Sunday, 4 December 2016

Was Rumi stupid?

Once upon a time there was a shite Sufi sage who liked watching a shite TV soap called 'Crossroads Motel'. There was a popular character on the shite soap, Meg, who was killed off in a car-crash or summat. This led to a huge write-in campaign to bring Meg back.
The shite Sufi sage, not understanding that TV soaps can resurrect whom they like, thought that the British audience for that shite soap lacked true Spiritual wisdom because they thought destiny wasn't inevitable or some such woolly headed shite.

Was Rumi as stupid as the Crossroads watching Sufi sage?

No, though every story he tells us is obviously stupid. Take the story of a competition between the Greek and the Chinese painters. The Chinese paint a colorful mural. The Greeks burnish a mirror which reflects the mural. Rumi thinks the Sultan will give the prize for painting to the Greeks because a reflection is brighter than the original. This is incredibly stupid.
The Sultan may, if he doesn't know what a mirror is, prefer what appears to him to be the Greek mural because it includes his own form. What's more, that form is magical and endowed with life. 
However, when he sends his friends to view this magical painting of himself and they report back that it is only their own form that they can see because Sultan, dude, it's a fucking mirror is all it is he will take away the prize for painting from the Greeks and give it to the Chinese. 

Rumi was writing this shite at a time when people with genuine skills- painters, mirror makers, doctors- were likely to be enslaved and carted off to the capital city of some conqueror.  Drooling idiots- i.e. Sufi sages- were not in demand. Furthermore, there was a superstition militating against the killing of imbeciles and crazy beggars. Moreover, making out that Revealed Religion is actually a bunch of Racist shite always goes down well with whichever bunch of Racist shites have grabbed the throne and are busy enslaving people with useful skills. Thus Rumi, who wasn't actually a 'Rumi' i.e.  Anatolian himself, makes Zayd, the Prophet's emancipated slave, go on about how the Anatolians are saved and the Ethiopians are damned along with the Hindus coz God is so not into black people.

Attar in Nishapur was doing mechanism-design so that the beggar gained municipal support and training and became a bourgeois master of a trade useful to the commonwealth but Nishapur fell, as Baghdad fell, to the Mongols. Rumi, in Konya, could have put Hanafi jurisprudence on the path Attar had indicated. But, this would not have suited the feudal rulers. Poor fellow, he did the only thing he could and that has been a boon for the practice of mousike but a price has been paid in terms of, not metaphysics- that's always worthless- but mechanism-design which isn't.

In the Panchatantra there is a story of three fishes which overhear the plans of the villagers to come the next day with nets to their pond. The smart fishies find a channel to another pond and survive. The stupid fish remain behind and perish. Rumi's version- now hugely popular thanks to Coleman Barks- has a freshwater fish decide to go off to the Ocean to seek safety. That's fucked in the head. A smart fish can dodge the net by finding a shaded spot to lurk. Journeying to the ocean or playing dead reduces, not increases, the chance of survival.
Rumi's genius is to take up an obviously fantastic story, which nevertheless frames a prosaic, common-sense, message, and, while lending credence only to the fantastic portions of it, draw, in the name of Soteriology, the stupidest possible moral from it.

The hadith 'hubb al watan min al iman'- patriotism is part of Religion- is a sensible one. Yes, it is true, if you hear that your country is about to be invaded, you can run away somewhere else. Some people would call that smart.
But, it isn't really smart at all  if you are a good person and have affectionate ties to a number of your countrymen. The entire population can't flee a land under threat. No country will receive such a large number of refugees. 
The best strategy is to fight. Doves can co-ordinate- like the starlings' 'murmuration'- to ward off the hawk. Mathematical Game Theory has shown that this 'costly signal' (like the 'strotting' of the antelope) is actually eusocial for both hawks and doves.
Fighting includes guerrilla tactics- migrating to more difficult terrain and then resorting to a war of attrition.
Yes, it does involve risk and self-sacrifice. But then dolce et decorum est pro patria mori.
Running away isn't an evolutionarily stable strategy. It is stupid and sour and a fate fit only for gobshites.

Perhaps Rumi's popularity in the West was a function of faith in the 'liberal world order' where 'soft power' would attract and enslave every resource rich or strategically sited foreign nation and Obama or Clinton or Merkel could go on talking worthless shite about universal human rights and the rest of the World would just bow their heads and do whatever was best to ensure these gobshites got re-elected.

Rumi wasn't stupid anymore than a lot of displaced people who have made their home in the West were stupid. No doubt, because we have come from the East or our skins are a little duskier or our eyes aren't the right shape, we had to play up the notion that we were essentially as stupid as shite and buying into some supposed Western 'Universalism' in a naive manner. 

That dog won't hunt anymore.

Diaspora intellectuals have to now show patriotism to the land they have settled in and whose citizenship they have taken up. If they did so for purely economic reasons- let them tell the truth and shame the devil. The corollary is that one can champion economic nationalism with greater credibility.

Mechanism-design is about true preference revelation. Get smart. Identify what is in your interest and either send public signals consistent with your interest or, if incentive incompatibility obtains, be part of the coalition seeking improved mechanism-design.

If having a few drinks with your neighbor loosens your tongue & gives you a hangover such that you are better able to see what is in your interest and how that interest can be coordinated with others, then, yes, the literal, not metaphorical, Tavern is serving a good Sociological and Soteriological purpose. If prohibition is in force, drink coffee by all means.

Rumi wasn't stupid.
He was a survivor.
But, the death of the nation is not something one should scheme to survive.
If one ever genuinely knew Love.

The Universe, on the other hand, can just go fuck itself.
We are not at home in it.
Love is the Second Creation.
Its God Grief.

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