Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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Incontrovertibly controversial controversy

I went bicycling again yesterday. It's the best form of exercise for anyone who wants to be a ladies' man, since it slims and tones WHILE making a vasectomy completely unnecessary. While I was out there on the road grunting and sweating and doing the world a favor by making sure I will never reproduce, I did some thinking. It was mostly to avoid getting trapped in a sexual fantasy gone wrong where two women who I had seduced into acts of debauchery served me with rather hostile court papers and outed my misdeeds and perverted predilections in open court (I don't mean to harp on this point, but who else starts out with four perky breasts and a moonlit sky and ends up in a court room explaining to a rather stern judge that everything that happened was consensual and while I regret my allowing carnal desires to override my duties as a responsible citizen and man I would request she throw this complaint out because it's dealing with the sorts of human relationships that should not be regulated by law? These things are not supposed to surface in the realm of fantasy, where it should be all champagne and caviar and big tittied dancers with no brains.) In this attempt to subvert my thought patterns from their natural and dangerous course I started reviewing some familiar and common themes in the things I ponder when I have nothing better to do, and this is what I came up with:

It is difficult to overstate the importance of making controversial statements. We live in a society where doing so is becoming more and more difficult and unpopular than it has been in the recent past (We haven't quite reached the burning people for saying the wrong thing stage yet. Maybe that can be on the second term agenda for the Bush administration) Dogma has become fractured and situational, meaning that you can express pretty much any sentiment you like if you direct it at the right group. You can say "I love my cunt and feel no guilt at aborting unwanted fetuses" to the feminists (as long as you are a woman) and "Abortionists must die, God alone is best" to the fundies (as long as you're not a Muslim.) Reverse the audiences and...well...for legal reasons I'm going to suggest you DON'T reverse the audiences.

Even humor has become much more restricted. I've talked about this before, but I think it's really important to realize how pernicious the effects of censoring humor are. I remember on Sunday when I was in the park after the protest I saw this old hippie being interviewed. He was talking about his life as an activist and he said that one thing he'd learned early on is that a movement without humor in it is a movement that no reasonable person wants to be a part of. He talked about the period of his life where he was a dedicated feminist. He gave it up not because he stopped believing in the cause but because he got tired of being the token male at humorless meetings and having his jokes raise people's ire. Now he's an environmentalist where there's a little more toleration for dissent and humor.

The thing is, you can't have discourse without offense, at least not real discourse. You can communicate an idea as politely as is possible and if the idea is sufficiently interesting or novel people will still take offense. Sometimes you can't communicate an idea politely and still have it retain its meaning. Being offensive and offended is part of how we learn.

Then there's creativity. I am frequently offensive, and one of the reasons for this is that I want to create, and I am working on getting over my distaste of hurting other people's feelings. Oh, I don't want to learn how to be mean or anything, but I can't hold back for fear that someone might get upset. That's one of the reasons I use so many parenthetical, because I don't want gay people to think that when I talk about sexual attraction purely from a heterosexual standpoint that I'm degrading them. I know that it's irrational and fucking retarded for people to think that way (I don't get my panties in a bunch reading about homosexual attraction even if there's no mention of heterosexuality in it) but some people have been trained in it, and their hurt is real and stinging, even fueled as it is by sentiments that only a douche bag would give credence to. In college I was a member of a club dedicated to giving funny speeches. I went there and soon became a regular, making the speeches that got the biggest laughs of anyone's and generally being hilarious and extremely creative. People started getting offended after awhile, though. I remember one time the proposal we were supposed to riff on was "The Mongols should invade China again." I got up there and went against the resolution saying "Been there, done that" and that instead the Mongoloids should invade china, because there is no sight more frightening than an armada of short buses massing in the desert, or the gleam of tens of thousands of pieces of headgear in the noonday sun. Plus they already have extensive training banging things against walls. It was much funnier the way it was delivered. About 3/4 of the people burst out laughing, but a few were really offended, and one girl (a lesbian, naturally, the most stridently unamusing and dour PC police people are always lesbians) tried to organize some of her lackies into shouting me down. Now I didn't care that they didn't like me, but afterwards I felt a bit guilty. Had I done something wrong? I wasn't seriously suggesting that people with Down syndrome should engage in acts of violence, or that the term Mongoloid was appropriate for them, I was just trying to get some laughs. In the end I left because it stopped being fun. I don't get any great pleasure out of angering others.

