Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, October 29, 2005  

The H Word

"Where is the poet who has sung of that most lacerating of all human emotions, the cut that never heals -- male humiliation? Oh, the bards, the balladeers have stirred us with epics of the humiliated male's obsession with revenge...but that is letting the poor devil off easy. After all, the very urge, Vengeance is mine, gives him back a portion of his manhood. retaliation being manly stuff. But the feeling itself, male humilation, is unspeakable. No man can bring himself to describe it. The same man who will confess with relish and in lavish ghostwritten detail to every sort of debauchery and atrocity will not utter one peep about the humiliations that, in Orwell's phrase, "make up seventy-five percent of life." For confessing to humiliation means confessing that he has cringed, caved in, surrendered his honor without a fight to another man who has intimidated him -- that he has been unsexed and has plunged into a misery worse than the prospect of imminent death. Eternally, the sheer fear of physical confrontation -- even now -- in the twenty-first century! -- when life's major victories are won not by knights in armor on the field of battle but by sedentary men in central-heating-weight worsted suits inside glass-walled electronic chambers. Nor will a man ever free himself from that sickening moment of capitulation. A word, an image, a smell, a face will bring it flashing back, and he will drown all over again in the shame of lying still for his own unsexing." Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons

In the West, we ignore our humiliations because we can do nothing about them. The major ones, where we might have fought a duel over in another age if we were reckless enough, we can only shrug and walk away from. Fight? Even were I unafraid of being hurt, I'd end up in jail, sued for all I'm worth, lose my job, and have to answer, yes, on every new job application formed where it asks, have you ever been arrested? If yes, what for? Assault and battery? Well, yes, we are looking to hire violent men who can't control their emotions or have a misguided sense of honor.

And the minor humiliations? The "seventy-five percent of life"? Well, Orwell exaggerated. Generally we treat each other courteously or neutrally. The affronts when someone acts as if you are crap they stepped in may only occur once in every fifty encounters.

But in marginal places, frontiers, poverty zones, unstable and divided lands humiliation is given freer reign. Yugoslavia becomes Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and old grudges are remembered. The perfectly decent butcher from whom you've bought your meat for twenty years is now the enemy and gets beaten to death one night after closing up his shop. His sons don't know who did it, but they know it was one of you! And so they pounce one night with clubs when you're coming home from a friend's house.

Walk around your neighborhood some time and look at the Mexicans with the leafblowers. Most of them are mildly pleased when you smile, meet their eye, nod your head, and acknowledge them. But every once in a while one looks down, averts his eye, and then glances quickly back with a barely suppressed look of contempt. The look that says, "I hate you, you rich, gringo bastard. How dare you see me do this menial, shit work like I'm some damned slave?"

You know that the fellow would love to be free to shoot you dead and move in your house with all your stuff, and brag to his amigos how he was man enough to take from this world what he wanted.

So in Indonesia you have Muslims and Christians living together (see post below this one), but the Muslims start killing the Christians for, well, just because they aren't Muslims.

The Christians fight back and pretty soon the government and world leaders notice and say both groups are to blame for the violence and feuding. But both aren't to blame. The ones who started it are, but why punish the evil if you don't have to? After all, the evil have wives and children -- it looks bad if you hurt that tribe and not the other, too.

Now the humiliation isn't about feeling inferior or insulted, it's about having had friends and family viciously murdered. You have to do something about that! You can't just live there and forget it. Maybe the elders come to you and say you must forget it or there'll be no peace here ever. For the sake of the group you agree to not do anything, but then they come again and kill some more. What can you do? You can't keep letting it go. You either have to avenge it , go mad, or move far away where you never see those evil bastards again. People who don't remind you every day of what vicious, depraved, sadistic monsters they are right there under the surface.

Their faces smile at you but their eyes never do as they conduct business with you and your kind. You can see. They can't wait to get back at it because they enjoy it more than anything.

Now that's humilation. Every day. Going to the market where the murderers of your children gossip, sip tea, wag their heads in their animated conversations while they pretend to be decent human beings. There's that secret smile and light in their eyes sometimes when they look at you and it says, 'you know and I know what I'm really like, but there's nothing you can do now, is there?'

Thank God there's a Christ or so many of us would go mad.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:59 AM |