Why lesbians don’t get AIDS

The year I am not sure of but the time span at least manageable I can say for certain that it was at least 1982 and proably not yet 1984 or 5. By 1982 I had figured out that part of the most likely explanation for the last several years of confusion was that I was gay. And by that I mean I was a lesbian except I never did like that word but I don’t think that by 1982 I had tried on ‘dyke’ for size. I had heard the word of course and usually in the pejorative voice of course but I did not recognize myself in it during that time that I was out to myself but had not actually done anything more dykey than go to a gay bar and run into a friend from high school and immediately develop an unbearable crush on her that lasted for several weeks during which I had no idea what to do about this sort of crush and so I did nothing and never saw her again.

I think maybe I had to at least march in my first Pride March before I could consider myself a dyke but that would be a bit later although not much since it would have been June of 1983 unless I waited till I was out of my parents’ house to risk appearing on tv as whatever I was: dyke, lesbian, gay, queer, one of Those.

Gay was enough for Marietta Georgia anyhow: are you gay was a question that could be put to anyone of any gender. Not that there were more than the two regulation genders in the world that I knew at that time but gay covered everyone except when queer was spat out with the lord’s own disgust. It would be a little while before we queers thought to use the word for ourselves although it would also be quite soon and probably many had already begun only until you had got your courage up to go to the most obvious gay bar in the city you wouldn’t have heard it used by those people who turned out to be your people.

Kind of.

But so I was reading the paper and I was reading about either punk rock or about the AIDS crisis and I think maybe the news was on TV and the news anchors in Atlanta were able to say the word even though the president of the US still had not mentioned it even once and to whomever may have been listening my mother pondered out loud.

I wonder why lesbians don’t get AIDS.

I have no doubt that I did not stir even slightly but kept staring at the paper thinking yeah I could answer that and in however much detail was necessary to get the point across that the most probable vectors of transmission had nothing to do with whether one was gay or straight but what sort of sex one might do involving especially semen but also blood and the natural lube that nobody has a name for besides vaginal secretions which seems short-sighted and so at the time we thought maybe also spit but spit appeared so far to be the least dangerous of the bodily fluids that might be exchanged during you know.

Because lesbians don’t as a general rule have penises.

I have since been disabused of this and any other inaccurate notions I began reciting in my head as possible ways to educate my mother on the hows and whys of gay and or lesbian sex and which combinations of which body parts made it more or less likely to catch anything but at the time I was still quite busy learning some very basic things about human sexuality and gender so the vagaries mostly waited in the wings yet.

Because lesbians don’t squirt semen inside each other. (Also as a general rule and not something I had thought about with great discretion yet and so it seemed plain enough right then.)

Because is it not obvious that the question is not why are not all homosexuals sick with AIDS yet but what particular exchanges and interchanges are most likely to spread infection of various types not just this one?

What do you think lesbians do with one another? Do you know how sex works for different people and for different combinations of people and preferences and past present and future modifications and past present and future injuries of all sorts not only those involving down there?

Do you know the most probable routes of transmission of the AIDS pathogen (was it a virus yet? Without a precise time for the memory I cannot say)?

Do you know how contagion works? Do you know how many different types of microbes there are and how many different ways they can make their way from one body to another? Do you know that germs of all sorts do not ask for a body’s sexual orientation–or religious beliefs pertaining thereto–before deciding whether that body is habitable?

