Art vs. Death
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The Mystical Rose by Adélia Prado (translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Ellen Doré Watson)
The first time
I became conscious of form,
I said to my mother:
“Dona Armanda has a basket in her kitchen
where she keeps tomatoes and onions”
and began fretting that even lovely things
eventually spoil,
until one day I wrote:
“It was here in this room that my father died,
here that he wound the clock
and rested his elbows
on what he thought was the windowsill
but was the threshold of death.”
I understood that words grouped like that
made it possible to live without
the things they describe,
that my father was returning, indestructible.
It was as if someone had painted a picture
of Dona Armanda’s basket and said:
“Now you can eat the fruit.”
So, there is order in the world!
—where does it come from?
And why does order, which is joy itself,
and bathes in a different light
than the light of day,
make the soul sad?
We must protect the world from time’s corrosion,
cheat time itself.
And so I kept writing: “My father died in this room …
Night, you can come on down,
your blackness can’t erase this memory.”
That was my first poem.

Bob Dylan on Israel and its Enemies

Written in 1983, these words are just as true today.

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully

Big Bird, Liberalism, and Perversion

By Stephen Rittenberg, MD
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Fifty years of clinical observation have taught me the unwillingness of many to relinquish childhood dreams of perfect bliss.  Utopia seems to be the goal for many from their first frustrated cries following ejection from the womb.

The outraged reaction by liberalism’s defenders to Gov. Romney’s jocular threat to take away Big Bird’s government subsidy shows that he touched a nerve.  The screaming and caterwauling, the marches announced to defend the puppet, reveal some important truths about contemporary liberalism and its adherents.  Gov. Romney in one witty comment suggested that it is time to grow up, to relinquish the utopian fantasy of a blissful androgynous childhood free of conflict.  In one comment, he leveled a blast at the feminized metrosexual culture of contemporary liberalism.  He went on to link his opponent to childhood, by likening him to his own boys when they were young, a time when wishes often prevail over reality.

No wonder liberals reacted with rage.  No wonder the president mentioned his defense of Big Bird thirteen times in the week following the debate.  Liberals long for what Big Bird represents: that utopian childish dream world where differences of gender, talent, fortune, looks, race, color, intelligence, etc. do not exist.  Big Bird, the perfect symbol of liberal fantasies, is neither handsome nor ugly, has no discernible sexuality, is neither smart nor stupid.  He is never threatened by the need to work hard to accomplish things, because he has no discernible ambition.  He never demands anything and never has to deal with aggressive wishes.  Anger is not a problem for Big Bird.  Competition is not for him.  Unlike the creatures of classic fairy tales, he is just a bland, unthreatening being purveying the liberal fantasy that in utopia, we are all equally lovable and all think good thoughts.  No doubt there are graduate students at our elite universities composing theses on the postmodren significance of Sesame Street.

I have written previously in American Thinker

 about perversion as a mode of thinking, not just a form of sexual behavior.  Perversion (see the Marquis de Sade) seeks to abolish all differences — of gender, of generations, of species.  The incest taboo is overturned, species differences are abolished, and the distinction between animate and inanimate is dismissed as all things are reduced to fecal sameness.  Sade anticipated the dreams of postmodern wordsmith intellectuals.

In the world of perversion, the Old Testament story of God the father creating the world, differentiating the creatures, naming and separating male from female, children from adults, species from species, etc. is overturned.  The roles and functions of the father are undermined as the paternal world of the biblical creation story is rejected.  Sade makes clear that the central perverse wish is to overturn the paternal universe, deny difference, and return to a blissful undifferentiated state.  The problem is that utopian wishes such as those embodied by sexual perversion and perverse thinking can never attained.  No matter how many affirmative-action programs are installed, politically correct egalitarian yearnings are, in reality, unrealizable.  Differences cannot be abolished.  When utopia fails to arrive as promised, when the seas don’t cease to rise, when the earth fails to heal itself, when postmodern, politically correct fantasies collapse, scapegoats must be found.  Suppressed rage then erupts.  In the therapeutic world of modern liberalism, while praising itself for caring about the downtrodden, liberals will vilify as evil those who puncture their illusions.  Romney’s and Ryan’s policies are not important enough to deal with because Romney and Ryan are bad people — “liars.”  Instead, let’s all rally to protect Big Bird from the heartless conservatives.

