Some Similarities Between Osama bin Laden and Arthur Rimbaud
There is a boy who has captured a considerable amount of my heed lately, and that boy is called Osama bin Laden (or, if you’re in the CIA, UBL). Obviously, I, along with the rest of the world, was aware of this boy for quite a while. But it wasn’t until one of the most disgusting days in recent history (that is, the day when the Supreme Court repealed formidable features of DOMA) that I began to discern the details of his origins; for, on that disgusting day, girl-boy Judith Butler told me that Osama, by residing in the Middle East, was surrounded by ungreivable lives — lives that could be erased and encroached upon without any kind of fuss because they already “inhabit a lost and destroyed zone.”
The devil-may-care attitude affixed to Osama’s homeland and peoples made him murderously upset. After some further investigation, I found that Osama’s consternation correlated to that of Arthur Rimbaud’s. In the late 19th century, Arthur declared war on the Western world with his poem “What Do We Care, My Heart.” He wanted America to “vanish!” He screamed: “Power, Justice, History, fall!” A century later, Osama, too, declared war against the advance, civilized nations, telling them (though, really, just America): “You are not unaware of the injustice, repression, and aggression that have befallen Muslims through the alliance of Jews, Christians, and their agents, so much so that Muslims blood has become the cheapest blood and their money and wealth are plundered by enemies.”
Uh-huh, both of these boys have bellicose bones to pick with, what Judith Butler describes as, secular modern states. The traits these countries confer upon their subjects — ones that make their lives grievable — violently appall Arthur and Osama, as Arthur and Osama exhibit an affinity for behaviors that don’t comply with those of normative Western humans. What follows are a few of the ways in which both Arthur and Osama contrast with humans from democratic, Capitalistic societies.
American types tickle themselves by burnishing their tummies with all sorts of food stuffs such as hamburgers with Swiss cheese, hamburgers with bacon, hamburgers with Swiss cheese and bacon, and so on. According to Lawrence Wright, author of the popular al-Qaeda history the Looming Tower, “Food held little interest for him [Osama]. He loved adventure, poetry, and little else but God.” After Sudan sent Osama and his followers packing (Sudan was trying to terminate their terrorist image), they adjured to Afghanistan, where they ate stale bread and drank well water. When his faithful groused, Osama admonished them for their absence of gratefulness, since some tummies in the world weren’t being filled with anything at all. Meanwhile, in “The Triumph of Hunger” Arthur informs everyone:
I only find within my bones
A taste for eating earth and stones.
Dinn! Dinn! Dinn! Dinn! We eat air,
Rocks and coals and iron ore.
Both Arthur and Osama have severe, disciplined tummies — ones that aren’t allured by the astronomical appetites of secular subjects. And their flinty tummies match their ascetic surroundings. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a Palestinian mystic and a staunch supporter of martyrdom, said Osama “lives in his house the life of the poor. I never did see a single table or chair.” If asked if he’d like an Ikea futon or a modernist glass dinning table, Osama might retort, “No way, stupid gay!” Comfort seems to be contemptible for Osama just as it does for Arthur. “Summer especially, stupid, slow, he always tried / To shut himself up in the cool latrine: There he could think, be calm, and sniff the air,” says Arthur in “Seven-Year-Old Poets.” As French girl Julia Kristeva observers in Powers of Horror, Western subjects are alienated from their caca and weewee, since they flush both immediately. Caca and weewee, to this race of folks, are gross, and they don’t want a relationship with grossness because this race of folks depict themselves to be the greatest, most progressive people on earth (see the New York Times). But for Arthur and Osama, poverty and waste are wonderful. What Americans deem abject is admirable for these two boys.
Religion, too, is regarded as unremarkable amongst Americans and their Allies. When the collation of the willing invaded Iraq, they didn’t make their newly conquered subjects study the bible and submit to Jesus (as I would’ve), but they made them suck each other’s private parts, crawl around like doggies, take part in naked human periods, and carry out lots of other concupiscent conduct.
With Arthur, human pleasure is putrid. “With the silent leap of a sullen beast, I have downed and strangled every joy,” Arthur announces in a Season In Hell. Later on in this poem, Arthur champions a “hard life, outright stupor — with a dried-out fist to lift the coffin lid.” Lusciousness is leveled by severity for Arthur. He hasn’t the time to search for sexual thrills; like God in Paradise Lost, like Jesus in Paradise Regained, Arthur is battling the Devil. “My guts are on fire. The power of the poison twists my arms and legs,” Arthur proclaims. According to Arthur, Satan wants to dissolve him “with his charms.” But Arthur, being Christian (that is, bellicose, theatrical, sensational, ceremonial, ornamental, and thoughtful), is victorious, alerting everyone that “the stinking sighs subside.”
Unlike Arthur, Osama, never battled the Devil (the actual Devil, not its synonym America), but he, like Arthur, was a religious boy. According to Lawrence (the boy who wrote the Looming Tower), Osama constantly resided in caves in order to associate himself with the prophet Muhammad. In a Mecca cave Angel Gabriel first informed Muhammad that he was God’s messenger, and in Medina Muhammad was able to hide from his enemies in a magic cave concealed by spiderwebs. The collation of the willing wanted photos of naked people, Arthur and Osama want spiritual power: the former is Walt Whitman, the latter is Walt Disney, and, obviously, Walt Disney is lovely and Walt Whitman is lewd.
Death, too, delights the minds of Osama and Arthur. Al-Qaeda, Osama’s clique, yields many martyrs. According to Azzam, during the Afghanistan war with Russia, when one martyr went to heaven, the ambulance filled with the sound of humming bees and chirping birds. For Osama and his boys, death is enchanting. Arthur is allured by death as well. In a Season in Hell, he screams, “Stab me with a pitchfork, sprinkle me with fire!” Elsewhere in the poem, he declares, “I have called for executioners; I want to perish chewing on their gun butts.”
Osama and Arthur’s praise of death deviates from America’s un-death culture. America likes life a lot. When their subjects start to go away, they get preponderantly peeved. This is why America had to leave Somali after Black Hawk Down, why George W. Bush and friends had to insist that Iraq could be conquered with relatively little troops, and why Barack Obama has to kill terrorists with drones not soldiers. Osama and Arthur are delighted by the destruction of flesh, flesh that Western civilization holds so dear. While Osama and Arthur believe in much more than human flesh, Western subjects don’t, so when they go away, they’re gone forever.
A tummy teeming with severe food stuffs, religion instead of randiness, death over life — all of these things things are shared by Osama and Arthur. They are theatrical, disciplined, and pugnacious. Their corresponding attributes are antithetical to those of Western culture, which is plain, loose, and compliant. For two boys who acutely counter American hegemony, everyone should examine Arthur and Osama.