Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Move to Ban Square Circles Fails

Males form sexual associations with females not out of a tiresome, dutiful, pious, half-unwilling obedience to the demands of the culture but in fulfillment of the biological nature of the beast. The family is not the creation of culture: without the family there would be no culture! --Weston LaBarre

As always, I begin this post not knowing if it will go anywhere or whether I will be able to finish it. Except that today I’m doubly unsure, because I don’t know if I can put my feelings into words. This must be how liberals feel all the time, but they don’t seem to have the slightest bit of difficulty in finding the words to express their unthinking.

But I wanted to say something about the “homosexual marriage” issue, for there is almost no one on either side of this debate that discusses it with any depth or substance. Both sides are reduced to strong feelings that are merely backed up with boilerplate language. In the case of the left, they imbue their feelings with the language of human rights, whereas the right frames it in terms of religious values, tradition, and the welfare of children.

Although it is surely a truism that children ideally require a mother and father for optimal psycho-spiritual development, the materialistic left is always able to find some deeply flawed psychological study that disproves the obvious. Psychology is a field which is dominated by people with no intellect properly so-called, so they produce “studies” as a debased replacement for their inability to know metapsychological truth directly. Scientific psychologists have also in the recent past proven that pedophilia is normal, that children are not harmed by sexual abuse, that dreams are meaningless, that early childhood experience has no impact on adult development, and that treating boys and girls the same will eliminate gender differences. So psychology as a field (individual brilliant psychologists notwithstanding) has little to contribute to the issue.

“Psyche,” of course, means soul or spirit, so a true psychologist is someone who inquires into the spiritual basis of humanity, which is to say, the human basis of humanity. At its deepest level, our humanness is coterminous with the very foundations of the cosmos. It cannot be otherwise, for if we eliminate the subject that apprehends it, the cosmos vanishes into nothingness. Can you imagine a cosmos that cannot be imagined, perceived and experienced? Of course not. When we inquire into the nature of the psyche, we are ultimately examining the metaphysical foundations of the cosmos, not just individually but collectively. Any psychology that doesn’t recognize this fact is both trivial and subhuman.

These deeper layers of the psyche are covered over by various accretions, to such an extent that we no longer see and understand them. Rather, we generally only feel them. If we turn our gaze within and try to apprehend the foundations of our being, we get no further than looking at the night time sky and trying to see the edge of the universe with the naked eye. Although we cannot see it, we know that it’s actually there. As matter of fact, at its farthest edge, it meets back up with the subject at the bottom of the psyche.

Religious language is a way to talk about these ultimate terms of existence that are beyond the horizons of mere egoic knowability. Genesis, for example, deals with the hidden roots of ontology, anthropology and psychology. Genesis is not about our horizontal existence--i.e., about the world literally being created in six days, or about a garden and a serpent. Rather, it is trying to resonate with the deepest layers of our being. It is trying to tell us something about ourselves that we already know--we cannot not know it--but which we can easily forget or be unable to articulate. In fact, Genesis is so sophisticated that it even takes this perpetual self-forgetting into consideration in a self-referential way.

One annoying aspect of the marriage debate is that it is automatically framed in the misleading, two-dimensional language of the left. Thus, on Drudge there is the headline “Gay Marriage Ban Falls Short,” as if there was ever such a thing as “Gay Marriage” and that someone is trying to “ban” it. The headline might as well read “Square Circles Banned.” If you live in the two-dimensional secular world, then there really is no reason why “gay marriage” shouldn’t exist. Divorced from any deeper ontology, human beings are merely animals with special rights, including the right to marry anyone whom they please.

But what is marriage, anyway? This reminds me of one of my mentors, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion, who would never inquire into whether or not a patient was married, because he wanted to discover for himself whether the person was married internally, regardless of whether they were married in the technical, legalistic sense of the term. For marriage is--and can only be--the union of two primordial categories of existence, male and female. Legal marriage is simply an acknowledgment of this existential fact.

Obviously, the marriage of male and female is a “naturally supernatural” institution that exists prior to the state, for it is the foundation of the state, not vice versa. The state did not come into being and then invent the thing called marriage. Rather, its legitimacy can only be founded on its respect for the human nature or “natural rights” that precede it.

