Affirmative Action and Affirmative Information
The Diverse Strategies Required for Different Human Rights Problems
This morning I came upon a light skinned Arabian man with a tight little hairnet over his head, but what made me kind of stare at him was the fact that the net extended over his forehead and had a little knot over that spot between the eye brows, in other words right where one might expect Roman Catholics to daub some ashes on Ash Wednesday, or Hindus and Buddhist some red pigment to mark the place of the 'third eye', or what we westerners call the The Pineal Gland--here's a depiction of it (from another website):
The net reminded me a little of a spider's web, with the spider where the third eye, or the sixth chakra was supposed to be--quite a peculiar thing. Even though I was probably being somewhat intrusive, the man was very friendly to me and said "hello, how are you today?" And I responded in kind--but then asked him directly what that little hairnet was all about. He explained that he belonged to an ancient Egyptian religion that believed in vampirism and that according to their faith such a net would protect him from such evil spirits. I said--"oh, you mean like your parents and grandparents also belonged to that religion?"--and he said "oh yes--it is a very ancient religion."
I asked what it was called--and he gave me the name of the religion, but I can no longer remember it.
At first I thought may be it had to do with Yazidism--sometimes mistakenly called devil worship--but that is Mesopotamian, not Egyptian. So I will have to wait till I see him again to figure this out.
This has nothing directly to do with my topic of today--I just brought it up because it was what caught my attention first thing in the morning when I saw the guy coming out of the grocery store across the street from where I live. He may come back next week or so and maybe I will run into again.
Indirectly though--this ancient Egyptian religion so far unknown to me intrigues me--how could I have missed it after all these years of reading and study? Unless of course he was pulling my leg and he is just an ordinary nut interested in vampires--like you can see all over the place here in excentric San Francisco and on the net--most of it is just some kind of fashion statement or a desire to attract attention--but I did not get that impression from this man--he was in all other respects normally dressed and wore no make up. The way he communicated too was direct, friendly and to the point. Nor was he the least bit defensive in response to my inquisitiveness. In big cities that in itself is already unusual. He must have sensed my inquiry was based on genuine interest--which it was, for when I come across something new and unusual, something I was not aware of before, I get curious and feel the topic deserves affirmative attention--i.e. I want to make some effort to find out about it and maybe even write about it--which I will do as soon as I know more.
However, the number of adherents of this religion can't be very great--I may have come across someone with a similar hair net once or twice at most--and it might have been the same guy. But on the other hand, when you come across a relatively large group of people--like for instance the Falun Gong, or Falun Da Fa as they are alternatively called, then affirmative information is something I definitely am out to get.
And of course I did--with respect to the Falun Gung--several years ago. I googled around, bought several books and went to a few meetings to get an idea of what they are all about. I even met a Chinese gentleman born in the Dutch East Indies, about my own age and who spoke fluent Dutch but had studied in Communist China and Russia after the transfer of souvereignty. His family had sent him there for his studies, but hedged their bets by sending a second son to study in Holland, and yet another in America. When I met them they had all become members of the Falun Gung, held weekly meetings in their house in the Sunset district of San Francisco--a long bus ride from where I live myself--and conducted meditation exercises in Civic Center Plaza--which is only three or four blocks from my place. Their group is not very large--maybe half a dozen to a dozen people at most. They also do their thing in Washington Park in North Beach sometimes, and even at Yerba Buena Center in downtown. But that information may no longer be current for I have not maintained contact with them. After reading their books I found that there was more ideology and ancient Chinese cultural concepts in it than I was prepared to delve into. Besides they seemed to have deep seated prejudices against gay people and especially people with AIDS--something found in many religions.
That's because religion tends to be inherently conservative, behoudend--even though they usually are founded by some radical departure from some previous faith or religion, go through constant evolutionary,(but generally unacknowledged) changes in ideas and doctrines while pretending to be always the same from the very beginning of its founding--and even before their founding in some mystical or hidden manner the only true religion of all time. As you can see--all religions are necessarily full of internal contradictions and rely on their efficacy on a kind of myopia which enables the faith to withstand too much contrary evidence.
The problem is that we are now at a stage of human evolution where changes in society are not only very fast paced and accelerating, but where our species is fast becoming a single global community, a world village, and our single village awareness is beginning to extend into the fastness of space and to the furthest reaches of an ever expanding universe which we are just beginning to explore with brave new scientific tools and far out technologies. Religion simply has had a hard time keeping pace, let alone catching up.
