Sunday, May 09, 2004

Mothers, blushing and the gasp for air!

I tried to get away and escape for a few days—a black out period of sort-- from the news, the pictures, and some of the more difficult inanities I had read; an opportunity to catch up with friends and relatives as well.

I had a chance to converse with different women--some older, practicing and pious, a few coquettish divorcees, as well as the happy/unhappy married ones. Our moms were central to all our discussions as well as men. There were thoughtful moments, punctuated by the occasional loud, jovial chatter, and instants of subtle exchanges, discreet glances and even a few inevitable blushes.

Each night though the recurrent nightmares. A lot of that is going around lately. Mine involve hoods, leashes and this angel. Though not much of a connoisseur of religious icons, there are a couple of interesting juxtapositions of one of the more infamous photos here and here. I find this one in particular stunning. (link via this site) Feminization of a different order, you might say.

I don’t know about you, but I blush a lot. As a kid, it was a constant affair, though as I’ve grown older, it has become much more controlled. Blushes are interesting, don’t you think? There are a few famous ones I’ve read about.

Thrasymachus blushes in the first book of the Republic. Socrates makes him blush. Our wisest Athenian had a knack for that. Even the ambitious Alcibiades, I remember reading somewhere, credits Socrates for having been the only man to have made him blush. It might truly have been Socrates; though I suspect perhaps that the ancients had not forgotten how to blush.

I trust our good Classics Professor can enlighten us as to why! To do so, though, he would first have to know himself far better than he claims to know the ancients—Cleon excepted.

Hanson counsels the Bush administration to “apologize sincerely and forcefully once-- not gratuitously and zillions of times — for the rare transgression.”

But why? I wonder. Here is the real problem as he sees it:

We are confronted with the paradox that our new military's short wars rarely inflict enough damage on the fabric of a country to establish a sense of general defeat — or the humiliation often necessary for a change of heart and acceptance of change.

What am I missing? Is he not proposing one apology only for not having adequately humiliated the (not so) vanquished Iraqis since the efficient military machine worked too fast in the first place?

Under what circumstances would Victor Davis Hanson blush?

Or take this gem from sisu’s corner.

Arrested development
"From a psychological and anthropological point of view, what kind of culture produces human bombs, glorifies mass murderers, and supports humiliation-based revenge?" asks Phyllis Chesler in a FrontPage article. We would suggest it is a culture of arrested development. Writes Chesler:
According to Minnesota-based psychoanalyst and Arabist Dr. Nancy Kobrin, it is a culture in which shame and honor play decisive roles and in which the debasement of women is paramount.
While the search for honor and avoidance of shame are fundamental to being human, as we blogged here recently citing Dr. Peter F. Rowbotham's 1992 essay "The Importance of Being Noticed," being obsessed with honor and shame is associated with the psychological immaturity of adolescence. Chesler continues:
In an utterly fascinating and as-yet unpublished book, which I will be introducing, The Sheik's New Clothes: the Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Suicide Terrorism, Kobrin, and her Israeli co-author, counter-terrorism expert Yoram Schweitzer, describe barbarous family and clan dynamics in which children, both boys and girls, are routinely orally and anally raped by male relatives; infant males are sometimes sadistically over-stimulated by being masturbated; boys between the ages of 7 and 12 are publicly and traumatically circumcised; many girls are clitoridectomized; and women are seen as the source of all shame and dishonor and treated accordingly: very, very badly.
According to Dr. Kobrin, "The little girl lives her life under a communal death threat -- the honor killing." Both male and female infants and children are brought up by mothers [who are debased and traumatized women]. As such, all children are forever psychologically "contaminated" by the humiliated yet all-powerful mother. Arab and Muslim boys must disassociate themselves from her in spectacularly savage ways . . . In Kobrin’s view, the Israeli Jews may actually function as substitutes or scapegoats for an even more primal, hated/loved enemy: Woman.
We keep coming back to the same question: Is that all it really comes down to? An insecure man's fear of his own feelings towards women?

So aside from irony not being one sisu’s strong suit , am I to understand also that the war raging all around me --the political demands, territorial disputes, clashes of interests, conflicts over resources, etc,. all really come down to our loathing for our dominant mothers and our culture of honor and shame?!

What do you think? Does Sissy ever blush?

But I am still left with that vexing question: is this culture the reason most of the humiliating torture practices also involved forced feminization? Was it only a civilizing, selfless gesture to make the Arab Chauvinists learn what it feels like to be a woman? At least this writer (link via Instapundit) might think so:

I think men should know how women feel. If you look out on your own society and conclude it's a terrible thing to feel like a woman, you ought to do something to improve the lot of women.

I must say here that I do not think she is promoting torture to disabuse us of our misogyny; at least I would like to think not. She is toying with a theme that is addressed and developed at some length by Andrew Sullivan because of something an Arab man says in an interview quoted here and here. Sullivan writes:

But it's worth realizing that the nakedness and the sexual humiliation might be far more potent in a sexist, homophobic and patriarchal culture than in less sexually repressed societies. One of the most important things to remember about today's Muslim extremism is that it has taken what is the submission of women under Islam and turned it into a political pathology. Like most variants of fascism, it is deeply troubled by women's equality and by homosexuality. Hence the impact of these images could be psychologically devastating to many Iraqis - and far worse to those in countries where Islamism has made even deeper inroads. This was not simply a p.r. debacle; it was a p.r. catastrophe. And that in itself shows the enormous cultural gulf between where the West is now headed and where Islamism wants to take the Middle East.

So, the pictures of sexual humiliation and torture—that is, forced nudity, piling naked bodies on top of each other, sodomizing the defenseless, raping prisoners, hooding, parading, and leading naked bodies around on a dog leash—these all appear “more potent” to me because of my “sexism, homophobia and patriarchal culture” and of course also because of my “sexual repression?” Is that it?

Is that the official position of the best and the brightest nowadays? Does that work for women as well? Would the women of Okinawa really have an easier time of it had they been Germans? Or Americans?

Is this supposed heightened negative perception amongst us the uncouth really an indication of that “enormous gap” between our cultures that some of you should be proud of? Is torture involving sexual brutalities really more tolerable to you since some of you go skinny dipping and occasionally relax in a Sauna in the nudes? Are you really more accepting of these sadistic practices because some of you might have had a few more one night stands than the rest of us here?

What exactly, I wonder, might make Andrew Sullivan blush?

So, here I am, a man in a repressed, sexist and homophobic culture. And yes, in case you are wondering, I too have an overbearing mother I adore. Is that why I feel so depressed and repulsed these days? Really?

I do live in a closed society yes, but I am also asthmatic and occasionally find myself gasping for air. It sounds a lot like the sort of panting you hear from a dog next to the pavement, right at the moment when the inquisitive pooch insists on exploring and sniffing as the inattentive, impatient owner violently pulls on the leash to change pace and direction. The sound of that dog’s breathing always infuriates me.

I hate the feel of suffocation. I detest the struggle-- that helpless gasping for air. I despise the hood. I hate the leash. Might this have something to do with my empathy for the prisoners? Or the fact that quite possibly torture looms in the horizon for a lot of us? Must it really come down to your brilliant understanding of our cultures almost always determining the meaning of every one of my emotional reactions for you?

While we are at it: I value sight as well. I depend on my eyes. To live is to see. It is mostly what I see that makes me blush. But since some of you think you live in civilized societies, so beyond misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, honor and shame, then by all means, share your secrets: What is it exactly that might make you blush?