We all remember the name-calling schoolyard bully who was really a weakling and a blowhard.  As grown-ups, these are the people who insisted that George Bush was not just mistaken in his policies; he was a bad person.  He was another Hitler.  In these wordsmith tantrums can be glimpsed buried infantile rage.  This is Sesame Street thinking by adults.  Big Bird symbolizes the perverse childhood thinking at the heart of utopian ideologies like liberalism.  Bland, asexual Big Bird masks the seething, frustrated rage of thwarted children.

Liberalism as an ideology has devolved into a system that represents perverse thinking in its most obvious form.  Liberals are quite correct to angrily defend Big Bird, for he represents their shared fantasy of a blissful world, free of conflict.  Liberalism has become an emasculated ideology for all the utopian children who have grown up but failed to relinquish their childhood fantasies.  It is an ideology of arrested development.

Optimally, childhood ends, and adults develop a mature, tragic acceptance of limitations.  They come to terms with differences of talent; some are more intelligent, better athletes, better mathematicians, more creative.  Accepting this is, paradoxically, a necessary step toward real achievement because it allows discovery of one’s own unique talents.  By age 12 I had to recognize that I wasn’t going to succeed Joe DiMaggio in center field for the Yankees.  I was a nearsighted kid who didn’t run well and, most importantly, couldn’t hit a curve ball.  Learning to accept that freed me to discover my own unique abilities while enabling me to enjoy the superior skills of professional athletes.  I didn’t seethe with resentment.  Instead, I learned to appreciate the hard work necessary to actualize any talent.

Utopians who remain immature in their thinking feel an aggrieved sense of entitlement.  A fair and just world would mandate that they play center field for the Yankees.  Society hasn’t recognized their wondrous attributes.  Why have those other boys and girls, so much less verbally gifted, done so well?  It’s an outrageous injustice.  After all, teachers all praised these future liberals for their verbal skills, yet some of those non-verbally adept kids who were not such good little boys and girls have achieved tangible success way beyond that of the aggrieved.  It’s not fair.

Sesame Street promised otherwise.  Being good should be enough.  After all, Big Bird is good just by virtue of existing, and even if it’s a fantasy, everyone loves him.  Well, let’s introduce government programs to make up for the unfairness.  Let’s legislate a utopian egalitarianism.  Let’s apply “Sesame Street” modes of understanding to foreign policy, and everyone can join hands and show they care.  We can redistribute everything in accord with “fairness.”

Nuclear weapons in the hands of fanatics?  As Joe Biden laughingly suggested, we should all just calm down.  Isn’t Iran’s “culture” as valid as Western culture?  Given that Israel possesses nukes, wouldn’t it be fair to give nukes to 7th-century savages?  (Sorry, they’re not “savages” — just believers in alternative cultural values.)  Our government leaders went to elite schools, where postmodern disquisitions on “narrative truth” were taken seriously and Machiavelli was just an old Italian guy who lived a long time ago.  Of course, when their postmodern “narratives” result in disaster, someone else must be to blame, and it can’t be liberals, because their hearts are pure.

Notice the rage erupting from those who think of themselves as pure and good.  An important aspect shared by liberalism’s true believers is their self-flattering conviction that they are good, smart, better in every way than non-liberals.  Infantile rage results when infantile fantasies go awry.

Almost any Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd column is illustrative of the grandiose self-regard and rage of frustrated infants in grown-up bodies.  Notice the glee expressed when Joe Biden, the “elder statesman,” behaved like a six-year-old.  They loved it!  Tantrums are a way helpless children sometimes force concessions from adults.  It is the effort by the powerless to coerce the powerful.  Bullies who compulsively smile and address the objects of their bullying as “my friend” are actually cowards.

Joe Biden is an example to illustrate Heywood Hale Broun’s definition of a liberal: “A man who leaves the room when the fight begins.”  He was fortunate that Ryan chose to remain calm in the face of provocation.  What really undergirds the delight over Biden’s rude tantrum and his bizarre affect is rage at the fact that Romney proved himself to be a mature man while his opponent revealed himself to be a child, a weak and immature person — in short, a wimp.

Women noticed this, and there remains, despite the efforts of the utopian egalitarians, a yearning by many women for “real men.”  Like many, a part of me would have enjoyed my own immature pleasure had Ryan reached over and punched Biden in the nose.  That’s how we dealt with bullies in the schoolyard.  Ryan was, however, mature and restrained, the adult in the room.  Liberalism has in fact become a collective ideological tantrum, a final rebellion by pampered and cosseted children against the demands of adulthood.