But there was no chance at all I was actually going to engage my mother in a frank conversation about gay and lesbian sex or the objectively amoral nature of infectious disease. How would I explain that I had acquired this esoteric knowledge, for one. Why do you know what lesbians do. I did not want to have to answer that question or even try to wave it off.

~~~~~~~~~|Ø|~~~~~~~~~~

I did not know many gay men when I first came out but because Lisa’s mom went to drag bars for fun lots of their friends were gay men, some nellies, some queens, all just slightly older than I was and almost all of them had by then shared HIV with each other whether or not it was even possible to know this yet. They were finding out, one by one, when I showed up.

It was just the way it was. I mean it was reality in that way that reality tosses aside your disbelief and your terror and plods on as though time were not a thing that passed with any more or less urgency or not in response to animal wishings or wishings not. And so do you then adjust your pace to its agonal indifference or at least you try because no matter what else you try you cannot demand that time pay attention to you or if you do it will not listen even as it meticulously arranges itself around all of you all of us and allow us slip through without effort: by the time I got to know any of this group of people they were adjusting with all unwilling haste to the question one hardly had to ask at this point. That if they were not positive yet they probably would be soon and from there their lives played out too quickly again and again one right after the other in front of each other each and all of the survivors at whatever point there were too many of them to keep good track. Who was just in the hospital. Who had to go last night. Who might not come home from the hospital. Who had pneumonia and who just got his latest test result back after not feeling well for just that much too long for comfort and yeah. Yeah.

Does his family know.
They aren’t taking his calls.
Will they visit.
Of course not.

As it was: I cannot actually say how it felt to watch almost your entire circle of friends and lovers get sick and die one by one in the course of just a few years and I do not know what it is like to see this going on and not even be able to wonder if your turn will be next because it might not be this time but it will at some time not far enough away. Myself I was lucky to some degree or another not only because I was both a lesbian and just starting out just young enough to see just far enough ahead of time but also because I was locked away so deeply in my own neurophysiological labyrinth that I was not about to develop any close attachments to anyone who was not Lisa. And so her losses, her mother’s losses, and the continued chronic loss of an entire social circle were none of them direct losses for me.

Or not in that sort of what is happening to my friends way or what is going to become of all of us we cannot be dying already we only just figured out how to live sort of way. I did not personally experience that particular sort of grief or terror or despair: AIDS was not personal for me or at least not deeply interpersonal. I knew people who lost many friends. I did not lose many friends myself but I did see many acquaintances fade away and disappear long before I could have hoped to have known them.

Which is not to say that none of their deaths affected me. Like most everything else, it would be years before I noticed that I had noticed way much more than I noticed noticing at the time. I took it in the looks and the conversations and the rage spoken and not and even the utter stark realization that we as queers were not going to be given any quarter even for some time after we began to fight for it like a condemned people who could not possibly lose. I filed all of that away archivist of my own memories carefully placing them together without leaving any prints. As though I could keep all that was at a distance long enough to catalog and shelve it before anyone asked me why I was taking such care to begin with. I would not have been able to answer.

Except that what I did know was that I was a queer. After all that time of trying so hard not to be. I was. And I knew that I was surrounded by large communities full of people who not only thought that AIDS was our just punishment but said so out loud as many different ways as possible every chance they got even and especially if they thought there might be any queers within earshot.

I listened as tacit cultural assumption became iterated and reiterated public commonplace: that queers’ lives were not worth the trouble of emergency funding or particularly urgent mobilization of medical research for a quickly spreading illness with a one hundred percent fatality and rapid as the death of mayflies and I watched as the federal government went to great ethical contortions to justify doing quite nearly nothing for several years while so many members of this new family I had come out into got sick and died and got sick and died and got sick and died and got sick and died.

That thing they say about how Ronald Reagan never said the word AIDS but instead made only the most oblique of references to lifestyles and choices while tsk’ing pitiously and clearly implying that they had brought it on themselves after all so what could he possibly do besides insinuate that the dead and dying deserved most of all to be dead and dying and not at all to be the focus of any effort to keep them from becoming the dead and dying?

That’s how true it is: he performed his moral disdain where one might expect compassion in the face of death every time a camera was trained on him and we watched the audience nod along because they knew what he did not have the balls to say out loud: that god was killing the faggots and it was about time. In its place we saw his viciously polite concern for the decent men and women would never dream of violating the natural order of things or if they did dream or if they dreamed and went on to violate, would take their death penalty lumps as the only just possibility in a universe of strict propriety. Certainly we had no moral duty to those who were less accepting of universal laws.

Which was understood to mean god’s laws but back then there was still some awareness at high levels that god would probably be non-partisan if they were to reveal themself.

We guessed that lesbians must be god’s chosen people but we said that only amongst ourselves for many of the same reasons that led me not to explain to my mother why AIDS was not a gay disease despite what current epidemiological statistics might suggest to someone who was already clear on whom god loved and whom god did not love.

God hates fags was not a wingnut opinion in the Bible Belt in 1983. It was a principle so obvious that nobody needed to add it as explanation for anything. I am not so sure that its plausibility has faded a great deal but I do not think about these things rationally because nothing about them is rational. But I will point out that if you believe only a nutcase would buy such a statement then all of our lives will be absolutely subject to irrationality as long as we continue to not to recognize it in ourselves. May it stumble next on the least life-denying motivations and desires it might meet with. Rather than last.

And soon please.

