The Enlightenment of Attraction

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Julia — the main female character — publicly espouses the political views of the all-powerful “Party.” This, of course, is necessary for survival. But wanting to disguise herself as especially zealous and loyal to the Party (which means less suspicion falls on her, and, as such, that it is easier to break the rules), Julia wears the scarlet sash of the Junior Anti-Sex League, a puritanical and nihilistic organization that is, for ideological reasons, opposed to sex.

Of all details of Orwell’s novel, this has seemed the most out of place in a society that, regardless of the date on the cover of the book, we generally imagine as existing, or threatening to exist, somewhere in the future. As a civilization, we had gotten over the prudish moralizing of the past. And, yet, the politicization of “the body” — in, for example, gender studies — and the continual discovery of new socio-political categories for gender and sexuality — has inevitably led to a renewed moralizing about the body and sex. Continue reading “The Enlightenment of Attraction”

Barbarians, Gender Ambiguity, and Possibilities For a New Culture

We should be cautious of prophecies that claim that we are on a path of infinite political “progress,” infinite “economic growth,” or, conversely, headed toward civilizational collapse. Things are more complicated, and there always remains opportunities for the creation of interesting new cultural movements and for personal ascent (though perhaps not for those who are determined to fit themselves into some outdated societal mold).

A century ago, the German intellectual Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) argued that civilizations are organic, that they take root, blossom, and then whither and die. According to Spengler, the West is now in its dying phase. His thesis, however, was rebutted by another German thinker, Jean Gebser (1905-1973), who argued that human consciousness evolved through the emergence of new stages of consciousness. The previous stages remained in the psyche but were superseded. Such stages (the archaic, magic, mythical, mental, and integral) were characterized by new developments in language, art, and even in perception — hence our ability to see the color blue (something that humans have only been able to do for a few thousand years or so), and the appearance of perspective in art (which man did not understand and possibly could not really detect at one point). Continue reading “Barbarians, Gender Ambiguity, and Possibilities For a New Culture”

Focusing on The Smaller Things

The Western is a genre of literature, cinema, or other arts that depicts life in the American Old West during the latter-half of the 19th century and first decade of the 20th century. A common feature of such depictions is a vision of grandeur, limitless horizons, and untamed wilds. Lawmen vie with outlaws in desolate places to bring American civilization and order to new lands.

In the Western genre dreams of greatness are often expressed: a hope at establishing a new life “out West,” finding a fortune in the gold rushes of California, seeking personal revenge, or finding fame through heroic acts against Indian tribes or bandits. The modern version of the knight errant, the lone ranger seeking justice, is bound no social institution but only to his internal sense of honor. Continue reading “Focusing on The Smaller Things”