Who Is Invited?

Idries Shah, I think it is, tells the story of a Sufi master invited to the Sultan’s banquet. Dressed as a beggar, he is refused entry by the servants. So he changes into his finest clothes and is then invited to sit in the place of honour. In the middle of the feast, he starts rubbing the food into his clothes. And when the Sultan demands an explanation, he says, “You do such honour to my clothing, it seems only appropriate that it take part in the feast.”

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 18:15 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment

Pay Up To Be Sent Packing?

In Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, the self-contemptuous femme fatale, Nastasya Filippovna, puts herself up for auction among her admirers. The wretched obsessive Rogozhin offers his entire wealth, which she ultimately throws into the fire.

Dostoyevskian women generally keep their men on a string with vain hopes, bombarding them with wildly contradictory self-revelations and demands, but even if we attribute this to misogyny on his part, what shall we make of his male characters who dance on those strings? At least a man would probably have performed whatever he promised in return for 100,000 roubles; she is in breach of contract but no one even points this out.

Before we consider Nastasya Filippovna merely an exotic Russian type, we might remember Swann’s Odette. The key to the fictional demimondaine, as reported by her lovers, is being impossible to please, and capriciousness appears to elicit a strange kind of Pavlovian response in certain men. If there be anything in the male soul that really does respond to utterly unreasonable behaviour with obsessive cathexis, we would do well to embark on a programme of identification, study and ruthless uprooting of this something, starting yesterday.

Taking The Secular Cowl

If violent crime is, as some say, mostly a matter of competition for women among young, unemployed, unmarried men, what might we do about it? I have elsewhere discussed the baleful effects of polygamy. Social stability in harem-keeping societies can be improved by introducing the principle of “every man his own wife”. Even in officially non-polygamous systems like ours, competition between young men cannot but be aggravated by the amassing of trophy wives and young mistresses by elderly plutocrats, who thus sequester the women who should belong to the next generation and create an artificial shortage. It is hard, however, to see how we might practically prohibit this practice, given that plutocrats well know how to circumvent the laws passed by their clients the legislators.

A vigorous quasi-monastic movement might solve the problem from the opposite end. If only testosterone-crazed young men would dedicate their energy to goals other than acquiring women, such as science and art, exploration (but hopefully not imperial expansion, which was once much the same thing), or the achieving of peace and social justice in either Christian or Communist guise, then this would be preferable to continually killing or screwing-over one another in the competition for nookie. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

Moreover, it is not obvious what would result from proportionately fiercer female competition for such men as are then left behind by the noblest of the sex, who have now transcended the flesh. Perhaps the women would even become the violent sex, so to speak clubbing and dragging men back to their caves by the hair.

No mass recruitment to new Knights Hospitaller need be expected, therefore, but there might nevertheless be room for a smaller-scale withdrawal, in the mode of Ayn Rand’s heroes and heroines going on strike against the world, or Ursula Le Guin’s story “Those who walk away from Omelas”. What would happen if the best of us took a cold look at what the competition for women actually does to us men, to society and to the species itself, and pronounced a cosmic No?

The Three Sides Of A Relationship

Some men feel excluded from their girlfriend’s conversation about the health of their relationship. In the words of one of them he is just a “passive witness to the process”. “At its arbitrary conclusion,” he says, “I will be dictated a narrative about that ‘relationship’ into which I have had no input.” Insofar as this sense of exclusion is sometimes inchoate, this comes from the male failure to analyse exactly what it is that the women are doing.

As I have written elsewhere, the trouble comes from a category mistake. Women can learn, from one another direct or from magazine advice and so forth, to see their relationships as something other than what it says on the tin, namely the interaction between two players, a two-hander, a relation between themselves and their man. Were it really such, then it would have no existence beyond the relation (there is no good synonym here) between John and Mary.

But this is not in fact how many women think of their relationships. To them, it is not a relation at all, but rather, by process of hypostatisation, an entity that subsists independently, quite apart from the players. As an independent entity, the Relationship can have its own interests, which do not need to be the same as the interests of the two persons supposedly involved in the relation. (“It would be so much better for our Relationship,” says a character in what is often considered a feminist cartoon, “if you were a Scorpio”; this suggests that the Relationship has a higher ontological status than the other party, who should conform to it as best he can.)

In practice, of course, the interests of Mary and the interests of her relationship with John are one and the same, but John is now outvoted. John has one vote, Mary has one vote, and the Relationship has a third vote, which it always casts together with Mary’s.

