6/22/2005

The ghost of Terri Schiavo is alive and well and on the loose in Florida, resurrected by the Schindlers with the eager and able assistance of Governor Jeb Bush. Honestly, I don't see why anything should change for the Schindlers. They could have had Terri stuffed and just continued on pretty much as before. But this is yet more shameless politicking by Jeb. He reminds me of Paris Hilton--anything to keep his name in the national headlines. If he had a beaver to flash you can bet he'd be flashing it. And just as Paris used porn to bore her way into the national psyche, Jeb did too. At least Paris used a living person.

Jeb is probably an abler politician than his stooge of a brother, but as audacious as the GOP has become, my guess is that they'll balk at running him in the top spot in 2008. But you never know. Personally I think they'd be stupid not to run McCain. I mean, I might even vote for McCain for president, but he's definitely a loose cannon, though he made the requisite effort to conform in the last campaign by basically blowing his arch-rival Bush on National TV. Unlike McCain, Jeb has never deviated from the party line and pays appropriate homage to the religious right. Which is what this necrophiliac orgy in Florida is all about.

As for the Schindlers, this is pure bitterness. A smear campaign. And it shows what kind of people they are, and that they never had their daughter's interests in mind. Talk about a grudge. They have basically accused Michael Schiavo of murder. When the coroner's report cleared him of strangling her 15 years ago, as the Schindlers had alleged, the Schindlers called for a criminal investigation to go over the coroner's head. And good ol' Jeb has pulled whatever strings needed pulling to get the witch hunt underway. What the Schindlers really want is for Schiavo to pay for pulling the plug on their daughter. There must be someone to blame, and someone must pay. Michael Schiavo is the obvious choice, isn't he?

Not to beat a dead corpse, but this is the scorched-earth mentality of the right in action. Here we have medical evidence that clears Michael Schiavo of any wrong-doing he was maliciously accused of. The fact is, he was accused not because there was any preponderance of evidence of foul play but precisely because he disagreed--fundamentally, philosophically--with his accusers, who seem to be able to use the government of Florida for their own purposes, in this case revenge.

Here's a prime example of the importance of a real independent judiciary.

6/19/2005

I've gotten a lot of feedback from friends, acquaintances, shop clerks, and fuckbuddies over the last week, not about something I wrote, but about a letter to the editor someone wrote about me in Monday's Metro, I think it was. It's actually the most feedback I've gotten since I started writing regularly for the paper. Everyone found it very amusing that a certain Jeff Cole had called me a communist. It is certainly not the worst thing I have been called. My favorite of all is "the posterboy for knowledge without intelligence" (though I would rather be the centerfold, if the truth were known).

Yes, my views have been mocked and jeered in the vaunted pages of Metro on occasion. My ignorance on the issues of the day has been called "appalling." I even "nauseated" one very smart reader with a weak stomach by unwittingly falling into the evil clutches of stealth creationists while arguing against creationism in the schools! What a moron! Which is what one reader called me for my recent column defending Howard Dean.

How do I feel when I see the suffering I have inflicted on the innocent? What do I hear when they cry out for justice and freedom from my oppressing ignorance? Just this: bla bla bla fucking bla bla. Get a life, bitches.

In truth it's hard to get too exercised about all the name-calling. That's part of the territory. But people do say silly things. Take Mr. Cole's red-baiting. What is it, 1948? Communism is so over, Jeff. Although I have to admit to a fondness for Maoist fashion, I can think of nothing more awful than having to attend all those awful endless fellow traveler meetings when I could be out frolicking in the free market. Because shopping for bargains is fun. Filene's is fun. What communist would admit that? I love the free market, people! Although I have to admit it's more fun when you've got a little disposable income.

