#metoo and the cult of the artist

I grew up (to 4th/5th grade) as a Jehovah’s Witness and I do tai chi every day. I have Buddhist and Taoist symbols tattooed on myself, and a pretty good collection of religious books. I want to like Kim Domenico’s writing, because she points out ways that the left or progressives or whatever miss out by taking no interest in religious topics whatsoever. Our problems are ultimately spiritual, sure.

The problem is her background and the ideology that goes with it:

Kim C. Domenico, reside in Utica, New York, co-owner of Cafe Domenico (a coffee shop and community space), and administrator of the small nonprofit independent art space, The Other Side. Seminary trained and ordained, but independently religious.

You’d expect a Christian backlash against #MeToo from conservative sites, but not necessarily on CounterPunch.

At a holiday party I heard a woman telling a group of friends how she had reprimanded the owner of the only remaining local, independent theater in the Utica area for showing “known pedophile” Woody Allen’s latest movie. Her admonishment went on, to include the fact that old Woody can do nothing these days, go nowhere, without the assistance of 2 women, his wife and his sister. I wondered if she felt a little sorry at turning on one whose art has provided so many entertaining hours to the American public.

She writes like she’s talking about Christian ethics, but you can see that she belongs to the Cult of the Artist. Under this value system, all that matters is Great Art, and you should feel sorry (!) if you dare to apply the same standards to Artists as anyone else. There’s a reasonable discussion to be had about things like, Heidegger being a Nazi and Woody Allen being a child molester. How should we approach their work? That’s not what she’s doing here. There aren’t any principles behind what she’s saying.

It is unfair to call the Me too Movement, built as it is upon the growing number of those wronged – and hurt, and scarred – by sexual misconduct and willing to come forward and name their offenders, a “witch hunt.” But reading story after story in the news, hearing the salacious details discussed at parties, one can begin to feel the taking down of successful men of business and the arts as being tinged with that McCarthyist kind of sadism, of puritanical vindictiveness. Like all stories coming from Identitiarianism, it blots out the Much Bigger problems of free market capitalism and imperialist wars, of rule by oligarchy and plutocracy, of which dirty “old satyrs” are but one symptom and not the worst, while forefronting victimhood.

It’s kind of like McCarthyism except the accused usually turn out to be guilty! As if there’s something wrong with schadenfreude when someone who raped you has something taken from them. There’s no sadism when Harvey Weinstein flirts a little ineptly. If you can’t do this, what CAN you do?

I was hoping he would acknowledge me as a producer, who on top of delivering his list of demands shepherded the script and obtained the permits to use the paintings. I had negotiated with the Mexican government, and with whomever I had to, to get locations that had never been given to anyone in the past — including Frida Kahlo’s houses and the murals of Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, among others.

But all of this seemed to have no value. The only thing he noticed was that I was not sexy in the movie. He made me doubt if I was any good as an actress, but he never succeeded in making me think that the film was not worth making.

He offered me one option to continue. He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman. And he demanded full-frontal nudity.

He had been constantly asking for more skin, for more sex. Once before, Julie Taymor got him to settle for a tango ending in a kiss instead of the lovemaking scene he wanted us to shoot between the character Tina Modotti, played by Ashley Judd, and Frida.

But this time, it was clear to me he would never let me finish this movie without him having his fantasy one way or another. There was no room for negotiation.

I had to say yes. By now so many years of my life had gone into this film. We were about five weeks into shooting, and I had convinced so many talented people to participate. How could I let their magnificent work go to waste?

I had asked for so many favors, I felt an immense pressure to deliver and a deep sense of gratitude for all those who did believe in me and followed me into this madness. So I agreed to do the senseless scene.

I arrived on the set the day we were to shoot the scene that I believed would save the movie. And for the first and last time in my career, I had a nervous breakdown: My body began to shake uncontrollably, my breath was short and I began to cry and cry, unable to stop, as if I were throwing up tears.

Won’t somebody think of the art how will we have anything good without Harvey Weinstein?

When Domenico talks about “Much Bigger” problems, she writes like she’s unaware of feminist analyses of those very things: capitalism, war, hierarchy. The problem with “let’s keep it economics” is that being a sexual creep is an important part of what motivates powerful people, so we can’t ignore its role in world events.

Can somebody explain how a person can list valid grievances without making the error of “forefronting victimhood?” All that means is “no complaining allowed” while posing as non-pathetic.

From my perspective, which I call “independently religious,” the excited triumphal coverage of the Me Too Movement – the dubbing of it as that – conveys the fatal devaluing of imagination – and the banning of thoughtful discourse as well as passionate enthusiasm – that defines and shackles the liberal mind during this excruciating Trumpian moment we’re sharing. Not the acts of outing wrongdoing, but the triumphal humiliation of the“satyrs” promises the war for equality between the sexes will trudge on indefinitely and pointlessly. The consequences of this are enormous; besides the sidelining of bigger evils, like ongoing bombing of innocent people, besides the immediate ruin of reputations and careers, it is an attack on the souls of men and women. The harpie-like glee beneath the declarations of ‘the end of patriarchy’ is an attack on “otherness” itself, on the offensive otherness of male behavior that has not been controlled, and, on another level, against the otherness within each woman which is her discarded soul.

