Nauman deer

“The deviant male was above all a bourgeois, egoistic and unpatriotic as well as scarcely virile (because he was unfit or reluctant to repeatedly impregnate the female)l the deviant female was the too ‘modern’ woman, Americanized, independent and masculinized.”

Critica fascista (1937)

“Man’s authoritarian structure-this must be clearly established-is basically produced by the embedding of sexual inhibitions and fear in the living substance of sexual impulses.”
Wilhelm Reich

One of my first experiences with institutional enforcement of masculinity was in junior high school. Two incidents occurred in 7th grade; the first in gym class with one of the boy’s gym teachers. Actually, there were two very similar guys, both short, both wore crew cuts and had a military manner. I remember that they demanded this boot camp mentality, and that we address them as “sir”. I wouldn’t and got suspended. My father was advised I might be homosexual. The second incident was a science teacher…an Asian man named Ikeda. He was one of those guys you instinctively don’t trust because he smiled too much, was too cute, and “funny”. He accused me of cheating, and I hadn’t been — I didn’t care enough to cheat. I was taken into his office and told to bend over and take down my pants. I did, and he took out a large wooden paddle with holes drilled in it (“I modified it” said Ikeda). I was given three ‘swats’. I had purple bruises of a rather serious sort for several weeks. I knew then that this was all eroticized. The boot camp gym class with the drill instructors wandering through the shower room, keeping ‘an eye on us’, and the sado-masochistic science teacher with his bent over 15 year old student….being ‘punished’, my behavior *corrected*.


In 1935, Joseph Goebbels gave a speech, “Communism Unmasked”.. just before the passage of the Nuremberg Laws:

“As far as we ourselves are concerned, we have completely overcome this menace. Indeed perhaps, outside of his work in Germany, the greatest service which our Führer has rendered the world is that here in Germany he has set up a barrier against world Bolshevism against which the waves of this vile Asiatic-Jewish flood break in vain. He has taught us not only to recognise Bolshevism as the world’s greatest enemy but also to meet it face to face and crush it”

Bolshevism was described as an international group of subhumans. The metaphors for Bolshevism, linked aways with Jews, were most often linked with pestilence. With rats, rodents of all kinds, and disease. National Socialism was there to *clean* it away, wash the body of the state free of infection.

iron man red

In 1942, the now famous pamphlet “Die Untermensch” was distributed throughout Germany, in the millions. The Untermensch, the subhuman, and National Socialism was ever more portrayed as Holy Crusaders, on a mission of total war to liberate the master Aryan race.

The echos of this are seen today in the far right, quite consciously — with Anders Breivek in Norway, dressed up in military drag, with grenade launcher readied, a “Marxist Hunter”.

The idea of boundaries, of limits, and of body — these run through the literature of fascism, and of Capitalism as well. Borders, colonial control, the fixed limit — both concrete and material, and psychologically. The fixed body –Marvell and D.C. comics created *super heroes* that (as Enzo Traverso pointed out) linked directly the Fordist industrial death machine of WW1 — the first anonymous war. The trench soldier, in gas mask, without a face — only a job to do. Kill. The threat to the security that fixed boundaries provides is experienced most acutely as control-less female sexuality — hidden, moist, and of no fixed limit. The aggression toward women is validated by it’s success. Woman are weak, easily physically dominated — corrected.

Mikel Bolt Rasmussen wrote, in Left Curve no.36:

“Breivik enjoyed the killing of the young people. He was manifesting his power, his subjectivity. He was on a mission, punishing the traitors that were creating disorder. He was defending Europe and recreating himself as the avant-garde of European defence against a powerful foreign enemy working in cahoots with internal forces ready to surrender and destroy the age-old Christian European civilization. Shaping the chaotic mass with force and violence, awakening people to an historical mission, stopping multiculturalism and violently annihilating the foreign within. Breivik was more a god than a criminal, hence the narcissistic confidence evident in the photos, the self-satisfied look on Breivik’s face. The uniforms signal control: Breivik is in charge, taking thingsinto his own hands. That is also why he insists on appearing either in uniform with masonic decorations during the trial or, if that is not possible, in white tie and tails. Appearance is everything, appearing strong and in control enables Breivik to give birth to himself as an allpowerful subject unmediated by feminine mediation and uncontaminated by foreign influence. That is also why
Breivik was willing and even eager to lay down his arms following the massacre—provided he was apprehended
by uniformed personnel. “Mission accomplished. Will surrender to SWAT team,” he allegedly told Norwegian
police over the phone.”

