Plato’s Cave. Dorothy, Cat and Girl (2010-05-24). (Linked Tuesday 2010-05-25.)
Maddow Bashes Anarchism. Roderick, Austro-Athenian Empire (2010-05-25).
Just saw Rachel Maddow explaining that Republicans have a secret hankering for anarchism (if only!), and that the spurious appeal of statelessness can be refuted by considering the nightmarish conditions in Mogadishu, capital of stateless Somalia (interesting that she just happens to pick the area of Somalia with the highest...(Linked Tuesday 2010-05-25.)
Rekers: A Sick Man in a Sick World. cherylcline, der Blaustrumpf (2010-05-25).
When the news first broke about professional homophobe George Rekers hiring gay prostitutes with taxpayer money, I honestly didn’t think too much about it, as I didn’t know anything about his background (though it did reaffirm some of my stereotypes about men who sport ‘staches.) I did brace myself for...(Linked Tuesday 2010-05-25.)
Posts filed under
Old Time Religion
On traditionalism: how homoeroticism flourished in medieval Persia, and how political homophobia came to be imported from the West
One of the difficulties in having serious conversations about cultural conservatism — both here and abroad — is how often it turns out that what the so-called
conservative wishes to preserve or to restore the conditions of a past that never existed. When this kind of mythistory is used to pass off modern authoritarian’s political desiderata as if they were accurate representations of history, both the pseudotraditionalists, and their self-styled
progressive opponents, tend to take for granted that history must have been whatever modern political conservatives want it to have been; they just argue over whether that history is a good thing or a bad thing, and so whether to join in the march of Progress or to stand athwart history yelling
Stop! In reality, though, antiquity is always a much more complicated affair than simple-minded political progress narratives would make it. And often it is exactly the opposite. Take, for instance, the story of queer eroticism in Iran, where — setting aside the propaganda of the Ayatollahs and the colonialist liberals both — it becomes clear that medieval Iran was full of passionate expressions of same-sex eroticism and same-sex romantic love, and that political homophobia, far from being an ingrown feature of traditional culture or religion, is in fact a colonial import, which came into Iranian political culture mainly through the modernizing ideologies of Marxism and Westernizing progressive nationalism.
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his infamous claim at a September 2007 Columbia University appearance thatIn Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,the world laughed at the absurdity of this pretense.
Now, a forthcoming book by a leading Iranian scholar in exile, which details both the long history of homosexuality in that nation and the origins of the campaign to erase its traces, not only provides a superlative reply to Ahmadinejad, but demonstrates forcefully that political homophobia was a Western import to a culture in which same-sex relations were widely tolerated and frequently celebrated for well over a thousand years. Sexual Politics in Modern Iran, [by Janet Afary,] to be published at the end of next month by Cambridge University Press, is a stunningly researched history and analysis of the evolution of gender and sexuality that will provide a transcendent tool both to the vibrant Iranian women’s movement today fighting the repression of the ayatollahs and to Iranian same-sexers hoping for liberation from a theocracy that condemns them to torture and death.
In her new book, Afary’s extensive section on pre-modern Iran, documented by a close reading of ancient texts, portrays the dominant form of same-sex relations as a highly-codifiedstatus-defined homosexuality,in which an older man — presumably the active partner in sex — acquired a younger partner, or amrad. […] Afary dissects howclassical Persian literature (twelfth to fifteenth centuries)…overflowed with same-sex themes (such as passionate homoerotic allusions, symbolism, and even explicit references to beautiful young boys.)This was true not only of the Sufi masters of this classical period but ofthe poems of the great twentieth-century poet Iraj Mirza (1874-1926)… Classical poets also celebrated homosexual relationships between kings and their pages.
Afary also writes thathomosexuality and homoerotic expressions were embraced in numerous other public spaces beyond the royal court, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, gymnasiums, bathhouses, and coffeehouses… Until the mid-seventeenth century, male houses of prostitution (amrad khaneh) were recognized, tax-paying establishments.
