by E Raymond Smith
THE Following argument follows the fact that the Iraq invasion is an innovation of pre-emptive war. Unilateralism is decreed to have overcome the world-system of the past fifty-eight years. I perceive it to be entirely in context that bondage-discipline-sado-masochism, or bdsm, is a widespread component today in American popular culture, as even a cursory browse of 'internet' pornography will reveal.
This former perversion seems to have gained great ground over the past fifteen years or so, as the 'internet' became the coming (sic) thing. This parallels rather exactly the interval during which Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and others among the apparatchiks were cooking the rubrics of a dominating New American Century. Whereas it was merry saying of my l960's youth, that the personal is political; and, we can see in political cum sado-masochistic terms how now the Dominant has torn up at last all the 'service-agreements'. Now the only criterion for pain-infliction shall be the intensity of the Dom's cravings, for mastery and spasm. Consent of submissive partners is no longer relevant, and who is caught is raped, more-or-less leisurely and at length. This sea-change in policy by a mature power is the opening movement in the history of the post-modern age. We are now living wholly in the post-modern age; and, pre-emptive war theory allows us to start wars at intervals of our choosing. To the extent that such choices are conscious. Certainly on a manifest level, and at the level of privately-held agendas and ambition, this is all clear enough, and our elites may be said to 'choose' 'freely', even 'consciously', to go to war. The hyper-credentialled administrator's problem, though, is more complex. S/He needs to manipulate an elected political satrapy in order to assure a continuous supply of credits for her/is operation. Proprietors of operations argue to the legislature on their own behalf that they are mandated by the popular will. That will necessarily must be sedated and guided. Our aggressive talk of democracy and equality therefore means in fact a byzantine hierarchy rules, by way of compensation for our essentially orgiastic conscious public attitude. In the short twentieth century, egalitarianism brought with it, as well as byzantinism, all the ugliness that is an inescapable component of popular, or arena, culture. Ours is a house built on sand; and, the american libido for the ugly is our essential aesthetic; and, this late-historical mode of egalitarianism accounts for the innundation throughout the twentieth century (1914-1989) of pornography that runs like a flood through all our minds, even when we are not thinking sexually, or feeling sexual. All grappling together in the equalitarian stew of bureaucracy; the diagnosed and those rent-seekers who diagnose, and so are protected as a class for their services; all alike must serve. That austere service is, above all, to the primary demand of the inchoate system, itself under no central control, itself the prey of every sort of power-phantasy; and, that primary demand is for ever-more intense and garish, heart-stoppingly titillating, images.
The end of egalitarianism, like love, is sado-masochism. Camille Paglia is right, and the sexualised power-drive of the human being without a clearly arbitrary social hierarchy runs amok. People without religion, and who conceive of culture as goods, frantically try to reconstitute society out of raw instinct and its craving. Modernism had a progress-theory which American administrative state-liberalists are trying anachronistically to serve under completely post-modern conditions. Administrative state-liberalists, no matter how many cheques they cut in their 'liberal', or Democrat Party, phase, are authoritarian personalities. But there is no longer a clearly arbitrary social hierarchy, only careerism.
The result is that Americans, a nation of hyper-credentiallised sports-fans, no longer know how to play ball. This makes for an insolent population which cannot be ordered about and hence is no fun. The pre-emptive war doctrine, with its seductive concept of unilateralism, is thus a projection onto foreigners of the un-met submission-demands of the bureaucracy. However, because unilateralism is framed in the old language of progress (in this case as armed export of Whig democracy), it is constructively reactionary and not merely, or decently, conservative. Therefore it will not 'work'. Not as expected.
