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

Friday, March 31, 2023

Death By A Thousand Cuts – A Pound Of Flesh And Women’s Perennial Answer To Bad Husbands

Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice made a binding contract with a client, lending him money but in case of default, a pound of flesh on account. The shipowner readily agreed.  How could he not fulfill the agreement?  His ships were seaworthy and the gods favorable.


The perfect storm sunk all three ships of the borrower’s fleet, and he was obliged to settle with the Jew.  A pound of flesh and nothing less, said Shylock; but thanks to the quick thinking of the marvelous Portia, the creditor is saved and the Jew sentenced to a penurious life.

"He who is not afraid of death by a thousand cuts dares to unhorse the emperor", said Chairman Mao referring to the indomitable spirit needed in the struggle to build a better, more just, new world; and decades of penitential rule followed the Great Leap Forward.  Millions of Chinese died slow deaths at the hands of Mao, but not of a  kind, honorable kind, one of cold imprisonment, starvation, and disease.

The sentence of death for Antigone, pronounced by Cleon, King of Thebes, was entombment, a pitiful end to his niece who had the audacity to challenge secular law in favor of the divine.  Lycurgus and many other ancient Greeks suffered the same vengeful imprisonment.  A quick death was too good for traitors.

Antigone - Wikipedia

Women since the earliest recorded history have had to resort to such punishments for wayward husbands.  They, given the tenor and mores of patriarchal times, relied on duplicity to achieve their ends; and despite the cries of injustice and obsessive patriarchy of social reformers, women have done quite well taking their pound of flesh and ridding households of inattentive husbands by deaths of a thousand cuts.

Ibsen’s and Strindberg’s heroines were canny in undoing their men. Hedda Gabler, Laura, Rebekka West, and Hilde Wangel got rid of their husbands through will and desire.  Cleopatra worked her wiles, Tamora was forthright, Dionyza duplicitous, and Volumnia brilliant in their disassembly of the men in their lives.

Of course this is all ancient history and passé fiction.  Today’s women, armed with contractual and legal equality, can easily shepherd men, tempt and bed them, and finally corral them in their stockade.  Chicanery is out, the court of law is in.

Yet the war between the sexes is not so summarily ended.  It hasn’t been that long since men put bread on the table.  Patriarchy is made of the stuff of fondness, of spoiling, of love of fathers and daughters.  One does not have to read further than Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness to get the picture of deeply incestuous love.

Lie Down in Darkness | novel by Styron | Britannica

No, say feminist reformers.  Today’s younger generation of women are different, no longer slaves either to men or their fathers.  Independent, defiant, determined women in a gender-neutral age.

A fanciful dream of course, for a few decades of gender consciousness and civil rights have only torn the rigging of the patriarchal ship.  Men may no longer rule the economic or financial roost, but Daddy is still in his lounge chair by the fire.

Marlene Overton was a  liberated women of the 70s who rejoiced at the united front of women challenging patriarchy and male authority.  She finally knew that she had no place except the one she chose.  Her sexual responses would be conditioned by no one, her preferences would be her own, her sexual destiny one of equality and free choice.  

Her hero was D.H Lawrence who gave women their sexual due.  Lady Chatterley, Birkin, and Ursula were her models, women who refused the chattels, harnesses, and reins of men.  Flaubert’s Mme. Bovary was cut from the same cloth.  Traditional morals and ethics must be put aside when dealing with the oppression of women.

D.H. Lawrence | English writer | Britannica

Yet, she was still intimidated by her husband, a man whose raised eyebrows were enough for her to retract a thoughtless remarks, to admit a certain subjective omission in her conclusions, and to make her retreat into an emotional sewing basket she had hoped to closet away forever.

Determined and willful by nature, there was no way that Marlene would give in to her husband.  He might be – and only just might be – more intellectually gifted, more eloquent and persuasive, more logical and rational than she, but that did not mean giving in.  She had other ways and means to thwart the enemy’s advances.

