What I Learned From Faulkner

When my programme of filling in the gaps in my literary education reached The Sound and the Fury, I found less ferocious racism than I had expected. His Southerners’ self-perception as supporting their blacks rather than being supported by them (in the original, slightly redacted: “working to support a kitchenful of negroes”) seems weird to us but plays to my general doctrine that “No man is a villain to himself” and that oppressors often see themselves as victims.

Note that the word is “kitchenful” because these are domestic servants, what people used to call house-slaves, and that as far as I could make out, field-hands did not appear in the Faulkner at all.

The worst generalisations about African-Americans are put into the mouth of Jason, who is such a nasty character as to be the most unreliable of narrators. On the other hand, his remark that “negroes always have a watertight alibi for everything they do” makes me wonder. For this was my own observation while living in Africa. I used to say that if a certain poor and unhappy country in which I lived for months could only find a paying market for excuses, it would become an economic superpower overnight, and my native hearers ruefully admitted the truth of this satire.

What do I think is happening here? Why, a version of Edward De Bono’s Intelligence Trap, in that the immense African verbal facility, learned at Mother’s knee, is primarily instrumental and tactical. Were the culture to be biased less towards bullshitting your way out of trouble and more towards not getting into it in the first place, we might see continental progress.

A biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture quotes slaves’ excuses in very much the same terms as Jason, although from a very different set of values. CLR James regards the verbal habits as an entirely comprehensible response to utterly horrible conditions. The trouble is that none of the people I have heard the lies from were slaves, though their ancestors had been colonial subjects. So perhaps the mind-set I encountered was inculcated by colonialism and the mentality of corrupt extraction it brought, and not broken by generations of theoretical independence.

One might expect the concern with “watertight alibis” in the slaves of Antiquity and other maltreated groups – subalterns in the sociological jargon. Yes, that means women too. I do not know whether anyone has systematically looked for this. The mechanism involved would be that all speech has to be geared entirely to self-preservation. What would remain in need of explaining would be the odd psychology of the human being who obstinately tells only the truth.

(Fiddle date-stamp to 3 March 2020)

Does The “Office Nympho” Actually Exist?

The other day I came across the phrase “Office nympho”. Never mind how wrong it is for anyone to say this nowadays – the reflection it provoked in my own so wicked mind was to ask whether I had ever met such a thing. I have, after all, spent a certain small fraction of my life working in offices.

I quickly realised that it would be a matter of definition. Assuming for the sake of argument that there were something we should call a “nympho” – or sexually liberated/aggressive woman, if you prefer – was there any reason to think that every office would have one? Certainly I had never observed the phenomenon, but then again, if I had been at an office supplied with an office nympho, she would not have looked at me. I might not even have noticed that there was one. Anyway, I had not worked in enough large organisations, which reduced sample size.

At a larger workplace, could I envisage a social dynamic that created this title? Well, yes. The office is the modern village, and so we must expect there to be a ducking-stool. Now, it suits women to pretend that the policing of female sexual behaviour is conducted solely by men, whereas in reality it is (in Shaw’s phrase) female trade-unionism.

It should be blindingly obvious that if the Office Nympho exists, she is a bigger threat to the women than to the men; the latter can hope for a cheap fuck and thus have no reason to suppress her, but for the other women there are no upsides. The promiscuous woman is both driving the price down and generally undermining claims to the superior moral “virtue” of the sex. In addition, Jung’s theory of projection is highly relevant; seeing someone else live out your own secret fantasies is upsetting.

What would drive the behaviour that gets a woman stigmatised as the Office Nympho? It has nothing to do with offices per se, but many people suffer from a pathological need for validation. A man with that need might be the Office Casanova, or waste a lot of time trying to be; in a woman, the thirst seems to be for attention. One rarely meets a female who entirely lacks that craving, perhaps because such a person might be a complete recluse. The judgment call that must be made by all other women is how much attention to purchase with how much sex. The Office Nympho, then, is making a particular call that others do not, either because they have a smaller craving for attention or because they are more aware of the downsides of being awarded the title.

