Here we are in the garden of my vanity, across the lawn we go, the grass is high, has not been cut since I do not know when, and down the hole we go with the whole of human history, anonymous me I can say with impunity . . . . I write essays for the college paper, and I have intended that they be essays written in a form most of us have been familiar with, at least the form of the traditional essay as we have read–at least as I have read–and not the academic ones we have been entertaining since our matriculation. But the form of the essays I have written have been the form as initiated, we do like to say, by Montaigne, or so I flatter myself. I remember a woodchuck who had tacked a calendar to a tree in the yard, when I almost can say, but not exactly, and without exactitude, what do we have but mistakes and more mistakes, themselves taken incorrectly because it has ben said that people do learn from their mistakes, yet without the exactitude herein alluded to prior, we could only hope to take wrongly what ever it was we were mistaken about firstly.
To flatter myself or not to flatter myself, that would be a question if I were one inclined to ask such questions–and I am not so certain that I am not one who could, or even if I would. But questions are what we should ask. We should not ask what we state, what we declaratively put forward–does anyone still declare backwardly. To and fro, to write or not to write has been my to be or not, everything about my being tied up in my writing, when I do, where I do not nearly as important as why I do, but this is for another essay–I take out my watch and look about the face of it for it is without hands. Should I say that this or that might be another telling of my story, all stories then histories, history we still assume is a matter of non-fiction writing, don’t we? I know I do, have done, will keep doing–yes, to do or not to do . . . this phrasing useful for any action or state of being, to be or not, everything thus wound up in each of our sets of being and becoming, nothing quite so completely not being as becoming: to be or not to be is thus a question of being or becoming, when one, not the other? But this about history, what it signs and what it signifies–the signifying ape of God, no?
There have been others I have read–to read or not to read, that is the question, whether it is nobler in the mind–what is nobler than reading from among the things that we do, that I do day in day in again, often without discernible gain as in ledger book tallied gains. The others I have reread, often–all good reading being rereading–, the others who have left their marks on the essay form itself, left their marks on my ideas of the form, their imprint on my style, if you will, perhaps more or less obvious in this or that essay I have written, my writing having evolved over time since I first came to college with little idea what it meant to write seriously, and my writing I must say is still evolving. Who may they be, those who have affected me, had their influence on how I write, why I write? I do not like contemporary picture books, those picture novels, what do they call them–I have a block about them. I refuse to remember the name they use to call them–they, them–who are they? Who are them? No, no, this is not right. What is right is what is right and only what is right should be done? Done right, I say we should.
Orwell, Camus, who else? Joan Didion, I remember, to name only a few–there are, of course, many, many others, any other who has written at least one literary essay of any merit that I have read–I will have to have anything herein published in parts, too long as it is for any one printing? Why am I assuming that any of this should be published? Why not published? Why shouldn’t I re-examine my prose as prose worthy of being published?
I could go on and on about how reading has affected me, what reading has meant to me, how I read, what I read, when and where I read, have read . . . page after page, line by line, word for word is a little bit insane, is it not? We used to memorize more than we do, than we are capable of doing . . . if Fahrenheit 451 were now, all books would be lost, no? But there will be no pictures in my book, no matter how I preferred pictures in the books I read when I was girl.
How many others, other essayists, is not what I intend to accomplish here or in an author’s preface, if that is what this could fulfill–myself the author of the essays, what is to follow, the parts of this that you my readers are managing to arrange and rearrange in your minds. To essay or not to essay must have been Montaigne’s question, could be my question here, has been my question i the past, the numbers of essays I have written over the course of my thinking life. What does this idea or that notion of how I write or why I write have to do with, or say on, the facts of exposition because every exposition has an expositor, himself or herself separate from the author who has created him or created her or created it–expositors and narrators can be it because there are times we do not know if the narrator is a man or a woman–is that not true, I mean, aren’t all omniscient narrators and thus by extension all omniscient expositors (can expositors in the essay form be omniscient in the way some narrators can be?). Who am I? When am I what I am when I am what I am where I am, and especially when I am not being me, the me I know apart from when I write? Questions beget questions beget yet other questions in one string following another string, twisted and twisting strings strung in monstrous helixes.
Isn’t every omniscient narrator it and not he or she, unless the narrator reveals that he is he or that she is she, but then doesn’t that make the narrator a character in a way the ambiguity does not–but then, aren’t all omniscient narrators participators in the story, perhaps, no? The narrator is it; the expositor is it, until or unless he becomes he or she becomes she through the narrative or the exposition, taking on characteristics as you and I have in the world apart from the narration or the exposition. There is so much to expend on narratology . . . expositology? What then should I say? Should I write? I have often agreed with Ionesco thatI do not know what I think until or unless I write.
I guess as everyone has a Self of many selves, each writer is many authors? No, not exactly. Every author is many, many what? She has many voices, which voice is contained herein? A voice of many voices. I say my voice, but what do I mean by my voice, and what of the expositor in the matter of voice, which ironically gets misspelled as vice, in typos. A series of essays might have each one of them a separate expositor, no? But then this says what about who writes and what I become by having written, and notice I have not said published. What then must I say about style–what is style? So many undergraduates worry that their professors are tampering with their style . . . foolish aren’t we? I am an author whether I have published or not. I recall having said that authority diminishes with publication, the author less the authority over the text. The only time a writer has absolute authority over the text–or should I say, the only time an author has absolute authority over the text is when it is being written. Never publish if one wishes to maintain any absolutist authority over the text, no? Why the questions? I have to pose questions like these to make my readers feel better about their ignorance–and ignorance is growing, and more disturbingly, among the educated, no? The question again that goes along with the pervasive mood of doubt everywhere hanging like dark clouds? It is terrible how we have to pander to our readers,
I remember having read or studied Addison and Steele–18th Century Lit, with whom, I recall, I imagine, what he looked like, myself sitting in the front of the class, his lectures tinged with irony and biting satirical quips? What does this have to do with what I am saying? Probably a lot less than most pedants would want or tolerate–but take out all digressions and diversions in literature and what are you left with . . . imagine hamlet without the diversions or digressions–it would be a very short one-aact, if not a one scene vignette–what of deleting all the essayistic asides in Tolstoy’s War and Peace . . .? All by way of indirection, you could say was Whitman’s mantra, no?
I read Hazlitt, Benjamin, Arnold, Swinburne, Johnson, Eliot, Woolf, Traherne . . . a paper on Centuries of Meditation. I loved Traherne’s prose. Who else, how many else, other forms read, critiqued . . . adjuncts to the essay form . . . to essay on the essay form . . . trials on trials, trials of ideas, of course, who did not include Donne’s Meditations or his Sermons . . . how many philosophical essays have I read? And I do recall too many times having been questioned about my choices in reading, as much if not more form other women as from men. I loved Donne’s prose as much as his verse, and I knew some English majors who questioned why Donne wrote as he had–I cannot tell you how many impossibly inane questions were posed by supposed lovers of language and literature . . . who would exclude the speeches of Lincoln? My Dad loved Lincoln, had a bookcase shrine, nearly, to Lincoln, read and re-read his speeches, broke down the poetics in his “Gettysburg Address,” the devices used by Lincoln therein. (I miss my Dad, terribly sometimes, awfully terribly, if you will . . .)
The Lectures as well as the essays as well as the criticism of Oscar Wilde–every person who pretends to love wit and satire and biting irony and eloquence in language should . . . I am verbose, am I not? What English major has not read Johnson, Samuel. If you have read Johnson, perhaps you have also read Bloom–I adore reading Bloom. Am I not supposed to adore reading Bloom. I do not want to attack Canonicity as I do want to include more women in the Canon, and I do not need to revise the standards of Canonicity. I do think the Canonical Gospels are better written–that they stand better as literature–than the Gnostic Gospels.
No one, anyone, everyone as of late–we have become quite the iconoclasts. No, we have not? Puppies out with the flea bath water, of course. Topple the hierarchies. Erase boundaries. Multiply possibilities to infinity because infinity is not an avalanche waiting to happen (I recall having read something like this in a poem in Jay Ruvolo’s Land’s End, something about infinite possibility being an avalanche waiting to bury us, of course it is).
I have even read Bradley’s lectures on Shakespeare, how long ago now when I picked the book up in a used bookstore, even then . . . as well, I read Bloom’s collection of the greatest essays written on Shakespeare . . . The Invention of the Human . . . Shakespeare has taught me most of what I do, and need to, know about the human, about being human, about how we are human, about what it means to be human, about what it means to be a dialectical Self, a Self of many selves, a diverse self, a man, a woman . . . Shakespeare the father of modern consciousness? I do agree that the greatest thing in Shake is how many characters overhear themselves in the process of thinking . . . I do recall Chaucer’s Criseyde being one of the prime examples of interior monologue in English lit. Could be the prime example.
What else is there? Who else is there, was there among my reading? I remember Sir Tomas Browne, of course. What lover of the 17th Century could forget Browne and his Religio Medici or his Urn Burial. The whole of the prose of the seventeenth century I would love to sit down to one summer, if it were possible to do nothing but on the beach before I die . . . now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep in books . . . I remember Borges saying something about Heaven for him being something like a library, book stores my favorite places to pass time, next to museums, of course bars and cafes, bistros, wine, poetry, painting–of course–I recall a friend saying something similar, and how he said he wouldn’t say what I want to say that alliterates with poetry and painting, that I love above most things in the universe.
I am that I am with my books–I have so many of them on the shelves at home, a room of my own, Virginia. Yes, Ms. Woolf, I too have needed a room of my own . . . I cannot deny, though, that I have loved fiction as much if not more . . . and what means this about fiction being a thing made, thereby all non-fiction is also fiction in as much as they things made in as much as they are put into or poured into form, shapes made, things created in the mind whether they facts true or facts of fiction in fiction in what we call fiction mean by the word ‘fiction’ when we use it for stories that are supposedly not historically true or have been arranged in such a way . . . there is biographical or historical fiction, but then if history is written then it is made in a way and is then fiction, if you will, thus the understanding comes to the use of history for what we call history and what we have called fiction as in a story made.
Essays and more essays . . . I have over ten thousand pages of notebooks in boxes in storage, as well as reams of papers for classes in college undergraduate and graduate, in English literature . . . critical on literature, critical on politics, book reviews and other magazine articles, simple reporting and investigative journalism . . . theater criticism, COVER Arts, New York . . . I do not condescend to journalism as do some of my classmates.
What then must I say, will I, herein I do . . . I knew people in the Berkshires who were mean vindictive sadistic bastards, who would pour kerosene down woodchuck holes in their gardens, or worse, as they would come up from under their fields of corn or other such produce and light them up, burning out the woodchucks in the hole they burrowed (not borrowed, knuckleheads). Vanity cannot be verity, can it? To be committed to Truth is a lonely enterprise, Doc Brown used to say in his office.
But then who I am I a supposed to get to here in these pages you are reading perhaps for your leisure, of course I should assume entertainment, good repast as Joyce had said, but what the hell did Joyce know, he did have his tongue stuck up his ass when it came to food, didn’t he? No? Who knows? Who cares? I could say that what you want to know is what I insist you need to know which will be governed by what I say decide to say, how is it that anything gets said here in these pages, and it is pages I am assuming you are reading because it is pages that I am writing, nib pen dipped in ink bottles, not wells, inscribing the paper we could say, who are we, this we we are where and when do we become this we, this you and I—is there a you and I for writer and reader—the author of these pages, I have considered before, who writes and who authors; it is only when published that I become an author? I do not think that is true. The authority I have absolutely over these words is pre-publishing, no. I am an author and after published I only become a writer? I know that there will be many opposing opinions on these matters from people nutty enough to think that it is important to imagine.
I have a lot to say, and perhaps more to say that others might not expect from a woman, or imagine should be or is the provenance of a woman, I do think a lot and deeply about many things that concern me as a woman—I am tired of the cult of feeling; I do not need a great number of emoting hens clucking about feeling, talking about feeling, talking about the need to talk about feeling, feeling the need to talk, feeling the need to feel that she needs to talk about how talking about her feelings is important for feeling how she feels about things the culture does not expect her actually to think about, let alone write about. However, I never know what I think, or feel exactly, until I write, unless I write.
Two: Woman’s Rights are Human Rights
Facts are fictions in as much as they are things made as are all things we think, made in the mind, characters performing on the pages of our fictions no more so fictitious than the facts we teach our children in a world where The Earth is flat was once a fact. Yes, the earth is the center of the solar system no less a fact that the sun is the center of the solar system, in as much as facts are often social constructions. Yet there is a truth about what is factual, as there is also a fictional truth that stands independent of or apart from verisimilitude, which is another thing altogether, and conforms to one or another of the many, many naturalisms (because there are many of these). I am a fiction as much as I am a fact.
Who I am might be important to someone. Being a woman might be important to you. It might not be significant to another and another and another each one of them creeping in her petty paces until the last syllable of recorded human history is rung spoken said. You have my name in the title. My rights are everyone’s rights and everyone’s rights are mine; but be certain that I am macrocosmic in this to all generalities of race, of gender, of ethnicity, of nationality, of economic status, of job, of religion . . . as each every one of you is also likewise thus–as there are an infinite number of relative centers to the expansion of the universe–space itself expanding and not the universe expanding into a pre-limited space–and there can be no acceptance of any infringement of my rights or any woman’s rights under the erroneous pretext of religious freedom. We cannot allow people to use the First Amendment to subvert our progress in maters of gender relations and equality.
There is absolutely no room for Sharia Law in the United States of America, and do not put me in the camp with the idiot conservatives because I have said so. When I see women wearing hijabs and niqabs in Brooklyn, I cringe. It does not matter that they choose to do so; if a woman says she has chosen to submit to or endure a man’s physical brutality–what are we saying? There is no going back to the middle ages just because too many people do not want to offend Muslims out of a mistaken conception of what diversity is about . . . as a woman, I find too much associated with Islam offensive, and it is too bad who does not like that I say this . . . and it is not a mistake to say that there is far, far too much about Islam that is basic and general to the faith that is backward and medieval.
I do not want to feel as if I have to apologize because I am not saying everything is backward and I do not want to say that Muslims should stop believing in what they believe in but that here in Brooklyn they should stop acting like they all have a hot line to God which is not what I want to be guilty of saying, except I feel it sometimes in confrontations with their worst selves in some responses I hear, particularly in the forms their children feel free to express and throw at western women and girls for how they dress . . . I cannot be a university educated western liberal American woman and not think that there is a whole lot about Muslims that I can never accept, which is why so many Muslims want to keep women in darkness or repression where there is no overt and violent oppression, which is also too much too often among the one billion of them. Islam is born in a militancy that neither Judaism or Christianity was born in, irrespective of Israel’s contemporary militancy or the militancy of supposedly-Christian Kings seeking to attain hegemony in the geo-politics of Medieval Europe, especially with favor from or antagonism against the Pope and the Vatican.
It is from the onset a very reactionary force in the world–it almost cannot help itself from falling victim to one or another outcroppings of what we see in the world today. Being as reactionary as it is from its inception disallows it from having anything like universal brotherhood and sisterhood, unless it wraps itself in submission. That should tell you all you need to know because it does tell me all I need to and would ever want to know–it doesn’t? But I am not going to be the forked tongue fool our President becomes by not addressing that Muslims worldwide have indulged in an orgy of anti-Christian bloodshed that the American media has also ignored, unless it has by design ignored Muslim atrocities against Christians in the world because it does not meet with their geo-poltical agenda, the American Media, whoever they are aligned with politically, which would be that Jewish people have been the principle target of Muslim hatred, not entirely true.
Now, let it be said that a man or woman has an unalienable right to life, liberty, and sole proprietorship over body. Who disagrees? Hundreds of millions of Muslims? Can anyone, though, intelligently disagree? I am sure we could find a few–in a world of 7.5 billion people, how many would a few be? Should we develop an argument from the position of advocatus diaboli, whereby we assert that a person does not have an unalienable right to life or liberty or proprietorship over body?
