The Moment of Truth — December 8, 2001

The Secret Prophecy Of “The Tempest”

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen, and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the one moment in the electromagnetic broadcast week when the capitalist media commissars hiss and cringe away from a thin but deadly shaft of sunlight.

Last week I complained that a hawkish faction of the left had abdicated their imaginations and squelched those of others by jumping on a bandwagon playing Sousa marches and declaring anyone too cautious to jump on with them stupid, offensive and immoral. Now that I, and I hope they, have laid aside any suspicion that dogmatic haste in the name of action for action’s sake is any better than activist haste AGAINST action for dogma’s sake, perhaps we can get about the business of being the creative progressives I know we can be. And I invite any of you who actually do fall into one or more of the categories of stupid, offensive and immoral to join us here outside the prison of easy answers.

Of course, there are no easy answers. So in the prison of easy answers, the prisoners run around screaming for easy answers in vain. You demand peace, and then the Taliban stay in charge and people die of fighting and starvation and executions. You want war, and even when you open up Mazar-e-Sharif the food can’t get to the starving people forty-five minutes away over the so-called Friendship Bridge because Uzbekhistan doesn’t want refugees flooding in and the US Army says, “We don’t guard bridges,” whatever that means. And so people still die of fighting and even more die from starvation as millions become refugees, and in the meantime unexploded cluster bomblets from your war and mines from an earlier one are ready to blow rural people’s body parts off even if their lives somehow resume outside the refugee camps at some unknown future date. So it’s left to people with enough imagination to step through the bureaucratic, military and diplomatic nightmare bubble barrier and drive twenty hours through Turkhmenistan to at least get SOME food to SOMEONE, and take it upon themselves to clear explosive things out of the way enough to make a runway to maybe fly some stuff to the dying and nearly-dying.

And in both cases YOU’RE the one who asked for it. In the case of the war, though, you might say it’s all the Taliban and al Qaeda’s responsibility, the loss of life and limb must be laid at their feet. Which makes sense, unless someone misinterprets you as saying you were only following orders of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Which complicates the easy answer considerably, at least until you get the misinterpreter to go away.

But even then it’s too late. You’ve been released from the prison of easy answers with nothing but a suit, a twenty-dollar bill, and the address of a halfway house called the nagging notion, on a gloomy, treeless street, where spring’s always just few miserable rainy days away, in that corrupt town of crippled dreams and cheap laughs called the human condition.

And you wonder, with the perversity that accompanies all honest pondering in the late afternoon when the human mind is at its worst and would probably, left to follow its natural druthers, be napping along with the body, if maybe misinterpretation doesn’t come closer to the truth than what passes for accuracy most of the time. Why, for example, is it so easy to obscenely and sophomorically parody the Attorney General’s last name? Why are things that look like winged penises always exploding and causing trouble? Why in this case in particular, involving a regime that for women is what the Nazis were for Jews, did two of the biggest phallic icons in the world get destroyed by winged penis-looking things?

Is there indeed some bridge of truth, if not friendship, between the world viewed through the hazy lens of the lazily playful imagination and the world of hard things that hit you on the head at the worst possible moment? Think about how Nostradamus blurted out one Friday afternoon at work, when he was probably daydreaming about his plans for the weekend, that maybe one day some evil guy named Hister would rule in bloody chaos over a land somewhere near Germany. Or how he mumbled, at about the same time the following Friday, that a machine called the yell-a-phone would revolutionize communication. Or his prediction that a mouse would be mistakenly deep-fried and served at a fast food restaurant called The Korean War. Or that a free nation would one day be turned into an Orwellian police state by an attorney general named John Amoebicdissentaryface.

Shakespeare knew Nostradamus, though their secret sexual relationship was purely platonic. This is how a character comes to be called Caliban in the play “The Tempest,” Shakespeare’s allegory of the events we are now living through. Prospero represents, of course, the very prosperous United States, and, yes, Ariel is indeed Ariel Sharon, the faithful woodsprite Prospero freed from imprisonment in a tree trunk, much as Geppetto did for Pinocchio. And of course, Ariel longs for true freedom from his indenture to Prospero, to graduate from an existence where “strings are attached,” a la Pinocchio again, and to soar freely in fighter jets dropping winged penises on Gaza till somehow, magically, the Palestinian terrorists turn peaceful.