The faithful seem to be running out of breath, out of spirit. I may not always sound like it, but I do truly feel for them, the faithful, and hope I can be helpful to them in overcoming what I have called this general 'adjustment lag' that seems to bedevil them. Nor do I exclude myself from such adjustment lag--absolutely not, I was one of its prime victims--but because of that I am more aware of what it is, what it entails, what it is caused by and what we need to do to deal with its worst symptoms.
Which leads me again to my main point--the need for some affirmative information on such topics.
However right now I am actually more intrigued by the Baha'i religion (cf: The Baha'i World)--which places a great deal of emphasis on unity, posing the question in the above website: "Is unity a distant ideal to be achieved only after the other great problems of our time have been resolved? Bahá’u’lláh [the founder of Baha'i] says the opposite is the case. The disease of our time is disunity. Only after humanity has overcome it will our social, economic, political, and other problems find solution.
Last week I saw an interview with someone from the L.A. Baha'i Center. As I looked for the name of this individual, I could not remember it or find it on the net--but instead ran into someone I am quite familiar with because he has appeared on numerous panels and interviews on C-Span, PBS etc. on various topics regarding the Middle East and Middle Eastern History--he is Juan Cole from the University of Michigan and here is his resume: Juan R.I. Cole Resume and his picture:
Since I spent some pleasant years in Ann Arbor myself, and I always have had great respect for Juan Cole's views and judgements on current affairs, I am most intrigued that he is actually connected to the Baha'i faith! This group has a huge center in San Francisco, not far from my own place.
Juan Cole has written a lot and to give you an idea of his writings on Baha'ism, check the following website: Juan Cole-Fundamentalism in the Contemporary U.S. Baha'i Community*
I have tried to get Brahm interested in making a visit there, since, as an Iranian he too has some interest in this religion, which was founded (and badly persecuted) in Iran as well as many other Moslem countries.
Unfortunately, like many other religions--Baha'i itself too is prejudiced: against homosexuality--and again--this just confirms in me the need for affirmative information--so I really want to zero in on current affairs in America itself. I am talking of course about human rights as pertaining to different minorities here that still experience discrimination to some extent or another. Baha'i is not a discriminated minority in the U.S.
It is of course not so much religions in this country, but primarily Blacks, Women and Gays that are still experiencing significant discrimination in our society.
Gays in partiular continue to experience institutionalized discrimination not yet fully addressed by the courts and legislatures, but in fact still very much imposed by these bodies--and unconstitutionally so.
Remember that our American Constitution was a product of the Enlightenment--and in that sense way ahead of its time, for not too many people in the world were than, or are now truly enlightened, not even in the strictly intellectual sense of the word, let alone in the spiritual sense.
However, discrimination is of a different kind for Gays than for Women and Blacks. Women and Blacks need affirmative action more than affirmative information--for most American by now are well informed about the status of Blacks and Women and most people want to do something about it--although the historical record often does not reflect the accomplishments of Blacks and women nearly as well as those of men and for that reason affirmative information would also be required, but to a far lesser extent.
With Gays, the picture is reversed: Gays don't need nearly as much affirmative action, but a whole lot of affirmative information. When it comes to homosexuality, America and the world are information deprived, because of age old forms of denial, prejudice and repression against gay people.
There are indeed--and there have been throughout history, many, many Gays in public life, academia, politics, the courts, the church, the armed forces, science, business and technology, the professions, you name it--we've been there and we've done that--and we are still there, and we are still doing all of that and often mo' so and mo' better than our total numbers as a percentage of the general population might suggest.
However, can you feel it coming?--we have had to do all of that for much of history in the closet--we have had to pretend we were straight--and while many of us could pass, a significant number of us can't--for the latter group, the group of 'obvious' gays, scoiety reserves a limited number of stereotypical professions--hairdresser comes to mind, or dress designer, interior decorator, what else? Actor or comedian, and to some extent even priest or minister, poet, language professionals like teacher, writer or editor, musician, and other similar kind of artsy fartsy kind of activities--the kind no self respecting jock would undertake. You know what I mean. No one that would adjust himself in public, like Christine on testosterone on that sitcome show earlier this week. No way! If you are an obvious gay most occupations and professions would not be suitable for you, for people would make fun of you, mock you, diss you--and generally find you ridiculous.
