Sunday, January 29, 2017
In many of my blog posts I take disparate ideas and random facts and try to put them together in unusual ways. I see the world as glorious chaotic play. Any sense I make of it is mine for the hell of it. I draw the longest bows, quite unashamedly, linking the cake on my bedside table as a child to Mithraic bull sacrifices, for example. I have no real sense of scale, I'm afraid. I know there are the biggest ideas that humans are capable of, and I also know there are these tiny bursts of intuition, and for me both are valuable. Wisdom, which I primarily seek at this stage of my life, is everywhere. In order to be at all productive, I need to stop it flooding me as I stand in the stream of all that humans have thought, and felt, and dreamed, and feared.
Understanding the current sociopolitical situation is tough going and I feel a sense of urgency. Of course my social media feeds are full of it and some of it is pretty disturbing. I want to add some ideas that sound a bit random, but I believe are quite principled. Like this:
- 'We' in this case means most people I associate with, those of the liberal left. These are generally educated older, 'white' people who value democracy, and support human and civil rights, and consider themselves to have an inclusive, caring approach to others around them.
- We watch celebrities (political and spiritual celebrities as well as media ones) 'nailing' 'destroying' and 'ripping into' (watch the language!) Trump and his allies, and we make great cartoons, and we argue ad hominem. Social networks do what they do best. The sheer volume of it makes real thinking more difficult. We react and react and react. Hells, there is enough to react to.
- Just because someone dislikes Trump and didn't vote for him does not mean they voted for Hillary Clinton. It doesn't make them a Democrat. It doesn't make them anything. Disliking pork does not make me a vegetarian. Nor does it make me Muslim, or Jewish. *
- No it's not normal. It shouldn't be normalised because it's not normal. Not only is it not normal but it may well be illegal and unconstitutional. And what is worse, it is Not How We Do Things Around Here. Of course breaking norms and mores is far worse than breaking laws.
- Those of us who are alarmed about the breakdown of these systemic norms are speaking from both the right and the left, and it is worth looking at who is speaking. There are some strange bedfellows emerging blinking and disheveled from darkened rooms. My enemy's enemy may be my friend for now, but we must never be unprincipled.
- There are many people who do not give a monkey's fuck about 'normal'. If they had wanted normal they would have voted for Clinton. Or just about anyone else. These people are truly disenfranchised and whether for sensible reasons or not they are galactically angry. Saying to them 'We Can't Have This! This Isn't How It's Meant To Be!' is like trying to ban rock and roll. These people might not being joining the big marches, but they might just be the true rebels, and they have a lot less to lose than those on the liberal left. Plus they are armed for bear.
- There are many people who are genuinely afraid and with good reason. They are scared that they will be deported, or that their marriages will be annulled, or that they will be victims of violence even if they aren't already. These social and legal gains may look like identity politics to those who don't care for such things, (and who are armed for bear), but they are hard won and the resulting social truces have always been fragile things. Social issues are as important as economic ones when it comes to voting, surely.
- the Whole Trump Business was at least forty years in the making, possibly since the war between labour and capital was won, possibly since the rise of neoliberalism. I think I understand this, and if I have a fundamental critique it is of the system that made him (and us). Now, I do get that blaming systems can abrogate myself of the responsibility of owning my own privilege, and can end up with victim shaming and it doesn't take into account the lived experience of victims of oppression. And no I am not being sarcastic, so stop rolling your eyes. I think these are valid concerns. But I want to think about this in the most sophisticated way I can, because simple thinking here may well destroy us. It just means we can't just dismantle it. Trump could even be impeached, but it doesn't stop what made him.
- I want to play with the idea that Trump is nothing important in himself. Trump is a kind of badly made homunculus. Alchemists and more modern occultists have tried to make homunculi - small artificial humans created in flasks. Guess what, they never work. The stories say they never last long. I would like to say that Trump is made from something simple, such as stupidity, venality and hatred. But I suspect he is made from some more arcane material. He cannot now be put back in his flask.
