A Story in Three Pieces
I should have suspected that the future would not be anything like it had been promised to us in 1977. During a compulsory sex education course one of our football coaches had the indubitable privilege of referring to our nether regions as, “gentiles.”
No one dared question our coaches’ pronunciation, or comprehension, of the subject matter displayed on the slide projector, lest the whole nescient affair be prolonged, the self-identified sexual scholars forced to ride the pine on the following Friday, and all hopes of victory, dashed. The promise of celebratory coitus, however imaginary, would surely follow.
I had no idea what it meant to be a Jew in 1977. I still do not. Of genitals I knew as much as any teenaged machine-gun whose prowess was directly proportional to his belief in the well-intentioned exaggerations of his equally anxious co-conspirators. Of gentility, I have had my fill to the present day, four decades later.
Gentrification, a sport practiced on either side of the Judeo-Christian divide against those of lower socioeconomic status, works in both directions – those crapping and those crapped upon. The longer one side takes to leave its imprint on the sidewalks and alleyways of their new homeland, the longer the other side feels obligated to take to both erase the imprint of the former and install the imprint of the latter. The quality of the feculence matters little because eventually the competitors will bury each other in it while astonished onlookers, and finally the critics, will move on to greener pastures. Usually atop one of these layered sandwiches of feculence.
Normally one does not mention sex, religion and economics in the same thought-space, unless they are a former practicing Catholic with a habit of buying lunch for struggling seminary students, nee priests, and accepting their promises of salvation in a life beyond a certain, and certainly overpriced, grave. Of salvation I have no interest. Of lunch I am often in need of company. We amuse each other, the sanctimonious and the delusionally divine, and we surprise each other with our scholarship just short of citable reference.
“Dogmatic, my friend, are the properties of automata applied to dogs.”
“Will I hear your confession once I am ordained?”
“Why? I’ve already heard your sordid tales of intrigue. Countless times. You’ve heard me go on and on and then stop. I feel absolved. We’re good.”
“You would be surprised, my brother.”
“I doubt it. My salvation is as certain as the fact that I will be buying you lunch, once again.”
“You make me smile, my friend.”
“And you give my wallet wings.”
And so it is. Sex, religion and economics inextricably joined at the hip over something as mundane as lunch, yet the triplets still refuse to mention their condition in polite company.
The occasional scholar, fresh out of seminary, may express to his surprised, but often unimpressed laiety, that the Crucifixion was about the economics of the Sanhedrin and those of the poorer countryside, in this particular case, Nazareth. But such revelations come on the heels of over a dozen centuries of holding Jewry accountable for the behavior of its own against one of its own, of blaming a single religion for the misdeeds that happen in every religious dogma, every human organization and even in our own families of origin. Those who have want more; those who have less do not see where those who have more merit the largesse. This has been particularly true when those who have less were simply working for the right to eat and have comfortable shelter. Nothing so prepares an individual for the battles of management like working under the whimsical tyranny of a poor manager – for things like food, water and a clean, dry place to sleep at night. And sex. The bell shaped curve being what is, we can comfortably proclaim that most managers are complete morons. But, then again and by the same rationale, so are most workers.
To really appreciate the stupidity of most sexually-charged religio-economic debates, I had to imagine what life might have been like before religion, when all we had were clans fighting for, with and against each other in bloody battles to the death for the right to survive and procreate. Or just screw the daylights out of each other.
In such an ancient time, the need for disparate groups to unify under a shared set of beliefs that linguistically codified both the need and the rationale for coming together could be both chronic and acute. War and defeat, like life and death, could be both swift and final. Without the guarantee of a shared set of beliefs and the linguistic shorthand that can come only from living one’s life under the auspices of an easily identifiable shared set of beliefs, communication becomes mottled; defeat, more likely a result of in-fighting, misunderstandings and internal struggles for power, than any weapon used by an enemy. Superior fire-power never lost a war; inability to recognize the limitations of superior firepower on either side could turn victory into defeat, and defeat into victory. Effective communication is crucial in a snappy event like open warfare.
