Wednesday, September 9, 2015

One Five Five: Fortunate Isles

I'm told that the Social Justice Cult has turned its attentions to the world of polyamory. Not for any of the reasons you might expect, mind you. It's all about nomenclature, all about words. The gender warriors and the Social Justice Cult believe in the power of words as deeply as any medieval magician. If you say the right words, you can call up magical power for good or ill. Words are part of magic spells, things imbued with magical force. If you get the spell wrong, the demons will get you. The Social Justice Cult does not accept nominalism; let's be clear about that.

In any case, the the polyamorists are being attacked because they call themselves "poly". It seems that  there are others who want possession of the word. "Poly" belongs to...well...Polynesians. Or so the story goes. By calling themselves "poly", the members of the polyamory world are showing themselves to be "entitled" and "privileged". "Poly", the Tumblr rants say, should be reserved for community-building and identity-formation amongst the Polynesian community. Assuming that the story is true, my own first thought was that, well, yes, the Polynesians want to make the word tabu in its original sense--- and that the Social Justice Cult wanted to enforce that exactly the way violations of tabu would've been enforced in pre-Contact Polynesia: by clubbing violators to death.

From all that I can tell, the polyamorists are prepared to fold. They're terrified of the Social Justice Cult and its social media power to shame and demand. They're terrified of being called "privileged" and of being tagged with other magical words of disdain: white, moneyed, upper-middle-class. More's the pity, I suppose. I can't see why the Polynesians and their Social Justice Cult supporters can't be satisfied with something like "Otaheetian" or "Breadfruit Islanders".  My own rule is simple enough. Whenever possible, use the most archaic and obscurely-spelled eighteenth-century words you can find to describe places and peoples in what British mariners called "the Far Foreign". I do that habitually--- an aesthetic principle,  which of course means it's a moral imperative.

I have never known what to make of polyamory. I've never quite understood how it differs from simply dating more than one person at a time. When poly devotees have tried to explain it to me in terms of a primary relationship plus other, satellite relationships, I can't see how this differs from some nineteenth-century French arrangement where husband and wife are free to pursue discreet relationships so long as no public scandal ensues.

We're not, I'm told, allowed to say "wife swapping" any more. That has sexist implications of ownership. Worse, it calls up images of people with cheap wood-panelled basement rec rooms and balding men with moustaches--- the "porn 'stache" of so many mocking memes. It calls up the worst of both sex and fashion c. 1970. Flared trousers may be involved. There are, if you must know, small groups of cos-play Klingons at Star Trek conventions who do...mate-swapping. That's as nightmarish a vision as you're likely to find.

You can't say "wife-swapping". Or "swingers".  Well, both remind me of bad fashion and the sort of parties where someone might ask (without irony) what your zodiac sign was. They both call up "key parties"--- where people put their car keys into a bowl, and blindfolded wives selected keys to see which husband they'd be with that night. It's all very, very much like some dark comedy about the way the so-called Sexual Revolution of the 1960s sputtered out amongst the 1970s light-blue-collar class in the Heartland.

When anyone says "wife swapping", I do think of the 1997 film "The Ice Storm".  That had both wife-swapping and a key party. I'll note that it was an utterly depressing film by Ang Lee. I watched it entirely in hopes that Sigourney Weaver would be naked.  I'll just admit that. Well, although Ms. Weaver wasn't suitably unclad, the climax of the film...a hobbit was electrocuted. You'll see what I mean if you look at the cast member list.  A friend of mine tells me that since seeing the film, "electrocuting the hobbit" is now his preferred euphemism for the Solitary Vice. I have to agree with him on that.

I still have no idea what to make of hipster polyamory. Is it done with retro-irony? Is it a way of making an ironic reference to the 1970s while still having sex in the new century? Are its aesthetics any better than those of the days of "swingers"? Even if they are, is polyamory suffused with the identity politics and gender wars language of our own day? Which is worse--- bad fashion or bad ranting?

Well, if the Otaheetians come in their war canoes, that'll settle things once and for all. Though didn't C.P. Cavafy dash those hopes in "Waiting For the Barbarians"?

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