Sunday, May 06, 2007

OPTIONS, OPTIONS EVERYWHERE

I received this email and it seemed so succinct an assessment of things that it would be worthwhile to Post it entire and then make my own comments on it.

Professors Dines and Jensen had commented in a general sort of way on the Duke case and mostly made their comments according to the Script. The author of this email is familiar with all that but thinks there is something deeper going on, and that there are deeper issues involved, and important ones. And reading the email, I think that’s accurate.

So here’s the text of that email, and then below it I’ll comment.

(begin text)

I find I'm in sympathy, generally, with her perspective and that of the feminist anti-pornography movement.

It turns out she has a son and concerns about a social environment today in which young males typically start obsessively immersing themselves in internet porn around the age of eleven. I have two young sons who are struggling to define their sexuality in an environment we can't even imagine in terms of its effects on young males their age.

I viewed the presentations of other contributors to that workshop including Robert Jensen from UTexas@Austin :~)). They are struggling to find their way without a Meta perspective and recognize their dilemma explicitly eg. in the need to link their 'politics' to some form of (gulp) 'morality' not based on coercion by illegitimate hierarchies where the rest of society denies even the possibility of any reasonably grounded morality at all.

One of their unacknowledged contradictions is that, in making their case, they need to dethrone feminine 'choice' as the touchstone criterion that it has become in the abortion debate.

They are faced with other feminists who say, well, the women who cooperate in the production of debasing porn are doing so of their own free will and so should not be critiqued.

Dines et al. respond that a prurient and exploitive male dominated capitalism is responsible for the system in which these women have no other economic choice but to engage in such alienating 'sex work'.

This is very close to the Catholic position that "victimless crimes" still constitute an assault on the commonweal understood by us as the body of christ. It certainly upends feminine 'choice' as an absolute value by placing it in the wider context of the social system as a whole and not just within the bounds of a single woman's socio-economic convenience narrowly construed.

These people are our allies. They have reached the limits of the relativist analysis and find it wanting in a visceral way but they don't know what is the next move because the Meta perspective has, in the past, been presented to them in such an unappetizing way - as the ideology of theocon patriarchial reaction.

This warrants some thought as these people can be reached. They know they are hung-up and without the tools to remove themselves from the horns of the dilemma of the relativist confronted by near absolute evil.

(end text)

Coupla points and coupla thoughts.

The “Meta” (from the Greek: ‘beyond’) is my name for that dimension of existence that operates ‘beyond’ what we humans can see or can scientifically ‘know’. It may be an individual, sentient, efficacious, and beneficent (and my personal belief is that It is). But the Meta constitutes, in this scheme of things, a further Law or Rule or Nature – and as a beneficent individual even a Relationship – upon which the life-energies of this dimension, this ‘life’, this ‘world’ that we scientifically know can be trellised. And by which the affairs of this dimension/life/world can be adjudged.

‘Religion’ is the product of particular human efforts over time to deepen or at least codify believers’ ‘knowledge’ so that they might more faithfully shape and conduct themselves and their lives. No religion ever comprehends the entirety of the Meta; no human can. Hence, while each individual who feels the call to believe must give him/herself fully to that call to believe, no individual can take upon him/herself the authority to forcefully interfere with the beliefs of other individuals.

And so religion is a creature of this world and of us humans. But it is ‘informed’, as they used to say, by the Meta – which is not of this world, which stands beyond this world, although (in my view) deeply and lovingly involved in it.

The core of the problem that American and Western society face today is that the Meta has been done away with. Which is the equivalent of a navy planning to wage a modern war at sea without being aware of the Vertical dimension of the battlespace: aircraft and missiles and satellites (Up) and submarines and torpedoes and mines (Down). A navy possessing so inadequate a Vision of the Battlespace is essentially fighting a 21st-century war with a mid-19th century concept of how to go about it. Toss in that this hypothetical navy does not know about radar and even radio, and you can quickly see how impossible (dangerously impossible) its situation is as it tries to conduct successful operations against its adversaries.

Its concept of the Battlespace is essentially Flat: the only adversarial action for which you think you need prepare and with which you need deal is that coming at you from the surface of the sea (factoring in the curvature of the earth, of course, as any good pre-modern sailor would do). This is Flat and since the Battlespace itself is not at all flat then the concept is wrong too. Fatally wrong, for individuals and for a civilization.

