Dividing The Human Cake

There are, we might say, two kinds of people: those who divide humanity into two classes and those who do not. Joking apart, the bipartite division seems to be hardwired into us. That is no doubt because, with apologies to the minority of intersexuals, we are a dimorphic species. Among some animals the difference between the sexes is quite spectacular, while in others it is difficult at least for us to perceive. As animals go, we ourselves are sufficiently dimorphic to persuade ourselves that the twofold division is a universal model. And so we often apply it to race, making that intrinsically pseudo-scientific idea even sillier than usual by positing a fundamental opposition of “white” versus the others. We do the same thing with heterosexual versus homosexual, although in reality things are a good deal more complicated than that. Despite the attractions of a three-class theory of political economy, we frequently operate with only two – the ruling class contra the rest, or progressive versus reactionary. The latter is very often all too transparently a rewriting of the Saved Versus the Damned.

If we are going to divide the human pizza into only two segments, I have my own suggestion: at right-angles to gender, race, sexual orientation and class (we need more spatial dimensions than three, but never mind) I propose slicing by Menschen versus Arseholes. Well, whoever said it had to be a 50-50 cut? The others aren’t either.

Not all the tripartite political divisions are upper-middle-lower. I read recently that Johann Gottfried Herder operated with the bourgeoisie, a minority of intellectuals and the rabble. That seems, as well as an overlap, to be ignoring the ruling class altogether, but it does have the virtue of putting the concept of “rabble” back on the political map, where it had not been since the Marxist term of “lumpenproletariat” was created and then ignored. It may not be an economic class as much as a psychopathology, but unthinking social aggression is a very real phenomenon. Now, we know of cases where social rage was directed against the ruling class, the Jacquerie and other revolts, but it may also be directed downwards, against those even more unfortunate that oneself. Insofar as current politics are all about the Sixty-Two (or One Per Cent, if you fail to realise just how concentrated wealth has now become) using this kind of socially-aggressive rabble against well-meaning bourgeois intellectuals, Herder’s scheme is more relevant than ever.

Thanks to the knee-jerk, ahistorical and very tired recycling of the word fascist” for those who suck upwards and kick downwards, we have failed to develop a new term. It needs to be globally applicable, culturally universal, distinct from previous terms of opprobrium for those seen as poor and uncultured (e.g., redneck, oik), and indeed disconnected from the means of production altogether. It is very tempting to reuse the “Mensch versus Arsehole” vocabulary, but for the sake of a perhaps specious neutrality, we ought to create something new out of whole cloth. Both chauvinism and quisling derive from the surnames of infamous people; the choice of what to call the socially-aggressive ignoramus has never been greater.

The whatever-we-call-him can be a farmhand, a warehouseman, a burger-flipper, a bus driver, a nursing auxiliary, a teacher, a spreadsheet-jockey, a bureaucrat, a software engineer, a lawyer or a professor – but we nevertheless know him when we see him, or at least after a beer or two. Given one or two of his expostulations, rather like a fictional FBI profiler we generally know what else he thinks, if that is the right word, or who else he hates so as quite unjustifiably to enhance his self-esteem.

(Fiddle date-stamp to July 4, 2013)

Posted on January 20, 2019 at 14:15 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, A Theory Of Everybody

Why Do Punters Want To See Women “Getting Bred”?

There was once a time when porn centred around the “money shot”. On the one hand this developed into the superstition that women like being ejaculated upon, by the more men the merrier. In the bizz this is called “bukkake”. On the other side, there seems to have occurred a reaction, whereby the point is now for the man to come inside the woman, who then demonstrates the fact. This is called the “creampie”.

Now, one can understand why the porn audience might prefer this more “natural” practice to bukkake. It is, of course, far closer to what men and women actually do when not in front of the camera and not getting paid.

What is puzzling, however, is some of the synonyms and hook phrases. When punters are roped in by the promise of seeing a woman “made pregnant” – or even, with overtones of The Handmaid’s Tale, “getting bred” – what exactly is happening? It seems a long way from the libertinage of youth, with its terror of knocking up or being knocked up, and equally far from the exultation of the first generations to go on The Pill.

