"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Sep 8, 2012

Not Nothing

Men and women differ, fundamentally.

You can read this assertion from any number of pick up artists, anti-feminists, evolutionary psychologists, traditionalists, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, holybookers, perennialists, conservatives, manarchists, Marxist-Leninists, anti-liberals or misogynist lawyer douchebags who really don't like Jews, homosexuals, "girly men" or the reality that some people identify with government because for the last thirty or so years it's been the wolf which has kept equally nasty wolves more or less at bay.

To be fair, Maoists (despite their many flaws) tend to be amenable to women who make decisions. Kind of.

I don't feel like linking to an example of each, so I'll just refer you generally to Manboobz, and the last year of output there. Seminal work, that.

An equally common complaint resolves to this: feminists are working mightily, from their lofty perches atop the human universe, to undermine, well, everything; but, especially the natural-supernatural-scientific gender differences that keep the cosmos in balance.

And you can tell this to be true, the argument's variations assert, because the universe is out of balance. Things aren't right. They aren't natural. If let be, the human norm would find itself again. Men would be men, women would be women, governments would wither away, corporate executives would self-defenestrate, markets would be fair, bigness would gave way to local smallness and motherfuckers would decide to be nice.

The problem, for these pitiable worm complainants, isn't that status quo ante is bad for most of the people stuck in it - it's that it isn't natural. (See also, primitivists, greenies, eco-pagans, democratizers and abolition democrats.)

Almost every assertion to naturality is, upon even rudimentary observation, a claim from transcendence. It's supernaturalist, because it attempts to impose from without definitions of right conduct, and wrong, which apply then to the within, also called "nature." The person staking that claim may not believe in gods or numina or dialectical historical planning committees, but he is demanding from the rough stuff of life an adherence to a norm which almost always suits his tastes, temperament and often enough, early childhood experiences.

But, contained within the complaint itself, is the concession what negates it.

The argument follows thus: if only [insert bête noir] didn't exist with its unnatural impact on human relations, [insert outcome clucked out disapprovingly] would not occur. If feminists weren't teaching women to be lesbian amazon man killers, girls would realize that they need to market themselves to men as better, more efficient sex toys. If the atheists hadn't taken over the schools, people would still know and love god. If the liberals didn't control the media [you are, of course, invited to scoff here], people would know that the government has violated the Constitution. Et cetera.

This seems like a simple enough declaration of cause and effect, but it's not. What it concedes immediately is that culture isn't a given, and that personality isn't merely inherited. That there is no natural, correct way to be human. If there was, there would be no reason to restore it. If the perennial were actually such, it would establish itself by virtue of its cosmic coherence.

Every argument about the shaping of hominid brains into bodies-with-personae recognizes immediately that what we call the "human self" is a made thing. It's an artifact, if you will. And that no right nature defines it.

Sometimes this self succeeds brilliantly, for its time; often, it collapses completely. Sometimes it doesn't sync with the body it inhabits, because it was shaped not for the body, but for needs of those around it. Very commonly, a single body houses several incompletely formed stages of one, in various degrees of struggle and accord. More often than soul-believers would care to admit, the self is in fact a multiplicity.

What matters here, though, is that it's made. It's a shaped thing that learns to shape itself. It's a shaped shaper. What this means - and it's a doozy given our larger culture, religious assumptions, scientistic premises and technological framework - is that everything and everyone are always up for grabs; the experience of self is not stable over time, because there is no norm for it.

The conditions which shape bodies into persons are always changing because there's no one correct way to accomplish this end, and truth has little to do with success or outcome.

The anti-feminists know this, perhaps without using this set of phrases exactly. Their complaint, reduced to its essential terms, suggests a basic awareness: women, like men, are made into self-referential genders. It's why these types constantly return to their tired, familiar refrain - that feminists violate nature in merely attempting to carve out the smallest of spaces where women can take some control of their own shaping. Where they can attempt these experiments without the unrelenting cultural subjection to men who have very strong notions about the proper uses of women. Not for nothing, anti-homosexuals and salvationists make the same concession - it's why they struggle so mightily to dominate the schools, the airwaves and the political contests which define acceptable and verboten.

So, here's this - and for what it's worth, I make no claim to revolutionary insight - there's no observable reason to believe in progress, given how often we all tend to regress, but it says something that the various traditionalists, paternalists and supernaturalists no longer argue as if they're right. They argue, right out in the open, as if they know it's all about who controls the story-making.

The RCC didn't use to have to try and persuade. It ordered, the Holy Orders obeyed. People burned and kings took a knee. Heads of state didn't use to have campaign. The cops didn't have full time public relations staff. People who used others as mere instruments didn't use to have to come up with market slogans and palliatives and misinformation.

The world was assumed to be, mostly by all, the best and only possible world. It was, you know, just natural and right that it was the way it was.

Most of us, I imagine, find that notion at least suspect, if not outright unnatural. Nietzsche called this the death of god. I won't be so bold, and rather refer to it instead as a kind of liberty. Our times are labile. The people trying to force human events back into the neat categories of caste, gender, faith, obedience and rigid class...well, they are trying to force things back.

Genies and bottles, cats and bags and all that.