There are enough variations of culture in the world. I am certain we could find a devil in the cause of curtailing respect for a woman’s unalienable rights; I am certain again we could find millions of men around the world who believe this–just as I am certain that you could find many, many more from among Muslims because Islam is itself of such a making that you do not need to as extreme a person as you would be if you were of another persuasion.There must be, in my mind, many more “normal” Muslim people who hold heinous opinions about women, or so I think because I imagine and I imagine because I allow myself to do so, a prejudice I indulge, and do indulge others,many, if you pardon me for confessing thatI might not always be above board in my criticism even when I have reason or reasons behind what I say and do say what I do with . . .
It is just true that not all metaphysical systems are the same, except in the way we address metaphysics ad hoc, and by doing so, we make of all metaphysical systems not things that share commonality, but the same thing through and through, whereby we are almost compelled to dismiss all and every and take no time to compare and understand them. And we have to understand that there are plenty of Jews and Christians who are anti-abortion, and they do not have to be Catholics or Orthodox Jews or even devout in any way, and that’s just what is.
We cannot, however, loosen our grip on our freedom, irrespective of who opposes our rights–and it is our grip, both men’s and women’s–on the advances we have made in the cause of women’s rights, in the matter of her freedom and the respect and defense of her rights that our laws have accomplished, I have said, and said before in these and other words–too many of those I count among my friends–too few my intellectual equal irrespective of maleness or femaleness . . .
I do hate using the terms of gender or of sex to distinguish each of our categorically yet minimally distinct human-ness–what then must I say? I should just say whatI have intended herein to say and get it over with with fewer or no interjections. There is no more to say in the ways our distinct genders mandate we say, but in the way our common humanity allows us to say, clearly and boldly. But we do need a pan-humanology whereby we could manage two great sub-sets of this study, and they would be anthropology and feminology. And you do get the origins of the words herein, the idea behind a humanology that would address all of humanity in its science, its knowledge, its study of . . .
Reversing the social advances we have made in the cause of women’s rights cannot become acceptable based on our currently mistaken understanding of religious toleration. No. A muslim has the freedom to follow his faith, but he does not have a Constitutionally sanctioned license to violate a woman’s rights, even if she be his wife. It does not matter what anyone thinks The Bible tells him that contradicts any respect for universal human rights, which, of course, any discussion of a woman’s unalienable right to sole proprietorship over her body must be inclusive . . . to be a woman or not to be a woman every woman must decide? Of course, she must. Men are not put in the position of choosing their maleness or of whether or not they should be a man or not be a man . . .we still have a ways to go before we have the kind of equality necessary to live the humane life we should be living, need to be living.
It certainly cannot matter what Muslims imagine Holy Koran is saying, most specifically when Muslims try to make Holy Koran responsible for their culturally bred misogyny and backwardness. Just as Christians in Europe used the Old Testament to enforce a misogyny the Ancient Romans would have found abhorrent. Have you ever had a look at just what Sharia Law entails, what it codifies–we cannot let this happen anywhere in the United States, even if Muslim women say that it is okay for their men to enforce their culturally narrow misogyny under mandates given to them by Sharia Law. No way; never. Just saying no to medievalism is not going to be enough. But then, have you ever read the Hebrew Leviticus in Jewish Torah. It is the greatest work of misogyny in the history of the world. It is a handbook on how to punish women for being women, how to brutalize them and why you should brutalize them, torture them, kill them, perpetuate human sacrifice in the name of Yahweh, the Semitic God of Men. How any people like Orthodox Jews can continue to read and revere this text as God given only puts me in camp with the early Gnostics who believed that The Holy Wisdom, the Hagia Sophia, had sent her only begotten son incarnate in the person of Jesus to deliver us from the vindictive and jealous grasp of the Semitic God of Patriarchy, Yahweh, Jehovah.
Turning back the steps women have made jurisprudentially in our society must never be endured. I have said this before–and I am likely to say it again, and again (repetition in such a way becomes motif; so, herein, let the motif of a woman’s rights be drawn)–a woman’s unalienable rights are basic human rights, not lesser for being basic, that is fundamental, that is foundational, to all of humanity. Certainly not fundamentalist.
Humanity, as a collection of human beings being humane, acting humanely, cannot persist where human rights are not respected, or where they are actively disrespected. Where human rights are not honored or protected in the course of their being chosen by all persons, we have something less than what is humane, something other than the only way we should define our humanity–there is no humanity in cultures that do not respect the basic human rights of women. Where is our humanity when we tolerate the infringement of a woman’s basic human rights in the name of variations in cultural norms, mores, attitudes–and with respect for my Muslim friends, Sharia Law, specifically in the matter and manner of women’s rights, has no place in our society, and should gain no foothold in our thinking. And I am tired of the Arab Muslims in my neighborhood thinking they have come to colonize–and I do not want to offend anyone, but this is sometimes the attitude, the manner and matter of actions during interactions in the neighborhood. They have no business letting their children taunt and disrespect western women for how western women choose to dress. If an Arab does not like that I kiss my boyfriend in public, turn the other way or address us with respect and dignity, but I have seen a lot less than respect and dignity being offered. Disrespect, condescension, mocking taunts and a series of vulgarities amounting to haranguing I have seen and heard from Muslim children and men against western women who in their Muslim eyes deserve what they get because Muslims have a God given mandate to punish us for our sins, as sick and twisted as that might sound–but please do not be naive enough to think it is otherwise in many of their heads because it is not. Maybe someone should cut out some of their tongues and then maybe they’ll better understand that they are violating women’s rights. I do not need to tell you that my tongue is in my cheek, but you get my point. I have not opted to live in the middle ages or one of their incredibly intolerably fucked up theocracies. Yes, please cut off my clitoris West-African Muslim men because if I have pleasure in sex, then I must be of Satan; and if I have a clitoris, that would obligate you to know what to do with it. Pigs, pigs, everywhere we are turning into pigs, everyone a pig, oink-oinking his way through life, living in his slop everywhere his sty.
If perpetually revising our attitudes toward women is necessitated because people of an alien mentality have come to our shores intent on continuing one variation or another of their culturally enforced misogyny, we will be lost. Now, the endemic misogyny of some cultures in the name of Holy Qu’ran cannot be permitted to endure. It is more than too much when the narrow and the ignorant who have never read Holy Qu’ran, or could not in their semi- or il-literacy, tell us that Allah wants women to remain in darkness and ignorance, that He wants them to remain virtual chattel, a being for no other purpose but the breeding of a brood while they are made to cover themselves as would lepers, made to believe that they, by doing so, are best serving God . . . I get sick just saying this in rebuttal. How can any woman not get sick imagining that Islam has anything to teach them in the ways of freedom and the throwing off of traditional shackles. How impossibly messed up a woman would have to be to convert to Islam, a giant moral step backwards. And this is not hubris; this is not arrogant. I am tired of being told I do not know eggs because I am not a chicken. Not being a chicken has never disallowed me from knowing what to do with an egg or a chicken. You do understand that an overly great deal of Muslims in this world live in semi-literate or illiterate darkness.
A woman’s unalienable rights do not depend on my say so or anyone’s say so for their veracity or validity. Believing in the necessity of repeating that women’s rights are basic human rights is not in accord with the counter assertion that if these rights are not articulated, not repeated, women lose them. It must be said that it is not even the Law that gives a woman her unalienable rights; it is not even her belief in them that does that. A woman has unalienable rights irrespective of her belief system or her personal understanding; it does not–again–depend on the law. We do, however, have to repeat that a woman has basic human rights the same as a man if we are to insure we remember that she does, to insure by remembering that a woman has unalienable rights to life, liberty and sole proprietorship over body we will thus disseminate these ideas in our talk, in our discussions, in our debates on policy, in our writing, in our editorials, in our letters to the editor, in our Op-Ed pages, in the passing of our laws, and in the mediations of bureaucracy in the matters where State is expected to manage or administer affairs and/or services for the People.
What we do by custom takes on the manner of habit, and what we do out of habit long enough in life imitates nature. That is invariable to all people everywhere every-when, irrespective of the levels of education, religious upbringing, socio-economic class or political system. You have to know this, and if you do not . . .
Let me now reassert that a woman cannot lose her rights in the ideal, but forgetting her unalienable rights can lead to customs and laws that stand as impediments to their protection in an active practical way. I cannot stress enough how contemporary political correctness is equally complicit in the mismanagement of protecting a woman’s rights. Yet again, let me say that a woman’s unalienable rights exist whether the laws that govern her say so or not, but without the Law, protection of unalienable rights might become moot. Her freedom cannot become contingent on what the law says or does–her being at liberty to move about as she chooses can be curtailed; her choices might come at a high price, physically, economically, socially (interactively); but her rights as a woman, thereby, a human being, are universal, absolute and transcendent, and the latter is true with respect to time, place, culture, religion, or social contracts agreed upon by parties, including herself, contracts such as marriage that have traditionally been set against woman’s rights of personhood.
Again, let me repeat that a woman has un-ablienable rights even in face of what religious laws might say–once again, Muslim Sharia Law cannot be allowed to violate a woman’s unalienable human rights as an adjunct to what some think is religious freedom. There is no religious freedom that violates human rights.
Unenlightened Muslim men beware–and we must be as willing to understand that there may very well be a great number of Muslim men who are backward and unenlightened as we must also be wary of our prejudices and perhaps our culturally determined propensity to believe more Muslims are backward than might be so. Any other man bent on violating a woman’s human rights must also beware. I am sure that Muslims do not have a monopoly on misogyny, although I cannot help but conclude that Islam makes it easier for a man or for many men to practice misogyny, just as Chinese customs and traditions do the same.
We must be very clear on this issue of a woman’s unalienable rights–there is no cultural norm or religious dogma that can be tolerated in the United States if it violates the simple separate woman’s human rights, even if she does not protest in her defense. Men acting under what they have interpreted as their God given right to intercede in the matters of a woman’s life, supported by Sharia Law, cannot be tolerated, and remains a human rights violation independent of what the Muslim woman/wife suffering under such bondage does or does not say. And how the U.N. has not come out against Sharia Law in its examinations of human rights violations in the world is a matter of its hypocrisy.
This repetition of the facts goes for any backwardness here at home from whatever quarter wherever. I do not want now to rail against our own fundamentalists, and the steps backwards they want us to take with respect to or for how we are going to go forward with the human rights issue of Gay Marriage and the Human Rights of Roe versus Wade. And you cannot be a thinking person–you cannot be a thinking Republican and imagine that what we are seeing today has any sanity about it.
I cannot get to a place where I think I have said this enough times, and human history has shown us that constancy is necessary, that vigilance is for-always required. This idea of constancy is a human virtue: constance in faith, constance in trust, constance in knowledge, for and of God, for and of Truth, for and of light, yet mostly for and of humanity. Human Rights need constancy from us. They need our belief and our faith. We have to believe they are metaphysically constant, which they are. Without our belief in them and our faith that they exist, we disconnect from them; although they still have permanent veracity. We must, though, connect with them actively to help them thrive, grow . . . yes, they are always present, perpetually viable in spite of what we say, or do think about them here and now; but constant vigilance is required for these ideas to grow and flourish in our practices. Our Founders understood this vigilance for this great experiment in Liberty and Democracy we call the United States, what we have invested in our Constitution. The same was and is true for Human Rights.
I understand that there are many voices and points of view in the Muslim world, but a great deal of it is semi- to il-literate, backward and medieval when it comes to women’s rights. I am sorry if some Muslims do not like the truth. I am sure that there are enough Christians and Jews and Hindus for whom this would be equally true. I do not want to discuss the culturally enforced misogyny in China, or how five-hundred women a day kill themselves in the People’s Republic of China, or how China leads the world in sexual slavery, or how forced abortions in China almost invariably arise when the fetus is female. China is the only place in the world where there are more men than women; that in itself makes it Misogyny Central.
Now, as I have said above, no law gives us our human rights. The law may or may not uphold them adequately, but it cannot give us what we are endowed with by birth. And do not tell me that you are naive enough to think that there is no universal human nature–or that there are not enough commonalities by which we can determine things that are natural for all people, or at least habits of a commonly observed civilization or civilizing energy . . . I used to think that our democracy was God given, or God sanctioned, or God inspired–which of course many other Americans have believed, only to then conclude that they have a God given right to proxies in matters of geo-politics around the world whether granted or not. I always tried to steer clear of this form of Divine Imperialism.
Jefferson and Madison understood expressly that the humane and civilized were synonyms, and that there could not be a civilization that was not also humane universally; and this is irrespective of what you imagine their inconsistencies were, or how much we are now obligated to ignore everything they said that made sense in the matter and manners of our freedom because of these gross inconsistencies and hypocrisies, including the persistence of slavery. But we must also examine deeply and broadly enough to see that they created a system and a context for liberty and democracy to win out over slavery. We must not allow ourselves to use the gross inconsistencies in the matter of slavery to undermine the veracity of their other arguments for and of democratic government. Throwing the puppy out with the flea bath water seems to be what we do most often. We wonder in bewilderment as to how we have come to where we are politically, but it is our liberals as much to blame as our conservatives for the current conservative backlash against good sense, decency, intelligence and reason–yes, Reason.
I may not qualify as a humane human-being, with the kind of humanity inferred herein, simply by having been born–I must act humanely; I must choose humanity. I am certainly deserving of respect by virtue of having been born, certainly worthy of humane treatment by others and by the State and its government agents meant to manage and administer that State; but I must also act humanely conversely. We cannot allow ourselves to imagine we are human-humane just by being born–so much of our nature–or what we might call natural inclinations–is simply and directly attributable to our nature as Homo-sapiens, one of many species of animals in the world, all of them with animal natures.
Human, like civilization, is a choice. Human, like civilization, sometimes stands opposed to Nature, at other times must mediate Nature, modify the animal and the instinctive. My humanity depends on my humane actions and treatment of others; these others and their humanity depends on their humane treatment of others including me. Our animal choices, guided by our purely homo-sapiens nature, is NOT good enough to qualify as human. This sense of humanity is broad and sweeping, universal and transcendent, it is absolute.
Now any ethics that proscribes humane treatment of others because they are not of one’s own is inhumane–I know too many people who imagine that God is for them and only for them because they are like people who are like them . . . what does it mean only to be guided by ethical treatment of another because they are of your faith is a corruption of the Good; it is inhuman because it is inhumane to say because I am Christian, I must only respect Christians; or because Jewish, only Jews; or, because Muslims–et cetera. No amount of cultural relativism in these matters is helpful. Other as well as another must be respected; a careful examination of the rhetoric of other and another should reveal the inference herein.
Humane living, humane choices, humane being are what the human requires; to be human or not to be human, this is the question, this is the choice. We must be then very careful when we want and try to make things more natural–nature and civilization are not equal or equivalent; they are not mutual in the ways we imagine, or assume. Yes, we have imagined by making things more natural we will make things more humane, closer to being truly human, when in fact we often make the things we do, the ways we act and react, more closely aligned with a purely Homo-Sapiens way of responding to the world, which includes all the ways aggression becomes rationalized in our behavior, sets itself within normative behavior for the species, even in matters that have been extended to social interactions. But this connection we have made for nature and civilization whereby one is wholly and in every instance interchangeable for the other, is not by necessity. The validity of such is in question. What we really need is to make things more civilized in our lives–understanding that there is a broadly defined sense of civilized that extends to Lakota teepees and council fires as well as bedouin tents, et cetera, et cetera. This should be helpful.
By civilized, we must understand humane. This is not a scaling adjective. Big, bigger, biggest are scales in size. Something is humane or it is not humane; there is not a less or more humane–circular is an effective analogy–circular is also not scaling. Something is not really more or less circular, no matter how many times you say so or think so–if one thing is less circular, it is not a circle and therefore not circular. Circular is simply the adjectival form of the noun circle. Thus, every circle is circular; in fact, only circles are circular. Ovals are not circular. Humane and inhumane have no monochromatic scale between their black and white.
