Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Justine (book review)

"What strikes me as most surprising is that when it is simply a question of trivial things we are never astonished at the difference in tastes between one individual and another, but the moment these differences involve what is known as lust – behold, everything is in an uproar! Yet what an injustice!" – from Justine, by Marquis de Sade

So true . . .

You know the expression “no good deed goes unpunished”? That’s the point that’s driven home again and again throughout Justine to the point of beating a dead horse. It’s the first book of Marquis de Sade’s that I read. It was written over a two-week period in 1787 while he was imprisoned (most of his writings were done while in prison) but not published till 1791. Then Napoleon read it, was aghast by it, and had the Marquis thrown back in jail for it. Pretty lame move on his part.

The book is, no doubt, brutal in its perversity and sadism, as is to be expected from de Sade, of course, the word sadism deriving from his name. It really does make one cringe. But one thing I really didn’t like about it, and which made it hard to read at times due to redundancy, was the unrealistic and repetitive way the characters would go on these long spiels, justifying their wicked, pernicious actions, as if reciting an essay off by heart or something. The Marquis uses rationality on the side of his evil-doers to justify his ideal society of unbridled hedonism and nihilistic anarchy. And that’s cool and really different at first – even refreshing – but it reaches a point where you sigh and think to yourself, “All right, de Sade . . . I get it, dude: being a prick gets you everywhere, and being a goody-goody screws you over. Get on with it already! Enough with the monologues.”

But the words flow and are lyrical. And I like that. Sometimes I couldn’t help but chuckle at the way his incorrigible, malevolent characters would absolutely mock the hell out of virtue and living a virtuous life, while also dealing with the psychological matters of remorse and having a bad conscience. He didn’t just push at the idealistic boundaries of what was mainstream education, social propriety and puritanical thinking, this iconoclast, no – he consciously treaded all over them, leaving his black, muddy foot marks all over the place, until the boundaries simply didn’t exist anymore, and then juggled and toyed with people’s notions of what is deemed “moral” and “immoral,” arguing that such things are based solely on caprice and the whims of man. Oh, yeah, the untimely, pre-Nietzschean element is so glaringly obvious:

"But when anatomy and physiology are really perfected, it will be clearly demonstrated that all morality is essentially physical. What will become then of your laws, ethics, religion, gibbets, paradise, God, and hell – when it is proved that a particular organisation of the nerves, a peculiar reaction in the body, a certain degree of acridity in the blood, makes a man what he is, for better or for worse?" – from Justine

“The slave preaches the virtues of kindness and humility to his master because as a slave he has need of them; but the master, better guided by nature and his passions, has no need to devote himself to anything excepting those things which serve or please him.” – from Justine

Couldn’t have said it better myself. At any rate, I don’t know if I’ll ever read anything else of de Sade’s again; there’s a lot out there for me to get to, and I wasn’t that impressed by it, but time will tell. I’m glad I finally read Justine, though, as it is downright diabolical (especially the section in the monastery – yikes!), its influence has been great, it has had a vast contribution, and it posits and argues for many sentiments which I have argued for in my own books as well:

"Delicacy, for instance, may go hand in hand with love and romance; but love and sexual pleasure are not necessarily the same thing - they frequently, in fact, represent two entirely different attitudes. People daily love each other without enjoying, and enjoy each other without love." – from Justine

You're damn right they do. Somebody had to say it!

“Repentance is an emotion one only feels for actions to which one is unaccustomed. If you repeat frequently enough those things which bring you remorse, you will finally extinguish it. Oppose it with the torch of the passions, with the powerful laws of self-interest – then it will quickly disappear. Remorse does not prove anything to be a crime. It merely indicates an easily subjugated soul.” – from Justine

I agree with that too, but I think that that applies to a lot of things that we are accustomed to as well. And I think the Marquis goes too far in his anything-goes philosophy, where true happiness raining down upon the world can only be achieved through complete incivility and not giving a damn about anyone but yourself without any restraint on the passions whatsoever, and that’s what prevents his philosophy from truly resonating with me: It’s not epicurean, and it’s idealistic in itself, just to a completely opposite extreme than that of the idealism of Platonism and Christianity and the spin-offs of them that we’re used to. But let's finish off this critique with some awesomeness and then some unintentional hilarity within the book:

“I believe that if there were a God there would be less evil on this earth. I also believe that if evil exists in our world then its disorders are necessitated by this God, or it is beyond his power to prevent them. But I can’t be at all frightened of a God who is either weak or wicked. I defy him without any fear and laugh at his thunderings.” – from Justine

Hear, hear! Amen to that!