The story of the Twentieth Century is not even about the battle between two economic systems, both highly theoretical, but rather the story of totalitarianism versus democracy. Capitalism is arguably more in line with human nature than communism,just as the urge to totalitarianism is somehow stronger than the long slog of democracy. Democracy is more often than not a tedious process. A never-ending clash of individual egos, forever entering into tenuous alliances and forging temporary compromises for expediency's sake. In totalitarianism, there are clearcut winners and losers: individual egos are subsumed under one giant ego, and the little egos become an instrument for the collective ego. That's the appeal of religion, and that's partly why we have to be wary of religious personalities engaging in our democratic politics. They are more likely to want to participate in the democratic process only to transform it into an instrument of totalitarianism. Clearly , both the extreme right and left have totalitarian tendencies. The devil is in the details. Historically, the right has tended toward fascism, and the left toward communism. Neither is good news for individuals or their freedoms, obviously.

As for capitalism versus communism, as large-scale systems they both steamroll over the individual. Size matters, and there is no economic or political system that purports to govern hundreds of millions to billions of people that can do so with anything approaching real justice. Our federalist system is a pretty good way to deal with the size issue, but even it can break down due to political consolidation on the national level.

As for the totalitarian personality, this is what we think of when we think of communism, nine times out of ten. "Communist" has become shorthand for a person opposed to the personal freedoms we've come to associate with "the American way." But while communists were officially atheists they very blatantly co-opted the religious urge and its attendant habits for what amounted to an atheistic religion, from the Marxist teleology that appealed to the intelligentsia to the iconography that spoke to the common folk.

The fact is, if historical circumstances were different, many on the right today in America would make excellent communists. Barely able to tolerate the cultural differences an open market naturally engenders, If given free reign, they would quite happily turn in neighbors whose views differed from their own. They have self-segregated into McVillages in the exurbs(the latest wave of white flight began in earnest in the nineties and continues to this day) where they're neighbors share not only their basic lifestyle, but their politics as well, and there hangs over the subdivision an air of paranoia straight out of an old Twilight Zone episode. I know what I'm talking about. I remember visiting my folks in one of these vinyl villages outside of Indianapolis. It was only my second or third time there since they moved from my childhood home some years earlier. I was sitting on their back patio, a beer in one paw and a book in the other, relaxing and minding my own business when the phone rang inside. It was my parents' next door neighbor, who, incidentally, ran some kind of private security business he had, post-9/11, renamed Patriot Security, calling to inform my folks that there was a "stranger" on their back porch. My mother answered, "yes, I know. That stranger is my son."

This guy would have made a great commie. Communism, in practice, was, on the local level, a tool for petty personal recrimination that worked in favor of conformers, and condemned difference as heretical. It was, as the Catholic Church has been at times, institutionalized evil (of which there are many other forms, you can be sure). If you doubt that totalitarianism can thrive under capitalism, just look at the corporate culture that undergirds it today. It is functionally totalitarian. An employee's every move may be monitored, and he presumably adjusts his behavior accordingly. Freedom of thought and expression outside of the functional imperatives of the company are not tolerated, and in dress and language conformity is demanded. Can the personalities that thrive in this environment switch to little-d democrats once they leave the office? Can a liberal democracy tolerate totalitarian cells in its midst? Where are the drones' allegiances in the end? Towards an abstract concept like democracy? Or towards the means of real sustenance and status for themselves and their families?

My point, though, is that the personality type that took such gleeful advantage of state-sanctioned scapegoating under national socialism, communism, whatever, exists in America, of course, and in abundance. Communism schmommunism. I don't care what economic model the regime pledges allegiance to, give these people a chance, and they'll start looking for populations to purge. Gays, blacks, Jews, Muslims, uppity women, the aged and infirm, witches, heretics, the politically incorrect. Those they claim are atheists, or believers, communists or capitalists, loyalists or terrorists. The personality transcends the politics.