Now, as I have mentioned above, I am born is not enough to ensure I will develop humanity in the ways I have drawn herein; although anyone having been born is enough to mandate others respect his life and his liberty with this humanity–I will continue to repeat myself. I have herein restricted to the meaning of human, the following: humane treatment, humane actions, humane being. This means that one must have an active respect for and must maintain a vigilant defense of a woman’s life, her liberty, her proprietorship over body, thus for her choices that concern her and ultimately only concern her. Marriage is not a contractual agreement where a woman gives up her personhood to become a breeder of a man’s brood, thus incurring certain obligations on the man to support this woman in all matters of sustenance, livelihood. That is truly a woman’s Night Mare.
She has not become the man’s brood-serf, brood-mare.
Yes, I must respect the right of choice of others–although only insofar as the choices made do not violate another human being’s humanity (his human rights, his integrity as a simple separate person whose irreducible singularity stands macrocosmic to all pluralities and generalities). We are so afraid to speak up. We are hesitant to tell anyone that what they are doing or saying is disrespectful of another’s human rights.
I must for always respect the space necessary for others to cultivate their choices; I must stand in defense of humanity when another’s choice violates or infringes on the rights of another human-being. And here is the rub: all human-beings are another to me; no one is ever other.
I can choose to corrupt my humanity by being inhumane. This is what the traditional religions of The Book have insisted is Free-will. Our lives are not determined by God. We must be careful in delineating just what is human and just what is Homo Sapiens, as much as we must be cautious in delineating what comes from God in the matter or manner of how we punish or abuse others because they do not follow our path, our ways, our choices.
Human Rights need our help to manifest their forms in the world and function as more than ideals we hope for or strive to achieve in practice. Ideal rights and the practical application of ideals are not one in the same thing. Our biggest mistake has come from abandoning all notions of ideal rights for what we thought was more practical, only to suffer the constrictions and limitations of topicality and situation. We need to be able to handle both the ideal and the practical, the noumenal and phenomenal aspects of our rights in order best to manage them in the world. Instead we love playing hop-scotch with our values, our half formed ideals (a malfunction derived from our inability to think or speak metaphysically because we have abandoned metaphysics).
Humans rights in as much as they are universal rights are always everywhere the same; they are never contingent on culture or history or experience. A woman’s unalienable rights are the same for her in the United States as they are for her in Saudi Arabia, the same in France as they are for her in China. The difference is in how these unalienable and universal human rights are handled by her society, by the men in her culture, by the practices of her religion or the toleration of infringement by the State or supported by the State or social traditions.
As alluded to above, a woman’s unalienable rights are absolute and true even in face of whether the woman in question understands her rights or not, understands this argument herein expressed or not. No one can abdicate his human rights. Ignorance on the part of the woman may be an invitation to some to violate her rights; corruption is everywhere common to all people and Peoples. A person does not have an unalienable right to say: I want to be a slave.
Human Rights are always, socially and linguistically, upper case: yes, we write, Human Rights. They must remain capital in our hearts and minds too–not simply in our ledger books, where we keep them today. Support for human rights is offered only where it can garner monetary support from enough people to pay other people to sponsor a call for a change in our attitudes, principally because yet others see that stabilizing respect for and protection of human rights just might mean more money for investors, who inevitably do not seed these regions with enough economic stability to match what they themselves get out of the region.
We are corrupt–so much so that it arises in everything we think, say and do. The tree by the root? A question? How now this question? I must follow the Baptist. Raskolnikov’s axe is the Baptist’s axe? The pawn broker must be cut out by the root? What am I talking about here?
Three: Doubt is Our Highest Wisdom
Facts, facts and more facts–give me nothing but facts, or so we could say Mr Gradgrind would say . . . did say in similar words, I remember Hard Times by Dickens. I read it in college for an urban sociology class, not a literature class. Ours is another call for needful things. The one truly needful thing in our world, our culture, our country, this civilization of ours–whose civilization is it? How long has this civilization been on-going? I have not disbanded with older notions of what our civilization has been, has meant, could have meant in face of what it has never meant, even if it tried to mean it for itself. Now, we can say that the highest wisdom is Doubt. Nothing but doubt will do. It is our first philosophy. I love saying we.
Yes, give us doubt and nothing else but doubt. Doubt, doubt and more doubt. Didn’t Socrates say, “I know nothing?” Didn’t Montaigne also begin with an inquiry rooted in doubt? Moreover, the only wisdom ever needed, or so we assume, is an overriding doubt at the end of the day. We do not begin with the rhetorical posture of doubt, but conclude it after all, ending with an oppressive doubting of knowledge and the possibility of knowing anything.
Necessary? What is de necessitas? Where then do we come when we want to begin our inquiries into what is knowable, the limits of knowing and knowledge, what is knowledge, how is it acquired? Everything in our learning must come under scrutiny, but then is that what we do? Do we begin with I know nothing, or do we end with it, culminate our epistemology with this bold proclamation of perpetual and always enduring ignorance? Who’s to say? Has become everyone’s mantra, a received idea used by our culture to validate Anyone’s inane opinion because where there is no knowledge and doubt is our highest wisdom, no one can know anything, so everyone can say whatever pops into his or her mind and he becomes special for fifteen minutes or is it fifteen seconds. Fifteen second geniuses, all of us.
The new dogma complete–you find it at the heart of everything we do and think–thinking itself having come under assault even in the academies of higher learning. You could say that doubt has been instilled, imposed–no, that it has been planted to bear the fruit of a greater nihilism. But we wouldn’t like to hear that.
It must be facts for me; doubt is an end and not a means to understanding the limits of knowledge, of what knowledge is or could be, not what I know, but the end of all knowing. As a result, I have only things, facts as things, disconnected, more like confetti to throw into the air, the only effect being how pretty it looks as it falls in array. Facts, facts and more facts, of course only facts and the first and last fact of them all is that even facts can lie, even facts are uncertain. The one overarching and singularly guiding fact is doubt. I must doubt Truth, even all truths, any truth, minuscule ‘t’ truths accumulating in reserve. I only have to look at our contemporary civilization’s guiding metaphysics, look to my participation in my culture’s assault on reason, on truth, on, yes, dare I say beauty–or should I say in deference to a lost initiative.
Reason, Truth and Beauty?
Capital letters bear a specific morphology; yes, they carry with them a particular meaning. I reveal certain prejudices when I say Beauty–a neo-Romanticism we might conclude, but then the Romantics had more heart while yet keeping their heads.
I don’t have to look long to see how in love with doubt as a form of wisdom I have come to be in this culture–just reveal that you actually know something in a group of anyone you understand to have been fully formed by our systematic under-education over the last quarter of a century. Doubt, doubt and more doubt is all I ever need to know–Truth as Beauty or Beauty Truth has long been lost in the mists of Post-post Structuralist mystifications. Even in politics this is the only guidance we allow. It is the one overriding reason such trash gets accepted in our political campaigning, the levels of demagoguery and semi-literacy–alphabetics, all of us, yes, able to spell our names correctly. This of the possibilities–infinite possibilities–the true profit margin.
Of course, it is correct to assess that political campaigns have always been comprised of that which expresses the lesser of ourselves, the lower of our impulses, the baser of our instincts, oversimplifications at best, or at worst, the grossest in the simplistic that is possible without all campaigning falling down in an avalanche of fragments.
What is different, though, is the lessening of the critique; moreover, the remove from which anyone tries to levy an alternative to how we elect, how we campaign, or what the media does with our politics and politicking, how they package our politicians.
The media rarely critiques itself; that would be too much to ask, I know. The inarticulateness on our part has left us in a position where the potential for opposing politics as it gets played on the American stage is approaching impossible.
I, who do oppose contemporary politics as it has been played in the arenas of states across the globe, have also helped create a cultural weakness in itself a strength only in its power to debilitate. Weakness is weakness, though, just as strength remains strength. The latter can only cleave to the latter, never the former. This is immutable. I should look closely at our most recent historical precedence over the last one hundred or more years, particularly the last fifty or sixty here in America, but most assuredly in France as well as here in the United States–there is a pervading nihilism at the heart of our common Western culture, worse, at the core of our civilization, yes, Western Civilization.
Again, doubt, doubt and more doubt is what we teach, what we expect, what we receive from our ideas that there is no Truth, there is nothing transcendent, there are no absolutes, there is no Absolute, and, of course, that everything is relative, itself an error a lot less than human. We have become grossly irresponsible–I have my excuses.
The assault on Truth, the idea of Truth, and subsequently our persistent attack on the validity of truth after truth until the possibility of determining any truth has become so undermined that there is no truth and anyone can say anything because what I feel is the most important thing to express–and you do not even have to believe this to do this. It is preferably in the most spontaneous speech because what is spontaneously expressed will be the most honest, we assume . . . yet this has left me unable to mount any defense of democracy and the assaults on democratic living here at home, while power gets more powerful and money more monied. But the trickle down theory (really Hypothesis) is something like cum out of cunt when a woman stands after having been fucked–or should I say, after she fucks . . . to fuck or not to fuck, all of us fucked by the state–why do we insist in the word fuck for rape or even when getting screwed is the meaning. We’re always debasing sex by our more violent or criminal tendencies.
Here is another way of expressing either what some call natural and others call organic–either conception has become our nightmare, the ascension of a virtual adolescent world view where there are no hierarchies of value anywhere for anything and no experts in anything, all in an attempt to more widely disseminate opinions democratically, or, for everyone to be equal in his opinions. And I do endure the inane, the hopelessly foolish, because I want people to listen to my opinions, no matter how ignorant or poorly framed they are. Without truth there are no foundations for facts, so we–so I–persist in expressing opinions based on what we feel–I feel–and I am as in love with emotion and emotionalism as everyone else seems to be in this America perpetually seeking instant fame–fifteen seconds, not minutes, Mr. Warhol.
Emotion is not passion. Both passion and knowledge actually scare us.
Who’s to say became no one can say, and we all agreed with no one could say because everyone wanted to say something, and wanted even an immediate, yet temporary, validity assigned to his or her opinion, yet as only a possibility. The only way we could get anyone to listen to our unqualified opinions was to undermine truth, the nature of evaluation, the notion of hierarchies and the fact that opinions do have quality.
Without authority everyone became an expert for fifteen minutes. No one but an elite are really famous, so we took having expertise for fifteen minutes, that is, until someone else disagreed and then we had to listen to him, no matter how inane the opinion might have been. Without quality for opinions there remains quantity, and that’s not quantification, but a sum totaling addition of opinions.
Popularity and plurality have taken over our ethics, which is why we always defer to star actors and actresses as spokesmen or spokeswomen. Truth is numerical, arithmetic, additional. This is the prelude to the will to power. This is what we suffer socially and economically today. We have no other reasons for why anyone accumulates the wealth that is accumulated by the rich and powerful; the monied elite are far too monied, but we no longer have access to the reasons why this should offend us. We do not, in our semi-literacy, have the ability to express our position. In fact, we no longer are able to discern a position as a People to stand in counterweight to the State or as a corrective for power.
The agents who are supposed to manage this in our media are so corrupted by having become so semi-literate that they do stand opposed to power but grateful to it the way those who served the Czar used to be grateful. We do not have freedom for all, democracy for everyone, but only for the oligarchic elite, the powerful and the insanely monied. We do not have freedom and equality for African-Americans, we have the privilege system of affirmative action, and like all systems of privilege, they either exist in systems of inequality, or they create inequalities to perpetuate themselves as privilege systems. Privileges cannot exist where there is equality. The use of privileges for some groups is also used as a means toward a Machiavellian end; power divides us and conquers us.
But I do not have to be concerned for this–after having been systematically undereducated, allowed to become so lowly semi-literate, I cannot see that as stupid as I have become is not smart enough to know what I should know
Four: The ABCs of Literacy
To be literate or to be alphabetic is a question that should be posed by any person in any society when the question of reading is discussed seriously toward what end it can serve, what end it should serve, or what end it does or does not serve. Now whether or not reading serves any end other than the one it does in itself serve needs to be addressed if not answered. Reading in itself reading serves no social nor economic nor political end–unless that end is the freedom of the individual, politically and psychologically. Now whether or not it does serve these mutually contingent ends, political and psychological freedom is another question for another essay. How the challenges of what I will herein define as reading will be articulated we will see; the challenges posed by reading do try men’s minds as well as their souls.
Any society that sees itself in conflict over just what the society is or should be or where it is going or where it has been or has come from has something to consider in the matter of how its individual members act, react, and interact with one another, this necessitating that each of them–each of us–has more than a night light on in the mind, that thinking is other than randomly passing images in one montage after another, that thinking is not playing hop-scotch with words. Reading, in the ways that will herein be discussed is not superficially skimming pages, allowing their flatness and virtual two-dimensional existence to impose itself on what exactly reading does, informing what we imagine reading is. The fact that words appear in lines on pages also imposes an unnecessarily linear dimension to how reading is accomplished. This superficial skimming of pages is the dominant result from our broad acceptance, or confusion, of alphabetics for literacy.
Literacy or alphabetics–what is it that we mean when we say someone is literate? To be literate or not to be literate–much of what we call literacy in America falls short of what should be named literacy.
Being alphabetic–what is sometimes referred to by me as having dexterity with the alphabet, able to handle words the way some handle dice, their speech or writing no different than tossing the dice. Alphabetic is not in itself literacy. It cannot be. This was, of course, inferred above–to read or not to read, to be able to or not, a foundation of civil liberty, a corner stone of all advances in civilization–and this is not hyperbole.
As I have said this before in other essays, and as I am saying this again in this one, I am convinced that repetition is not in itself redundancy when handled appropriately–it can be motif. The latter is also something I have said before and will repeat, how repetition becomes motif.
Literacy has to be more than merely being able to spell one’s name correctly, being able to negotiate a supermarket circular, being able to read road signs, address a letter, read the tabloid newspapers to gain the daily dose of state, media or capitalist propaganda–and that is what the media has become today in our Totalitarian Bourgeois Capitalist America. Tabloid presses often written on the third or fourth grade reading level–three in four criminals serving more than three years in prison read somewhere between the second and fourth grade–how is that we see no correlation between our debased standards of reading, of what literacy is or what it could be and crime?
A newspaper like the New York Times has traditionally be written on the 8th grade level–this is the level that the United States considers functional literacy and a level that too many graduates leave their high schools with as an accomplishment to applaud in caps and gowns at family parties–the poor deluded bastards.
Literacy must be something bigger than it is at present. It must be deepened, become more penetrating than what is allowed by our current deferment to the standards of universal alphabetics. How many High School graduates can actually read on grade, at least twelfth–and by the time one graduates, one should be reading higher than twelfth grade if one is to read on grade. But is it necessary for an auto mechanic, in order to be a good auto mechanic, to have to read above high school? Probably not. However, the mandates of American democracy and freedom –that which is organically truly democratic and free, and not the result of manipulated images managed by the protocols of American propaganda concerning freedom and democracy–do demand that he achieve higher and higher election in literacy.
What I am herein referring to as our tradition of and for democracy (our sense and sensibility for civil liberty, for democratic living, what we might imagine could be living free, that is, if we were allowed to be free in a way that organically respected individual freedom in a healthy way), is, what we would like to support, allegedly (and allegedly only because a good deal of what we think we should support concerning freedom and democracy amounts to adhering to state disseminated ideas about democracy and freedom, received through our many forms of media, which in turn are never fully supportive of the People as a People being free, but instead are in line with transforming the People into a state serving Public, the latter allowed to masquerade as a people being free, again, through one or another organs of our media, themselves directly receptive to suggestions from power and money, when they themselves are not the power and the money as many publishers or corporate publishing conglomerates are). All the manipulation of images and all the received ideas about democracy are aimed at one overriding result: that power becomes more powerful and monied and that money becomes more monied and powerful.
But a two-tiered society such as the one we are garnering today cannot persist long in masquerading as a free and democratic society, which is why, in part, this culture goes to great lengths to propagate bourgeois values and ideals through its media, making bourgeois capitalist drones out all workers and the poor. Union membership has dramatically declined–the right to work has been transformed by American Bourgeois Capitalist propaganda, thus then dogma, into the right to any job at any salary is better than no job, and that crumbs from the table of the rich and powerful are for what we should be grateful.