Posted on March 23, 2021 at 10:05 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, Keeping Score

Newsreader Porn And The Really Real

In porn, as most people know it is the Japanese who come up with the truly weird ideas, and schoolgirls in pigtails are not the only thing they have going on. I have seen a video showing a company headquarters full of Office Ladies doing whatever they did at computers, and eating noodles for lunch; then masked men came in and started fucking the OLs one by one – with no understanding of the sound track, I could not say whether this was supposed to be commercial, recreational or rape. The twist was that all the other OLs took not a blind bit of notice, but carried on with their spreadsheets or their noodles regardless. In fact, the OL currently being fucked did her best to complete her work or her lunch at the same time. This whole scenario very clearly played to male office-worker fantasies, also drawing upon the classic cultural binary of Giri, duty, and Ninjō, human feeling. At the same time it might satirise the corporate mentality of isolation in your own little tasks.

I have also seen a video of a girl got up as a bronze statue in a park, while an elderly lady park-keeper seems to buy into the pretence and – after the girl-statue has had sex with a boy-statue – even wipes birdshit off her. I read this as satire of what we allow ourselves to notice and what we do not.

Another piece of Japanese social psychology is the trope of “First Day at School” in which the entire class enters naked. There is no sexual action here, the girls are all concealing their breasts and generally carrying on as people do when seriously forced to be naked together, so this genre has to be all about social anxiety, of which the Japanese have even more than the British. The “First Day at School” is, then, their answer to Mr. Bean.

Yet another subgenre is “newsreader porn” in which a hot young woman tries to do read the news impeccably, even though being fucked in a manner supposedly invisible to her television audience. In the early days of the BBC there were stories of staff trying to put (male) newsreaders off their stride by playing tricks on them, invisibly under the desk; this newsreader porn was obviously the logical end-point of what the BBC began, or at least until they combine it with the snuff movie. It has to be all about inscrutability, the need to control your face. Tatemae, or persona in Japanese; once again, not entirely unknown to the British.

For all this I had some understanding. But what I absolutely did not get was the voyeur site that often inflicted itself on me for advertising purposes, that is, a pop-up. Its real-life cams showed a person or couple doing ordinary domestic things by themselves or together: cooking, cleaning, watching TV or even just sleeping. Whether they ever got it on for the camera I did not know. No doubt much has been written about the couples who invited paying strangers into their intimate sphere; what dumbfounded me was not so much this aspect – as it merely reflected the modern conviction that you did not exist unless watched – as the mentality of those who paid to watch others watching TV. Unless the motivation was purely the hope that next minute they would put off both the television and their clothes, the clue had to be in the saturation use of the word “real”.

The bottom line must be that the target audience thinks that they are less “real” than the people observed, and can thus become “more real” by observing them at their chores. Excuse me if I think this both bizarre and very, very sad.

Against Nature
(Fiddle date-stamp to September 2, 2011)

Posted on March 10, 2021 at 17:50 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: AGAINST NATURE, Against Nature, Miscellaneous

On Elves And Smartphones

I have read a fantasy novel by Sarah J. Maas, an author who, according to the shop, had previously achieved great success in the Young Adult market without my having heard of her. This marketing distinction often eludes me; for example the Discworld series is for grown-ups while the Tiffany Aching sequence set in the same place is supposedly for Young Adults, but I enjoyed the latter equally with the former.

The Maas book in question is a strange hybrid of High Fantasy with policier and chicklit, and I am not sure that the investigative aspect sits well with the absolute power of the dominant non-humans. In the same way, I am uneasy about the blend of ancient magicks, shapeshifters, the Fae and so forth with a ruthlessly 2020 technology and social sensibility: movie streaming, e-mail, smartphones and selfies. Here the gods do not stage theophanies, they phone you. This could be a design choice, intended as a break with the clichéd joinder of sorcery and demons with cod-medieval technology and cod-medieval manners, an originality that I would applaud. At the same time I have a worrisome feeling that the largely supernatural denizens of her world preen in front of their smartphones solely because Maas, being of her generation, is honestly unable to imagine a universe in which people (broadly defined) do not preen in front of their smartphones.

