May 28, 2003
When you're dead, who cares if you're White or Male?
I wanted to address a concern expressed earlier (by a rather cool guy) about dead white males, but before I do that, I want to express my gratitude to Mike Silverman for two things:
1. For not complaining when I stole his Mad Libs version of the famous Scheer "Canard-O-Matic" and used it as a Republican Schism-O-Matic. I am still learning about basic rules of propriety in blogdom, and the best way to learn is to make up the rules as you violate them. (Maybe violate the rules as you make them up.)
On to the connection of "classical values" with dead white men. And my thanks to Josh for getting me started.
AIDS killed most of my friends -- leaving me alone to ponder the paradox of my survival. I lived merely because I didn't like to get fucked -- which seems unfair. But who asked this hitherto unknown virus about fairness? My friends are now mostly dead white males, which is the destiny of all who were born male and Caucasian. I certainly do not consider any of their ideas to be any less valid now that they are dead any more than I considered them invalid because of race or sex when they were alive.
The ancients did not judge ideas or people by skin color, nor did they devalue ideas because the person who had them died. I think confusion has been created because fundamentalist extremists -- in the glorious tradition of those who gave us the Inquisition, witch hunts, torture, religious wars, and death -- attempt to claim our past in their name. They claim that "traditional values" are their bigoted fundamentalist values, and hence they have a right to force them on the rest of us. They ignore the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and numerous other attempts to liberate Western civilization from such tyranny. They even try to insinuate their bigoted beliefs into our own American revolution. The problem is, they were here all along, and even the founders had to accommodate their intolerance and their slavery lest there be no America to found.
What disturbs me is to see so many people who don't take the time to educate themselves all too willing to throw the Greek-Roman "baby" out with the fundamentalist "bathwater."
That baby was the seed of freedom, art, creativity, and free spirituality, and it proved too much for the forces of control that claim the right to tell man what to do in the name of their tyrannical deity. So, they gave the baby a vicious, gratuitous bath. A very dirty bath it was: bloody, murderous, barbaric, deliberately ignorant. Over the centuries people who yearn for freedom have tried to throw out the bathwater and we have seen periods like the Renaissance -- only to see the baby grabbed anew and then thrown once again into the dark and terrible waters of Puritanism, Calvinism, and the Inquisition. They've scalded, beaten, burned and drowned the baby, and cut off pieces of its genitalia. They have smashed, looted and burned, destroying beauty every step of the way.
Yet in spite of all this, the baby (which I call Classical Values), still lives. It would be tragic if, in a reaction against the horrible bloody bathwater, the baby is thrown out along with it. If we toss out Greco-Roman values simply because of the excesses of fundamentalist Judeo-Christianity, then I fear that a wave of malignant nihilism could eventually destroy the good aspects of our culture, much as Rome was trashed and sacked by Visigoths and Vandals in the Fifth Century (and then again by Protestant fundamentalists in 1527.)
Extremist utopian thinking (which characterizes much of the fundamentalist right as well as the Marxist left) springs in my opinion from the dark, intolerant side of Judeo-Christianity which is steeped in authoritarianism and believes in moral compulsion by force. While fundamentalists claim to be acting for God, and Marxists claim to be acting for man (or "science") the underlying motive -- perfecting man by force -- is the same. Whether sexual morality at gunpoint (fundamentalism) or economic morality at gunpoint (Marxism), the logical fallacy is similar, and, I believe, is grounded in misinterpretation of religious texts.
I for one do not believe that Judaism (a highly civilized and tolerant religion) is responsible for the tyranny that uses its name in that hyphenated word which has become code language for fundamentalism. Nor is Christianity (especially its original version) responsible per se. Nor are dead white males as a group. It is wrong to blame individuals for the acts of others merely because they are done in their name. But some individuals really are the problem. Some of them are alive.
And some of them, I really wish they would join this guy, and after that, just stay dead!
posted by Eric on 05.28.03 at 04:20 PM
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