Those ideals inherited from the tradition of American civil liberty again do demand that that auto mechanic above, to be a rationally and intelligently functioning and participating member of what we purport is a free and democratic America–must read at a level higher than he has been allowed to achieve in our public schools., that literacy must not be debased and confused for what we do perpetuate in our schools, and that is an intellectually and socially enfeebling alphabetics instead of literacy. But then with teachers not having to gain a Master’s Degree in the disciplines they teach–that is, a high school math teacher can get his or her master’s in teaching, with a concentration not in math but in math pedagogy; with a teacher allowed to have a C average, which includes a c-, overall in all subjects; with teachers allowed to get a B- in their major–how do we expect pedagogy not to fail at achieving what it seems we can no longer imagine our students should have, although it does remain what they do need.
What has been sponsored in our public education over the last thirty to thirty-five years–and do not hold me hostage to the hypotheses of time counted; time on the clock or calendar and time in the mind are aspects of time imagined passing–has only managed to systematically under educate. Power has taken to heart Madison’s proclamation that education is the foundation of civil liberty; it has transformed education in direct proportion to how it must present the veil of freedom over the mask of democracy, a masquerade or a charade?
Liberty is only a facade, a Hollywood studio set. It is no irony that education in my estimation has declined since the days of Regan–is it the fault of Regan and the Republicans? I would like to side-step the ping pong the parties play–although I do wind up rooting for one side or the other in any match I watch, even cricket matches I stumble on when switching channels on cable–I do root for Hilary Clinton over any Republican Candidate because any one of the Republicans would be tantamount to one of Satan’s following of angels ascending to the Oval Office. Do I prefer Barry Sanders? Of course, I do.
This is not hyperbole.
Obama, it must be said, in the seventies, would have been a moderate republican, with no change in his attitudes, his opinions, his thoughts, his rhetoric. This is what I find so scary about our politics and who manages our pedagogy–our pedagogy increasingly taking its cues from, while responding to the protocols of, bureaucrats in Washington, and here in New York City, from Albany and City Hall.
The fact that someone can spell his name, as I have mentioned above, cannot be the way we judge a person as literate or not literate. We have virtually come to this if we have not yet actually arrived there. It can be a measure of just how alphabetic he is, which is also the assessment of how well someone fills out bureaucratic forms or reads the tabloid press, never meant to do anything but inform in the crassest way possible–this informing, if you examine the words you use closely, is just that: to inform by the tabloid press is putting people unable to think In Form.
Never the twain shall introduce one another to each other–alphabetics and literacy, how shall they meet? They have met in the manipulated images of one another confused and confusing many for a long time. They must be kept apart, though, in our appraisal, something that a healthy sense of and dexterity with or for categories could help. What I can do with the alphabet is always set against what a monkey cannot do with the alphabet, unless we give a group of them typewriters and infinite time, then, presumably, the monkeys will by accident type out the script of Hamlet. I am still puzzled as to what kind of critique this is, having heard back in grad school this argument on the periphery of critiques of Shakespeare as the center of what had come under attack for being too overtly political and politicized in favor of ruling elites, the traditional Canon of literary achievement. I understand the necessity for Canon revision, or broader inclusion, but never have understood the iconoclastic response, or worse, the same response the mob in Alexandria had with torches at the Library of Alexandria. Not so very different, I had understood; I still understand.
The study of literature is sometimes called the study of Letters, but spelling one’s name correctly is not what I had in mind when I would say someone is literate. Yes, you have to be alphabetic in this culture to become literate, but to be literate or to be literary or to read and write literature (the order is happenstance)–these are other than reading tabloid newspapers, other than filling out correctly a deposit slip at the bank. But then we do all know this, do we not?
I am safe in assuming that my to-do list is not what I would call literature, although the aesthetics of this to-do list could be employed in the service of the literary. No? Of course it could. I am not saying that what we understand to be literary forms could only have been fixed by writing. There are a number of what have come to know as literary forms, forms of literature, that were fixed, that lost their plasticity, if they ever had any, in antiquity, in a time before writing, or at the dawn of it when societies like Ancient Greece were residually oral and moving toward literacy, what Plato actually champions in Book Ten of The Republic. Rather than understand Plato’s stand against poetry as one against poetry as we think we understand it, read it as an opposition to a former Orality that opposed the early advances in Literacy, most dramatically in psychology, thus mentality [the former of an individual, the latter of a society].
A great deal of re-reading is necessary for any kind of advancement in stages of higher and higher literacy; and yes, this analysis does run along a vertical axis as does literacy and greater achievements in literacy run along a vertical axis. Also, we must understand that engaging in writing is a complement of reading in literacy. No one actually reads at a level considerably higher than the one at which he writes or could write if he engaged in the practice. The same is true and reciprocally so for reading on writing.
We are though mistaken about orality, what it is, where it is, how it functions, when it functioned, and how it stands in contrast to literacy, and how ours is not an oral culture no matter how many songs you listen to or how many Youtube videos you watch to learn something rather than read. We can only become illiterate not non-literate. The possibility of becoming a non-literate culture is virtually impossible. And this is the horror–the only result from not reading, from a decline in literacy is illiteracy, something always illicit, illegitimate in the matters of civilization, something born into the world half made-up, something of a grotesque nature more offensive to the manners of literate civil society than can be imagined, that is seen, by the dying of the light inside a person suffering this decline.
Five: Love is the Soul of Humanity
If what is humane is now the question, then one of the first responses would have to be directed at the notion of love. Yes, herein stated as a priori true, love is the principal attribute of anyone being humane, anyone acting humanely, anyone attempting to elevate his humanity to where he can live beyond surviving. If we recognize the French in our English, to survive is always beyond or other than living; sur/vivir in French means just that, “beyond to live.” Living humanely; there is no living inhumanely, is there? Not when we consider what we mean by living, to live by humane actions and humane choices. There really is no other way to live.
Love is an entity some say. It is a mystery these same might say. Others do. How can we know what love is in all of its variegation, in all of its manifestations? I hear others ask. These same others say that love is a spiritual principle that pervades the world. They go on to say that this thing, this entity, love, is the spirit of the world, although I notice too many instances where love is not the agency at work in the world.
We are not herein about to discuss love in its romantic variegations. We have to put on hold any attempt to discus love romantically. When what we mean by romantic love is what has conventionally been meant by romance when the latter has everything to do with sex and sexuality, we are then discussing love in a highly restricted sense, not the sense we need to understand here. This love that is the soul of humanity is one kind of overarching universal love. it is the most important notion of love to understand.The love herein discussed is–I hesitate to say–a higher love, although many of us in our traditions of discourse have imagined that the love that is the soul of humanity is a higher love than the love that brings two lovers together in the consummation of the love that arose in sexual attraction. I am not going to distinguish these; this is the reason I steered us from this restricted sense of love as romantic love because it is unnecessarily limiting. The desire to fuck as we say is in itself this love that pervades as the soul of humanity, as the essential force or agency in a universal, all-encompasing, all-embracing love; it is the initial stage in the development of this love as an agent of the humane. I wish we could be honest about how differing or separate metaphysical systems at their core handle this idea of love, and I do not mean how those steeped in or formed by any metaphysical system manage or mismanage the basic tenets of that metaphysical system–I am talking about the core belief, what the words say, the texts actually say, teach, portend . . .
Now, Mozart called love the soul of genius. Yes, love is the soul of genius, but then how so for the creation of our humanity? There is contingency between the two; love and the humane. It is self-evident to me that they are mutual and by necessity. There is little humanity without love; this is more than but the essence of Love thy neighbor as thyself.This notion of love is not exclusively other than the one we have before us or choose to discuss when two are romantically inclined toward one another. Two people sexually attracted to one another have found themselves in love, yes, true; but the beginning of love that must be acted on humanely for it to grow as an aspect of their humanity is also coupled by the love that is at the heart of their humanity. This love is the force of their acting humanely toward one another. In direct proportion of Mozart’s conception that love is at the heart of genius, we must understand that love is at the heart of humanity, at the heart of being humane. This human humane is the romantic link that lovers have; what happens to it though is always at the mercy of their choices.
One human-being is obligated to act humanely toward other human-beings; thus, in this way, Christ’s maxim is recalled. Each human-being must love others as one must love one’s self, and that by doing so one manifests a simple truth of humane being, a simple fact of our common humanity: love is the agency of God for those who are inclined to believe; it is, if only in an overarching metaphoric relationship to human action and human being, the Spiritus Mundi–yes, Love is the Spirit of the World. A Trinitarian Christian could interpret this agency of love as the agency of the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit. But one does not have to be Christian to understand this or to act this way–and too many Christians do not act this way, as I am painfully aware.
We must then understand that love in the way presented here is not a pasion in its entirety–passion itself not an emotion, the latter distinct from what is meant by human passion, something we come to understand through mediating our terms in the Christian tradition where we can speak of the Passion of Christ. It’s not Emotion Week, nor the Emotion of Christ. But then this understanding is universal . . . Gandhi was a man of reason and passion; his passion was not emotion, although he could be emotional. Martin Luther King Junior was a man of great passion as well as a great and passionate man–and he would clearly understand the distinction made between the two, emotion and passion. Gandhi and King were not emotional men in the sense that they were carried away by emotions. Passion, though, was at the heart of their reason and their action towards the humane, for the humane. (Men have traditionally sought to control women and their state of being or becoming, only allowing them emotions while cutting off access to passion or the expression of passion, except in highly proscribed and circumscribed contexts or outlets.)
I connect to humanity by choice, thus as an act of freewill, which I accept as self-evident. Humans have free-will. This choosing to have is exactly what distinguishes humanity from other things we are able to have without choosing. We do not choose to have blue eyes, we do not choose to breathe, we do not choose to be the homo-sapiens we are, presented with the heredity we have—we do not choose our biology as it is given to us at birth. No one chooses if he has to piss; the will to piss and the bodily function of pissing are exclusive. If holding one’s piss and shit has its limits. We do choose to be the kind of human we are, though. Thus we choose our humanity; but, of course, we do not choose it as we do other things; if we do, so much the worse for our humanity.
For certain, humanity is not a thing in the sense of an object, whether that be a rock, a chair, a tree or a piece of paper, or a part of the body separate in consideration from the entirety of one’s body in symbiosis with mind. It is also not a thing in the sense of idea or energy, such as freedom or love. But it is a thing in the notion of thing present in the idea of entity, and in this we find our humanity residing as an ingredient in the manner in which we exist. Yes, humanity is an entity we choose; it is an entity that possesses us, becomes one with us, transforms us, and transfigures us even in the eyes of others who can see, seeing here a part of our knowing our understanding our ability to learn, something even the blind can perform, this kind of seeing.
An entity has being; it exists as one. Humanity is therefore a thing as a state of being is a thing; the thingness of humanity does not subtract from it morally. Herein henceforth, human being is the thing we must most highly prize. To be human in this sense is to have what we have herein so far come to understand as humanity, which is to be human in the way we mean when you cannot be human unless humane. Humanity is thus an a transfiguring entity, it exists for this purpose; it is to be had, it is to be allowed, it is to be held, and what is to be held is to be done so with care, with caress, with tenderness. It cannot be extinguished, exterminated, and not even by the most monstrous inhumanity. It is the most fragile and yet the strongest thing in the universe.
The Nazis did not win. The concentration camp was not—is not—victorious. We cannot allow anything like Nazis and their camps to become so in our imagination.
Having humanity then is to be human in a way that can only be thoughtful, selfless in the sense that egocentric (as we mean in the pessimistic connotation we have given this term) is not the primary way in which we choose to interact with others. Love is the axis of the humane; love is the essential ingredient in kindness, tenderness, forgiveness, and compassion. Without these virtues, there can be no humane treatment of another human being. They are, though, the first qualities to disappear in any society suffering from a protracted dehumanization, the kinds we have seen throughout the history of totalitarianism, whether Bolshevik, fascist, Nazis, Stalinist or Maoist; or the kind performed in one dictatorship after another, whether Franco’s, Pinochet’s, or Hussein’s; whether Romanian, Serbian, Cuban, or Haitian.
Dehumanization seems to have become one of the leading pastimes around the world; the forms of which have been at the disposal of, for instance, one African war-lord or another; one ethnic group against others, in Iraq, the former republics of the Soviet Union, during the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, or in Israel/Palestine; in Rwanda. Tribal politics are always in the service of oppression or genocide. All the fore mentioned isms have aided in the transformation of the nation-state into tribe.
Tribal life is the beginning of the humane, not the further cultivation of being humane. Inhumanity has been all too human throughout history. How often we repeat this or the ways we do only ensure we will forget the message. In our media culture, where the medium is the message, the content gets lost in the conduit. The way we are taught to read now only further makes certain we will dis-understand the information conveyed. America is not immune to inhumanity; the fact we are human leaves us susceptible, the fact we are undereducated only insures we will mismanage our legacy and responsibility to ourselves and our posterity.
To summarize on point: It is necessary to disseminate the ideas of a universal humanity in order for many to act accordingly in relation to these rights which, again, are metaphysically unconditional, categorical, certain, positive and beyond any effort to eradicate them; as they can never be revoked.
They can lose the vigilance of a People to respect them and maintain them, protect them and nourish them; they can receive active efforts against their protection, the ways they are disrespected can become paramount in a society; the laws of a society and its customs can also work against a woman’s free exercise of her unalienable basic human rights; but these rights are hers in face of the violations she suffers.
What then must we do in face of so much arrogance on the part of Muslims in our midst who are bent on turning back the clock on Western Liberty and Democracy, using democratic means to set us backwards? Our cock is being wound back.
It seems reasonable that a universal humanity should be defended, and that that defense should be well articulated. Woman has been prime for this kind of defense for a very long time. Hers is a humanity less than deservedly respected, even now when we think we are honoring and respecting women, socially, politically, institutionally, ethically, interpersonally, however else you might imagine we respect and are willing to defend a woman’s rights–we are not. Inadequately at best? Imagination deadening again? We do suffer a media-bombarded deadening of our imaginations, our sense and our sensitivity–it has an effect on our sensibility, too. Just how sensible we are has been as curtailed as the measured decline in our attention spans. All of the former notwithstanding nonetheless, “Sole proprietorship” is a rational position based on an inherited legacy of human rights that we need a heightened historical awareness to be able to defend adequately. We must couple this with a concerted effort to increase our general level of literacy to handle correctly any defense of a woman’s unalienable rights –yes correctly–although, ironically, just what political correctness has mismanaged.
My opposition herein to how political correctness has mismanaged the defense of the rights it has purported to be an advocate for is not in line with Donald Trumps “Know-nothing” populism. Re-examine the Know-nothing Party of the mid-nineteenth century and Trump does not appear as if he fell from the sky, or rose up from the depths. In fact, The Know-Nothing Party’s platform is very similar to Donald Trump’s; the party was founded in 1845 and lasted until about 1860 and was ripe with Anti-Catholic sentiments and bigotry, as well as the view that the country was being overrun by Irish and Bavarian-German immigrant hordes. Daniel Day Lewis’s Nativist character in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York is a continuation of this virulent reactionary politics.
Moreover, and let us return to woman–she is not determined by her biology. This seems simple enough to say, but has it been adequately articulated by us in her defense. This position was held by most of us in college when I was an undergraduate; this has become one of many clichés we accept in our arsenal of received ideas about women. But do we act accordingly; do we understand what we are saying when we do, can we say anything intelligent when called on to defend this position against those who oppose her rights based on an unspoken adherence to a definition of woman limited by her biology, her role as Homo-Sapiens breeder. We have to put the human woman she is above the homo-sapiens breeder her physiology might determine otherwise if we allow. But we are like the man who wears the cloak of non-violence and peace to cover his powerlessness.
Women are not bound by societal or hierarchically drawn obligations to be men’s breeders. This seems simple enough to say, but to mean it is something else. How does a man’s act of insemination give him proxy control over what a woman does with her body–I do not care how holy a man imagines his sperm to be. And I am not here to denigrate the religious or any conceptions derived from any religious views of sacred and profane space or time. My spermatozoa do not need my defense, and almost invariably cease to be mine after ejaculation, a friend of mine once said. You could make the argument that once the spermatozoa enters the woman, it becomes hers. Spermatozoa are not Conquistadors colonizing the America’s of a woman’s womb for the Spanish Realm of a man’s imagination.
