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

Monday, January 30, 2023

Dreaming Of Marilyn Monroe–The Curse Of The Gender-Righteous Man

Bob Musgrove was a man of rectitude, moral purpose, and high ideals.  When his classmates were carousing, Bob was demonstrating.   Restoring the rights of the black man, demanding equality for women, and assuring the health of the planet were too important for idleness and vanity.  A more peaceful, verdant, inclusive world could never be achieved without diligence.  There was no fun in Bob’s life because fun itself meant a senseless detour.  Panty raids, bladder ball, and tailgate parties were distractions from the essentials.  Fun was not in the cards.

No one could be sure where this particular sense of obsessive Puritanism came from. Bob's parents were Long Island burghers, proper and respected, religious but never fanatic, orderly but not overly, cheerful but never high spirited. There were distant Salem ancestors on his mother’s side, prosecutors in the witch trials, lay ministers favored by Cotton Mather, but this eccentricity certainly had dissipated over the generations.  

His father’s family was Scotch-Irish and had suffered both Catholic and Protestant persecution in England before emigrating to America.  A kind of persecuted entitlement had followed the Musgroves since their arrival, but like his wife’s Potters, the sentiment had dissolved slowly but surely in the melting pot.  So, there was nothing extraordinary or telling about Bob’s parentage or ancestry to explain his joyless life.

Salem Witch Trials - Events, Facts & Victims - HISTORY

On the surface Bob’s childhood was like most other boys’ – baseball on the green, sodas and shakes at McPhail’s, bikes and summer camp – but there was a waspishness about him, a kind of nastiness, a sneer in his practiced composure, something irritatingly censorious.  He barely tolerated  others, befriended as a matter of etiquette, gave off more than a whiff of permanent dislike, and eventually was left on the curb – a weird loner absorbed in some preachy repeat of Pastor Philipps’ Sunday sermons.

He found his mentor, his place, and his purpose at university in the person of the Reverend Billings Hartley, chaplain, spiritual and moral leader, one of the first to ride the busses to Montgomery and Selma, and a later outspoken advocate for a nuclear-free world.  Bob  became the Reverend Hartley’s acolyte, his altar boy, and his amanuensis.  Hartley put into action all that Bob had wished and gave expression to the frustrations he had been feeling.  

Consorting with the likes of Reverend Hartley was liberating, free at last, happy in his anger and injustice.  For all his four years at university, Bob was tireless in his commitment to radical reform.  The university at that time was still an old-boy network of St. Grottlesex inherited wealth and privilege, most of the students legatees of important financiers, industrialists, and social influencers; but Bob found a cadre of like-minded colleagues.  Among them his nastiness disappeared, his reticence a thing of the past.  He was a happy warrior.

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His social justice trajectory gained altitude and speed once he left the East Coast, and in the progressive dens of graduate school he honed his intellectual sharpness, lost his snippiness and gained a congenial ease and sliver tongue.  After his PhD he went to Washington, soldier in the many progressive, reformist think tanks and non-profit foundations, and rose to the directorship of one of the most influential.

As a good, credentialed and philosophically pure progressive, Bob never, ever thought of sexual infidelity.  To betray his wife would not only be an insult to her but a rejection of all the principles he espoused.  No assignation, no cinq-a-sept, no one-night stand could possibly be contemplated, so insulting would it be to the principles of honesty, respect, duty, and responsibility his political movement embraced.  If he were to cheat on his wife, how could anyone take his abject respect and devotion to the cause of women seriously? There is no such thing as restrictive philandry. Sexual involvement with women outside of marriage was tantamount to political faithlessness.

The problem was that despite Bob’s moral sincerity and absolute commitment to the cause of civil justice, he could not resist women.  Surprising though it might seem in a hair-shirt Protestant whose moral code had been written and codified in Salem, Bob was beset by sexual compromise.  He wanted women, all women whether the hooker on the street corner, the Georgetown matron, or his colleagues young daughters. His mind wandered to the thought of endless, free, and uninhibited sex with his administrative assistants, his friends' wives, and the waitress in the cafeteria.