American culture has always had a tendency to flatten things. The Protestant Reformation drew the Vertical much closer into daily mundane affairs and indeed into the heart and the will of the individual believer. Economically, capitalism made the affairs of this world far more important and vivid and demanding than they had previously been. Politically, growing national governments sought to make themselves the arbiters of ‘reality’ for their peoples in opposition to the reality-defining power of distant Popes. The Enlightenment became enamored of the rationality of material events in terms of discoverable laws, and sought to free further inquiry from preconceived ‘religious’ notions that limited such free-wheeling scientific investigation.

The American insight was to raise up The People as the source of government authority, while simultaneously creating a complexly balanced government machinery that would not be able to overturn the rights of The People. There was to be no organized state religion, for the sake of both the state and any particular religion.

But while the Founders still dwelt in the warm and bright afterglow of Christendom, able to draw upon its concepts of Order and Goodness without necessarily subjecting themselves to its religious rules and observances, they did not consider themselves as dwelling in a Flattened world or life, beyond which there was no Authority or source of Order and Goodness. They were not necessarily ‘religious’, but they were acutely aware of a Meta (that Meta’s specific characteristics being left somewhat vague) and considered themselves and all the world and life under the Meta’s guidance and – indeed – judgment.

The demands and distractions of this-worldly affairs continued to draw Americans into the everyday world as the 19th and certainly the 20th centuries progressed. ‘Religion’ helped the average individual to keep some level of personal contact – however attenuated – with the Meta. But religion was and is a creature of this world, and at any given moment any given religious group lost its way in this or that fog and miasm: some supported slavery, others the extermination of the Indian, more or less the unfettered predations of the Robber Barons, more or less the foreign warrings (against Mexico, against Spain) that yielded useful ‘possessions’ here and there on the planet.

In the mid-20th century in America, in the 1950s and 1960s, religion played a powerful role in completing the fundamental civil-rights struggle that had begun over a century before, was seemingly ‘won’ in the Civil War, and was muchly undone by the post-Reconstruction imperium of Jim Crow. Religion, with its assumed authority to speak for the power of the Meta, finally shook off old miasms and stood foursquare for civil rights. In so doing, religion took its place in support of a great Good that – with the exception of many Southrons – was sensed as such by the majority of the citizenry.

But as has been elsewhere described on this site, something changed not long after 1965. Other ‘revolutions’, seeking objectives not so clearly perceived as Good by the majority of the citizenry, wished for immediate gratification of their desires and immediate public implementation of their plans. Feminism, it has to be said, was the largest and in some ways the most successful of these revolutions.

Not only were its objectives less widely accepted by the citizenry, but the American practice of public deliberation, debate, and voting – such as had been so well demonstrated in the Lincoln-Douglas debates – was considered both slow and unreliable. It may take decades for the public to come to a firm and informed opinion, and that opinion may not – for the revolutionary – be the desired one.

Not only were ‘revolutionary’ ideas the content of the programme, but it would take a revolutionary method to ensure the success of that programme. Democracy was too slow and American governmental praxis – as was intended by the Founders – was too creaky and inefficient.

Not only was the State to be separated from religion (an impressive piece of wisdom) but the State was to be separated from the Meta (as arrogant a piece of folly as America had seen … up to that time).

But in those postwar years ‘revolution’ was in the world’s air. World War 2, on the heels of World War 1 and the Great Depression, had exhausted the world’s dominant empires. Throughout the late 1940s and the 1950s old colonial possessions were given formal independence, in whatever condition they were in. In France, especially, a certain genre of academics arose who made themselves wings and flew high into the abstract and absolute glories of Freedom and the absolute and abstract evils of Power and Oppression, insisting – in that French Jacobin Revolutionary way – that such absolute evils must be absolutely eradicated and – in a sorta Freudian way – that the abettors of Power and Oppression were everywhere, even among us! No law should be allowed to stand in the way of wiping out such infamies. No Law should be respected, because – really – all Law and Order and Tradition and Reason and Virtue and Goodness and Religion and all the rest of those capital letter words were corrupt; they were merely tools of Oppression.

It was all, in a French sorta way, great fun, and a rollicking good career could be had from it.