This is what those gym teachers wanted for us boys, way back in the 7th grade, those many years ago. The uniform itself purifies, the shared showers, the hard body… for the clean body equals a clean mind.

marine boot camp

In the United States, the fear of immigrants, and of the poor, symbolically, is reflected in countless cultural products, in tea party rhetoric, and primarely in the *war on terror*. The war on the dark skinned others, on Muslims. The normalizing of war is something I’ve written about a lot, but it is perhaps useful to look at it in terms of misogyny and this crisis of masculinity in the West.

chck norris

As the Reagan revolution really took hold, the already threadbare safety net of social services cut more, and the real effects of automation and outsourcing took hold, an ever more estranged white working class were fed narratives of resentment, provided with scapegoats and simultaneously fed an intensified set of bromides about war and patriotism. The undocumented worker was the new Jew-Bolshevik, the Muslim the new contagion from the East. Though there were plenty of uppity black teenagers and lazy black unwed mothers around as well. Added to this was, in the U.S., the destruction of unions — the loss of the powers of bargaining, of self determination (even if already compromised).

The worker was ever more distant from the product worked on, ever less capable of affording the new car, say, he or she helped assemble. The insecurity was both economic, and psychic. Daily life more and more mediated by state controls, ever more bureaucratized and atomized. This was the place, over the last forty years, where the state’s conscious destruction of community can be seen to have clear material and psychic consequences. Traditional sources of pride in work were reduced to the humiliation of minimum wage temp work. When unemployment was available, it was stigmatized as a handout, as charity. Real men don’t accept handouts, its weak. Traditional family structures are constantly valorized. There was the constant encouragement to think of oneself as middle class, not proletarian. Even in the face of the obvious contradictions, this encouragement took form in the media as the making heroic all forms of adjustment and obedience. Insurance salesmen were heroic.

Hal Foster’s important essay Amor Fou, in October 56 (1991) … which is available online…connects early dada and surrealism with fascism, but more to the point, with the armored male body, the industrialized aesthetic of insect like sexual potency/catatonia.

“In this way, Petite machine points to a genetic mechanizing of the body, one which de-genders it under the sign of the masculine. So too Petite machine points
to an historical armoring of the body, for the caption also alludes “on the other
side” (perhaps the right) to an “evolution” of “anatomy.” Here, under the
shocks of massive industrial war and pervasive capitalist exchange (“ca coute 2
sous plus cher”), the (male) body has become an instrumental camera or gun.
Paradoxically, however, this very instrumentality renders it dysfunctional as a
body image, and this in turn points to the psychic dimension of the collage. For a
certain autistic system is intimated: this armored body, this “self-constructed
small machine,” suggests a defensive shield, perhaps even a machinic substitute,
for a damaged ego, one which, however, debilitates this ego all the more.
(Indeed, Ernst is not an “I” here; the machine is signed “Dadamax Ernst,” again
the third-person signature of an alienated subject.24) In effect, then, these armored
figures may allude not only to military-industrial shock but also to the
disturbed body image or ego construction attendant upon such shock.
The historical armoring of the male body is also nuanced in psychic terms in
the last two collages to be mentioned here. Ca me fait pisser appears based on a
diagram of an engine or pump; indeed, the title suggests that the male body is
little more than a mechanical or hydraulic penis. ”


Max Ernst later worked with, and was fascinated by the writings of the “insane” (sic). There is a sense in which (as Foster points out) this connects to autism (and to Bruno Bettleheim’s book length essay The Empty Fortress, on the case of an autistic boy). The machine body, a failed cathexis of the body — and linkages to, again, the carnage on the battlefields of WW1. The return home of so many disfigured and traumatized soldiers, of so many mangled limbs and men carrying nightmares around that were visible in ways not experienced before in industrial/capitalist society. The ‘shell shocked’, the rote behaviors of damaged psyches and damaged bodies, was growing evidence of the fragility of the human form. The age of military-industrial technologies, and of the proletarianized soldier — a worker in the factories of death. World War One was an assembly line war, and a war that gave material form to the division of labor. The soldier-worker cut off from even the product of his killing, as he was cut off from the product of his labor.