~~~~~~~~~|Ø|~~~~~~~~~~

Charles may have been his name. I had a sister-in-law for a few short years and she worked. Somewhere. Somewhere there in the north suburbs of Atlanta she worked in an office or shop or studio or something and one of her coworkers was a gay man whose name may have been Charles.

Or Chas.
That faggoty name he wished to be called in place of the properly masculine Charles was one of the primary points of derision wasn’t it. Or the faggoty version of his name if it was not Charles but something else similarly variable.

Chas was tendered with a roll of the eyes followed quickly by Charles and so firmly that Chas’ claims to ordinary personhood were immediately extinguished lest anyone get the idea that faggots were due the regard to call them by their chosen names. Chas… Charles! was disciplined into straight masculinity in over-dinner conversation way too often.

Mainly I did not live at my parents’ house after about April or May 1983 but I was not formally proclaimed to have left home until that October. In between and for some time after I would occasionally go home for dinner andor laundry. Sometimes Lisa came along with me. We were together constantly but I never came out to my family. When exactly they figured out what was going on is still a mystery to me but probably once Lisa and I got on the airplane and moved across the country together to Seattle I imagine any doubt was erased but that was not going to happen for another four and a half years. I do not know precisely when unthinkable hunch became dread suspicion turned into somewhat desperate hope evaporated into sacred vestiges of doubt but surely those were no longer viable by the time we landed around midday in November to become suddenly introduced to a winter that more closely deserved its name than it ever had in Georgia.

I do not know for sure but I did sometimes wonder if my sister-in-law talked about Charles on purpose. A birthday maybe or some other office party and Charles had brought a cake and nobody touched it nobody wanted to get AIDS from a cake some old queer had made. That is the only real story I recall the rest were a series of eager snorts of disgust at the queer mostly unaccompanied by anything that was worth the narrative bother to provide them with a rationale. No rationale was needed: everyone already knew all about those dirty diseased queers and their kitchens filled with AIDS measuring spoons and AIDS serving dishes and AIDS coffee cups and AIDS drinking straws. Sometimes instead of baking an AIDS cake the queer would volunteer to bring some of his AIDS paper plates or AIDS plastic forks and then nobody knew what to do because there was nothing to eat the food with he was so inconsiderate not to just keep everything to himself in his little AIDS house.

I do not recall whether anyone knew Charles to be HIV positive for fact and it is very unlikely that he would have revealed his status if he was. Not there. Not then. But it did not matter at all: being openly gay was enough to drive most everyone else to jump at conclusions that would most fully nourish their most carefully tended fears so that to display them overblown and irrational was not only pardonable but a necessary, elaborate act of communal cleansing. The relief at not having to consider themselves vulnerable to or worse deserving of mortality filled living rooms and houses and warehouses and districts until anyone knowing themselves to be queer could find no adequate footing quite nearly anywhere they might try to stand.

The territory I was ever going to be able to call home had been shrinking for some time but it was not until after I knew for certain that my lottery card was indeed at least as improbable as I had intuited for as long as I had been able to intuit anything and that it might turn out to be even more improbable but for now yes I was a homosexual it was at that point or after the point at which I said this and it was true I am gay that was when home as a feeling and as a known place was shifted so far from where it had been first nominated that for a very long time I could not begin to tell you where home was but it was clearly very far away and on such an obscure route and so small that no map worthy of the name would be able to chart it.

And this was also just how it was. It was not alarming to me for home to lose most if not all of its sense. It had been draining away for a very long time already. Nor was it alarming for me to spend most of my energy folding up my thoughts and reactions and stowing them securely where they could not bother anyone whose bother was for me a terror not of physical harm but of more explicit castings out than a disgusted but generic and imprecise “queers!”.

Which itself is odd because I knew I was a priori cast out and had known this for most of my life but my survival had depended so long on not noticing anything that even now I exercise almost painful vigilance over any- and everything that might be best left unremarked. To speak at all I must first meet that vigilance with something like sufficient urgency or desire or necessity to stand it down. The first methods I discovered were all violent to some degree although the violence was not always apparent even when directed only at myself.

