Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Equality with what exactly?

A man who decides to break free from the psychic shackles of cultural masculinity, a man who decides to take existential responsibility for his own sense of himself qua being a man, is the biggest threat to public discourse. 

Such a man may choose to be wildly feminine, to be openly vulnerable and to exude sensuality without shame. He may, however, choose to present his rage and testosterone, his excessive impertinence, his fury and his buried chaos. He may do this through his choice of sport, or his public speaking, or his competitive professional attitude. 

Dangerous: The trial of Oscar Wilde amounted to much more than an issue of sexuality. With Wilde died the idea that a man could determine his own masculinity, and that he could empower himself without subscribing to current values. 
What distinguishes the avant garde man, from the reactionary or traditional man, is not some set of carefully defined virtues. It's not a line drawn on some pseudo-feminist's mind-map of the gender spectrum. Neither is just the arbitrary pickings and choosings of post-modern sexuality, or cultural indulgence. 

Rather, what distinguishes the avant garde man is the simple fact that he has chosen his own masculinity. It is a choice rather than something inflicted upon him.

It is for this reason that no amount of feminism can determine the future of masculinity. The break away from imperial and industrial kinds of masculinity was long a time coming, and there is much work to do. Feminism, we can thank it for being a continiuing catalyst for change. To paraphrase the great Chuck D, 'without women, all that's left is a penitentiary.' This as true for all aspect of human experience, as it is for Hip Hop. The fact that we still have to have this dialogue shows a great failing in modern society. 

However, the quest for equality is useless, without a serious examination of the wider context of values in society. What exactly is it that we want equality relative to? Do women really want to be equal partners is a bankrupt and morally vacuous culture of existential homogeneity? 

You ask, what do I mean by 'existential homogeneity?' Am I just making fancy flourishes? Trying to sound clever, all bark and no bite? Well, let me clear this up for you then. 

Existential homogeneity is a very specific phenomenon. It is the means of control exerted in our society, a way of harnessing the energy of the public mind and spirit, in order that it might be silenced and made to work for the preservation of a given power structure. 

People's individuality, their true self-expression is dangerous to this project. Too much exploration of the inner echo-chamber of personal consciousness is, in Kant's words, disinterested. It has no prudential value. It's thought for thought's sake. Feeling for feeling's sake. Art, to coin a phrase, for art's own self-indulgent sake. Enriching personal experience does not pay the bills. Nor does it build bridges and sell goods. It does not amass wealth. It does nothing to prop up and maintain hierarchies and the flummery of sovereignty. 

Those who need to preserve their power and status and their wealth, then, must make sure that people don't have too much control of their self-expression. 

History has shown us, however, that forcing people through external means, to express themselves in narrow and prescriptive ways, just doesn't work. It certainly cannot work if the machinery of capitalism is to keep generating itself. What needs to be done then, is to sell people the idea of their own self-expression, all the while preserving very restrictive and manageable ideologies about what self-expression means. 

This is not as wacky as it sounds. For a monument, look around thee. 

It is the cultural orthodoxy of our time. 

Existential homogeneity means nothing else other than 'making the same choices.' Each person longs to manifest the richness of their experience as much as possible. If Aristotle meant anything by 'man is a political animal' he meant that. We don't just need to share our inner selves, to do so is part of what it means to be human. And part of sharing is the thrill of having expressed some part of yourself that is uniquely you, and enjoying the part of others that is so starkly different from you. 

It's important to note that this is not just some emergent quality of humanity. It's not some extraneous curiosity. It's essential, because the cultivation of a rich sense of self, and the instinct to share that, intimately, and to exchange it publicly, is the very mechanism by which we forge stability and mutual values in human relations. In a word, it's the foundation of liberty, society and meaning. And like most organic processes, it preserves and nurtures its own development. It's an accumulative phenomenon. 

That, of course, is what makes it so dangerous. Its very opposite is violent power, the use of war and enslavement to preserve external expressions of self. Authority, religion, state power, hierarchy - all these emerge from a pathology of the human mind, a stunted development in natural consciousness. 

It's a sleight of hand, the original Faustian bargain. The idea that one might be able to attain power and meaning and simply a sense of individuality, by subverting rather that enriching that of others. 

The orthodoxy of the day, and indeed the age, is that the pathological is natural. Not only natural, inevitable. It seems that all revolutions, all great cultural achievements get bastardised into this crude simplification of human nature. 

We must ask ourselves, what is the root pathology? What creates this narcissistic mutilation of the human psyche? Is it really 'human nature'. What would it mean, if we were to stop treating it as inevitable, and start viewing it as something more aberrant? 

In any case, this pathology has led to the current values of our culture. And yes, that means 'male-dominated' values. In truth, they are the values that emerge from the basic idea that empowerment of self, means suppressing the power of others. 

From this comes materialism and violence, aggression. These are not peculiar to men, but they mean that men will reign simply as a result of biological contingencies. It also means that women who seek power within this context, will value the kinds of men who are able and adept at crushing the power of others. Either that, or the men who are willing and able to work to support the power structures of this given social context. 

In any case, one is either a master or a slave. The greatest trick of modernity has been to sell slavery in the guise of mastery. It's actually quite an old trick, and can be said to be the foundations of so-called 'patriarchy'. 

Men are the fodder and chief resource of imperial power structures. In order for men to volunteer and actively participate in their own slavery, they must not view it as slavery at all. They must see their enslavement as a form of emancipation. 

Equality in this value-system, surely, is meaningless and sinister. Why would women want equality in such a society, unless what they are really after is no equality at all? Unless the real goal is a form of aggressive power in itself. 

This is why feminism in its truest sense can be picked apart from 'post-feminism.' The latter simply seeks to replace the ancien regime with a new Napoleonic structure. Feminism is in danger of, if it already hasn't, entering its Maoist phase. The only thing that can stop this is if men roll up their sleeves and participate. 

We, men that is, need to start forging a new set of values based on inner enrichment, liberty and honest and mutual self-empowerment. If we don't, the very word 'equality' will mean nothing but its opposite. True equality cannot exist in a culture that makes an institution of slavery narcissistic violence. 

Post-feminists don't want this. Neither do reactionary males. They both want the same thing. Power. But the avant garde man, and the true feminist want precisely the same thing: liberty, in its most sacred and elusive sense. 

1 comment:

  1. What if women could encourage a focus on self-expression by having more/equal power in society? Women have traditionally been drawn to the arts, they are more likely to keep diaries, more likely to talk about their feelings. Women could potentially change the culture from the inside, liberating men in the process. Doesn't sound bad, does it?

    Btw, I have been part of feminist groups for a long time and I think you overestimate our sense of unity. There is a lot of disagreement between various groups and individuals about every part of the struggle. There is no one feminism but many feminisms.