I always come back to this, in my writing. I declare the Enlightenment dead! This is the age of wonders, the age of the non-rational! An age worthy of exclamation marks! No, it's not normal. Sorry guys.
Above I have talked about the importance of principles and of trying to think clearly. There are very few situations in life that are so urgent we can't take ten seconds and breathe. Whether in the end we go high or low, fight or pray, reach out or retrench, we need to be still and steady and principled.
Pause for effect...........
* I don't eat pork because it's too close to human. You can put a pig's valve in your heart. Then if you eat pork you are almost a cannibal.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
The title is a joke of course - the news that Donald rump President Elect has received golden showers from prostitutes is all over the show, and humorous GIFs etc abound. Stop it, I say, stop it.
There are many good reasons to vilify this man. His sexual preferences are not one of them.
I can see why an investigation into a man's sexual proclivities might shed light on his performance as President of the United States, but this is not the place to do it. Problematic sexual practices might exist because they exploit others, display unworthy traits such as narcissism, and are not safe, sane and consensual. Cheating on your wife is generally considered a bad thing in Western society, (but not in places like Japan or Vietnam, where among wealthy men of influence it is a way of displaying status). US presidents have been known for cheating, for sexual licentiousness as youths, and generally being testosterone-laden and entitled, and it has not necessarily lost them votes. The best question is surely, how does it affect the job? Does it evince the kind of immorality that could spill over into their public lives and policy making? Does it make them 'bad' people or harm the country's reputation? Does it make them psychologically vulnerable, or open to blackmail? Are they breaking the law? Are they poor role models? Should they be role models, or should they just be good at the job? Do we expect the President (or any other major public figure) to be any better at being human than we are? Should they be?
Maybe these are private, family issues that are best kept out of the gaze of the baying public. Maybe they are personal tragedies. Maybe they are just what happens in heavily negotiated marriages, in the manner of the great families of the past, such as the Borgias or the Roman imperial families. Maybe it's none of our goddamn business.
I also want to say something about golden showers. Of course Pornhub reports a sudden increase in online searches for golden showers, and I wonder if more people are trying them out. Thing is, they are not uncommon. Of all the sexual practices people do, and there are many, many of those, water sports or piss play is common. You may not do it yourself and you may think it's icky, but chances are you know someone who does it, as you probably also know a man who wears silk stockings and a woman with a clitoral hood piercing and so on. This stuff goes on out there and the thing I want to say is, it may well happen more than you think, and - get this - it's Mostly Harmless. When done in a safe, sane and consensual manner among adults, it is harmless. Rape, exploitation, sexism, and cruelty are not harmless.
Personally, my body fluids are sacred, and I would not piss on Donald Trump for a million squillion dollars. Well, I might if it guaranteed a Bernie Sanders presidency. But that is only a 'might'.
The image above is Danae and the Showers of Gold, a Lacanian krater. Very tasteful.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
The first person I knew who had special knowledge was my father. He strongly believed that his view of the world was vitally correct, that it was hard won, and was shared by a very few. In his case, it stemmed from moving to a large city in his late teens, and being newly exposed to different races, cultures and ideologies. What he learned stayed with him, fully formed, for the rest of his life. His resulting political stance was resolutely conservative and ultra right wing. He had brief involvement with ultra rightist groups, but found them too liberal. He wrote many letters to the local newspaper on matters of race, and developed a small following among other older white men of similar ilk.
He found his special knowledge burdensome. He would talk at times about how he was on the losing side, that the world was being taken over by women and members of inferior races and how the weak and politically correct system enabled them to do this, despite their obvious lack of ability. He feared for the future, where the Anglo Saxon race would decline and ignorance would take over. He felt it was his duty to point these things out, but he was also doomed to remain unheard. He felt he had come to his understandings himself, over time, after careful thought, without influence, and the fact that it was manifestly true made up for the fact that it made him unhappy.
In other words, in the parlance of 2017, he stayed woke.
