Whither the female Nietzschean mensch?

Trying to broaden my reading I came across The Millions, a newsletter belonging to Publisher’s Weekly and in it, a piece by Sonia Chung, called “Bon Courage” about women STILL not being allowed to “…in 2020 anywhere in America—mindlessly, without cost, inhabit and manifest her Alpha dog, her Nietzschean mensch.”

This is true. Or is it? Are the women screaming at the sky at Women’s Marches, not inhabiting their Nietzschean mensch? Hillary, who won’t/can’t give up till her last breath, hasn’t demonstrated her Nietzschean mensch? Was the attack on jurist Kavanaugh by women collectively raging that due process including evidence must be junked, not the female ID in full cry? Or is the writer asking for more violence, more destructiveness, more aggression? It took humans a good 1000 years to climb out of the uber-violent past and create the fragile safety we now inhabit, at least in western democracies. Travel to anywhere off the tourist track in the developing world, and you will definitely run into the female Primal, the Alpha bitch, the Nietzschean mensch and you will be rightly terrified. I’m thinking of Winnie Mandela here, who routinely necklaced liberal blacks and burnt alive teenagers, terrifying even her communist overlords. Staring Winnie in the eye was, for me, a look into the beast. I lowered my eyes and slouched away. It was, however, a vivifying moment, I was reduced to the savannah, to the primitive fear of the predator. Fun for privileged moi!

But maybe the writer is asking for something rather less terrifying and violent? Is she, while complimentary, asking for more out of the proliferation of successful middlebrow women writers that the current absorbedness we give to successful premium TV? Vis:

I have nothing against this experience of propulsive absorbedness. I enjoy and seek out this experience regularly. I just think: This isn’t what literature as an art form is/does/should do. Literature is not about smoothing out prickly spots or sharp corners or the essential misshapenness of existence; in a word, literature should be, at minimum, more courageous than life.

I can hear Sophocles complaining at the local philosophers’ book group.

Plotting, she implies, is cheating the reader of the real, messy world. And she is right, there is an emptiness at the core of many of the currently successful women novelists, of which there are thousands. Equally empty is premium TV, which grabs your lizard self and scares the shit out of it until you cannot tear your eyes away. This compellingness has been codified by writers teaching writing. The Story Code, Save the Cat, The Bestseller Code, Hit Lit, (the great grand-dad) Robert McKee’s Story has reduced the story to an algorithm designed to sweep the reader away. So yeah, it gets old being swept away. It’s like having had too many lovers, one’s eventual response is a shudder.

Or is this the most muted, sophisticated call to chaos and disruption, I have come across?

Bon Courage was written by a novelist who teaches at Skidmore, easily one of the plushest of the plush Seven Sisters, who very definitely does not live in fear of bullets piercing her sitting room walls or serious financial difficulty or in fact, any difficulty at all. And after chunking down and analyzing her piece, it seems that, rather than the invasion of human female evil into safe spaces, she is asking for fully-fleshed women characters, who are mixed good and evil, using the vivid language of the primitive, the marginal, in order to fully evoke the experience of the writer. She calls that ‘richness’, and indeed, it is. But wait, is that she wants?

I’d be happy to see literary novels become less prosaic in both senses of the word—braver, more language rich and structurally inventive—shaping and challenging more than reflecting existence as we know it. 

Shaping and challenging rather than reflecting. Shurely not. Does she mean an attempt to encourage readers to immerse themselves in the difficult lives in the developing world, in communities of color? No, we are celebrating quite a lot of that. A call to writers to develop a more sophisticated version of the socialist realism forced on Russian writers post 1917? Maybe. She goes onto recommend a handful of books four by people of color, one of them, female, and another dead white male.

I want these works too to be widely read, to generate buzzy chatter, to re-energize novel-reading. But I don’t know how that happens. Is there only one way to generate so-called “momentum” in a book? Is it always “what happens next?” Or “relatability” or manageable smoothness? Why not intensity, or depth, or unsolvable mystery—a more vertically-oriented driving energy?

“A vertically oriented driving energy”. Jesus God, is Marx everywhere? And what is this fresh meaning of the word “vertical”? The Cut, New York Magazine’s style, fashion and whining section, uses the word ‘vertical’, as in a “women’s vertical” to describe itself. Does it mean challenging the status quo? The man, the patriarchy? How tiresome.

It is an inevitability that when the world seems at its most accommodating, as it must at Skidmore, we seek out danger. It is a hectic way to live and read, but barring any moral core, any culture-wide, over-arching imperative toward virtue (rather than the accepted modernity of kindness, inclusion, correctness), are we to work towards a vertically-oriented driving energy that will topple the white male (and his privileged lapdog of a woman) off his throne?

