Posts Tagged ‘taboo’

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December 22, 2009

This blog was hit by a surge of activity over the past few days. The search term that brought the activity here was “rodger levesque polygamist”. I’m sorry to let the searcher down, but here goes, the rest of this post is for you. Now seems as good a time as any to put down a succinct statement of my view on conjugal relationships.

First, the concept of living together that I’m working on is far from finished. That’s part of the reason that very little of the concept has been a subject of my writing. Another part of the reason is the confrontational quality of a critique of commonsensical concepts. These are only two reasons, but they play off each other, and have created a necessity to develop a conceptual sphere within which the idea can be safely discussed. That sphere is a theory of social change. This work isn’t even in the beginning stages, but this short statement might help.

Polygamy creates an immediate reaction. The word is synonymous with polygyny, which is the practice of men marrying more than one woman. This practice is most frequently associated with religious institutions and under-aged (non-consensual) brides. This practice, like the common practice of marriage, limits human affection and relationships to an institutionally predetermined configuration. These relationships are closed and exclusive. And the breaching of these definitions is subject to a punitive justice that justifies violence against women, reveals the objectification of women as property.

There are a number of problems within society that are embodied in our cohabitation practices. And while a theory of change wouldn’t stop at the criticism of relationships, the criticism of relationships needs to be included. The criticism of our conjugal practices has a long tradition in the development of a theory of social change.

Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

Today still the most radical freak out when the couple as the only possible relationship is contested. The immediate reaction is the illegality of polygamy, but this form needs to be contested as well. What I am currently proposing is an open , inclusive practice of living together. I’m not suggesting any form of polygyny or polyandry. I’m suggesting no institutionalized form, but a practice of living with friends and lovers in common.  I suggest it as a way of overcoming the splitting that is affecting us so deeply in this policed state we are living under.

“The bourgeois whose existence is split into a business and a private life, whose private life is split into keeping up his public image and intimacy, whose intimacy is split into the surly partnership of marriage and the bitter comfort of being quite alone, at odds with himself and everybody else, is already virtually a Nazi, replete both with enthusiasm and abuse; or a modern city-dweller who can now only imagine friendship as a “social contact”: that is, as being in social contact with others with whom he has no inward contact.” (Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. p.155. Continuum, New York)

When Rodney King asks “Can’t we all just get along?” the cynical modern city-dweller can only laugh at the naivete. But in that question is the seed of an important part of any theory of social change. Why can’t we get along? Why are we incapable of living together?

Very simply, I’d argue that our institutionalized relationship forms are not open enough to accommodate the variety of relational possibilities. And more the exclusive quality of the given form creates a taboo on intimacy outside the form. It can be argued that any taboo limits freedom, because of the possibility of free movement transgressing the taboo.

Of course we are not prepared to live together. We have lost the art. But manuals like Aristotle’s Ethics and The Way of The Samurai can teach us the way to live together, and with commitment to the experiment, we may once again experience living in groups or actually living in community.

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Taboo: Mind Control

March 29, 2009

The internet can make it look like you’ve got some wicked memory. For instance, I know someone once said something like “if you feel in control you’re not going fast enough.” And I want to comment on that.  Voila:

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti (Italian born American Race driver. b.1940) (site)

What I’m talking about in this post is revolutionary thought, or thought itself. In the years that I’ve been around critical thinkers, I’ve seen a number lose mental control. It happens and it’s just happened to another friend, so I wanted to say a few things about revolutionary thinking.

Following Threads

Here’s a story. It’s not well documented. It’s a singular case; an amateur archeological find that I interpreted  quite quickly. The story could go in any direction, but the way I tell it fits with what I’ve seen, what I’m seeing. I found a small library of books in a paper recycling dumpster. And the books, at least to me, told a story. The older books, from the 60s and 70s, were all about social organizing, socialism, union issues (this paper dumpster was in Windsor, Ontario) and other radical works. It’s where I got my totally used copies of Rules for Radicals and The Human Use of Human Beings. But the fresher books, the books from the 80s and 90s (this was the 90s) we more mystical. There were books on angels and conspiracy theories. And some more right-wing writers. I don’t know why the books were being recycled. But I guessed the owner had died, or was taken to a home. But that movement to the mystical right interested me, maybe scared me. If you’re a thinker you probably find yourself freely following lines of thought, it’s almost as though you’re out of control. I’m not advocating control. That’s why the Andretti quote. You should feel out of control as a free thinker. Andretti had a track. Thinkers need friends, someone to say, “come back to us.” If only to keep us in the habit of communicating our thoughts. There is always the danger when going out too far alone, of not coming back.

Sure I’ve been actively following my interests as a reader, but the lines I’ve taken from the Beats and William S. Burroughs, to Nietzsche and Julian Jaynes aren’t really completely controlled by an “I.” What I’m saying is, our minds form in a way that can’t be rock-solidly linked to a directing self. What I mean is that it’s not an “I” forming thought. You don’t believe in God because you’ve chosen to believe. And I didn’t choose the opposite. There is no “I” involved, no agency, we could argue this, but to ask me to believe, is like asking you to accept the opposite. It’s not going to happen. In this round about way, I’m thinking through the necessary conditions for a turn, development, even the stasis, of thought.

Here’s another story. I remember the exact moment my world became godless. As a child, I’d see ghosts, dead people, and maybe once, at the foot of my bed, Jesus. But I’d also heard sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. My very-real-to-me-at-the-time experiences with the spectral world weren’t limited to a consistent plane of the cultural imaginary. Santa and God were aware of my every move. The Devil was there. For whatever reason, I imagined him in the breaker box in our mudroom. If Santa could make it down the chimney of our wood burning stove, Satan could sure as hell wait in the power lines to nab my eternal soul.

When I was ten, my grandfather died. It was a turning point. He’d been eaten away by cancer. A bed had been set up in his living room, because he wanted to die at home. Seeing him skeletal, on the terminal edge of life, the world became very real for me. Looking back now, I started to see and feel things differently. After his death, my family made the move from Catholicism to a more fundamentalist sect of the lightbulb turning, tongue speaking and wailing reborn. I didn’t make the move with them. They questioned Catholicism, and I questioned the existence of God. It’s not something a kid talks about with his parents. Even friends and relatives don’t go there too easily. I still dreamed of ghosts, and demons, but slowly the spiritual world became less real.

So the godless world moment: I was in my last year of high school in a history class, the teacher was talking about World War II, and as an aside he said, “This is the one event that confirms my belief that God has an active hand in history.” He was talking about the race to build the Atomic Bomb. And for him the Americans winning that race, confirmed the hand of God. And this is what I was talking about earlier, the moment he said this, I didn’t think about it, it was instant, I had no control over what happened in my head, but right there my consciousness of a spiritual dimension vanished. It was like I was immediately snapped into this world. I was all in. I am not arguing that it’s worked out well for me, what I’m arguing is that “I” didn’t think it. “I” didn’t reason it. My own consciousness is out of my control, this consciousness is not my own.

So when a radical union activist who I used to know, would go off at local meetings about the government’s plan to launch a mind reading satellite into orbit… I’ll say this in his defense, he was waving a book that laid out all the details, and he was offering it to anyone willing to read it. From my own experience, from what I’ve seen, or at least what I think I’ve seen, there is a question of control. And if we’re not in control, who is?