[…] Unmistakably lesbian sigeh courtship rituals, which continued from the classical period into the twentieth century, were also codified:Tradition dictated that one [woman] who sought another asAs late as the last half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th,sisterapproached a love broker to negotiate the matter. The broker took a tray of sweets to the prospective beloved. In the middle of the tray was a carefully placed dildo or doll made of wax or leather. If the beloved agreed to the proposal, she threw a sequined white scarf (akin to a wedding veil) over the tray… If she was not interested, she threw a black scarf on the tray before sending it back.Iranian society remained accepting of many male and female homoerotic practices… Consensual and semi-open pederastic relations between adult men and amrads were common within various sectors of society.What Afary terms aromantic bisexualityborn in the classical period remained prevalent at court and among elite men and women, anda form of serial love (‘eshq-e mosalsal) was commonly practiced [in which] their love could shift back and forth from girl to boy and back to girl.
In a lengthy section of her book entitledToward a Westernized Modernity,Afary demonstrates how the trend toward modernization which emerged during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and which gave the Persian monarchy its first parliament was heavily influenced by concepts harvested from the West.
One of her most stunning revelations is how an Azeri-language newspaper edited and published in the Russian Caucuses, Molla Nasreddin (or MN, which appeared from 1906 to 1931) influenced this Iranian Revolution with asignificant new discourse on gender and sexuality,sharing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuals. With an editorial board that embraced Russian social democratic concepts, including women’s rights, MN was alsothe first paper in the Shi’i Muslim world to endorse normative heterosexuality,echoing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuality. Afary writes thatthis illustrated satirical paper, which circulated among Iranian intellectuals and ordinary people alike, was enormously popular in the region because of its graphic cartoons.
MN conflated homosexuality and pedophilia, and attacked clerical teachers and leaders formolesting young boys,played upon feelings ofcontemptfor passive homosexuals, suggested that elite men who kept amrad concubineshad a vested interested in maintaining the (male) homosocial public spaces where semi-covert pederasty was tolerated,andmocked the rites of exchanging brotherhood vows before a mollah and compared it to a wedding ceremony.It was in this way that a discourse of political homophobia developed in Europe, which insisted that only heterosexuality could be the norm, was introduced into Iran.
MN’s attacks on homosexualitywould shape Iranian debates on sexuality for the next century,and itbecame a model for several Iranian newspapers of the era,which echoed its attacks on the conservative clergy and leadership for homosexual practices. In the years that followed,Iranian revolutionaries commonly berated major political figures for their sexual transgressions,andrevolutionary leaflets accused adult men of having homosexual sex with other adult men,of thirty-year-olds propositioning fifty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds propositioning forty-year-olds, right in front of the Shah.Some leaflets repeated the old allegation that major political figures had been amrads in their youth.
[…] The expansion of radio, television, and print media in the 1940s — including a widely read daily, Parcham, published from 1941 by Kasravi’s Pak Dini movement — resulted in a nationwide discussion about the evils of pederasty and, ultimately, in significant official censorship of literature. References to same-sex love and the love of boys were eliminated in textbooks and even in new editions of classical poetry.Classical poems were now illustrated by miniature paintings celebrating heterosexual, rather than homosexual, love and students were led to believe that the love object was always a woman, even when the text directly contradicted that assumption,Arafy writes.
In the context of a triumphant censorship that erased from the popular collective memory the enormous literary and cultural heritage of what Afary termsthe ethics of male lovein the classical Persian period, it is hardly surprising as Afary earlier noted in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution that the virulence of the current Iranian regime’s anti-homosexual repression stems in part from the role homosexuality played in the 1979 revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers to power.
In that earlier work, she and her co-author, Kevin B. Anderson, wrote:There is… a long tradition in nationalist movements of consolidating power through narratives that affirm patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality, attributing sexual abnormality and immorality to a corrupt ruling elite that is about to be overthrown and/or is complicit with foreign imperialism ….