It took the French less than 10 years to realize that this ‘Theory’ – the absolute power of the abstract over the actual – was a toxic, ticking timebomb. The Theory and its adherents were – with characteristic French sangfroid – shown the door. Theory was homeless and stateless. Alas.
But in America the follow-on ‘revolutions’ were casting about for a way to replicate the success of the civil-rights era without the bother of waiting three-hundred years for fulfillment. They already had a programme that was ‘revolutionary’ enough in its way; but they needed to get it set up. Quickly. And without too many questions being asked, since while they had a programme, they weren’t all that clear as to the rationale behind it. But hey – didn’t ‘the Negro’ just get a whole bunch of good things accomplished without having to explain why? ‘Why not us?’, the revolutionaries interrogated themselves. That the nation had been debating the matter of ‘the Negro’ for three hundred years did not detain them.

The aching desire of the revolutionistas created a magnetic attraction which sucked over the now-homeless Theory. In the face of Oppression, no law can stand because Law itself is but a tool of the Oppressors / The public are sheep that need a shepherd and cannot be trusted to know what's good for them (Theory’s praxis had imbibed more than a little Marx and … ominously, Lenin) / And it’s already been established that there is no Good ‘out there’ or ‘up there’ somewhere / There is only Oppression in the here&now, and only those who ‘get it’ can and must use whatever means necessary to end it / The people must be forced to accept what must be done / Righteous outrage and anger at Oppression trumps all and justifies all / There is nothing else.

Thus the American world was Flattened. The American vision was Flattened, collapsed into a world with no Capital Letters. Instead of Capital Letters there were feelings, especially ‘outrage’.
Which brings us to the present day and feminist complications in the matter of pornography. Having insisted decades ago that there was no Morality, no Meta, but only the justifications of ‘feeling’ in this world, and thereby having swept off the table all of the potential obstructions (Reason, Tradition, Common Sense, Morality, Virtue, Good and Evil, Religion, God) that might have slowed down or even obstructed the programme, the feminists (it is impossible to keep up with which Wave, and the succession of Waves and sub-Waves is itself an indicator of conceptual confusion) are now unable to come up with a reason to force a woman not-to be a stripper. After all, if she ‘chooses’, and if ‘choice’ is the only thing there is, then who are they (the aforesaid feminists) to tell an individual woman that she shouldn’t deploy her energies in the activity of stripping/pole-dancing/making porn videos … ???

Having – in soviet terms – raised ‘Woman’ up to be the Vanguard Elite, how then to discipline those elite vanguards who do things ‘that shouldn’t be done’? Stalin, succeeding Lenin, had the answer: you try and then execute all the old Vanguard Elites in order to erase all memory of their generation’s ‘good’ in order to make room for your own new Vanguard Elite’s ‘good’. But America, though greatly weakened and not least by the efforts of the feministas, is still America enough so that the earlier Wave(s) can’t simply be dragged before a kangaroo-court and then put up against a wall or sent to Siberia. The feminists here have been forced to make the mistake that Stalin avoided: that there would be numerous ‘waves’ of Communists above-ground at the same time: Bolsheviks, old Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trotskyites, Kirovites, and so onnnnn … Nope. Old Joe made sure that the only ‘-iks’ above ground when he got through were Staliniks, although you couldn’t call them that because that would imply there was any sort of ‘good communist’ except a follower of Stalin and that was clearly impossible and this is how reading their stuff makes a lot of feminist writing sound like soviet ideological tracts. Let us not digress.

So there is now no ‘Morality’ to which some feminists can appeal in order to justify coercing sex-active women to cease and desist. After all, the only morality was ‘choice’ and these women have made it. Who knew? To boycott the sex-active smacks of flower-hatted, whale-boned, small-town church-ladies expressing their distaste (oppression) of what they didn’t like. To set up feminist-courts to try offending women implies that a ‘woman’ could ‘offend’, which is theoretically and Theoretically impossible. Anyway, they’re still trying to get sex-offender courts set up and you don’t want to get too obvious. And wouldn’t such woman-courts start to sound kinda … well … like Sharia courts? Ooops. Wrong way – back up and pretend everything’s fine!

How to enforce discipline among the Vanguard Elite (although they prefer to be seen as Victims … although that does not imply that they are passive or helpless … although they are in no way responsible for their situations, which are imposed upon them against their will by violence and oppression … although that does not imply that they are passive and helpless …). You can see the problem here. How to enforce discipline among the Vanguard Elite without violating the Theory upon the authority of which so much revolutionary societal destruction has already been wreaked or without insisting that somebody is an unfaithful ('fallen away'? 'back-sliding'?) member of the Vanguard Elite and thus setting yourself up as an ‘Oppressor’ or a ‘church’ yourself?

