Tuesday, October 30, 2007

<3 The Princess Bride

phiLosOphical? VErily!

Over in the land of Fog and Castles, I read an interesting treatise on the non-presence of (True) Love in modern society. Something - I suspect it was reading this particular piece after having written a PolySci essay on Feminism - tripped a switch in my head, and suddenly I saw politics. I saw power: social power, political power, economic power. I saw hints of religion and culture. I saw that Love does not conquer all, but is instead conquered BY all, like some unfortunate border province in the middle of a warzone. Love is what society makes it; it is power, it is pain, it is community, it is pleasure, and so on.

In a Tyranny, Love is tricky to pin down. Marriage exists as a power-play, to form strategic alliances. The individual is capable of Love - an unfortunate byproduct of their humanity - but it is the head of the household (be it a Grandfather, Mother, or fratricidal Uncle) who decided what marriages are to be allowed, and what forms of Love are unseemly. In an Orwellian dystopia, all interpersonal Love is seen to interfere with Love for Big Brother, and so is forbidden. Other systems may not be so extreme, but they do share a certain Machiavellian element with IngSoc (which I will get to in good time). For those confident enough to get away with taking a Mistress or...Mister (correct term? Tee-Hee!), adultery might allow a romantic escape from the confines of Royal marriage. Those forms of Love which are condoned under Tyranny are tainted all: The Love of power, which so dominates all other Love that families effectively sell their children for power; and the Love of God, King, Pharaoh, or Big Brother which - in accordance with the Machiavellian ideal - is coincident with equal and opposite fear of their wrath.

In a Capitalist society (I omit the terms "Free" and "Democratic" for good reason), Love is commerce. Love is HallmarkTM and Jubilee fine jewlelersTM and Chanel no.5TM. Valentines day isn't even about Love anymore, it's more like an in-class Halloween! "Bring Valentines for everyone" is a good sentiment, sure, but it doesn't really say anything about Love. Being the Charlie Brown of the class came with a lesson, at least. I can put it no better than the Dread Pirate Roberts, who famously said "Love is pain, highness...anyone who says different is selling something.". It's a holiday that is either meaningless consumerism, or pointless heartbreak for some poor kid. The former is slightly more benign, and so we choose it, and we teach each generation that it's REALLY about the impeccable suit, the box of chocolates, and the bouquet of flowers. For the University-and College-goers, there is a significant period in which these more elegant tools of the trade are replaced by Cocktails and Condoms. The result is best expressed as it was by a very good friend of mine: "Girls spend money on clothes and make-up. Boys spend money on Girls.". When Love isn't being bought, perhaps we are competing for it. The social-Darwinist aspect of the Capitalist ethic would certainly propose that humans competing for the most desirable mates would work to the benefit of humanity. Of course, it's not quite the same game as the horny battles of mountain goats or deer, but it's close enough. A romantic poet just happens to have horns in the form of his skills with pen, paper and voice. The relationship structure that results from this process of natural selection is generally exclusive, and it's telling that "cheating" is the name we have given to the practice of seeking emotional or sexual gratification elsewhere. If Love is to be bought, sold, and competed for in Capitalist society, are we - those struck by Cupid's Arrow®- not competing for a contract, made microcosms of the dominant economic ideal?