It seems unlikely that the audience are all obeying the encyclical Humanae Vitae and affirming the principle that all copulation must be open to the creation of new human life. In some cases the plot has the woman planning to get pregnant, perhaps because her husband is infertile, in other cases the possible fertilisation is an unwelcome surprise, in yet other cases it is treated neutrally.

Insofar as I have an answer at all, I am disposed to wonder whether bukkake and creampies are two equal but opposite ways of affirming male control and female subjection. Having one’s favourite porn star “bred” may thus be related to the meme of keeping one’s woman “barefoot, in the kitchen and pregnant”. Or maybe there is a quite different reason.

(Fiddle date-stamp to August 29, 2011)

Posted on January 13, 2019 at 13:49 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: AGAINST NATURE, Against Nature, Miscellaneous

Among The Skinwalkers

Just as the late-Victorian epoch was the great age of table-tapping, ours is surely the great age of fantasy parahumans. Everyone from Marvel Comics who can possibly turned into a franchise has been, or soon will be; and then we have the tropes from a thoroughly invented Middle Ages. Such is the state particularly of American education that I have observed people thinking that knights-in-armour seriously fought dragons; and that the “Mid-Evil” period gets its name from the evil of its sorcerors, orcs and so forth.

It has been speculated that elves, fairies, hobbits and so forth are the folk memory of aboriginal peoples very nearly exterminated by new iron-wielding tribes. The survivors were consequently rather shy and perhaps even tricksy. Dwarves are probably in origin Germanic wood spirits and thus very distant cousins to the Greek dryads.

In contrast to these historic echoes, the vampire was created by Bram Stoker very nearly from whole cloth and it is painfully obvious how he could not be much older. Everything about him speaks of the nineteenth-century overclass, the bloodsuckers of the new industrial age, on their way to the opera. The vampire was given a further boost by the new nexus between sex, blood and death created by the AIDS epidemic, but I cannot help seeing him primarily in the original terms of class war.

The conceit of vampires and werewolves being natural enemies is an amusing one; the decadent European aristocracy is here opposed by the peasants and workers, with not only a deeper connection to the natural world but somewhat more fraternal group dynamics. Top-down yes, but also sideways in a manner that the vampires are not. We may, perhaps, read the conflict in terms of the well-bred young girl’s customary vacillation between the pomaded nobleman and the piece of rough trade. The latter is reminiscent of the Greek satyrs, who were obviously the country-dwellers with whom the kalokagathos did not trust his wife.

Why zombies became so popular I find it harder to say. The original Caribbean zombie, namely someone who works for nothing because he has been drugged into near-catatonia, has such an obvious relevance to shareholder value that one may expect the drug in question to be rediscovered any moment now. But this kind of enslaved fieldhand has so little to do with the Romero kind of zombie that we may ask what nerve is struck instead by carnivorous hordes who can convert by biting. Fear of proletarian revolution, perhaps? In common to all three fantasy tropes is, of course, the overcoming of death, though at a price. Well, that is old news.

After vampires, werewolves and zombies, what is left? My title references a Native American take on the same theme – namely things that look human but in fact are not. The body-snatching alien is surely a paleface imitation or parallel invention. And the whole idea is clearly a reflection of something very real, something that we used to call the high-functioning sociopath. Something that looks human but is Not Our Brother, something who can act any part he chooses, is a very good psychologist but who actually cares for us only as much as for the mud on his shoe – this is not a fantasy trope at all but a truth of sad experience.

(Fiddle date-stamp to November 12, 2009)

Posted on January 6, 2019 at 11:06 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, A Theory Of Everybody

It’s A Long, Long Way To Missolonghi

In the days of Byron, you had to be a romantic, or indeed one of the first Romantics, to find anything praiseworthy in mountain bandits. Anyone who believed in a settled civilisation, on the other hand, was obliged to root for the Ottomans.