Well, if they are going to laugh at me anyway, so the obvious gay would say to herself, well then I might as well poke fun at myself as well and charge them for making them laugh--while I go laughing all the way to the bank, like Liberace, for instance, and so many other gay comedians-- or I can write gay comedies--like that cage of fools, la cage au folles, die kooi der gekken. As long as we go along with the stereotype, Blacks, Women and Gays have it made and people love them.
But it takes an armored ego to stand up when the eggs and rotten fruit are thrown at you. Jeanne d'Arc was burned as a witch for dressing and behaving like a soldier, i.e. like a man--I mention her because just last night there was a City College/BBC co-production of a play on her I caught on cable. Now she had armor!
Little kids, teenagers, young people rarely have such armor--or don't develop it till it is too late and their ego's are warped into the stereotype so acceptable and beloved by 'tolerant' straight society.
Everything I have said actually applies to straight people as well--straights have to live up to their own stereotype--but are less likely to be ridiculed for it, even though even in their case it also tends to warp their sense of themselves. Those of you who are straight--look in the mirror, be honest and ask yourself if what I am saying is not true, for you as well as for me, for everyone. But gays are made to pay a much higher price.
Gays in the armed forces have been pushed into an institutionalized closet called Don't Ask Don't Tell--or DADT, for short. Clearly for Gay people, there is much less need for affirmative action than for affirmative information--which is exactly the reason I am writing so much on the subject. Not to get my rocks off, or because I am seething with anger, or because I am unhinged, unbalanced or can't stop thinking about sex, as some people might think or suggest. Poppycock, potted toe! Pas du tout. Ganz nicht, helemaal niet!!!
Actually I enjoy writing, no matter what I write on. I am not foaming at the mouth right now. I enjoy this because I love language and like to write--and because it keeps me pleasantly busy and because I like to make myself useful, by using whatever meager talents I may have to communicate some affirmative information to the world by way of the internet. Who reads me, or not--that's no concern of mine at all.
I do my best--you do yours. Between the two of us, we'll get somewhere, somehow, someway, sometime.
The point is that Straights and even Gays themselves are generally very poorly informed about Gay people in history, society, religion, science, art and any other major area of endevor. Kids need role models to figure out who they are, how they're supposed to behave, what they're supposed to do in life. Straight kids have a lot easier time finding appropriate role models than gay kids. My only role model, growing up, of gay people was some vague references in the Greek of Homer, and some (much less vague) in the Latin poetry of Catullus--still one of my all time favorite poets--guess why I studied the classics so eagerly! But let me provide you with a frankly graphic example of what we used to love to read in gymnasium as kids:
I’ll fuck you up the ass, and you can blow me,
you cocksucker Aurelius and you faggot Furius,
for suggesting that my little verses
are effeminate and not pure enough.
A good poet should be virtuous,
but his verses don’t need to be.
Who cares if verses that have spice and wit
are soft and not very pure?
They can also get you going.
I’m not talking to boys here, but to two hairy men
who can’t even move their creaky old loins.
Are you two putting me down
just because you’ve read about my thousands of kisses?
Fuck you both. You can blow me.
O most distinguished of the bathhouse thieves,
father Vibennius, and o buttfucking son,
(for the light-fingered father is quite foul,
and the son is voracious with his asshole),
why don’t you go on a trip to someplace miserable,
since everyone knows about the robberies of the father.
And as for you, son, can’t you manage
to sell your hairy ass to anyone for even a penny?
Of course Catullus has many poems of quite a different nature as well--so here's the whole list for you to explore at your own risk and pleasure--check out one of my own favorites, number 31, Sirmio--although I have seen better translations.
Here's the full list of first lines:
Well that's enough Catullus--maybe even too much--I may edit these long lists out eventually--mais soit.