But results nonetheless will ensue. Just as the ultimate sado-masochistic ouevre–in response to boredom–is suicide. Self-death. Individually, we die of being ourselves, whether that genome calls for cancer or terminal alcoholism. The same holds true for societies. As muslim, I follow the word of the angel from Allah (reality, ie, not 'god') to MuHammed (pbuh), who was led to declare that Islam is the last religion. After Islam, human beings simply will have to grow up. This may be a close-run thing. But, it follows therefore that I must recognise the West, my native place, as being one of reality's very first experiments with a truly post-religious human being.
We here are humanists. Noam Chomsky and George Bush, the latter despite occasional lapses into old-style religious jargon, are humanists. Even so, we are not yet able to transcend history in any sense. That quest continues.
To transcend history for human being is the holy grail.
And events progress. Islam contains in its very heart and soul the essence of the old modern age's progress-doctrine. This is certainly less than clear on their TeeVee sets to the ever-increasing number who do not need religion. The televised version of islam is vestigial. But nonetheless islam recognises (and now more clearly than the post-modern West) that progress is happening; and, it happens even from the most dire events. The agonies of the holocaust gave us Israel, whereas since then American state-liberalists also have come upon the twin delectations of Constant Emergency and Transcendental War. Things simply have to get better and better before they can get worse….
In these first two decades of the inadequately-called post-modern era, our elites are experimenting over our heads with high-technological nationalism, melded with just enough socialism to palliate the statistical mass. A consequence of the Iraq war will be drugs-legalisation, set beside increasing gun de-control. We may even come to terms with kiddy pornography and the 'sexual-rights' of children. The statistical mass, protected from history with a confidence-enhancing increasing lack of religious-need; and, for the past fifty-eight years since the bombing of Hiroshima, by the ensuing preservative Cold War 'balance of terror'; has been cooperating very nicely. A prolonged peace-interval of nearly sixty years has yielded the American statistical mass notable opportunity, under sublime conditions of wealth and leisure and irreligion, for coping a-new and entirely humanistically with the human universals of anger, fear, greed and lust; and, above all, moral laziness. These all formerly were aggravated in history by shortage. Now we have surfeit; and, its consequent abolition of creditable authority. Under our historically novel conditions of plenty, the statistical mass has been coping through that most novel of all social mammalian adaptations, market-satiety. Indulgence–bargaining–is the real point behind all the chatter about 'cultural diversity'. The political result is an ever-more-arcane system of pay-offs. The consequence is corruption, and this corruption–destined to omnipresence–moreover cannot proceed always in mere pace with wealth-growth. Rather, it must inevitably exceed income simply to keep some semblance of social peace. The burgeoning professional classes depend on clientle. All depend upon subvention.
Modernism's theory of progress, with its corollary notions of constant change and thresholds and therapies, satiety and addiction, is validated in the very collapse of the modern. And in what some regard as the horror of pre-emptive war in Iraq. This is a late-historical trope for all large political systems, and it is the essence of decadence. Decadence, precisely. The tide of the ugly and the pornographic is a dynamic aesthetic which requires continuous secondary elaboration; hence, air-raids on the living bodies of others. I submit that just as 'sexual freedom' has flung us onto the altar of instinct, from which heretofore it was the task of culture to liberate us, so we are suffering from satiety in every respect. The very idea that satisfaction of craving begets more intense and increasingly illicit craving–the very notion of wave and cycle, period and culmination—in fact may live nowhere else than in our prose-form and culture-narrative. After all, that narrative-form's culture-prose insists that marihuana must be a 'gateway' drug. Our discourse-mode may well be a parasite of language and, hence, a mere 'nothing but'. But there it lives, a holdover of modernism.
Inevitably, as with any magical speech over time, the incantations lose force and salience.
The modern theory of descriptive cause-and-effect less-and-less adequately prescribes as we advance into the post-modern. The islamic final expression of the modern actually arouses loathing. And yet modernist models of prescriptive forms, no longer apotropaic, simply persist; and, at least, they do yet describe perfectly well in their obsolescing terms from whence our present pathology derives. The sickness of which the West will die is cryptic hierarchy in compensation for loud protests of equality and universal access. Equality and universal access are finally boring. And they do not satisfy our needs for secrecy and hypocrisy. No more than does lots of naturalistic copulation satisfy any of our imaginations, sexual or otherwise. We therefore embark upon ever-more elaborate experiments.