Any residual Hellenophilia has long since succumbed to the Greek debt crisis, or to what German bankers have told us about the Greek debt crisis – which is not necessarily the same thing. In parallel, our original partisanship of the Kosovars has lost ground to an awareness of what the Serbs did try to tell us at the time, that the economic foundation of the oppressed people was heroin trafficking. No doubt there are many innocent Albanians, but then again, you can say the same about the Sicilians, the Calabrians and the Russians too.

If you wonder, therefore, what happened to the dashing Balkan predators of Byron’s day, circumspice.

(Fiddle date-stamp to January 30, 2011)

Fattipuffs And Thinnifers

Since Starbucks is compelled by the peril of American litigation to celebrate an entirely secular Christmas, their centrally-imposed playlist has perforce to be solely about Santa Claus, snow, reindeer, and red-red-robins. Because anything else would be religion, and for some peculiar reason Americans do not classify object-consumption as a religion within the meaning of the Act. This allows one of the Starbucks playlist tracks to contain the words, “Everyone’s waiting for the man with the sack”. Enduring this one day, it occurred to me to wonder whether this might be as good a summary of the human species as any other. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

I have mentioned elsewhere how the words “lord” and “lady” derive from “loaf”, while the Romance words for bosshood tend to come from the terminology of slavemastering and seniority. The German and Slavic ones come from warlordry. The basic social structure of our species may therefore be summarised thus: one man grows old in the leading of armies, thus accumulating loaves to give to other men.

The Eucharist derives from the pagan and Jewish festivals at which the common people got the red meat they might not otherwise have seen. So God, or the god, is a nourisher in a very literal sense, and when the Welsh sing “Bread of Heaven” they are trading on the dichotomy between those who have enough bread and those who do not. At this point it is worth remembering that odd Old Testament term, “shewbread”. Even displaying food must mark hierarchy. Look at what we have and you don’t!

This conviction of the primacy of nutrition was in no wise diminished from my reading in medieval Italian history about the classes called populo grasso and populo minuto. That terminology made it sound, I fancied, as if the ultimate reality were to be body weight. And that immediately put me in mind of the African “Big Man”. Not so long ago, British workers were scrawny, but overeating clubmen were “portly gentlemen”. Getting obese on pseudo-food rather than on real food is the only novelty here. Traditionally, “fat cats” were fat because they had more to eat than their social inferiors.

I have been soundly rebuked for imagining that I might have the same right to walk the pavement as others. In the city in which I live, we see primate dominance without the veneer of civilisation that promises me such a right: here, every square metre of public space belongs to the larger person, usually but not invariably male, and wherever I am standing is on their planned trajectory, or is put on it as soon as they notice me. Relative to me, moreover, almost the entire population is popolo grasso; and the average is getting taller every year. I have not felt that I had the right to exist since I was last in Japan.

(Fiddle date-stamp to May 8, 2012)

Posted on December 23, 2018 at 18:16 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: THE ENSLAVING MAMMAL, The Universal Template

“They Have Their Reward”

Back in the days when the Patriarchy kept women from doing many things, but semi-compensated some of them with extravagant praises for certain performances, maternal love was considered not merely a female virtue but proof of female superiority. Like the money of the Musical Banks in Erewhon, however, this attributed excellence was not necessarily convertible into hard socio-political-economic currency. When women subsequently muscled in on that hard currency, they by no means relinquished the romantic fictions of moral superiority. Where I live, they are not only the Angel of the Home, but the Angel of the Office too; in many circles, men can be accorded faint praise as a substandard knock-off of the original product but are otherwise excoriated as the root of all evil.

If we find this displeasing, perhaps we should look more closely at the original nineteenth-century deal, namely economic subjection in return for attributed virtue. Kant taught that the moral is necessarily the uncongenial, and Jesus came close to saying the same thing: “Do not the Gentiles do likewise”? Whatever comes naturally cannot at the same time be a deep well of ethical superiority. Moral credit accrues to precisely the same degree as eating your dinner when you are hungry. If mother-love is truly an “instinct”, it cannot at the same time constitute heroic virtue.