There cannot be a hierarchy of humans where liberty and equality are honored and respected differently. Her getting pregnant does not leave her subject to a man’s will, even if she did give her troth to honor and respect the man, her spouse. We no longer maintain “obey” in our marriage vows, yet we maintain words that amount to ‘female’ (wife), that is ‘breeder,’ and “manager of the brood” (husband). But irrespective of how etymology affects mentality and psychology, in any support of the right to choose an abortion, choice must remain essential.
Abortion is not all of a woman’s right to choose, which is also a man’s rights of choice where his life is concerned. A woman’s right to choose must extend to birth as well, otherwise we are equally talking about pro-freedom or pro-serfdom if her right to choose to have her baby is not also respected. She must be at liberty to choose to have the baby or have an abortion and to do so as she sees fit. Any coercion either way, forcing a woman to have a baby or forcing a woman to have an abortion–as in China most frequently where the fetus is female–is contrary to respecting her unalienable rights to life, liberty and sole proprietorship over her body. Abortion and birth are the terminal points of this right to choose because a woman’s right to choose extends beyond her being pregnant.
Pro-choice is pro-freedom–it is a human right. Pro-choice in this context then, again, has two sides; the one is abortion, and the other is birth. Without the choice to give birth even in the absence of a father, then we are not protecting a woman’s human right to choose. Forced to give birth or forced to have an abortion; both of them are assaults on a woman’s freedom.
Let me thus say again something I have said before and elsewhere, that no one, no government, no administration, no man, no other women, no Law can take a woman’s rights away. These intermediaries in her life may stand as impediments to her choices or her choosing; they may coerce her in ways that are oppressive if not fatal; but they cannot take away a right she has inalienably from birth. A woman may be denied access to her rights by law; her personhood may be assaulted bodily–violating her physically or emotionally or mentally–but the rights she has unalienably remain intact because they are always intact universally, transcendently, absolutely for everyone for all time.
The universal, absolute and transcendental nature of human rights is a truth undeniable in spite of whatever it is any law says to the contrary or enforces as impediments. Let it be said again, let it be proclaimed throughout the world, that Liberty is everywhere Absolute and Transcendent and yet real and present here and now even under the most heinous oppression and violence.
I am fairly sure you are wondering about me, and probably would prefer to know something about me that might make you more disposed to accepting some of what I have said herein throughout these pages and pages of what then do we call this–the evils of society are diseases of the intellect, not indicative of social diseases, which is why so many of our sociologically determined solutions for what ails us solve nothing, and just as likely exasperate the conditions, the symptoms . . .
Seven: Fee, Fie Fictio, Historum
Fee, fie, fo, fum, have said many an Englishmun, or men or women or children who speak the language of Jack the Giant Killer, or, as we could say, the language of Thomas Nashe, who determined more than four centuries ago that it would be only a great pedant “who will find matter enough to dilate a whole day of the first invention of “Fy, fa, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.” The antecedent folk stanza Nashe had alluded to in his pamphlet “Have with You to Saffron Walden” was of antient origin. The inference was clear–no one knew where it had come from even in his day when literary connections to folklore and folk traditions were premium. Ah, the story’s the thing, what then do I bring to the page . . . when to be a story or not to be a story might be a question, but only one among many to ask, and then if it were a story, and a story, and a story that creeps in petty paces from scene to scene, this too would be neither foul nor fair, but fiction. All fiction is something made, from the Latin fictio, from the nominative singular third declension noun for ‘fashioning,’ ‘forming,’ often times with reference to language use, as in ‘an invented statement,’ as sometimes in the maner of false statements known to be false. If someone were to speak falsely and not know, this would not be fiction as we sometimes say. Truth value, though, is also a consideration of verisimilitude; yes, similar to what is true, how do we verify the facts of fiction? Verity, which comes to us from the Latin veritas, what is understood to be other than vanity, from the Latin vanitas, as in Vanitas non est Veritas. What is like unto Truth? How are fictions not vanity, some concerned for propriety beyond the measure of appropriateness could ask? What is true and what is the Truth are twain that might never meet.
Let us continue . . . I have before told you how much I enjoy using we.
When I talk about verisimilitude, I am speaking of fictional truth, something we used to understand more clearly, or for which we had a more highly articulate comprehension, a greater dexterity for its use. To tell a story or not would be any man’s dilemma, his life in story, the history of his life, what to tell and how to tell it, considerations of form, of style, what words to choose, but also in what manner, for style is not a passive outcropping of one’s over-indulged subjectivity. This is also true when the author is she.
We love to talk about a writer’s style, when in fact what we have done is identified a style of prose writing that could be categorized if one wanted to, but would in no way be necessary to do, except when one wanted to identify like prose styles or verse styles from among other storytellers. We must only understand that a category is in effect a tool in comprehension–they have never been understood to be facts of nature exceot by those who have so misread them, misunderstood them, to be beset by them in way more of their choosing than from any imposition by any imagined academic hierarchy. A category is not a fact of nature, it is not a fact either phenomenal or noumenal except in itself as a category in our understanding, that tool that helps us build meaning, yes, we are the wrigthers of our semantics.
Fee fie fo fum, I say again, fee fie fo fum . . . I might smell the blood of an Englishmun as did Jack’s Giant when pondering on how he was going to make his bread, grinding bones to make it. What do I do to make my story? What do I use to make it, the makerly text? What should I ponder? Should I wonder how to make a text from the matters of memory? What pieces of the past should I use if I should use them at all? I do collect thus recollect; I put these pieces together, the puzzle of the text? there are puzzles to modernist texts, a degree of puzzling about all texts, something of this less intentional in historical writing as we had assumed historical writing was, at least the days when we were in university . . . how long ago, and how many incarnations of the student have I undergone?
One does not read Virginia Woolf without understanding the fictional text is a kind of puzzle; who has read Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury or his As I Lay Dying–Absalom, Absalom for sure–without having to piece together meaning, although this piecing together is not the only role of the reader in the engagement between reader and text. What is it that I arrange, should, must, could, in order to achieve . . .
To achieve or not to achieve . . . achieve what I intend or might not intend, trusting my intuitions enough to follow courses to their culmination, or make choices less than conscious, who has not been at the whim of her ego or her id?
Memory is the treasure chest of telling one’s story–this retelling that is one’s life story or a story from one’s life. Everything is autobiography? What kind of stories are we talking about here? My story–as alluded to above–how to tell it, when to tell it, where, to whom, for what end–there is always an end, a conclusion to a story, even if it is only as the etymology of conclusion suggests, the building of a wall to stop the flow as a dam does the flow of a river.
What is it to go back through memory–my own selva oscura, as Dante says at the opening, nel mezzo del camin . . . all this about memory, the labyrinth I walk through, an amazing journey to the center of me. We could ask if memory is a sea or a forrest or a labyrinth . . . we only need to choose one and understand this one to handle our making. I remember a lot, but what do I recollect and how is the recollection managed–these are questions that determine the outcome of my telling. Entering memory is a journey into the labyrinth, I have decided. Yes. Now it is a journey into the woods, I too have concluded. One for one story told; the other for another telling . . . minotaurs, witches and grails.
The soul is my labyrinth now. I am Theseus. The soul is Hades–rescuing me my from my own underworld is always an appropriate project. Telling our stories becomes an act of salvation, one could understand. Orpheus tries this, a journey into Hades, to save Eurydice which is to save himself, no? Will I fail me as he failed Eurydice. I am Orpheus and Eurydice in every one of these journeys. My soul is also my dark wood, the selva oscura above of Dante, thus another comedy of other manners, other forms, different styles: the selves in the Self of many selves are the characters peopling my tales. I must go inside, deeper inside, further, farther which or both, distance in space and distance that is time or labor.
If all the world is a stage, then the soul too is a stage for the selves of my Self to perform on. We are always acting; it is not the acting that is false, unless it has no connection to Truth, unless it eliminates Truth as its target, as its goal, as part of the organic presentation. Everyone one of us are the players in this drama of selves in the theater of the Self . We are certainly players on the stage that is the world. We all of us wear many masks, one dramatis personae after another for us to perform on this stage, the world, one scene after another, everything about our lives is an ever changing mine-en-scene. We do build our character(s) as actors do in their theaters of boards.
The real story of my life would be for me to travel deeper, more inwardly and get to the selves and the masks they wear; yes, it is not the masks I wear in the world but the ones I wear inside that I need to uncover, recovering g yet other faces I might use to face myself, the Self, what is it that I see in the mirror? I need to get behind them; I need to take them off and reveal what is behind them; an apocalypse of the Self.
Fee, fie, fictio, historum, folk tales, fiction and history, what do I smell in the form of another story to tell? I am hounded as I am haunted; I hound as I haunt. How has most of human history not been molded by the hunt. Narratives short or long; short naratives handed down orally; short narratives written, published and unpublished, read aloud or printed and read silently off the page; narratives short or long in verse; prose poems, ballads.
We have come to understand that ‘fiction’ refers to narratives that are imaginative, or so we used to like saying–imaginative writing. We still say this in our elementary schools to children because we believe that the word imaginative has magical properties for children, and that children must be exposed to things imaginative and magical because it will make them better persons, or so we must think, either consciously, or unconsciously collectively, because we say it so often, another received idea we use without thinking about what it means or where it comes from. Folk-tales that are handed down orally are not written; the teller of these oral tales where they are still conveyed orally does not worry about these imaginative considerations, at least not in the way we use the word imaginative. Originality is not the mark of a good teller in any oral tradition, and the material handed down from generation to generation is good enough and does not need to be changed. It does not matter that the story is not original to its teller.
We are not talking about the myths of ancient people or a people in their antiquity, or a people closer to our contemporaneity who still maintain an archaic metaphysics, because for these people their myths are true stories and therefore are not fiction, although the telling may be quite similar, the form and manners used by the teller to tell the tale very much the same; each are orally conveyed, or later transcribed, as the cosmogonic myth of the ancient Hebrews was in the form of Genesis in the Jewish or Christian bibles.
Original, imaginative, traditional, handed-down, or how many other words we have for what kind of story is being told or read, either aloud or inwardly to the Self by the self (I often read aloud to myself when I do, read a story, weighing the words, walking the line, so to speak); moreover, do we bleed for our stories? There are more than more than one way to bleed. What a question to ask, though. There is always one kind of blood sacrifice after another throughout our history bearing determinations culturally, whether they be actual or theatrical, dare we say symbolic, or all three? I have understood for too long how we have dis-understood this word, ‘symbol,’ relatedly, ‘symbolic.’ Do we bleed for them, I am asking, our own stories, our auto-biographies, the way we must probe inside, we do cut ourselves opened, don’t we? Biography a branch of historical writing, of course; autobiography a form of auto-surgery? I know I have bled for them, the way we could speak; the stories I have set myself the task of telling and not just in the flippant way we do when we just as often wish to divert the attention of others away from what we fear they will find out about us, all of this fear working its magic spells on us unconsciously. Making things up as we go along, a kind of internal improvisation, the unconscious will exerting its power over our choices. I know that others have said as much about this special kind of bleeding. I understand that some authors might bleed more than others, those that do, as they tell us . . . there is a kind of internal bleeding that allows you to live nonetheless.
We do love our stories. We do love the ones who tell them, who can tell a good one, orally or on the page. I will not list the delineation of good and bad storytelling. To tell a story or not to tell a story, that is the question for all storytellers. Choosing to do so or not is more than the first step; it is the giant leap for all of us. Storytelling is humankind; we are the storytelling animal. What is history, though? We have the word from the French, the French from the Latin, the Latin from the ancient Greek. In French it refers to both what we in English mean by History and what we mean by story as in fictional story, or sometimes by non-fictional story. This latter idea that seemingly stands opposed to what history might be could be is does much in the way of confusing this relationship of story and history. If I tell the story of my life, how is that separate from history? It is not. This is what gives us mistaken received ideas about history, what it is. History, in any understanding that separates personal story or anecdotes from history, becomes something apart from people, that is, people as a collection of simple, separate, individual persons. In this kind of understanding of what history is, we the people cannot make it, or participate in it. History then, in our minds, is a river we never swim in, an ocean we never sail, a land distant and remote, an undiscovered country of other events by and with other people. These other people thus remain separate from us, different from us, grander than us, perhaps?
All language is metaphor. Language is a social trope. We are creative in the simple phrases, the sun has risen, the sun rose, the sun rises. When things are good, when your life is pleasant or happy you say Things are looking up. Up is good is a metaphor. Any narrative could not help but be creative.
Narrative is a method of storytelling, in fact, it is storytelling. It is also a way of conveying both fiction and history–it orders things chronologically or a-chronologically, the latter itself indicating that there is a chronology of facts, themselves, perhaps, productions of memory or recording. There are facts in fiction, the facts of the story, the events, the places, the scenes as they are set, whether this be a short story as in fiction, a true story as in myth or journalistic reporting (the former framed by the archaic mind, which is not a psychological judgment but a fact of metaphysical mental construction), or biography, or an oral folks-tale or a verse narrative as in epic, for example, the Iliad. Any history itself becomes a story, just by the telling. I tell my story, whether I tell the truth or I lie. But even if true, the story is invented, no? The inventiveness is the fashioning itself, and this is true for one kind of story or another, true stories or stories all made up. How is a woman leaving her home with make up on not her own fiction? We seem obsessed with facts; facts, facts and more facts, disregarding that The Earth is flat was once a fact.
The French use one word for both history and fictional story, l’histoire. I guess every fiction has its history; the novel Tom Jones, as we call it, is a history of Tom Jones, as the novelist Henry Fielding insisted when he gave it the title: The History of Tom Jones. We lose the reference to the novel as a history, or at least we had and thus we have for a time long enough to become entrenched in our referencing, a matter of custom. Every history, then, must have its fiction, this something fashioned, the story out of the material collected by the author’s inquires; in the mater of Fielding’s novel, the history is invented. History, as mentioned above, is from the Greek; Istoria meant investigation in ancient Greek. This is why Herodotus called what he had written The Histories. The novel Tom Jones is an inquiry into the life and times(?) of Tom Jones? Yes. How then is this novel that tells the story of Tom Jones different from the biogrpay I have on my shelf, Keith Richards, A Life? The latter is a first person account and the former is a third person omniscient account–but then how do first person accounts not share some of the omniscience of the third person narrative of the kind that is Tom Jones?
There will always be more in the heaven and earth of one man’s life than could be found or dreamed by any teller of his tale, including himself. Choice is essential; everything that becomes the story is in the choosing. These choices are in themselves creative acts. So, what is it then that we mean when we say story and when we say history? Any story is a kind of history, as we have noted above. Yes, many of the early novel writers in 18th century England attempted to blur these boundaries or avoided making them clearly distinct, those between history and fiction. It was not only Fielding. There is something easier to understand in French than in English when we confuse history and story–although the French really do not suffer the confusion we fear. Having one word for what we mean by ‘history” and what we mean by ‘story,’ fictional ones, is not more confusing than having two words for two distinct concepts. The Anglo-Saxon speaking peoples of the world separate history from story, as such. Istoria in Greek was an inquiry or knowledge acquired by investigation. This does not by itself allow for categorical distinction between history and fictional story. I imagine that a story like Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is an investigation into the life of Goodman Brown, some of the life as it is chosen in the presentation, the effect of the narrative being both historical and historicizing, at least in the way that fiction can be a made up history, what we mean by fabricated as what we have conventionally meant by the term story. In antiquity, those who wrote what we would call history today were often those who had participated in the events, their making. This made history writing very close to biography, or more accurately, memoir. The role of testimony in inquiries could be used to understand what then fictional history is–“Young Goodman Brown” is the testimony of the narrator in the inquiry of who what when, where and how Young Goodman Brown.