Of course, it is always possible to have a state that not only doesn’t respect human nature, but violates it or even tries to reinvent it, such in communist or socialist regimes. Unfortunately, even in the United States we are well down the road of trying to remake and redesign human nature, not just with regard to the marriage issue, but in many other aspects of humanness as well. This is why I scoff at secular humanists, because theirs is a philosophy that is specifically subhuman, for any philosophy that severs human beings from their transcendent source is ipso facto a barbarism that reduces us to animality and regards us as beasts.

For me, the marriage issue has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality, regardless of whether one adheres to the fashionable theories of a genetic basis for it. It should go without saying that I have nothing against the individual homosexual. However, when the “homosexual movement” joins forces with a larger movement that wishes to redefine the very basis of humanness, then I get concerned. But opponents of this anti-humanistic movement must be able to articulate exactly what it is that they are concerned about. It won’t do to sputter like a liberal about your deepest feelings. Reduced to the language of feelings, liberals will win every time.

The family is a moral structure, a biologically validated “truth” now permanently imbedded in the physical and physiological nature of man....

.... A man has the pride and privilege, with his maleness, of returning to a woman a shared pleasure, like but unlike that which another woman, with her breast, conferred upon him first as a baby. Cherished and nurtured to strength by his mother, he may then protect and cherish another woman in his turn. And of all the things in this world these two, maternal and conjugal love, are without any qualification wholly good.

.... A boy must become a man by similarly admiring manliness--in a rival he may hate or envy--through the mysterious love of male
logos, not of physical males. --Weston LaBarre

Monday, June 05, 2006

Whack Like Me: On Victims and Their Ennoblers

I’m reading Shelby Steele’s new book White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. Initially I hadn’t planned to, because I avoid books that I know ahead of time are simply going to reinforce what I already know. But when I read Steele’s astute comment in Taranto’s column about the relationship between reactionary baby boomer liberalism and the the oedipal triumph of “ousting a president” and “ending Vietnam,” I knew I had to read the whole book.

I haven’t been disappointed. I’m actually only about halfway through, but the book is full of brilliant and original insights about race, politics, and culture. The book is written in a deceptively low-key way, but I'm sure this kind of truth is absolutely toxic to hysterical liberals. I don’t even want to read the vile things they write about this brilliant, perceptive, and thoroughly decent man, and this time I mean it. It would be too disturbing. Ironically, the kind of abuse that a Steele or Thomas Sowell have to deal with must feel similar to the racism both men endured while growing up. I can't even imagine what the left would do if a white person had written this book.

Steele chronicles some of the indignities and disappointments he experienced as a result of racism during his childhood and adolescence. However, he utterly dismantles the liberal cliché that experiences with racism are the cause of low self esteem or “black anger.” When widespread racism really existed in America, Steele notes that it felt much more existential than personal. It just was. It was something immutable, like the weather, or the laws of physics. Certainly it caused a degree of disenchantment with the world, because it made the world seem not just unfair, but absurd. But Steele says it didn’t affect his self esteem. If anything, he says it increased his self esteem, because it made him “a little above the world and gave my judgments a new authority.” Even as a boy, he knew that the was a better person than the white racists he encountered.

Remember, Steele is writing about a time when America actually was still a racist country 50 years ago. And yet, black leaders were not as angry then as today's liberal white-appointed "leaders." The civil rights movement was led by men of dignity and moral authority. There were no Jesse Jacksons, Al Sharptons or Cynthia McKinneys. If the movement had been comprised of such low and disreputable hustlers and opportunists, it would never have succeeded so rapidly. It was led by men and women who could shame America precisely because of their dignity and because of the nobility and moral authority of their cause.

Steele’s book is in part the story of how, in a span of just 40 years, America could go from being a place where the murderers of Emmett Till could go free because they were white, to a place where O.J. Simpson could go free because he’s black. And it all revolves around how the civil rights movement, at the very moment it succeeded in achieving its goals, cynically betrayed its own ideals and became just another industry, an industry revolving around the exploitation of white guilt.

White guilt is the key, because in Steele’s formulation dysfunctional “black anger” varies directly with the guilt-ridden white liberal establishment that indulges it. In a truly oppressed people, this kind of anger would be unthinkable. There were no displays of “Russian anger” in the USSR, nor is there “Muslim anger” directed at the totalitarian states that oppress them. Just like black anger, Muslim anger is directed at a target that will indulge it: America or Israel. If Palestinians were truly an oppressed people we wouldn’t even know about it, because Israel would have driven them out and eliminated them long ago. The Palestinians' angry and dysfunctional existence revolves around the world’s indulgence of it.