"And if he did not entirely consummate his crime, at least he covered me with such revolting stains that it was impossible for me to doubt his abominable designs." – from Justine

LOL! What does that even mean? In reading that part and knowing all he had done to her in the past and what he'd just done to her at that moment, it's even more befuddling.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Well Done, America - but It's about Damn Time‏

I wasn't going to write a blog about the long-overdue decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, mainly because I'm Canadian and gay marriage was already legalized in Ontario (where I'm from) back in 2003 and across Canada in 2005, not to mention that Spain did the same thing that very same year, along with a shit-ton of other countries around the world over the years, Holland doing it back in 2000! Hell, even Ireland legalized it this year, and it's going into effect in the fall! So, yeah, it's nice to see America joining the rest of the world in progress. Due to the religious fanaticism and backwardness of much of American politics, I often thought it's something that would never happen in my lifetime. I thought the same thing about Ireland. I was wrong. I'm so goddamn happy I was wrong, you have no idea.

Now, given I don't believe in marriage and find the notion completely absurd, I could never figure out why people, straight or gay, are in such a rush to get married at all. But that's their business. My concern is equal rights for all despite of colour, creed or sexual orientation, and all the hate and bile that’s been pussing out of the mouths and minds of religious conservatives has compelled me to write this blog.

The antagonism towards the decision is, of course, mainly being spewed out by conservative Christians, mainly by evangelicals and Catholics and, strangely but not surprisingly, not only those who live in America or who are American. I'm really stunned by the outrage I've seen by some Canadian Catholics about this decision after 12 years of not hearing a peep from anyone about its legalization by the Supreme Court of Ontario followed by its full-on legalization across Canada two years later. What's with all the incredulity, indignation and concern with America, after much slogging, suddenly and finally doing it, when your country, and countries all over the world, already did it years ago?! In fact, what's with the concern at all? If you don't believe in gay marriage, that's fine; all you have to do is not marry someone of your sex - simple as that! And nobody is forcing religious leaders to marry a gay couple. They can choose to do that or not to by their own accord, and eveyrbody knows that! Straight people can still get married and have kids, and have continued to do so in all the other countries that went about legalizing gay marriage a long time ago, so it doesn't affect you, puritans! So why not just leave the gays alone to have their constitutional rights? It's just a stupid certificate, and they want one in order to share in all the rights and joy that straight people can have when they are permitted to marry someone whom they love. Enough hate-mongering! Enough descrimination!

What's really annoying and obnoxious is that most of the arguments and rhetoric against the ruling are Bible based! THAT'S RIDICULOUS! THERE'S A SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE! DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT?! Is that what this is about? Are you just seething inside because the entire world isn't under Church rule like Europe once was for over 1,000 years? Yeah, because that worked so well, didn't it – with those good old Dark Ages and everything?

You can't dictate government laws in accordance with what the Bible deems to be "sin." Masturbation and fornication are sins, according to the Bible. Should masturbation and fornication be illegal? Keeping holy the Lord's day is mandated in the Bible. Hell, it's one of the Ten Commandments! In the Old Testament (Exodus 31:14), it was commanded by your god of love that breaking that law was to be punished by death! That sounds pretty serious to me. Should it be illegal not to go to church on the weekend, then?! Perhaps we should be stoned to death for it like homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), disobedient sons (Deuteronomy 21) and girls who weren't virgins on their wedding night (Deuteronomy 22) were to be! Don't be ridiculous.

And how can you use the Bible to pontificate that marriage is solely to be between one man and one woman, when the Old Testament sanctifies polygamy?! Wise King Solomon, for example, a man who supposedly wrote the book of Proverbs, had 700 wives and 300 concubines! Don't you care what your own holy book teaches?! In Exodus 21:7-9, God regulates the selling of daughters as sex slaves! What about these famous words of Moses (a man who never even existed) to his Israelite army?

"Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man." – Numbers 31:17-18

How nice! Or how about this?

“A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.” – Zechariah 14:1-2

Yay, let’s worship the god of RAPE!!!

But then there's another argument – that of the rearing of children. So apparently, what I'm getting from much of the fanatical hubbub, is that fundamentalist Christians would rather a child be in an orphanage forever, instead of in a loving home being raised by two parents who adore him/her, if those two parents happen to be of the same sex. No, that's not bigotry at all!! (That last line is sarcasm, by the way.) Here, watch this incredibly eloquent presentation given by this fine, elegant young man about how he was raised by two lesbians in a loving household, and then tell me that two loving homosexuals can’t raise a son or daughter properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMLZO-sObzQ 