We do separate the two, though, keeping our history apart from our fiction, at least we still maintain the illusion that we do. The latter about illusion is not an attempt to subvert faith in the possibility of knowledge about the past or to undermine belief in the truth value of historical writing. Yes, Mr. Coleridge, we do have to suspend our disbelief for historical writing as we do about our fiction. In a more traditional sense, history is the true story of a people or a person or a place, a country, a city, an empire, whatever have we in the focus of history writing, the product of what was once thought possible, objective historical investigation. In this, we have as mutually exclusive, fictional story and true story–that is, until we confront, as fore mentioned, that all mythology, apart from our Judaeo-Chritian prejudices against any mythology that could not be corroborated by the two Testaments, are the true stories of a people in as much as their stories of origins, all cosmogonic myths, are true for the people themselves living with these exemplary models, something we have to understand in way differently than we do or have done. Of course, as fore mentioned, the fiction writers of the 18th century tried to blur the lines between the two–what was the novel then anyway? The Preface to Defoe’s Moll Flanders speaks more on this than I could here. The same author presents a shorter set of inferences in his preface to Robison Crusoe, whereby he calls himself “editor” of this “private man’s adventures in the world” and where he then says near his conclusion of the preface that he “believes . . . [Crusoe’s tale] to be a just history of fact.”
History here a “story,” yes, as all history is a story, facts as we receive them by history re-enforcing what we understand about the past. The factory of culture makes its history, as Ivan in Russia hired chroniclers to write a history of Russia that favored him and the Romanov family, much for a similar reason the Emperor Augustus favored the poet Virgil. Fiction and History win separate prizes from the Pulitzer committee. But what is it that they share in form–narrative, as we have said; verisimilitude in fiction being parallel to the historical facts able to be corroborated. I imagine, though, that verisimilitude in fiction is easier to maintain than veracity for facts in history/historiography that countermand a society’s received ideas and dogmas. Ah! Facts; facts, facts and more facts, Mr Gradgrind. There is a Mister Gradgrind in all of us. Yet how many of our facts, both personal and public, both individual and collective do we accept without inquiry. How many of the facts in our media are fashioned as in factory made. Yes, our media is a factory of facts.
We understand by representative examples over time that history and fiction were not distinct in antiquity or even the 18th century in the way we have subsequently made them–and they do remain more closely linked in cultures that still use one word for the two, as we have seen in French. They were not yet set as they seem to be today, or as they were some time not so long ago, still in my lifetime, even around the time I started college (yes, university). History as a discipline had come to represent the verity of verities, at least in my time in the university (at least in my mind, how I conceived history and its purport); this only residually so today. There was still a belief that objectivity could be maintained or at least pursued, which is the most vital ingredient in the notion of objectivity in historiography, that it can be pursued and that a vigilance in this pursuit could be fruitful in the ways a belief in its possibility make apparent. This belief is something leftover from an earlier part of the last century where history was the pursuit of truth about the past, the little ‘t’ truths and something of the larger ‘T’ transcendent Truth we must never get rid of, anymore than we would dispose of our compass in a wilderness. However, the ideal history is one that aligns itself more or most closely with facts as they were (not as they can be manu[fact]ured), truth as it can best be discerned in its lowercase variant. This was not something as open to revision in the way it seems to be now, for better or for worse. There are the times I still hope not to lose sight of what I had pursued for so many years, as a philosophy major under the tutelage of a wry-humored Platonist, when I was a philosophy student in university. Yes, I held the belief that I was pursuing the Truth; and even if that were foolhardy for many of my former friends from among the Catholic proletariat I grew up with, it was still a steadfast creed among those I counted as friends and mentors in the university. It seems just as foolhardy for too many of those who count themselves among the educated class of Americans, any one educated in the university over the last twenty-five to thirty-five years has a radically different understanding of what we call now Truth and what we understood the Truth to be. Doubt today has become the highest wisdom, and that is not a doubt that we begin with, a Socratic doubt at the onset of our epistemology, but an end in itself an ending of all epistemological inquiry. We have become very religious about our knowledge; atheistically religious in as much as we have concluded once and for all that Truth does not exist. The only thing, though, we are left with in this anti-metaphyscal metaphysics of culture is The Will to Power.
This belief of mine notwithstanding the current critiques of Truth or minor ‘t’ truths–for want of a better understanding of today’s critique of knowledge (the latter which sounds off more in tune with received ideas and new dogmas by the new intellectual hegemony than any sound basis for reforms in thinking) what is has been will be history and more importantly acceptable historiography is of paramount importance to how we understand our role in the politics and economics of today . . . fee, fie, fictio, historum. We have no giant killers. Those who do not remember history, are condemned to relive it, or so I recall in paraphrase of an inscription from George Santayana in Will Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Of course, in that book, history was still the objective discourse on the facts of the past as they were verified through a methodology that considered the quality of the sources, the validity of them, how even they were collected, complete with follow-up critiques of the conclusions, not something we are entirely without today. Objective was not as laughable as it seems today by those who imagine their critical acumen leaves them able to dispose of critical terms they misunderstand–often, dis-understand. There was a distinction drawn between the kind of history Herodotus had written and the one that Thucydides did afterward, although we did take too closely Thucydides’s assertions concerning all the supposed historiography before him as being of a lesser class of historical writing. There was something of even greater validity in the subjective (???) history Caesar had written in his Civil Wars, the latter falling under the rubric one history professor of mine called memoir, in spite of the diction chosen and rhetoric of objectivity employed. The rhetoric of objectivity not in itself the thing it purports to be. Witness to history, as we liked to say, was part of what qualified a person in antiquity to write a history of anything. Narrator as participator went a long way in validating the truth value of the inquiry, or the conclusions or the perceptions presented in the history.
The word ‘fiction,’ once again, comes from the Latin fictio, which means a thing made, fashioned, invented, as sometimes it referred to “invented statements,” once more, those that were false and known to be false. The artful liar was engaging in fiction. I often said back when I was an undergraduate, that if most people were in touch with their bullshit, how much they bullshit themselves and others, and just put it down on paper, they’d be fiction writers, and perhaps more of them good ones than bad ones. So then, in this sense of fashioning, making, inventing, everything told is fiction, even history, as asserted above. Just how much of memory is fiction, though, I am not herein going to discuss, but the gaps in memory are always filled in by the one recollecting–even a passive remembering has this filling in part of what takes place when remembering happens. how is it we fill them in, or with what we fill them in is the invention. The way a history gets told is a choice, this choosing is fashioning–all matters of style are matters of fashion in its broader sense as it also applies in its restricted sense. But then facts are themselves made in the sense that they have a context within which they function as facts; we do recall that the Earth is flat was once a fact for a great many people; the Earth is the center of the solar system was a fact for many centuries. I mean, nothing is told that is not first made. Again, the idea that history and story are linked is evident in the one word for both designations in the romance languages and the mother of them, Latin. The francophone world, though, for want of more acute focus, does not confuse what we fear is confusing, as I alluded to above. The single word demands more articulation; the divergence of the different words does not always insist on articulating their distinctions, even though everyone understands at one time or another that there are links or similarities between history and story.
Nonetheless, every story is a history of a kind, and every history is certainly a story of what was, at least what purportedly was; this latter distinction bringing us closer to what Herodotus had intended by his Histories and Herodotus brought many disciplines under the rubric of history. But then any method adapted to his inquiry he embraced. It is not the design of this essay to venture into what Herodotus’s methods of history writing were or are for us, not even in passing; but let it suffice to say that Herodotus was a masterful storyteller, and today he is more highly valued as an historian than he was in my days in college, just for bringing many stories into the mix. Historiography must be a mixture of styles, of forms, of methods, no? Thus many voices are brought to the page, which is good, but which also meets the demands of diversity’s dogmas as much as earlier histories met the dogmas of their ages.
What is history, though, is not the same question as what is historiography. Herodotus engaged in what he and the Greeks after him called Istoria. As aforementioned, Istoria was an investigation and what comes to be called history is the report on this investigation. To say “historical investigation” is thus a redundancy. In Herodotus we hear and thus see how others understood the past he speaks of, how they chose to tell their story, or how Herodotus chose to tell how others chose to tell their story, how they understood what history was. But when we discuss historiography, we are discussing the writing of history and any discussion of writing must address writing as form, writing as style writing as rhetoric, rhetoric as suited to its purpose or not, rhetoric as something the author has a handle on or not, rhetoric as either effectively presented or not. Writing, even historical writing, that is, historiography, can be judged according to aesthetic standards, as all writing can be.
We do the same as Herodotus today as well when we look for anecdotal evidence, when we look for the story of the simple separate person from among the many who lived. This of course fits our dogmas of individualism and exceptionalism, but then this is what marks American historiography from others. The history of art, the history of automotive sales in America, the history of the samurai, the history of science, the history of sailing, et cetera are nothing without the individual’s story, perception, observations, or opinions. When we speak about history in a multidisciplinary way, which to me was always what history was, even when history was supposed to be about revealing some quota of truth, or be aimed at Truth–and I do understand the inferences herein from using the word ‘quota,’ as well from referring to truth or Truth. What are we saying, though?
Is history one of the Humanities or is it a Social Science–and in my time, history was in the School of Social Sciences, and this spoke to a methodological distinction from history as a humanity in the School of Humanities. Focuses shift; of course they do. The dominant or most frequently employed methodology will also change, as will persist many examples of multi-methodological texts. This essay does not pretend to resolve these issues within the discipline of history or within or between any two of the sub-disciplinary approaches to historiography. These are endless? We could have history that is social science and history that is a branch of the humanities, no? They could not co exist in one department? I’m not sure why not. I do understand that History as a discipline in the university could benefit from a study of historiography in the way historiography gets analyzed in Literature Departments, although this is usually reserved for histories that have been assessed as possessing great literary value or appreciation. (There is such a thing in writing called the literary, and this cannot be made popular or democratized the way we imagine in our city or state colleges, the way we misunderstand in our public schools or any school or program that defers to the mandates of the state. Literary excellence is what it is: the literary in itself means excellence in letters, the kind of writing that is adjunct to a reading that is other than, more than, and beyond mere alphabetics. It is the kind of writing that demands a kind of reading that is in itself an exercise in literacy that increases literacy, makes literacy stronger, with more vitality.)
To tell or not to tell, that is the question in every culture, and in cultures that write, what is it that gets committed to paper determines what history gets remembered; we are not an oral culture, no matter how much we believe and fear that literacy is waning, or how much stock we put into the idea that ours is a culture transforming into an oral one. Every supposed oral forum is determined by literacy, by writing. But then this is the horror one gets from appraising the current state of literacy in America; we are still a literate culture, not an oral one. Very few of us even know what we are referring to let alone what we are trying to say when we speak in platitudes about our culture becoming an oral one. The differences and/or similarities between orality and literacy is non-existent in the understanding of most university educated anywhere, even in the United States.
Of course, in what we used to call a democratic forum, all ideas, thus in parallel, all stories competing for acceptance must have no censor. This of course is not exactly adhered to by the most ardently politically correct in our publishing establishment, certainly not in our universities, themselves having succumbed to the demands of the ledger book and the marketplace; the idea that we have multicultural slots to fill in our publishing is merely a way of increasing profits by subdividing the market, a basic tenet of microeconomics, learned by every undergraduate who takes Micro and Macro Economics as either a prerequisite or as an elective. However, even where all ideas competing for acceptance, there must still be competition, which means some form of discerning, which in turn means some form of discrimination, which does not mean blindly to prejudge. Historiography has succumbed to a crisis in epistemology whereby attaining knowledge has become impossible. This leaves historiography opened to a methodology that employs the narratology of the fiction writer, which, in an abrupt turn around, must never be entirely absent from even the most objective of history.
To prejudge blindly is not to be discriminating, which is what is so heinous about things like racism and sexism; there is often little to no discriminating involved. I discriminate between fresh and sour milk, very good and cheap wine, well made products and poorly made ones. If the wine is “corked,” or the wine is fine; I discriminate. But what we mean mostly about all ideas must have no censor is that we must not discriminate and thus must accept all ideas as possessing some validity. As children, we want what we think to matter to everyone we speak to independent of whether or not our thoughts are worthy of respect, and yes, respecting a man or a woman enough to listen to them is not the same thing as respecting and accepting what they say. We must have open forums of disagreement, and opinions must have quality otherwise we are in a situation where they only have quantity which leaves us open to an ethics numerically determined, which in turn only respects the rights of the current majority. This of course is similar to, but not identical with, learned consensus. And yes, there are intellectual elites, at least there used to be in our academies of higher learning. The church and the monastery have just about fallen below the horizon of history in determining the metaphysical energies and driving forces of the university system in the west; universities have become virtually fully bourgeois, and by this have fallen under the auspices of the ledger book. In publishing today, moreover, what gets published is as dogmatically colorful as it used to be white and male only; it seems we only ever flip the coin, which leads me to be cynical in face of others believing that history is progressive. But this also results in having to maintain this dogma. The fore mentioned coin-flip is, of course, a social corrective, yet aren’t laxatives also called correctives?
Social laxatives or laxities notwithstanding, narrative must be made, it is made, it is at the end of a creative process, or so we have come to say without actually knowing what we mean. A narratology of recounting the day–or should I restrict my diction to ‘retelling’ the day–would reveal the creative process, as it uncover what we mean by inventiveness. Diction is the choice and use of words in writing as well as speech. This choosing words is part of the fashioning, the making of any story. There is always present a wrighter in every writer, every teller of a tale. This wright has the same sense as used to be present in the word, playwright, one who builds a play, one who constructs, who makes . . . the thing made, again; a wheelwright makes wheels. Humans when they were called Man used to be the tool making animal; chimps chewing leaves to soak up water from knots in branches, or stripping branches and licking them to put into the holes of termite mounds exploded this and turned anthropology on its head. Humanology has struggled to recover in the last three decades since.
The past I have spoken of here was no golden age; it would be contrary to my ideas about adhering to a sense of Truth or would be indicative of an inability to be objective in weighing facts, in presenting the past, which is what history should do, present the facts as objectively as possible, restricting the sense of fact to some verifiable evidence of a true occurrence. History presents the past, I know, and in this, it is representation, which is what Shakespeare’s King Lear does, represent, each performance a multiplication of the representation. We are not here going to venture a discussion of truth on the stage, truth in acting, verisimilitude in theater. What was, becomes another form of is. Is all presentation a matter of re-presentation, thus a matter of delivering fiction? We could say yes and remain confident in our objectivity.
Implications and inferences seem beyond us in our culture of ignorance–ah! here comes the diatribe I have been sensing all along, one might say; I will not ascent to ‘could.’ Things do though have to be spelled out for us. We have succumbed to a mountain of critique of our civilization: thinking is not something we believe can be taught or should be taught or needs to be taught because somewhere we imagine that thinking is what we are capable of by nature. But thinking is not randomly passing images in the mind, or becoming thrilled by our own brilliance because we have divined meaning without verification. Verification itself is mistrusted; the ability to verify has successfully been undermined–and we wonder why we have the media we have, the power structure we have, the politicians to we get to vote for, almost believing that what is, is right; the Status Quo as it is is forever.
Nonetheless, nevertheless, moreover, however, although, but, so and yet . . . narrative is a thing made, and History is narrative, for the most part, at least traditional histories have employed this method of presentation; history is, yes, a thing made, this fashioning and making being the core of what we call fiction, and in as much as all the fore mentioned references to the Latin fictio point to this thing made, history is a kind of fiction. All stories also include some narrative, at least the kind we have in conventional fiction. But then we do say narrative fiction as opposed to non-narrative fiction; the latter being the kind of short stories that have more in common with prose-poems, or other lyric expressions, as we sometimes find in the fiction of Virginia Woolf, to provide at least one representative example of such writing and certainly not the only. Yes, there is lyric fiction.
Lyric, narrative and drama are clearly distinct forms of expression, those distinctions are not going to be drawn; nor am I going to discuss exposition, expository writing, the likes we find in the essay form, a genre of literature I will only pass over in the ensuing discussion. The separate names of these forms of expression, principally writing, might imply inclusion in clearly drawn categories. These forms of expression are not mutual in their categorical forms, but may be mutually employed by the expression chosen; narrative fiction as opposed to narrative non-fiction, let us say. There is of course narrative fiction and narrative non-fiction, and the traditional notion of history resides in the latter, narrative non-fiction. Is there lyric history? This is another essay.