They could definitely still win. They've got most of the loot and idiots who take orders under arms. But they're fighting from a distinct disadvantage, and one which doesn't require the rest of us to have so much loot, or armed staffers, or access to stable forms of power - they've already conceded, like the anti-feminists, that what they're really trying to do is to program the next generation, and the next, in ways which will re-establish "the right" and "the natural."

They've admitted, out loud and in public, that they're really just one more set of contestants, roughly aligned, in the struggle to define what is acceptably human.

It's a really big fucking deal, if you think about it. It's not that we're evenly matched. We're not, obviously. It's that, acknowledging that things are shitty as they seem, and worse, and that forces aligned in favor of reaction are well armed, they still have to regularly concede that "the natural" and "the right" are no longer a given.

They have to struggle to constantly maintain their claim on what is human.

There's an opening there. In fact, there are dozens of them.

And that's not nothing.

14 comments:

anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

think you're so smart jackie?

Abonilox said...

"So, here's this - and for what it's worth, I make no claim to revolutionary insight - there's no observable reason to believe in progress, given how often we all tend to regress, but it says something that the various traditionalists, paternalists and supernaturalists no longer argue as if they're right. They argue, right out in the open, as if they know it's all about who controls the story-making."

True enough in the political context, but only because the spokespeople of these various factions have no beliefs or ideology to begin with, save their own success. There are thoughtful, less lazy, folks out there, however that still make an attempt to defend their positions in some kind of rational way.

Anonymous said...

Rationalism is nothing but a game as is the intellect. Being rational is a term that stems from the time of the Renaissance where if a person could understand the mathematics of ratios that person was rational. What we call common sense works for some things but falls apart in other situations. People are driven by emotions for the most part which is a never ending source of opinions on reality, whatever reality is. As has been said before by many almost everything we believe is just nonsense. I have to say I dislike the cultural evolution that has given us the relationship between men and women that exists today, women should stay home and raise the kids, men are strong, women should be barefoot and pregnant and subservient to the great wisdom of men, etc. It is disgusting to me. Romanticism is a human invention much of which stems from books written by idiots in the south eastern area of the US which Mark Twain has written about with much derision as only Twain could. But apparently we are stuck with it and there is nothing natural about it.

High Arka said...

The front page of "Manboobz" failed to provide an example of what you're fighting against. Who is the enemy, and what are they doing that's wrong?

High Arka said...

Anonymous@4:45, you're misusing the term "Romanticism." Romanticism fought against the scientifically deterministic outlook of the Enlightenment, and it is typically associated with early-1800s Europe.

Jack, this one knows you tend to shy from debate, but let's be the devil anyway.

Presume that we have two hundred identical human embryos--like monozygotic twins, but two hundred of them; which sex doesn't matter--and that we introduce a relatively large quantity of steroids into one hundred of them.

As the two groups of humans grow into adults:

(1) Will we notice any behavioral differences between the steroid-heavy group and the unaltered group?

(2) Will we notice any physical differences between the steroid-heavy group and the unaltered group?

If you think we won't notice any differences, then we should discuss the effects of steroids on humans.

If, however, you think we'll notice some differences:

(3) Is calling the group not altered by steroids by a certain term, in order to differentiate them from the steroid-altered group, improper?

Cüneyt said...

Dozens of openings? You're sick, bruh!

Anonymous said...

Arka,

I was referring to romantic novels written during Mark Twain’s time which Twain enjoyed ridiculing. And with good reason. There is also romanticism regarding a certain type of “classical” music, I suppose I should have been more specific for one who is so well eddicated as yourself. I see you are still writing novels, perhaps you should take a moment to breath occasionally.

Devin Lenda said...

"Almost every assertion to naturality is, upon even rudimentary observation, a claim from transcendence. It's supernaturalist, because it attempts to impose from without definitions of right conduct, and wrong, which apply then to the within, also called "nature." The person staking that claim may not believe in gods or numina or dialectical historical planning committees, but he is demanding from the rough stuff of life an adherence to a norm which almost always suits his tastes, temperament and often enough, early childhood experiences."

I took a turn down a similar path apparently and that's how everything looks to me as well, from where I happen to be walking.

One question I have, and it's one I can't myself answer, is this bit about what's made, or what's fake, or what's a social construct. As soon as we use those terms we seem to be setting them up in contrast to something not made, not fake...what's that? Smells like a false dichotomy. We can posit a world completely without humans as the non-fake but that gives humans too much credit for uniqueness. I tend to think the non-human world is as fake or real as humans and vice versa. It's in the language that fakeness arises. maybe, or something, etc.

Jack Crow said...

Er, something like an apology for the slow response times. Meat world is busy. Will try to give 'em a go on the morrow, after work.

The Mathmos said...

@Devin Lenda

Not to get too Continental on you there, but what if we collapsed all of it into "immanence".

From which vantage point Jack's seeming urgency may be explained : gods and myths and ideologies are as real as monetary credit or hashtags, they are compounds used on/using us. Churches, workplaces and States aren't fictions, they're battlefields.

High Arka said...

What's an example of something that isn't a fiction?

Anonymous said...

Fucking hell. HA doesn't know what a steroid is.

High Arka said...

Care to educate this one?