Stalin had completely avoided this mother (if we may) of all problems but of course he was a Man, and a Dead White European Male man, and anyway the revolution doesn’t study history, it makes history (and where have We heard that recently?).

No, I’m not making light. But this had to be said because there is a very substantive aspect of the feminist revolution, so to speak, which is achingly soviet in praxis.

The solution is in the email quoted above. We are all humans, we are all under judgment, and we are all responsible for living our lives in such a way (who can say it better?) so as “to achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations”. Had Lincoln’s insight been followed, then the feminists’ present discomfiture and the monstrous evil of Iraq would not have seen the light of day.

And it is the Church’s wisdom as well, as the emailer points out. There is only one Identity, and that is the human identity, created by a beneficent force Beyond us, Whose wisdom we can only determine – on our best days – “as through a glass darkly”, and upon Whose wisdom and strength we must trellis our selves and our lives and our commonweal.

But such a world is not the prison that is Theory’s Flathouse. Such a world is not the hard, iron-hot surface of a griddle upon which we are reduced to globs of fat skittering ceaselessly in no direction.

The soviet-style gambit of the revolution has left Us in a Flattened world, in a balkanized society where Our common identity is trumped by subcategories (race, gender, nature of the crime), to the monstrous detriment of Our commonweal and of Our spiritual capacities. Vast suffering as well as damage has been done, and where in most cases the term ‘death’ is used in exaggeration and metaphor, this nation has now gone forth and inflicted huge swaths of actual death upon others, and – who dares to claim surprise? – is dealt death to its own children in return.

The answer does not lie in some Fundamentalistic raising-up of the idol of the State and of the Bible (or rather: the idolatry of Man as absolute and compleat understander of the Bible). Nor does it lie in the aforesaid Flatness of the revolutionary world.

It lies in the humble, unflinching acknowledgement of the true nature of the life and the world and the universe which have been entrusted to us, and the whole-hearted commitment to bring all to fulfillment, knowing that even more than existing under judgment we exist under loving guidance to which we may respond or not as we choose, but which nonetheless constitutes the Ultimate Reality.

I don’t see how else the feminists (and the Democratic Party that abandoned all that they demanded of it in order to gain their votes) can step back from the abyss of inaccuracy and Flatness that has so deranged this nation, that created the vacuum into which the egregious, reprehensible, and treacherous perpetrations of the Fundamentalist and Neocon Right were sucked up to power, which in turn became the richly toxic manure that nurtured the Imperial Unitarium … and how else – almost in third place – men and women can sustain that just and lasting peace and partnerships among themselves in the presence of the Erotic.

It surely explains the resiliency of the Reagan administration’s stature even as the ominous consequences of the Republican anti-strategy began to reveal themselves back then. It wasn’t that Reagan was mysteriously ‘teflon’; that was merely a bit of media mystification that was confected to avoid a far more unpleasant explanation. And that explanation was that the Democrats – by opting to support whole-hog the feminista-soviet revolutionary programme – had wound up not only aligning themselves against ‘religion’ but against any concept of the Beyond whatsoever. And this in a country where a huge fraction of the citizenry – for better or worse – believe(d) that the Earth had been created quite recently and that angels ascended and descended the Ladder (this latter assertion as yet not disproven), and where an even larger fraction believed in ‘some’ form of religion and an even larger fraction believed in some form of ‘beyond’, however inchoate. The Democrats had not “married themselves to a corpse” as one Dead White European Male guy had once opined, but if they had not actually lashed themselves to the Whale they had surely signed on to crew the Pequod. Where they remain indentured to this day.

Having the presumption to kick over History and all the rest, the feminists and then the Unitarium brought themselves and Us to the edge of the moral, spiritual, political, communal abyss. Enabled by that, the Unitarium has now further brought Us to the edge of the military and economic and even Constitutional abyss.

Whether We have reached the point of Rome in the late 3rd century A.D. is worth considering. I think We have not yet, but that it will take great effort on Our part to stop that inertial trajectory that is already set in motion.

Certainly, We may live to witness the end of the American military and economic predominance of the past 60 years, and the lifestyle for which We have become famous may soon become greatly constrained. Nor would it be accurate to say that such a decline was ‘fate’ or ‘inevitable’. Much has been done wrong and much wrong has been done.

But We owned this culture and this nation before We broke it.

The emailer will no doubt want to add a great deal.

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