Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Impending Queerpocalypse: Relax. You're going to get through this.

"Equality is based on envy. It signifies in the heart of every republican: 'Nobody is going to occupy a place higher than I'." —Tocqueville

Many of us look at the Right's fear of the impending, inevitable Queerpocalypse with skepticism. What for the fucking love of blowjobs is a queerpocalypse? Open your Queerguidebooks to page 72, where it says,

the queerpocalypse is that singularity point where we are all the same color (and it isn't white), the terrifying zero-oclock time when manwomen can legally marry womenmen who can polyamorously marry a pack of bottlenose dolphins. That Queerpocalypse is coming, it WILL be televised, and it's going to be FUCKING FABULOUS. 
(Don't marry bottlenose dolphin's btw. They're total rapists.)

The terror felt by the Right seems pretty absurd to everyone else, so we don't take it seriously. Anyway, they've all been safely marginalized behind a label. To hell with them, after all, they're just a bunch of douchenozzles and the bike needs polishing. 

We don't feel particularly scared when our children tell us that there's a monstert under their bed, either. 

But maybe we should. As all wise children know, not all monsterts are visible. All the same we don't, like I said the bike needs polishing and we've got a life to live that doesn't involve douchenozzles, and the Right's fear of the queerpocalypse is almost precisely like a child that is afraid of invisible monsterts under the bed.

There is only one problem with all of this. Not taking this fear seriously demonstrates precisely the lack of understanding that makes real communication impossible. Yes, of course it goes both ways. Communication only happens between equals, the saying goes. It's why "they" have no empathy for the needs of people "they" also feel they can't relate to. I am using finger quotes because the very act of labeling itself is partially responsible for our blind spots

This isn't just to avoid plausible deniability or just flat out deniability at any cost — people quite simply don't see eye to eye. Their very identities depend on it. 

You shouldn't presume to see inside another person's soul and successfully evaluate it; still less the evolution of an emotional state into a way of being. It may be a scientific premise that there are no privileged spaces or times, but such a premise gives us absolutely no sense of what it is to be human and alive all at once. 

How can we deal with this in a new way? We continually change frames of reference, embrace both immanence and multiplicity, and even force ourselves to imagine that invisible monsterts are real. 

Strap in. This is going to be a round-about-ride. If we want to really see past the conceptual blind spots that our brain literally filters out, we're going to have to get squirrely. Don't worry though, that's what we've been working at on this site and in our books, slowly chiseling away at the idea that a singular narrative can successfully define anything. 

As a thought experiment, consider that the underlying fear experienced by the people that we are generalizing as "the Right" is legitimate. That is, they are legitimately feeling something. See how easy that was? Make no value judgement at this point about the validity of the narratives and rationalizations that come before and after the emotion, but, before we even get to equality so as to communicate, we have to grant the reality of another person's emotions, and then move on to look at what narratives are filling the hole made by those emotions.

I keep mentioning "the fear" without giving demonstrations of it. Let's check out some samples, and see if you can intuit the nature of the emotion, without letting your own anger turn this entire issue into a giant blind spot:

Already we can see that this is not the same "fear" that Burroughs refers to.

Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of examples where those came from. In particular, keep in mind the sense from Victims of Queer Bullying of feeling traumatized and marginalized. It's the central point I have to make here, but we're going to need to go a ways to come back to it with new eyes.

If this is distracting, it doesn't necessarily
mean that you're a lesbian.
The truth is, I would have never even considered taking this fear seriously if I hadn't of married a librarian. Because it was only through coming to be-in-relation-to her that I realized what a problem categorization and identification poses for most people, even if the majority of them are probably not aware of it as such.
["I won't have a real library job soon," she says. "Don't worry, no one will soon," I reply, and the joke reminds us that our personal woes are sometimes representative of a systemic trend. And sometimes they're not, but either way the joke is only funny because it is so sad, but crying gets boring after a while. What may actually be funny is that she is applying to a queer-run business this week.] 

