REMARKS

Since in my own mind many of these posts have been "chapters," I'm splitting some of them out to separate blogs. But also, my audience is divided and quite different, one part from another. Many have dropped out and many have newly arrived. There are recognizable paper "book" versions of some of the posts that fit together.

I find that some people still assume that a blog is a sort of diary. This one is not. It is not for children, either in terms of subject or writing style. It's not written "down." Think academic magazine or column without footnotes.


SOCIAL MEDIA

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Other Blogs by me

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE ART OF BOB SCRIVER, PLEASE GO TO: www.scriverart.blogspot.com.

Notes from Alvina Krause between 1957-1961 are posted at www.Krausenotes.blogspot.com


TWO REBLOGS:
Fiction about Indians at www.willowsticks.blogspot.com
Essays about Indians at www.siksikaskinitsiman.blogspot.com



Friday, April 24, 2009

THE NEW PORN

Reading about Caravaggio (“M -- The Story of the Man Who Became Caravaggio) plus the movie, as well as reading Jeremy Biles’ essay about J.G. Ballard in “Sightings” which is an automated essay that comes from the University of Chicago Divinity School, I’ve managed to make a lot of inchoate and troublesome ideas fall into place. (Don’t worry. My domestic life remains calm and regular.)

First of all, I begin to see how in Caravaggio’s day the main privileged class was high church officials plus a few landed individuals. Their markers of privilege were anything of great cost, including jewels and precious metals (hello, Cellini) and art but also human beings for sexual use -- ANY sexual use -- and also secrecy enforced with violence. The biggest power of all was to break the rules that were enforced on “lesser” folk. Ironically, someone like Caravaggio or Cellini, who paid no attention to the rules at least in part because they could make valuable things, were thus able to be “free spirits,” their own kind of power that exposed them to violence. These convictions persist, which partly explains our problems with priests and politicians today. And perhaps also explains the origin of our idea that all artists are somehow entitled to be untamed, exceptional, tantamount to geniuses.

So being middle class, as we know it now, came later. I wonder whether a case could be made linking it to industrialization: people coming in from the country and making it in the city Dickens-style, either through bookkeeping or through machine-enhanced manufacturing or small shops. These are pursuits that depend upon attention to detail, consistency, persistence, watching the clock. This could produce wealth, or has until lately. Part of being middle-class was limiting children to the number who could be educated, since skill was now the way to make money. Simple untrained child labor became less and less useful and therefore children were easy to abandon. Respectability then became linked with repression, so that extra sexuality -- with no birth control -- had to be siphoned off to disreputables whose lives didn’t matter. People became much more guarded and more easily discarded.

Economics in a city meant that the primary male was far more important than on a farm. In fact, he was SO important that a woman had to be very careful about choosing him and then commit to him utterly. The law conspired with this. Men owned women. (I just saw “Iron-jawed Angels” and highly recommend it: a lively contemporary interpretation of the securing of women’s right to vote.) WWII inflated the national image of men into heroes of nearly god-like proportions. I just watched “A Bridge Too Far” and was startled to see how many of our major movie stars in the Boomer generation picked up their images from this war story. It’s not one of those black-and-white gritty WWII movies, though there are there are included newsreels, and not the carnegraphic (new word -- isn’t it great?) post-Vietnam movies of more recent times. "Bridge" includes a lot of spectacular Technicolor blood and explosions, then a series of vignettes of wry, brave, handsome men. Little of the dismemberment that since become popular.

When birth control, women’s rights, and female economic empowerment, are in place, the previous system is pretty well sabotaged. The paycheck power that entitled Pa to everything is now at least undermined as Ma finds work as well. National cynicism and corruption follow the chaos -- don’t cause it. People feel that relationships won’t last, that jobs won’t last -- and they’re right. So everyone presses for the moment. And that means in sex, too. Now that having babies won’t kill women, they don’t mind having more sex. And Dad was kinda pressured until they invented Viagra. Now it’s a checkmate: no babies, no necessity for arousal, no game, no fun.

All along the way the sex that Victorians tried to keep under control had been leaking out, mostly as a matter of commodification -- mercantilism. Sex sells. Movies, newspapers, books, and so on. Guys look at gals in terms of how much money it would take to get her to come across. Gals -- did they ever stop -- size guys up according to their prospects for income. Ma and Pa get so absorbed in this that they forget all about the kids who DO somehow manage to come along despite every safeguard.

The bottom line is that culture loses meaning, power is gone, family loyalty evaporates except among those only a generation or so from the land like Hispanics or Asians. (Which gives them a big advantage.) The power to attach is weakened because, to many, jobs mean moving, so people abandon what they have if they see something better. Sex and drugs combined become a “kratophany” (another new word -- it means an experience of great power -- in this case, a fantasy) because both are so denied and confined and yet so saleable, so ubiquituous and yet (for some) so elusive. The two interact.

But that’s beginning to wane. Familiarity, maybe. Maybe an actual physiological shift from modern diet and chemical ingestion, actual gender blurring. Sex is now all over the place and we’ve explored every orifice. What was porn is now “erotic” or maybe just an “R” rating that everyone ignores. The discussion of it no longer needs to be in Latin -- all the kids say fuck. Violence and pain enter the mix.

But there’s another real porn now, something nice people don’t talk about: the limits of human life. Not just us as individuals, though that keeps people glued to their science news and helps to sell ridiculously high-priced and bug-ridden machines that often divulge nothing or very little about ailments. (We’ve nearly translated to a higher plane: from mechanics to techtronics -- except we still think in terms of industrial mass-production.)

We are beginning to realize that humans are animals with no privilege, that all animals have genetic drift and that outliers are always falling off the edges, that something so subtle as climate change or a virus can extinguish (HAS extinguished) whole species, and that there is no assurance that humans will even exist on this planet more than a few thousand years into the future. Thus the huge interest in religion.

“Do you believe in God” is just code for “Do you believe in Life after Death.” Spirituality is the feeling that one belongs, but also the conviction that something never dies.

The enormous power of AIDS to tap human consciousness is that it wraps up mortality and sex together, though one could just as easily catch some other virus and just as easily catch it through a blood transfusion or a needle poke. And yet AIDS has not captured the budget; it doesn’t get as much money as it takes to develop a cure. The power has no shape, no direction. It’s not yet personal. While the “grownups” were busy thinking up reasons to resist a cure -- like, won’t it solve the Africa problem by depopulating the continent? Won't it wipe out perverts? In fact, won’t it just solve the overpopulation of the earth by weeding out all the people we don’t much like? -- the younger people of the planet have been quietly growing “secret” layers of planetary culture. One is the response to the criminalization of drugs, which has acted just as alcohol criminalization did to web together gangs, dictators and opportunists in a new mafia that ignores national boundaries. (The total value of marijuana transactions alone last year is estimated to exceed the value of corn, wheat and soy combined.) Another network is the war profiteering, which is now morphing around to escape control by the new administration. Not much difference except they can’t be so out-in-the-open. I think the high tech network is about to be forced underground by efforts to control all this as well as the need to make money. The results won’t be pleasant.

So we’ve entered a world that the punk sci-fi writers have inhabited for a long time: post-apocalypse. A time when place is a labyrinth, survival is the goal, and humans are voluntary cyborgs. J. G. Ballard and T.P. Barrus have lived in this world a while. They can tell us about it.

1 comment:

Lance Michael Foster said...

outstanding writing Mary! you have outdone yourself on this one! ia m going to link you from my livejournal Hengruh blog if you don't mind