Paradise of Storm

Month: August, 2015

Ashley Madison and the Pursuit of Happiness

by Guy Walker

paiting-picasso-sex

“I stretched ropes from steeple to steeple; garlands from window to window; gold chains from star to star, and I dance.” Arthur Rimbaud

I am in the middle of a luxuriant passionate love affair with a married woman. The love is more immediate and valiant than I’ve know before, a sort of semblant ecstasy of familiarity as we swim in the ocean at midnight, naked, laughing uncontrollably on mushrooms, and in our soberest hours we still smile involuntarily just from looking at each other. In a way, it brings a transitory peace to my regular fainéant cynicism, because love is just that: it’s the momentary reprieve from our furious blue minds, it’s a storm of huge dawns filling a dingy moor. But it’s restless and coarse: it’s the oasis in the enormous grim desert, you just hope that when you arrive, the bursting mad gardens are real and not a delusion driven by thirst. Loving a married woman is the spice of life, the forbidden dynamism that keeps us laughing.

At the same time, I know my role in this affair. Her husband is a wealthy clean-cut stockbroker on Wall Street, from a prideful pecunious family with a summer home on Cape Cod. He is stability and security; I drink warm champagne and overdose on GHB with my overweight landlord. I fit the role of her summer spent with a “surfer from California” who drives an old shitty Mercedes-Benz that sounds like a cement mixer. Is it novel to have no economic prospects? Is poverty avant-garde? It’s romantic from a distance, the way the Wild West is romantic only when it has been two-hundred years separated. It’s the reason we prefer the stories of the antihero and the whore to the clean upper-middle class family. Celine, Dostoyevsky, Thompson, Rimbaud, Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Bukowski—we love them because they were braver than we, because the flowering dawns of our youth were never enough, because the madness of emeralds and poison was seen and not forgotten. Those who live in the tame eidolons of domesticity, nudging vicariously for a bit of adventure and peril and storm by reading books of those who did are not all that different from those who carry on affairs with those they will never really have the guts to love. The world is cursed by timidness and phobias; there is too much politeness, not enough heartbreak. To be true, I wasn’t a man until I was heartbroken. No one is, nor ever can be without a bit of misery. But we keep drinking our cocktails, waiting in the dingy bars, yelling at the sport’s teams on the screen, privately wondering if any of this will be good again.

Last week, anonymous hackers published a mass of data containing the private information of 33 million people from around the world, all registered to the website Ashley Madison, which patrons to married people who want an affair. Tinder for the already married—an inevitable construct for those who fucked up by getting married in the first place, and need a solution. If the solution is a full-fledged affair, a single-night motel fuck, or even knowing that you have the option to do so—they are all a gasp of clean air in what seems like a prison. The data of private information released includes their names, email addresses, physical addresses, their personal sexual desires and fetishes, and their credit card purchases. Using the site, a man could pay $259 for an “affair guarantee package,” and women used the site for free  .  .  .  although most of the female profiles were fake. The fraudulent caliginous design of Ashley Madison is acutely perfect, because no one would publicly claim that they got ripped off. The hackers stated that their intent was to expose Ashley Madison as a fraudulent service, suggesting that the hackers may have been registered to the site previously, and were disgruntled with not getting laid. At least two men have already committed suicide due to the release of their information. And predictably, the guilt-shaming has begun with a sort of religious piety, a moralistic self-righteousness that says those who were exposed got what they deserved, that they shouldn’t have cheated in the first place. But it’s the repressive nature of marriage to push men and women to this point, to escape the long wasting ferment with a night of lust and laughter.