Bob was not a handsome man.  Neither the Musgrove nor Farley genes conferred a chiseled jaw, penetrating eyes, facial symmetry, or physical allure; so he was overlooked and ignored by women; and since he had only been interested in refining his political skills, he had never paid attention to seduction.  Worst of all, because of his subscription to radical feminism, he felt it wrong to look at women sexually, for to do so would be silent abuse, disrespect, and misogyny. So, despite his potent and increasing sexual urges, he stumbled and foundered when it came to approaching women.  Nothing but political blather came out of his mouth.  No billets doux, no flowers, no candy in the equation.

What about Jack Kennedy? A man’s man, a sexual hero, seducer of Marilyn Monroe, Mafia molls, and Russian spies? Or tomcatting LBJ, pussy hound and White House Lothario?  Or Bob’s greatest hero, Martin Luther King, the biggest philanderer of them all, rocket man of the black middle class, the ghetto, and beyond.  Or even Bill Clinton who never crossed the line with Monica Lewinsky (“I never had sex with that woman”) but who diddled and twaddled her and had sex with legions of Arkansas backwoods trailer trash? Democrats did this! The Governor of New York was serviced by high-end tarts in the executive suite of the Mayflower.  What was wrong with him? Why didn’t he have a little on the side?

12,054 Marilyn Monroe Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

As he looked at it, these politicians were not progressives.  They might have been Democrats, but that was a far cry from today’s social justice reformers.  They were secular men of classical liberalism – concern for the poor, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized without passion.  They underestimated the black man, missed his human legacy, his genetic and cultural superiority, and looked at him solely as an American without money. They missed the intellectual elegance of women, their natural superiority, their strength, will, and energy.  These men might have been of Bob’s political party, but not the party of real, absolute justice.  Their philandering was simply a retrograde, indelible machismo which they had not confronted.  Dr. King, for all his civil sensitivities and anti-war sentiments, never got to the issue of women. 

Yet, the idea of being in bed with starlets, romping in oversized beds under mirrored ceilings in Las Vegas hotels with sexual room service was never out of his mind.  No matter how much fevered political intent, no matter how much passion and energy he put into his speeches about gender rights, the restitution of the black man, or the crimes against the environment, he could simply not put tits and ass aside.  Progressivism, plus a dollop of old Salem and Cotton Mather, had done him in.  He wanted so much to do what Macron, Sarkozy, Mitterrand, Putin, Erdogan, and the ayatollahs with their harems were doing – having sex every night with pretty young things, but he was hamstrung.

This of course was not just Bob’s problem but the nation’s.  Americans have long been subjected to the most penitential progressive moral righteousness since old New England. It has been an age of sanctimony, false rectitude, witch burning, and tar-and-feathering.   Nature cannot be allowed to run its course.  Everything and everybody needs attention and moral guidance; and progressives, like the nuns of the old days with clackers, stiff rulers, and implacable discipline, were just the ones to provide it.

So Bob remained faithful to his wife of fifty years.  He felt good about matching personal morality with political principles, but before falling asleep he could only think of Rebecca from Accounting, Rosalind from HR, and the high-bosomed hookers on 7th Street.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Did He Or Didn’t He? Sex, Sexuality, And Fidelity

There was no question about infidelity in an earlier age.  Men were the breadwinners and women were dependent on them.  Things have changed since the days of patriarchy and male privilege.  Once women attained parity – social and most importantly, economic equality – men's wanderings and dereliction would never more be overlooked.

 Straying men would no longer be tolerated and their aberration from the female norm of fidelity and good faith would be condemned out of hand.  No second chances, no absolution, and what’s more, no forgiveness.  How could a woke woman possibly put up with a philandering husband in this day and age? Infidelities are not mere peccadilloes but serious breaches of trust.  

