LOVE VERSUS HATE. First, take a look at this blog on Bullies: http://clarespark.com/2012/09/19/bullies/ . Although the Harvard education school was mostly fixated upon the controversial switching of gender identities and the promotion of Love as against Hate, Harvard hasn’t noticed that the “binary opposition” of love and hate is one of the staples of Western Civilization. One of the great fears of the “paleo-conservatives” is that the Religion of Love will lose its authority, hence unleashing sinister forces (the “neocon” haters) upon the land. Paleos dig Chuck Hagel.
Here is how “Ishmael” described the most striking feature of Ahab’s personality: “He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it” (p. 184)
That word “hate” is omnipresent in our political and social discourse: we condemn “hate speech” as if changing the language with which we describe the poor, minorities, women, and gays will remove “prejudice” against them and summon that lost “unity” we believe once characterized “the nation.”
And before Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick, the British essayist William Hazlitt declared his hatred of tyrants:
[William Hazlitt on love and hate, 1819:] “To be a true Jacobin, a man must be a good hater;…The love of liberty consists in the hatred of tyrants…I am no politician and still less can I be said to be a partyman: but I have a hatred of tyranny, and a contempt for its tools…I deny that liberty and slavery are convertible terms, that right and wrong, truth and falsehood, plenty and famine, the comforts or wretchedness of a people, are matters of perfect indifference. That is all I know of the matter; but on these points I am likely to remain incorrigible.”
Both authors, Hazlitt and Melville had read John Milton’s Paradise Lost, written under censorship. Surely each of these close readers noticed this speech from Book II, possibly Milton’s own (semi-silenced) voice speaking through “Mammon,” who counsels the other fallen angels to avoid war with the heavenly Deity:
Eternity so spent in worship paid
To whom we hate. Let us not then pursue
By force impossible, by leave obtain’d
Unacceptable, though in Heav’n our state
Of splendid vassalage, but rather seek
Our own good from ourselves, and from our own
Live to our selves, though in this vast recess,
Free, and to none accountable, preferring
Hard liberty before the easy yoke
Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear
Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse
We can create, and in what place so e’er
Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain
Through labour and endurance. This deep world
Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst
Thick clouds and dark doth heaven’s all-ruling sire
Choose to reside, His glory unobscured,
And with the majesty of darkness round
Covers his throne; from whence deep thunders roar
Mustering thir rage, and Heav’n resembles hell?
As he our darkness, cannot we his light
Imitate when we please? This desert soil
Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;
Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can heaven show more?
Our torments also may in length of time
Become our elements, these piercing fires
As soft as now severe, our temper changed
Into their temper; which must needs remove
The sensible of pain. All things invite
To peaceful counsels, and the settled state
Of order, how in safety best we may
Compose our present evils, with regard
Of what we are and were, dismissing quite
All thoughts of war: ye have what I advise. (II, 247-283)
HARD LIBERTY. (Milton’s seventeenth century puritan readers would have understood that mining was a symbol for discovery and the search for knowledge.)
As I write this, the media are obsessed with the gun control debate, as if further restricting access to certain weapons and ammunition, in tandem with greater attention to “mental health” and the “culture of violence” will prevent future massacres by deranged young men. These would be amusing quick fixes were not the cultural issues so deeply conflicted and elusive. Why are they so hard to explicate and pin down?
- There is no agreed upon definition of what constitutes mental health, nor has there ever been. Freud is still an offbeat interest and thought to be crazily sex-obsessed himself (thus fulfilling the image of the carnal, divisive, lucre-obsessed Jew).
- No one can measure the effects of “media violence” or pictorial violence; for centuries images of violence were thought to provide a salutary catharsis for the pent-up rage that all civilized societies inflict upon children. And since Freudian ideas are off the table, for instance that siblings consciously and unconsciously harbor murderous impulses toward each other and toward one or both parents, we have no critical tools to evaluate “violence” by psychopaths. True, the better “profiler” shows on television do point to parental abuse as the long term cause of serial killing. But they do not mount any substantial critique of masculinity, even when favorite sports figures sacrifice their lives, like gladiators of old, to entertain the masses.
- As for the femmes fatales (the woman with gun), the general subject of motherhood is evaded, even as film noir is celebrated by film critics. (See http://clarespark.com/2011/04/27/james-m-cains-gorgon-gals-2/.)
- Who doesn’t hate anything smacking of “the Puritan” today? We throw around the words “freedom” and “liberty” as if these had the same meaning to everyone, or worse, we invert freedom and slavery, so that we do not see our lust for “servile pomp.” Nor would we imagine that such a dark passion only binds us closer to Leviathan.