John may not understand how a relationship supposedly with him can demand something he does not want or cannot provide, but this is an artefact of the trilateral concept; if there were only two entities and John was unhappy, the relationship would then be over, perhaps to be replaced by a new one. Given three parties to the transaction, however, it makes perfect sense, within this conceptual world, to say that the Relationship is unhealthy and will cease to suffer the moment Mary gets her own way. If John is considering the relationship from the point of view of his individual giving and getting contra her individual giving and getting, this is a grievous error; for she won’t be.

The result is, therefore, a bad deal for John, to which he cannot object because he is nothing but a bit player strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage. The leading players are Mary and the Relationship. His unhappiness with the bad deal may be regarded only from within this closed world, this conceptual bubble, where it will be painted as a childlike “inability to sustain a relationship”. Such a model is not used in other partnerships; if the Chinese factory does not want to produce your widget at a price you want to pay, you do not accuse it of violating the interests of the Deal or being unable to do business in general, you walk away.

It may seem elementary, but men should likewise walk away from incipient relationships if they have no chance whatever of getting what they want, and if this lack of prospects is due to the woman’s refusal to accept that he is half the relationship and not a poor-relation third party – if it is due to her insistence that the Relationship is a formally independent arbitrator that will nevertheless always find in her favour. Once this conceptual world is entered, male frustration is not contingent but guaranteed. But men really want relationships with women, you say. Very well, but this sort of thing isn’t a relationship with a woman, but sitting in the audience for a narcissistic monologue onstage. If that is what you want, so be it; but if not, leave the theatre and go climb a mountain instead.

Woof, Woof

A friend once wrote to me, “Denial of intercourse is how women attempt to train and control the males. Both genders use the latter strategy to, for example, train dogs.” Well, that certainly sounds as misogynist as certain spoiled rich kids like to accuse any agenda-frustrator of being. But then I remember the way it is a commonplace of our culture that a man who fails to comply with any wifely instruction has to “sleep on the couch”, as a metonym or literally. The “sexual strike” goes back, of course, to the Lysistrata, but Aristophanes was upfront about the internal conflict involved: he showed us Athenian women who wanted to stop the war but also wanted to get laid.

The peculiarity of the modern sexual embargo, imposed not to end a ruinous war but on account of some triviality, is what it says about female need. A sexual strike sits very badly with what women have been telling us ever since the Sexual Revolution, namely that girls want to have fun too. Indeed, it seems a throwback to the days of our great-grandmothers, who spoke about giving their husband “what he wanted” to secure their economic support. Withdrawing your labour only makes sense if it is labour, that is, something onerous that you do in order to get something else. That is, if the benefit is worth the unhappy sacrifice of having to provide sex. This economic approach is simply not compatible with sex being a matter of mutual pleasure. Not many women say, “I shall eat no more cream cakes until you obey me!”

So, was this the truth all along? Were our great-grandmothers telling it like it is, that women only put up with sex to get what they wanted more? Then, perhaps, but the modern woman wants to be rewarded twice: once by sexual gratification, and a second time by other goods as if she has just performed a chore – that can be refused to punish disobedience.

Let Us Keep Our Money

Let us begin by reflecting upon a line in Jane Austen: “Two economically disadvantaged women yearn for upper-class men of perfect character”.

Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Yearn, I mean. They yearn to share the wealth of the upper-class men, whose perfect character means that they will make no attempts to withhold any of it from them. So far, so normal. But what are the two women bringing to the table themselves?

When an aristocracy takes bloodlines seriously, and imagines all sorts of qualities to reside in the genetic inheritance that we moderns would rather attribute to learned behaviour, then the women might offer soundness of family ¬– though if they are not themselves upper-class and so listed in the “stud-book”, the aristos may fail to believe it. In some times and places, the economically disadvantaged women could be quite upfront about offering sex, but I do not think that Austen’s was one of these. If we had asked Austen exactly how they thought they deserved the rich men, or what they themselves brought to the table, I do not know her works well enough to guess what she would say. I have a possibly ill-founded suspicion that she is standing at the very threshold of the Age of Bullshit, where an impecunious maiden offers an upper-class man something that might or might not be sex, might or might not be loving loyalty, all dressed up and obscured in the new-fangled language of sentiment and romance that Austen herself did so much to explore.

Ang Lee claimed that his Chinese background helped him make one of the best Austen adaptations. This puts me in mind of a fortyish Chinese woman who virtually proposed to me, at a time when I was richer than now. Trying to be diplomatic, I pointed out that I was getting long in the tooth, whereupon she said that she would prefer an old man who wouldn’t need as much sex. Really good advertising, that! So what would I be getting out of it? I never found out.

At Least You Can Remove a Tick With Tweezers

Women claim to seek “harmony and peace”, contrasting themselves with men, who they claim seek only power and the suffering of others. How convenient, therefore, that harmony and peace can take the form of making everyone wait on the women hand and foot, while also conferring brownie points for superior spirituality. That’s a win-win.