As most of it was.

the historical record is skipping again

This will be short, I think. I have things I need to do that are not completely centered around computers–an almost impossible coincidence but it does happen–but this needs attention now.

Actually I am finding the ramping up of violence and legally mandated persecution against QTBLG people in Russia too alarming to be able to form many coherent thoughts about it, or at least not enough to fill much of a page here. Mostly I have been like: shit! I have been having nightmares about this exact thing since the turn of the millennium only in my dreams we are hiding from the police in New York or Seattle, but maybe we have been in St Petersburg this whole time? And now it is actually happening? Uhhh, somebody do something! Anything! Somebody?

A couple of people with more readers than I will ever have have spoken up so far, and they are articulating my own thoughts very well. Especially Stephen Fry, who points out the obvious–the glaringly fucking obvious–parallels between the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics set to be held in Sochi, Russia.

It could be argued that both he and I are overreacting to these similarities, and perhaps we are, but how much of a risk would we take if we acted (or did not act) as though nothing is really going on because we do not believe fascist regimes of extermination could possibly ever arise again in “the west”? I might address the difficulties of terminology later: is this truly fascism that we see emerging in Russia? How “western” is Russia? I cannot say I care all that much about those sorts of problem just yet and I do not know if I will. Right now is a time to act if I ever saw one.

George Takei beat Fry to the punch; he posted yesterday a similar request to move the Olympics. He is less pointed about the historical resonances, but he includes a link to An Internet Petition as a point of registering protest.

Pass these around, please. More importantly, make noise. The petition is a nice start but please do not stop making noise until the Olympic Committee finds its ethical backbone.

This shit scares the fucking daylights out of me.

My way or the highway, and if you choose the highway it’s all his fault

My biorhythms were doing whatever it is they do when I strolled into Mad in America and read about Robert Whitaker’s presentation at NAMI. Or really, its aftermath.

Whitaker, as you may or may not know, is taking all sorts of flack for his research into the current state of psychopharmacological research and marketing, which you can find out more about in the books Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic. I have read both of them and although they are not without their rhetorical excesses (and of course I adore rhetorical excess but not usually mixed with science unless for artistic effect), the research Whitaker has put into them is thorough and very hard to argue with without resorting to very very tired canards about the plight and safety and whatever-tugs-your-heartstrings about the “mentally ill” as long as you don’t have to actually talk to any of them.

One day I will explain why I always put that term in scare quotes. Unless I already have, in which case I will probably do it again even so. But not just now. The short version of Whitaker’s message is something like: we–or those of us not involved in or with pharmacology industries–have no idea how little information we have been given about psychiatric medications, nor how much of what we think we do have is completely without empirical support. Whitaker has unearthed repressed research, inadequate methodologies, and a number of not-too-surprising instances where profit has short-circuited the scientific skepticism that is necessary to keep us from proclaiming that our knowledge is complete when it is in fact completely unmoored from any empirical observations because the money is nowhere near them.

Whitaker has made some enemies, of course. Many of them seem to think that the complexities of reality need to be hidden from some of us for our own good: specifically, those mental patients currently taking antipsychotics who truly need them. As you might suspect, precisely who needs their antipsychotics can vary depending on their relationship to the person you are asking.

A summary of this whole argument would take more energy than I want to expend at the moment, but Whitaker is currently living a snapshot moment that illustrates it, to my rickity mind, particularly well. So a link, and then the comment that those aforementioned biorhythms told me I had to leave after pouring one more cup of coffee, but with the part stuck back on the end that I cut out for the sake of not covering someone else’s blog page with my ranting. If you have time, read the comments (you can skip mine, I am reproducing it right here!); they shed quite a bit of light on the scene and had a great deal to do with whatever induced me to stop everything else I was going to do today to write what follows.

Whitaker’s post

My comment, plus extra bonus words:

No, you don’t have blood on your hands–and wouldn’t have even if Earley’s son had fared worse.

My very honest opinion, given the information given/linked here? Mr. Earley, I have no doubt, believes that he is trying to do the right thing for his son, and believes that “tough love” is a perfectly useful tool in motivating people to live up to their families’ and cultures’ expectations of them. But what I think I see is not at all unusual in the culture I live in (US, western, anglo-american–lots of names and none of them sufficient): our emphasis on individualism and personal responsibility often passes into brutality and abuse despite good intentions and in spite of every bit of love we believe we hold for those close to us.

