Sunday, April 20, 2008

An Uncool Look At Coolitude by Anthony McCarthy

With A Long Footnote On A Difficult Subject

One of the comments made on a leftist blog thread that has bothered me quite a lot was the assertion that Nietzsche’s inverted morality was cool. Considering that his inverted morality not only overturns the agenda of civil rights including the equality of women, the rule of supermen over masses of helots, the assertion that his supermen will be above any restraint on their selfishness, etc. the assertion of his coolness was pretty much an endorsement of the entire far-right agenda. The comment might have been made in ignorance of what is mistaken for a philosophy. I’ve always thought that whatever cool the psychotic predecessor of Naziism obtained was because callow English speakers thought his name was fun to say. Though his encouragement to those who mistake themselves as potential supermen to act like spoiled brats could also figure into it. But there were those on the same segment of thread who definitely knew Nietzsche’s work, one a university level philosophy teacher, but the statement that a racist, sexist, proto-fascist, psycho was cool was apparently all right with them.*

How much of a price does the agenda of the left pay for the posture of coolness? How does it weaken our efforts and work against us? And what does cool mean, anyway?

Having thought more than is useful about the phenomenon of coolness all I can come up with is that it’s anything that will gain the incipient coolster the approval of a group of people on the basis of something independent of its usefulness or morality. Some things that are deemed cool are innocuous and silly, some are dangerous. I’m shocked to find that 25 years into the AIDS era anal sex** is the new cool among heterosexuals. How a practice that has brought a major epidemic to gay men and their sex partners can be cool is enough to make the concept worth serious reconsideration.

The social pressure that the pursuit of the cool places on people has an inhibiting effect on what gets discussed and followed up on. The declaration that an idea is not cool is enough, at times, to shut down consideration of issues and aspects of issues that are important. The coercive and controlling aspects of declarations of the coolness of something or someone is one of the things that makes adolescent life unbearable and anxious. I’ve always thought that those who did without thinking about cool seemed to be happier than the nervous, competitive elites who didn’t seem to really like anyone. As I recall some of them seemed to avoid the competitive transactions of the cool market and they seemed to be all the better for it.

* As you can guess, I didn’t remain silent and was pressured to remain silent due to my having demonstrated insufficient coolness.

** I’ve been working on a piece about anal sex. It’s not an easy subject to write about even for a gay man who is quite familiar with it. You might want to read this post by Bill Weintraub, though I will warn you that the photos are graphic, including some pretty unpleasant ones, and Weintraub has some ideas that are bizarre and even offensive. I find some of his ideas to be quite sexist. Which is unfortunate because I agree with him on so much of his central theme. I respect that he is one of the very few gay men online who is dealing with anal sex with such frankness. He is, also, a source for information about the negative aspects of anal sex and its health consequences. If his “warrior” concept keeps people from reading about that, it is tragic.

I agree with him entirely that the promotion of frottage as a healthy and mutually pleasurable form of sex is very important. How did the safest, least exploitative form of sex become less cool than anal sex? I suspect it’s for the same reason that people on leftist blogs can find a psychotic proto-Nazi cool, it’s all about domination, the high potential for infliction of pain and, let’s be honest, physical damage. Anal sex is generally seen as an exercise of the will by a dominant person over a submissive person. If that’s cool, I’d rather have it warm and caring and respectful.

Consider the strange ways that people become aroused and reach orgasm. I’ve got to say that using a search engine has been quite an education in a number of those which I’d rather have not known about. One quite innocent search for information about how to take care of my nieces gerbils while her family was on vacation, turned up a link that involved women in high heals stepping on small rodents. Believe me when I tell you that is all you want to know about it. I wish I’d never let my prurient curiosity get the better of me. If the idea of killing mice in a sick attempt at arousal disgusts and disturbs you, isn’t the potential to damage or hurt a human being at least as disgusting?

Achieving orgasm isn’t a good that mitigates the potential for infecting someone, impregnating someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant, or as a kinky exercise of dominance that a psychically damaged person might welcome. An orgasm doesn’t change the concurrent physical reality and respect or negation of rights that are as much a part of the act.