On Not Standing Out

I originally wrote this during a heatwave – nothing much by the standards of the Continent in 2018, but by Bergen standards enough to have all the women under 50 displaying their legs, backs and breasts. I am now old enough for this to make me philosophical rather than excited, and so what struck me was how many such semi-bare women there were. I took to wondering what it would feel like to be showing off what thousands of people around you were also showing off, to such an extent that it was doubtful whether you would get noticed at all. And this is a very small city; so what would it be like to flaunt the flesh in a world metropolis where the just-as-nice-as-yours legs number in the millions? For obvious reasons, I am never going to find out.

The same wonderment has often occurred to me in connection with the new-rich mainland-Chinese tourists in which we were knee-deep in all weathers until the 2020 lockdown. What does it feel like to be the ultimate in “being one of the crowd”, owing to the sheer numbers the ultimate in not standing out? It then occurred to me that the main driver of social media was probably a desperate thirst for non-nullity, in an overpopulated world that may fatuously call itself a village but is actually the very opposite of our evolutionary heritage, namely a group of about 120 in which everyone can be known.

I once touched on the former theme in conversation with a young lady who was extremely intelligent yet had her generation’s attitude of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” and its unconcern with the evils of being looked at that so bothered her mother’s generation (or should that be grandmother’s?). I made the point that I could not begin to know what it felt like to have a millimetre here or a millimetre there of your costume sending a sexual signal. About my costume, nobody cares; I can no more imagine being looked at with concupiscence than I can imagine seeing in the ultraviolet. She countered that a woman does not always arrange those millimetres consciously. True, no doubt, but men have no idea when the woman is thinking about the skin she is showing and when she is thinking about mathematics. It is not as if the mathematician can take her boobs off and hang them up.

The term “objectification” is misleading; the problem is not so much that you are an object of desire (which a woman wants to be when it suits her and not otherwise) as that you are taken for a player even when you are not playing – either because you never play, or because right now you are taking a break. It must be really annoying when other people keep right on playing. How dare they!

The Party Programme

In one way we can understand why in its manifesto a certain Green Party called children “our most important resource”. They just wanted to say that our children should be valuable to us, represent our future, should be secured a decent life and so forth. What our society is actually doing, namely consuming the very basis of their survival, is obviously a very bad thing. When I pointed out the nasty implication of their formulation, namely that a resource is something you use in your own interests, and often use up, they got it immediately.

The very casual and unthinking use of the word “resource”, however, itself let this particular cat out of the bag. The horrible truth about the human species is that we use children as tools, above all as economic and emotional tools, as various forms of slave labour. Often (though not always) they are deliberately brought into being to serve these purposes. I have done many bad things, but I am quite proud of never having done this particular bad thing.

Posted on August 25, 2020 at 17:40 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: AGAINST NATURE, Breeders And Thinkers

One Drop Of Rain …

Elsewhere in this body of work Hugo has made the point that the oppressor invariably perceives himself as the victim, indeed as fighting for his very existence under the threat of extinction. Weird as it may seem to those on the wrong end of their struggle for survival, this applies to the Nazis, modern white supremacists, and many homophobes. Even short of the spectre of extermination, it is surely a general principle that one does not understand how vulnerable one’s opponents feel. Louis-Ferdinand Céline has a startling line, which in double translation through Danish (never a good idea, but I have no choice) goes something like this: “Women, whose sexual ability is never lost, fail to comprehend that for men, despite all their priapism, one drop of rain and everything shrinks in upon itself!”

It is certainly true that men are sexually fragile creatures, and the more a man’s sense of self-worth depends on his ability to get it up, the more dangerously he is living. I think Céline is correct also in pointing out how little aware women are of this. But suppose we turn it around. When men are paralysed by female beauty, sometimes resenting its possessor, are we sufficiently aware how precarious the Girl from Ipanema feels? Those who know beautiful women as something other than sex objects, know that none of them feels beautiful. They may have noted the reaction of others as a bizarre fact, which they then milk for all it is worth, but nobody actually feels it. They may think themselves only average and be interested in other things, but it is commoner for them to yearn desperately after beauty without being aware that they already have it.

