Friday, April 06, 2007

YES goddamit

The Scarlet Pervygirl asks, semi-rhetorically:

Can you ever fight for something? That seems like a ridiculous thing to say: I'm fighting for freedom, or my rights, or some kid named Julia. I don't think it works that way. There may be a reason you ended up in a fight, and one effect of the fight may be the change you want made, but fights themselves are not for anything, but against something.

...And yet I think again of Oscar Wilde, who rather than putting forth effort to change the homophobic, class-based culture in which he lived and with which he was (I think it's not going too far to say) unsatisfied decided to not let it ruffle him any more than a breeze ruffles an emerald and went and spent his life playing with peacock feathers.

But didn't that take effort? I wouldn't say that his was a refusal to put forth effort so much as it was an effort to frame the engagement strictly on his terms...


rest the rest of that entry, and while you're at it have i ever mentioned that y'all need to be reading this woman regularly? I mean, this whole entry, short, sweet and strange:

03 April 2007
Things I would have shown you if you were here: *Bakery of Dr Moreau* Edition

* In the foyer of the classroom building, a sign, neatly scripted in noticeable bubble letters reading "Free Brownies," taped to a completely bare and unattended table; it was still there an hour-and-a-half later when I left, but neither brownies nor an explanation were in evidence.

* The lumpen cakes at the grocery store, iced white and with new-mouse-pink frosting feet, WEARING LARGE BUNNY MASKS DEAR GOD. They were so frightening I have no choice but to use all caps in describing them. I think they were keeping them under plastic lids to prevent them from eating people. Whoever buys one of those things is in for the fight of her life, let me tell you.

7 comments:

Holly said...

I'm a little confused by her post. Are we talking about the same Oscar Wilde who is thought to have been involved in the first gay rights organization in Britain (the secret society known as the Order of Chaeronea) and was then put on trial, homophobically abused by the press and courts, and then sentenced to two years of hard labor? After he got out, his health was ruined and he only lived for three more years.

I mean, the guy was basically accused for being too open about being gay, and then the punishment more or less broke and killed him. I'm not sure which part of that is "went and spent his life playing with peacock feathers." The personal consequences for him were obviously extremely disastrous, although it seems like he may have initially thought he could get away with it -- and indeed, people objected that his trial was unusual because it's not like the courts were going to try everyone known or suspected of homosexuality in England.

Wilde was made an example. Sometimes a fight is not your own choice, obviously -- someone else decides to fight you. The Marquess of Queensbury and the British courts decided to fight Wilde as an example of a homosexual who had gotten too uppity. And indeed, if you want to frame things as a fight, the Bush Administration, the power structure, is engaged in a fight against a lot of us, all of the time. So if we put forth effort to try and protect ourselves, our communities, from violence or any number of forms of premature death perpetrated upon us... yeah, that's a fight against oppression. And it's not something that necessarily involves a whole lot of choice: you either fight, or you lie down and take it while they beat you.

Pervygirl says: "It's possible that the putting forth effort itself may be sufficiently edifying to the effort-maker that she would find it worth her while to do so."

Or to put it another way, sometimes when someone is trying to kick the shit out of you, there is value just in the fact of resisting that, even if you're going to get the shit kicked out of you. There is value, dignity, purpose in not just taking it, not just lying down and reinforcing the idea that hey, violence against me and people like me is perfectly all right. There is value in sending a message to the rest of the world that you didn't just let it happen to you and yours.

This is also a fight for something though, right? It's a fight (or if you prefer, a struggle) to live and be allowed to live, and for the hope that future generations won't have to fight for those basic rights. I don't quite get her semantic point at the beginning, either. A "fight" is obviously more conflictual than say, "putting forth an effort" but the question does come up, yeah you're fighting against something bad. But what do you stand for? What is it you hope to achieve? What is the positive vision? That's why we ask the question, "what are you fighting for?"

belledame222 said...

Wilde's...a complicated character. I mean, I knew that and agreed with you, and yet...

oh, damn.

sorry, distracted...

belledame222 said...

anyway, i think what SPG's point was: he attempted to frame it in his own terms. For as long as he could, he LIVED; his life was the protest; and, until they came and got him (and there was an odd dance there, too: like i said, complicated).

point being, I thought: at some point, one has to live on one's own terms, not either adhering to or simply reacting against the terms that were pre-set.

it resonated me mainly in light of the constant political crap (online and off) and the way in which way too many of us seem to get bogged down in -wrangling- what seems to be standing in our way, -arguing- with it, -pleading- with it;

when instead it might be better to step back and just go, "you know what? I'm going -this- way, because i want to get to HERE," and do so.

let -them- do the wrangling, then. and they will. but you've set the course.

see what i'm saying?

belledame222 said...

good to see you, p.s.

Holly said...

Yeah, I definitely get that and it makes a huge amount of sense, and Wilde is a good example of that. He lived his life on his own terms, for as long as he could.

However I also think the last part of that is interesting. Sooner or later, the "folks in charge" were going to come get him or someone like him. And it was because it was "later" that he was able to do things his way. Why was it later instead of sooner? I think the answer has a lot to do with the fact that he was a wealthy aristocrat, very privileged in all sorts of ways.

His fame also served as a lightning rod, of course. But I kind of also think that finding a space to live life your way is always a bit of luxury. There's nothing wrong with luxury like that -- everyone absolutely deserves it. But it's parceled out in an extremely uneven way, obviously. That, to me, is the most compelling reason that we don't *just* live our lives the way we want to -- because not everyone gets to do that, or gets to do it for long, or can do it easily. At the same time, I think you're right about stepping back and asking ourselves where we want to go, instead of solely reacting. I think that ties in with what I said at the end of my last post about "fight for" instead of solely "fight against."

I don't think Wilde rested on his laurels in the opportunities he had to do things his own way -- he was active, too, in trying to reform English laws against homosexuality, even though he did it underground. He has a well-deserved reputation, at the same time, for having that particular kind of steadfast refusal to do things any way BUT his own, and we should admire him for that.

Good to see you too! I've been reading everything on your & other's blogs but not writing comments much lately, I had to finish a different huge writing project for work.

belledame222 said...

And it was because it was "later" that he was able to do things his way. Why was it later instead of sooner? I think the answer has a lot to do with the fact that he was a wealthy aristocrat, very privileged in all sorts of ways.

o of course.

R. Mildred said...

Holly has the business end of my Schtick! You bitch!

I take Scarlet pervygirl's point to be, that the more repressive the regime, the easier it is to stand up to it - to garble a quote from V for vendetta: The volume of a noise is defined by the silence that proceeds it, and in some societies, the silence makes even the faintest whisper into a deafening shout.

When being yourself is illegal, being yourself becomes the most defiant act one could possibly do.