We have encountered the trope of “native fanaticism” before, in the context of imperialist ideology, from Uttar Pradesh to Baghdad. Orientalism has produced various “Muslim fanatics” over the centuries. The figure of the fanatic is also a familiar subject of Cold War obloquy, from Spargo’s appraisal of Bolshevik psychology to the ‘antitotalitarian’ literature of Fifties America and Seventies France. And of course, these discourses have been reinvented today to meet the putative challenge of “political religion”. Today, “fanaticism” is held up as a sort of sock puppet opponent for those who would consider themselves enlightened, liberal, and modern. But is there anything that unites these various ideas? The answer might be that fanaticism is a mood, a psychic state characterised by a non-negotiable commitment to “something abstract” – whether that abstraction is revolutionary liberty, communism, or the earthly rule of God. In contrast, the liberal is empirical in his attitudes, and sensible of the need for compromise in pursuit of a modus vivendi. This is the ideologeme, the stereotype, or at least one variant of it.
Copyleft: Lenin’s Tomb