That yearning is very profitable, in a way not limited to the beautification industry itself, already vast though never counted properly; we must include “shopping therapy”. Without female insecurity the global economy would immediately collapse. The Man knows that unhappy women spend more money, and therefore seeks to make them unhappy through advertising. This is often condemned in terms of “unrealistic ideals”, which is often true but not the whole story. Because most women feel, by nature or indoctrination, that they have already fallen short of even objectively realistic ideals. Nobody has the right boobs, or nose, or hair, or whatever – nobody. In this way, therefore, women share in what Céline describes as a male vulnerability: one drop of rain and whatever you have, shrinks to nothing.

Posted on June 14, 2020 at 11:19 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, The Life Unbeautiful

Cultural Odds And Ends, Fortune Cookies

The purpose of the entertainment industry is to distract you while your pockets are picked.

Is it a coincidence that we talk about “staging” a coup d’etat? After all, the best coups are pure theatre, with no casualties. We might also say that the audience contributes its suspension of disbelief, and comes away purged of pity and terror.

Is it merely a satisfying linguistic coincidence that other products “make” or “earn” money, while Hollywood films “gross”?

Some men have claimed that women can never be comedians, because they are intrinsically not funny. This is ridiculous, because there are such things as female comics, and perhaps there would be more on a level playing field. If being a comic demands a certain black view of the world’s follies, plus good timing, they can certainly do that. On the other hand, the relative scarcity may be due, not to discrimination, but the fact that too many women are much too busy being intrinsically right to be funny or indeed anything else.

Once upon a time the kitchen of a middle-class home was relegated underground or to the back. The master never set foot there, the mistress came only to supervise. But the servants cooked, uncomfortably. In the 1950s the kitchen migrated to the front, so that the housewife could welcome hubby home. It then became the social centre, although the French and Iberians persist in having a dining room. The terminus of the trend may be found in Germany and Scandinavia, where people spend vast amounts on the appearance of their kitchens and then buy the cheapest possible processed food to microwave there.

One-liner ideas for films:
* Three hundred liberals hold Thermopylae against a million knuckle-dragging rednecks.
* A film from the point of view of Ernst Stavro Blofeld – or his cat.

In another life I should like to write a Bildungsroman about a young girl who wants to explore the real world as opposed to fishing for attention and hand-me-down moralising. It might be interesting to explore the forces that would be opposed to her becoming a rational adult.

Douglas Adams pioneered robots with Genuine People Personalities™. This might be closer than we thought. The place to start would be add-ons to Siri, for nagging, boasting, guilting-out and passive aggression.

The last scene of Woody Allen’s All You Wanted To Know About Sex… is a conceit about the interior life of a man on a date and getting laid, with the actors playing body or brain functions and in Allen’s case a spermatozoan as parachutist. I propose that the scene be remade with the woman instead. We might learn something from her “control room”.

Céline And Bébert At Sigmaringen

My attention was first drawn to Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s final trilogy by the bizarre fact that he travelled though an almost-crushed Germany with both his wife and his cat. Travelling with a cat is quite hard at the best of times, and the bouncing rubble can hardly have made it easier. Bébert seems to have been a highly unusual cat, coming when called.

I was also curious to discover why this once so avant-garde writer had become an anti-Semite (so rabid that the Nazis found him embarrassing) and a quisling. Just as I was reading about the make-believe enclave created for the remnants of the Vichy government, a picture of Sigmaringen Castle appeared in the news; for his widow had just died, at the age of 107 our last living link with the place and time.

Céline’s anti-Semitic pamphlets have long been banned. He was writing this memoir in the Fifties, and had either lost interest in the Jews or had learned from his Danish imprisonment to shut up about them. So I never did discover directly what had been driving his animus. There was certainly nothing to be found in the trilogy by way of admiration for Hitler, the Nazis or the Germans, and he talked about collaborationists and liberators as being the same kind of opportunist scum.

He seemed upset by the use of white phosphorus on Dresden, but there was something else that exercised him even more: the Senegalese soldiers of the Free French general Leclerc and their alleged penchant for beheading civilians with their sabres. Again and again he returns to this theme, in connection with a massacre at nearby Strasbourg. If this really happened, I wonder idly what sensation of black empowerment might have accrued from decapitating whites. More to the point, being beheaded by a black man held a special horror for Céline, greater than other ways of dying. I myself could think of many worse ways to go, and I cannot see why the skin colour of my executioner should matter to anybody.