Chung uses seven years of The Good Wife as her template of the perfect middlebrow serial, but its conflicted ending is for her, the perfect coda for her idealized future lit:

“… that ending leaves a rough taste in our mouths: the messes Alicia leaves behind her and now faces before her, are what lingers. As novelistic vision, this for me rises above middlebrow. It’s unmanageable. And true.”

Literature now follows the therapeutic model, beginning wound leading to misbehavior, consequences, therapeutic insight. Few novels end with a misalignment. They end with a teaching moment, these days about race and privilege. If 19th-century lit’s heroines did not die under the wheels of a train or riven with syphilis, they spent the rest of their lives trapped and repentant, having flouted convention. It was messy, it was punitive, it was informed, though not overtly, by Christianity, even by the best of the best. And its effect was to (slowly) widen acceptable individuation and morality.

Outside the world inhabited by the gatekeepers of literature is a rough beast that kindness and inclusion cannot tame, despite our attempts to codify and export those virtues as a requirement of foreign aid. Venture outside our safety and make yourself vulnerable, and you very quickly encounter what Christ called, the Ruler of this world. Christianity dealt with that force, buried deep in our nature and expressed by our bad selves. Our entire civilization is built to bar its entry, deal with its manifestations.

We have not yet found a replacement for the pre-modern faiths, the result being a furious and chaotic public debate, canceling, moral certitude, the cry to replace the legal and political underpinnings of our fragile stability. Faced with so much uncertainty, the invocation of a new form of evil, the revenge of the Female Id, capable of overturning all that made her suffering acceptable, is understandable. But very very dangerous.

The Semiotics of sexy…baby…tiger*

We are well into the self-improvement months. There is a new wrinkle to the diet and suffer thing, stopping drinking and suffering, suffering at the gym and so on. But no worries, there is still pain involved. It is about manipulating your face to make it look the way you want it to look. Younger women want to look like Kylie Jenner, a heavily sexualized siren presenting as much older than her actual years. If you are 50 and under, like Jennifer Lopez, say, you want to look like yourself at 30, sharper angles, idealized, and very slightly threatening. Both are possible. Costs range between $5,000 and $30,000, depending on your location and involve no surgery or not much. Over 50s are still working on the old paradigm, wellness, and rejuvenation. For now.

Kylie Jenner before and after

The difference is that whatever iteration you choose, you can do it yourself for a fraction of the above prices. You can whisk control from The Man, or rather, from the insanely rich plastics in the megacities busily turning out copies of Instagram Face. Glancing through Youtube will tell you, that this is everywhere, in every single country, rich or poor, women are performing these procedures on themselves far into their 70s.

the 8-point filler facelift

The average price of a syringe of filler at a clinic is $683 US. Calculate one syringe per decade, meaning at 50, you need five or $3,500 US per year to keep up. That does not count Botox ($1000 3 times a year) micro-needling, peels, IPL, etc, etc, etc. You can buy filler for $40 US, and Botox for $50, which means we are seeing the democratization of beauty. For $500, you can slowly over time, create the way you want to look, yourself. It’s not that safe, you can really fuck up. But so can the plastics. Various health authorities are trying to stop it, but the desire is too strong, it’s spread too far, it is unstoppable.

Disturbing, right? But beauty is disturbing, it’s supposed to be.

Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference.

Roger Scruton

The New Yorker ran a story on Instagram Face in mid-December by Jia Tolentino who investigated the increasing prevalence of the cyborgian beauty of Kim Kardashian, who, over the past ten years has turned herself from human into something out of a digital war game, something unearthly and all-powerful. Some elements of Kim’s beauty are fairly easily re-created: remove the buccal fat in your face, slowly, over time, inject hyaluronic acid building that desirable cartoonish smoothness. There are dozens of other non-invasive procedures that can create a facial imperturbability that is both repellent and seductive.

So what are we considering beauty in a woman these days? Instagram Face tells us. First of all, it is multiracial. Secondly, it is decidedly not a vulnerable beauty, like that of Marilyn Monroe. Lips are invariably African-American and telegraph a deep sensuality. the high (called top model) cheekbones, American-Indian or Middle-Eastern. The eyes (Bella Hadid, the K Jenners, Emily Ratajowski, Chrissy Tiegen) have an Asian tilt – making the windows of the soul a mystery, out of reach, setting up a tension between the eyes and lips. The nose is refined Caucasian, leading the beauty, arguably.*

Our response to beauty is mostly unconscious. We cannot inform ourselves enough not to be taken by it, even when it is an obvious commercial play, like those of the Kardashians. This too tells us something about where we are going, which is towards cultural multi-racialism. It is also telling us what men are finding attractive in women, which on the evidence, is strong, mysterious, sensual women who can out-earn them. I’m not saying it’s complex, thoughtful, or virtuous. It is precisely what it is.