What the hell should being a librarian have to do with the Right's fear of gay marriage, or queerness in general? I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but librarians do more than memorize the Dewey decimal system with autistic-like precision and masturbate while reading Proust. But even if that is all you know about librarians, it is enough for you to understand that there must be a system. One of the fundamental functions of a librarian is to categorize, and to further create categorization systems that are both flexible and comprehensive.

To be accurately categorized, objects need to be accurately labelled.

Even the word "discrimination" has two very different meanings that pertain to this issue: we speak of "gender discrimination," "racial discrimination," we speak of being discriminated against for our beliefs, for our sexual orientation.

We can at the same time speak of the power of human thought, which is based in part on our ability to generalize and discriminate: the very things that we may vilify with the same breath.

What is more, language is essentially arbitrary. Not meaningless, but arbitrary. This may not shake the foundations of our sense of the world, but when a culture simultaneously realizes that its premises are arbitrary, a great deal of anxiety can result.

We needn't dabbling in Jeremy Irons style "thought experiments" on the meaning of "marriage" to see how this idea rubs up against the topic at hand.

I have been thinking about this article over the past few days, and tonight I asked my wife if she thought there was a contradiction presented by needing to create an accurate label system as a librarian, and she sagely replied, "people aren't things."

I couldn't agree more. But that is not a common belief. Whether we are identifying ourselves as "straight" or "gay," whether we are defining our race, our favorite sports team, we are applying a label to ourselves. Many companies these days are investing a great deal of resources into allowing us to tag ourselves. The business model of social media, if you didn't already realize this, is to allow the gamification processes inherent to social interaction to bring us to do this very thing: label ourselves and thereby present user profiles and behavior patterns. It is a marketing and advertising wet dream. Or it is on paper, at any rate. Unfortunately, although there are some definite statistical upshots of this approach, it is so "fuzzy" that you need millions of users to really leverage it.

Point is, each of us are objects to most everyone else, if we exist in their thinking at all.

We can then consider two other divergent views that may be useful to the task at hand (understanding "the fear" as entrance to queerpocalyptic portents for either utopia or disaster) : Taoism and Confucianism.

These two philosophies arose in China in a sort of mutual counterpoint, Taoism as the naturalistic, Yin version to the Confucian celestial Yang. This in a time when most established cultures were looking to the stars to find an order to life, and the pre-Galilean/Copernican worldview was quite often one of circles and eternal returns much as it was after, at least right up to the time when cosmology encountered the Big Bang.

Even in the typically xenophobic cultures of ancient China there was a somewhat familiar narrative unfolding: one that sought to find an inner child, to follow the path laid out by nature, even by gravity, and to recognize that cultural beliefs are flimsy; the other which believed the cultural beliefs radiate all the way to heaven, that an organized society actually gains its harmony directly from emulation of celestial bureaucracy  You wouldn't be entirely wrong to think that some ancient Confucians might have been concerned about an immanent queerpocalypse.

We don't need such a generalized, macrocosmic example to see how these two serve as counterpoint for one another. It's a bit like my wife and I. I like to have as few labels as are humanly possible. She likes to organize everything. (Except for her clothes.) I like to be tossed into "flow situations," thrive in the nebulous. She likes order, a plan. I like to lose my wallet twenty times a day. She tells me to leave it in the same place every day but I try to explain that the Earth is spinning on its axis very quickly, so there's no way I'd ever find my wallet if I did that.

The real takeaway of this example is that it's a wonder I'm still alive.

Can you dig it? If so, check out the 404 Documents.
We explore this idea much more there.
What is more, as time goes on we become a bit more like one another: the spot of the Yang in the Yin, or the Yin in the Yang. This blending seems to be exactly what fears the Right about some impending Queerpocalypse, which will be brought on by the gradual erosion of the American Family as the result of too many throbbing gay cocks and too many lesbians... playing Yatzhee or whatever it is that lesbians actually do.

(I'm kidding. I was raised by lesbians. I know exactly what they do, but I'm not going to give up the Sisterhood. Plus, it's actually not all that far from Yatzhee, most of the time.)