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When feminist conviction meets socio-economic reality, it is no wonder that tomcatting husbands, if not a thing of the past, are no longer considered relevant.  One and done is the rule.  Whether admitted or found out, infidelity is a cause for breach of contract, moral, legal, and ethical.

This, of course, is the American model, not the French one according to which sexual mobility is factored in to the sexual equation.  Regardless of civil or economic equality, sexual liberty is taken as a given.  In a mutually corresponding relationship, say between faculty members of the Sorbonne, directors at Credit Agricole, or entrepreneurs at competing hi-tech enterprises, sexual independence is never a question.  

Men and women both will have their cinq-a-septs, the traditional hours for assignations after work, and be home for dinner.  Perhaps too little time for a completely relaxed and intimate encounter, but enough for sexual satisfaction and a renewal of friendship.  There is no question of falling off the moral falaise or even close to toppling over.  Such intimacies are taken for granted, accepted, and ignored.

See the source image

Francois Mitterrand, former President of France, had a longtime mistress also mother of his child; and all three stood at attention at his funeral ceremony along with his legitimate wife and family – in public, before the cameras, and in plain view. 

Nicholas Sarkozy, another more recent regent of France invited his lover to move in with him to the Elysees presidential palace; and while his wife may have whinged and complained, the whole affair was treated with a Gallic shrug and yawn.   Of course Sarkozy like Mitterrand, Giscard d’Estaing, JFK, Johnson, MLK, and Clinton had their paramours.  No less a man than Henry Kissinger admitted that power was the ultimate aphrodisiac and even a short, unattractive European refugee like him could have as many women as he wanted.

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France, for all its Revolutionary credentials, ridding the country of noble autocracy and the right of kings and doing its part after England and the United States to establish democracy as the be-all and end-all of political systems, is as importantly but less known for its sexual egalitarianism.  Men, women, rich  or poor, aristocratic or from la France profonde, have the right to stray.  Political scandals as well as civil disputes in the provinces are rarely about who slept with whom, but who did what to whom.  

The Salem Witch Trials, although ostensibly about demonic possession, were no less than sexual trials.  Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was not about Hester Prynne’s defiance of God but her promiscuity.  The red letter ‘A’ was emblazoned on her breast not so much as a marker of her sin against God but her defiance of Massachusetts Puritan morality.

The French and most Europeans are necessarily cynical about the course of history which has been nothing if not a trail of autocracy, hegemony, and brutal, immoral quests for power.  Kings, princes, emperors, and popes met their demise not because of any sexual deviation but because of political overreaching or weakness in the face of a more determined, equally amoral enemy. Sex had nothing to do with it.

America, of course, has a different socio-cultural trajectory.  We were born into Puritan rectitude and have never lost it.  The fate of politicians, preachers, and Wall Street investors has always had more to do with their dishonesty, shady dealings, and financial deviousness than their sexual lapses.  Taking a bribe here or there, greasing the wheels of the marketplace, currying favor, or feathering one’s nest have always been lesser crimes.  Cheating on one’s wife, frequenting prostitutes, keeping mistresses, or simply enjoying the odd affair were more damning. 

Who, the French offer, cares about sexual improprieties?  Of course Donald Trump in his days as a mega-rich real estate magnate took liberties with women; and of course ambitious, beautiful women took advantage of his meal ticket. Of course powerful men in Hollywood made unwanted advances to young starlets.  In many if not most cases, the affair was consensual.  The beautiful young things from Iowa and Nebraska put up with the moves of ugly, rich, newly-assimilated European Jews because their careers depended on it.  What was lost? And what was gained.  The calculus of American capitalist enterprise is not so difficult to understand.

Of course fraternity parties are ragged, unholy affairs.  No woman in the Ivy League hoping for High Mass would ever set foot inside ‘Deke’, DKE, Yale’s animal house.  A world-renowned brain surgeon, responsible for saving countless lives from unnecessary death, stirred martinis with his dick at DKE in the late Sixties.  No harm intended.  No offense meant.  Just drunken, sexual hijinks which not only were expected but hoped for.  If the future Dr. Henry Caruthers had not stirred martinis with his dick, the invited would have demanded their money back.

