"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Corona Snitches And Neighborhood Accusers–Suspect Morality And An Erosion Of Trust

The Corona lock-down has had consequences.  It has ruined the economy, at least temporarily, forcing many small businesses to close, driving up the unemployment rate to levels unseen since The Great Depression, and put enormous pressure on families who must work at home while caring for young children who cannot go to school.

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It has taken its social toll as well.  With little or no contact with friends and family; with churches, parks, restaurants, and recreation areas closed, people are understandably frustrated, irritable, and depressed.  Equanimity has its limits in an open society, and even the most well-adjusted, patient, and tolerant are restive, impatient, and angry.

Worse is the widening of the political divide.  Progressives and conservatives see the world in very different terms, and their disagreements have less to do with partisan politics than they do political philosophy.  Their reactions to Corona have been in keeping with their world views.

Progressives value community over the individual, civil rights over individual rights, and cooperative action over individual enterprise.  Not only do they profess these values, but invest them with higher moral authority.  Those who do not endorse this philosophy are apostates.

This reaction is understandable, for if belief is based on absolute, ordained truth, then those who reject is are ipso facto, deluded heretics.  In Corona terms promoting a philosophy which promotes individual responsibility and free association over communal values - is tantamount to heresy.

The Governor of New York famously said that those who did not wear masks were responsible for the deaths of others.  Wearing a mask is not for oneself but for others.  It is our collective moral responsibility to do so; and those who do not are immoral, anti-social renegades, obstacles in the way to a more pure, ideal, and progressive Utopian society.

However there will never be Utopia.  Human nature has remained unchanged, permanent, an ineluctable for millennia.  History has shown that societies have always been ruled by ambition, self-interest, territorialism, and militant defense of social, economic, and historical perimeters.  History will have its ups and downs but society will never change.  The difference between centuries is cosmetic.

Despite the historical record there are still many who refuse to accept such biological determinism. Man can improve, evolve, and progress if only enough resources, energy, and determination are applied. The Corona virus, for all the disruption it has caused, has been a wake-up call.  The empty, morally bereft demands of those citing individual liberty in the face of a devastating pandemic show that such moral corruption is endemic. It is capitalism itself which is the breeding ground for the most selfish, venal pursuits, and unless it is dismantled and discarded, there will be more anarchic protests in the future.

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In the time of Corona, say Milton Friedman adherents, it is up to the individual to assume responsibility for his own actions, and to determine whether the risk justifies the draconian measures enforced by government to lower it.

Although some claim that science is the handmaiden of political reform, the locus of fact and truth, and the facilitator of right moral judgment, history has shown that science is never settled and always a work in progress.  Ptolemy and Aristotle were convinced that the Earth was the center of the universe; 19th century anthropologists made conclusive judgments about the intellectual inferiority of Africans.  Infection was caused by ill vapors, hot and cold foods, and temperament.  Morality has no handmaidens nor any claim to higher authority.  It is relative and always will be.

Masks, scientific experts said at the beginning of the epidemic, did little good; then, after some time, they were considered essential; and now, according to the most recent report from the WHO, only those who are sick or caring for the sick should wear them.  The virus could be spread by physical contact, said scientists early on in the epidemic, so be sure to wash hands, scrub surfaces with chlorine bleach, leave packages outside for three days, and spray down your mail; but now the scientific wisdom is that no, this is not the case.

Claudius Ptolemy - Biography, Facts and PicturesImage result for Images Ptolemy

Given such relativity - the subjectivity of both science and moral judgment and their susceptibility to culture and environment - then any absolute conclusion about either challenges history. In such a relativistic universe, the only legitimate and valid response is individual expression.  Nietzsche said it best - in an amoral, randomly arrayed world, the only validation of humanity is the expression of individual will.  The conservative approach to society and to Corona is consistent with these philosophical principles.

What has been especially worrisome and troublesome in the Corona nightmare is how sanctimony has infected the most morally insecure.  Wearing a mask everywhere, at all times, in all circumstances has become not simply a protective measure, but a symbol of political solidarity.  It is an icon, a symbol, a banner of Doing the Right Thing.  Those who prefer to assess risk and personal liability – for example, wearing the mask by law or where people congregate but not wearing it in the open and among those who respect and maintain social distance - are, in the eyes of social reformers, acting selfishly, ignorantly, and immorally.

Shopping at Whole Foods, Giant, or Safeway is equally questionable when home delivery - the only way to reduce human contact - is easy, fast, and safe.  Stopping at the local deli or liquor store, even with a mask is considered suspect through this distorted progressive moral lens – was the trip really necessary? Was it worth the risk? Most importantly aren't such forays just signs of disobedience and  selfishness?

Worst of all has been the erosion of trust between those once trusted.  Friends who were socially close and frequent guests of each other have been split.  Association with friends who advocate a quick end to the lock- down makes them suspect to those who believe in a communal, universal response.  Even if these outspoken politically conservative friends take proper, intelligent, and reasonable personal precautions they cannot be trusted.  They must be vetted first to see how far their political infection has spread. The are to be interviewed, to be questioned on the influence of their doctrinal purity on personal behavior,to be  morally challenged, and finally never to be trusted and ultimately dismissed.

Snitches – those who take it upon themselves to judge other people’s behavior during Corona – are increasingly common.  They're phoning police and municipal hotlines, complaining to elected officials and shaming perceived scofflaws on social media, and even turning on neighbors. Actor Kevin James has produced a hilarious video about Corona snitches that has gone viral

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The Corona virus and the hysteria surrounding it will end, hopefully sooner rather than later; but a certain paranoia and fear is likely to remain, and deep suspicions will endure, after in crisis-hit times neighbor so easily turned against neighbor.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sexual Epiphany–Women Who Love Their Fathers And Men Who Love Them

Henry Marcus was nearing the end of his sexual life.  Although he didn't feel old, numbers don't lie.  He had precious few years of sexual activity left before him.  Of course he didn’t count the lubricated sex with his wife of many years.  No, he was only counting sex with women who needed no lubrication or encouragement; sex which only needed opportunity, serendipity, and some degree of Freudian undercurrents.