Here’s my February 10 letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, which apparently will remain unpublished (by them). It’s in response to their recent story on a political tussle between the South Hills Church and some folks living by it in Green Valley, over a series of big-ass crosses that South Hills Church was planning to put up on their own property:
Editor, Las Vegas Sun:
I was saddened to read (Neighbors at odds with church over huge crosses, 2/4/2009) the Clark County government, at the behest of busybody neighbors, has forced South Hills Church to scrap plans to build three large crosses on the their own property.
The bellowing blowhard busybody brigade complains these crosses — built on land the church owns, with money freely given to the church for that purpose — wouldencroach uponthe views from their yards. Sad as that may be, the view from your yard stops being your own private property once you start looking over another’s land.
South Hills Church’s plans to build symbols of their own faith on their own property are their own business; they’re not interfering with anybody else’s property and they’re not forcing anyone to look. Yet they get harassed in the name of politically-enforced aesthetic correctness. Neighbors and county government have no more business butting in to tell them how tall or short to makeaccessory structureson their own land, than they have call to make the church change the logo on their own sign, or the color they painted their walls, just to better please the neighbors’ aesthetic sensibilities.
Of course, we are informed government zoning laws require shorter crosses. No doubt; that’s exactly why government zoning is a ridiculous and petty tyranny. Such laws should be immediately and completely abolished.
Leave South Hills Church alone. What goes up on their own property is their own business.
Charles W. Johnson
Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left
Reporting from Las Vegas — In a city launched by shotgun weddings and quickie divorces, and which offers the chance to be wed by faux Liberaces, King Tuts and Grim Reapers, there remains at least one nuptial taboo: You can’t be married by an atheist.
Michael Jacobson, a 64-year-old retiree who calls himself a lifelong atheist, tried this year to get a license to perform weddings. Clark County rejected his application because he had no ties to a congregation, as state law requires.
So Jacobson and attorneys from two national secular groups — the American Humanist Assn. and the Center for Inquiry — are trying to change things. If they can’t persuade the state Legislature to rework the law, they plan to sue.
When Lipman and his wife moved to Florida this spring, Jacobson — a balding man with a thin, white mustache and a trace of his native Philadelphia in his voice — decided to become the local atheist celebrant.
But I’m not going to do it by saying I belong to a religious organization,he said.That’s a sham, because atheists are not religious.
Jacobson filled out an application to perform marriages, but sidestepped the questions on religion. County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre said she had little choice but to reject it.
As Nevada law requires, all of the county’s 2,500 or so licensed officiants are connected to a congregation — though some are as small as two people, Parraguirre said. (Judges and commissioners of civil marriages can also lead ceremonies.)
Some of the state’s regulations hark back to the 1960s, when ministers were dumping their flocks to become wealthyMarrying Sams,according to the book Las Vegas: An Unconventional History. One would-be officiant apparently hoped to marry enough people to finance his divorce.
Lawmakers, trying to ferret out the profit-hungry, said weddings must be among a minister’sincidentalduties. Drive past the string of neon-lighted downtown chapels, and you’ll see that didn’t quite pan out.
Clark County issues nearly 100,000 marriage licenses a year and boasts dozens of places to exchange vows — atop Harley-Davidsons, in Renaissance costumes, aboard gondolas — 24 hours a day. The competition is so fierce that in recent years, employees at rival chapels have accused one another of slashing tires and shouting death threats.Someone is working at all of these chapels,said Parraguirre, whose office doesn’t have the resources to track down ministers flouting the law. In fact, she worries that if the criteria to become an officiant changes, her staff will bebombarded with people coming in and just doing it for a job.
Judges performing ceremonies, for example, don’t have to meet religious criteria, so it’s absurd to make anyone else do so, [Lynne Henderson, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas] said. Officials could regulate celebrants in other ways, such as making them get training.