I’ll leave it to those who’ve actually read or seen the play and not just the Mr. Magoo version I’m familiar with to connect the allegorical dots further. What concerns me are the scenes Shakespeare excised from the play, yielding to Nostradamus’s criticism that they revealed too much to the future, thereby infringing on future humanity’s free will, and did nothing to advance the plot of the play.

I’m referring, of course, to the scenes dealing with the whole subplot of Prospero’s attempts to lure the murderous Arabic demon, Alladin ben Sodom, from his secret den in one of forty jars hidden all over Asia and North Africa. Not a single scrap of evidence exists today to lead scholars of the Bard to even suspect that such scenes were ever written, so I have had to reconstruct the story they tell entirely from genetic memory.

The backstory of Alladin ben Sodom is murky, but it has something to do with his attempts to forceably circumsize everyone on Prospero’s island so he can convert them to Saracenism. Saracens are what the English of Shakespeare’s time called circumsized people they hated but who weren’t Jews. Alladin ben Sodom’s forty thieves attempt to perform this commando mass-genital mutilation while blindfolded, with predictably horrible results.

Ben Sodom goes into hiding, and Prospero interrogates Caliban, bludgeoning him with a winged dildo to try to get him to reveal ben Sodom’s whereabouts. But in his zeal to get at the truth, and in the face of the wretched beast’s stubbornness, Prospero dildos Caliban to death.

The magically inclined Prospero decides upon a supernatural ruse to coax Alladin ben Sodom out into the open. The plan involves esoteric knowledge of Saracen lore, which Prospero, learned as he is, possesses. He also possesses the imagination – there’s that word again! – to put his learning to good use.

Prospero takes his military budget of hundreds of billions of dollars and puts twenty-five percent of it toward Hollywood-style special effects wizardry. The result is that, high above the Saracen holy city of Mecca, a blazing light appears. A brilliant, gleaming sphere, accompanied by angels singing Saracen hymns, descends and hovers just above the Qaba. The sphere opens and the Saracen prophet Muhammed rides forth on a golden stallion amid silver flames. Muhammed is attended by an entourage of celestial virgins. He asks, in melodic classical Saracenese, that Alladin ben Sodom be brought before him to receive his reward. Ben Sodom is suspicious, but the vision remains patiently hovering above the Qaba for forty days. Convinced of the prophet’s authenticity, ben Sodom presents himself.

The innumerable throngs of Saracen faithful watch in amazement as Mohammed has a crystal horse swoop down and bring ben Sodom up to him. The celestial virgins surround ben Sodom, tie him up and put a noose around his neck. Mohammed says, “Alladin ben Sodom, you have misrepresented the Holy Quran and stained the glory of Allah with your murders. You are hereby consigned to the pit of Hell!” A crack in the earth appears, revealing a flaming pit. The virgins swing ben Sodom around and around by the rope encircling his throat, and hurl him into the pit, which closes up, leaving no trace. Mohammed leaves the stunned crowd with the admonishment to always interpret the words of Allah, in whatever holy books they appear, whether those of the Jew, the Hindu, the Christian, or William Shakespeare, in the most humane and progressively secular-humanist way. Then he and the virgins ascend again to the heavens.

Miraculously, God herself is so impressed with the imaginative and peaceful solution the powerful conjurer contrived that she decides the time has come to usher in the age of paradise. All the penises on earth sprout wings, detach themselves from their hosts, and fly up to heaven. Humanity is transformed into hot, horny lesbians engaging in non-stop girl-on-girl action in a sexy world of neverending abundance.

How this prophetic vision of the collaborative love partners Nostrodamus and Shakespeare will play out in actuality remains to be seen. Much depends on our own imaginations and the level of creativity we demand from our leadership. There’s a reason that statesmanship is so often referred to as an art. There’s also a reason the arts are called “lively.” There’s also a reason for the phrase “the art of living.” I don’t claim to know what those reasons are – no one does – but there are reasons, probably, and in time, and with faith and love, blah blah blah.

I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been another Moment of Truth.