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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
MANSOUR, SALAFIYYA, AND FIGHTING TERRORISM VIA POETRY. Excellent Times Magazinepiece.
An unlikely group of onetime religious jihadists have recently stepped into the midst of this debate. They belong to a larger circle of liberals, intellectuals, professors, former Wahhabi scholars, judges and even women who are discussing subjects in the media that were taboo before 9/11 -- questions about terrorism, about Wahhabi discrimination toward Muslims of the Shiite and Sufi sects (whom they consider apostates), about alcohol, about AIDS, about the rights of women to drive and work.
The ex-jihadists are fluent in Islam and, more important, in the lingo of the underground terrorists, and they've surfaced from the extremist subculture with a message for the Wahhabi official clerics, the royal family and even their complicit American allies: Wake up. It's you who created us. We are not an aberration.
Mansour Al-Nogaidan is the most daring and idiosyncratic of these reformists. He is a 33-year-old former radical imam and a columnist for Al Riyadh, one of the largest daily newspapers, controlled by the government, but his writing is often banned. The main target of Mansour's vitriolic critiques for the past three years has been Wahhabism, which he argues is the source of the political and cultural problems in the kingdom. Since Wahhabism is the ideology upon which the royal family has erected its legitimacy, Mansour is indirectly denouncing them. That's the way political dissent operates in the kingdom. If you aim directly at the royal family in public, you are likely to lose your freedoms. But in interviews with the foreign media, Mansour has been far more bold. He has said that if the royal family does not put aside the ideology of Wahhabism and rule more democratically, it will ultimately bring about its own downfall.
Mansour is a small, roundish man, with intense, protruding eyes and a gentle voice. He pouts and broods and smiles like a child. He's the vexing kid who never stops asking why. That constant questioning is what got him into Islamic radicalism and got him out if it -- and landed him in prison six times during the last 15 years.
He now lives alone in a studio in a small peach-colored building with a marble facade in a suburb of Riyadh. It's sparsely furnished with a bed, desk and a computer. Books that just four years ago he would have considered heretical are now piled up along the wall -- the banned novels of Turki al-Hamad, a liberal reformist from Mansour's hometown, Buraida; ''Religions of the World''; texts by Nietzsche and Habermas; and a book of Michelangelo's art. He also keeps a CD-ROM, ''Fatwas of Ibn Tamaya,'' the 14th-century scholar and eminence grise of Wahhabism, upon whom much of Saudi law is based. Mansour is locked in an intellectual battle with Ibn Taimaya, finding in his fatwas justification for terrorism. Most dear to him these days, however, is a biography of Martin Luther, which surprised and inspired him. For Martin Luther was not what Mansour had expected -- a soft messenger of God. Instead, Mansour discovered that Luther was tough and cruel with his enemies.
When the confrontation came to a head, Mansour was sentenced to 75 lashes. Feeling desperate, alone and defenseless -- Saudis in such cases have no right to an attorney -- Mansour published an Op-Ed essay in the The New York Times. It appeared the day after Thanksgiving, during the festival Id al-Fitr, the feast that ends Ramadan fasting. In it he told the world that though the Saudi government was cracking down on terrorists, they were missing the real culprit.
''Saudi Arabia is bogged down by deep-rooted Islamic extremism in most schools and mosques,'' he wrote. How can officials claim Saudi society ''loves other nations,'' he asked, when state-sponsored preachers ''continue to curse and call for the destruction of all non-Muslims?'' He appealed to the world ''to help us stand up against our extremist religious culture.'' He dared his fellow Saudis to ''see ourselves the way the rest of the world sees us -- a nation that spawns terrorists -- and think about why that is and what it means.'' Only then ''will we be able to take the first step toward correcting that image and eradicating its roots.''
A few days later, the police showed up at the newsroom of Al Riyadh and ushered Mansour to jail. Mansour had made such criticisms before in various autobiographical essays published in the Saudi press and on popular Saudi Internet sites. But this was different. As Mansour recalled, the judge shouted, ''How did you dare to write in the enemy's newspaper?''
In addition to Mansour, there are several writers who have left the Islamic extremist subculture and who are criticizing Wahhabi ideology. They live all over -- in the liberal port city Jidda, the conservative capital Riyadh and the southern mountains of Asir province, where four of the 9/11 hijackers came from. Among them are Khalid al-Ghannami, a cleric for 10 years who now advocates an individual interpretation of religion. There's Abdullah Bejad al-Oteibi and Mashari al-Thaydi, friends of Mansour's from their extremist days, who have rejected their pasts and the terrorist subculture, but who are more loyal than Mansour to the royal family. There's Abdullah Thabit, a poet and dreamer who writes about the beauty of music and poetry and the idiocy of religious restrictions against them.