In Michel Foucault’s Histoire de la sexualité however, he petitions for us to abandon the “repressive hypothesis,” the notion that modern societies inhabit great sexual repression. He argues that since the 17th century, since the Counter-Reformation, or Catholic Revival, industrialized societies have developed an “authorized vocabulary” to articulate their sexuality, largely through the Roman Catholic Church, as its citizens would be encouraged to confess to their sinful desires and actions. Foucault thought the academic could liberate the sexes. But this reasoning is flawed. The dividing up of sexualities set the tone for repression and prohibition. Homosexuality and heterosexuality for example, were coined at the same time, in 1886, in Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s book Psychopathia Sexualis. This categorization was inevitable with the evolution of language, to specify and detail the world around and within us, but still, it’s enough to wonder if there was more of a sense of “normalcy” or unity with the various sexualities before they were parceled out into their little dark grotesque corners. Gluttony, laziness, nymphomania are all forms of enslavement to “the pleasure principle,” as Freud called it; but if the pleasure principle is repressed enough, the man or woman or entire society will develop neurosis, or an etiolated perversion of health and decency. For example, the two States who watch the most porn are Utah and Mississippi, two of the most religious States in the country. Alabama, another State with a strict religious reputation, had by far the most registered accounts to Ashley Madison. This is more than just accidental correlation. It’s more than accidental correlation that the Catholic Church implemented the most organized and pervasive child rape program in world history, while at the same time they advocate against the use of condoms. In some traditional Jewish practice, after the rabbi cuts off the end of the baby’s dick—as if that is not barbaric enough—he orally sucks off the blood from the baby dick in a sort of nightmarish welcome into this fucked up world; and it’s only now becoming controversial as cases of herpes on Jewish newborns have been rising in New York City. There is female genital mutilation in Somalia, Guinea, Egypt, Sierra Leone, and countless others, both under Muslim and Christian instruction. There is the Christian conservative’s systematic hatred of women, as they obstruct funding for women’s health care. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical Christian, even alluded to using the National Guard to shut down all Planned Parenthood’s across the country if (or when as he arrogantly puts it) he were to become President.

I want to love Foucault, because his intellect of rebellion lit a fire of magnificent curiosity, but as a historian of ideas, specifically in regard to sexuality and it’s liberation, he is incorrect. The world was far less shackled sexually prior to the 17th century. Ancient Egypt had the Festival of Drunkenness, a nationwide orgy to appease the warring goddess Sekhmet—everyone from the richest to the poorest were directly fucking for peace. Today’s equivalent would be in response to ISIS and Putin and domestic mass shootings, the United States devoted a month of orgies and drunkenness. Imagine if Islam was sexually liberated. This is a very serious, yet unexamined point. Sam Harris, Bill Maher and others argue that Islam is an inherently violent religion and should be held accountable, while Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and others contest that it’s America’s endless wars in the Middle East that generates terrorism itself. Both arguments are correct, but what is never mentioned is Islam’s repression of a little guiltless p in the v. ISIS doesn’t actually want a caliphate—they are blowing shit up and kidnapping women by the thousands because they are angry men in the desert who are not getting laid. Dionysus and his debonair theatre were given up for dust and storm and suicide bombs.

Similar to the Festival of Drunkenness, the ancient Celts had the Beltane, a festival for the fertility of the Earth, in which they would fuck in masses in the fields. The Estruscans were notorious swingers, the women were equal to men, sometimes exercising in the nude. Today, orgies are by no means less common than before, but there is a secretive nature to them, a sense of pagan idol worship or sinful desecration that the very moral public has attached to it. Infidelity is no different  .  .  .  it is one of those unavoidable and yet necessary ameliorations of the human condition, signatory of a grim defect of marriage itself. It is deemed by the morally self-righteous as a tasteless betrayal, an unforgivable liaison, the excuse for so much divorce and needless misery. It’s an excuse for divorce, not the actual reason for it, as so many married couples are unhappy, but don’t have the gall to leave the banal asylum of marriage, so they point to one’s natural interest in tasting other pies as vile and indefensible.

What the Ashley Madison hacks reveals is the insanity of marriage. Yet the public has adopted a ubiquitous moral self-righteousness, a puritanical judgment of the men and women who sought or had affairs. The anonymous hackers made the statement: “Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.” It’s what Glenn Greenwald has compared to the digital branding of the Scarlet Letter, branding all adulterers with an unforgivable red “A”. But marriage is vile complacency, denial in its most wretched form. It attempts to convert the strong alpha classes into timid sterile Victorians (even though Queen Victoria had a secret sex castle in Scotland). In most marriages, the last remaining drops of pure animal honesty is held only in their most private thoughts, as they wish to run away and disappear into the wild tall fields. As everyone knows, marriage began as a means of diplomacy, a form of treaty between the noble classes. In Marriage: A History, author Stephanie Coontz writes, “You establish peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them.” Marriage never has and never will be about love. Because love is a fleeting masterpiece that will never be tamed.