Later on, I came across a lot interesting more stuff in the French literature of Andre Gide, Jean Genet, Henri de Montherlant, Roger Peyrefitte. Guess why I bought so many books from the Alliance Francaise which they kept throwing out because they were considered redundant. I have read more French literature than all other literature combined. But I didn't only read literature that had a gay theme--of course not. I read all the books of Alberto Moravia in Italian as well--and there was hardly any gay theme there. But they did explore all kinds of relationships in great psychological detail. And another with no gay theme: Kaputt from the Austrian-Italian Curzio Malaparte, one of the saddest as well as most beautiful books ever written, rivalling even Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge--and perhaps the strangest fiction of all, Albert Cohen's Mangeclous (meaning Naileater or Spijkereter) and Belle du Seigneur.
Let me provide you with some quick references here--in case you want to check out any of these people or their works--all highly recommended reading, by the way:
Only the first four were gay, the last four were probably not--but they were all exceptional writers.
Just as straight folks might find a straight erotic theme or sensibility catalytic in stimulating their interest in reading what is not always the most accessible kind of literature, I mean they're not always Winnie the Pooh type stories--the gay theme, when it was there, or just the possibility of being there did wet my appetite for reading good and even great literature--I never was in terested in cheap porno--hell, I can write that myself, if I really wanted to--it requires no talent. But really classy stuff with a gay theme--now that's much better.
The only notable author with plenty of gay references that I have failed to really appreciate so far is Marcel Proust--not for lack of trying, but he is just a bit too boring and too precious for me, a bit too much, dare I say so, too stereotypical of what gay literature is supposed to be like, limp wristed, faded walpapers, languishing flowers, overheated salons and all.
Genet is much more muscular and his controversial but highly poetic prose much more appealing, even though his language is tender and fabulously beautiful as well. In English literature, as I continue my affirmative information, there are of course the incomparable Sonnets of Mr. Shakespeare--and no, I refuse to call him Ms. Shakespeare, although some might. Oh, all right a little bit of camp won't hurt us will it?
Ms. Florence of Arabia herself, in the guise of Mr. Peter O'Toole said in a recent interview with Charlie Rose (still sporting that roguish black eye after an encounter with an insolent sidewalk curb--which Charlie lost) that he considered the St. James Version of the Bible and Shakespeare's Sonnets to be 'the greatest literature of all time.' And you know what? She's got a point.
Mille pardon Moliere, entschuldige Goethe, neem me niet kwalijk Vondel--the Sonnets--much more than the plays of the Spearshaking bard--are indeed unforgettably beautiful--not because they are for the most part addressed to a young boy Shakespeare was desperately in love with, but because they say so much, and at so many levels, and with such rarity of form and expression--that in some other context one would have to acknowledge Shakespeare as divinely inspired.
But today we scoff at that kind of accolade--except when it is applied to certain canonized ancient scribblings. And of course no one can agree on which are so to be hallowed in todays global community.
Few people ever did agree on what writings were divinely inspired or 'sacred' and which are not. I have occasionally made the case that we ought to call the Wikipedia the Holy Wikipedia--but of course I was being less than straight-faced about that.
But then there is that St. James version of the Bible, authorized by the first King and Queen of Great Britain--combining in one person James VI, King of Scotland and James I and Queen of England--or perhaos the ither way around--I don't know what country his closet might have been in. Just kidding, he was only one person and most gay indeed--but whoever and whatever he was in those terms, that Queenly King James I and/or the VI (people could not agree on the number behind his name either, depending on what country his throne was in) did a remarkable thing in authorizing that particular version of the Bible, for it too contains language is of rare beauty.
In Dutch I have always had a weak spot for the similarly stately language of the old Statenvertaling. To hear it recited from the pulpits was a marvelous experience. Its sonorous cadences still ring in my ears.
Unfortunately in recent times it is not the beauty of the translation but either its straightforward literal accuracy or the popular accessibility of the language which determines what is used from the pulpits.
Imagine translating the sonnets in that way so everyone in the supermarket can have more access to it.
What happens when you flatten and straighten language out in that manner is that you loose a sense of depth and nuance, of double entendres that provide the richesse of the spirit--in return for some simple readers' digest like blue print to happiness.
It may be what some people need, but it should not be imposed on all. Ieder zijn meug as the farmer said: Different strokes for different folks.
When there is such vast ignorance about what it means to be gay, or straight, or man, or woman, white or black--and when the very concepts themselves are in such a state of flux, when there is such an astounishing lack of information that even an educated man like the Pope comes out and says something inanely stupid like: "Relativism is the greatest danger of our times" then what is most needed is not Affirmative action, but Affirmative Information, Affirmative Attention and Affirmative Examination.