Then there was who was screwing your mate and mother of your children. If it was you, linguistic shorthand was not only possible, it was preferred. If it wasn’t you, again, there needed to be some linguistic cover provided to both sides of the issue. It took some time, but eventually Mommy’s interlocutors were called, “doctors” and Daddy’s flirtations were labeled, “secretaries.”
Religion evolved naturally from a need for a larger community from which to draw strength and the human need to communicate and connect according to a shared set of beliefs. To the extent that religion became a defense against assault from some external “evil,” to that same extent we can identify any particular religious ethos with the propagation and perpetuation of war, even to the present day. As we proclaimed the existence of evil where it did not live, the belief in the reality of evil strengthened the evil within us; we desperately tried to cast that evil out of ourselves and onto the world of our senses, of our imaginations, to no avail. It turns out that you cannot fix the shit in your head with the shit in your head.
And then we raped their women, which may or may not have been the ultimate objective of the warfare to begin with. We raped those who sewed, in other words, and became that which we proclaimed loudly to despise.
Some would like to lay all war and barbarism at the feet of the Jews and their genitals, especially the ones who look like they never get laid in anything like a normal, missionary fashion. Being the first documented slave class to break with one’s masters came with the added bonus of a master who wanted their victorious documentalists desperately back underfoot — we were so good together and did so well for one another. Raping their women was pretty nice, too. Eventually the former slave had to, and has to, commit to a life where only they can rape their own women and that cannot happen from a foundation based on worldly ignorance. Children have to be raised to pursue knowledge of the world around them, the better to rape their own women and stave off any further attempts by the former master to overtake the former slave and begin the process of raping one another all over again.
Some would like to believe that there is a vast difference between rape and making love, but not in these United States of America, 2012. Judging from contemporary divorce statistics, the thesis that making love is just slow-motion rape is difficult to argue against. What appears to be a case of mutual caring and respect leading to coitus can be repackaged as just a more sophisticated form of rape. Rape first perfected by the female of the species perhaps not long after she was dethroned from her matriarchal power. While men continue to practice the cruder, more animalistic form of domination and control, women tend to prefer the delusion that waiting until human beings forget what happened and what was said accomplishes a “miraculous” transformation. The difference between the two – mindless acts of domination and control to achieve a pathetic physical release versus a mindful act of premeditated abandonment and emotional evisceration – is one based in time. Once I introduce Einstein into this equation, and pull in Quantum Mechanics, time and its alleged reality completely disappear. The time it was when I thought I fell deeply in love is the same time it is when the children are waving, “bah-bye,” from the rear window of the station wagon that I bought for the wife, now the driver, who used to shower with me on the weekends.
So if I may be so bold, this picking of nits that would conflate sex with something higher or more profound than simple rape needs to be set aside for a time. The same time that might be wasted playing with the feelings that don’t really change the facts of the matter or the principles involved. Or the lack of them.
While we are in this, “time-out,” of suspended disbelief, a couple of facts can be seen to noticeably shift and it is to the point where other observations we might have made outside of this bubble of timelessness can begin to make more sense. Since I am proposing that sex and rape are the same, the triplets become rape, economics and religion. Who can help but agree, in this day and age, with any thesis that would place rape and economics on the same basic plane of human experience?
Not all economists are rapists, but it doesn’t strain credulity to suggest that all rapists are, after a fashion, economists. Have you seen the formulae they use to determine (read: justify) a simple cost of living adjustment to be applied to the retirement distributions of elderly and infirmed pensioners? How about simply adding back the inflationary degradation subtracted from the wages these people earned while they were working? That’s a simple percentage either added to or multiplied by whatever the hell it is you would like to pay the people you no longer give a shit about. But not to a fancy-pants rapist who has learned the alchemy of economics. He can integrate, derive and perform internal rate of return calculations across multiple chalkboards so as to make it appear that the pencils you are shoving into your eye sockets are what is causing you to lose the buying power of the money his or her fancy formulae have determined, in ochre and calcite, that his clients should be paying you every month for the rest of your life. A life shortened now by blindness and fits of as yet inexplicable rage.
We rape those who sew. We humans always seem to pick on the weak or disadvantaged as a means of obtaining personal power and economic advantage. Seamstresses in Taiwan may be making 30 dollars a month sewing together our clothing to the 30 dollars an hour we (who still have jobs) might make who buy these clothes to wear. But it is a cinch that the monstrous assholes who moved the jobs from the mills at 30 dollars an hour to Taiwan are making upwards of 30 dollars every second they are on the corporate payroll whether or not they are sitting at their desks or golfing with their neighbors. The poor Taiwanese get to experience a salary increase vastly better than the ones they were experiencing before the clothing mills showed up onshore. The only losers, at first, are the poor schmucks who made all of the automated productivity possible in the first place – the middle classes of the Americas and Europe. But soon the “Fotomat burns down, no film at eleven” nature of capitalism (read: fascism) will drive the entire world to realize that what they aren’t getting paid in wages they are giving to a group of shysters who have disrupted their living environment and have hollowed-out their ability to govern themselves by a reasonable consensus of opinion. Sometimes these capitalist bastards succeed in making whole countries uninhabitable as the Japanese people will soon discover to their chagrin.
“So why do you avoid talking to me about what’s going on here,” she said, the week before she left.
“It’s complicated,” I responded, not wanting to end up talking endlessly into the wee hours about things that can’t be fixed in the middle of a tired, achy night.
“It’s been weeks since you’ve even touched me, Stephen. I feel so alone.”
“I’ve gone years. I don’t want to, but I’ve tried forcing myself too many times. That’s how I ended up just pulling everything into myself and numbing out in the first place.”
“Godammit! You have to talk to someone – anyone – about this! This is not normal!”
I dislike interrogations with an inexplicable passion I can’t always control. They remind me of experiences I’d rather go out of my way not to recall. It’s in the past. It’s done. I’m tired of hearing myself whine about it. It just pisses me off, I end up screaming at the top of my lungs, and then the nightmares and the terrors come back for days afterward.
“Don’t you care about how I feel? Don’t you love your children anymore? Anyone?!”
I remember thinking that this was not going to end well for anyone. I remember feeling that pressure in my gut and in my neck. At the bottoms of my aching feet. I remember needing to get away – to get out – of that bedroom. But she kept blocking me, kept insisting I meet her demands to pass her latest test of my solemn appreciation of every sentiment that dripped out of her mouth like a thick, sticky cough syrup. I was getting angry and very soon I was not going to give a shit one way or the other.
“Please. Let. Me. Go. Now!”
“Fine, asshole! I’ll let you go!” And she pivoted on her right heel like a door swinging open and I walked as fast as I could to get to the street, to get to fresh air, to head for cover. As long as I was inside the wire, I could walk anywhere and think about anything, which usually revolved around Pirsig’s musings on motorcycle maintenance, or the death of his son on a San Francisco street corner. No matter how grand the expression of fatherly love, there is never any guarantee that it will have the transformative power intended.
So let’s step back into the world where raping and making love are considered completely different activities coming from completely different psychological states, one sick and one decidedly healthy. The worldly place where time is real and who really knows what the hell Einstein really meant, anyway. Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared and so two major metropolitan cities in Japan should be turned into ashen ruins. A perfectly understandable place to find the human identity we left behind when we started suspending time and blending causes into effects.
But we can keep the thesis that rapists are economists and thereby keep the insight that our triplets are sex, religion and rape. If you don’t mind indulging my post-relationship cynicism, I see a duality of religion and rape in a thought-space threatening to collapse into the Unity we were taught in catechism classes to believe was real even while they divided religious education into a course for boys and a course for girls. Maybe I’ll feel better about all of this in the morning, but I doubt it.