From the asylum writings/drawings of G. Mackenzie Bacon, 1870

From the asylum writings/drawings of G. Mackenzie Bacon, 1870

This Freudian notion of the ego as a body ego (cathexis etc) was, as Foster points out, rethought by Lacan. For Lacan, the ego was based in the imaginary. The creation of unity, a flash back, as it were, a reconstruction. The split in Lacan, the exlusion of unwanted chaos, of bodily parts and materials not desired for this imaginary unified picture, gives way to a degree of rivalry and aggression. (this is, incidentally, the area most ignored and misconstrued by Zizek in his many mis-readings of Lacan and Freud). For Lacan, then, the threat to bodily unity releases aggression. However one constructs the threat to the ego, to the body, and to the panic at the confused limits of both (as Breivik, and others seem to attest), it is clearly both determined and/or self treated in a sense, by the disciplines of military hierarchies, the sense of hyper-defined borders both projected outward (ideologically even) and inwardly with an ever sterner super-ego. This is the externalized result of those embedded sexual repressions.

Mishima as St. Sebastian

Mishima as St. Sebastian

“The affluent society is in its own way preparing for this eventuality by organizing “the desire for beauty and the hunger for community,” the renewal of the” contact with nature,” the enrichment of the mind, and honors for “creation for its own sake.” The false ring of such proclamations is indicative — of the fact that, within the established system, these aspirations are translated into administered cultural activities, sponsored by the government and the big corporations — an extension of their executive arm into the soul of the masses. — It is all but impossible to recognize in the aspirations thus defined those of Eros and its autonomous transformation of a repressive environment and a repressive existence. If these goals are to be satisfied without an irreconcilable conflict with the requirements of the market economy, they must be satisfied within the framework of commerce and profit. But this sort of satisfaction would be tantamount to denial, for the erotic energy of the Life Instincts cannot be freed under the dehumanizing conditions of profitable affluence.”
Herbert Marcuse, 1966

The need of this weakened ego, through ever less satisfactory social validation — as capitalist structures strip away the sense of purpose and pride, the fungible nature of work life attaches itself more firmly to the authoritarian armoring of the fascist. Or, rather, fascism is that armoring, the logical result of a system based on exploitation, an exploitation that needs the denial of ‘human directed Eros’. The problem with some object oriented thinking on this subject, is that the sado masochistic harshness of the military is both created by Capital, needed, has a purpose, AND is mediated by desire. The sexual mediation of everything from lynchings to prison guards and their staged gladitorial contests between inmates, is always highly sexual, and usually homoerotic.
Again, back to the showers in junior high school with Mr Rippy.

meatyard amputee

There are so many connections to be made, here. Foster’s essay touches on the surrealists, but one could take the attraction of the marionette, of dolls, much further in this. The automaton, the robot — those *feminine* feelings mechanically removed… weakness removed. Feeling removed. The sense of religious mission connects with this. Breivik and others, the fanatic, acting on orders from God, awaiting the great flood, to wash away our sins, our moral crimes. The wooden fixed expression of the marionette to the reptilian anonymity of the Marvell comics heroes; all lidless unseeing eyes, expressionless, and emotionally dead…autistic. Aspergers is the trope de jour now, for it IS the only place to be amid the final colonizing of consciousness. The marionette, and puppet theatres of the 18th and 19th centuries, however, held dual meanings, or rather complementary meanings. The immediacy of wood, the hand of puppet maker visible in the carving and painted faces, also (judging from Von Kleist) express a sense of divinity not possible in human performances. In the devotional eroticism of south Indian classical dance, or the masks of Kathakali, the same paradoxes seem to be at work. The natural impulse for love and affection, repressed, is channeled into lifeless facsimiles of the human, who then perform an artificial performative expression of desire.

