Posted on: Tue, 06/09/2009 - 12:43 By: Tom Swiss

I've been re-reading Kerry Thornley's wonderful tract Zenarchy. It's about the only work on politics I've ever found that truly makes sense. Here's a great excerpt on the politics of sexuality, highly relevant to the "culture war" and to the far right's attempt to use gay marriage as a wedge issue to distract us from how the military-industrial complex and the investment class have been screwing us over for decades; and also to the sexy counter-game represented by things like the Burner community and the Pagan movement:

By itself, intellectual liberation that does not come to terms with human sexuality can be worse than useless. And regaining our original lusty sexual innocence requires, beyond reviving our curiosity, an entirely different approach than liberating reason. For now we are called upon to deal with that portion of the human mind called the human body, regarded in speech as a separate entity from the body. They are interconnected. That explains why erotic matters are usually imponderable even to poets. So much is sexuality part of us, closer than breathing, that trying to understand it is akin to the eye endeavoring to see itself - in a beautiful metaphor used in another context by Alan Watts - or like the hand trying to grab itself.

Possibly, sexuality is the mother of religion. Primitive mystics may have been ascribing symbols to aspects of what we call lust, both genital and the more pervasive non-genital kind of which Norman O. Brown writes so eloquently. Certainly when religion becomes organized and established it begins to regard sex jealously as a dangerous competitor, perhaps in an effort to hide its own not-so-miraculous-and-immaculate origins.

Politicians intuitively grasp the usefulness of sexuality as a sure way to divide people and distract them from the business of becoming free in other ways. Whether they choose to be for or against sexual repression, they can create such an uproar that political and economic crimes and failures will fade into the background. Jay Gould, the monopoly capitalist, once boasted that he could cure unemployment by hiring one half of the jobless to kill the other half. As long as they can keep their subjects quarreling with one another about personal affairs, they need not fear a united effort to oust them. Since organized religion is politically powerful, it usually takes the side of repression. As Aldous Huxley showed in Brave New World, they could just as easily reduce us to submission by taking the opposite approach. In contemporary culture, factions of the ruling class sometimes join forces with organized crime to create turmoil by supporting sexual freedom. Efforts like that are not sexual liberation movements; they depend as much on guilt and blackmail and puritanical legislation as drug smuggling depends on narcotics laws - without which there would not be much profit in the activity.

Once I was driving through Atlanta with my Hindu friend, Suresh, an exchange student from India. Upon noting that the largest adult book center in town was located right next door to the Baptist book store, also the largest of its kind, he commented, "Why not? They keep each other in business!"

Yet, granted that sex is a powerful tool for distraction, it can and does also distract from what is trivial and unworthy of incessant preoccupation, as was characterized in the Sixties by the slogan: "Make love - not war!" In the chapter about the counter-game called "Invitation to the Dance" Alan Watts insists, correctly I think, that the counter-game must possess an essentially erotic aspect. Between a counter-game and a melodrama there is a vast difference. A melodrama splits the cast up into "good guys" and "bad guys". A counter-game seeks to reconcile opposites, side stepping dichotomous traps such as Eros against Thanatos by a kind of judo.

Allowing sexuality to exist as an end in itself, to such extremes as abandoning even the quest for orgasm - abandoning, not rejecting; (the difference between allowing and demanding) - we permit sexuality to regain its spontaneously seductive nature. Both suppression and exploitation of sex can serve authoritarian purposes. Only wu-wei (letting be) can make way for the side effects of sexual enjoyment - such as a healthy, free erotic elan - to serve the cause of liberty. And this kind of attitude cannot help but advance freedom, any more than the sky can help being high.

Simply because the Establishment sometimes exploits human sexuality, we cannot allow its members to get away with seeming like the only sexy people in town. This mistake has been made in recent decades by almost all Marxist-Leninist organizations; the consequences have cost them dearly. For as the communist anarchist Alexander Berkman tried to warn, a social revolution is much more than a political revolution. Comparing the social revolution to a fragile flower, he says it must be cultivated with gentle care. More than that, it must in the long run be far more pervasive.

Had the Great Human Be-In and Tribal Gatherings been promoted in strictly intellectual terms with button words like "socialism" or "individualism," opposition to them would have been fierce and immediate. Presenting them without definition invited attendance, and won converts from every philosophical school.

Perhaps compassion is called com-passion because, intuitively, we understand it is the companion of passion. When our natural capacity to become sexually aroused vicariously over pleasure experienced by others is repressed, so is our natural empathy for the suffering of the less fortunate. Again the map of speech tends most often to divide what in the territory of mind and body employs the same basic biophysical energy. Sexually repressive ways of living must devise elaborate moral codes that pay lip service to compassion and humanity to restrain their adherents from acts of sadism. With all their endless chatter about compassion and humanity, the Confucians earned the scorn of the Taoist sages - who delighted in twitting the Confucian need to make ado about what comes naturally to people who are in touch with themselves, who have not "lost the Tao". For humans are gregarious mammals who live in tribes and extended families without fuss or forethought until they fall into the clutches of missionaries or imperialist politicians.

"The True People of Old," says Chuang Tsu, "were kind to one another without knowing it was called compassion. They deceived no one and did not know it was called honesty. The were reliable and did not know it was called dependability. They lived together freely giving and taking and did not know it was called generosity. For this reason their actions have not been recorded and they made no history." Calling this the Age of Perfect Peace, the sage tells us its citizens lived like deer in the forests, sleeping without dreaming and awakening without anxiety.