I can't imagine how there can still be an argument after watching something like that. But people don't think properly when religion is infecting and infesting their brains. I mean, does the Catholic Church really want to lecture us on sexual morality? REALLY?! Ever hear of people living in glass houses not throwing stones? Why not take care of that sex scandal that's rocked your organization, not only for the past few decades, but since the first goddamn century?! Yeah! Child-molestation and -rape have taken place in the Church at the hands of its religious leaders for nearly two thousand years now, which is why it's condemned in the Didache – because it was actually happening! And how about finally putting a stop to the Vatican no longer giving sanctuary to pedophilic priests, which is purposeful, methodical interference with justice, done so that these filthy child-molesting, child-raping animals don't get the jail time they deserve?! And how about doing something about the Church's tactic of moving around a priestly child-molester from parish to parish every time the priest’s detestable child-abusing actions begin to surface?! How about speaking out against this army of pederasts and pedophiles that your Church has created and protected for hundreds of years?! Where do you see love in any of this?

You think it's love that permeates the Bible? Here are more delightful verses for you to chew on – verses you never hear about in Sunday school:

‘Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.  This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”’ – 1 Samuel 15:1-3

“Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.” – Psalm 137:9

“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
    because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
    their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
    their pregnant women ripped open.” – Hosea 13:16

Ya, real pro-life! How can someone even write something like that? Wait, it gets better! This next one’s got it all: stabbing innocents, smashing babies to pieces, ransacking homes, raping people’s wives, killing young men and showing no mercy whatsoever on infants and children:

“Whoever is captured will be thrust through;
    all who are caught will fall by the sword.
 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
    their houses will be looted and their wives violated.
 See, I will stir up against them the Medes,
    who do not care for silver
    and have no delight in gold.
Their bows will strike down the young men;
    they will have no mercy on infants,
    nor will they look with compassion on children.” – Isaiah 13:15-18

You think things can’t get any worse? Please! This is the Bible we’re talking about. Now hold on to your seat:

“Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.” – Deuteronomy 28:53-57

Stephen King doesn’t write this shit!!

“I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them.”  – Jeremiah 19:9

Wow, thank fucking God I’m an atheist. Hey, what’s a god of love, justice and mercy doing making people eat each other and their children, by the way? I’ve been asking this for years now, and no one can seem to give me an answer. I wonder why. Well, at least he's honest:

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." - Isaiah 45:7

I love that verse. And now for some loving words of Christ:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Ya, ya, ya, that’s just the writer of the Gospel of Luke saying, “Hate everyone and everything except for the god we’re planning on ruling through.” No, thanks, Jesus . . . I’d rather LOVE those who are dear to me.

*sigh* I really wish everyone would just read the Bible. If they did, atheism would reign upon the earth, as it rightfully should, and the minds of men and women would be free at last. Aside from all the execrable foulness, brutalities and evils propagated and ordered by its deity, the Bible is filled with hundreds of contradictions, absurdities and historical discrepancies. Here, go count them all; some aren't even listed in all this, but it'll more than do to get the point across and give you much jolly laughter and eye-opening good times: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

Anyway, congratulations to the gay community of the United States! After ages of struggle and tribulation, you stood your ground through thick and thin and finally got what you should have gotten a long time ago: to be able to express your love for someone in matrimony with all the legal rights that come with that sanctification. It’s about damn time. And I say this as a heterosexual man – and I mean this from the bottom of my heart – I love you, I love, I love you all so fucking much! My heart could explode with the love and admiration I have for you! I think you’re amazing and are a true inspiration to the world! Maybe straight couples will learn from y’all how a marriage ought to be, since, well, let’s face it, heteros haven’t seemed to have had much skill in that department. Even when they manage not to get a divorce, our society is rampant with people who are far from well-adjusted, all thanks to their mom-and-dad unit of an upbringing. But let’s not go there today. Volumes have been written on that, and that’s not what this blog was intended for.

Peace and love, everybody. And I truly mean LOVE in the fullest sense, not the merely tainted use of the word “love,” used to mask and justify homophobia, bigotry and wanting to take people’s basic rights away, be it in America or anywhere else. Religiosity is mental warfare and an attack on personal freedom. That's all it is. And for those of you still clinging on to your nonsensical, ego-centered, old-fashioned ways of what your religion dictates a marriage ought to be, I'm gonna tell you what William Shatner told hardcore Trekkies on SNL back in ‘86 – “Get A LIFE!!” And stop telling others how to live theirs. This is progressive history in the making that you're witnessing, if you'd just take off the blinders to see it. You should be in awe right now, not in turmoil. There's no going back. Make no mistake of that. The Dark Ages shall NEVER return—not if we secularists and freethinkers can help me. Mankind moves forward, not backward. It's called inevitability. You're on the progress train, baby. So get your head out of your ass, and enjoy the ride.

Cheers.