The new TV series “Hannibal” features a protagonist who has Apsergers. It is a strange cultural reflex — to embrace the sympton, to humanize it. Perhaps that is no different than humanizing crack head murderous raping Marines as they kick in doors. I suspect its more complex than that. One is propaganda, this is dialectical.

leathergoods gun soft

Foster quotes Benjamin;

“Exposure of the mechanistic aspects of the organism is a persistent
tendency of the sadist. One can say that the sadist sets out to substitute for the
human organism the image of machinery”

This is now transferred to the computer. If someone of great intelligence is depicted, he or she must be ‘computer like’. Armored, without emotions for emotions are weak, emotions are feminine. Star Trek sort of created the template for this with Spock. His durability as a character is no accident. HAL in Kubrick’s 2001, is sort of inversely thought of very affectionately.

Square dance, Oklahoma 1939-1940, photo by US Farm Security Administration

Square dance, Oklahoma 1939-1940, photo by US Farm Security Administration

The boy today, growing up in the most socially atomized culture in history, probably, will suffer failures of masculine identification. The entire Oedipus drama is now, I suspect, an Asperger’s Oedipus. The contradictions of ever less coherent prohibitions, suffering under the pressure of an intensified super ego. The name of the father, the portal to the symbolic, the identifying of the law, in a sense, of authority, is now mediated by a digital father. The torturer Ward Cleaver is now Max Headroom- Ward Cleaver. We have no real experiences anymore, said Benjamin. We have an unconscious in the form of a film strip. Life is enclosed by screens…by a master narrative in which obedience to authority super-cedes all else, including desire. For Lacan, the child’s socialization is attached to the language of the law, the law-carried word of the Father, and the child is the ‘speaking animal’ —parle etre — and whose desire (the desire of the Mother) is intertwined with the language of society. But society speaks in fragments, in the marketed jargon of state department briefings. The language of society is ever closer to a functional mute and the Father is autistic.


Obedience to authority, and Reich’s sense of character armoring seems ever more relevant, today. For the fascist cannot stave off madness without the delusions of mystical calling, the purifications, the sense of paternal protection in keeping away the Jew, Bolshevik, Communist, Muslim, Nigger, Spic, illegal, Jap, homosexual….all of whom are feminine. All of whom slither inside the soul of man. Snakes, the garden of Eden, temptation, weakness, disease. These roles have been interchangeable to a degree, though now they are iPad snakes, and facebook and other social media platforms have, again as a guess, watered down the original intensity of having a calling. Traditional structures are gone, anyway, so the fascist appeal to family and binary gender roles feels ever more schizoid — though the Christian right’s obsession with abstinence feels as if it is now overdetermined. The banality of modern life yields the audience for Game of Thrones, or Star Trek or whatever. The future, the past, anytime but NOW. For now is rationalized, it is instrumental, and as the workforce is further estranged from its own identity — seen as a TV period show almost, much as tigers and lions are seen today on The Nature Channel. A rare endangered species. Something your father, or grandfather told you about. Or great grandfather.

Look!! Its a rare albino cheetah….and there, there is an American unionized factory worker.

Blue Collar, 1978, directed by Paul Schrader

Blue Collar, 1978, directed by Paul Schrader

Lacan once described real jouissance as the unmediated satisfaction of the animal leaping upon its prey. The animal following its instincts in mating or to alleviate its hunger. In one sense he suggested language kept us from that (there is a Nietzschean ring to that…but…..never mind for now). This is a discussion that occupies a good deal of 20th century and now 21st century thought. If, however, we are discussing the crisis of the masculine, it is useful to realize that this is also where culture enters the discussion. For language that moves toward the darkness, the invisible and inexpressable, is that language which re-directs desire. The Fascist retreat from ambiguity, the need to enforce clear and hard boundaries, means that language must be cleansed too. The thought police, the liberal or the fascist, who will enforce the edict you do NOT use a word like “illegal” to describe a human being, will do far less to correct the material injustices of those same illegal workers. The abstract is redolent of higher callings, missions, and in the memory is easy to bath in golden light. There is always a higher pure calling driving the sadistic, even if its only a private heaven. Art must be cleared of ambiguity, as well, and given clear formulas for appreciation.

