Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Eris and the cartoons of discord

Helen of Troy's beautiful face that launched a thousand ships might be traditionally cited as the cause of the Trojan War but according to Greek Mythology, the ultimate cause can be found in the tale of Eris and the Apple of Discord. Eris, the goddess of strife, was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, apparently THE party of the century, and in a fit of pique threw a golden apple with the words "to the fairest" on it in the midst of the party, knowing that the ensuing arguments among the Goddesses would ruin the party. Eris, it seems, has been up to her old tricks again, although being hip to the 21st Century, she opted for cartoons instead of apples.

In this age of TV and movie worship, iconoclasm, the belief that images are not the proper medium through which to worship God, likely seems a dated idea. Yet, Iconoclasm has been a feature, from time to time, of most of the major faiths. Christianity has gone through quite a few iconoclastic phases. Indeed, one of the bones of contention between Protestants and Catholics was the use of images in worship. During the Reformation period, Catholic icons were destroyed in many parts of northern Europe.

A visit to a mosque will attest to the absence of religious imagery in the practice of Islam. Some might remember the Taliban's destruction of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan as evidence of this iconoclastic tendency. If you are a devout Muslim, you will look dimly (actually not at all) on images of Allah or the Prophets thereof. This might explain some of the outrage currently being vented over the cartoons of Mohammed. Certainly, that there would be outrage would be apparent to anyone with passing familiarity with the basic tenets of that faith.

As the global media machine has done its thing, these images have been republished and rebroadcast, inspiring angst among devout Muslims, acting as a general focal point for the growing sense of Muslim suppression and now ridicule by the West, and providing opportunity for the human worshippers of Eris, those who would welcome discord. Perhaps these new Eris worshipers haven't studied the legends. Even the Greek Gods suffered as a result of these disputes.

Even now the discord multiplies. Apparently, one sacred cow (even the Hindus are going to be pissed) killed deserves another. Iranian papers are now holding Holocaust cartoon contests.

I keep having thoughts of the Sorcerer's Apprentice running through my head as I watch this game unfold. This could very easily get out of hand, if it hasn't already. Last year, President Bush spoke of a fire burning in the minds of men. I hope this one burns itself out before too long.