All of which leads to the issue of marital infidelity en masse – i.e. between normal, ordinary American husbands and wives. Is there some socio-cultural or temporal firewall that prevents the spread of adultery?  Do only today’s feminized, woke women demand Puritanical obedience to the marriage contract? 

Probably.  There are legions of men who have ‘bought into’ the assumption of male aggression, sexual depredation, patriarchy, and retrograde ideas of masculinity; who have taken women’s side in a revisionist view of biological and social sexual history; and who have capitulated their essential (viz. D.H. Lawrence) maleness to a feminist ideal.  For them adultery is now a capital offense, a hanging offense.  Sexual libertinage is tantamount to animalistic primitivism.

Having a string of sexual partners whether during, before, or after marriage is inherently wrong, debased, and intolerable.  Fidelity – celibacy even – is the highest and most telling standard of moral probity.

In today’s MeToo accusatory age, anything goes.  Any 'unwanted attention’ is considered abuse, and infringement of a woman’s civil and apparently sacred right to self-determination. Who says so?  Not the French or Italians who have always whistled at a beautiful woman and gotten a smile in return.

Of course when ‘unwanted attention’ turns to physical coercion, the calculus changes; but in today’s censorious age, where is the line drawn?  Lord knows, millions of teenage boys groped, fondled, and caressed their hoped-for lovers in the back seats of their fathers’ Fords without incident.  The girls knew what they wanted, why they were there, and how to stop ‘invasion’.  It was the way of the world played out at drive-ins.  The heroines of Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Strindberg knew exactly what was what.  They understood their innate power and the weaker ascribed power of their husbands and lovers.  There was no distorted calculus.

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A well-known Washington lawyer had been married for thirty years.  She was born into an older, pre-feminist generation of the 40s and 50s but matured in the feminizing years of the 70s.  She loved her husband, was attracted by his sense of humor and especially his bad boy attitude, but found herself unsure of her decision once she found that he had been having affairs – not just one or two, but a series of long and short encounters that had persisted since the day they were married.  

His infidelities did not seem to interfere with his attention to her or to their two children.  He seemed just as attentive and loving as ever; but the fact that she knew of his ‘delinquencies’ – his straying from bed, contract, and commitment – was perplexing.  What was the problem, she thought, if he has affairs without consequence; affairs which, if the shoe were on the other foot, she could have? Was the issue sexual congress? Breach of contract? Or something more questionable?

Her husband had none of these qualms.  Like most men he was able to compartmentalize his sexual interests.  Diane, Lisa, Grace, and all the others meant little to him other than affirmations of maleness, sexual diversity, adventure, and pleasure.  His marriage was secure, permanent, and inviolable.  What was her problem?

Her problem, of course, was the problem.  Men and women simply do not look at sex and sexual intimacy in the same way. To her his adultery was sinful and dishonest.  To him it was natural, expected, and in no way unusual.  He ascribed to the French model; she to the American, Puritan one.  And never the twain shall meet.

Might there be a compromise? A leavening of the American sexual imperatives? A more realistic approach to male-female relationships, one derived from age-old, millennia-old, behavioral patterns, and immortalized in Hedda Gabler, The Father, Miss Julie, and Shakespeare’s Comedies? A less sanctimonious assumption that a sexual spectrum is absolute and not derivative?