Take your meds or get out of my house? It looks to me that Earley’s son was given a choice between two barely tenable alternatives, and the son took the one that he himself considered less painful, less risky, less likely to cause him great harm: he left home, alone, knowing what he surely knows about his capacity to handle difficult situations.

Being diagnosable with mental illness does not render us incapable of looking out for our own interests. Not knowing anything about Earley’s son, I can only speculate about why he chose to leave home rather than continue treatment when those were the only options available to him, but if I were going to analyze the situation further, I sure would want to know why he made that choice. I suspect the answer as to how best to serve his son could be found by listening to his son–for Earley, for anyone else.

Earley instead blames you for daring to uncover empirical facts and pointing them out where his son could see them. Controlling information access is a display of power. Possibly an abusive one. But it is endemic in our paternalistic culture and, for too long, has been an acceptable practice in caring for those whom we deem incapable of caring for themselves.

And yet Earley’s son did care for himself. He left home. This seems plain to me from here.

I suppose it might be a relief to be told that one’s child is suffering from a brain disorder and not reacting to, say, inhospitable conditions at home, using whatever means they can. But what I dearly wish could happen in public dialog would be for us to recognize that not only can no human behavior can be explained so simplistically, but there exists little evidence for those explanations we are given–or that we receive–as though they were studied, nuanced scientific conclusions.

We do not have to make a choice, when trying to explain emotional or neurological distress, between blaming refrigerator mothers and attributing it to well-documented brain disorders. Both of those figures are mythological and completely divested of any attention to the reality we ourselves live. But we do need to recognize that upbringing–and this is not a process confined to the traditions of any nuclear family, but a cultural and sociological process that continuously changes its focus–cannot be untangled from the physiological structures we inherit, in whatever shape, and which then develop in response to everything we ever perceive.

And, now apparently, we hear that we are shaped by many of the things our parents and grandparents perceived before any of us had begun to be iterated and reiterated by our own experiences. Take even the briefest critical look at our current understanding of neurological change and the mechanisms of inheritance: less comprehensive, less efficacious than our level of knowledge of these processes is only the degree of control we have achieved over any of them. We fancy ourselves master wizards when we are the neo-ist of neophytes.

My sense of what is called mental healthcare in the US is that, at the level of public discourse, it remains stuck in the positivist, enlightenment-era myth that not only will we be able to categorize and analyze any problem to complete resolution if we apply the briefest effort, but that we are always just on the verge of doing so, or that the last discovery finally put us over the top and now we have the magic key!

You know. Like Zyprexa, the wonder drug, showed us the way to cure psychosis. And a whole bunch of other disorders that we didn’t even know were disorders, much less similar enough to psychosis to be treatable with the same drugs!

I understand why we want these sorts of answers, and why we want them to be easy and without any implications for those considered normal, well-adjusted, and in need of nothing but their own self-sufficient selves. But as complex, intelligent, sensitive, and intensely social creatures, we are all implicated in each other and have been for millennia. Our relations are so complex we might never be able to name them all, but like our old Freudian unconscious, they will make themselves known whether or not we recognize them when they show up.

The desire to assign blame is tempting, I suppose. The more quickly the singular, locatable culprit can be found and punished, the earlier we can forget our own implications with what goes on nearby and return our self-image to its unblemished, untouched ideal. But it almost always leads us to overlook a great deal of detail and a great deal of what could be useful information.

And of course, a compassionate practice aimed at sorting out connections rather than offloading guilt onto the nearest neighbor might also stand some chance of making our multiple connections with our world much less painful.