Take Lisa Froelich, for example, a young woman in her early thirties, a child of a badly broken Iowa family – father alcoholic, brother incarcerated, sisters wayward and lost, mother depressive and destructive – blonde, blue-eyed, attractive, slightly overweight, lower-level professional, and like most women her age, looking for ‘The Right Guy’.

She had no business with Henry, an upwardly mobile K Street lawyer in an A-list law firm, son of a well-known New England family, wealthy, professionally capable, but well on in years.  There was something about this virile, worldly, attentive man she couldn’t resist, and she invited him to her Adams Morgan apartment again and again.

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An early Christmas present, Henry told his friends, a bauble on the tree, a lovely gift under it.  After years of sexual parsimony – none of his own doing– he found himself sexually allied with sweet Lisa.  He spent every Saturday with her and weekends when his wife was away on business, stolen idylls for a man closer to the end of his sexual life than its beginning, a never-to-be explained or replaced affair, one of serendipity and pure sexual pleasure.  She told him she loved him, looked at him adoringly, kissed him hungrily, and talked of their life together.

Ah, the poor fate of an Iowa farm girl who had no say in the matter, so dependent was she on a father who adored her, a brother who  treated her like the Queen of England, and a mother who talked only of love and the hope of all women. And ah,  the lucky fate of Henry Marcus who had been married for decades to an appropriate woman; a man who had never forgotten his first love, a melodramatic diva whose sexual imagination was worthy of Hollywood; and who had always been attracted to sensual outliers, circus acrobats who flew on the trapeze as easily as walking a sidewalk, emotional daredevils; and thanks to whom he would forever choose his sexual partners to match her; women for whom sex was not just a physical interlude in an otherwise ordinary life, but a moment wherein potential lay.

Yet, who is to judge? The affair between Henry and Lisa was unusual only if looked at through the lens of class, background, and social measure.  Henry, on the lookout for a potential mate, would never have looked beyond Vassar, Smith, and Radcliffe;or beyond Miss Porter’s, Briarcliff, or St Margaret’s.  He might have had his dalliances off the grid, but on it, there were no Midwestern public school farm girls. 

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It was not surprising that Lisa fell in love with Henry, a man of position, wealth, and position.  Who better to give her life a boost? She loved Henry not for his money or position, but because he was her father; and what is more sexually potent, determining, and concluding than such a love?  Freud only scratched the surface when he described father-love.  Lisa had adored her father, wanted to sleep with him and would have done anything for him.   Her story was a feminist nightmare of reverse patriarchy and perverted sexuality; but it was not hers alone,  Thousands of women who grew up in a patriarchal age married their fathers, and savvy men have always played the revered father Jones or father Smith as well if not better than Olivier or Jean-Louis Barrault.

A woman who invests in her lover the feeling she has for her dominant, impressive father is queen; and men like Henry Marcus who understand this is king.   People marry for all the wrong reasons; and although we can be forgiven for our ignorance, naivete doesn't dilute disappointment.  There we are after twenty, thirty, or more years with women chosen for their acceptability, asking God why?

And all at once Henry’s prayers were answered, and he thanked God at every step he took up to her apartment, every time she opened the door, and every time she undressed. 

Both Lisa and Henry believed, in some way, that their relationship would continue.  She had already named their first daughter – Flannery – and he imagined his new family, living on St Bart’s or Rimini, little Flannery and second child Michel schooled with the Jesuits, all together far from the pig farms of Iowa and the Salem trials of New England. 

Salem Witch Trials - Events, Facts & Victims - HISTORY

This was not meant to be.  Few Iowan farm girls ever accede to New England privilege, and few Beacon Hill aristocrats ever marry down; but neither Lisa nor Henry regretted their affair nor their aspirations.  Without such Petrarchian, Medieval romanticism, everyone is poorer, and they, if not richer, at least had something to look back upon.   

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Henry, now in his seventh decade, always remembered his affair with Lisa. It was, among many, the only one which got down to fundamentals – the emotionally poor cornflower blue-eyed girl and the disappointed intellectual.  His dalliances with other women had never amounted to much, nor were they ever intended to be anything but casual affairs, sexual coincidences without consequence or import; but that with Lisa was ineradicable.  How could an affair between a girl and her father ever be thought of as incidental, sex in passing?

Henry had been married for many years to a woman who considered herself an independent New Age woman, free from patriarchy, a soldier on the feminist front lines against misogyny; and yet she was a Daddy’s Girl as were her sisters.  All had married dear Albert, and all three had entered into father-inspired marriages that ended badly. 

D.H. Lawrence, more than any other writer, understood sexual dynamics.  Sex was neither a pleasurable union nor procreative duty.  It  was – or could be – epiphanic.  No human activity or enterprise could compare.  The complete, final sexual union between a man and woman held existential potential. Years of dutiful, considerate, and respectful sex with a wife meant nothing except issue – his son and daughter; epiphany was yet to come

D.H. Lawrence | English writer | Britannica

Although his affair with Lisa never qualified for existential note, it approached it. A December-May  affair, however dramatic, can never be life-affirming or –denying; but a statement.  Love on the periphery of the acceptable, on the margins of acceptability is always verifying and validating.  Human nature, as Lawrence rightly assumed, is sexual.