I am going to weigh in – like every other blogger in the world, and his cat – on the Da Vinci Code. But I’m not critiquing content or combatting conclusions. I’m looking at the violence of encounter, or the clash of worldviews, or the soft words of tolerance as their own encryption.
The book itself is for idiots to believe. A work of fiction, yes; also, a bad work of fiction (that is, insult to injury, being fleeced with a cheesegrater). No need to argue that point.
Rather, what underpins the argument? I think this determines what terrain you choose. My personal leaning is the conflict between objective and subjective historicity or its sythesis, but even that is too far from centre.
Deeper: how do I confront the book’s assertions and its rails? This is essential, to know what to do. I can do several things, not all of which I’ll spell out, but one of which is ignore it and go my own way. Some would see this as ceding ground, and others would see it a being tolerant. Others would fight a surface battle of assertion/counter-assertion while making history object/subject or trying to do both at the same time.
But let me ask you: are you afraid of what will happen at the collision of these two opposed visions? Will you try to squeak them by eachother or try to throw each a bone? You know in the heart of you each encounter is a thing of violence. Either I am right or you are right. In this place there cannot be both. But there’s a third dimension of the casual nihilist trying to just get along with a fake smile and such.
That’s the guy you want to kick in the ribs. While the screaming Dan Brown army is obvious, the snake-oil tolerance salesman is not, though he should be. You can ignore the crowd with pitchforks and torches trying to loot the gold between the bricks of the church; Jesus Christ has bee victorious over Nero. Dan Brown is the poppy seed inbetween God’s teeth.
Tolerance, on the other hand, is like mainlining those poppies: easy to fall asleep. But it breeds its own problems. (Aside: I am not speaking of grace, and peace, and longsuffering, and humility; I am speaking of that sort of slimey you-have-you I-have-me that won’t stand for anything except when it inexplicably stands for something.) The idea is an excersize in futility. The world wasn’t designed so that all poles of a magnet are equal forces. Tolerance – obviously – can’t tolerate intolerance, for instance. But more to the point, tolerance won’t tolerate land mines, genocide, female circumcision, or neon pink leg-warmers.
And in this age where tolerance – a concept lost on our father’s fathers – is the catchphrase on every goody-two-shoes lips, one has to wonder if the concurrent rise of rigid fundimentalism isn’t at all exacerbated by the inherent internal conflict of tolerance as a culture watchword. Or more to the point, does the internal violence of the postmodern lack of metanarrative breed the sort of insane fundimentality we see both in our cultures and others? Can we even imagine an age where men had grand passions?
This is the Da Vinci Code to me. It’s a cultural polarising agent. It will breed five types of people: followers, detractors, rabid detractors, the supposedly tolerant, and those who just don’t care. And there will be an inherent violence to the confrontations between those groups: when they encounter, people retreat licking wounds. Even the tolerance brigade will at some point have to oppose something.