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Peacock Dreams

Help me think this through

Help me think this through

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sol
"Ending slavery in Niger would require a social revolution. An entire section of the population would have to be taught that they are not intrinsically inferior to others, but that is what they have believed for generations.

The slave owners, and the establishment, are reluctant to teach them."

- Hilary Anderson, BBC News http://tinyurl.com/53rmk
_________________

What are we playing at, we humans? Economic, sexual and psychological slavery are all rampant. Yet we are supposed to be beyond that. The slave trade in Niger sounds just like the stories we hear from the early US - people are born into slavery, beaten, given nothing, children taken from them... The local economy is based on their labor. And we hear of the trafficking of children for sexual slavery. And people working in sweat shops to make Oakland Raiders t-shirts. And we continue on. The world is this way. But it is not supposed to be, somehow. How is this?

And then there are those of us who play at being slaves. "Yes Master." What does this mean? How does this work in our world that contains both post-modern language queerifying and actual pre-modern practices? Is it akin to people wearing pink triangles as a symbol of pride instead of a mark that they should be imprisoned, tortured and sent to death? Is using the word slave in such a context like me using the word queer? Turning it on its head to take back the power? But what does taking back the power of such a word mean in a world where real slavery still exists? No one is being forced to wear pink triangles anymore. But people are still being forced into actual slavery.

I am truly wondering, here. Help me out. I am not deriding anyone's sexual practices. I am a San Franciscan, and proud of our sexual diversity. Every time I teach, and talk about the importance of not submitting one's life force to anyone or anything, I always make sure to make a light clarifying statement "I am not talking about agreeing to submit to someone else for the span of a few hours. That is not submitting life force. That is a consensual contract." I am hip to this. I really am. I like a bit of power exchange as much as the next person.

But today, reading the above article in the BBC news, the language is troubling me. And though rightly, the language doesn't trouble me nearly as much as the reminding fact of actual slavery, it is making me thoughtful all the same.
  • Yes, this is hard.

    The most painful truth about slavery is that it is not unnatural. Remember Dr. Kinsey telling us, "The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform." It's not only true of sex. It is true of all we do: war, slavery, torture, thought control, imprisonment. These things are part of the human frame.

    Indeed, the writing of our brains is for a hierarchical species. Democracy, egalitarianism, anarchy, fellowship --- these are complex tricks which we must learn to do, that require cunning structures of mind and society that do not come easily to us. Equality is "natural" in Kinsey's sense of possible ... but not so easy, nor so close to the human root, as monarchy, hierarchy, domination, and slavery. When we do equality, we must still dance with hierarchy, creating prime ministers, heroes, and celebrities. If we dance well, the equality leads.

    We will never get away from slavery, any more than we will get away from war or any of the other cruelties that have haunted the human story. To walk away from slavery, we would have to walk away from being human. Okay, perhaps we'll do that someday ... but I know that you want to "know yourself in all your parts," and do not wish to to surrender any part of your humanity. Slavemaster and slave live within you.

    So what are we to do with that potential for slavery? We can learn to avoid it. That's a good project to undertake, probably the best for most.

    The BDSM project is different. BDSM means to take that potential for pain and heirarchy that lives in each one of us and use it for joy and liberation. Experienced BDSM bottoms talk rapturously about being "broken," and do not kid yourself: it is the same mechanism in the human frame that is triggered when a person is dragged into chains and then beaten into submission as an unwilling slave. The slave is broken into a mockery of the human spirit. The willing bottom is broken to a different purpose, to be put back together with care and reassurance and love, made stronger by the experience.

    And for BDSM to work, for it to be hot, it must feed off of the imagery of the darkest manifestations of its impulse. To undertake that project is to walk a tightrope, to live in the paradox of one's desires. To choose to wear a collar, and to choose to obey when one is asked to do something unpleasant. Or to pretend that what one desires to do is unpleasant, for the added thrill of being compelled, while being conscious of the pretense. If I have to wash the dishes anyway, is it not more fun to do so at the call of a lover with a riding crop? This demands highly cultivated habits of mind, to grasp the fire of human cruelty and use it to cook and cast light without getting burned. But I know some very crafty tops and bottoms, and I can see that it can be done. Small wonder that those folks reach for the hottest flames, that grant the most power. And "slavery" burns very, very hot.

    That should not stop us from grappling against unwilling slavery. The opposite: it should call out for the most vigorous abolitionism. To love words is to fight against lies. To love sex is to fight against rape. To love submission is to fight against slavery.
  • That should not stop us from grappling against unwilling slavery. The opposite: it should call out for the most vigorous abolitionism. To love words is to fight against lies. To love sex is to fight against rape. To love submission is to fight against slavery.

    Dude. May I put this in my quotes file? And how would you like to be attributed if so? (I presume your username is your legal name?)
    • Yours if you want it, and you may attribute to Jonathan Korman, which is my name. If you're quoting in a context in which you can link, it would be pleasant if you could link to my weblog at miniver.blogspot.com.

      • I'll include the weblog in my attribution in case it ever gets put somewhere public. Thanks!
  • "We will never get away from slavery, any more than we will get away from war or any of the other cruelties that have haunted the human story. To walk away from slavery, we would have to walk away from being human. Okay, perhaps we'll do that someday ... but I know that you want to "know yourself in all your parts," and do not wish to to surrender any part of your humanity. Slavemaster and slave live within you."
    --

    Yes and no. Yes that slavemaster and slave live within me - I wrote an essay about this, which I looked at the ways in which I am a lier, in that I want to be indignant at the hypocrisy of slaveowners being "good Christians" when the same hypocrisy exists within me.

    No in that I am not walking away from being human in striving to walk away from slavery. As you know, my project is evolution. I do indeed need to embrace my slave and slaveowner within in order for this to happen - and thanks for reminding me. Sometimes when I go all thoughtful, I forget my own rhetoric! Ah, the Divine Twins strike again!
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