In many ways, in fact, it's much more a "personality conflict" than a real political or culture war we're in the midst of in America at the moment. That's why I don't see much hope in moving forward through politics, because the dominant personalities in our politics today are not free-thinking little-d democrats, but dyed in the wool dogmatists. These are habits of mind. And all the great cultural battles in the struggle for an open society are between the dogmatists and the free-thinkers, between those hostile to freedom and those who'll fight for it. The Narcissuses versus the Goldmunds. The dogmatists' politics, whatever they call them or claim them to be, always come to resemble religion, where personality and personal freedom are subsumed under the great omnipotent ego-projection of a god (not to be confused with the vast transcendent egoless Truth, but that's for another rant).

As for being called a commie, the idea that anyone could be a true communist, that there is any such threat to American society today, is as lame-brained a notion as the insidious gay agenda or the liberal media. We lack the most basic of social safety nets, and proposals to privatize social security are being seriously discussed in Washington these days. Only in a handful of industries is there any semblance of organized labor, and it more often than not resembles organized crime. Only a real moron would sound the alarm about communists in our midsts. Occasionally on college campuses it's true you run into one of those cartoon communists, dressed in army green with a beret, John Lennon glasses, and a menacing little goatee reminiscent of Trotsky. And they're good for a laugh.

For the record, I lived in Eastern Europe for the better part of a decade, saw the ravages of state socialism, and don't have much more to say about it. But chuckleheads like Cole are the types who see commies under every rock. If you're not a bitch for Bush, well, then, you must be a pinko. If you're not one of these whacked-out satanic evangelicals who've kidnapped Christ, then you must be a godless, fetus-eating, feeding-tube-yanking, anti-American infidel. It's tiresome.

I certainly did not argue in my Bird Street editorial for collective ownership of the means of production. I argued that our collective resources might be better spent trying to help struggling people gain education and training so that they can enter the marketplace on a somewhat equal footing with the middle class than on frivolous wars that are sowing the seeds for future uncertainty and seem designed to rob the treasury to line the pockets of executives at Hallifuckingburton.

If that makes me a communist, well then, nostrovia, comrades!

6/03/2005

I've just read that scientists have identified a single gene in fruit flies that determines sexual orientation. Crudely put, when switched on in females, said females pursue other females. When switched off in males, said males pursue other males. The scientists involved said they were only surprised by the fact that such complex sexual behavior could be so simply and easily manipulated. Fruit flies apparently have a sort of master switch where sexual orientation is concerned.

Of course, we can all see the implications for humans, although scientists are always sure to caution, these are fruit flies, not humans we're talking about. But how different is a fruit fly from a human, really? I mean, think of Blake's little poem:

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

Further proof that there's not a lot of difference between us can be found in the description of their mating rituals:

"When the genetically altered fruit fly was released into the observation chamber, it did what these breeders par excellence tend to do. It pursued a waiting virgin female. It gently tapped the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her - all part of standard fruit fly seduction."

The only significant difference is that when flies actually get down, they do it for a solid twenty minutes. Most people are done in about three. This is even more striking when you consider the lifespan of the average fruit fly: a week or two (though some species, notably Anastrepha ludens, can last for a year).

That would be like fucking for a month straight without a break, people. Talk about tedium. Even on X.

Speaking of. Hard to know how the news will go down in the gay community, which is of two minds on the issue of what's commonly called essentialism. I don't know why. As Leo Bersani observed in that seminal piece of queer theory, "Is the Rectum a Grave?" there is hardly any environment more ruthlessly darwinian than a gay bathhouse. Behaviorwise, at least. It is actually a cruel caricature, of course.

What rankles some is the whiny, "I can't help it, I was born this way" argument less queer-correct gays sometimes resort to when cornered. It seems to imply that were they able to change teams, they would in a heartbeat. They may just get their chance.

Will the gay community be better off, like the Catholic Church, with a smaller but more hardened, spartan band of brothers? Those who know that by flipping a switch they could be instantly transformed into real-life versions of their beer-guzzling, crotch-scratching, skirt-chasing, back-slapping, wife-beating, belching, farting, nose-picking regular dream guys but stay the course for the greater good, for the sake of culture anyway? Those last die-hards will be like Christs in the wilderness, tempted by the great Satan of genetic engineering. "All this could be yours!"