Posts filed under Great Conservative Cultural Revolution

Small-government conservatism (Facebook Macro edition)

Here is an image that was recently being passed around on a conservative, Tea Party group on Facebook.

HERE IS ALL I WANT:

OBAMA: GONE!

BORDERS: CLOSED!

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH!

CULTURE: U.S. CONSTITUTION & THE BILL OF RIGHTS!

DRUG FREE: MANDATORY DRUG SCREENING BEFORE WELFARE!

NO FREEBIES TO: NON-CITIZENS!

ALSO…

BALANCED BUDGET!

TAX REFORM!

TERM LIMITS FOR CONGRESS & SENATORS!

ONLY 86% WILL SEND THIS ON. SHOULD BE 100%.

So, just to re-cap:

Conservatarian: Here’s all I want: a REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT, the harshest possible BORDER FASCISM. GOVERNMENT ENFORCED LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS. A culture of CONSTITUTION FETISHISM, PUBLIC REVERENCE FOR STATE FOUNDERS and LEGALISTIC NATIONALISM. DRUG PROHIBITION and RIGHT-WING SOCIAL ENGINEERING THROUGH THE WELFARE SYSTEM. Also, SAVING THE WELFARE STATE FOR U.S. CITIZENS WHO CONFORM TO MY FAVORED LIFESTYLE CHOICES. And 100% CONFORMITY ON QUESTIONS OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL IMPORT. I’m for small government!

So, seriously conservatarians, if this is what you want, what you want hasn’t got anything even remotely to do with liberty. If you thought that this did have something to do with liberty, then you need to re-think some of your life choices.

Nationalism is the death of liberty.

Primary season in Alabama

One reason to be glad for YouTube is that it gives me a chance to keep up with some of the things from back home that I’d miss out here in Vegas if it weren’t for the Internet. It’s summer in Alabama now, and it’s an even-numbered year. Which means it doesn’t matter if you get the local TV or not — no matter where you may be, thanks to YouTube it’s the season for Alabama state politics — the greatest show on earth.

Here’s Fob’s boy Tim, offering a soft-lit and touching tribute to monolingualism and belligerent ignorance:

Meanwhile, Dale By-God! Peterson is going to kick the ass of the Republican nomination for Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

It’s a dime a dozen for cowboy-themed campaign commercials in Alabama state politics. But this is something special. Listen up: the moment when Dale Peterson, having just finished off a completely out-of-right-field tirade about migrant workers somehow hurting farming in Alabama (?) and a paranoid rant about Facebook bragging and the minions of his political opponents stealing his yard signs in the dead of night, then goes on to shout We’re Republicans! and hefts a rifle up over the fence — well, it may be one of the most wonderful unintentional Happenings that I have ever seen on television.

(Via Roderick Long and Tennyson McCalla)

Pat Robertson Vs. The Past and Human Decency

In which Pat Robertson reaches the bottom of his own personal barrel, and starts digging:

And you know, Christy, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it, they were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon the third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil, they said, we will serve you, if you get us free from the Prince, true story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free, and ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor… the Island of Hispaniola is one island cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is, is, prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty, same Islands, uh, they need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come, …

I know that it’s always easy to blame the victim, and that every mass grave has a silver lining and all, but fuckin’ A, dude, really?

If you’re curious as to when Napoleon III was ruling Haiti, well so am I. But more to point than this sort of dynastic pettifogging is that Pat Robertson believes that the current death and suffering in Haiti is the result of their being cursed, and interprets the second successful anti-imperialist revolution in the history of the Americas, the most successful slave uprising in the history of the world, and the establishment of the world’s first ideologically anti-slavery republic, as a Satanic conspiracy, consecrated in a pact between the Haitian people (collectively?) and the Devil himself.

(For the really curious, the true story that Robertson interprets as being the occasion on which Haitian Revolutionaries somehow sold the entire nation and their posterity to the Devil is probably the Bois Caïman ceremony in August 1791, an African religious ceremony traditionally held to have been led by Boukman Dutty at the beginning of the slave uprisings which became the dominant force in the Haitian Revolution. Of course, in 1791, this had nothing much to do with Napoleon I, let alone Napoleon III. In any case, the prayer traditionally attributed to Boukman actually invokes The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. The notion that the ceremony was a pact with the Devil that promised to turn Haiti over to his domination for 200 years if he would grant worldly success to their rebellion, is a fabrication added by white historians after the fact, as part of their efforts to reinterpret the revolution against race slavery as literally the product of supernatural intervention by the forces of Hell unleashed. In any case, even if that were the deal, it’s supposed to have expired back in 1991.)

