Dave Sim's blogandmail #433 (November 18th, 2007)
I'm going back to the August 7 Victor Hanson column "Get a Life, Middle East" – the one where I tried to draw an analogy between what is happening in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and what the Taliban was doing in Afghanistan prior to the invasion by the Coalition of the Willing. To me, they're both lunatic extremes and they're neither of them "any way to run a railroad". The other part that attracted my attention was
"In contrast, the peculiar furor at the U.S. in the radical Islamic world arises because our culture, when viewed on DVD, satellite television and the internet, is judged to be incorrect in the ideal world of 7th-century Islam – and impossible for conflicted Muslims to enjoy fully in the 21st.
"Of course, our foreign policy, or even the crassness of Western pornography, can inflame this pre-existing anti-Americanism [in the Muslim world]. But, ultimately, there remains this divide between vibrant modern life that is the product of the Western Enlightenment and a static tribal order that is not."
Well, [WARNING Dave Sim minority-of-one opinion coming up:] I think this sort of unfairly stacks the deck in favour of the West while ignoring the fact that it is really impossible to be fully aware of the negative effects of a negative construct if you – and everyone you know – is within that construct. To refer to the "crassness" of Western pornography, it seems to me, is to diminish what pornography actually is. Wearing a polka dot tie and a plaid jacket is "crass" but I think pornography is actually more destructive than that. I haven't had any experience with heroin – the illustration I used last time – but as I said then, the recidivism rate for smoking cigarettes is even greater than it is for heroin. Well, speaking from personal experience, the only thing in my life that had as profound an effect on my life as giving up cigarettes back in 1999 was giving up masturbation back in 2003 (and, arguably, giving up television in 2001).
Having been raised in a society that takes masturbation as a given (and, thus, implicitly if not explicitly, endorses pornography as an inherent public good) I can tell you for a fact that the effect of leaving that construct and the fact of how long it took to actually have an awareness of having left that construct – "I am now beyond the reach of porn" – illustrated for me that if there is a higher recidivism rate on cigarettes as compared to heroin, there is probably an even higher recidivism rate on pornography and that it's very much in the same category. It's something that you do to yourself.
And it's NASTY. I don't mean it's a little embarrassing or private or socially sequestered, I mean, it has a lot in common with the junkie who is injecting the stuff between his toes or into his neck or next to his eyeball because he's running out of veins that aren't collapsed. It has a lot in common with living in a residence where everything has the stench of tobacco on it: your clothes, the upholstery, your skin, your hair and not even being aware of it because your tobacco jones is so bad it can block it out. And, as a society, as far as I can see, pretty much everyone beside me is THERE, up to their eyeballs in NASTY S—T because it's universally accepted, universally winked at, as if there are no consequences of being immersed in the stuff from the age of (in my case) 11. Age 11 until the age of 47. That's a lot of NASTY, folks. NASTY in the sense that it distorts all of your thinking so that an orgasm becomes this core need. Whatever else you can say about your life, if you are a modern Western male, you are likely to take it as a given that you need to have an orgasm on a regular basis (once a day, twice a day, three times a week, twice a week, whatever it is). It's like those families that pledge to give up television for a month. You've been a television junkie since before you were able to form coherent sentences and you're now in your thirties and forties and you haven't been away from the TV for a 24-hour period in over a decade (and then only because you were on a camping trip where you couldn't get to a TV: it wasn't that you chose not to watch TV it was that you couldn't watch TV. If there had been a TV there you know you would have switched it on at some point). And you look on the wrenching process of giving it up for a month as some kind of accomplishment. I mean, what do you think of this sentence: "Yeah, I've been shooting and snorting smack since I was 12 and you know what? Three years ago I actually quit for an entire month. Did me a world of good"
Uh, no. It's smack. Giving it up for a month is pointless when compared to shooting and snorting it for thirty years. Giving up masturbation for a month is pointless for the same reason. Believe me, you aren't even going to start to get it for at least a year. It was probably two years before I went, "This is like cigarettes, isn't it? It's not a matter of `Oh, well, I'll just whack off once'. If I whack off once I'll be back up to three or four times a week in a month or so."
See, that's what I think of when I read a pejorative line like "impossible for conflicted Muslims to enjoy fully in the 21st" because it presupposes that being conflicted about masturbation – or television or cigarettes or fornication or heroin – is the abnormality and that normality is a healthy enjoyment of a whole spectrum of vices simultaneously, sequentially, daily and if possibly hourly.
"The problem is that you're conflicted right now about shooting junk. Shoot junk for a few weeks and believe, me that `conflicted' quality just goes away."
It's the adjacent square that I was talking about. When you take up residence on the porn square as I assume all men in our society have, to one degree or another, done, you are no more able to see porn accurately than the junkie who is living on the junk square can see heroin accurately. And consequently you can't see the way a devout Muslim views pornography which, given that he is outside the construct, I think is definitely more accurate than the way you see pornography.
Do I think pornography should be banned? No, definitely not. As soon as you've invented the technology that we've invented that would be impossible even if we decided it was the best idea for society in general. Same as you could never ban television. Whatever 99% of the population is a junkie about is here to stay and if you want to get away from it, you have to summon up the wherewithal to do so on your own.
But, I can tell you right now that having come from the Pornography Is A Societal Blessing and a Human Need end of things and having lived there for nearly forty years – not visited there, lived there – it's in the same category as cigarettes and television. It's something people need to be educated about as to exactly how harmful and destructive it is in the same way people need to be warned about alcohol and tobacco and television. Do it if you want, but at least be aware of the fact that it's in the same category as heroin. It's a monkey on your back.
And that doesn't have a hope in hell of happening, does it? How far away as a society are we from teaching school children about the perils of television and porn?
So what does that say about us?
The distance that we are from understanding that teaching school children about the perils of television and porn is a DUH in a society where both are ubiquitous and protected free will choices is the exact distance from where we will be able to have a sensible discussion with devout Muslims about either. Decades easily. Probably centuries. To put it another way, how sensible a discussion do you think you could have with a $75-a-day-habit junkie about the merits of heroin? How long would he have to have "kicked" the stuff before you would think you could have a sensible discussion with him about the merits of heroin?
Well, that's exactly the way a devout Muslim looks at discussing the merits of pornography with you.
Tomorrow: Some of Darrell's poetry
REPLIES POSTED ON THE CEREBUS YAHOO! GROUP
If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:
Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2