Steele notes that the exploitation of white guilt leads to a perversion of character, wherein the victim can elevate himself above the guilty oppressor, thus creating “an empowering feeling of license.” He writes from the personal experience of having been a militant radical in the 1960’s, “the feeling that being black released me from the usual obligation to common decency and decorum.... I was licensed to live in a spirit of disregard toward my own country.”

Suddenly, with the perception of white guilt, Steele realized “I could use America’s fully acknowledged history of racism just as whites had always used their race--as a racial authority and privilege that excused me from certain responsibilities, moral constraints, and even the law.” It was “an abusive power very similar to the abusive power that had been wielded against me--a power of privilege deriving solely from the color of my skin,” capable of muscling “concessions from the larger society on the basis of past victimization...” Every black problem could be magically explained away “because it was an injustice to make victims responsible for their own problems.”

But point any of this out, and you are dead politically. Not once, writes Steele has there been “a single articulation by an American president of how blacks might so much as even share responsibility for their own advancement.” This is not out of respect, but either because of implicit racism and condescension, cynicism and political calculation, or fear of reprisal from people with real power to destroy a reputation, such as the liberal media.

The kind of anger Steele describes “is acted out by the oppressed only when real weakness is perceived in the oppressor. Anger is never automatic or even inevitable for the oppressed; it is chosen when weakness in the oppressor means it will be effective in winning freedom or justice or spoils of some kind. Anger is a response to perceived opportunity, not to injustice. And expressions of anger escalate not with more injustice but with less injustice.”

My dear bobbleheads, let’s pause here for a moment, for Steele has described a more generalized phenomenon that is central to the angry attacks on President Bush. All of those lunatics and moonbats who believe President Bush is a fascist, that we are in the midst of a theocratic takeover, that our freedoms are being eliminated--all of that kooky-talk varies inversely with the threat of these hysterical fears having any basis in reality.

Oh, how I wish President Bush were much more like the leftist fantasies of him. I wish he would act like President Reagan did with the air traffic controllers: “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’re angry? Well YOU’RE FIRED! Now get out, before I stuff a mattress with you.” I wish Bush would go after the New York Times with hammer and tongs for leaking government secrets and threatening our civil liberties. I wish he would call traitors traitors and terrorists Muslims. I wish he would give as good as he got. But he doesn’t, so it creates a perception of weakness and license for more angry attacks--for more speaking lies to perceived powerlessness.

President Bush’s failure to respond to the hysteria creates a vacuum of moral authority where the amoral leap in. The same thing occurs, according to Steele, in race relations. The missing authority then transfers to the “victims,” a role they will milk for all its worth. Victimhood becomes a literal currency or capital that is convertible to real capital. It creates real wealth and status, such as in the case of Jesse Jackson and so many other individuals and institutions, all of it made possible by white guilt. As Steele puts it, “White guilt had inadvertently opened up racism as the single greatest opportunity available to blacks from the mid-sixties on...”

Johnnie Chochran did not, for example, gamble on the racism of the Amercan legal system. Rather, he wagered everything “on the court’s being obsessed with showing its utter freedom from racial bias, its determination to let even a hint of racism disqualify sound evidence.” Cochran knew that the court was much less interested in the truth than in proving it was not biased against Simpson.

To a certain extent these types of problems are inevitable, because human beings have a deep need for illusion and falsehood. But truth is the highest societal value. A society that not only organizes itself around the Lie, but attacks any truth that undermines the Lie, is in trouble.



As the unintentional ironist Stephen Colbert said to the graduates in his speech last week, "I don't know if they've told you what's been happening in the world while you've been matriculating. The world is waiting for you people with a club....They are playing for KEEPS out there, folks."

Yes, it's awful. If you humiliate the President to his face, they go after you with a club--a very exclusive one. They force you to be the guest of honor at a college commencement.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Disposable Bobservations with an Eye on the Eternal

Well, I’m sitting here waiting for my mind to come online this morning, but it’s not happening. Bad innernaut connection or something. It happens. Usually sleep reboots me, but not always. I think my sugar may have gotten a little low in the middle of the night, which can cause a sort of hangover the next day.

So, I’ll just keep applying my fingers to the keyboard, hoping for something to happen. If not, I’ll just close up shop early. Whatever. It’s Sunday. Shouldn’t be doing anything anyway.