In Bosnia in 2007, a married couple who didn’t realize they were both in need of an affair, were chatting online, under the names “Sweetie” and “Prince of Joy,” only to realize this when they eventually met on a date. They consequently divorced, accusing each other of infidelity. This can be quickly laughed at as a nescient sordid reason for divorce, but the man and woman were clearly empathetic to each others’ private vulnerable honesties for a more buoyant intimacy. This is true of the masses. Huge legions of married couples want the love that maddens and thrills, the gallant endless thrusts of wisdom and youth. It is their own timidness that has paralyzed their freedom.

The rise in divorce rates have paralleled the rise in education with women. Education, in its ideal form, is power and independence and strength, and most of all, freedom. It ignites the mad theatre of life, the parade of opportunity, and it is reasonable to assume that a modern Enlightenment would be governed with secularism and sexual liberation as the new empyrean acheiropoietons of our era. Nietzsche warned against alcohol, exclaiming that it didn’t allow us to face the uncomfortable darkness that is called life. Marriage is much the same  .  .  .  it’s a dipsomanian fart of escape. Marriage may be a grand perfect affair for a few rare birds in the world, but the piggish unctuous masses are desperate and lonely, and may find their sad compliment in someone, and settle with desperate fetid humping for decades. But loneliness is a wise god, pushing us in our most private hours to think about stars and poetry and death. And I’ve never known a night I did not love.

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The Dawn of Fetishism

by Guy Walker

This man wants to rule the world.

After the initial depression-induced hilarity fades from watching a Republican Governor who is running for President do push-ups in a miasmic display of retarded cryptofascism, and you are left wondering what obscenity did you just witness, wondering if you should call your children to come inside and lock all the doors, if you should drink a handle of whiskey immediately, if you should punch a wall, or even worse, post it on your Facebook page  .  .  .  after all that fades, you are still left wondering, How did we degrade the body politic into such an androgynous ass of failure? How did this man (if what he is can be called a man) corral the masses to elect him as their guardian and governor?

I wonder sometimes if Jefferson and Paine feared the inevitable collapse of Reason, if they knew the Dawn of Fetishism was near the horizon. My elders tell me it’s always been bad, we’ve always been dissatisfied and antagonistic towards the State, that my despondent routine is nothing original  .  .  .  even Plato believed all existing governments were cheap corruptions of virtue, and beyond redemption. In Greek, The Republic can also be translated as The Ideal State  .  .  .  Plato was a philosopher of idealism, of unachievable Arcadias, unmolested landscapes for Pan. Given this pretext, humans are flaccid emerald-nutted slaveholders, dressed as clowns, twirling in their tents. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a chance at winning the presidency. But his cruel attempt at trying to be fun and relatable isn’t the exception. Ted Cruz did impressions of characters from The Simpsons; he also grilled bacon wrapped around the barrel of a machine gun as he fired it, saying that this is how Texans grill bacon. Donald Trump hailed his elephant-killing sons as great Americans. Jeb Bush sung “Slow Jam The News” with Jimmy Fallon, as The Roots played the harmonies and Jimmy Fallon did his predictable almost-laughing side-act, in a sort of new-age nostalgia for dystopia.