Another thing I learned from the experience of that club is that if you say offensive things, even clearly in jest, they will remain associated with you. One of the interesting aspects of the club was that to get up and speak you had to give the moderator an obsequious address, usually silly and sort of boring. I tried to fill mine with dark humor and thinly veiled insults. At one point I compared the moderator favorable to Joe Stalin and Typhoid Mary. Another time I complimented her on her pristine urine, saying that it was prized among athletes for its coloration and ability to help them get past drug tests. For the rest of the time people mixed references to how funny that was with intimations that I had a pee-fetish. I do not. As an artist you have to get used to having controversial ideas attributes to you as actual beliefs, rather than mere creations to serve some purpose, such as humor.

Indeed offensiveness can serve many purposes. Take the idea of starting a novel with the line "You should never hire an attractive woman if she's serious about her boyfriend or husband. It provides all the distractions with a much lower chance of return on the investment." There's a lot of stuff that you could tell about a character from this line. He could just be a misogynist, or maybe he's the type of guy who enjoys pushing buttons, or maybe it's a woman misogynist, which might even be more interesting. There are countless other places you could go. If a novel started with that line would it mean it had to be a sexist novel? No. Does it mean the author is a sexist? No. Are there people out there who would think it meant both? Plenty. If the audience for this journal weren't kept so pruned and tidy I'm sure there would be people who would be offended by it now, even in the context it was placed in. If I want to be a writer I can't be afraid of turning some people off and making others angry. In fact that's a sign of good art (it can also be a sign of bad art, but better to create bad art that provokes a reaction than bland art that does not.)

Such a statement could also be used to launch into an exploration of deeper and more difficult issues. Why would I think that up with no prompting? Probably due to resentment towards beautiful women. Do I have any? Sure. What is it based in? Social and sexual rejection by them, I'd wager, mixed with a degree of jealousy over how easy some things come to them. Is that rational? Yes and no. A lot of it's just an emotional mix of desire and repulsion brought on by issues, some of it is justified. The model for the sex life of the beautiful, or any, woman these days is to fuck a lot of scumbags until you get tired of it and realize that you want stability or children or a father for your children, and then marry some less exciting but sweeter and more stable guy. This model screws over the sweet and stable guys, who don't get a lot when they're young and the women are most desirable, and then get the leftovers later on. Of course young women have always loved scumbags, but back in the day many of them refrained from sex with them for social reasons. Now that taboo is gone for most people, and what you get is a devaluation of sex. If you're willing to have sex with an asshole you're attracted to then how can it NOT mean less when you do the same with someone you love? I shake hands with assholes, and that does devalue the meaning of the action. There's a lot of resentment out there towards women right now because of this. Of course most women don't think the guys they're dating are scumbags (although there are plenty of signs you can watch out for, such as if he withholds emotion and attention in order to keep you hooked. Scumbags, and romance gurus who recommend acting like a scumbag to attract women cause it works, are big fans of variable reinforcement schedules. Women who date jerks who only intermittently pay them any mind are operating under the same principals as rats who press the lever most rapidly when doing so produces unpredictable results. Of course women do it to men too, it's not a one way street, but we're talking about male resentment here, not female. Also if he's significantly older than you and on a different life stage, like he's in college and you're in high school or he's in the workforce and you're starting college, probably either an immature insecure guy or a scumbag. You won't think so initially but in retrospect you'll see the signs. Remember the point, most people who date assholes don't know that they're assholes during the dating.) It's a complicated situation, but it is an unjust one. Couple it with issues I'm going through and the reasons for the thought seem clear. Does that mean I believe in the principle stated? Of course not, it's ridiculous and unjust. However having the thought and expressing it can lead to constructive and beneficial things. Censoring it can not.

Controversy is good for democracy, good for art, and good for self-growth. Don't be afraid of the views you hold that would upset your friends or of saying things that piss people off and provoke reactions. Don't be afraid of being faceiteous or playing Devil's Advocate, an extremely good way of exploring ideas that make you uncomfortable or seem irrational but still pop into your head. One must be careful with this kind of thing, you don't want to lose friends or fake yourself into believing something that's pernicious, but being careful and staying away are not the same thing. Society is constantly evolving. Many of the things we say or do now would have been considered horrible 50 years ago. Diversity of opinion and ideas can only lead to greater strength and more efficiency in what Mills called the marketplace.

Sticks and stones often do break bones, but books can only hurt if thrown at high velocities or taken too seriously. Avoid doing either and you should be fine.
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