If you wake up one morning and the newspaper says it’s the end of patriarchy, you should be fucking stoked.

What does she mean about the control of male behavior? Are we talking about men’s self-control or the control of men by women, such as it is?

While serious feminists like Susan Faludi (NY Times Dec. 28) call women to the longer-haul, no-fun task of building “egalitarian society,” her words have no power compared to the passion evoked by participation in bringing down the powerful. Having left the soul out of feminism, outrage against men is the only available passion, and it is no more positive and “nation-building” than outrage against immigrants.

Yes, because everybody understands hitting back at a bully, but lots of women (and men) are terrified of freedom.

The Guardian JUST published a Mark Lilla profile, about how he’s a white liberal guy on a mission to crush identity politics, which makes him widely disliked.

Prominent writers whose knowledge of the political world exceeds mine – Mark Lilla (whose book The Once and Future Liberal I haven’t read) and Paul Street writing for CounterPunch – have suggested that Identity Politics is an addiction. Addiction, a disease we call “mental,” is a disease of the ego and of the soul. According to the 12-step recovery program, addiction is the refusal to acknowledge powerlessness. It is the ego unchallenged, giving the heady illusion of being in control, and it is considered fatal. Recovery involves, first, the admission that one’s life has become unmanageable; i.e., that there exist things outside ones’ control, over which one has no power. This admission of powerlessness opens the door to the experience of the “higher power,” making it possible for the addict to imagine the “other” that will enable her/him to let go of the absolute fear-driven need to control everything. The 12-step spiritual program wisely chose the term “Higher Power” – God in function but not in name, the quintessential “Other” – to avoid a needless stumbling block for those conditioned in the liberal, secular, often religiophobic, authority-averse context.

Black people are addicts we’ve never heard that before. Caring about black people stuff per se is a disease of the soul, says white preacher lady. This is totally a reasonable, constructive way of opening a dialogue. None of that sadism here, rubbing it in about the powerlessness and then acting out pretend powerlessness.

As long as I can afford to buy weed from the store and use it on an ad libitum basis, I don’t have a drug problem. Lots of things are better. There’s nothing wrong with using a drug all the time. In fact, the whole idea of taking antidepressants is that you have to take them long enough that you’ll have withdrawal if you stop before they’re working. You reach a new equilibrium. Weed doesn’t last as long as Zoloft, and the route of administration is usually different. Those are technicalities. Sure, I wouldn’t feel the need to be high all the time if I wasn’t going without a lot of interpersonal soothing that other people take for granted, while being subjected to stressors beyond my control. Yes, I smoke weed, and it’s spiritually good for me. It goes great with my tai chi practice, so why the fuck do I need to convert to Christianity and “forefront my victimhood” and powerlessness?

She’s projecting hella much here:

Like other addictions, through exercising an illusion of control, Identity Politics functions to replace the sense of exaltation, of positive enthusiasm and passion once conferred through identification with a commanding myth. In addition, it allows the addict to skip over self-inventory, self reflection and contemplativeness, the personal quest for meaning and purpose that make an adult capable of interdependence in community. It avoids the quest for the person’s own distinct and unique “otherness,” the achievement of initiated adulthood that builds what we call heart, and character.

I dare say I’ve done a respectable job in those areas, while being a black identity extremist and a drug addict at the same time. It’s obvious that the myths of white people are still commanding.

That’s interesting, because a lot of my blackness and autism problems come from people ignoring my unique individuality in favor of negative stereotypes. She thinks I don’t know how to be a person, so I need blackness to be one. No, that’s how whiteness works.

When mainstream feminism adapted itself to the global economic rule, its mission equality with men, its assumption that “gender” is an antiquated concept used to keep women in subjugation, it raised Identity Politics to the summum bonum. It let committed feminists off the hook for the difficult inward individual initiatory part of the quest for genuine identity. It meant, in essence, that women do not have to ever admit powerlessness, to grow up, take responsibility for ourselves, accept our lot of suffering and pain as humans must do in service both to their singular “genius” and to the common good. It meant we need not be individuals, our identity forged in our own lived fire, but victims living off the negative passion of our angry resentment at the privileges of whiteness and maleness, at ‘privilege’ itself.

Andrea Dworkin was better at writing about all of those things than she is.

Yeah, it gets old having it taken for granted that I’m a nonperson. That’s what “privilege” refers to. It’s sort of an intolerable situation that creates an overwhelming sense that it simply must end.

