A Diatribe Against Fustilarians
Last time I came up with a tongue-in-cheek list of rules for criticizing other Baha'is. If you are going to do something, do it right, is what I was trying to say. As I was mentioning off-list, my old writing mentor once told me that I only write well when I am angry. For a Baha'i, this is a big problem. I try to direct my anger at things that merit anger, like myself (as the Hidden Word suggests), my own maddening faults and my choleric leanings, and, perhaps too often, I direct anger at the only other legitimate target, in fact the thing for which the good Lord created anger in the first place: tyranny, hypocrisy and injustice.
And never forget, Abdu'l-Baha, our exemplar, was not immune from anger when the occasion called for it, and yes, He was known to name names; if you doubt, check out what He said about the Nakazin, that rebellious party of "free thinkers" whose injustices threatened the very continuance of the Baha'i Faith. Human folly continually raises its ugly head, and some of us are more patient than others. It has been said of me that I do not suffer fools gladly. Some Baha'is are like that. George Spendlove, the main early teacher of the early Toronto Baha'i community, had by all accounts that kind of disposition. We have our uses. Get used to it.
In fact, anger, like anything created by God, is bad only when it is carried too far, or is expressed poorly. I think that is why Baha'u'llah has outlawed swearing. Oaths degrade and cheapen anger. They are an easy way out, an outlet that does not really let it out. Like our exhaust, garbage and sewage, we think we are rid of it but we really are not. It pollutes, as do profanations. Anger is heat that cooks your food on the stove; let it get out of control and it will burn the house down.
Now that the media and the Internet have spread the habit of swearing to universal use among young people, increasingly anger is clumsily, improperly expressed. The universal expletive, the "F" word, and its derivative, Muvga, are everywhere. We need a wider variety of expressions for disapproval, and not only expressions but actions too, hopefully constructive ones.
Shakespeare, whose creative imagination molded and all but invented the English language, was very creative in the insults his characters came up with. English speakers have no excuse to impoverish their anger by stereotypical imprecations. Never does the "F" word come up in Shakespeare's plays, but consider the following,
"Thou fobbing, beetleheaded footlicker."
"Thou flouted, fat-kidneyed clotpole."
"Thou beslubbering, flapmouthed barnacle."
"Thou frothy, dizzyeyed fustilarian."
If somebody insulted me in terms like those I would be charmed and impressed, not hurt. Far better that than what I got last time, mewling quoting of scripture while taking what I wrote out of context, or out of spirit. These, by the way, are the words of Shakespeare but the particular combinations I made up myself using the highly amusing "Shakespeare Insult Kit," at:
I recommend this to all my readers. I would love to be insulted by any combination you come up with. Come on, you fustilarians, give me your worst. When you deal with me, consult the insult kit before you call up Ocean.
As I say, I do not suffer fools gladly. I could never respond to my readers with the longsuffering kindness that some do. After all, people purchase what other writers produce using real money; being unpublished, I have nothing to lose by antagonizing my readership. As a result, the indulgence and quiet patience of others in the face of persistent, demented stupidity sometimes astonishes me. Take this letter, apparently a real response written by an official scientist in the Smithsonian Institution.
Which brings me to that churlish, fen-sucked clapdish, Robert Stockman. He wrote the only general history of the Baha'i Faith in America worthy of the name. Since I am working on a talk about the Master in America, and lately decided to stop expending my tiny discretionary income on gadgets and turn it towards the purchase of Baha'i materials, I thought it might be nice to purchase the second volume of his history. I had read the history, in two volumes, when they first came out, several years apart. I remember that I did not like the second as much as the first volume.
True, nothing can match the dramatic, astonishing story of that mammering hedge-born gudgeon, Ibrahim Kheiralla, as described in the first volume, how he started the Faith going in Chicago by his own efforts, using a technique which even today strikes one as highly innovative, and even attained to the title "Baha's Peter," but then Kheiralla became more enamored of his own ideas than the Teachings of the Master. What could be more amusing than his ongoing flimflam? For example, he acted as translator for the first pilgrimage of Western believers. Only years later did they find out that the answer to their question to Abdu'l-Baha about the eternal soul was not "reincarnation." It had been something lost in translation. What a ruttish, hasty-witted joithead!
On the other hand, Volume Two is full of pictures of early believers in America that I needed for my ongoing work on a Powerpoint slide show about the Master in America. In past months I have found amazon.ca to be a prompt and reliable source for books, so I looked up Stockman's second volume there. The price was rather steep, so I checked it out at the Canadian BDS. I found that I could buy the history there, scan the pictures, and sell it used on Amazon for a tidy thirty dollar profit. But when it arrived and I had it in my hot little hands, I found that the book had somehow improved since I first read it. I am going through it with much more profit and pleasure than the first time. Forget the thirty dollar potential profit, this stays on the bookshelves.
I will not review this book, though it has already furnished me with material for a dozen essays. If you want to know more about it you can read a short but competent review by that gleeking, clapper-clawed giglet, Derek Cockshut, whose last name itself could, skillfully used, form a not unworthy Shakespearian insult. You can read it at,
My favorite part of this review is where Cockshut says
"The open frankness, however, is the strength of this work, of which the bizarre Thompson incident is a good example. Harry Clayton Thompson, chairman of the Chicago House of Spirituality, announced at the second National 'Convention' in 1910 that he was the next prophet after Baha'u'llah -- the sort of thing which makes our present Annual Conventions seem rather tame. Thompson believed that his divine instruction came from 'Zom Zhoum', via one Estelle M. Hamsley."
Need I add that Clayton Thompson was a fobbing, beef-witted bum-bailey? And that this Estelle M. Hamsley too could justly be described as a gorebellied, qualling maggot-pie? And do not even get me started on Zom Zhoum. Calm down, Johnny. Direct the anger to good ends.
How can I cure myself of this insult mania? I know, I will think of Baha'u'llah, that, well, what was He? In His own words, He is that "river of life," "Fountain-Head of wisdom," "lawgiver," "redeemer," "Day-star of the Universe" ... such appellations I need as medicine. He Himself says that human qualities, divorced from involvement with Spirit, tend to breed a kind of vermin called evil,
"Indeed the actions of man himself breed a profusion of satanic power. For were men to abide by and observe the divine teachings, every trace of evil would be banished from the face of the earth. However, the widespread differences that exist among mankind and the prevalence of sedition, contention, conflict and the like are the primary factors which provoke the appearance of the satanic spirit. Yet the Holy Spirit hath ever shunned such matters. A world in which naught can be perceived save strife, quarrels and corruption is bound to become the seat of the throne, the very metropolis, of Satan." (Tablets, 176-177)