Doubtful.  Sexual assumptions – cultural and social and therefore temporal, temporary, and insignificant – seem hard to refute or ignore in an age of ‘relevance’.  The social justice juggernaut pushes on with only light resistance; but this too, will meet an incoming tide.  Eventually we will return to fundamental, inescapable, and absolute bi-polar sexual dynamics.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tarnished Saint – Ukraine And The Inevitable Corruption Of Free Money

Corruption is endemic to human society.  No country, empire, regime, government, or private sector has ever been exempt.  Whether the Seven Dwarves of the American tobacco industry who deliberately withheld damaging information about the dangers of nicotine and actively sought to boost its addictive properties; Enron who set up shell companies and impossibly complex derivatives to bilk the public and enrich their executives; Bernie Madoff who lied to his Jewish friends and supporters and ruined them while his own financial holdings increased; Sam Bankman-Fried who bilked billions in a high-stakes, rotten-to-the-core crypto-currency scheme; or high officials of Ukraine, tempted again and again by billions in free money, couldn't resist. 

Bernie Madoff, Notorious Ponzi Schemer, Dies At 82 : NPR

The revelation today (1.24.23) that more than ten top advisers of the Zelenskyy government either resigned or were sacked for corruption should have been no surprise to anyone.  For nearly two years Western governments have opened the doors to their treasuries to support what has been seen as a  heroic struggle of a small, independent, democratic nation against a hegemonistic bully.  The conflict is a geopolitical one to be sure, but with moral overtones.  

Zelenskyy is a modern hero, a young leader devoted to his people, and the cause of freedom who can do no wrong.  He, in a carefully scripted scenario, repeatedly faults the West for its moral failure and political weakness, and its spineless, timorous approach to Russia.  He reminds them of the destruction of Srebrenica, the brutal Serbian ethnic cleansing of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the cowardly refusal of the West to intervene.

Ukraine strengthens independence of key anti-corruption agency - Atlantic  Council

These moral appeals have guaranteed a largesse far more generous than any given for support of territorial integrity.  Zelenskyy and his advisors have been brilliant in securing arms and financing for what now seems to be a perennial war. Many political observers including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, architect of modern realpolitik, has criticized both Zelenskyy and the West for their obdurate refusal to compromise to stop the bloody conflict, tens of thousands of deaths, and a physically devastated country. 

It was clear to many that the reason for continued Ukrainian resistance might be political vanity and personal financial gain. There is no way that the billions of dollars in foreign assistance would all go for military defense and civil rebuilding.  Everyone knows that a good piece of the trillions authorized by the Biden Administration for ‘infrastructure’ will be diverted.  Nowhere in the world have major public works projects been clean.  They are opportunities for printing money.

Accountability – while governments insist they will put measures in place to ensure proper utilization of public monies, they can never stop the leaks.  In the US there are simply too many jurisdictions, public interest groups, and private sector interests for all the money to stay in one place.

Since Western governments, motivated by good faith and moral purpose are quite happy to pour unaccountable free money into the coffers of the heroic Ukrainian government, of course it will be misused. Not only that, pre-war Ukraine was never a model for clean, transparent government, so what do you expect now from this Christmas in July generosity?

Political corruption in Ancient Rome is one of the principal reasons cited for its downfall:

One of the most difficult problems was choosing a new emperor. Unlike Greece where transition may not have been smooth but was at least consistent, the Romans never created an effective system to determine how new emperors would be selected. The choice was always open to debate between the old emperor, the Senate, the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's private army), and the army.
Gradually, the Praetorian Guard gained complete authority to choose the new emperor, who rewarded the guard who then became more influential, perpetuating the cycle. Then in 186 A. D. the army strangled the new emperor, the practice began of selling the throne to the highest bidder. During the next 100 years, Rome had 37 different emperors - 25 of whom were removed from office by assassination. This contributed to the overall weaknesses, decline and fall of the empire.

Electoral corruption was rampant, and most historians conclude that Julius Caesar won the office of Pontifex Maximus through electoral bribery.

In a letter to Lucilius, lamenting the electoral corruption in Rome, Seneca wrote:

Call it enjoyable when the tribes are called together and the candidates are making offerings at their favorite temples – some of them promising money and gifts…and wearing down their hands with the kisses of those to whom they will refuse the least finger-touch after they are elected…(Lisa Hill, ‘Conceptions of Corruption in Ancient Rome and Greece).

