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Notes on "Reading Lolita in Teheran"
(p. 46) "A ten-year-old had awakened his parents in horror telling them that he had been having an 'illegal dream.' He had been dreaming that he was at the seaside with some men and women who were kissing, and he did not know what to do. He kept repeating to his parents that he was having illegal dreams."
(p. 212) "They married the virgins off to the guards, who would later execute them. The philosophy behind this act was that if they were killed as virgins, they would go to heaven."
(p. 257) "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Muslim man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a nine-year-old virgin wife."
The first of the quotes above is not, even in a typical American's view of what would be entailed by the rule of the primacy of consciousness, particularly surprising. Shocking, yes; surprising, no. As the second-most-important prophet of Islam is written to have said (Matthew 5:28) "Every one who looks upon a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart." The criminalization of thoughts and dreams is the big wet dream of theocracy, in America as it is in Iran.
The second is a piece of literalism beyond the imagination of any Christian fundamentalist, but the guards who rape prisoners to prevent them from going to heaven are merely setting God free of his promises, and thus enabling Him to judge the soul of the executed prisoner in His capacity as the True Judge. The idea of including rape in a prisoner's punishment is not exactly foreign to us either. To quote California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, "I would love to personally escort [former Enron CEO Kenneth] Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, 'Hi, my name is Spike, honey.' "
It is the third that is likely to be as surprising as it is shocking—and what makes Vladimir Nobokov's Lolita just about the most subversive book one can read in Teheran: the Islamic theocracy's endorsement of child rape, in the guise of "marriage." Islam's main and final prophet was a pedophile whom God Himself authorized to "marry" an eight-year-old girl. And so, under Islamic law, every adult man, provided only that he literally buy a child for cash from her parents, is legally entitled to "marry" a nine-year-old girl—how's that for a euphemism—in his marital bed.
Lolita is the story of a pedophile's murder, by rape, of a twelve-year-old girl's soul. Underneath Nobokov's exquisite prose Lolita is a brutal book, not for the weak of stomach.
As Nafisi makes clear, the pivot of child rape—to call it "pedophilia" is a loathsome euphemism—and of Islamic theocracy is the same: the primacy of consciousness. The evidence of reality, presenting itself to Humbert's senses, is that Lolita's feelings for him could not be further from love. As Nafisi writes (p. 43), ...' we soon discover what Hubert's complaints mean: she sits on his lap, picking her nose, engrossed in "the lighter section of a newspaper, indifferent to my ecstasy as if it were something she sat upon, a shoe, a doll, the handle of a tennis racket." Of course, all murderers and all oppressors have a long list of grievances against their victims, only most are not as eloquent as Humbert Humbert. (Please remember, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that this child, had she lived in the Islamic Republic, would have long been ripe for marriage to men older than Humbert.) '...
And yet Humbert "knows," just like the prophet of Islam knew, that whatever "the worldly appearances" might deceive him to think in his material mind, into his innermost soul God has told him that this little girl truly loves him "just as he loves her," and he believes.
As Steven Weinberg writes in another context, "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion." By "bad people," Weinberg means those who lack—from psychosis, from personality disorder, or from ordinary failure to focus their mind—normal ongoing awareness of the ethical-moral dimension of their lives. This happens with religion—as in the case of Adolf Hitler, a believer and confessing Christian—and without, as in the cases of Mao or Pol Pot.
There are certainly bad people even among Atheists, and some of them rape children. But what about "good people"—those who are aware of morality and ethics, and who do focus their minds on resolving whatever moral problems their lives present them with? A man of the primacy of reality who focuses his mind, will act on evidence of reality. If the moral question concerns the possibility of a "romantic relationship" of an adult with a child, he will observe that the child is in fact incapable of having a free and reciprocal "romantic relationship" with the adult, and even of giving voluntary and informed consent. And, as far as any potential involvement with an actual child is concerned, that is the end of any possibility of it.
Weinberg's "that takes religion" is about those who, when dealing with moral problems, follow the guidance of their religious leaders - and those religious leaders tell them to do evil, from "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," to Crusades and Jihad. In the case of "good men" who adhere to Islam, the religious leaders' endorsement of pedophile "marriage" means that "good Moslems" will believe themselves to be good and moral even while doing the most horrid evil.
But what of the religious leaders themselves? It is here that we get to the root cause of "good peoples' evil." Just as the ordinary religious person seeks guidance from clergy, the man who believes himself to be in direct communication with God prays to God for guidance, and believes that God guides him through a "still little voice in his innermost soul." And he believes that his "innermost soul," through which God speaks to him, is the part farthest removed from the "corrupting appearances of our fallen, material world."
But in reality, when the man who prays to God for guidance listens in his innermost soul—then, by the normal operation of human psychology, he will hear God tell him, just as Humbert Humbert heard, that this little child truly loves him back, regardless of what he might observe when focused on reality, that is, on the actual actions and capabilities of the child. And the man of God believes what "God tells him." Hence, even outside the Islamic Republic, witness the unending stream of Roman Catholic priests, ultra-Orthodox rebbes, Orthodox rabbis, and fundamentalist church leaders at the dock of secular justice for raping children. And, since God himself told him otherwise in his innermost soul, the man who talks with God will forever fail to understand that he has done wrong. Even if, unlike the prophet of Islam, he lives among men who will judge him by the facts of reality and the evidence of their senses.
The ultimate paradox of theocracy, is that it exists for the purpose of imposing the primacy of consciousness on reality itself. It creates, in Azar Nafisi's parting words, "a place where the film censor is nearly blind and where they hang people in the streets and put a curtain across the sea to segregate men and women." And where pedophiles "marry" nine-year-old girls, with the full endorsement of the mullahs of the Islamic Republic.
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