In the coming election, America is choosing not just between different domestic and foreign policy alternatives.  It is choosing at a deeper level the shared idea of America.  There are two competing and conflicting versions.  There is the shared liberal fantasy of an America that is an egalitarian utopia.  It is a slightly more benign version of all totalitarian utopias, where government seeks to fundamentally alter human nature to achieve perfection.  In this view, America is like all other nations, not exceptional.  The shared vision of America that propelled us to save the world from totalitarianism in WWII and in the Cold War is viewed as insulting to other nations.  The utopian vision precludes using aggression to defend our unique nation because we’re not unique, and use of force in defense of Western civilization is evidence of our failure to measure up to Big Bird values.  Perhaps Big Bird will replace the bust of Churchill that used to be in the Oval Office.

This liberal vision of America is now in a contest with another, older shared idea of America.  This older idea asserts that our greatness lies in our uniqueness — the uniqueness of our founding and of the generations that followed.  It asserts that we are unique in our history and composed of individuals, each with different abilities and limitations.  It is a realistic, even tragic view of human nature that regards the androgynous, radically egalitarian view of America as alien.  In contrast to the perverse thinking of utopian fantasists, this older vision includes acceptance of difference, especially of the difference between men and women.  This vision regards adulthood as an ideal to be striven towards, even if not always attained.

One of the remarkable aspects of the presidential campaign is that we have been able to see a candidate who represents the postmodern blurring of gender — a metrosexual man who is, in the current cant phrase, “in touch” with his feminine side.  Who would have guessed we’d have a president who tosses a baseball like a girl?

Let us not underestimate the skill with which the president is able to represent his postmodern, androgynous, egalitarian vision.  He goes on The View and schmoozes with Oprah, just like the gossipy woman next door.  He prides himself on identifying with angry women and children.  You would not be surprised to hear him share his deep feeling for what women go through physically when the patriarchy forces them to submit to men.  Maybe a government program can correct this unfairness.  His opponent, on the other hand, represents an older American ideal — a proud, unapologetic ideal that doesn’t blur the differences between the sexes, but celebrates them.  He is combating an elite media, educational, and journalistic culture that has been promoting the utopian views of aggrieved, entitled liberalism for years.  How far has America gone down that cultural road?  This coming election will tell us a great deal about where we are and what we have become.

(Dedicated to the memory of Janine-Chasseguet Smirgel.)

Read more:

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Jihadism, Liberalism and Perversion

Jihadism, Liberalism and Perversion

By Stephen Rittenberg, MD

Our frequent exposure to the exhibitionistic snuff porn of Jihadis has prompted numerous attempts at psychological explanation. Clinicians know how comforting it is to have a diagnostic label. Correct diagnosis can be the first step to cure.