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Ancient Greece was no different.  Despite its reputation as a philosophical idyll, it was run by bureaucrats like most countries.  Aristotle himself estimated that the city of Athens alone had 20,000 public employees who were badly paid and ‘made ends meet’.
Corruption in Imperial China was no different as Andras Csuka writes :

Corruption in China dates back over a thousand years and has been present through countless dynasties. In fact, widespread corruption is often cited as one of the factors that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century.
As a result, the labyrinth of bribes and favors, corruption became an integral part of the entire administration. A European traveller in the 18th century described Chinese corruption as follows: “The man who preserved his integrity is generally considered as incapable or a dreamer. It is not easy to swim against the stream.”
In this complex system it was only normal that government officials would trade their influence for money. They also formed strong cliques to protect themselves from punishments by state businessmen, officials, military leaders and other high ranking state employees.
English monarchs have been no different.  John raided the monasteries to finance his ill-conceived wars.  John, Henry VI, Charles I, Mary I, and Richard III used the power of their regency to retain it at all costs, defying any and all rules of court, Church, and kingdom to attain their ends.

African dictators have a long and sorry history of corruption. The leader of Ethiopia who either just died or was murdered was a dictator, and despite years of misrule, was the beneficiary of billions.  Idriss Deby, the dictator of Chad played the US and the World Bank for fools, duplicitously agreeing to a gas-for-reform agenda and then reneging completely and continuing his despotic rule over one of the poorest countries in Africa. 

The lionized Kagame presides with a repressive regime which muzzles opposition.  He has lied or distorted reports about his support of anti-government clandestine military operations in the Congo.         

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Why is corruption so universal?

Although large public sector bureaucracies have been cited as hothouses for corruption whether in Ancient Greece or modern-day America and Africa, they are facilitators of corruption, not the underlying cause.  Their low pay, subservient status, and lack of advancement are more important factors in bending or overlooking rules and regulations for personal gain.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” said Baron Acton.  Not only are those with limited power given to corruption; but those with immense power are even more so.

Is corruption endemic because of the lack of moral authority?  Doubtful. Church and State were one throughout most of history.  The threat of excommunication by the Pope reined in all but the most self-serving ambition of English kings until Henry VIII defied them; and most ordinary subjects feared eternal damnation for their sins. 

Yet even in such societies governed by strict moral precepts – every religion has its injunctions against lying, stealing, covetousness, and deceit – immoral and unethical behavior are rampant.   Although these principles are taught and passed down by parents, Church, community and state, they are routinely and regularly dismissed as irrelevant, inapplicable, or outdated. Both the Old and New Testaments are very clear about moral codes. 

It is not hard to see, therefore, how self-interested politicians, ordinary citizens, and family members resort to corrupt, venal, and manipulative means to achieve their goals.  Not only is history filled with chronicles of political distortion and overweening ambition, but literature as well.  Shakespeare’s Tragedies and Histories are all about such familiar ambition and how everyone at court, in the Church, or among the populace falls prey to it.

Corruption must be accepted as a normal although unacceptable expression of human nature.  Although until recently there was a hope for The End of History – a new, democratic, equal, and fair world – it has been dashed once and for all.  New geopolitical configurations once unimaginable are changing world order.  Every one within these new configurations must once again sort through the conundrums of governance, civility, ethics, morals, and responsibility.  Until then, corruption will increase.

What must not be forgotten is the complicity between donor and recipient of foreign financial aid.  So-called ‘development’ programs have perennially failed to reach their objectives because of corruption.  The World Bank, the US government, and Western European nations have all wanted to donate money far more than poor countries have wanted to receive it; and in such a culture of moral disparity it is no surprise that money goes missing.  

Not only that, because of the pressure Western institutions feel to spend the money allocated for foreign assistance, they continue to push it out the door despite the continued non-performance of their loans and grants.

Guarantees Program

This is the case in Ukraine.  Money is being poured down the sluice, and nobody is paying attention to where it ends up. So, what do you expect?