For some more lucid commentary on why Haiti faces the permanent state of emergency that it has faced for the past several decades, you might check out this historical overview from the Times of London; the short answer is that Haitian people have been forced, for two centuries now, to labor to pay off iniquitous reparations to their former enslavers and debts contracted, without their permission, by governments that oppressed and killed them. As important as solidarity and relief are in terrible times like these, the only real and lasting solution is not charity, but complete repudiation of these unpayable, nonconsensual, government-inflicted blood debts.

See also:

Conservatism Vs. The Past

Over at PajamasMedia, Mary Grabar tells us that Libertarians Need to Rethink Support for Drug Legalization, thus:

Libertarians are fond of pointing to the wreckage caused by the abuse of alcohol: deterioration of health, traffic deaths, and domestic violence. This is true, but it is an analogy that emerges from an abstraction. Libertarians argue that the only difference between the two is traditional: we have stamped alcohol consumption with a seal of social approval.

But I would argue that tradition should be a reason for its continued legal status and for denying legal status to marijuana.

… But I would argue that it should, not only from my position as a Christian, but from my position as a citizen of a country whose foundational values spring from the Judeo-Christian heritage. The sanction for alcohol use has lasted for millennia. It has become part of our rituals at meals, celebrations, and religious services. That is a large part of why Prohibition failed.

Marijuana, in contrast, has always been counter-cultural in the West. Every toke symbolizes a thumb in the eye of Western values. So it follows that in order to maintain our culture, we need to criminalize this drug.

The prohibition against marijuana is one brick in the foundation of our society.

— Mary Grabar, PajamasMedia (2009-12-22): Libertarians Need to Rethink Support for Drug Legalization

This is an idiotic argument logically. Factually, it’s an exercise in politico-historical fantasy. The prohibition against marijuana in the United States dates back to A.D. 1937; my grandparents were older than marijuana prohibition. There is no such thing as a tradition of criminalizing pot; cannabis was well known throughout the Fertile Crescent, Central Asia, and the Far East for millennia, and it was completely legal everywhere in the world throughout all of human history, right up until a couple of decades into the 20th century.

Of course, the main thing to say here is really that maintaining our [sic] culture is not a good enough reason for criminalizing nonviolent people. If your culture can only be maintained at the point of a gun, then your culture sucks, and the sooner you stop maintaining it on the backs of harmless pot-smokers, the better.

But if you’re a frequent reader here, that much should, really, go without saying. Apply the usual libertarian defense of the liberty to decide how you use your own damned body, and the usual anarchist indictment of legally sanctioning police violence against harmless people.

The reason that I mention the story here[*] is that it’s another fine illustration of the mindset of a certain sort of conservative — for whom tradition means invincible ignorance about what actually happened in the past, for whom conservatism means a felt need to pretend that the peculiar legal conditions and parenting panics of your own childhood years are really civilizational norms stretching back into time out of mind, and for whom politics is the belligerent expression of an urge to use absolutely any means at your disposal, no matter how intrusive, police-statist or violent, to politically march us all back into a past which, fortunately for the people of Antiquity, never existed in the first place.

* Well, the main reason for most of it. The pull-quote about every toke being a thumb in the eye of Western civilization is something I just threw in for laughs.

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 that In 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-codified status-defined homosexuality, in which an older man — presumably the active partner in sex — acquired a younger partner, or amrad. . . . Afary dissects how classical 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 of the 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 that homosexuality 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 as sister approached 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. As late as the last half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, 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 a romantic bisexuality born in the classical period remained prevalent at court and among elite men and women, and a 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 entitled Toward 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 a significant 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 also the first paper in the Shi’i Muslim world to endorse normative heterosexuality, echoing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuality. Afary writes that this 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 for molesting young boys, played upon feelings of contempt for passive homosexuals, suggested that elite men who kept amrad concubines had a vested interested in maintaining the (male) homosocial public spaces where semi-covert pederasty was tolerated, and mocked 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 homosexuality would shape Iranian debates on sexuality for the next century, and it became 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, and revolutionary 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 terms the ethics of male love in 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 ….

— Doug Ireland, Direland (2009-02-27): Iran’s Hidden Homosexual History

Read the whole thing.

(Via Jesse Walker 2009-03-09.)