Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The right wing is always about oppression, censorship, closeting, the smooth beautiful surface of things, the windless pond. Also about shame and guilt, when these tools can be applied to other people. And so an excellent applicator of shame, guilt and oppression is a first person account, a confession, which at least in some belief systems is a mystical incantation which removes shame and guilt in the telling. Milo grew up in such a belief system. And so he discovered the delicious rococo experience of being over and over again guilty and shamed and then immediately forgiven by his father-priest-lover. It is something Norman Mailer has also waxed poetic about. Mailer always said good sex requires some guilt. And just this morning I found (via Sheila O'Malley) W.H.Auden's remarkable stanza on the subject:
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
[From September 1, 1939, W.H. Auden]
O'Malley's whole essay on Auden, a birthday present from her to one of her poetic heroes, is worth reading, and several times. One of the larger features of her homage to Auden brings into focus the extent to which the poetic effort, which might be, along with it's twin masterpiece, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, a kind of high-water mark of western thought, has been mostly obscured if not even entirely forgotten, by our sad contemporary culture as a whole. Auden saw in the work of T.S. Eliot what might be done by a capable poet. He worked at it. The culture, meanwhile, eventually produced Trump.
But all this early 20th Century clarity floats atop the cultural mud and silt of the authoritarian family, which founds the authoritarian church and the authoritarian state. There are always too many private interests to be nurtured. The teacher-father-priest finds it such a simple and easy task to re-seduce again the willing eleven-year-old, just one more time, in the quiet rectory, under the polished leather-scented desk, the pretty boy's cheek resting against the bristly upper thigh, the faint hint of urine, the hot hard shaft enfolded by the soft sweet mouth. Oh, did I mention as well, two world wars?
So Milo became a willing witness in the end, and for his own reasons, financial and otherwise. He could attack feminism, which is women un-closeted. He could attack the whole effort by gays and lesbians to get out of the shadow of guilt and shame by being himself a flaming homosexual who relished the shame and guilt, and suggested in the doing that all the others, the scape-goat caste, in fact were just what the priest always whispered as he came into little Milo's soft and open mouth--”perverted.”
Poor little Milo, protege to power, suddenly Bannon's successor, editor-in-chief at Brietbart, the journal of dirty tricks brought now into almost absolute power or so it must have felt in the heady post-election days of 2016. All of Milo's witness was, to the right, proof of what they always thought, and probably to a significant extent what they themselves actually experienced in their own lives. The effort to put an end to living the closeted life has been mightily resisted by much of the culture. Great battles have been fought over the definition of the so-called “institution” of marriage, over who can and who can't be married. The churchy complain of political correctness and demand, as part of their allegedly religious practice, the right to crucify on a cold dusty road in the vastness of Wyoming. The simplicity of love is immediately trampled in the service of the old institution of caste and repression. Auden, a gay man living in a closeted time, understood, but resisted. Milo saw an easier path, and Bannon laid his cape over the mud so that Milo wouldn't dirty his silver slippers.
As Edroso said today, Milo didn't realize that there were still a few hard limits, if he wanted to retain his unlimited pass.
Bannon didn't do quite enough vetting, and the horse was out of the barn before he realized he'd be ascending to the White House. Milo could invent child sex rings run by Hillary Clinton, and covens. He could say such vile things to a noted comic, Leslie Jones, that he could be banned from twitter. But as we have just seen, he could not take Plato's position on the seduction of boys by men, directly supporting the ancient idea that sent Wilde to gaol, without losing at least the bully pulpit of a conservative institution that also embraces fundamentalist Christians, who are the undefeated champions of American moral hypocrisy. If he was going to present a first-person defense of the indefensible, he could not also be a shining champion of American conservative thought. At least not to most of the notable conservative talking heads, or to Simon and Schuster.
But the repressive right-wing thesis about gay people has always been that they are fundamentally perverted. This is the “reason” the authoritarian part of society and culture wants homosexuals to remain closeted. This is the pseudo theological logic of the Fundamentalist church, and when missionaries go out to Uganda, gay Ugandans actually get killed. For that matter, now and then gay Americans get killed too. It's not exactly what Milo wants as he testifies to the fundamental perversion he enjoys personifying, and certainly he doesn't want anyone to kill him! But he's insulated. His sugar daddy is now a member of the National Security Council.
This was his game. Be a right-wing Mick Jagger. Hope the Hell's Angel you hired to protect you doesn't see through the shit-storm and smack you across the head with a pool cue in the middle of Street-Fighting Man. Turns out this little bit of his own perversion now floats in the middle of the punch bowl. Now he has to make a choice, poor little Milo. Send the manuscript to Grove Press, where he can join the list with Celine, not to mention Joyce and Terry Southern. A publisher he can find. Irony isn't dead. The Catholic priesthood is vivid testimony, and it's the tip of the iceberg. But if he lets his freak fly, what's a poor boy gonna do, sing in a rock and roll band. That train may have left the station.
The trouble is, authoritarianism is a great, centuries-old complicated lie. Milo got the threads crossed up. Our trouble is, almost no one reads Eliot, or Auden. The road maps have mostly been forgotten, or never even seen. It's all just too difficult. Voters think any change is Change. Tell it to the survivors of Hiroshima.