There are problems, however, with psychological diagnosis. In totalitarian states, dissidents are often locked up in ‘mental hospitals’ for their ‘crazy’ behavior. They are diagnosed as ‘sociopaths’ and ‘narcissists’, interested in individual freedom rather than behaving like ‘normal’ conformists to the system. Shrinkwrapped (Sophisticated Diagnosis) has commented on the various problems with psychiatric diagnosis in our own culture, including its tendency to relieve the ‘sick’ person of responsibility for his actions.
Psychological explanations offered for Islamic savagery are useful, as far as they go. However, they can be overly generalized and undynamic when applied as labels to Jihadis. Writers like Dr. Sanity and the Sanity Squad have highlighted the narcissistic insecurities of Islamic males and their defensive need to control women to shore up their own masculinity.
However, clinical experience tells us that many men suffer from the same narcissistic insecurities and don’t resort to violence to assuage their deficiencies. Only Islamic clerics sanction the murder of women who have been raped. Only Islamic clerics issue murderous fatwas, celebrate murder of artists, and mobilize sword-wielding men to demand death for a female teacher who allowed children to name a teddy bear ‘Mohammed’. Only Islam proudly exhibits videos of throat-cutters torturing helpless victims. 
It is the intense pleasure derived from religiously sanctioned murderous lust that makes the jihadis so dangerous. The degree of narcissism matters little; these are not people who can be ‘treated’ by shoring up their narcissism, and bolstering their self esteem. It is our very civilized, therapeutic culture that makes us flinch from taking the necessary measures needed to deal with such foes. In truth, it may be our own narcissism — the need to reassure ourselves of our superior civilized nature — that causes us to obsess about whether necessary measures for waging war, like water boarding, and Guantanamo constitute ‘torture’.  
In our politically correct age, the word ‘perversion’ has been banished from the circles of multicultural academia, literary and journalistic usage. It is, we are instructed, ‘judgmental’, tends to unfairly ‘normalize’ heterosexuality and is, like the ‘N-word’, insulting. It creates hierarchical differences and that is illiberal.
Nevertheless, despite the efforts to remove it from the language and/or because of that effort, it still carries an emotional charge. In a time when gleeful murderous terrorists blow themselves up daily, it behooves us to face the reality that militant Islamic jihadism is a perversion and its practitioners derive a gratification that is more than simply defensive against feeling of inadequacy. It is the pleasurable charge that comes from throwing off all inhibitions on the discharge of murderous rage.
The late Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel was a French psychoanalyst and holocaust survivor who devoted her clinical efforts to understanding sexual perversions*. She realized there was a connection between individual sexual pathology and political movements.
Her intuitive insight was that Nazism’s appeal, on both the individual and mass psychological level, derived from its power as psycho-sexual perversion. (See, for instance, Cabaret andGoodbye to Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood.) Having seen and survived what happened in the heart of civilized Europe, she discovered, through her clinical work, that perversions were not just the sexual kinkiness of a small minority.
She realized that perversions were not even merely ‘sexual’ in the narrow behavioral meaning of the word, but that erotic pleasure could be intensified by the discharge of aggressive wishes, including the inflicting of, and submitting to, pain up to the point of death. She broadened our understanding of perversions to include, not just behavior but modes of thinking.
What she found was that perversions are an essential way in which the human mind and psyche rebel against and seek to evade reality. That reality is rooted in biology: the male-female difference. The intolerance and fear of such differences can result in the practices of Wahabbi Islam, wherein women are so feared that they must be hidden and brutalized like beasts of the field. Muslim men’s terror of women is undoubtedly accompanied by a high incidence of hidden (not so hidden when they travel to the Riviera) perverse sexuality.
Long before there was a Norman Mailer proclaiming his artistic right to transgress bourgeois laws constraining sex and aggression, there was the Marquis de Sade. Chasseguet-Smirgel wrote about the celebrated French author, and pointed out that in his fantastical world of perversion, (see Mailer’s preoccupation with ‘buggery’) the incest taboo is violated, and thus the generational boundaries are breached.
Sade celebrates non-genital sex which is celebrated as an outlet for violence (sadism); bodies are dismembered, children are the targets of violent sexual discharge, humans and animals copulate and all differences are obliterated. Sade’s work was designed to overturn the biblical injunction against perversion, but also to overturn the differences laid down at the beginning of the Old Testament, between the sexes, the animals, in fact between differentiated life and inanimate chaos.
God brought order out of chaos and Sade wishes to return to chaos. For Sade, the elimination of God means all sexual and aggressive behavior is permitted, including mass murder. Love is repeatedly mocked and dismissed. The release of all constraint on aggression maximizes pleasure.
The most intense Sadean pleasure is sexual murder, since no need exists to protect the object of sexual desire from aggression. Love cannot exist in the Sadean world because it puts limits on the pleasurable indulgence of murderous wishes.  Perversion aims at destruction, destruction of difference, of the living order of the universe and its replacement with chaos and deadness. Long before Hitler put Sade’s ideas into practice, Sade celebrated mass murder and the erotic pleasure to be gotten from torturing victims.
Chasseguet-Smirgel’s insight revealed that, besides perverse behavior there are perverse modes of thinking, with the same aim of erasing distinctions and eliminating systematic thought itself. Thus, for example, Post-Modernism represents perverse thinking in its denial of the difference between truth and falsehood, good and evil, superior and inferior cultures. When it argues that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are ‘constructed’ identities, it argues against the immutable differences imposed by biological reality.
Socialism is similarly perverse in its radical egalitarianism, denying differences of talent, intelligence, motivation, skill. Liberalism’s affirmative action is perverse in its effort to impose an egalitarianism that is unattainable. It seeks to correct the “socially constructed” discriminatory differences. (Under its strictures shouldn’t there be affirmative action for white basketball players?) This is perverse thinking. Modern politically correct liberalism is shot through with perversion. Renouncing her early socialist utopianism, Chasseguet-Smirgel became a conservative. 
Ideas are perverse when they seek to undermine distinctions that are necessary for thought itself to exist. When such distinctions are eliminated, anything goes. When liberalism asserts that al Qaeda and America are equal threats to the world, it is being perverse. In fact, when liberals argue that modern Christianity and Islam are both ‘religions of peace’ they are being perverse.
When language is debased by perverse thinking war becomes peace and all distinctions are rendered meaningless.  Socialism embraces perverse thinking when it argues for a utopian egalitarianism that constitutes an assault on human differences, the differences that exist — of talent, motivation, achievement, skill, and worth. It is perverse in ultimately reducing the vitality of difference in favor of deadening sameness.
Ideas do have consequences. Mass murder, idealized by Sade, became mass murder carried out by Hitler. Civilization is a fragile thing, and once perversion rules, there are no limits to the human imagination. We thought Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were the worst, but now we see Islamic Jihadis strapping bombs to babies and blowing them up. Once again, we are in a struggle between civilization and perversion. Some remain puzzled by the alliance between modern day left-liberalism and jihadism. Perversion explains the puzzle.
To the perverse jihadis who constitute large numbers of Muslims, the existence of the female sex is threatening, hence women are treated as little more than cattle, with fewer rights than some lower animals. Why do Western feminists keep their mouths shut? Because many are themselves leftist utopian perverts, who also cannot tolerate the existence of two sexes and secretly long to submit to the appealing sadism of the jihadis.
One of the great fascinations of the Marquis de Sade was with child murder. In Justine he offers a lengthy argument for why parents should sexually assault, then murder their children. The most primal human bonds exist to be destroyed to the accompaniment of erotic pleasure. Deriving pleasure from sexual assault on and murder of children is the ultimate denial of God, the moral distinction between good and evil, and the distinction between humans and animals. It is ultimately the assertion that man is no different from the lowest form of matter.
What Sade imagined and longed for has come to pass.
In recent years, since the exhibitionistic torture and beheading of Daniel Pearl, the world has been exposed to depravities that would delight the Marquis. Palestinian (Let’s give them a state!) children are repeatedly celebrated as little jihadis ready to blow themselves up while murdering Jews.
They are indoctrinated in the erotic pleasures instantly available to mass murderers: all those eager virgins. There has been a strangely muted reaction from the civilized world. We have heard repeated calls for restraint on our part, warnings against “Islamophobia”, and we take pride in minimizing casualties when fighting the Sadean jihadis.
Why is it that our media are so reluctant to report such occurrences as the recent successful effort by a jihadi in Pakistan to turn his year old infant into a bomb, killing more than 100 innocent bystanders? Readers of the New York Times would not have known of this ‘martyrdom’. You would have to turn to the Pakistan Tribune to learn the following: 

