I’ve never had all that much time for the writing of Salman Rushdie. I read The Satanic Verses before all the fuss kicked off (I think, if memory serves me well, I was halfway through it when they started burning it in the streets), I tried Midnight’s Children and gave up and I’ve never been inclined to go back and try again — though I think I should and probably will, eventually. Nevertheless, I have always respected him as a man and a writer, simply because he has endured with a certain degree of dignity and always succeeded in maintaining the moral and intellectual high ground.
I was therefore very interested to read this article in which, as well as speaking of the possibility of his writing a book about his “fatwa” experience, he also discusses the changing world we are living in and how he doesn’t believe that the events that happened to him eighteen years ago would happen today.
He then went on to talk about the importance of the Internet as a way of bridging the gaps between certain cultures.
“The more aspects of Western culture people become aware of, in whatever tyrannical country – whether it’s China or Iran – people want it.
“It may well be that what we think of as trivial and banal stuff like YouTube and MySpace, this may change the world.
“The internet is showing people what life can be like. And when people who live in repressive countries see that, it makes them want it.”
Bravo, Mr Rushdie! So many people still fail to get this very simple lesson. Yes, there’s a lot of material on the Internet that is fundamentally nasty — but its very nature, not quite egalitarian but getting there, slowly, provides many, many people with opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Opportunities to work in new ways, opportunities to communicate with people they would never otherwise have met, opportunities to aspire to things previously undreamt of. The Internet is not the realisation of some cockeyed Utopian dream, but it does have some very positive aspects that are all too easily overlooked.
I would imagine that Rushdie would agree that his nine years in hiding would have been far less bearable without it.