In the capitalist system where money is the standard of value, examples of unearned privilege, of men (and women) cruelly using other people on the road to success, are not difficult to find. But, to those who “pass” on their chance to pursue their unique individual “genius,” the achievement and success of others will appear as ‘privilege,’ not as, for instance, earned reward for the willingness to “suffer for one’s art.” The resentment of that privilege will be driven not by class consciousness but by spite. I prefer to believe the call to us as women is to something more ennobling.

Give it up for the myth of meritocracy! This is literally the exact same way that Republicans talk, but that’s okay under the circumstances because this is the #MeToo backlash and the left needs its Ann Coulters.

Identity politics, including the Me Too Movement, are expression of a mass neuroses, not a politics. Serving to keep modern secular liberals from existential imaginative (inner) truth on the one hand, they serve also to distract from the unbearable truth of the ongoing destruction of the planet and inevitable despair at the futility of existence. Identity politics provide an authoritative voice for those whose relationship to authority (i.e., to God) is unconscious and therefore pathologized. They provide a way of appearing to present a moral case while completely evading genuine, painful moral critique. This kind of hysteria on the left is fully as baneful and frightening as the fascism of the alt right. Like the extreme right, it’s driving motive, though there is unquestionably healing power in speaking out about abuse one has suffered, is not the positive healing energy the world so desperately needs. One thinks of the poet and writer Maya Angelou, whose sexual abuse as a child at the hands of a family friend caused her to become mute, who went on to become a significant public figure, a creative spirit, a force for peace and the dignity of all men and women.

It’s almost like mass neurosis implies the existence of mass trauma, which sounds like a structural problem.

I fully understand that the rich people, the white men especially, are making sure that everything dies. We might not have long before a fearsome die-off. It’d be real nice to, like, be in a relationship instead of dying alone. What’s the biggest obstacle to that? What everyone thinks of me based on stereotypes, the very thing identity politics is working on. It’s almost like I’m rationally addressing my problems in an order that makes sense.

Another point that she’s missing is that all the problems come from basically the same lack of empathy, and anything to increase people’s humanity and get them out of Fear Mode is a constructive step toward solving all the other problems.

Her basic problem is the Christianity. I mean, look at Ezekiel 16.

23 “‘Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign Lord. In addition to all your other wickedness, 24 you built a mound for yourself and made a lofty shrine in every public square. 25 At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. 26 You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your neighbors with large genitals, and aroused my anger with your increasing promiscuity. 27 So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory; I gave you over to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were shocked by your lewd conduct. 28 You engaged in prostitution with the Assyrians too, because you were insatiable; and even after that, you still were not satisfied. 29 Then you increased your promiscuity to include Babylonia, a land of merchants, but even with this you were not satisfied.

30 “‘I am filled with fury against you, declares the Sovereign Lord, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! 31 When you built your mounds at every street corner and made your lofty shrines in every public square, you were unlike a prostitute, because you scorned payment.

32 “‘You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! 33 All prostitutes receive gifts, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. 34 So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.

35 “‘Therefore, you prostitute, hear the word of the Lord! 36 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you poured out your lust and exposed your naked body in your promiscuity with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols, and because you gave them your children’s blood, 37 therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see you stark naked. 38 I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring on you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. 39 Then I will deliver you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you stark naked. 40 They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords. 41 They will burn down your houses and inflict punishment on you in the sight of many women. I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer pay your lovers. 42 Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry.

It’s like…her whole intellectual project is doublethinking that that’s not what her religion is about.

The final paragraph is also revealing:

Finally, as daughter of a very good, very self-centered artist, who has struggled my entire 67-year old life to claim my own artist genius, I want to speak specifically to the purging of successful artists. The honored but highly ambivalent place of artists in our society is a further consequence of the general refusal of otherness, or, as I am saying it, of the imaginative soul and authentic individuality. We non-artists, resigned to not having the kind genius of a Dustin Hoffman, a Woody Allen or a Peter Martins, resignedly take our jobs in the global corporate economy. It behooves us to remember, referring to the classic Greek tradition echoed in Lewis Hyde’s words in the epigram above, that if each of us took up the supreme challenge and the inherent danger of consciously serving the gift of our genius, we might have little energy for making easy and self-righteous attacks against those who have spent their lives navigating the risks and dangers – as well as the triumphs and satisfactions – of the artist’s life. We might, as well, see the common problem we share with the artists, that of an industrial economy that puts profits before people and demands we serve its purpose by negating our innate, wise and creative, independent and subversive, human souls.

Artist narcissism. The way she tells it, “artist” is very narrowly defined as being one of the cool kids. The “artist’s life” basically means being subsidized, which is a privilege. The market won’t pay for everyone’s creations. Can “the artist’s life” be reliably distinguished from partying a lot and having a lot of free time? It must be tough compared to what all those other women whose problems she’s completely refusing to engage with are facing.

Dustin Hoffman did Rain Man, for fuck’s sake. Everyone’s enjoyment of that movie is more important than victims.

And isn’t the whole point how many artistic careers were fucked over by the people she’s glorifying?