Eros and being

The human being, an ensemble of social relations, cannot act alone. Where he internalises the virtues of society, he also imbibes its vices

In a recent statement, the ISPR chief said that Pakistan considers its nuclear capability to be a “weapon of deterrence… (The) only thing stopping them (India) is our credible nuclear deterrence…” If it does not offend the Pretorian guards, may one ask what if the nation of ‘pious’ decides to commit hara-kiri by dropping a moral nuke on itself — if it has not done so already? The disclosure of the additional advocate general in the Federal court regarding 108 cases of rape, which are pending before the session courts in one city alone, is enough to depict that the land of the pure does not need a nuclear capability either for deterrence or its self-destruction.

When did we learn this art of self-immolation? Perhaps, at the time of partition when a thoughtless ideology divided the humanity turning thousands into cadavers and leaving millions of others into living dead, or else it may have been a little later when, under the command of ‘the tigers’, Pakistan’s integrity became synonymous with the deflowering of scores of Bengali women. Why did we treat Bengal as a brothel?

What kind of a hideous affliction has struck Balochistan where in broad daylight people eclipse in the thin air only to be found as mutilated corpses in the wee hours of the night? Are we living in Pinochet’s era when body parts were mutilated beyond recognition before leaving a headless, limbless torso in a dustbin? But there is a difference: none of us happens to be a Víctor Jara, who could raise his amputated fingers, enmeshed in his blood, to sing a tune of rebellion. We are a nation of cowards, which deserves to have sagging generals and scowling politicians, with their pampered siblings spewing hatred against the minorities, as our saviours. This is today’s Pakistan. Jinnah must be convulsing in his grave — but do we remember him?

“No one”, Evan Goldstein says, “wants to go looking under stones when venomous scorpions might be lurking beneath them, waiting to attack the self-image of the existing ethos and its territorial ambitions”. Once through the shenanigans and chicaneries, human interests cleave humanity into alike and others; it is then convenient to resort to a holocaust. Adorno correctly states that “Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they are only animals” — In our case, only the guise appears to change,  appearing as Bengalis, Afghans, Baloch, ‘kafirs’, Reds or sometimes as child Zainab!

Whether we believe in the law of gravity or not, the culture does: following the law it trickles from above, from the upper stratum of the society. For the recognition of their authority, the dominant economic interests do not need force. They train people in such a way that they falsely identify their own interest with the dominant interests of the ruling class.

This is how cultural hegemony plays its decisive role. As long as the system reproduces an indoctrinated conformist majority, the majority continues to reproduce the system, which can be changed from within but not beyond its institutional framework. The culture based on sadism becomes a necessity for the capital and the totalitarian state — both reinvent and realise their control through fear. How else can people be kept wallowing in the slime of poverty and self-abnegation if not through cultural hegemony enmeshed with coercion?

What lies behind the concept of rape: the satisfaction of starved libido or stamping the seal of authority? One might dismiss the aggressor as a pervert, but is perversion any different from the internalisation of the vices of an innately starved society. Henry James was succinct: “appetite is never excessive, never furious, save when it has been starved”.

Freud who dealt with neurosis revealed that the psyche of an individual represents the crimes of humankind. The history of the individual is the history of the whole. Hence, no crime is committed in isolation. The human being, an ensemble of social relations, cannot act alone. Where he internalises the virtues of society, he also imbibes its vices. Those who find their refuge behind the religious mask remain as vividly naked as those who lack the luxury of this masquerade.

Those who find their refuge behind the religious mask remain as vividly naked as those who lack the luxury of this masquerade

In human history, religion has never proved to impede torture or coercion. Contrarily, it acted as a tool to curb the human instinct either through naked violence or in case of its own vulnerability by promoting shame and guilt, turning a healthy individual into a neurotic. Its objective timeless values and concepts are subjective constructs, which emanate directly from power relations.

They demand the subjugation of an already subjugated stratum of the society. Akin to Nietzsche, every religion deems the woman fit for the ‘recreation of the warrior’. The capital wants to drag the woman to the market, to the private domain as a commodity, whereas religion wishes to cage her in the house to use her as personal property.

For Freud, “the tendency to aggression in man (human) is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition… it constitutes the powerful obstacle to culture”. If one accepts this fact at its face value, then the only way to sublimate this energy is to initiate a revolution, which will undo the capitalistic repression. Only then, the Nietzsche an caves where infantile neurosis thrives can be exorcised and the possibility of terminating the destructive productivity, a symbol of patriarchy, will be realised. Only then, man will be liberated from his machismo and from the narcissism of being a superior gender, which is the precondition of feminine but not a matriarchal society.

There is a secret alliance between capital and religion to exploit the woman as gender. The former promotes and sells her as a beauty queen, a stripper, and a porn star while the latter draws a halo of sacredness around her face elevating her to the status of a mother, a wife, a sister and/or a daughter. Isn’t the image of mother any less repressive? Is it necessary for a woman to become a mother?

Her constitution as a woman is a biological fact but by giving it an ethical and cultural value she is deprived not only of a status of being an ordinary woman who has the right to live as she deems fit or free, but she is given an additional task of becoming a procreator as a wife as well. The gratification of one’s natural instincts is a necessity but reproduction is not, yet the society enforces two entirely different and unrelated demands upon a woman.

Any woman living outside the monogamous patriarchal structure is taken as an object of desire in the backward states while a socialised commodity made up of flesh in the capitalistic world.

Marcuse once hoped that “after the secularisation of society, after the transformation of ethics into Orwellian hypocrisy, the socialisation of the body as sexual object is perhaps one of the last decisive steps in the completion of the exchange society: the completion which is the beginning of the end.”

The dearth of male members of the society after two world wars, the massive industrialisation and busy exchange brought the woman in the West into the market. Nothing was more valuable for the capital than a productive body hence she was emancipated but not liberated. The necessity of production of surplus value bridged the gulf between the two genders. The esteem and reverence reserved for male had to be offered to the once humbled ‘fair sex’. The Victorian age with all its narratives was interred. The machine killed the religion; the Eros was liberated.

In developing countries where the process of industrialisation has been slow, the relations of production too are suffering from a feudal malaise. Most of them are striving to break open the fetters of religion.

Even if they enter the industrial process, the capitalism they need to endure would be devoid of its historic ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. It will carry the feudal vestiges of past such as the Hudood and blasphemy laws along.

The modern state will have to work hard to change these relations, especially when they are modelled on hard-core Lutheranism. That is why Kafka simulated faith with the guillotine. Slavery is so degrading that it takes at least a generation to wipe out its deep-rooted scars.

For Freud, the intolerance of ambiguity is a neurosis; how neurotic a society would be that refuses to tolerate even an allusion to the ambiguity? If it flirts with necrophilia where lies the hope of its survival? Even a psychiatrist of Freud’s stature won’t be able to treat its neurosis. Might we look towards the ‘utopia’ put forward by Marx where freedom will not be class-based, and a child need not suffer due to his/her class character?

The writer has authored books on socialism and history. He blogs at saulatnagi.wordpress.com and can be reached atsaulatnagi@hotmail.com

Published in Daily Times, January 26th 2018.