It is apparent that many of us find those connections painful, is it not?

killing you softly

What defense against the apprehension of loss is at work in the blithe way in which we accept deaths caused by military means with a shrug or with self-righteousness or with clear vindictiveness? To what extent have Arab peoples, predominantly practitioners of Islam, fallen outside the “human” as it has been naturalized in its “Western” mold by the contemporary workings of humanism? … After all, if someone is lost, and that person is not someone, then what and where is the loss, and how does mourning take place?
… If violence is done to those who are unreal, then, from the perspective of violence, it fails to injure or negate those lives since those lives are already negated. But they have a strange way of remaining animated and so must be negated again (and again). …Violence renews itself in the face of the apparent inexhaustibility of its object.
Judith Butler, Precarious Life 32-33

Today being the day it is I decided that rather than participate in the public spectacle we seem intent on creating out of our inability to mourn whatever it was that we in the US think we lost ten years ago–although we may well have never had it to begin with –rather than go along with the ruse of our fallen, long-mythologized invulnerability to attack or even decay, that I was going to re-read Judith’s Precarious Life, since in it she addresses violence and mourning in direct response to the war that we imagine only began in 2001. I wanted to try to understand what it was exactly in our fetishization of the images of destruction that I find so frustrating to deal with, beyond even practical and political concerns over the extent to which we seem to be willing to give up every last shred of dignity and “freedom” (were we “free” before?), if it will help us to reestablish our illusion of security and safety from political violence.

I am also thinking a bit about death and the multiple, complex relations between life and death–not only in the realm of the human, but even in whatever cycle it is with which the forces of the whole universe are engaged: materialization out of potential, animation out of elementary energy, and any and all inevitable returns to entropy that we might also be undertaking as moments of complexity and approximate coherence in a system characterized by violent destruction in creation, and creation in destruction.

As is usual, I managed to get about thirty pages into my chosen reading before I felt compelled to begin writing. The questions that arise upon reading anything with nuance or subtlety are irresistible to me, and so I remain in interminable study, never able to finish much of anything but always starting again to reformulate this process in which I have, for most of my life, been chasing after ways to express the inexpressible and to narrate that which defies language. To put it all too neatly.

It is not a simple coincidence that the refusal to integrate our national experience into a humane course of action causes me to pause over this question of what it is to live in close proximity with death–even here in the US where death is sequestered and hidden away beneath neatly manicured lawns and behind antiseptic curtains. And it is not simple coincidence that this question occurs to me at the same time as does my perennial questions concerning the limits of language and sense, for death is one name for an ultimately senseless way of going along: it is the primary way in which I myself have been and will be related to all that is for all but the tiniest sliver of time that I claim as my uncertain lifespan. I do not mean by this that ultimately I will be dead, but rather that my being dead, or my not being, or something inexpressible that has to do with never having come to be to begin with despite my apparent sensible existence at the moment, constitutes the primary and primordial relations that ground this current state in which, for now, I seem to be here.

To put it in a Zen Buddhist sort of way, I am already dead and always have been. There are infinite other ways of putting it, for it will not be put, or it will not stay put, or in other words there are no other words and so there will always be an ongoing stream of other words. What we in the US seem unable to comprehend is that our ideal of individualism and consequence-free domination of whatever it is we damned well feel pleased to dominate has been bound from the time of its conception to meet, eventually, its limiting case, its moment of mortality realized, its susceptibility to destructive forces and its vulnerability to the violence that it so easily calculates as acceptable expenses for a political economy that will admit no peer. That is, empires are destined to fall. Are we falling now? Have we not already fallen?

To the degree that we must recognize the unrecognizable–that is, our “primary vulnerability” to that upon which our very being falters, even disastrously, in its attempt to circumscribe itself as independent and individualistic –in order to be able to mourn whatever is lost in a violent encounter, in a disaster, then to that degree, one who suffers loss might attempt to disavow one’s own vulnerability to loss by virtue of the fact that injury is instigated by an unrecognizable force. Thus is rendered impossible the question of any sort of narration of loss or resolution in sensible language of the insensibile moment of trauma. But rather than pausing to consider what might be the consequence of our all being exposed in this way, by virtue of our primary vulnerability, if we decline even to pause in the face of what undoes us in violence, if we attempt to master our vulnerability, we only manage to deny the very conditions of our existence and are immediately closed off from the possibility of our own future. With the unrecognizable other, we also die, or are discarded, or are disavowed, or are visited in the continuing cycles of violence that serve the interests of this denial of vulnerability, which is a denial of life itself.