In support of this suspicion is the heavy emphasis on clubbing. Whether this lifestyle is regarded as a good thing or not is a little ambiguous, but on the whole I think she counts getting wasted and having quickie sex in the club toilet as heroic, at least when indulged in by females. And this brings us to another point. While by no means following the “two legs good, three legs bad” mantra of much of a previous generation, and wholly ignoring the issues of transsexuality, Maas seems unusually prone to referring to a character as “the male”, and, slightly less intrusively, as “the female”. She is almost the opposite of Patricia Briggs in that she loathes dominant males, whom she calls “alphaholes”. This is a fine coinage, which I intend to steal, but is never applied to power-crazed females. Of which she portrays several, but never under that name.

Being “sassy” has long been regarded as a virtue in women, but Maas’ “party girl” characters seem to take it a bit further and into what I would call fratboy territory. Moreover, her emphasis on male beauty sits oddly with how women used to describe themselves as motivated solely by the inner person, whatever that is, while her “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” attitude is definitely a violation of one of the earlier waves of feminism. These beings, both human and other, positively welcome ocular harassment! Again, this may be a generational difference.

An even sharper contrast would be between on the one hand Maas and other chicklit authors, and on the other hand the worlds of my childhood and maturity. In the first, no middle-class provincial girl would ever come close to admitting that she had genitalia, and indeed had probably never seen her own. I have dealt with my consequent culture shock before in these essays, but what I wonder about now is how such sexy authors fit together with the puritanical feminism I remember from the Eighties. Is this a deliberate polemic against the misandrists of her mother’s generation, when the response to any criticism of a specific individual’s actions was “You hate all women!”; or are they completely different people; or are we talking about quite different rules for the novels someone writes and the conversations the same individual might have in mixed company?

I have the impression that such authors are letting cats out of bags as if they are writing solely for their own gender, forgetting that there is as yet no mechanism for preventing (boo hiss) males from reading them too. Perhaps this will soon become a technological possibility; one could lock books (which by then will only exist electronically) to a retinal scan and a database, thus allowing only females to read a woman’s description of her character’s zipless fucks. Folks, you saw it here first.

How It Was Done On Palau

My palm for best museum goes to the Ethnographic at Dahlem, Berlin. There is a whole section on Palau, of which not many people have even heard. This is a Micronesian archipelago that belonged to Germany until 1914, when the Japanese took it. The main exhibit is a men’s clubhouse, from the rafters of which hangs a sculpture of a young woman with her legs apart. The story behind this is startling. Yes, it is advertising.

For the life-cycle of the Palau female apparently involved spending her teenage years in the men’s clubhouse, where she made herself available to the members for a set price. When she had accumulated enough of whatever they used for money, she would return to the female society and buy respect, status and clientele with it. If I remember correctly, and I might not, politics were matriarchal. A very successful clubhouse provider might thus become a tribal leader. If I remember wrongly, she would become at least a leader of the women’s society.

It seemed to be that this obscure society represented the most intense conceivable incarnation of two truths that we do not want to know. One, that sex is always about buying and selling, and two, that the bottom line is nothing to do with us mere males but rather is about the female hierarchy. The teenage Palau girl sold sex to the men in the clubhouse, but the latter were merely the means; the end was advancement in the female half of the tribe.

(Fiddle date-stamp to February 4, 2012)

Posted on February 7, 2021 at 14:24 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: THE NAME OF THE GAME, The Matrix Of Exchange

We Don’t Want No Plant Investment

In a history of Hungary I read how the nobles believed in extorting and spending, but not in investing. By this I was reminded of how the British pioneers of the Industrial Revolution had neglected to invent or even adopt the Realschule, but instead sent their sons to Eton in order to become gentlemen – that is to say, at best conscientious servants of the Empire, at worst utter parasites.