The psychological toll of being forced to hide in the closet, to have society and other people, even those closest to you-- ignore you and even (or rather especially) for you to ignore yourself, not to know your true and God-given nature, your deepest feelings, your essential emotional, physical and sexual needs for intimacy with a partner of your choice--unhindered and unimposed by others, by society, the church, or wjhatever other authority--by expectations of anyone other than the impulses of your own heart and the Divine Reality which speaks through your own heart, however muffled or disguised--that is far too great aburden to bear--not just for Gay people themselves, but obviously also for their family, their parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, children, nieces, nephews, even their neighbours, co-workers, employees or employers--dishonesty and hypocrisy imposes a burden on everyone.
Dishonesty makes makes real relationship impossible. And relationship is what some call 'soul'.
If you don't think so, imagine you are married to someone who lies to you every day over the life of the relationship--or if not to you, to your children, your parents, your neighbors, and so on--need I go on?
Use your mind, check your feelings, touch wht is real. To impose lies either on yourself or on others, or to condone having others impose that on you or those close to you ought to give you real pause. It is not a superficial, insignificant or isolated problem. It eats away at everything. Especially when religion and the church are involved in the lying and the hypocrisy. And talking about the threat of relativism--just think: Roman Catholic Church and paedophilia--what did that do for the faithful in the pews? Here's some affirmative information on how Herr Ratzinger der Papst had a big fat hand in the protection of criminals:
Imagine a psychiatrist expecting you to lie about your deepest feelings--or to reject you when you reveal them in reliance on a trust-based relationship. What do you think that does to the relationship, to the soul, to the psyche, de ziel?
Imagine a supposed 'friend' betraying your confidence and putting you down or making fun of you behind your back!
How could you ever trust anyone again? Do me a favor and don't take my word for it--really think these things over for yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself some of these thorny questions I have posed, and make sure you can look yourself straight in the eye when you answer them.
Are you really sure of your answers? Or are you just taking the easy way out? Because maybe you are not so heavily invested in this particular issue--maybe it does not touch you directly? It is not your problem-- or maybe it does, and it is, but you think there is just no way you can get out of the bind you are in--extricate yourself from the situation you find yourself caught up in? Like that muizeken in the glue trap? Your friends, your neighbors, your job, they all hold you captive--how can you deal with it?
Well how about....with honestly? Truthfully--and let the chips fall where they may, for the truth shall set you free. Follow the dictates of your heart, enact your love. Leave your worries, your fears and your phobias far behind. Take it one step at the time but go in the right direction, toward the light. That's right.
The total cumulative negative effect over time and over the generations not to do so is simply incalculable --the psychological burden is so heavy that Gay Suicide among teenagers is far higher than among straight teens. Parents of kids who kill themselves are affected, their classmates are affected, their siblings are afffected--the hospitals where they might have become doctors or nurses. The schools where they might have taught, the research labs where they might have contributed their talents, shall I go on?--so much and so many would be affected when teenagers kill themselves under the pressure of prejudice, ridicule and self abasement--only because they are slightly different from the other kids in school, and they find themselves tied up in a situation they feel they cannot get out other than by killing themselves.
If you think I am exaggerating--just google on the words: gay teen killed--the Google statistic say: Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 740,000 for gay teens killed. And thats just one search engine.
But the effects are rarely talked about, for fear of making things even worse--worse than...what????
Question yourself: What is worse than a physical wound?
Answer: a physical wound that is ignored and left to fester without medical attention.
Now ask yourself: What is worse than an emotional wound? Look in the mirror when you answer this.
OK, it is getting late and I am getting tired--so I am going back home. Have a good evening, and I will probably continue this tomorrow, or not, depending on the flow of the spirit, but for now, I will just let it go and publish it. And please, try to read what I write in the proper spirit--in the constructive spirit of hope and optimism that with some affirmative attention, some affirmative information, some affirmative examination, and yes also with some affirmative action, we can free ourselves from the oppression of our own minds and deeds and the minds and deeds of others in society--and do the same for our brothers and sisters, our children and our parents, our collegues and our neigbours--let's do it for every last one of us.
Right now, all is not well with American society--so try not to pretend that it is. We are all affected by human rights violations, not just those of us who can't escape the worst blows. Buena sera, muizekens.