All consist in sailing ever-nearer the edge. Edge-play. Latent in sado-masochism is the violation of the will of the unconsenting other. And that violation must be conducted on their flesh. The sadistic component becomes explicit in the cluster-bombs of unilateralism. Similarly, in entertainment generally we now behold the craving always for MORE. Of verisimilitude no less. All a matter of having our cake and eating it, too. The bdsm community, which could only exist in its current form because of the 'internet', and which allows a larger number than ever before to explore issues of power-exchange, is, alas, all too like our contemporary mash of 'neo-wiccan' spirituality, which exclusively and obsessively mothers the world and everything in it; but, shies away from actual animal-sacrifice, on Beltane eve.
The bdsm 'web-sites' abound in the wholesome lingo of therapy and the easy sloganeering of the lounging old AA-club: 'Safe, Sane & Consensual', 'Pain Must Only Be Consensual'. The negotiations of relationship are intense, thorough, they can take years to establish. The intention is wholly sincere, and the purpose is to seek dark intensities of sexual joy in a wholly safe manner. The paradox does not need to be expounded to the intelligent reader. This stuff, like our foreign policy, is all about simultaneous cake-eating and -having. In the same manner, we are exercised by TeeVee violence:
We know it's all fakery; but, our real fear is the doubt that it will stay in its nice safe container on the middle shelf of the family entertainment-centre. The trouble is our autonomous psychic (and psychotic!) craving for images ever more explicit, detailed, and…close to home. The scariest monsters are always outside the night-window, under the cellar stairs, the bed. It is that ever-escalant craving that the hyper-credentialled nomenklatura must keep palliated. We are famously an obese people, yet our bodies are those of but-recently sedentarised walkers and gatherers, warriors and hunters. We positively need the neuro-physical stimuli of outrageous scenes to experience existence. The frisson becomes harder to evoke; now the price is higher; and, some of our best television is produced on living bodies of people faraway. Which is my fortune–for my media have discovered to me my innate need for tragedy, my lust for grief, a hunger to weep at the agony of small children with their hands blown off; my pay-off is to sit snuffling in my rag, cursing all the while impotently the sly zionistic doers. And, they'd better be real children, too; or, the weeping will be phoney and no good. This, in bdsm-terms, makes me some sort of demi-submissive. The political reward of the political production for my Dominant Masters is for them, 'top' men all, to deliver a thrilling strong message to some bodies, somewhere, to stay in your place and do what the hyper-credentialled nomenklatura decree.
The CNN/'Fox' aesthetic is that of high pornography.
And, it is the realisation in slightly disguised form of the ultimate bdsm phantasies, which are assault, abduction, rape and razor-murder. All of which requires non-consent. Non-consent, and a steady supply of actual and real, screaming and pleading, victims, is the final desideratum of bdsm; and, all consumer-culture. It, and they, cannot be provided for by endless negotiation, UN resolutions, elaborate shuttle diplomacy and fifteen-page Dom/subby service-agreements. Of course one may not SAY any of this out loud, neither during reportorial games of patty-cake with Mr Rumsfeld and the gentleman Wolfowitz; nor, again, at the monthly 'scene' to exhibitionist lovers:
What of tolerance, ‘diversity’?
Gentleman such as Perle and President Bush are non-sexual temperaments clearly; and, they are our protectors against their own past mistakes, be that as it may. Are they to do with no satisfactions whatsoever? Day and night they strive to guard the homeland; and us, in the interminabilities of our safe-sex games. May they have no release ever? Bad enough the scant respect at home…aren't these dark foreigners at least allowed to be good for SOMETHING?
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 11 April 2003]