Well and good, but then it occurred to me to wonder whether finance, that is, the manipulation of unreal fortunes, now plays the same role as land used to, namely sidetracking merchant classes from the business of manufacturing? On the other hand, we do have the modern breed that I call the “techno-sociopaths” (you know who they are). While these are undoubtedly innovating and sometimes even making tangible things, there seems to me to hover an air of unreality over what they do. Should selling new ways to demonstrate status in the monkey hierarchy really count as “goods” in the same way that the Enlightenment had in mind? Or perhaps the singularity-wallahs are right, and when any object can be printed out of thin air, then the only game in town will indeed be preening.

Let us just see the selfie-sharers have to get to grips with the physical world after some civilisational collapse, with Afro-Asian slave labour no longer doing it all for us Eloi.

Monkey Business
Robber Bands

Posted on January 21, 2021 at 18:45 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Robber Bands Great And Small

Pre-Emptive Dumping

“When a woman preaches constancy, it is not because she wants the same lover always”, De Sade’s father told him, “but because she would rather leave him than be left.” I have not been a lover sufficiently often to confirm or disconfirm this, but even my meagre experience runs to two examples. Case Two, the lady grew suspicious that I might be tiring of her, and ended the relationship on the spot. This was a perfect case of the principle cited by De Sade Senior; the important thing was not to have or not have a particular individual but rather the points-scoring. Case One, the woman wanted me back every time I found someone new, then dumped me again. Clearly, she did not want me in any meaningful sense, merely to deny me to others.

Both cases were clear as regards the will to power, but I had not connected this scam with the preaching of “constancy”. Now that De Sade Senior mentions it, however, that value does seem to be rather a set-up. It helps pin the victim in place, like a butterfly, until you yourself are good and ready to leave him. Or her. Because I see no reason why this should be a game for just the one sex to play.

(Fiddle to January 19, 2011)

In The Shade Of Financiers

Some English writers become infamous for anti-Semitism, when what they really are should better be described as anti-plutocrats. Chesterton falls into and perhaps leads this category. They do not necessarily seem to think anything about Jews other than that they are rich, acquisitive and ruthless. Chesterton did not, for example, display the sexual anxieties that so dominated Der Stürmer. If one could collar these writers and point out the great number of equally harmful gentile plutocrats, they might even be convinced. I hope so, anyway.

Another example is Ford Madox Ford, who does seem to have a little more generalised animus than Chesterton, but whom I fancy might be brought to recognise, there in the asphodel meadows, that the men of whom he disapproves are not necessarily Jewish. When, for example, he describes England at the end of the Great War as “taken over by a class of shady financiers”, he does not use the J Word at all. Might this be because he was thinking of “shady financiers” of all backgrounds, or he because he took it for granted that that his readers would understand the phrase as code for Jews? I simply cannot say.

I am left, however, with a question of whether Ford might have seen something that we have subsequently suppressed. Suppose that what Ford reports is true, that around 1918 a new class came to the fore, “shady financiers” insinuating themselves at the expense of the previous ruling caste of the landed gentry who otherwise dominate Parade’s End? It would not take a high proportion of Jews among them to make the post-Holocaust generations unable to talk about this new class, or even to talk about Ford’s contemporaries talking about this. In other words, it would be no good pointing out that many of these “shady financiers” were not in fact Jewish, as the whole subject would remain off-limits. We would thus be missing out on an important aspect of English economic history.

Another question is whether such “shady financiers” were indeed as new to the scene as Ford suggests. They probably weren’t. But even in that case, we should still take note of Englishman of traditional backgrounds and manners thinking that they were. Yes, Ford Madox Ford himself does strike me as to some degree a general-purpose anti-Semite, though Jews are not a major subject of his; but suppose that this view of “shady financiers” were to be shared by those who were not anti-Semitic? In that case, I repeat, we are missing out on important data about what people thought had been the result of the war, and a long way from Germany.