Which brings us to the pound of flesh.  The constant harping about grouting, drafts, sanitary ‘incompleteness’, and disregard would not end in divorce, but would encourage a capitulation.  All he would want after months of hectoring, asides, and ‘suggestions’ would be quiet.  Tired of her constant reminders and innuendoes he would give in and retire.

William Overton was not a bad husband  There were far more disregarding, absent partners than he; but he admitted to friends that he was an indifferent husband. He wanted stability, predictability, practicality, and fidelity and thought he had found it in Marlene, a woman who dallied with liberation but chose never to raise her voice.

He was right in that, but never realized how picayune she could be when cornered.  Marlene never called him out on his absences and indifference – she hammered on about minor figures of American history, accounts of minor Western journeymen, and genealogical references to great-great uncles and demanded attention to her concerns.  

He owed her at least some recognition; but acknowledgment was the last thing on his mind.  As he grew older, well past the date for affairs or even the casual dalliance, he became more inured to his wife’s pestering demands for recognition.  Yet the more she hectored, the more vivid his recollections of love and adventure became.  What had he done? How had he come to this – images on Plato’s wall and nothing more?

Marriage is the crucible of maturity said Edward Albee, the only place where little boys grow up.  Learn feminine ways, he urged. St. Paul, Christ’s disciple and the man responsible for the spread of Christianity beyond the Holy Land was less optimistic.  Marry if you  must, he said, but a life of celibacy is worth far more than a hundred beautiful women.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Problem With the Movie | Time

So Bill Overton put up with his wife’s quibbling demands.  Longevity had locked him in, pure and simple, and there was no out worth contemplating.  A pound of flesh was worth the caregiving expected from a dutiful spouse.  Keep your own counsel, he advised himself.  She can’t help it.  She can’t give in.  At least you can brush her off with a little silence and preserve the natural order.                                              

Thursday, March 30, 2023

‘Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give A Damn’ –How The Rest Of The World Sees America

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a straw: 'Gone With the Wind's' secret curse  history

The Biden Administration is intent on reforming American society, reversing what they see as centuries-old racist and homophobic notions and establishing a new world of diversity and inclusivity.  American history, they insist, is filled with objectionable thoughts, words, and deeds; and the brave, new world of multiples must be based on more enlightened principles.  The dishonorable past, one of predatory capitalism, slavery, and white supremacy should be ignored in favor of newly-recognized moral principles.

Deconstructionists teach that there is no inherent value in either history or art, only what you make of them seen through the lens of race, gender, and ethnicity.  As such there is no reason to honor or revere Charlemagne, Shakespeare, or Aristotle, men whose influence is only illustrative of the times in which they lived and embodies nothing inherently remarkable.

So, according to this notion, the toppling of the statues of what are considered offensive men, renaming streets and institutions to purify them ofa dirty past, and reforming language to remove anachronistic idioms, insulting figures of speech, and biased grammatical constructions is logical.

Protesters topple statues in US states - BBC News

Along the same deconstructionist line, there is nothing fixed in science where, like everything else, subjectivity is the rule.  Copernicus believed the earth was the center of the universe because it followed culturally appropriate convictions, myths, legends, and assumptions.  So it is with gender.  The assumptions of sexual polarity – heterosexual difference – is just as subjective.  While there may be XX and XY chromosomes, they can be overlooked, overturned, and ignored, based as they are on subjective figment.

The historical revisionism and anti-intellectual basis on which progressive social reform is based has not only created divisions in American society but fragmentation.  Identity politics reassigns individuals according to race, gender, or ethnicity and nothing more. While race is a simply matter of black or white (octoroons, quadroons, and mulattoes are racial categories of the distant past), gender is subdivided into hundreds of impossible permutations.

One is not simply gay but any one of the many possibilities along the fluid gender spectrum.  While social reformers prefer to place North and South Asians into one category, they, more attentive to identity than their Washington tutors, are quick to point out differences.  The Chinese Confucian has nothing in common with the Indian Hindu.