Love, as it might exist in some post-Feminist Collectivist utopia, could be entirely the opposite. Exclusive Love is hardly helpful if one wishes to socialize Citizens into a system which abhors private property. At the most cynical level, the means of (re)production cannot be controlled by any one entity, and must instead be managed by the larger community. This is not to say that women would be stripped of reproductive freedom, but that the process of parenthood would be much less of an individual affair. Children would be born to the community, and raised by it; nowhere would you hear "MY toddler could speak before yours!", any early inequalities might even be looked on as a tragedy by the community. Sex-for-pleasure would be subject to the same philosophy, the ideal being that any two people could upon choosing have sex together without guilt, or jealousy on anyone's part. Maybe the Milkman *is* your dad, but at least whoever else your mother was gettin' with at the time was cool with it! (Note: "your" in the generic sense, before someone kills me for disgracing mum's name and honour, etc.!). Society would be a complex network of entirely open relationships. This is no Huxley-esque dystopia, mind you: there is a difference between polyamory and promiscuity. The denizens of the Brave New World did not make the distinction between Sex and Love, so if you "Loved" someone you fucked 'em. Here I apply the fundamental principles of collectivism to Love, to discover what the Romantic ideals of some as-yet-unrealized Marxist paradise might be. I find the results to be conceptually attractive, although I suspect that the lack of enduring commitment would run against the well-set grain of my Romantic side. I think that this sort of friction between the ideal of how we should be and how we are would tear such a system apart. While gender equality is essentially realized, there is the eternal issue of pregnancy - which may some day be made independent of sex through technology - and the commitment faced by a woman that the biological Father might not have to share in such a system. Would swinging males treat women as pleasure receptacles, and nothing more, leaving them to raise children communally as they go off in pursuit of their next conquest? I would hope not, but there are always some who defy normalcy in a negative way.

What Did I Learn?

I think that the reason that there is no Love in our society is that there never has been. Society colours "Love" to suit its purposes, but I think it's clear that the concept of that powerful, magnetic force between people never really changes. My friend who wrote on this lack of Love in society was also writing a paper, in which he argued that remorse exists in Humans because we are the crossroads of Divine Reason and the Impulses of the Beast (in response to a St. Augustine quote, in case you're wondering why an Atheist would argue such a thing...). I propose that Love must then belong to the Beast. Reason applied to Love leads to the societal construction and ideals thereof, but it CANNOT change the base nature of Love itself.

In the Bedroom, the Mighty Bedroom...

I'm getting a little tired by now, but I promised to include a review of the very topical Insight Theatre premiere.

It was really, really awesome. I get more and more comfortable with the source material every year, and now it's just FUN to hear these people yelling "the ERECT MALE PENIS" or "My VAGINA is too dry, whatever shall I do?" (the answer is "Lube", by the way). They don't actually say the latter in that form, but there is a skit which goes down like that. Yeah, it's fun now. I like the ideology, I like how they try to make it approachable, but when they use the vernacular they're self-consciously silly. Nothing is worse than someone who thinks that they can actually say "Yo, you should get tested fo' STDs, DAWG!" with a straight face. No, all the slanginess is played for laughs, and rightly so.

I must give EXTRA-SPECIAL props to my woman-on-the-inside of this year's production, who delivers a fantastic performance throughout. There is a scene in which this fantastic female portrays a girl who may have had sex, and may or may not have wanted it (Alcohol plays a role in the narrative, you see). There are a lot of skits that end on a sedate and somber note, but her incomparable voice lends such credibility and gravitas to the scene that she might as well be the only person on stage here (although the guy does do a good job of his lines).

Go see the show already, although I don't suggest you sneak into some random high school to do so. These endless false-alarm lockdowns seem to have everyone on edge...

One sad note is that the coolest song ("In the Jungle", but with Masturbation instead of a Lethargic Lion) was cut from the performance. I don't understand, but hey, show's still awesome.



GoldMatenes said...

I don't know what Love is... but I have to say, for me, it's the attachment of my soul (however defined) to another person. My emotions are conditional on their emotions and directly affected by them.
As a result, their highs become my highs and their lows become my lows, which compound with my highs and lows to create emotional states unavailable anywhere else...
The connection causes openness (depending...) and that leads to caring.

Ok, going to class now.

CheeseLikeSubstance said...

Just a clarification: My writing was less on the lack of presence of love in modern society than it was on changing definitions of love over time, and how this has caused modern society to be unable to decide what, exactly, love is.

Evey said...

Lube is always the answer ;)

the garbagemen alliance said...

garbagemen will be end of you!

Some Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.