms wherever they led and thus furnished the world with a topography of a lost continent of our own unconsciousness.

Rushdie, who I believe had a Jungian theory of himself coz that was the zeitgeist of the time, refused however to so compartmentalise himself. That was the way the pre-independence provincials had played things, greatly to the benefit of their vernaculars, but Rushdie was determined to be different. He felt he owed it to the spirit of the times to use all three parts of himself in his next book-Midnight's Children- his big gamble. He almost pulled it off. He actually had all three qualities needed. All the information was available to him. Yet he failed. Why? His anima rebelled. It wouldn’t work to order. So powerful were the villains he conjured up, his power to make balanced judgements deserted him. He reverted to prancing ninnydom & thus made his name & sealed his fate. Ultimately he was the prancing ninny chased off the stage by the pantomime horrors he had himself cut out of garish coloured cardboard. Rushdie’s life became more fantastic than his books.

But was this inevitable? Not at all. Let us look at the concept for his Midnight’s children. It is based on Attar’s parliament of the birds. Now Attar shows how Spirituality and Social Reconstruction on the basis of equality of outcome are mirror images, two sides to the same coin. Thus, the book Rushdie is really writing exactly parallels  the Gandhian novels of Social Reconstruction of the late 20's and early ’30’s- or the Marxist novels of the succeeding generation. Rushdie could have been doing something similar except in a New Age idiom which would provide a template for individual metanoia going hand in hand with mutuality and Social Reconstruction. Rushdie’s left brain was on the side of the angels. Yet his anima subverted the project, brought the roof down on him and condemned a whole generation or his sedulous apes to prancing ninnydom. Why? He had tried to force her and she will not be forced.Rushdie, as prancing ninny has to depict authority figures as Pantomime villains. That strain of vulgarity in Rushdie we would like to mistake for the joi de vivre of a Mumbaikar untraumatised by Partition and unashamed of his ‘post-colonial’ status is actually nothing of the sort. Rather it  is the uttering of obscenities by a priggish child who is so terrified of the bogey man under his bed, he is trying to prove to the grown ups that he is actually a tough little street-urchin.

Now, Rushdie as prancing ninny, becoming the Solzhenitsyn of Islam is exactly what the doctor ordered as far as his Cambridge was concerned. But, how does it help us Indians? Prancing ninnies from Cambridge fucked up the economy, the polity, the legal system- and were richly rewarded for their pains. Even where their own Frankensteins rose up to strike them down- think Bhutto, Bandarnaike, Indira, Rajiv, Benazir- it was only so they could become immortal and fuck us all up for all eternity. In this context, why people  call Rushdie a great author is totally beyond me. In every book, he attempts something interesting and then totally fucks it up to incarnate the apotheosis of the prancing ninny. If Rushdie were serving himself (his real self, the object of his literary metanoia) fine. Praise him. A guy who is doing well for himself should be celebrated so that there is a template for others to follow. But if he’s fucking himself up- what’s the point? The only answer is in terms of the crudest sort of Girardian mimetic desire. 

The real tragedy is that the anima had actually given Rushdie a degree of prescience- like a great actor whose skills verge spookily on that of the Spiritualist Medium- except, like most Mediums, once attuned he channeled increasing silliness- still, that's something no one else had. Take his novel 'Fury' - read the first few pages and you think 'this was written just before 9/11- WOW!"- except it soon disintegrates into utter silliness.
So where's the tragedy? Well it has to do with the Kashmir 'intifada' which- coz of the Gandhi-Abdullah poll fixing pact- started shortly after, the M.P, Syed Shahabuddin had written his infamous letter demanding the banning of Satanic Verses. 
We all thought Rushdie, being a Cambridge man, only wrote shite coz, being a Cambridge man, he knew we could digest nothing better. However, now his life was being threatened, he'd turn into the ultimate street-fighter and kick Shahabuddin in the goolies.
This was easy for him to do. Rushdie just needed to pick up the phone and talk to any Indian journalist here in London. He'd have found out that Shahabuddin was a former diplomat,  inducted into Politics by the B.J.P., who had visited , the previous year, the Sankaracharya of Kanchi (a sort of Hindu Pope) in company with, his friend, the infamous pro-Zionist, Dr. Subramaniyam Swamy (whom Harvard has sacked for his rabidly anti-Muslim views).

So all Rushdie has to do is play the Kashmir card.  He had good credentials. "Midnight's children' had attacked Mrs. Gandhi. He'd written his anti-American book about Nicaragua. 'Shame' had won a prize in Iran. Khomeini and Khatami were totally on side re. Kashmir- they had a history of allying with 'secular' lefties for strategic purposes. The Pak I.S.I would have got the Mirpuris in Bradford to demonstrate outside India House in favor of Rushdie- how dare an Uncle Tom Muslim M.P call the Religious faith of one of their own into question? They take our land, they humiliate and torture us- but now the Hindus have gone too far! They use one of their 'token' Muslim M.P's- to utter a libel upon a true son of Kashmir, such that he may appear a blasphemer and an apostate! Take my life, spit on me, humiliate me, but do not impugn my faith! Just see, the cunning of the tyrannical Pandits  has overstepped all bounds! The want to continue humiliating and denigrating an innocent Muslim Kashmiri- even after he has escaped, even after he has got British Citizenship- why? What is his crime? Hubb al watan min al Iman. Love of country is part of Faith. But love of Kashmir is the crime for which this Muslim is being denounced as an apostate! But by whom? Nimrod! The tyrant, the idolator! How long shall we keep silent? 

In any case, plenty of academics would have come forward to show Rushdie had written a satire on Saidian 'Orientalism'. 

Once Rushdie played the Kashmir card, he would have humbled Rajiv and emerged as the Edward Said or Noam Chomsky of the sub-continent. The Indian intelligentsia- once Rushdie had cleared himself of having written a 'Rangeela Rusool' type porn novel- would have fallen on their knees to Rushdie. Nobel Prizes rather than Bookers would have rained down on him.
Deservedly so. If Rushdie had been on Kashmir watch, the Centre would scarcely have sent Jagmohan there. Frankly, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved. South Asian history might have developed very differently.
But, no. 
Rushdie was and is a prancing ninny and greatly honored for being a prancing ninny coz of where he comes from. Supply and Demand, I'm afraid. The Market knows best.

No comments: