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Music: Black Swan Lane: A Long Way From Home (2007)
When I started writing this blog entry yesterday, the news of Romney’s “true feelings” about “47% of Americans” had just broke, and one could almost hear audible gasps as journalists scrambled to announce Mother Jones‘ scoop: Romney was taped at a private meeting with wealthy donors declaring there’s no way to win a large segment of U.S. voters because they believe they are entitled to government hand-outs: “who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement.”
Well: yes. Frankly, I’d be surprised if only half of U.S. citizens believed they had a right to shelter, food, and health care. It’s called “life,” and human life is dependent upon these basic necessities. To argue against the “right to life,” in the only sense of the phrase that makes sense, is to argue that some lives aren’t worth living. Of course, folks of Romney’s ilk believe this—which is what he is, in effect, saying to his wealthy donors. Romney seems to lament the fact that he could never convince one of these blood-sucking dependents not to demand food, shelter, and health care. But, um, that would be like trying to convince someone to kill him or herself—to negate their own drives.
Perhaps I am equivocating and amplifying just a tad, however, everyone who claims the anything left of Obama’s left (which would be right, so left of Obama is closer to the center) knows what Romney is saying: the wealthy class should be left alone to make more wealth and it’s not their responsibility to care for the lower classes—except, perhaps, the ones who work for them (and even then, only the minimum to sustain employment and, by extension, their living bodies).
What’s way more astonishing than Romney’s “candid” beliefs is that someone is actually astonished. In part, this “scandal” is an enflamed media event designed to garner ratings, stimulate excitement, get bodies all-atwitter over something that is not news. One wonders, given Romney’s past political views, which were apparently much more “moderate,” if his more or less “extreme” viewpoints on class and those lives not worth living reflect more the mass mediated environment of shock, outrage, amplification, astonishment, and so on. Hence the humor regarding Newsweek‘s “Muslim Rage” cover, to which folks are responding with delightfully fun comments that humanize Muslims as human beings first and foremost. Perhaps we should regard the media reportage of Romney’s candid comments with similar mockery and scorn, if only because such comments are at least partially a consequence of SHOCKING journalism.
Music: Swans: The Seer (2012)
Last night I was at a Swedish synth-pop concert with dear friends at the local gothic club. Goth clubs are dwindling, owing in part to a subcultural moment that has come and gone as its devotees grew up and started families. I like Austin’s Elysium because it’s exactly like the clubs I started attending at 14: the dress code is black and everyone gets the memo (however, I’m sorry, if you’re 40 years old you really should not be wearing anything that is ass-less). I also like going because almost everyone that goes is in my generation; it’s refreshing to hear music I like with people my age in a big, stompy, smoke-filled room of “dark” nostalgia.
There are, of course, younger generations who groove on the goth of old and come and have a good time with a range of fans. Last night, between our gawking group and the musical artists on the stage, was a dance floor packed with folks ranging from 18 to 50 years of age. Three young folks in front of us stood out, I guessed 18-20 years or so because of their exaggerated dancing style and cherubic faces. They were marked somewhat generationally because they had a steampunk getup, and because they were making out with one another: one young woman and two young men. The woman was in a rather elegant, velvet gown; one young man had on a top hat and goggles (and a top coat that had to be unbearably hot); and the third young man was tall with rather long hair, spectacles, and he was pierced with numerous rings that rimmed the outer left ear.
This threesome would dance wildly, then make out, then dance wildly again. The make-out sessions were especially dramatic, and before long a throng of us were unsure whether we should be watching the stage or the threesome in front of us. “Look at all this drama,” I said with a smirk to my friend Macy, who returned with a laugh. “I think that’s just all for show.”
I’m not sure, however. Over the course of the evening a tension over the goggled boy between the long-haired man and the fair woman became obvious. Mr. Goggles was clearly into the woman, tongue kissing her in deep, Hollywood worthy smacks. The long haired fellow was clearly into Mr. Goggles, at times hugging him to himself and in impassioned, lanky gestures licking his neck. Mr. Goggles, however, didn’t seem to be into the longhaired man. Toward the end of the evening, Mr. Goggles and the lady were lying together and making out on a raised platform near the back of the dance floor. The long haired boy spied this, and stared intently—seeming heartbroken. The last time I noticed them, the long haired man was trying to insert himself into the make out session and seemed, more or less, rebuffed.
I report this Teen Steam not simply out of jealousy (gee, why didn’t I get to have two partners as a teen?), but also because I think it represents a newer “trend” among younger generations that I do not quite “get,” but which I should: Polyamory. According to those who claim the label, polyamory is a commitment to a lifestyle that subscribes to view that one can love many people at once. Not to be confused with “swinging” (multiple sex partners), polyamory is touted as a responsible, committed multi-person relationship. Having done some online dating here and there over the past couple of years, I’m noticing an increasing number of folks on dating sites claiming a polyamorous lifestyle.
Intellectually I am intrigued, perhaps even approving, of those who argue for a polyamorous approach to relationships. I’m persuaded by Lauren Berlant’s work on intimacy and public/private being, where she argues the forced plot of “the couple” is a harmful ideology for those individuals who are not down with the mandate of social reproduction or the proper conclusion to one’s love life. It is for this reason I remain troubled by the push for same-sex marriage, even though politically I am all for it: the institution of marriage domesticates the alternative relationships forged by queer people cognizant, for over a century, of their exclusions.
On the other hand, there is the hurt experienced by the long haired man I observed last night, and the ambivalent feelings of Mr. Goggles (the young woman was less expressive and it was difficult to tell what she thought about the triangle). There’s no way to understand what these folks were feeling, of course (who knows, they could have been coked up?), but the drama that unfolded only underscored my feelings about the polyamory movement: at what point is a commitment to multiple lovers (not sex partners, I mean emotional investment here)—at what point is a commitment to multiple lovers a form of irresponsibility? A failure to attend to the needs and desires of a single other? Or, is it possible that the “plot of the couple,” as Berlant calls it, is so deeply rooted in the ideology of the Western Subject that any attempt to refashion the roots is bound to fail, precisely because it is not possible to think—-as subjects—outside of the couple? That is, is polyamory some organic spring of emotional attachment or is it, rather, a reactionary response to the oppression of “couple skate” only?
These questions are perhaps simple-minded; even so, I don’t know the answers. I do know that polyamory is becoming more pronounced as a philosophy and lifestyle among younger generations, and we have long needed to rethink the basis of most theories of communication (which always presume the dyad, even in so called “small group” communication, which inevitably posits an emergent leader, recreating the couple). Perhaps the paradigm of the “social network” has made it increasingly possible to refashion the plot of the couple into something more inclusive and group-oriented. My worry, however, aside from that fact that my psychoanalytic moorings lead me to be suspicious about the long-term viability of multiple lovers is that an unreflective embrace of two or three people to love at once may lead to heart-break.
Jealousy is normal. However, I have also seen how destructive and hurtful jealousy can be.