Speaking of typing, if I have any obessive-compulsive readers out there, don’t be shy about informing me of embarassing typos. Although I’m a good speller--oddly, aside from PE it was probably the only “subject” I was good at in school--I’m a terrible typist. Plus, since my computer died a few months ago I’ve been using the lap top, which I can’t get used to. Totally different feel. Many atypigraphical 'orrors result.

The only bad thing about blogging is that I have to put things out there before they’re really ready. As I go through the day, not only do I correct little spelling or grammatical errors, but I tend to make more major changes in my posts, even though I doubt that anyone knows or cares. It’s weird. It’s like my aesthetic conscience won’t allow me to leave certain awkward, infelicitous, or unclear passages to stand. Why? What’s the point?

Perhaps because God can see them. In Europe, many of the cathedrals have gargoyles hidden on the roof that no one will ever see, unless you make a special point of it. I am told that the artisans of the middle ages were so serious about their work that these gargoyles are just as perfect as the visible ones. It’s not as if they stuck the flawed or chipped ones up there where no one could see them. These artisans consciously worked with their minds focussed on eternity, not within the field of time. Therefore, there was no point whatsoever in covering up mistakes and just getting by. They were not working in order to please others or even please themselves or Rick Nelson, but to please God. They were true karma yogis--the yoga of selfless work for the Divine.

Over the months, people have occasionally asked me for explicit advice about a spiritual practice. That is somewhat difficult to do, because it presumes tinkering at the margins of your life or simply adding something to it. But the truth of the matter is that, as I have mentioned before, you have to turn your entire life upside down and inside out. If you are serious about your quest--and even the seriousness of your search is not something you have full conscious control over--you have to change everything, not merely the “content” of your life, but the context. Like those medieval artisans, you begin living your life with a constant sense of the eternal in everything you do.

Again, a good part of this is apparently out of our conscious control. In some mysterious way, we do not choose God, but he chooses us. I would like to take the credit for turning out the way I have, but it was really more a matter of gradually removing layers of cultural, educational and familial accretions to reveal this very odd bird underneath. You don’t have to take astrology literally to understand that we all possess both a genetic and a celestial blue print, a vertical and a horizontal one. Our lives are woven out of the warp and weft of these horizontal and vertical influences as they create unique patterns in time.

This is why, by the way, even Jesus could say that “there is no one good but God,” for only God entirely transcends the horizontal (even though he is, at the same time, fully immanent within it). And it would also explain the inevitable blind spots of the most holy of holy men, whether Shankara, Saint Paul, Sri Aurobindo, or the Pope. Just the fact of being embodied means that your knowledge of anything is going to have some relativity mixed in with the absolute. One more good reason for stable scripture and dogma which is not subject to relativistic decay.

(Which reminds me--I saw a wonderful movie the other night, one I hadn’t seen since film school some 25 years ago, The Talk of the Town, starring Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and Jean Arthur and directed by George Stevens. It’s a very multifaceted work, but one of its central themes is the dialectic between the vertical, purely abstract rule of law, vs. embodied, flesh-and-blood human relations--between the Platonic and the Aristotelian, you might say. Wonderful film that works on many levels.)

Anyway, back to one’s spiritual practice. One is either serious about it or one is not. If you are serious about it and pursue it with all your mind and heart, then something eventually happens. You sort of “snap,” and there is a reversal of figure and ground. It’s somewhat like any other skill, like skiing. I remember the feeling of trying to ski, then suddenly effortlessly skiing. You fall into a sort of natural rhythm that effortlessly navigates over the contour of the mountain. You are a "born again" skier.

This goes to the question of how you find God. You don’t. Not really, any more than the scientist finds the world. Rather, you just learn how to look. Now it’s as if I can’t help looking for God in everything I write. It’s very automatic--it is the context of everything I think and write about. You might think that it’s repressive or restrictive, but it feels like the opposite--very expansive and liberating. I don’t know what I would do if I felt imprisoned within the walls of the merely horizontal. This is why we must be so grateful to those dedicated pneumanauts that preceded us and showed us the way out of the closed circle of mere animal, material existence.

For man was made for transcendence. He is the only animal who becomes less than himself if he doesn’t perpetually surpass himself, even though you never fully arrive at your deustination in this life.

Oh well, time to stop. Just when the spirit was starting to come online. Whatever you do, don’t let that happen to your life, for the night is coming when no man can work.

Or so we have heard from the wise. Not from just any old 9-5 Johnny or jnani-come-lately.