A mother is rewarded neurochemically, existentially, socially and – if she wishes – as the payoff of a multitude of psychological games at the expense of her children and any man who helped make them. It is true that a mother’s love is generally constant even when the child is behaving atrociously; but this can be explained just as well by narcissism as by deep love in the sense of caritas.

If we accept Kant’s insight, a mother would deserve praise only when she feels like throttling her offspring but fails to act upon that impulse. The sentiment may be a common one but for some strange reason its successful resistance is not a subject for boasting, or least not to the menfolk. We might usefully ask which particular game that admission would spoil.

(Fiddle date-stamp to May 22, 2013)

The Irrefutable Doctrine

As a philosophical doctrine, Solipsism cannot be formally refuted. All is grist to its mill; for you, who are now arguing against it, are no more than a figment of my imagination. The interesting question is, then, why there are so few explicitly believing Solipsists – I mean this in a more declarative sense than mere insensitivity and egotism, which is clearly commoner. Most of us, and perhaps all normal people by definition, instinctively revolt against Solipsism. We may not always do well by others, but we simply do not like a doctrine that proclaims they do not exist at all. Why might this be?

The generous answer might be that it is inherently morally offensive. We recoil because it reminds us of the way some people actually behave, people we are accustomed to regard as dangerous. That is, while committed solipsists need not be serial killers, they makes us think about them. This might even be a sound and healthy instinct, uncannily analogous to our distaste for the smell of bodily decay. As Aristotle pointed out, we are social beings and to live alone you have to be an animal or a god. If there are no gods, a solipsist has to be an animal.

A ruder answer, however, might be that it is precisely because of our self-love, which borders on the very thing we are endeavouring to condemn. In a world in which only I truly existed, I could get no narcissistic supply, other than my own self-admiration in a vacuum. This is probably not enough. Indeed, the central paradox of narcissists is how much they actually need other people, if only to bore and abuse them.

(Fiddle date-stamp to December 1, 2013)

Posted on December 2, 2018 at 16:45 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, A Theory Of Everybody

Humanity And The Sense Of Humour

Hugo has heard it said that women have no sense of humour. At first blush, this seems too much for even a misogynist. If funny women are not generally as famous as funny men (there are, for example, no Marx Sisters), one does not need to be a SJW to wonder whether this is for the same thoroughly bad reason as there are no top female chefs or conductors.

On the other hand, even were the majority of women to be found truly unfunny, this would achieve nothing but to reaffirm the fundamental equality of the sexes. For the majority of men are not very funny either.

This is something we need to think about in the hope of insight into what this regrettably non-universal quantity, a sense of humour, actually is. To me it seems intuitively obvious that a sense of humour must be connected with not taking oneself too seriously, which excludes narcissists, the unflinchingly ambitious and all fanatics. “The devil is a prowde spirit,” said More, “he cannot endure to be mocked”.

A sense of humour must then exist at a tangent to one’s own advantage and to one’s own prideful place in the scheme of things. One cannot be calculating one’s advantage and maintaining one’s place at the same time as one is finding them intrinsically absurd.

Now, there will never be many people who step aside from the struggle to rise in the social hierarchy of their sex, because this is very serious business indeed. And this applies to women as much as to men, and more so the moment we regard the species as actually controlled by the female hierarchy, like elephants but under false flags.

Some individuals do step aside, of course, including but not limited to monastics and those with a secular vocation to serve. Are nuns funnier than women still “in the world”? I have no idea, but someone who moves in those circles might know. If, of course, a nun is utterly consumed with trying to become abbess, then she will have no more sense of humour than the woman utterly consumed with becoming the boss female in any other hierarchy. Analogous to a genuine religious vocation might be caring very deeply about art, or music, or gardening, or indeed about anything at all, provided only that it is cared about for its own sake and not for any social dominance it might bring.