Indirectly, I thought I could see an aetiology for his anti-Semitism. For Céline seemed terribly upset by all and any “miscegenation”, especially with Asiatics, under which rubric he seemed to consider the Jews. Lumping Jews and Chinese together seems bizarre to us, but this does in fact seem to have been his mental furniture. He may have been influenced by “the Décadence” (Baudelaire and Huysmans) and taken things too biologically.

In addition, his obsession with “carriers” must have had something to do with his profession of doctor in the slums of Paris. Nowadays we are more inclined to believe in “hybrid vigour” than in “racial purity”, and cannot see the least analogy between ethno-religious minorities and typhus. Perhaps Céline had purely personal reasons that he did not share with readers of his final trilogy, or perhaps the cognitive mistake was inherent in the medical science of his day. The hero of Ford Madox Ford’s quartet is an old-fashioned Tory and a wannabe Anglican saint, but nevertheless stands for the lethal-chambering of unhealthy children. Such eugenics were originally about handicaps, alcoholism and syphilis, but could all too easily be extended to an ethnic group you did not like. In which case I have to wonder what other awful “scientific” blunders we might be making right now. My money is on permitting blanket coverage of electro-magnetic radiation.

Three Echoes In Scott Fitzgerald

My dotage being devoted to reading what should have been read long ago, it is only now that I have ticked off The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. It came as a great surprise, as I had assumed that the title was hyperbole about some cut stone even larger than the Koh-i-Noor. Not a bit of it, it was utter fantasy about a mountain in Montana made of diamond, so that that the equal size with the Ritz Carlton was meant quite literally.

I was further struck by three echoes of or in three other works. The inability of the protagonist to escape the valley reminded me of Wells’ The Country of the Blind. Since this was published in 1904, it might have influenced Fitzgerald or it might simply be an inevitable storyteller’s trope. The congruence between the 2003 film Goodbye Lenin and the mountain-owner’s bringing his slaves up to believe that the South had won the civil war would have to be influence in the opposite direction, or else a happy coincidence.

Far more serious and sinister, however, is the initial set-up, where the mad plutocrat family have removed their treasure or refuge from the rest of the United States, by dint of corruption of the cartographical records plus life detention of foot visitors plus anti-aircraft guns. Aviation being then in its infancy, that would surely be easier than Ayn Rand’s SF-magical forcefield valley roof in Atlas Shrugged. I doubt it is provable, but intuitively this feels like a real case of influence, that is to say, it feels as if Rand acquired the idea for her solipsistic rich man’s paradise from Fitzgerald. After all, the story was very well-known in its day. What Fitzgerald meant as a surrealistic satire, however, Rand seemed to take perfectly seriously as a pillar of the new religion she created.

Posted on February 29, 2020 at 17:24 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, Randians And Aristocrats

The Other Side Of The Fence

There has been a lot of talk recently about women’s “sexual capital”. Some, especially where I live, would have me burned at the stake for mentioning the very possibility, but today I am going to ask two relatively innocent questions. One, can men at all understand what it is like to have this sexual capital? Perhaps they could in the days of fortune-hunting for heiresses, which were before my time, and perhaps it is also known to the gays, about whom I know practically nothing. But to me as a postwar heterosexual male, unattractive and therefore more or less invisible, the notion of my looks being a resource has always been utterly alien. One was supposed to make one’s way in the world (which I never did properly, but that is a wholly different issue) and only then, and quite separately, acquire a partner.

Does that then put me in the same bracket as a woman who is conscious of being called “plain” or worse things, knowing that most of her contemporaries have this thing called sexual capital and that she alone does not? It might. It might even make me spiritual kin to an ugly bluestocking. The question seems valid, but I can never be sure that our experience is the same. Certainly a diminutive man and an aged woman belong together at the bottom of the human pecking order. But I naturally have no idea what it feels like to be any kind of young woman, either with or without sexual capital.

My other question is whether and if so how it is possible to have this sexual capital and still be miserable. Might this imply unreasonable demands on life, or might there be downsides to sexual capital that I am simply not equipped to perceive? If that be so, this might offer us a fresh avenue to understanding the women and men who throughout history have turned their backs on the sexual marketplace and – even if good-looking and charismatic – entered the cloister.

