Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We Have Always Been at War with Aristasia

One of the more insightful conservative couples I know say they suspected, well before I did, what I was up against in the struggle that culminated on C-SPAN2. 

They recall over a year ago likening my sparring partner to the Anthony Powell temptress/destroyer character Pamela Flitton from the novel series A Dance to the Music of Time -- and, perhaps even more interestingly, to heretical British right-wing lesbian Miss Martindale, leader of the non-spatially-located lesbian "nation" of Aristasia, which claims to admire discipline but not necessarily s&m.  Behold footage of Miss M. herself, and do not be surprised if some of you perceive striking similarities of comportment and attire to someone else (I am also struck by the pretense of maintaining strict traditional roles even in a strange alternate social universe clearly predicated on abandoning traditional locales, a la the irrational and destructive insistence on completing the bridge on the River Kwai).  I suppose Miss M.'s traditional look beats going to great length and expense to achieve androgyny and ending up with something as off-putting at this

(By contrast, there was some lovely, rail-thin, and fashionably suspenders-wearing she-Jagger creature, Italian I think, on the APA panel about Twitter last week, an androgynous philosophy professor with New Wavily teased short hair who could probably teach Americans even more about fashion than about tech-enhanced consciousness, not that I'm knocking either.  She was one of the rare cases where the tragic Italian trend toward avoiding weight gain and curviness paid off -- but in general, I still recommend Italian women try to catch up in size to their Italian-American counterparts.  Waste of genetic potential not to.  Monica Bellucci is a sex symbol.  Pinocchio is not, as far as I know.  I can't say that often enough.)

I'm not claiming for a moment actually to have contended with a Powell villain or an Aristasian -- not even a British person -- but there were at least comparable layers of philosophical weirdness, which should give pause to anyone tempted to think it was all a typical intra-conservative or intra-nerd spat, let alone a mere dumped guy with sour grapes. 

And none of it, admittedly, mapped tidily onto conventional utilitarian models of happiness, except in so far as people will eagerly adhere to and even promulgate, I now think, just about any set of rules coherent enough to "feel" like a familiar heuristic in a frightening
and chaotic world, even if the rules are destructive.  Whether you give them the Code of Hammurabi or a list of all the Pokemon, they'll feel proud of themselves for memorizing it and making others follow suit, benefits or no benefits.  Sports rules.  Legion of Super-Heroes bylaws.  The process of induction to the Crips or Bloods.  If I know and you don't, I'm apt to think I'm superior. 

But on a more conventional creedal note: tomorrow's "Month of Haters" entry will be a look at, for lack of a better term, the chivalrists eager to do battle with me.


Dealing with weirdoes, if I may use that technical term, can at least enhance one's ability to spot members of certain subcultures.  I recall being in a restaurant a couple months ago and seeing a black-clad woman with a nearly-shaved head, for instance, so I wasn't terribly surprised when even the most casual eavesdropping revealed a conversation containing the phrases "That's what vanillas say," "Do you swing?" and "We drank absinthe."  Luckily, nice, normal people like my friend Diana Fleischman are researching topics like hormonal influences on female psychology (she was interviewed about it by Femme).  So, someday soon we should be able to do a simple blood test for normality. 

In the meantime, I say to ritualistic subcultures of all kinds: robbing someone's house does not become excusable simply because you say, "I'm not just 'robbing your house,' I'm engaged in an elaborate performance art piece that traditionally includes robbing your house -- and don't you see how ironic my bag of loot is, with a comical dollar sign drawn on the side?  Get with the program before someone sophisticated shoots you."

On the other hand, at least discovering that there are dark, alien philosophies at work in the world teaches us all to try harder and be more imaginative, not settling for thinking that, say, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans -- or Lutherans and Methodists -- are exhaustive of all the world's infinite possibilities.  Just as sci-fi authors who make space aliens look and sound a bit too much like us should feel chastened every time they see a sea anemone, so too should political philosophers who think they've got all the angles covered take a moment to contemplate Miss Martindale. 

(By contrast, anyone tempted to leave it all to tribal tradition and communal instincts should read this article about the ease with which ethnic solidarity is wrecking commerce in one New England town.)

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