But Mansour is in a category of his own. As Adel al-Toraifi, a political-science student and friend of Mansour's, told me, ''Mansour has personally experienced almost every role in modern Saudi society'' -- from his painful childhood, to his long history with Islamic scholarship, to his experience as an extremist and his political reformation. ''So if you want to understand this period of transition in Saudi Arabia, and the debates about reform, you must study Mansour.''
Go forth and do so.
Don't miss Thabet.
One of those scooped up by the religious teachers in the late 80's was a poet and novelist from Asir named Abdullah Thabet. Now he's the image of apostasy -- long sideburns, no beard, jeans, leather jacket, cigarettes. I drove with him around the province one day as a Muzak version of Lionel Richie's ''Say You, Say Me'' strained on his old Ford speakers. ''You can't have a girlfriend in this society,'' he told me. ''It's too expensive to marry, and as a young man, all you're thinking about is sex. So the 'teachers' would tell us, Don't worry, no need now, when you kill yourself you'll have plenty of girls in heaven.'' Unlike Mansour, who shaped his life into a narrative of intellectual evolution, Abdullah Thabet simply remembers himself as a PlayStation character in the grip of a sinister hand. ''If there were girls in our high school,'' he said. ''I never would have joined those groups.''
Lost in a family of 11 siblings, Abdullah Thalbit was a lonely child dreaming of escape. ''The religious teachers say run away with us, and go to heaven,'' he explained. ''They lift you out of this society where it's so difficult to find kindness and friendship. They offer you unconditional love, brotherhood, money, cars, education and jobs -- because the religious people control all the jobs here,'' he went on to say. ''The first year they teach you to love each other at weekend picnics and summer camping trips, where they're looking for the talented ones. They teach you to reject your family. Then they give you books and lessons and program your mind to build a new country like the old Islamic caliphate. They teach you that you're the only good Muslims, the others are not.''
Despite Islam's emphasis on modesty, what was so compelling to smart young men like Abdullah Thabet, Mansour and the others was the idea that they among all other Muslims were the real keepers of the faith. It gave them a feeling of superiority. As Khalid al-Ghannami, a friend of Mansour's and a former cleric who gave up preaching and adores Martin Scorsese films, explained to me, all of them began to believe they were those special Strangers whom the prophet speaks about. ''The prophet said: 'Islam began as a stranger and will return to being a stranger. So Tuba''' -- a tree in Paradise and the best part of heaven -- '''is for the strangers,''' Khalid said. ''The people then asked the prophet: 'Who are the strangers?' And the prophet said, 'Those who do the good deeds when everybody else does not.'''
This is all the classic means of indoctrination, used by belief groups from cults to far larger entities, of course.
As Abdullah Thabet and I were winding through Asir's jagged, rock-crested mountains, we rounded an outcropping, and all along the stone banks there appeared hundreds of baboons, some of them fornicating, masturbating, howling and laughing. Thabet slowed down, lingering in their exuberance. ''I want their life,'' he said, and drove off.
The isolation is bruising for Mansour. ''I feel like I am in a community where everyone hates me,'' he explained. His mother, who adores him, is silently disappointed by his transformation, he says, and by his Sufi understanding of Islam that ''it's enough to have the spiritual flame inside our hearts.'' In other words, organized religion is not necessary, nor can he stand its hypocrisy. ''If you ask our sheiks, Can we marry a Christian or Jewish woman, they will say, 'Yes, and you can live together in love, but deep in your heart you must hate her.' How can you divide your heart? Human beings cannot accept such contradictions. Yet that is at the core of our culture.''
When I asked Mansour if he envisions some kind of democracy in Saudi Arabia, he thought for a while and said: ''A Buraida philosopher once said: 'If you bring Queen Elizabeth to rule in Yemen, she will rule like Imam Ahmad, one of the most radical religious leaders of Yemen. And if you bring Imam Ahmad to England, he will rule like Queen Elizabeth.' The culture and society will dictate the way you rule. We hear talk about democracy. But if we apply democracy now, we'll ride it like we ride camels. Democracy needs a liberal culture. In the beginning we need freedom, we need different parties to have their rights and a culture that allows people to be represented.'' He implies that the only way to ensure that parties do not bring about a Taliban-like government is to separate state and mosque. ''As Voltaire said, 'No freedom to the enemies of freedom.'''
When he was still allowed to publish, Mansour advocated rights for women and the persecuted Shiites and Sufis. All of these issues, he argues, hark back to the battle he has been waging since his days as a religious extremist. ''The core of what I used to write is that no one owns the truth,'' he said. His fight is with the uncritical, ideological religious education inculcated in Saudi society.