Return Of The Window Tax

In Les Misérables, read better late than never, I find a French excise on doors and windows that positively guaranteed that houses would be insalubrious. Funnily enough, I remember hearing about the English imposing a window tax as well. The governments probably justified these as a rough measure of overall prosperity, one that the taxman could assess from the outside. From that point of view the window-tax is begging to be reinvented in the coming age of privatisation, which is what the ancient evil tax-farming will now be called, as it offers far lower costs of collection and thereby a competitive tender. So make sure you have no windows on your hovel, and you might actually to get to keep something.

The only alternative rationale that I can think of is that the insalubriousness was actually the object of the whole exercise. Why might that be? Why, with the aid of zero-sum thinking. You cannot be rich unless there is someone to be poor; and if you cannot on a rising tide lift all ships then you can at least sink some. Their misery will then be to you an absolute good.

Going For A Burton

Meaning no disrespect to the 17th-century physician, the Victorian explorer, the Welsh actor or the American director, I am applying the name of Burton, bearing a certain superficial resemblance to a real name known to me, to a phenomenon that I do not think anyone has ever treated before. Let us imagine a Country A. Our Burton is the first native of that country to reach Country B, where by dint of networking skill he becomes thoroughly established. He becomes the go-to authority, a one-man cultural ambassador, interpreting Country A to the natives of Country B, and perhaps the other way round as well.

If he is a moral, learnèd and wise man, this will no doubt be a good thing. But suppose that Burton is a knave or a fool? The authorities of Country B will be in no position to realise this, as Burton is all they have to go upon, and he will take good care to be judge in his own cause. He will obtain bureaucratic cover, occupy academic positions, impose examinations and recruit acolytes, thus creating a School of Burton to which no opposition is possible. Anybody who points out that what he says about his own language is gibberish, anyone who argues that the imputed national characteristics are merely the eccentricities or uncouthnesses of Burton as an individual, will be culled from the herd. Anyone newly arriving from Country A will find that the “intercultural expertise” is a done deal, and that he had better conform to Burtonism or else.

I have studied this phenomenon quite closely in a pair of European countries. I may even have been guilty of practising some Burtonism myself. Certainly it is a standing temptation to the expatriate to defend himself by claiming that his personal vices are the Done Thing in wherever he comes from. Other cultures I do not know well enough to prove the Syndrome, but I nevertheless suspect that it is a universal law, because it follows from human nature and government practice.

Should the scenario sketched above remind us somewhat of the plot of Shōgun, that is all the more felicitous insofar as Occidental-Japanese understanding is a vast and lucrative business. This is because the complexity of the respective cultural codes is a gift to anyone wanting to attribute their own incompetence to a whole nation. I myself do not speak Japanese and am totally at sea with many aspects of Japanese behaviour. But I have known a professional at “inter-cultural communication”, allegedly balancing between not merely two but three cultures, whom I am pretty certain was a phoney practising the Burton technique. She seemed to be telling all three sides that her faults were the authentic cultural practices of one of the other two.

Moreover, a little research into the eikaiwa or conversation-practice industry suggested that it was full of losers and psychos. After all, the colonial European nations know that we exported our worst specimens, so that cross-cultural interpretation can become the continuation of Empire by other means – a cushy number for the scoundrel who has failed at home and now seeks to cash in on his sole asset, his foreignness. Similarly, I have encountered teachers of Japanese in European countries who strike me – on the basis of my bullshit-meter – as merely making stuff up and claiming authority for their own ignorance and mental quirks. Nice work if you can get it.

Whenever you are told something about his home country by an expatriate, the question you should be asking yourself is, “Were this to be absolute bullshit, how would I know? Who is in a position to say that this emperor has no clothes?”

Posted on February 3, 2019 at 15:08 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Some Notes On Language

The Miserific Vision

In Simon Montefiore’s history of the Romanovs and once again in his biography of Grigory Potemkin, I encountered the story that Catherine the Great had two éprouveuses, or quality-testers of her lovers. That the French found it necessary to have such a word may tell us something about them, or at least about the court culture of the eighteenth century, which made our own Sixties seem quite prudish.

I do not know whether modern young women use their best friends as vetters in this way. Perhaps not, as the institution would make the most sense if the principal is an absolute ruler while both the tester and the lovers are subjects. If there never was a common masculine of the term, that might be because heterosexual males have traditionally been less concerned with provable erotic skills; for it makes them uncomfortable to consider where these skills might have been acquired. There is also, of course, the fact that a man is usually able to climax, regardless of what his partner does or fails to do, while this is by no means the case for women. In fact, perhaps the prime cultural determinant of the species as such is the greater contingency of the female climax.