proince pink nurse

When John Reed covered the western front in WW1, he described it as a battle between industrial workshops. Treverso quotes him, “factories which produce ruination of spirits as much as bodies”. The mass rational anslysis of resources had been applied to war. To death. To destruction. The later camps of National Socialism, of Hitler and Ante Pavelic, the fascists of Croatia, Spain, or Germany were believers in their own chaste ordained mission — and the instrumental machine in the U.S. that produced Los Alamos and the Manhatten Project, came from the an adjusted sense of hardness, of the expulsion of empathy, the extermination of the feminine, but by way of the grail of instrumental thought. Science, efficiency, technical expertise. The Atomic Bomb going off at White Sands, New Mexico was the biggest money shot in history.

When I was a boy, I remember being so struck by a certain model of masculinity in film….Brando primarely. For this was the sexually ambiguous. This was on one level, the absorbing of the feminine. Not in the way of, say, the bullfighter. The high macho that needs no feminine, for it IS more feminine. It has consumed the feminine. No, this was the recognition of wounding, or a tragic flaw, of confusion. It was the intuitive grief of knowing we are split. In other forms, Mishima, Genet, Burroughs…the sense of transgression was elevated, and it was juxtaposed to the white male misogyny of those who soon were sending my friends to Viet Nam. I got out, as a side bar, because a doctor I knew wrote the draft board that I couldn’t stop wetting the bed (well, and that I like boys). Fascism, colonialism, neo Imperialism….globalization. It all takes part, all participates in the rites of the fascist armoring of character. The sadism seen in Hillary Clinton when told of Quadaffi’s death is no different than the Freikorps’ white terror in the 1930s. Her’s is the face of the lynch mobs in the deep south laughing at the corpse of the black man hanging from a tree.

The ever intensifying surveillance state is en expression of sadism. It is the desire to monitor the potentially infected. Scrub them, disinfect them, and put plastic dust covers on them… but keep on eye on them. It is a culture of the young, monitored, chemically warehoused, and they are crammed with ever more prohibitions, with more rules, more laws, more repression. The masculine is now the CIA torturer. That is increasingly the message of mainstream media and culture. The responsible well adjusted torturer. Sex is sex for the camera. A generation of exhibitionists is simply performing for the eroticized camera, behind which sits the faceless, expressionless android or robot…or the torturer, or interrogator. Robocop — the mechanical phallus. Sex is to be done FOR the camera. If there is no CCTV, then set up your own and make a “sex tape”. Then put it on the internet. The torturer or police interrogator is the post modern Ward Cleaver ( though the truth is, Ward Cleaver was always a torturer, just ask his wife and kids).

man woman pinks

It is always fascinating to clock the minor side bar effects in cultural production. One of the new models for the masculine, in Hollywood, is the older widower. Randy Quaid in Vegas, or the guy in Longmire. There are others. The widower. Masculine, remote, but not quite tragic. This is a weird deformation of the romantic hero — this is Wuthering Heights in the police state. The wife is dead, almost always before the narrative starts. Her role was to set up the surviving partner as heroic. She is the sacrificial goat. Heathcliffe must assauge his grief through violence…. by working as a cop. Regeneration through violence (Slotkin). If one agrees with Mosse that the modern idea of the masculine coincided with the rise of bourgeois society, with its Greek principles, a controlled willpower, moral fortitude, and vigorous health– then the attendant attributes were of potency, and phallic energy, but life protective. But all of which, from the start, were threatened by ideas of and about the feminine. This is the blurring of boundaries, the too moist repository of sickness. Weakness was often defined not just sexually, but martially. Calling someone ‘soft’ is still an insult…. it suggests inherent weakness, and usually moral weakness along with the physical.