Narrative, however, is simply the product of narration; the act of narrating makes the narrative. This act, of course, is the subject of all narratology, whether it is the Odyssey, Moll Flanders, The Great Gatsby, Caesar’s The Civil Wars, or Gibbon’s The Rise and fall of the Roman Empire. We only have to reflect on our telling to know that narrating anything involves choices, many of them creative, others biased, still others perhaps short-sighted, others yet limited by available documents. Certainly rhetorical choices are involved, thus making the telling of any story not only a reflection of the teller’s style, the teller’s idiolectal variations on his native or non-native sociolect, his speech community’s negotiated and negotiable discourse, but is reflective of his creative ablity, his makerly relationship with his text. It also reveals his politics. All history writing is inevitably political and politicizing. I am taking my notions of politicalizing, of politicized discourse, or discourse in the act of politicizing (not the same things) from Aristotle–anything anyone does is by design or in effect political. Human beings are political animals; we are also storytelling ones.
Since all history writers are in effect makers of their texts, and all makers are poets, as is predicated by the Greek poeta, that is, maker, all historiography has its poetics. Now not every one can tell a story well, or even tell what has happened adequately, this we seem to know without having to say it. Bearing witness without prejudice; but what about the prejudices of memory, the prejudices of our culturally received ideas, its accepted dogmas? And any institution of state, or of religion, or of finance, as well as any State has its dogmas–your family has its dogmas, too; but then, the family is an institution. Now most people rarely pay attention to the difference between the expository and the narrative, let alone possess the good sense when to use either. I am not so certain that everyone needs to be able to do so; however, I am fast realizing that even among many of our educated elite (and successful completion of a graduate school program makes one a part of an educated elite, or at least it should; yet perhaps not the master’s anymore, but let us leave that alone for now), a distinction between the two forms of expression is absent. Even a rudimentary understanding of the two as categories of writing would go a long way in helping to manage one’s critique of history, historia, historum, fee, fie, fictio and all that.
Nonetheless, one still makes a text when he or she says anything about some event, some experience, some occurrence. The competence to tell a story well, of course, goes beyond mere grammatical competence, at least how we limit our understanding of the term grammatical. But there is some truth in the maxim, teaching grammar will not make a person a better writer. This of course points to a number of seemingly divergent things, but one is essential, and that is that no matter how a story is told, it is creative in the aforementioned ways someone is creative when telling any story, even a story about what happened at work or the token booth in the subway, The story-teller should know the differences between narrative and exposition, although this knowledge in itself will not a story-teller make.
Fee, fie, fictio, historum . . . all of us are storytellers, telling stories true and stories made up, stories in one form or another all of them sharing the makerliness of the text, whether that be oral or that be written, we grind the bones of memory to make our bread.
Eight: Gay Marriage
The issue of Gay Marriage is not simply a social issue; it is not merely a legal one either, nor is it a complex of both, but more. Gay Marriage is a Human Rights issue; therefore, it is a philosophical issue that demands closer observation and deeper analysis. Gay Marriage does stand at the forefront of what we say about ourselves with relation to a person and his or her personhood. Personhood is more than simply one’s personality. Our socio-political philosophy is fixed, adequately or not, on a philosophy of individualism or simply an honoring of individuality, the like terms not nearly the same.
The issue of Gay Marriage brings to bear in our discussions or our debates whether or not a political philosophy of individualism is viable, or if our way of defining individuality, or explaining it, has very much to say on the issue of basic human rights. Any discussion of Gay Marriage will have to address basic human rights, and how these rights are unalienable and universal, and how laws made to oppose them do not void these fundamental human rights. Basic human rights persist in face of legal opposition or social repression of these rights. Our discussions herein will also be part of a grander metaphysical discussion concerning the universality of human rights, something we better readjust ourselves for articulating because without dexterity in metaphysical explication of our human rights, all political philosophy, even empirically based, but most specifically the epistemology of human rights ( and there is a philosophy of knowledge and knowing, an inquiry that examines the limits of what is knowable about human rights, for it is not solely an ethical question) will be weakly supported, if at all.
Human rights cannot be restricted to political philosophy alone. They must be discussed and defined metaphysically so they can keep their unilateral valence socially for all people irrespective of gender or gender identification, irrespective of sexuality or sexual preference, irrespective of economic class, race, faith, ethnicity, level of education, et cetera. The idea of universal human rights can only maintain their social and political relevance for us now and in the future with respect for human rights and civil rights over extended periods of time if we are able to endure the rhetorical battles that must be fought, and yes, this is warfare of a kind. If we are to avoid becoming topical and situational about our support of human rights, we must articulate with rhetorical force and power their universality. This must be defended adequately so laws can be enacted that support their universality.
Gay Marriage demands a re-look at, as well as a re-examniation of, the institution of marriage, and that is not so much marriage today, although it does insist we do so; but marriage as it has been enacted in societies, more specifically the United States, or generally in the English speaking world. This will become clearer when we discuss how language–i.e, diction–affects mentality. Mentality, we must understand, is how a people and/or a culture thinks, thus the milieu within which individual psychologies are formed. Marriage–as it has been discussed by persons in various cultures, codified by laws and/or customs, ritualized in religious practices and understood by how a people anywhere define it, giving it specified and special choices in the words used–must be opened to this investigation, and this essay will attempt this fore mentioned re-definition of “Marriage,” at least with respect for and cognizance of how it has been articulated socially in English speaking countries over the past millennia or more, particularly with respect for how our language has articulated marriage. The lines need to be redrawn, not simply erased. An examination of diction concerning the institution will be helpful in understanding how mentality concerning marriage and gay marriage has been inherited from an archaic way of phrasing what marriage is and who are the players on the social stage of marriage.
Gay Marriage is an issue not for any reason intrinsic to the assertions of gay couples wanting to join in a union we have called marriage, at least openly and with sanction of law; or their desire to be included in the institution we call marriage when they so desire; but because our lack of understanding of the historical place of marriage coupled with a complete unawareness of just what we are saying when we use the diction of marriage and marrying. These confusions lead us into untenable positions in our arguments for and against Gay Marriage, which only compounds the confusion about what we are trying to say. Thus, the re-defining of marriage is paramount to furthering our American understanding of where Gay Marriage fits in the social equation of couple-unions today–and it does fit, that is, more easily than many of us on either side of this pro/con issue are likely to understand or admit.
Opinions are opinions, and facts are facts, but intelligent, rational thinking is other than tautological. The protection of everyone’s basic human rights is of supreme importance in the course of all human events, and the civil rights of homosexual couples demands that we articulate just what we mean when we say that Gay Marriage is marriage, or that Gay Marriage is marriage redefined or even when some of us say that Gay Marriage is an abomination of Marriage, the latter I have never been quite certain is as holy or sanctified as many conservative opponents to Gay Marriage suggest. I mean, if marriage as a ritual contract can be sanctified, I am not sure why it cannot also be sanctified by gay couples? Unless this is the polemical position many opponents have opted for; that is, gay men and gay women cannot be holy, they cannot enter into sanctified unions, they themselves are contrary to all things sacred, and they are therefore for-always restricted to the profane. But then if all of this is true, why are the secular avenues to gay marriage closed? I mean, I would understand better if traditional religions stood opposed to Gay Marriage and did not want to sanctify the unions based on this anathema position; but, I am puzzled by the secular avenues being shut. There is no valid reference to any religious text in shutting the doors to gay couples when it comes to marriage or marrying in one or another conventional ways. We do not shut the door to secular marriage when a couple might be professed atheists. Belief in one or another interpretation of God or gods is not a pre-requisite to marrying, nor should the presumption of man and woman uniting to legitimize their children be the sole reference for what a marriage is or should be. I do stop at a living person wanting to marry a dead person, a child, or a goat–but facetious responses aside, let us continue.
Our move toward a redefinition of marriage that would include gay marriage is not an impulse born of the desire to undermine the significance of the institution, nor would it in actuality shatter the institutional valency marriage has held for millennia. Marriage retains valency for heterosexual couples even if homosexual couples are granted legal access to marriage. In the gross and perhaps erroneous assumptions many have made for the institution of Marriage, Gay Marriage does not quite offend as it has been purported to do.
Let us now look more closely. It has been apparent to me for a long time that traditional marriage itself for a long time coming has needed a re-articulation. This re-definition has been necessary because the institution of marriage has been stuck in an archaic understanding of men and women, and has suffered the subtractive legacies of patriarchy, and the power plays politically that men have enacted over time to control women, most specifically, their bodies, their sexuality, which extends to the reproductive rights of women as well. Gay couples today suffer the legacy of this as well when lawful marriage is closed to them. Marriage, thus, has had more to do with how men can control women’s bodies than it has had to do with love, unless we are going to redefine marriage as love, which, then, if successful, will have less to do with excluding Gay Couples.
Witch trials have often been an extension of this control, even when they have been coupled with or gathered among other impulses and drives quite distinct from socio-political control and repression. All midwives would manage induced miscarriages and thus left themselves opened to the accusation of witchcraft, even if induced miscarriage could always be made to look like accidental miscarriage, and thus be a boon for a man who did not want to have another mouth to feed. The presumption is that men understood exactly what was happening, but all social masquerades mirror the masks we wear by nature in the form of personality or variegation of personality, and an extension of everyone’s many-selves Self. Women, though, have not been the only ones to suffer witch trials, the the perils of them.
The issue of Gay Marriage and the issue of a woman’s right to choose are both part of a larger human rights issue. I do not believe we need to stress this further; it is another of those truths I hold to be self-evident. However, I do defer to reason and will continue to articulate the argument, if that is what it remains for our society.
Now, a revision of what marriage was, what the expectations were, and how it fit into the mentality of ages past, was necessary centuries ago, and had even been broached by Mary Wollestencraft in her seminal treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. It was (is) in the later treatise that Ms. Wollestencraft sought to “effect a revolution in female manners . . . and make them as a part of the human species,” for woman had been considered in her time, and for centuries prior, as a sub-species of man, a thing of modified personhood, someone sent into the world, “half made up,’ if you will.
And perhaps we can better understand the associations of woman and her make-up if we pay closer attention to the ways women have been expected to present themselves socially or in the bed room; and the ways men have rhetorically carved her up. How men through hegemony have managed, defined, manipulated and controlled women, economically, socially, politically, does have everything to do with woman’s struggles for equal protection under the law, which would guarantee a protection and support of her unalienable full sovereignty of Self
The simplistic ways we have understood the primitive frame of marriage over the centuries has affected how we think of it today; how could it not. The way we have thought about many things over the last millennium that persist in our discourse affects how we think about them today. Just what the implications were for women in marriage when framed by the language of the past has left its imprint on how segments of our society define marriage today, and even residually refer to women in that institution. It certainly affects how we argue against gay marriage, and it has even left its mark on how supporters of gay mariage confound their own defense. We actually hear gay men using the term husband and lesbians using the term, wife. This just might have to change after reading this.
Words never lose their original potency, and the effects of language use are not restricted by contemporary connotations of words. More on the etymologies of the words used in the marriage ceremony, or how people talk of marriage, refer to the persons in a marriage, upcoming; but allow me to reiterate that the current absence of any astute, rational and intelligent re-imagining of marriage and the language of the ceremony and the contract—and the ritual procedures and observances at grand or formal occasions are not in themselves the written and/or spoken agreement that follows the license to marry. Moreover, how marriage is still affected by an archaic world view that was useful to reinforce patriarchy and the continued repression of women, has impeded social progress toward how Gay Marriage could be accepted and thereby permitted; that is, without any attempts through courts or legislation to impede this acceptance. Gay Marriage is inevitably bound up with Women’s Rights issues, as I have already said. Thus it is bound up with Human Rights issues as well, thus it is part of any discussion concerning the right to choose, which is the rights of self-determination, which is also the unalienable human right of sole proprietorship over body, which extends to a woman’s right to choose an abortion, as it also does to a gay man when he chooses who he loves or even just fucks; all this true for lesbians in their choices.
Perhaps Gay Marriage does not make sense to many people because they still imagine, by some collective unconscious framing, that marriage is primarily man shackling woman; that is, marriage remains a social contract between men and women whereby women give up certain rights over their bodies for the privilege (understand this in its traditional meaning) of “being taken care of” materially and monetarily, which is why both the Romantics and the Modernists later equated marriage with a form of prostitution.
Regardless of how much this thinking has changed, regardless of how we have modified or qualified our roles in marriage, much of the traditional views and expectations remain residual. Of course we have evidence to the contrary in our contemporaneity for this view, which is just the point I am making. We have already been in the process of revising our thoughts on marriage, tailoring our actions accordingly; however, we still remain confused when asked to define and articulate what we mean by the institution of marriage, and this has left us unprepared to deal with the issue of Gay Marriage. But then most of what we need to say, need to articulate, to define, in the matter and manner of our freedom, escapes too many of us, and I am talking about the educated who should be able to do so, at least those who need to support the idea that we should do so.
Now, the lack of any articulate examination of the history of marriage may run parallel with our continued absence of a healthy historical consciousness concerning everything that happens in our lives, but the way marriage has been maintained over time—that is, culturally, interpersonally, customarily and legally— has forestalled how Gay Marriage could be–should be–included in our definition of marriage today, one apart from contractual agreements on the part of woman to be a breeder. This absent consciousness of our traditions and our language has prevented us from seeing how Gay Marriage as a variegation of the accepted norm could even liberate marriage as a social institution for everyone, particularly in how the role of women could be altered from the one framed by the narrow parameters of traditional marriage, itself informed by agrarian animal husbandry. Marriage is bound to change more positively for women.
The acceptance of Gay Marriage will change how the traditional role of woman in marriage has been and continues to be defined against her personhood. Nothing as archaically constituted as traditional marriage should have endured for as long as it has without addressing the way marriage has been understood by our culture and in our language; or how it has been presented through one or another channel in our media. How the rhetoric of marriage had been articulated over the centuries has not much changed throughout those centuries—and I am focussing specifically on the English language, particularly how the etymology of the diction used in contemporary ceremonies (as well as in common parlance irrespective of social or economic class or one’s politics) has informed the rhetoric used to defend the status quo of marriage. This diction has been woven into the laws used to support the customs of marriage, and has shaped the opinions that the successive mainstreams of our society have held and have used to express their concerns about marriage that inform what we say currently. Let us now delineate the issue.
There are only two main points herein to understand: the one, marriage is a contractual and/or ritual union in love between two adult humans; or the other, that is the traditional one, and this is that marriage is a cover by law for the rights of animal husbandry. The former is a move toward greater civilization, the latter, a move toward darkness and an archaic way of conceiving human rights. And we must not miss the point that this is a human rights issue; just as we must not miss the diction of marriage, whereby a husband, as in husband and wife, is exactly the husband as in animal husbandry, the science of animal breeding. The husband is the manager of the breeder’s brood. Human marriage, as I have already said, must be taken out of the concerns for and management of animal husbandry if we are to extend the idea of marriage to include all adult humans wanting to enter the contract; just as it must be removed from any considerations formed by or in deference to any fundamentalist views on God and what God wants. The Constitution of the United States does not defer to Fundamentalist Christian Lunatics, nor should we allow anyone to even imagine that Sharia Law is above the Constitution.
I am approaching the idea of Gay Marriage from more than the position of civil rights, which is how it wound up in the Supreme Court, which is a very good thing to have had happen. We must understand, though, that it is not the Court that gives Gay Couples the right to marry. It is not even the law that can do that. Human Rights precede the law, and Gay Marriage is a Human Right, the Human Right to choose. Yes, again, we are talking here about Human Rights (as in other essays of mine wherein the idea of universal Human Rights must be capitalized to signify its capital place in our hearts and minds). When talking about Gay Marriage, I take this to be self-evident and not a point for debate. If it is understood that we are addressing basic Human Rights when we discuss the issue of Gay Marriage, perhaps the opposition could not be as vehement, perhaps we might make better sense in its defense.