This week's cartoons

As a result, American society is one chaotic mess.  Debates about pronouns, bathrooms, Donald Trump’s mistress, sexual preferences, and children’s story times have taken over serious discussion of economics, finance, political philosophy, and international affairs.  

The Biden Administration, in the thrall of wokists and their Congressional claques, is the most simplistic as any in recent history.  The President pours trillions of dollars into open pockets for impossibly impractical, politically-driven, and doomed-to-failure fancies.

He knee-jerks his responses to Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, ISIS and al-Qaeda, and sends his hopelessly outmatched Vice President to show the flag in Africa.  He lets in thousands of illegal immigrants through the southern border, but claims success in his agreement with Premier Trudeau of Canada to stop a few Venezuelans trudging through the snow to get to Maine. 

All of this provides great amusement and promise to both Xi and Putin, two Machiavellian warriors who see nothing but weakness in a once formidable world power, the United States. A doddering president, hostage to irrational social deconstructionists, unschooled in history or philosophy, and propped up, hot-combed, and dusted for the 2024 elections, is no threat whatsoever.

Few American Presidents has understood Machiavelli’s or his disciple Kissinger’s realpolitik.  Only Richard Nixon and Donald Trump have raised their flag.  America will do only what is in its geopolitical interest they said, and expect Russia and China to do the same.  Foreign entanglements should be considered only when absolutely, positively necessary to protect the nation.  

Trump was not outraged at China’s supposedly immoral civil rights abuses or at Russia’s neo-imperialism.  Historical determinism nothing more, a playing out of historical, cultural, and social circumstances; and above all an expression of the very human nature that propels all human activity.

In Defense of Henry Kissinger - The Atlantic

A nation as divided, as fragmented, as preoccupied with marginal, insignificant, concerns cannot be taken seriously.  America no longer has an ethos, a set of common beliefs and principles that unify it. China and Russia have a sense of unity, ethos, and responsibility.

Hearkening back to the storied dynasties of China and the imperial courts of Russia is not neo-imperialism as some claim, but historical intelligence.  France has always considered itself la fille ainee de l’Eglise (the eldest daughter of the Church), the leader of Europe because it defeated the Muslim Saracen invaders at Roncesvalles and preserved European Christianity.  Immigration from non-Christian countries has diluted the importance of that particular honor; but France, like China, Russia, and most other European countries for that matter, understands the importance of historical centering.

The United States goes overboard on everything.  It is not enough to endorse the enduring American principle of multi-cultural tolerance – a principle at the heart of the successful integration of immigrants in the early 20th century and the first religious refugees from Europe in the 18th century – but to deform it beyond recognition.

Accepting ‘the other’ as part of the majority is labor enough; but to promote transgenderism and the fungible nature of sexual identity, to raise the African and African American to mythical status while denigrating, humiliating, and dismissing white men and Western civilization is absurd, temporal politics at its very worst.  And our adversaries know and understand it, and are gleeful about it.

Once a country has become so fragmented and immersed in fractional politics, identity, and social idealism, it is hard to repair and impossible to regroup around a common, patriotic center.  The United States is in trouble and ignorant about it.  President Biden, now well into his dotage is the most unrealistic of all.  Things are just hunky-dory according to the President, no problems at all in this great land of ours.

Meanwhile China is exerting its influence in classically Machiavellian ways.  It is brokering a deal between Ukraine and Russia to secure Russian gas and Ukrainian wheat. It is building roads, ports, and infrastructure throughout Africa, returning long-abused agricultural land to productivity and profit (for China), showing muscle in the Middle East and Asia, increasing its financial control  over the United States and becoming an economic and military superpower.

What Is the Meaning of the Chinese Flag? - China Law in One Minute - China  Justice Observer

Russia will emerge from the Ukraine debacle wounded but not cowed and will return again to prominence.  Iran and North Korea continue to go about their interventionist, territorial ways; and a resurgent ISIS is now in almost complete control of the Sahel.  The US talks righteousness, duty, and moral imperatives, but no one pays attention.  Whistlin’ Dixie at best.