The rise in anti-semitism from the 1860s onward corresponded to this sense of growing panic in the inner masculine ideal. Today, the sense of Greek ideals feel nostalgic to a degree, although that physical culturalist sensibility was still active when I was young. The steam rooms, saunas, the attendants, attired in virginal white, waiting on the Roman Senators. In a sense it transformed into the health food fads, exercise cults and regular gym workouts. The elevated ritual of cleansing became the banality of ‘taking care of yourself’, getting enough exercise. What was the goal? The goal was health. If one couldn’t fight the Bolsheviks, at least you could do an hour on the treadmill. If there were not *injuns* to kill, or buffalo to slaughter — you could at least bench press. Today’s affluent liberal must ape the calluses of hard work with regular visits to the gym. Wear exercise gloves, fetishized without fingers, as the symbolic variant of the laborer’s gloves. The gym, in a sense, is a multi layered metaphor, for it is both exclusive, the site of those who don’t have salaried jobs during the day — AND an ersatz battlefield , competitive and nothing if not homoerotic, and an egalitarian (but still privileged) arena for conspicuous narcissism.

abstract MOMO double

“This is the chief difference between modern masculinity and what went before: the modern stereotype emphasises the body. Outward appearances are used to ‘read’ inner secrets; through physiogamy, for instance, the soul could be decoded from the body. With remarkable consistency, the ‘ideal’ body throughout this period was derived from ancient Greece. Mosse discusses a host of propagandists, but he stresses in particular the work of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68), an archaeologist, art historian, and librarian. In an series of influential books, Winckelmann established the principles of Greek beauty and (most importantly) made these traits relevant to his society. In a society undergoing immense structural and political upheaval brought about by industrialisation, Winckelmann’s ideal provided a way of reconceptualising mankind in terms of both dynamic virility and harmonising order. Movement, yes: passion, no…”
Joanna Bourke, writing about George Mosse’s The Image of Man

However, the evolving sense of body image took a decided Dianabol turn — anabolic steroids, plastic surgery and weight training all subsidized the morphing ideal from harmonizing order, and health, to something closer to the death instinct: the image of power, of savagery, was manufactured via pharmaceuticals and scalpel — the new ideal male body was brutal.

If the ideal male body were architecture, it would be the Queen Elizabeth Hall.


There is a dialectic here, though. For the logic of domination trains passivity, and obedience. For men, this became part of a fabric of liberal consensus driven behavior. Aggression was projected for vicarious experience with The Dark Knight, or other vigilante heroes (Dirty Harry, and the countless assassin narratives) who would not be domesticated by the system. Obedience to the system, and hatred of the system. Mild mannered reporter by day, fighter for truth and justice by night.

“In most families today, the sons … receive, when the father returns home at six, only his disposition, or his temperament, which is usually irritable and remote. What the father usually brings home is a touchy mood, springing from powerlessness and despair mingled with long-standing shame and numbness peculiar to those who hate their jobs. “
Robert Bly

The Expendables 2 - UK Film premiere

The politcal realities of today’s acute inequalities — cast a shadow over all of this. For even looking back to the origins of Colonialism, is to see the gendered nature of conquest and settlement building by the colonial powers. Following on to the neo-colonial or economic colonialism of today, of neo-imperialism, and the vast destruction of the U.S. machine — the importance of discussing the masculine must be in light of global capital, and the parallel misogynist expression of this. The vast military bases of Empire are both created by, and the result of (besides Capitalism and the principles of expansion and exploitation) a violence to women, and to the poor. For the U.S. only occupies the poor. The question of military rape is not exactly incidental, but rather foundational as an expression of the very fears and aggression that marks the failed libidinal cathexis of western man.

Those elitist ideals evoking the playing fields of Eton, the fascist underpinnings of the modern olympic movement, were always presented as cut off from the antagonisms of class. The contradictions I first noticed as a junior high student, have now intensified under the pressure of a failing capitalist system that keeps millions locked away in a vast domestic gulag. The contradictions of repression manifest themselves in more visibly destructive ways.