“KARACHI: The Oct 19 bombing on Benazir Bhutto’s procession in Karachi which killed over 170 people, was carried out by a person who used a one-year-old child strapped with fatal bombs…” 

The very idea of making a living, breathing baby into an inanimate object, a bomb to slaughter hundreds, is straight out of the Sadean universe and the religious system that justifies it is properly called ‘perverse’.
The reason we hear so little condemnation, much less military resolve to annihilate these savage perverts, is Western culture’s thralldom to contemporary, politically correct liberalism, which is itself perverse. Post-modern Liberalism shares the mindset of the jihadis and unconsciously enjoys their enactment of liberal fantasies.
Civilization has been built painstakingly on difference: male and female, yes and no, right and wrong, truth and falsehood. There are rules, laws, customs, hard-won scientific knowledge. Civilization is a fragile guardian of reality, which must be defended from the onslaught of barbarians wishing to abolish rules and differences.
In each of our psyches the perverse temptation must be fought, if civilization is to survive.  The more advanced the civilization, the more intense the appeal to throw off constraints. Often individual rebels are rewarded with the title of ‘artist’, but Sade was an artist whose ideas were realized in Nazism.
When the discharge of polymorphous perversion is united with murderous aggression we get Jihadism. Such perverse ideologies could be more easily fought if not for the politically correct liberal urge to submit to them in their crudest totalitarian form.
*Creativity And Perversion, Janine Chasseguet Smirgel, 1996
To the memory of Mme. Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel.

Stephen Rittenberg, MD is a psychoanalyst.

on “Jihadism, Liberalism and Perversion