Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sorta political: Little Stalins everywhere

We've made it more or less impossible for anyone to get rich, that is to get rich honestly, by devoting their lives to politics. Not surprisingly, that has created a political class who are motivated by power and corruption. Not necessarily by both. It's usually the power that attracts but corruption follows along pretty reliably a lot of the time.

But it's even worse than that for we have also made it impossible for politicians to be individuals. No male politician, for example, would dare sport a beard, a pretty mild expression of individualism. That means that the kind of people who drive our politics are more and more those drawn by bureaucratic power. That is we are governed by people who favour giving the power to regulate and control our lives to a credentialed class of bureaucrats.

And this put me in mind of IF Stone who, in an uncharacteristic moment of honesty, once admitted that communism tended to attract little Stalins everywhere. Nowadays, just about every political movement has its little Stalins.

They aren't full-blown monsters like the real Stalin and they never would become anything like him. But they exist in every movement and they draw the energy out of the movement with their relentless bureaucratic outlook. For example, feminism has its little Stalins. It's no worse or better than lots of other political movements but it came to mind when I read this:
The image of the feminist as a mirthless, hirsute, sex-averse succubus is a friendly-fire casualty of the Republican “war on women.”
Okay, that's crazy talk. The Republican "war on women" is actually just a Democrat talking point not, you know, something is actually happening. And the writer of the piece, one Rebecca Traister, promptly contradicts herself shortly after writing that sentence by admitting that people on her side of the political aisle also believe in this "stereotype":
The characterization is so potent and pervasive that lefties have also availed themselves of it. In 2005, liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas dismissed feminist complaints as the “humorless, knee-jerk . . . tedious” stuff of “the sanctimonious women’s-studies set.”
Trasiter's piece is so full of logical errors and inconsistencies that it probably sets new records. Several people have pointed out that a sex-adverse succubus makes as much sense as "dry water" or "cold heat". However, there is a certain metaphorical sense to that and I suspect Traister has been unfairly criticized on that point. A succubus was a demon said to appear to men in their dreams and induce them to have sex. She'd leave them drained and weak as a consequence.

The succubus is obviously a medieval scare tactic to stop men from masturbating. The succubus seems to like sex but the experience she offers is empty and unproductive (or unreprodutive). It makes, I think, metaphorical sense to speak of a type that has all the draining effects of the succubus while hating sex. To admit it makes sense, however, makes Traister's argument even more problematic.

For while the medieval succubus never existed, the sex adverse succubus who haunts feminism does and we all know she does.  Traister writes as if the sex- and man-hating feminist was something that had been made up by evil right-wingers to discredit feminists. No, I'm not saying that all feminists are like that. I will quite cheerfully testify that the vast majority of feminists I have met were not like that. When I was at university in the early 1980s, the most interesting, intelligent, fun-to-be-with and, yes, sexy, women on campus tended to be feminists.

But, minority she may be, the sex- and man-hating feminist was always part of the scene. She is the little Stalin of feminism devoted to increasing bureaucratic power and she not only still exists, she is is thriving.

And it is insane to pretend she doesn't exist. Anyone who brushes up against feminism will run into someone like her. Like the weather, however, no one does anything about her. Her devotion to the cause exceeds that of others so she puts in the long volunteer hours, accepts the lower paying job in the movement instead of the more promising career outside of it. While others become more and more involved with careers, husbands and children, she remains in the office doing all the things that need to be done that no one else is willing to do.

No one who actually knows her hates her for she is not hateful. Like most people, there are subjects you'd best avoid in conversation. She can even forget herself sometimes and be quite joyful and amusing. But she always recollects herself and gets back to her grim purpose. And, because others have other things to do, she tends to get her way. Sometimes she goes too far and provokes a backlash but she gets a good sense of just how far she can go.

She is at her best in meetings and can manœuver these to produce the results she wants. And because she, ironically, loves what used to be called "secretarial" duties, she controls the way organizational information is formulated, stored and disseminated. She knows the rules that were set up, with the best of intentions, to make things "fairer" and will push them relentlessly when it suits her purposes and forget about them when they do not, always confident that no one else has her special knowledge.

She is, in short, a bully. Like all bullies, she is aware enough of her weaknesses to keep them in check but the moment she gets in a position where she can exploit some power to her advantage, look out. Again, like all bullies, she doesn't use power for the sake of some additional end but for the sheer joy of wielding power itself.

The funny thing, if you get to know her well, is that you tend to pity her. And with good reason, as she lives a pitiable life with few real joys. She has never known the joys of love or sex and, certainly, never the two combined. Her power, when she gets it, never brings her any real satisfaction. But she sucks the energy out of everyone who has to work with her and she keeps doing that.

She is unavoidable and it is, as I say above, insane to to and pretend she doesn't exist. We all know better, I suspect even Rebecca Traister knows better.

No comments:

Post a Comment