The cartoonish perversion of politicians’ attempts at being fun and relatable through social media is the caliginous simulacrum of retardation. They treat us like children from the 1990’s, sucking on popsicles in front of Nickelodeon. Are we supposed to laugh? Are we supposed to turn to our girlfriends, and discuss how his relatability now outshines the entire GOP’s misogynistic platform? But then again, Jindal and others are speaking directly to us; they are articulating a very sullen modernity of performance and fetishism, projected through Buzzfeed videos and emojis. Guy Debord calls it “the principle of commodity fetishism” that dominates our society. The tangible real world of women, men, poverty, heartache, literature, police killings, Sibelius, death, incest, enormous fields of wild flowers, they are all exchanged for this awful fraudulent world of viral videos and listicles. Videos such as this impose themselves onto our reality, like a cave of shadows and shackles. But they are self-imposed. More Huxlian than Orwellian, a kind of self-imposed fetish with stupification and apathy. Every time I open Facebook I regret it. Another video of a raccoon eating grapes at the dinner table, or a cockatoo screaming into a cup. The world disappears into a sempiternal feed of viral commodity, of tufted caricatures flexing their Botox brawn. The man smiling like a pedophile and then doing push-ups against Buzzfeed employees is no longer the man who hates gays, hates women, hates Mexicans, defunds public education, requires schools to teach intelligent design, refuses government funds to expand Medicaid, votes to extend the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (rejecting provisions under the Geneva Convention), among various other fascist attempts of governing. He is no longer that man. He is an intangible abstract détournement who has nudged the United States a little further towards the edge, into the Abyss of Fuck. Jindal isn’t even interesting enough to talk about. He, like Trump, is so ugly that it has caused him to hate the world. But it is interesting to examine how far we have come: Howard Dean was ruined when he screamed a little too flamboyantly back in 2004, whereas today, Donald Trump can call Megyn Kelly “bleeding from her eyes, bleeding from her wherever,” and somehow get away with it. This is the man who owns Miss Universe. When he called Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig and a disgusting animal, the attendees of the debate roared with enthusiasm. They loved it. In the secondary GOP debate, with the lower-polling candidates, one of the questions was to describe Hillary Clinton in two words—a question that can only serve baseless name-calling. It’s a performance of cruel perversions, like the rape of Reason under a melancholy dawn.

The principle of commodity fetishism is the force on the other side. It allows insane men and women to come to power, to become fascists, to star in viral videos as they do it. There is nothing real anymore. Modernity itself seems fraudulent. Even sex is becoming a sordid wet humping, a pornographic imitation of what we saw on PornHub. Fake people with fake profiles ensue. A girl who I apparently slept with made a fake profile on Facebook and contacted at least several women I’ve slept with recently and told them to no longer fuck me. My love life totally sucks now, and I totally want her back, whoever she is. But this is the sort of unprovocative simulation of lust and ownership that Baudrillard wrote about, in that symbols and signs are now the content of the world, and they act and react merely as a simulation of reality. There are no actual bodies doing anything, no mad mad dancing in the middle of the night  .  .  .  just a peasantry of emojis and asses on Instagram.

Bernie Sanders is right, in that it’s the billionaire class that needs reform, it’s the bankers who were never prosecuted, it’s the blatant assault of wealth and power in this country that has ruptured stability in America. And the growing momentum of support for Sanders is coming from people’s awareness of this. There is more awareness that Hillary Clinton is a fiscal conservative, and always has been, that she has accepted bribes from the fossil fuel industry and terror regimes around the world. Even Eric Holder has now returned to a job at the corporate law firm Covington & Burling. And the everlasting War on Terror follows the One Percent Doctrine that Cheney established, in which he described if there were even a one percent likelihood of Pakistani scientists helping al-Qaeda develop a nuclear weapon, US intelligence has to treat it as a certainty, and respond accordingly. This thinking has spread to all forms of conquest and threat. If a cop fears there is a one percent chance a black man has a gun, he sees fit—necessary even—to shoot him dead. In contrast, it’s been reported incessantly that 97 percent of scientists agree with anthropogenic climate change. That number is in fact false. Of the 69,406 authors named in the peer-reviewed scientific articles regarding climate change, a total of four of those authors rejected any human influence. Less than one one-hundredth of one percent. It’s an assault on reason, yes, but the force from the other side, the force that makes any of this possible, is that of commodity fetishism. Bernie Sanders can’t say people are terrible for their obsession with the trite and shallow. And he can’t advocate for any barrier against this freedom. Because we are free to worship the trite, and no freedom of this sort should be taken away. But I know of no reasonable explanation why hard work is so hard, why it’s easier to gaze at butts on my phone or at the strip club than it is to write a symphony. But so it is.

No one said it better than Louis-Ferdinand Celine:

“The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows. And maybe it’s treacherous old age coming on, threatening the worst. Not much music left inside us for life to dance to. Our youth has gone to the ends of the earth to die in the silence of the truth. And where, I ask you, can a man escape to, when he hasn’t enough madness left inside him? The truth is an endless death agony. The truth is death. You have to choose: death or lies. I’ve never been able to kill myself.”

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