Culture Quiz 2003. In your unconsidered opinion, which gender:
1. is “anon”?
2. is “Lao Tsu”?
3. is most likely to declare war in 2003?
4. runs 97% of corporate business in the world?
5. spends the most time and money and technology on pornography?
6. decides what to teach our children in schools?
7. looks most like god?
8. is most likely to be pope, imam, ayatollah, chief rabbi, disciple, archbishop or priest? (see questions 7& 9)
9. is most likely to kill, maim, inspire genocide or interfere with little boys and girls?
10. is just – well – you know – somehow – just – well, gee – superior somehow? Bless it.
11. What is the gender equivalent of “misogyny”?
12. Why, when (overwhelmingly predominant) male violence is reported on the media, is the collective noun “men” never used in place of “black/white youths” or “Afghans” or “football hooligans” or “people”?
13. Finally: what ur-category do all the above categories have in common, which dictates their structures and, (far more sinister) carves the habitual neuro-trackways of our born-to-be infinitely variable minds?
My answer to the last question is patriarchy. And what might this patriarchy be? It seems to be an irrational yet all-pervasive assertion of ownership of women, children and the natural world by the tribe of men. Its beginning, middle and end was, is and always shall be forms of Power Over. And I would like to suggest that it is thanks to our arts and our cultures, as well as our religions and families, that this primitive morbidity still dominates every corner of our brains. I’m repeating the dear, Outdated Feminist Mantra that so-called multi-culture is just a set of variations on a mono-culture, and that, like long-term prisoners, we have lost the art or will to see any other world. We tell stories the patriarchal way. We write in this way. We live in this way, create in this way and destroy in this way: beginning, middle, end. End of story. We are a perpetual story in search of its ending. But, I suggest, this Aristotelian, Biblical and Hollywood dogma, a male myth of despair and destruction is just that – a myth. Yet we seem hypnotised by this one mean and bloody version of “reality”.
On February 15th we will be marching, those of us with pacifist, humanist and/or left of centre credentials and conscience, clear what it is we are opposing. But are we clear what it is we are supporting? I suspect we might, if pressed to it, support the ghastly Blairite aphorism: tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism; because although we do want the most recent empires, which happen to be white, to take some responsibility for exploiting the rest of the world rather than just bombing the bejesus out of it, it seems to me we don’t want company secretaries or installation artists leaping out of our Towers of Babel following impact from a low-budget charter flight, or to be blown up on our way to the Tate Modern (or, for that matter, on our Peace March) either. So what do we want our lives to be?- peaceful, to enjoy much of the same exploitation expressed by our wars, or peaceful, to find a way to live differently? If it’s the first, I cannot, for the first time in my life, support a peace march with my whole heart.
I no longer feel at home with ‘my’ culture and any other culture looks a good deal worse for my gender. I fear that multi-culturalism, at its heart, is not about tolerance or diversity – which only the insanely paranoid, or Bush and Saddam, and most of those we allow to lead us, can and do quarrel with. The world’s “diverse” cultures look to me like several tips of the same monstrous iceberg which will claw lethal holes in our blue ship-planet until she sinks into the cosmos.
My blind faith in the beneficence of a liberal approach to culture was rattled about the same time as my one-eyed faith in feminism, when a prominent feminist of the 1970’s thought up a right-on defence of the labia and clitoris being razored from girls by their mothers and grannies and the stitching up of their vaginas, that they may be raped only by their owner-husbands. Apparently, she saw this as an expression of cultural freedom. She may have had second thoughts since then, I don’t know, I don’t listen to her, but horrifically, I now think she was right. Scratch the surface of culture and you find a monstrous butcher of bodies and souls. Culture is about the freedom of men to own and abuse, dressed up gaudy like your panto dame or red-frocked priest. Culture has bred Art and Religion, so that white, black, brown, yellow or green, all three are weapons of mass deception, lethal as exocets. Don’t let’s go all dewy-eyed about them. They may have been cute when they were babies, but they are co-opted into the firm now and they are boardroom killers to a man.
Western Art and Culture, (the glorious Renaissance Flowering and the Byronic Romantic De-Flowering for example) are traps; beautiful (sometimes) seductive(always) drugs. Culture serves Patriarchy – because any culture which does not is suppressed or subverted, as Christ’s message is by Rome and Mehmet’s by Kabul, either by censorship and oppression or, more normally and terribly, by pre-censoring our brains through nurture and education. Culture fucks with our minds while Religion, Education and Art, her red-handed handmaids, sit on us.
[Question 14: What would be the most popular show on stage?
Answer: A public execution; ideally, the public execution of a woman: sex and violence, misogyny and revenge all in one short act, then off to the bar, boys and girls. Irresistible Box Office. Such a drama goes down a bomb in the multi-billion, on your PC and mobile phone porn industry, and the Afghan arenas, and so does a symbolic form of it on Wall Street and in The City – never mind watered-down fictional versions performing in the West End and on Broadway] .
The Dark Ages are still with us. God speed the destruction, I suppose, since gods, made in the image of powermen, love destruction and hate the earth. But in the unlikely event of a second chance (something I’d support more enthusiatically than a Second Coming) let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Should any of the survivors of Armageddon, unaccountably, be women, why not have another look at the old boys’ harem concept? What? you cry, the archetype of all patriarchal archetypes? Ah, yes – and what sweet poetic justice might lurk therein.
Once upon a time, as I walked on the Edenic Isle of Colonsay and paused to admire the magnificently well-hung Highland bull, surrounded by his well-served ladies, it suddenly came unto me in a vision that it could all have another meaning. Maybe, in a parallel universe, these cows run the seraglio, interview the bulls at adolescence, do a flexible deal with the gay ones and banish the violent, stupid and/or power-hungry heteros to a men-only gulag, keeping one committee-approved male for every twenty females, to chat with about the artful complexities of kinder and kulture, or to breed from when they feel in the mood.
We might give this a try in the “human” world, thereby creating our best chance of finding out what culture truly might become, grown from entirely different roots. It might turn out to be as bad, to have no room for diversity either. It might turn out (and this would amuse my ghost greatly, since it would disprove the division by gender on which patriarchal rests its gruesome foundations) that the “different” natures of men and women are culturally formed, and that beneath this we are much the same, give a swirl of hormone here or there. Powerwoman, released from bondage, might then behave as badly as Powerman.
But anything for a change right now. And that’s how far back the change needs to go. It seems there’s no stopping the BushJehovahbinLadenAllah Juggernaut in its quest for Power Everlasting. Religion, when it invented immortality, became a man-made suicide machine perforce; and our arts and cultures reflect its lust for death.
The rest is silence. And very peaceful that will be too. I’ve always wanted a moratorium on productions of Shakespeare’s incomparable plays. It’s an ill-wind…