Dave Zirin on the Ohio high school rape case:

And perhaps the most indelible saga of sadism, self loathing, repression, and libidinal deformities was the Jerry Sandusky/ Joe Paterno story at Penn State. (here is the Grand Jury Report:

Sexual violence follows the logic of domination. You cannot passively watch drone attacks that leaves a dozen children dead and mutilated, and think such violence is magically cut off from daily life. That violence IS daily life.

White supremicism is a world structure of domination. Beneath this is the fragile shrunken egos of the adjusted domesticated slave, the white proletariat with no job, and the disinfranchised youth .. but together they dream the delusional dreams of an ever more alienated and reified populace. The culture of the therapeutic, revisionist — from sex to interpersonal relationships, from Id to ego, is symptomatic of the larger flattening of criticism. The truth is never tolerant, said Freud. The therapeutic culture believes happiness stands outside history — our own, and societies. This is the removal of ambiguity, too. The fascism of western globalized capital is now leaving its barbaric footprint everywhere on the planet. The sense of panic you see in the far right zealots like Breivik, or any of scores of US youth who dress up for their ritual rites of purification, the random or near random killing sprees, usually made easier by heavy doses of anti-depressants, is the panic that demands fixed coordinates to life. It is compulsive and repetitive.

Queen Elizabeth Hall

Queen Elizabeth Hall

The religion of science, of hyper-rational instrumental thinking demands that fixed coordinates exist. They HAVE to be there. So everything must be in the service of constructing them, then reproducing them. The enforcing a belief in them. The maps to these truths are written by Ayn Rand or Richard Perle, or Tony Blair — or the U.S. state department. Resistance appears in autonomous zones off the grid, or simply from the further reaches of former colonies, or really, anywhere one can live off the literal and figurative radar of the new fascist state. Russell Jacoby wrote at the end of Social Amnesia (an excellent and neglected book) the anecdote of the Attica Prison convict who said, speaking by phone from inside the prison, moments before the state police unleashed their barrage of gunfire on the prison, “we are the only civilized men here”.

The truth of that is important to remember. This is the societal adjustment to the irrational. It is a society that needs violence, needs poverty, and certainly needs war. It remains a society run by white men…white men like Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Joint Chiefs and CEO of Monsanto. The material mandate of capital creates the frame in which this narrative plays out. Over and over. There is a war on the poor, and a war on women, and a war against dissent. It is a war doomed to fail, but at what cost?

barahona possolo 2 nude man and monkey


  1. More soon, but first, provenance of the mannequin/mirror/hook-man image?

  2. Excellent piece, so much to ‘take in’ – finding my way through the meanderings and twists and then back and back again, beautiful and engaging. I might need to print this one out, for when I read on the computer my thoughts tend toward the one-dimensional.

    A few initial thought-feelings

    1) The site of masculinity and eroticism is, in my opinion, definitely linked to a split(ing) ego; or an ego that is unraveling because of A, B, C or 1,2&3. These coordinates usually are defined – in the so-called West – as- with- through- work and the (our?) relation to it. The unemployed, the employed ‘blue collar’ worker, the employed ‘uppity’ Black manager, etc… And so these people are all mixing and juggling and juicing themselves up- in- and under a status quo that ISN’T messy. It is gloss… (floss)…

    2) Therefore, the issues you address – militarisation for example – become a great ‘alternative’ to unemployment; notice the gay mainstream obsession to be ‘in’ the club of the US military. After they repeal DADT, a friend of mine (a former friend) who was very feminine at times and rather delightful in a shallow-esque but also fun sort-of way, began to strongly identify with his father and he joined the airforce, I was so shocked at first I didn’t know what to do!

    3) Your statement below, is spot on: One sees it in the caverns of the gyms, in the saunas, or rather in the experiences of the saunas I hear about, for I have never been in one.