A hypersexual Swiss-African girl with whom I once travelled was firmly of the opinion that everything women said about what they wanted was actually disinformation. For them, she said, the name of the game was orgasms, for which all the languages of commitment, romance and love were merely so much smokescreen.She would have agreed with Mephistopheles when he said, “All a woman’s fuss and fury is to be cured in one place”.

She did not say whether these codes had been foisted upon women by the patriarchy, nervous as it was of the female capacity for sexual pleasure, or arose from some other reason. That is, we neglected to discuss whether the smokescreen had originally been imposed but was later preserved out of habit or strategy. That she genuinely believed her doctrine of the primacy of orgasm I was in no doubt whatsoever; the only question was whether it described solely herself or everybody.

If it were indeed a general truth, it would certainly make sense out of how women so frequently sacrifice themselves for obvious rotters: if only the blackguards make them come and come again, then nothing else can possibly matter. It would also encourage a certain lack of female conscience about infidelity – the cuckold has not done his job properly but the five-to-sevener has, so what is to complain about?

Judging by the memoirs of Clara Petacci, Mussolini thought of passion in terms of a perfect fit of genital equipment. The Chinese used to teach much the same thing. Were this idea to be true, it would in the same way explode an awful lot of verbiage about “spiritual” this, that and the other. One might wonder what Hallmark Cards would look like if everyone shared Mussolini’s take.

Were my Swiss-African companion correct about women’s willingness to do whatever was necessary to get the best orgasms, this would by no means be something they would want men to know about. Tiresias discovered this the hard way. Like many other conventional attributions, women’s insistence that men are sex-maniacs “wanting only one thing” might then be revealed as sheer projection, partly in the classic Jungian sense and partly as a distraction tactic. It would be bad enough for men to realise that they had ten times our capacity for pleasure, but our ability to see through their avowed reasons for bestowing their sexual favours would spoil so many games. For example, only the pretence that these favours are parted with reluctantly allows the charging of considerations in the form of goods or services, whether pecuniary or emotional.

As long as men fail to realise, or are forbidden by the rules of decency or political correctness to say openly, what sex-maniacs women really are or have the potential to be, the latter can occupy the high ground and pretend to embody other ethical values. They can then drag in all kinds of narratives about their emotions. Calling their absurdly strong dependence on orgasm by the name of “love”, for instance, enables them to cash in on millennia of sages and religious founders who have praised something actually rather different under the same name.

My companion also championed the apparent paradox that women needed always to be rewarded for having the sex that, when sufficiently climactic, was in any case their primus motor. This paradox I was to encounter again in Africa itself, which she praised as a culture that told a deeper truth about female lust than our own. To get paid for what one enjoys best, she argued, what’s not to like?

And yet I am not entirely convinced that women think sexual pleasure so much more important than status, that is, than rising in the female hierarchy and poking other women in the eye. If I could have my life again, I should like to have interrogated this Swiss-African woman on what she thought was the interrelationship between a woman’s orgasms, filthy lucre, and status ranking. I should next have liked to question her on how she thought males functioned. For an obvious corollary of her theory would have to be that men were the truly emotional sex. This is not how we have thought for centuries, but Antiquity had certainly thought so.

The true Miserific Vision is not in itself the idea that women are walking clits: men are used to being considered mobile penises, so it is turn and turn about. No, the killer app may perhaps be to let Occam’s Razor ask why we should believe in a female emotional life at all, given that all the visible phenomena are so amply explained by the worldly triad. After all, over and above the crudest level of endrocrine agitation, emotion is not something that can be proven. Men can surely cope with the idea of women as relentless hunters of their orgasms, we have done so in other eras; but it is less certain that we can cope with the idea that all their emotional agendas are actually false fronts, including giving a tuppenny damn about the likes of us.

For men have an exiguous connection with the world and a horribly fragile sense of their own worth; we have tended to regard a woman’s concern for us as the measure of our success as human beings, yea even our metaphysical ground of being. If this be taken away from us, why, we shall have nothing left but sports and scholarship.

Posted on January 27, 2019 at 16:39 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, The Nature Of Frigidity