I disagreed with him on all counts, and I worried that his ideas hurt him and made him afraid. He died after a short illness, during which he was delirious. He believed he had been kidnapped by some sort of Maori cabal, who were secretly running the world, and that they were experimenting on him in a laboratory. It was painful to watch.
Staying woke is a phrase that came in part out of the Black Lives Matter movement and it's a great expression because it conveys independence of thought, passion and commitment. You can say 'she is woke, of course', or 'she isn't woke yet', or 'these woke guys have made some awesome music' or whatever. You can say 'stay woke, bro'. But really, it is about having special knowledge, or an understanding about social justice, culture and the future not shared by most people.
I doubt if I'm woke.
I have always had problems with special knowledge and what to do about it.
In my late teens, I belonged to a faith community where we were big on eschatology. We believed that the old world would end, not physically, but spiritually, and there would be a new era of world peace. We also knew that most people didn't believe this, and we felt sorry for them and wanted to help. At the time, I also hung out with people who had different and opposing eschatologies, and also people who belonged to other small groups, all of whom had the truth, and felt sorry for those who didn't, and wanted to help. Then there were the occultists and psychics who felt they had special knowledge too, but on a more personal level. They knew things no one else could possibly understand. And alongside, the activists, who knew about secret politics and dirty tricks, and also tried to help others grasp the real situation. All of these groups had special knowledge, and all of them saw this knowledge as radically true, and poorly understood or ignored by the general population.
This thread pulls itself through time and today I associate with activists, occultists, conspiracy theorists, light workers, healers and members of small religious orders, and they all have special knowledge.
So what are the problems with special knowledge?
The first problem is that it can make you an asshole. This is by no means inevitable, and for some, it is desirable in fact, because for them special knowledge makes it just plain hard to deal with idiots. And the world is full of idiots. However, if having special knowledge makes you cruel or worse, indifferent, then I think that is a problem. It is mean spirited to be pleased when others suffer, just because you know that the world will end in catastrophe any minute and only you and the rest of the chosen few will escape to heaven. It doesn't make for compassion. It makes your world smaller.
Special knowledge can also be hard to live with. It can exhaust you with activism, and splinter large groups into smaller ones as identity politics takes its prisoners. It can sadden and stress you as you acknowledge that your views are so marginalized. Knowing you are up against mighty and ignorant forces can make you feel alone and scared. It doesn't make you happy. It may be the price you pay, and you may pay it willingly, but that does not mean it's always easy.
The other, closely related problem, is what to do about everyone else. That is, the general hoi polloi, the masses, the sheeple, the unconverted, the non-woke. You can worry about them and try to help them, by proselytizing or social care. You can despise them and expect them to die. You can fear them. But because you are by definition in a minority, you can't ignore them, unless you live completely off grid, or in the ultimate echo chamber of only your own head.
I have never observed a group coming to grips with these problems. I have associated with groups that value unity and have hierarchical structures, and those that value free expression and conflict. They can be kind and inclusive, or they can make you earn your stripes before they will even talk to you. Same thing, though. These problems of what to do with special knowledge are just intractable, part of the dynamic of having ideas with other people.
The word 'woke' is interesting in itself. The idea of waking from sleep into truth goes back to Plato. I was asleep and then I awoke....I was blind and now I can see.... ignorance is like sleep, it may be comforting, but it is not reality.....reality is brave, clear and mature....yes, it is a good word, a quasi-religious word. Its antithesis I think, is SJW, or Social Justice Warrior, which is a pejorative. So what Woke is to passion, commitment, love and ferocity, SJW is to mawkish earnestness, following the fashion, picking fights about terminology, and splintering.
Of course it all seems pretty indulgent when you face real despair, as you would if you were in the snow at Standing Rock, or if police were likely to shoot you if you went out. Perhaps people like me can never really be woke. We can experience our own lives with as much honesty, bravery and class as we can, whoever we are, however, and I can say this. Anyone calling me and mine sheeple or sleepy hobbits can go - well, just go, just live their lives, and I will do the best with mine.