Dave Sim's blogandmail #134 (January 23rd, 2007)
Dave Sim's Collected Letters Volume 2 will be released in late spring/early summer 2007. Until Dave (who currently has the flu) is feeling better – and to whet your appetite for the book! -- The Blog & Mail will run two-page excerpts from the manuscript each day.
Today: Pages 12 & 13:
To me, what you and most of our society is doing — particularly the liberal or Marxist-feminist part — is navel-gazing. You are attempting to find meaning in that which is meaningless: your own sensations, your own emotions, your own desires, your own feelings. You focus on them so intently and to the exclusion of most everything else in your life that you magnify them to a disproportionate degree. No wonder, as you say, you didn't really feel anything on 9/11. It didn't affect you because it didn't affect you. It took place in New York City, Washington and a field in Pennsylvania and nowhere intruded between you and your navel. Therefore, as you say, all it did was to distract you from yourself, your emotions, your feelings and your navel for an extended period afterward. That, I would maintain, was one of the break points that took place. One half of our society experienced Meaning on 9/11, profound Meaning, and the other half of society just saw a reality-TV disaster movie that distracted them temporarily from their own navels. They were shaken, but their best trick — arguably their only trick — is getting over things. That's what makes them liberals. Nothing upsets them. You could break into their house and rape their wife and murder their kids and the biggest problem they're going to face is how to get over it, move past it and get on with their lives. It's a complete disconnect from reality. This was what my team never understood about your team until the aftermath of 9/11. You are so self-insulated from outside reality, so far immersed in contemplating your own navels, that there is no common frame of reference for us to have a discussion about most things. Even your own possessions oscillate between being included with your navel and being excluded from your navel.
"I hate myself because I have so much and so many people in the world have so little," is arguably the noble-sounding sentiment which underlies all socialism and all liberalism. Historically, there are very few blue-collar socialists, particularly in positions of leadership. Most socialists are comfortably or well off as compared to the workers they purport to represent. So, it seems to me that socialism and liberalism are largely the "acting out" of guilt feelings over abundance. Well, fine. Figure out how much you think you need to keep and give the rest to the poor. But, it doesn't matter whether it's Muslim fundamentalists or communists, liberals, it seems to me, spend their lives preparing themselves for the day when someone ELSE is going to come and take everything away from them and anguishing because they know, in order to be the people they're pretending to be — the Woodstock generation — they should be the ones taking it away from themselves. It is as if being prepared to have everything taken away and hating yourself for owning an over-abundance of material possessions is the same thing as giving that over-abundance to the poor. It isn't.
Just because you feel more guilty about being rich than a rich conservative does doesn't make you a better person. I mean, I'm trying not to be offensive here, but virtually everything you've written in your letter strikes me as a way of evading central realities in your life. Your seeing significance in Patricia Smith Churchland's seeing significance in all of the different ways that other species perceive — bees and bats and what-not — and all we have are our five senses…I just don't see any…actual…larger point. What I see (or what I think I see) is someone attempting to establish a larger point, like a child who becomes absorbed in everything going on in the dining room except for the bowl of strained vegetables and the fork attempting to find its mouth even though at some level it knows the strained vegetables are far more important than the interesting way the bib is stuck in the corner of the high chair. All is not as it seems! The bees and the bats shall lead us! Hearken unto these hitherto overlooked citizens of Starship Earth! They see things we don't see! They're bees and bats, B. For crying out loud.
Well, obviously, I think you're trying to get me to walk around in liberal circles with you when you take umbrage at being declared a member of a team. Not a "team" (in quotation marks) to me. A team. You write, "Just for the record, I don't give a whit how many women artists there are — or aren't." Well, of course you don't. I'm the one trying to draw your attention to how few there are and the fact that they are all pretty much second stringers. You seem to be suggesting that I'm somehow forcing you to evade reality. And I don't think that's the case. I think you're evading reality just fine on your own. You acknowledge the preeminence of men in exactly the way that I have for the last ten years: "Virginia Woolf isn't James Joyce; Anais Nin isn't Henry Miller; Flannery O'Connor isn't William Faulkner; and Anne E. Proulx isn't Cormac McCarthy." Well, yes. Exactly so. And, may I say, very nicely paired thematically and motivationally all down the line. And then you finish with, "But, quite simply, so what?"
My answer would be, "So: reality." The reality that your team is determined to evade, the reality which led to my being ostracized just for pointing it out. That, to me, is "so what." The plain fact of the matter is that the team on which you find yourself — there really is no middle ground — believes fervently that there is a co-equivalence in each of those pairings. In fact, most of the team on which you find yourself would consider the reverse to be true. That if all of those pairings were fairly and accurately judged with a loving heart, the women would all come out on top. Which they would. There is no reality so demonstrably self-evident that it can't be overturned by a loving heart determined to embrace a lie in the interests of making everyone feel good. A loving heart is the ultimate tyranny. If you feel badly enough for second stringers, you will change your perception so that they are first stringers and decide that you have wrought a great act of justice upon the Lands of the Quality Lit Biz. We don't do that over here on my team. My team does not make sure that for every male name on any list there is a female name. My team acknowledges quality in women where and when we find it. If that's one in ten, that's one in ten. If that's one in twenty, that's one in twenty. You would have to pry my copy of [Muriel Spark's] The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie from my cold, dead fingers. But if we come up with five male names, we don't automatically go scrambling for five second stringers and knock them up several weight classes in the interests of numerical parity. That's what makes the two teams. I think one of the reasons you're writing to me is that you are coming to understand that you're on the wrong team and you have been for some time. Other times you think that I'm on the...
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