As I discussed perhaps ad nauseum in The Immanence of Myth, "culture" is a surprisingly tricky concept to really come to grips with. At first glance it is solid as bricks but after ten hours and a ten strip -- you already know that something is rotten in Denmark. It is only through the almost inarguable bulk of anecdotal instances that we can presume that one or another culture exists, especially within the context of the present, where we have a world where (so the anxiety goes), all the "old traditions" are at risk of turning from their distinct selves to an invisible part of the whole, like salt bonding with water and rejoining an ocean, or Odo going back to be with his changeling people in the Great Link, which I'm fairly sure is Star Trek code for "gay sex orgy."

This anxiety that the Right feels about gay marriage or the overall "gay agenda" extends to many other issues as well. In every instance, which I will spare you from, the underlying issue is apparently one of purity. 

Purity is at the heart of an identity that is formed through discrimination: this and not that, that and not this. whether it be in the form of the blood purity that served as occult justification for the Reich's genocide of everyone deemed "Other" to the (comparatively less obtrusive) lesbian fear of bisexuals blunting the edge of their subcultures agenda, this yearning for purity seems quite common in cultures of all kinds. It seems to follow that it will be more prevalent in cultures that base themselves in that opposition, whether to an imagined or real enemy, against the judgement or abuse of other groups, and always most notably in those with something to prove, either to themselves or to others within their chosen "in-culture."

This is the most difficult element of a post-cultural perspective that we must swallow: that the hate of a feminist against a misogynist, justified or not, mirrors the hate that put them in that position in the first place. It is the same hate that lobs rocks at Israeli tanks. It is the hate of slaves against their masters. It is the hate of slave owners against their rebellious herd. The names change one generation to the next, but the story doesn't. When you strip value judgments away and allow internal experience to stand on its own ground, the results are troubling. How many "villains" do you think see themselves that way?

At this point, anyone that has taken an intro to philosophy or anthropology course is likely to accuse me of cultural relativism, as if recognition of what's plainly the case is a crime, or some admission of defeat. Yes. I'll call a spade a spade, and resort to cliche, rather than create an arcane system to weasel out through a positively academic display of semantic prowess.

But I am not at all ignorant of the problems posed by the fact that culture is, much like language, functionally arbitrary.

We must remember that everyone is locked within their own dream — and that dream within the dim nightmares and fancies of a particular generation — yet this hate is timeless. It has been chewed and passed from mouth to mouth back to the very origins of modern civilization in the Mesopotamian region.  To spit it out you have to see beyond the labels and even beyond the categorization systems in place, and recognize that those things are arbitrary, but the human experience behind it is not. Without compassion, we surely have the justification to bury countless bodies six feet under in our backyard.

Does awakening to this kind of compassion mean transcending labels, transcending difference: being all one race, one culture, and risking the rise of yet another Reich that says "Conform to This Standard."

Clearly not. I don't want the Queer Police knocking on my door any more than I want the Homophobe Brigade to.

What is required for us to grow up and make friends with the monsterts is much more a challenge than simply "not seeing race" as Stephen Colbert says. It is to allow for All Systems of Categorization, All Methods of Identification to co-exist, even when they contradict one another.

We already have such a system. It exists all around us in our cities, and inside us in our brains. We just have to awaken to it. We have to relax and learn how to be citizens, friends, lovers together in a way that doesn't just re-enforce the arbitrary labels rather than the fleshy, raw human consciousness that exists underneath the chitin of our information architecture.

It is to let go of the fear of the beast lying slumbering in the dark Chaos — the religious Right is still afraid of Tiamat, the names have just changed — and let the order within that chaos to present itself.

No small order, I know.

I don't expect this cultural singularity to occur to a set schedule — there is constantly the danger of regression.

We are just one infant species experiencing a dangerous growth spurt. Without a recognition of all of our Queerness, (and there lurks the danger of the term losing meaning, as all terms essentially do when they gain species superiority), we will surely die together.

Will the insects then inherit the Earth and, after developing a sentience of their own quite unlike the primate "I," say: "Humans! What a queer animal they were."

Until next time.

P.S. To whomever bet that I couldn't connect species collapse with gay marriage, 20 bucks this way, please.

[Where is the fucking counterculture? Mythos Media.]

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