    “Today, the sense of Greek ideals feel nostalgic to a degree, although that physical culturalist sensibility was still active when I was young. The steam rooms, saunas, the attendants, attired in virginal white, waiting on the Roman Senators. In a sense it transformed into the health food fads, exercise cults and regular gym workouts. The elevated ritual of cleansing became the banality of ‘taking care of yourself’, getting enough exercise. What was the goal? The goal was health. If one couldn’t fight the Bolsheviks, at least you could do an hour on the treadmill. If there were not *injuns* to kill, or buffalo to slaughter — you could at least bench press. Today’s affluent liberal must ape the calluses of hard work with regular visits to the gym. Wear exercise gloves, fetishized without fingers, as the symbolic variant of the laborer’s gloves. The gym, in a sense, is a multi layered metaphor, for it is both exclusive, the site of those who don’t have salaried jobs during the day — AND an ersatz battlefield , competitive and nothing if not homoerotic, and an egalitarian (but still privileged) arena for conspicuous narcissism.”

    And finally 4) STRANGELY ENOUGH, I had a dream last night, with a lot of content, but a part of the dream included me arguing with some masculinist doctors (I think they were, or ‘scientists’) about there not being ‘two’ genders or ‘two’ sexes and telling them about people who have ambiguous semiotic and somatic sexed bodies, a multiplicity of body-beings, and they became enraged! coincidence!

  3. One note of caution: I might (re)consider using the word ‘autism’ pejoratively, it – used in the negative, although it is a symptom by definition – has a psychosocial resonance for me similar to the unfortunate use of the word ‘hysteria’ in early psychoanalysis.

  4. One last bit: would you mind taking a look at this (other, not emailed) piece about time and its sexualisation: I think it may integrate with your tightly and comprehensively written piece above:

  5. John Steppling says:

    thanks Eilief.
    I hear you about autism, but I wasnt thinking perjoratively, anymore than I think Deleuze was about schizophrenia. But I should perhaps make that clearer. And in a sense Im cheating a bit and using it slightly as a bit of shorthand or catch all — a place holder. It is a topic to look at, however.

  6. John Steppling says:


    its a Meatyard pic.

  7. Thank you for the clarification, John.

  8. Thank you John for the helpful clarification. I think that a discussion is needed on it too. 🙂

  9. Strong work, John. I’ve been thinking about autism lately as an emblematic disorder of the current episode of late-late phase capitalism we’re living through. To me, there seems to be an appeal now in the rejection of relationality in autism. In film you see this everywhere – Wes Anderson, Terence Malick, Lars von Trier – and in philosophy there’s all the rhetoric in speculative realism about the withdrawal of the object from its relations. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of a growing fear, conscious and semi-conscious, of hyper-processes like global warming and cataclysmic collapse that are ultimately based in the turbo-charged relationality machines of consumer capitalism. I’m using Deleuzian terms for the same reasons you mention him above – process philosophy strongly suggests criticism adopt a framework that is NOT based on standard models of psychic unity (even Lacan’s). Intriguing terrain, to be sure.

  10. John Steppling says:

    Interesting Guy. Ive made this claim for austism as well……….for a while now. Its maybe as if we have gone from schizophrenia to autism. The idea of relationality is very significant, probably. I would say that one of the things that makes lacan intriguing is that he doesnt posit a unity. He posits this basic instability. But however we label it, there seems as something like critical mass has been reached .. the systems that manufacture these images and narratives and produce and then reproduce them, and commodify them, and all the extended logic that brought financialized capital, is now sort of flaming out. There is too much contradiction, and too much manufactured ‘meaning’. And I think there must be some penalty, some cost for this total disconnect from nature, from the human, from community as it has existed in one form or another, for centuries. Autism seems a sort of partial system shut down. Too much disconnect, and neural pathways close down in some sense. The denial required to live *successfully* in the advanced west, must result in some psychic damage. The environmental crises are here…and yet as we read daily of new oil spills, new meltdowns, somehow the response, from the state, is autistic…..and on an individual level i suspect it further deepens the cleft in logic — and yeah, for sure this sense of identity is what is behind it. So i would say, apropos of your comment…..its true, psychic unity is a fabrication, and i think its quite fascinating to think on this question of relationality….but also so are the models of identity that operate as given on the societal level.—- in other words the entire frame of progress, coherence, and governance should be examined…..white patriarchy, and capitalist logics of domination, because they are now failing, badly, rapidly.

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