After money, repairs, and status in the female peer group, what do women actually want from us? The prime emotional fix, the need that most requires scratching, would appear to be what is often called validation. Men need this validation too, sad to say, and so persist in needing women to flatter their vanity – although wise men have been counselling one another since forever to do something about this neediness, equally in vain.

There is currently little sign of female self-criticism in this respect, although I remember a time when feminists promoted something as quaint as independence, even if that meant doing something with their time other than endless monkey-hierarchy maintenance. Rather than question their need for this validation thing, however, modern women seem more concerned to insist that all their feelings must be right, infinitely admirable, better than those of men, and yet forever incomprehensible to the very people whose validation they covet.

The whole thing is of course fantasy – they erect a fiction in their own minds and then crave this validation from that fiction. Perhaps this demands that the couple have very little true contact, as with past generations that lived quite separate existences under the same roof. The trouble starts when we start demanding that the Other relates to the real me as opposed to a fiction, for the result is generally disappointment; and then the one sex, taught for decades that not getting whatever they want is a moral affront to the universe, cannot but respond with tantrums at our failure to rearrange our lives to conform to the fantasy.

It is a mystery why women want anything to do with us, given that they have so little respect for us in the first place. In this way I find lesbian separatists to be creditably consistent and honest. If we men really were as awful as women claim, the best policy would indeed be running for dear life. Now turn this around: if women really think we are as awful as they say, why do not we run for our lives?

The Perfect Combination

Given the way shari’a is used as a swear-word, and given the fact that people honestly think it is about the stoning of adulteresses and nothing more, it seems at first sight unlikely to inspire many conversions in a secular country like Norway.

But wait a moment: Muslim law states that the husband is responsible for all the expenses of the household and a working wife keeps all her own income. That is, she is under no obligation to use her earnings for the household, whose financing is entirely his problem. In other words, the man gains nothing from his wife working, she gains everything. What’s not to like?

Although this fact is not at present on the mental map of the host society, it has great potential for imitation. Anything that gives the woman all the rights and the man all the duties (which are Patriarchal Oppression whenever incumbent on women) is a perfect match for the fundamental misandry of the progressive culture.

Opera As Eugenics

I am no great expert on opera, so perhaps I should content myself with commending the subject to my betters for examination. But it does occur to me that opera takes to an extreme the narratives to be found elsewhere in our culture, namely the excellence of the reproductively fit and the utter worthlessness of everyone else. Wagner’s biggest villain is surely Klingsor, who could neither gratify nor suppress his sexual desires and was therefore consumed by malice. Opera has even given us a word for only marginally useful males – “spear-carrier”.

We might say that opera is female propaganda in which biological virtue (being a superior male specimen) is rewarded and offenders against the female agenda are punished (Don Giovanni carried down to hell). I leave it to more educated persons than myself to chart this throughout the art.

In the Commedia, the job of Pantelone is to wickedly keep his daughter and her chosen admirer apart. That he himself tries it on with wives only to get rejected shows us what happens to someone who thus defies the rule of Nature, and, more widely, how it goes with someone who fails to die young and leave a rich and Merry Widow, as males are supposed to do.

Productive Assets, The Byzantine Way

In the medieval West, much land was held as military fiefs, that is, given as contractual compensation for fielding troops. Parish churches were outright owned, bought and sold, as the small-time operating assets they were, while monasteries and some cathedrals were, or sought to be, self-owning cooperatives. Some monasteries were organised as multinational corporations.

In the Byzantine Empire, however, things were done a little differently. Here the owner of a monastery granted it for life to someone called a kharistikarios, who received all the revenues, maintained the monks and the fabric and could pocket the surplus. The sources do not talk about a fee pertaining to the ultimate owner, but the system would make no economic sense without remuneration to both owner and manager, so I presume there was one. I am not sure how to translate this, perhaps “franchisee”?

If such a vocabulary startles people who think monasteries and churches generally are all about an individual search for salvation, that is all to the good. They have obviously never asked how their saints are fed, or who repairs the roof. But where you have expenses, you must have incomes too. In many cases these were land-rents, or tolls or dues, in other words the saints getting a cut of someone else’s labour. Some monks used to run an honest business making alcoholic beverages, or copying manuscripts – commercially, not just for their own devotions. And above all, there were donations, and what some modern Christians call “holy hardware”. Exit the monastery through the gift shop!

Whenever you have a business, you always have the question of who owns it, and who represents it vis-à-vis the rest of the world, and how large a cut they should receive.

Posted on April 6, 2016 at 09:58 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, Spiritual Business