make-up artist Colby Smith*

Indelible in the Hippocampus; Writings from the #metoo Movement

The title of the #metoo book is taken from Christine Blasey-Ford’s memory of the boys laughing as they tumbled her onto the bed and tried to take her clothes off. Her story sounded plausible to me when she testified, entirely teenage behavior in the ’80s, post-sexual revolution when women were supposed to be as extractive of sex as men, as avid, as careless, anticipating no harm. If she’d had a couple of witnesses, or friends, evidence, I would have believed her. Without, it just sounded plausible. And clearly, given the conviction that Bret Kavanaugh would prove another nail in the coffin of abortion on demand, her motives were suspect. I called it a draw, a shrug, the incident plausible, even familiar, the evidence absent.

But the phrase she used, “indelible in the hippocampus”, was damned catchy and serves as a perfect title for a collection of poems, short stories, “creative non-fiction” and generalized reports of sexual abuse of one’s self, friends or cousins.

Fully one-third of college students report being sexually harassed. Struck by that stat, I wanted to know more. This book, out of McSweeney’s, claims to be representative, so I read it. But if the essays in the Hippocampus are representative, we have defined abuse down to reports about friends’ experiences, imaginings of being a predated slave woman more than a century ago or a free black in the South half a century ago, being transsexual and being harassed by some barely sentient hick, feeling vulnerable on the streets, getting into sticky situations while blind drunk, being 12 and hanging around an unsupervised house full of teenaged boys, etc.

Takeaway? It’s not that bad. Not anymore. Cutting out being a slave or a free black woman in the South decades ago, almost every incident could have been avoided with a little common sense. But, say these young women, the world should be safe, it should be ok, to look sexually available and not have men respond to it. I should be able to get blind drunk at a fraternity party and not wake up with someone on top of me. No one should be able to insult me with impunity. I should not feel passive. My bad uncle should not paw at me at family parties. I should not be stalked. I should not feel vulnerable in my house alone. And so on. Yes, you should be that safe, and I hope you make the world that safe for your daughters and granddaughters.

I’m cutting out here the very real harassment suffered by working women in glamorous professions in the 80s-2000s. The closer you got to power in NY, LA, London, DC, etc., the worse it became, the more men took advantage, the more likely you would run into a monster. But this is not the experience of the writers in Hippocampus, their experiences are by comparison, creepy and nasty rather than criminal, requiring behavioral change, not jail.

Note: when Christianity was embedded in every family and community, women were safer, they were not seen as wholely sexual objects. Campuses were not free-for-all sexual buffets, nor were the streets a gauntlet of crude remarks and stalking. So there’s that. We, in western democracies, are experiencing the aftermath of the overthrow of the most effective moral system the world has yet created. Don’t call up Margaret Atwood, what you call “the patriarchy” will never come back, narcissism is just too seductive. Until you find you’ve given away your power to a fiction.

No HRH but a Leap of Faith

I wish them both well. Most people I know would like to see them permanently humiliated, but it is the nature of every generation to flout convention, try something new, and just maybe, succeed.

Here’s the reason, the only reason they gave, in Prince Harry’s voice today

“But the media is a powerful force.”

Harry mentioned once finding his wife sitting on the end of the bed, weeping over some cruelty or another. Little wonder he was re-experiencing his mother’s life. The couple was hounded, their privacy invaded, the criticism brutal. If Harry was used to it, Meagan was not. And why should she be? The necessary hardening leaves one slightly less than human. And from there, you lose a piece of your soul.

So what if they are young and beautiful and very rich and very connected. Let them live it out.

Now they can retreat when they need to, pull up the drawbridge, give access only to those they trust. And maybe they will create something wonderful. Enough with the malice people.

Snakes and Ladders in the Housing Market

The Daily Mail reports that half of Manhattan’s luxury apartments are going begging as commie oligarchs realize the world is changing and not in their direction. In Vancouver, house prices have dropped 16% as taxes on foreign ownership skyrocketed. As in all the mega-cities, low-income housing is at a critical shortage and no one knows how to fix it. Hence, in the richest city in the world, Los Angeles, there are a hundred thousand homeless, most mad or driven so, by the imbalance our moral superiors have decreed is AOK with them. Libertarian seems to be the only meeting point between right and left, and that’s not working out. You cannot let the global market decide when it’s rigged. All those high-end apartments are being bought by men and women who are dragging their money out of Russians who are serfs for yet another set of oppressors, broken Chinese working in slave conditions and near dead Africans whose aid has been shunted off into the oligarchical heavens of Zurich and Manhattan and Vancouver. In B.C. we are a place for ‘safe money’, in case the Chinese or Russians or Nigerians or Ugandans decide to rise up and murder their oppressors, so they buy a $5 or $50 million dollar house, stash a student cousin in it to hold down their palatial bolt hole.

