Monday, December 14, 2015

One Six Four: Magic

I've been thinking about identity these last weeks. 

I'm not a fan of what's come to be called identity politics, and of course I'm always suspicious of the way "identity" is taken to be something ineffable and something fixed. I'm no fan at all of the way the gender warriors insist that any professed identity must reflect something "real". 

This goes to other arguments as well. I hate the whole idea of "cultural appropriation", too--- the idea that cultures should represent something fixed, some sacrosanct and precious possession guarded like Smaug guarding a treasure. I grew up in one of the more creolized cities in the Western Hemisphere, and I've taken it for granted all my life that cultures were sets of raw material to be discovered, shared, tweaked, re-made. 

I read postmodernist theory at university and in grad school. I was utterly thrilled with it, mind you. Enchanted. I loved--- still love ---the idea of identity as mutable, as something that can be constructed out of bricolage, something always to be creolized, something to be worn like masks at a Japanese drama. I'm not a fan of the idea of an essential, "real" self. I'll remain old-school PoMo--- a believer in the re-created, shifting self. 

I've said before that the last fetish we're supposed to find acceptable is authenticity fetish. We're supposed to assign a kind of ritual magic to being "authentic". We're not supposed to choose anything we are, let alone anything we find attractive or sexually alluring. Choice implies...what? Mere whimsy? We're at a point in the culture where choosing to try something or be something is regarded as...what? Lying to others? Are we supposed to think that anything can be chosen, tried, and rejected isn't worthy of respect? I have no idea why we obsess over being "real", why we insist on social presentation that's "real" rather than a transient choice, or something to be continually re-invented.

I'm old enough to remember when "fetish" was something that one was allowed to experiment with. I remember all the groups and "communities" devoted to fetishes, to the  objects and accessories that came to be imbued with sexual magic. (Yes, alas--- some people did insist on spelling that "magick") Of course, to have a fetish, to do a fetish, was to be laid open to moralizing disapproval...or at least aesthetic critique. How strange, then, that "fetish" is now a bad thing again, something that the gender warriors and the Social Justice Cult see as morally corrupt. There's a suspicion out there that any specific sexual triggers, any attraction to particular looks, particular images, are exclusionary and oppressive. Which goes back to the idea that there's some inner essence that's unconnected to presentation, to the idea that we're only allowed to be attracted to the "real" essence and not to mere expressions. 

Well, we can blame Plato as much as the queer theorists, I suppose. That seems only fair.

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