This is perhaps all the more important because we have seen another wave, nay a tsunami, of “shady financiers” – starting with the S&L scandals as a trial run for the Great Bank Robbery of 2007 and onwards. You don’t have to be a radical leftist to have noticed that banks are there to be “bailed out” at the taxpayers’ expense, that telecom companies, regulators and everyone else are losing the battle against cold-calling investment scams, and that the ideal is now a totally atomised workforce, without rights or benefits. The Nigerian 419 swindle could only entrap the crooked, but the next generation is after the naïve pensioner. Jews? Not at all, if we are going to hate any particular groups for this it should be Indians and Britons. But that “shady financiers” are supplanting the old ruling classes, oh yes.

Cosmic Millennials?

This is just a wild idea, and I myself do not know how seriously I mean it. Wrinklies have been complaining about the young for about the last million years or so, but I am seeing a phenomenon that seems to be radically above and beyond the usual run of complaints. It is noticeable certainly among the young, but not all of them, and yet is not confined to the young.

I have a sense of there being a particular date on which the Earth seems to have passed through some interstellar cloud or other that had the effect of reducing human intelligence. Possibly in interaction with genes or environment. My best guess is 2000, but I am open to alternatives.

Posted on December 17, 2020 at 18:32 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, The Anatomy Of Stupidity

The Meaning Of “Strong Emotions”

In A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway has a character say of the Italians that they were “All fire and smoke and nothing inside”. I have my own reasons for keeping out of Italy, reasons that do not rely on any generalisation about the emotional make-up of the people, and I have never been close to any Italians, but Hemingway’s libel nevertheless holds its own interest for me. Namely, I have long harboured a resentful scepticism of any veneration of “the emotions”. In particular I detest the invocation of “strong” emotions to justify anything. This is because I do not think anyone truly knows what they actually mean by this.

Now, if fMRI were to show us greater electrical activity in the brain when someone claims to feel something “strongly”, that would be one thing. If levels of neurochemicals can be shown to change, the same applies. As far as I know, however, there is no such empirical tracking of emotions by intensity; or if there is, the instrumentation is unlikely to be something we can carry around with us and that we can all use. That is a pity, because sometimes I want to tell someone claiming to have strong emotions, “No, you don’t”.

Why would anyone lie about this? Why, because for a very long time and in many cultures, these mysterious things called emotions serve as justification. Whatever they pretend, in practice Western ethics usually come down to, “You can’t do these things, unless you really want to”. Then think of this “wanting” as an emotion rather than as anything else and it is a done deal. Strong emotion is trumps in all games.

I am not usually a Skinnerian, but if anything could make me embrace behaviourism, it would be this. I feel impelled to point out that what people call their strong emotions (and nobody ever seems to admit having weak ones), are not observable. What we can observe is behaviour; and specifically, what people are prepared to do to whom in order to get what they want. To “walk over corpses”, as the Norwegian language pungently puts it. Well, then: can we, looking from outside, tell the difference between someone impelled to walk over those corpses by an internal electrical or neurochemical process, and someone impelled to walk over the same corpses by something else? No, we cannot.

What might that something else be? Obviously, lack of restraint, but that only pushes the question further out. Lack of allegiance to an objective ethical code would do it, as would a shortage of empathy. The former usually takes the shape of an excessive sense of entitlement, the narcissist cry of “But it doesn’t apply to ME!” Is a sense of entitlement an emotion? In the latter case, we would have the paradox that, in some circumstances, it might be the lack of what is normally called an emotion that might lead to the plea of doing something wrong through being overcome by emotion.

If on the other hand, by emotion we mean not an emotion but an unbalanced will, without recognition of countervailing imperatives, then my question is “So who needs it?” We have all seen small children respond to frustration with temper tantrums. The wise parent does not yield on the grounds that the infant has “strong” emotions.

(Fiddle date-stamp to January 19, 2011)

Posted on December 3, 2020 at 15:33 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, What Is This Thing Called Love?