Martin Amis has published a sprawling, scathing, brilliantly argued three-part essay in the Observer, on the rise of extreme Islam, terrorism, boredom, and barbarity in general. Amis vents spleen all around--especially at what sees as the West's faltering response to what he loosely calls 'horrorism'---but one particular passage stopped me in my tracks:
"The age of terror, I suspect, will also be remembered as the age of boredom. Not the kind of boredom that afflicts the blasé and the effete, but a superboredom, rounding out and complementing the superterror of suicide-mass murder. And although we will eventually prevail in the war against terror, or will reduce it, as Mailer says, to 'a tolerable level' (this phrase will stick, and will be used by politicians, with quiet pride), we haven't got a chance in the war against boredom. Because boredom is something that the enemy doesn't feel. To be clear: the opposite of religious belief is not atheism or secularism or humanism. It is not an 'ism'. It is independence of mind - that's all. When I refer to the age of boredom, I am not thinking of airport queues and subway searches. I mean the global confrontation with the dependent mind.
One way of ending the war on terror would be to capitulate and convert. The transitional period would be an unsmiling one, no doubt, with much stern work to be completed in the city squares, the town centres, and the village greens. Nevertheless, as the Caliphate is restored in Baghdad, to much joy, the surviving neophytes would soon get used to the voluminous penal code enforced by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice. It would be a world of perfect terror and perfect boredom, and of nothing else - a world with no games, no arts, and no women, a world where the only entertainment is the public execution. My middle daughter, now aged nine, still believes in imaginary beings (Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy); so she would have that in common, at least, with her new husband. [My emphasis.]
The passage, and the irony [see post from last week below], is undeniably Amis---and the note of secularism is sustained throughout the essay. Amis' new novel "House of Meetings," is published at the end of this month by Jonathan Cape.