Suppose, purely for the sake of argument, and I repeat suppose, that most women, wholly absorbed in the game of poking one another in the eye, have less of this sense of humour even than male cutthroats. If that were to be the case, an entirely new question would then arise: why do women of this kind, who cannot create humour, still appreciate, reward and even demand it in men? The humour must be some kind of signal of biological superiority. It has long been suspected that wit or word-play, being a by-product of intelligence, is such an evolutionary signal; but why should that apply to a sense of humour, which requires a stepping-back from vicious social competition? That is not at all the same thing.

That humour is socially valued even by people of both sexes who do not actually understand it is only too clear. Whenever people are out “enjoying themselves” they exhibit the infamous Stadium Effect. That is, the noise level rises as everyone attempts to be heard above it. The men roar with what they call laughter, as loudly as they possibly can; and the women squeal as loudly as they can, both competitively intent (with total lack of real humour) on demonstrating that they themselves can do this thing called humour and are therefore proper human beings. Even when they can’t and aren’t.

(Fiddle date-stamp to December 21, 2012)

Posted on November 26, 2018 at 16:53 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, On Sovereignty And Hierarchy

Letting The Fly Out Of The Fly-Bottle

“Philosophy is a struggle against the bewitchment of our understanding by the resources of our language,” said Wittgenstein. And again: “The results of philosophy are the discovery of some piece of plain nonsense and the bumps that the understanding has got by running up against the limits of language.” Reading the Philosophical Investigations very late in life, I keep finding things like this that I could have said myself and probably have. The reason is that a key part of my education was provided by people obviously taught by this book, so that readers of Hugo, if any there be, are getting Wittgenstein at third hand.

However, this must not be understood in defence of any kind of mystical wittering about special intuition by some grifter who proposes to take us beyond the limits of language and into bankruptcy. My take-away is much more the first leg of the second quote above. And the worst of the plain nonsense, which might for all I know be a part of Chomsky’s “deep structure”, is the treatment of existence as a predicate. The notion that our “lives” are something possessed by some “us” or other, something that “we” can acquire, have or lose.

Imagine a man called William who recently had an appointment with Henry VIII’s headsman, for which he had to take his boots off. Well then, his boots are now here and his head is over there. Should these statements rightly share a single syntactical form like that? William without his boots we understand; but is William without his head the same sort of thing?

(Fiddle date-stamp to May 10, 2009)

Posted on November 20, 2018 at 18:33 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Religion And Conceptual Muddle

Bow Down Before My Reproduction

Orlando Figes’ book “The Whisperers”, on silence and trauma during and after Stalin’s Terror, is a heartbreaking read. Despite the incredible cruelty and misery he chronicles, however, some part of my mind could not help responding in a way he would neither have intended nor wanted.

I noticed, in the many old Russian family portraits now being published for the first time, how uncomfortable the children always looked. Of course, in those days it took a lot longer to make a photograph. I remember my own grandfather, who always looked grimmer than the Reaper. This was partly because he was a Welsh Baptist minister, and so was obliged to look suitably stern, piety being indistinguishable from bellyache. But quite apart from the worm theology, it was surely easier to hold a grim expression for the long exposures than to hold a smile. On this take, children looked uncomfortable in old photographs because it was simply not given them to intimidate the viewer like the patriarchs and prophets, and their natural expressions could not long survive that particular technology.

That is one explanation. But the parade of uncomfortable children in this collection made me wonder: could it also be because they knew that the whole point of a family photograph was to document their progenitors’ reproductive success, and the point of that in turn was to poke contemporaries in the eye? That is to say, the children looked uncomfortably aware of being merely Parental Status Technology.

Funnily enough, it was not long after reading Figes that I was looking at the family-bragging portrait of Henry VIII with his three children. It has been suggested that the columns are there to show that the two princesses (Mary and Elizabeth) were “spares” to the true family unit – the absolute monarch together with his male offspring and with Jane Seymour, who was long dead at the time but as Edward’s mother more valuable for propaganda purposes than the living queen Catherine Parr.

Of course, as sovereign Henry had the excuse that his successful reproduction affected the welfare of everybody in the kingdom. The individuals in Figes’ book, in the albums of my childhood and for all I know on Facebook today, seem equally full of themselves – without having that crucial justification but still demanding the same admiration.