We are thrown here on a sort of paradoxical demand: that the unrecognizable not be consigned to illegibility or, worse, to unreality, because we are not prepared to acknowledge that we might not be able to conceptualize, chart, categorize, or comprehend the nature of our own being exposed to an other. That is, this would be the ethical demand of living itself: not to deny the fact of our helplessness, not to foreclose the possibility of incursions from unpredictable sources–incursions which may cause us pain or pleasure or both, which may occasion the possibility of our being able to live in a more lively way, or which may frustrate our desire to keep our lives in order. One cannot predict which it will be, or whether all of these moments might be bound up together in such a way that pain is the precondition of pleasure and vice versa, or, more precisely, in such a way that the distinction between pleasure and pain is lost in the very potential of coming to life as terrestrial creatures.

Relegating to the unreal that which threatens the security of the self, denying conceptual meaning to that which breaks the bounds of conceptualization, is a form of impotence in the face of the other. This impotence is realized as the impossibility of negating that which, conceptually, one has already negated–as well as the impossibility of negating that which is not subject to the workings of negation! But although the workings of negation or exclusivity or ideation cannot bring this other into any sort of domesticated, enforced “peace”, this other remains naked and vulnerable in relation to the subject of the act of negation. Our impotence, or inability to erase what is not, to begin with, legible, visits upon the other a violence without end, a real violence that incurs real atrocities precisely because its mission is impossible, and thus must be repeated indefinitely, so long as the subject inflicting that violence seeks to immunize itself against what is crucial to the being of that very subject: its other, against which it attempts to define itself. And fails.

This is how, or one of the reasons why, totalitarian violence is in the last analysis suicidal: an attempt to destroy the other which faces me and makes my utterance of “self” possible in that primordial encounter, the effort to sever relations with that in which we are already entangled and always were, from a time prior to memory and thus prior to time, is, in a very real way, the destruction of ourselves. It is not only that the balance of an interconnected ecosystem can be fatally disrupted by exploitation to the point that exploiter and exploited both perish, although to conceive of the relations between living things in the universe in this way makes our fragility in the faceless face of our own exploitative appetites quite clear. But it is also that without those relations we are, quite simply, not. Or rather, not simply at all: those relations’ being the anteroom of history and discourse renders them both foreign to and constitutive of our ability to try to name them as such.

I have no idea how to end this, but it seems as though it might be worthwhile to pause at the point of our own suicidality as it emerges from militaristic efforts to secure our place in eternity. There is no such place to be had, of course, and we only hasten our own demise in struggling to erect for ourselves a line of defense against every possible enemy. Again, this is not only because we are happy to relinquish our ideals for the illusion of safety, but it is at least that and also our current relation to that which has, in the “West”, so long been designated as inadmissible: vulnerability itself, subjection itself, fallibility itself, interdependence and the possibility that our ideals themselves are inadequate and provisional.

back.

I may have been six years old the first time I flew back to Seattle. When I was six nobody knew where Seattle was.

I may have been five, or even four–I do know that I was two when we flew from Seattle to go live in Marietta Georgia and shortly after that we flew back, and thus I began flying back to Seattle when I was too young to be afraid to fly and I have continued to fly back to Seattle through a debilitating fear of flying until this day, if you leave out the few years when I would not fly but instead got into the habit of taking the train back to Seattle.
Continue reading

why greed is now closer to godliness than ever.

Sometimes you wake up and facebook dares you to write a blog post. I won’t reveal the name of the person who posted this quote, since facebook is, you know, that place where privacy is paramount. No really, I don’t share full names with the Internet at large without permission. The pointer, though:

“Why is the Christian right so enamored with the slash and burn capitalist system? –Capitalism: Take all you can. –Jesus: Give all you can. — The connection fails me.”
–fnordlord, commenter on huffpo

Sometimes the asking of a question is meant to be a pointed rebuke, as it is here. And this particular rebuke certainly has a very important point: why do fundamentalist Christians worship “all-for-me, nothing-for-you,” greed-driven, planet trashing consumption-driven capital above just about any other kind of economic system?

It seems contradictory on the surface of it and it probably is just as hypocritical if one pokes at it a little more closely. When I see questions like this, though, they make me want to raise my hand and wave it around and say “Oh! Oh! I was one of them! I know a couple of answers to this question and you all aren’t going to believe what they consist of!”

So, allow me, if you don’t mind: what is it about a deeply exploitative and self-interested economic system that appeals to a religion supposedly founded on principles of generosity and selflessness?
Continue reading