Let’s suppose it’s true that County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre’s office just hasn’t got the resources to deal with all the applications that would
bombard them if Nevada did away its mandates for state discrimination against religiously unconventional marriages. It seems to me there’s a simple solution: save County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre the work by abolishing the laws that require wedding officiants to get a license from the State in the first place. If there’s no licensure requirement, there will be no discrimination lawsuits, and also no applications to
bombard poor County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre.
If your Elvis-impersonating streetside neon-chapel minister’s motives are really focused on making a living rather than on serving the Lord, who cares? Couples who want a religiously serious wedding will presumably go to a church or temple or mosque where they can get one.
If your Starfleet-uniformed Captain of the Starship of Love hasn’t had some State-sanctioned course of
training (training in what?), who cares? Couples who want to vet their celebrants for training or competency will do so.
Even if you think that the State has some legitimate business using a licensing system to pick and choose which marriages it will or will not recognize (I don’t), what possible purpose can it serve to require not only the couple, but also the third party that they hire to officiate — whose only legal function is to witness the vows and attest that these folks mean what they say — to get specially vetted and licensed by the State? Really, seriously, bureaucratic rationality aside, who could possibly care, and why?
A while back in comments on GT 2008-05-14: Well, thank God #9: Income Taxi edition, John Markley said:
I’m disturbed by the whole idea that there are actually undercover agents hunting for unlicensed taxi drivers. The whole concept sounds like a wacky satire of Stalinist Russia.
But since when has a collapse into obviously inane self-parody ever stopped a government busybody from doing what they do best?
Meet Millersburg [Ohio] farmer Arlie Stutzman, who’s had a Grade B dairy license for 12 years, allowing him to sell milk to local cheese factories. On September 20, an undercover ag agent visited his farm and asked to buy a gallon of milk.
It’s a no-no for a farmer to sell milk directly, so Stutzman offered to just give it to the man if he were truly in need. But the guy insisted on leaving two bucks. The agent then fetched an unmarked container from his car and had Stutzman’s son fill it with milk. […]
For the sin of selling in an unlabeled container, Stutzman had his license yanked. At an administrative hearing, he argued that the Amish faith taught him to share food with anybody in need, and asked that his penalty be reduced to a 60-day license suspension. His plea was rejected by department director Fred Dailey, who’s also mean to baby deer and people in wheelchairs. Stutzman now faces additional fines if convicted at an April 17 hearing.
I never realized that being generous and sharing food is a crime in Ohio,says Stutzman.
Stutzman eventually got his license back after public uproar forced the Ohio Department of Agriculture to back down. But though in this case justice may have been tempered by mercy, I have to say thank God that the Ohio Department of Agriculture was there to bust Stutzman in the first place. If state agriculture departments weren’t out there every day making sure that customers have to patronize the right corporate milk distributors and retailers, who would? How could anyone be sure that customers are being forced to go through the proper agribusiness channels for their dairy products? Without state bureaucracies and their professional snitches to do the centralizing and the regulating, why, Amish farmers might be out there just giving out raw milk willy-nilly to odd passers-by. God, it’d be Anarchy!
It should never be forgotten that the Ohio Department of Agriculture is the thin blue line that keeps Ohioan customers away from the agricultural products that they are willing to pay for.
- GT 2008-05-14: Well, thank God #9: Income Taxi edition
- GT 2008-01-16: Well, thank God #8: Civil Tongue edition
- GT 2007-09-19: Well, thank God #7: sagging and the new sumptuary laws
- GT 2006-08-31: Well, thank God #6: Raed Jarrar and ostensive definitions
- GT 2006-07-18: Well, thank God #5: the Director’s Guild triumphs over insurgent customers
- GT 2006-06-27: Well, thank God #4: Unauthorized Erections edition
- GT 2006-02-23: Well, thank God #3: National Caffeine Awareness Month
- GT 2005-12-05: Well, thank God #2: We Are The Champions edition
- GT 2005-10-27: Well, thank God: The Bluest Eye edition