Moreover, where Human Rights are concerned, the law can uphold a right, the law can protect rights from abuse, the law can even get behind them and ensure that they are maintained in a manner that impedes future violation—and this is where the Court comes in—; but a basic Human Right is an unalienable right, and the denial of legitimacy by standing laws does not eliminate the right. The Human Rights of a slave exist and persist irrespective of the slavery. Slavery certainly disrespects and, more so, violates the Human Rights of the slave; but the slave has Human Rights in spite of the violation. The Human Rights of Gay couples exist irrespective of what the law says. This is where Gay Marriage resides–universal, absolute and transcendent Human Rights. Yes, let us proclaim liberty throughout the land for gay couples, that gay couples have unalienable Human Rights irrespective of the laws that support or impede social progress toward accepting Gay Marriage as a variegation of marriage. And it is marriage in variegation, not something outside the category of marriage.
Addressing Gay Marriage as a civil rights issue is a necessary adjunct to addressing Gay Marriage as a feminist issue, which it is, and not because lesbians are women. Gay Marriage is a feminist issue, as I have stated earlier, in as much as Gay Marriage will forever change how partners in the marriage contract are looked at, talked about, referred to; all of these apart from and forever distinct from how tradition has engaged these roles and used the terms to name them. Addressing the civil rights of homosexual couples is correlative to addressing Gay Marriage as a Human Right’s issue, so the Supreme Court was correct in addressing this case now as it has. I cannot stress this enough, though, about the Human Rights of gay couples being bound up in the legal sanctioning of Gay Marriage. We have been confused about this by believing that Gay Couples need the law to give them their rights. They need the law not to interfere with rights they already have.
We do not, in a democracy, want to live in a society that in any way resembles or mirrors a Muslim Theocracy–there is only backwardness and darkness in that and I am not even inclined to apologize for saying so. I cannot imagine any rational, intelligent, educated, historically aware, textually conversant person thinking otherwise. No one can understand that Muslim Sharia Law does anything but support and encourage misogyny and homophobia, up to and including verbal harassment and physical violence for both women, straight and gay, and gay men. One need only examine Muslim societies around the world and their laws, their jurisprudence, the retributive and corporal nature of their punishment for women who do not submit to the status of virtual chattel and homosexuals who only express a nature that is not pathological, the latter also up to the point where the parents of homosexuals are punished with imprisonment for up to ten years when they do not out their own children. (And we, in the name of a misguided sense of diversity, think we can live side by side with the backward metaphysics of Islam.)
The interesting thing about the Supreme Court decision, though, is that it declared that any State’s attempt to block civil marriage of gay couples is unConstitutional. This shifts the focus of Gay Marriage from a Human Rights issue, universal, absolute and transcendent, to a legal matter, one where civil rights are specifically if not solely addressed, and not necessarily in conjunction with a discussion of Human Rights. This shift in focus does not eliminate–or should not be allowed to eliminate–from our view, just how much we need to keep our eye on Gay Marriage as an issue fully lodged in the fight for universal Human Rights. To say I agree with any legal decision that ends with the Constitutionality of Gay Marriage sounds silly to rational and intelligent ears, but it might not seem superfluous in the debate when we understand that sometimes in a democracy, power is numerical. I add my voice to the sum of voice, an extension of adding light to the sum of light. This then must be understood as the Court’s precedence against Sharia Law.
If marriage is a bond between two people who love each other–and we have come to say this about marriage, sometimes obliquely–then how is it that gay marriage offends anyone. It should not be offensive in the least, unless we are saying that gay men and lesbians cannot love each other. I do not know if anyone, even many opponents, would want to, or need to, argue this nearly un-winnable position. Why would anyone say that gay couples are not in-love, if homosexuality is no longer considered a mental illness, mental illness still a criterium that prevents marriage today? Of course, there are still those who imagine they are being kind or progressive by opposing Gay choices in lifestyle as indicative of mental illness, but I am not here to address the profoundly ignorant.
Okay then, if gay men and lesbians are not mental defectives, then their sexuality should not be raised as a point in asserting they cannot love. If they can and do love another gay person, and this love is reciprocated, then gay couples can create a union of love, a relationship nurtured and fostered by love, a relationship that grows in love, a relationship that receives all the benefits and extensions of a loving union.
I am not joking when I say that I am sure there are people who consider homosexuality a mental illness–we are a country of three hundred million people; the world is a world of seven and half billion. But I am addressing sane, intelligent and rational people, not the lunatic fringe of American society–and those I am calling lunatics are not lunatics because they disagree with me, but because they disagree with intelligence, rationality, sobriety, facts, science, education, and anything anyone could call enlightenment. I am also sure there are those who consider homosexuality a moral illness, and I am not talking about fanatics or zealots in the cause of a fundamentalist Conservative hegemony, as scary as that sounds to me. I am sure there are still people who think homosexuality is a sin. Sin or not; moral disease or psychological malady or not–being gay is a variegation of human.
I have known many heterosexual couples, though, who were fruitful when they attempted to multiply, but did not love each other, and should not have gotten married, and were even ill-suited as parents. Heterosexuality does not have a monopoly on love, caring, compassion, adequacy in parenting, and so on in the manner in which we do parent in this society. Fifty per cent of heterosexual marriages end in divorce; what does that say about heterosexual unions? I do not know anyone who would argue that a heterosexual couple is ill suited to be maried since heterosexual couples have a 50% chance of winding up divorced. There are a number of reductio-ad-absurdum arguments the opposition of Gay Marriage has not and probably cannot address intelligently.
If love is a pan-human condition, then it is a condition that lesbians and gay men can enjoy or falter within. Unless we are saying that homosexuality is an inhuman condition? I am not certain that any opponent wants to venture into this position, although it would be interesting to hear, allowing the contemptibility of the opinion to air and not fester sub-socially. But the objections to gay marriage, I have suspected, are other than this. The objections many raise against gay marriage as not being legitimate marriage are founded on one unspoken premise, and that is that gay men and lesbians, within their sexual practices, cannot be breeders; and we must come face to face with how traditional marriage has coalesced and initially accreted around the gravitational center of husbandry, that is breeding rights, contractual and codified as such. What this points to for us is that what we call conventional marriage has been held captive by not only the traditions and contractual agreements surrounding human breeding for too long, but the residually effective diction from these arrangements made in marriage.
Heterosexual marriage needs liberating as much as gay marriage does. Homosexual unions in and of themselves do not produce children, and as such, do not qualify as rightful marriage in the mind of many objectors, the unspoken reflexes of mind we call the formative mentality of a culture over a prolonged period of time. Neither does a heterosexual union, though, produce in this way when one or both of the spouses are sterile. Furthering the assumption on my part that traditional marriage is firstly and latly about breeding is the fact that being unable to produce children is grounds for the other spouse to petition for divorce. Society recognizes as grounds for divorce the inability to produce a child. It is then safe to assume that most objections to gay marriage are a reaction, mostly unconsciously, perhaps even collectively-unconsciously, to a non-productive union.
For our society to remain consistent in this way, we would have to have enforced divorce for couples who cannot have children, and for couples who decide not to have children too, perhaps; that is, if we are going to continue to say that Gay Marriage is not marriage in the traditional sense. Do we want to annul marriages that cannot produce children–some still do in the course of finding out that one of the couple cannot help produce a child. Perhaps if one of a couple still wants a divorce under such circumstances it can become the choice in a personal argument of expectation and not a de facto decision based on marriage being primarily about breeding which most people do not even believe anymore. Is this what we want to do, walk backward into darkness and ignorance?
If it is no longer de facto that marriage entails the expectation of having children, and if one decides to divorce for the inability of the union to produce a child, then the decision for divorce must be made on the grounds of personal expectation, since the contract was between the two under consideration and not all marriages as in effect or de facto every marriage was. If this is the case, then marriage is no longer about breeding and is now about love? It may or may not be about love–it could be for economic solvency too. But breeding is no longer the prime or overriding reason for marriage, thus there is no sensible reason for gay men or lesbians to be excluded.
We are not herein discussing adoption, which is always the religious answer for a heterosexual couple that cannot have children. Adoption, though, is not breeding; and still, if one examines adoption practices we see that to breed is still a big part of marriage. But then this is just what gay unions address. Marriage is no longer ruled by the processes involved in insemination (unless we want to address the ways insemination in surrogacy could be used by homosexual couples); marriage is now and forever only about love or the choice to join in a ritual contract binding two sane adults–let us not forget that homosexuality is no longer a mental illness (and do I really have to tell you that my tongue is firmly in my cheek?).
What Gay Marrige does, as I have iterated above, is free marriage from the shackles of breeding and breeding rights and the legitimizing of the brood. A woman is not adjunct to a husband’s pigs, cows or goats. Remember that a brood mare is a female horse that is set aside for breeding. Traditional marriage sets aside women for breeding. Gay men and lesbians cannot be set aside for breeding–unless there is some form of surrogacy, which we still seem to have problems with, irrespective of there being surrogacy in the Old Testament. I suspect that this is an aspect of the Old Testament that even some fundamentalist Christians cannot abide? Or they are then horribly inconsistent. Perhaps their ethics belong in a cafeteria and not their churches.
In traditional marriage, throughout all the English speaking world, a woman becomes a wife; a man, a husband. In English, these titles, if you will, reveal something intrinsic in the traditional mentality concerning marriage. ‘Wife’ comes from the Anglo-saxon word for female, not woman or spouse. In this context, female is equal to breeder, as the female of any mammalian species is the breeder of her brood. The distinction of female in any species is a sexual one, and that is without any of the neutral connotations we assert in our identifications with gender. Gender is a grammatical term and one of sociological reference when talking about women and men.
Male and female are the two sexes of any species, distinct for their roles in breeding, primarily. A man becomes a husband in marriage, and in effect becomes the master of the union’s breeding; he is the one that manages the brood of the breeder, the female, or the wife in this instance, the Anglo Saxon wif. The latter is also part of the compound wif man, or, ‘woman.’ Before marriage a woman is a female person (what we mean by ‘person’ is contained in the use of the Old English word ‘man;’ what we mean by ‘man’ was contained by the Old English were as in were-wolf, man-wolf or wolfman; the Old English were having nothing to do with the contemporary English past tense form of the verb ‘be’ ‘were,’ nor is it restricted to use in the former connotation). After marriage, she is only a female. Note the deletion of her personhood. Moreover, as mentioned above, the word ‘husband’ is contained in the origin of the word ‘husbandry,’ the science of animal breeding, which is exactly what traditional marriage reduced woman to, an animal, perhaps a pet, domesticated as were cows, horses and pigs.
You do also know that bride and bridal are related, and bridal is the adjectival form of the noun ‘bride,’ and ‘bridal’ is exactly the word that had been used in puns based on ‘bridle bit,’ what a horseman puts in the mouth of his horse. The husband muzzles the wife in traditional marriage. Now we know that jokes permeate the psyche; common parlance affects mentality, mentality shapes common parlance. For centuries in English speaking societies where horses were used, ridden and bred, bridle bits have been used; and in as much as homophones are often the root of puns, bridle bit gives rise to the puns about marriage, how the bridal bed is a symbolic bridling of the woman, her bridal bed is her bridle bit.
Gay men by their sexual practices cannot produce children, which underlies, as I have said, many objections to Gay Marriage. But then anal intercourse between heterosexual couples does not produce offspring. I do not doubt that many who object to Gay Marriage might also object to heterosexual anal or oral copulation because they violate what they interpret as Biblical proscriptions against sodomy, or because any sexual act that might not result in a child is perhaps demonic or simply degenerate (itself a term used to denote prurience but has its origins in actions that do not generate, and even when used to reference a metaphorical generation, as in art, for instance, that is, what does not generate is degenerate [something the Nazis had an affinity for identifying].The origin of the words used is for something that is progenerating-like, as in producing children who are our progeny).
I am not going to discuss masturbation as it is understood in these minds; masturbation being the greatest metaphor in parallel for the kind of thinking that takes place in these minds . . . I am not going to venture any psycho-analytic diagnosis. Sexuality in itself, let us say, as well as the practices therein, whether hetero- or homo-, is freed by the acceptance of Gay Marriage.
All of these points notwithstanding, we still see attacks on abortion clinics and a savage opposition to the availability and distribution of birth control, both of which run parallel to the sometimes savage and even violent reactions to the idea of Gay Marriage or homosexuality. One conclusion from this could be that sex is not for pleasure in our culture. If we examine our popular culture and its entertainment, we would see clearly that when sex is for pleasure, it must be framed as grotesquely as possible. The proliferation of pornography can tell you just what the collective unconscious of America thinks about sex. And I am not herein trying to proscribe or prescribe for anyone’s bedroom, but what we do in our bedrooms and what we see on the stage of our social interactions, the platforms we perform on as we know this world is a stage, exist in different categories, whether associatively or dissociatively.
If we are opposed to Gay Marriage because it stands outside of traditional marriage’s link with breeding and breeding rights, then we are on shaky ground. Moreover, as I have alluded above, anyone who is infertile must also be excluded from the right to marry, if we are taking the position that gay marriage is not traditional in the sense that gay couples cannot breed. If we allow infertile couples to marry and stay married then perhaps we are moving in the direction toward marriage as a bond of love and not the breeding contract it has been traditionally. This, of course, is not the fist time we have heard that marrige is a bond between two people who love one another. At least idealistically, marriage is this. Cynical attitudes about marriage being a bond in love notwithstanding. If marriage is open to contractual agreements more economic than amorous, then there is even less reason to oppose Gay Marriage.
Until we change the diction of marriage, though, the rhetoric cannot change. If we do not change the rhetorical constructs we use to refer to marriage and persons in a marriage, then the mentality about marriage will not change. If mentality does not change, individual psychologies will continue to be shaped according to an archaic framework. If this is true, though, that marriage is about love and not about breeding, then why is infertility still grounds for divorce? If marriage is exclusively adjunct to homo-sapiens animal husbandry, then gay marriage makes no sense; if marriage is a union between two humans who love one another, then gay marriage reinforces this notion by taking out of the equation of marriage once and for all the conditions of breeding. Heterosexual marriages that do not produce children for whatever reason, by choice or by biology, are as fruitful as those that are fruitful and multiplicative.
Gay marriage is therefore, and I repeat, marriage liberation. It is not only an issue of gay rights but of women’s right, in as much as it removes women from the yoke of traditional marriage or the contractural obligations in husbandry. The issue of Gay Marriage, being a Human Rights issue, in as much as it is an issue of the right to choose, fosters a broader understanding of everyone’s basic Human Rights. As fore mentioned, Gay Marriage liberates heterosexual marriage, and once and for all, as I will repeat again here, removes the definition of marriage from the legacy of breeding, although certainly not parenting, which it will thus redefine, as it has been redefining it for us in our society for the last quarter century. A redefinition of parenting will also bring about a redefinition of the roles of mother and father; it will have an impact on paternity claims, and child care, especially in places like Family Court. Could we be leaving our Puritanical reflexes behind? I would hope so.
I used to think that it was naive of us to expect the mainstream of our society to accept homosexuality coming our of the closet, when heterosexuality had only been out of the closet in our culture for about fifty to sixty years, and poorly received at that by the turns in how popular culture deals with or represents sexuality. You do understand that this is not hyperbole. Sexuality, in our media and popular culture is always in need of being marginalized or of marginalizing itself.
This is changing, but there is still far too many examples of sex and sexuality that point to a collective unconscioous fear of sex and sexuality. This fear in America is repressing our attudes about isues concerning gay marriage, as well as abortion rights. Our notions of personhood are also stunted by this notion of how sex and sexuality is first, fore-mostly and lastly about breeding. Issues concerning the nature of personhood and transgender persons and how they are persons first and last is confused and confounded by this inability on our part socially to deal with sex and sexaulity in a healthy way.
So then, let me then say—no,let me proclaim throughout all the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof—that Gay Marriage is Marriage.
In this way, the truth is tautological.