You cannot let the global market decide when it’s rigged.

The rich are a new kind of nasty bunch these days, and because they all have “foundations”, we are supposed to worship them. More on commodifying the poor, when I can stand to think about it.

Bullshit

I am never ever going to write about global warming which is bullshit and is not happening. I am just going to publish this chart every time there is new propaganda like this week’s report from NOAA and NASA, screaming that this past decade is the warmest in living history. Yeah, by a few hundredths of a percent since the Little Ice Age. And frankly, I even doubt that.

This graph is from a peer-reviewed journal: https://gavinpublishers.com/articles/short-communication/Journal-of-Earth-and-Environmental-Sciences-ISSN-2577-0640/the-true-and-false-of-climate-change

The writers are:

M. Ray Thomasson, Chairman, Thomasson Partner Associates Inc., Denver Colorado, USA

Lee C. Gerhard Principal Geologist, Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas, USA (retired)

The Limitless Future of the Duchess of Woke

While the self-nominated gatekeepers of the culture have been going at Meagan Markle as if she were an ice sculpture they could reduce to chips and hose into the drains, others are thinking, and I am one of them, “Wow”. Who stands up to the Windsors and lives to tell the tale? Practically no one. An old friend of mine, the foreign editor of the Mirror, and at the time, Robert Maxwell’s right-hand man, said to me “Of course they had Diana killed.” As if anyone with a brain cell wouldn’t know that.

If you’ve hung around the royal family as I have, the pulsations of power are unmistakable, and as in Stalin’s Russia, every glance and gesture of every courtier is remarked and filed away for later. The Windsors are used to power, and no one wields it better. I would put money on MI6 killing Jeffrey Epstein, the act has all the marks of 007. They got permission from the CIA or whoever, arranged the digital tape destruction, the absence of the guards, broke the sleazeball’s neck and were on the next plane home to wherever jackals live.

So far Meagan has slipped the noose, though the naval frigate parked one-quarter mile out from her current house would make me nervous.

Anyway, she did and she is going to be so rich, so powerful, we will be writing about her for the next forty years. Hollywood experts think Markle will choose a more pro-social, “infotainment” production path “rais(ing) money and mak(ing) movies that are about issues that are important to her.”

PR veteran Howard Bragman, predicted today in the Hollywood Reporter, that the couple, in bringing to the table, fame, and intrigue that is “probably unparalleled at the moment,” they could spark a bidding war among streamers or networks. “They could make hundreds of millions of dollars.”

I have read that they could make $500 million in the first year. After which, look out Apple, Gwyneth, Oprah, and weird muscley penis guy who owns Amazon.

Their future is limitless. Harry has a sustainable travel company in the works, called Travelyst. Meagan is doing a voice-over for Disney, and Harry is producing a series on “mental health” with Oprah. While Meagan waits for Harry to return with their exit package, Meagan is visiting some of the most radical groups out here in B.C., which, by the way, is all radical all the time.

My sweet sweet, (highly educated and accomplished) cousin thinks they are a fabulous couple and that “they are wise to get out of that rigid/stifling environment and get on with their real lives if they really intend to do good work and actually make a difference beyond the entertainment value of royalty.” She also thinks the criticism of Meghan is horrific and that I am right to call it hatred. (I like to have my feelings affirmed.) I think a lot of people do think they are brave and wise, though none of them are employed by the media. There are, after all, countless European royals doing their own thing, with and without titles, working for money.

Just so long as she doesn’t run for President. Because trust me, she’s thinking of it.

The Duchess of Woke finds a Home

Apparently our Premier (socialist) in B.C. is all aflutter about the possible settling of the Sussexes in our jurisdiction, which, by the way, is the greenest, most rainbowy, wokest in the whole of the Commonwealth, if not the world. The two major cities have gay green Mayors and councilors and our riding (and the Sussexes) is represented by the head of the Green party federally, and the Green party provincially. I personally think it would be super-great for us because their presence will kick up the glamour factor by quite a lot and I am shallow enough to enjoy glamour. And hey, with all that focus, maybe there would arrive some rationality and greens would stop burning down the forests with their crazy ideas about how to maintain biodiversity. One can hope.

With regard to a complaint from a reader on Facebook that I was super-mean yesterday, you should see, Sir, the musings of my English friends who would like to see her stuffed into a wood-chipper. Tomorrow would be too late.