an essay on Good and Evil
The Rule of Darkness
Writers hear a lot about selling out. Usually this means that the writer has agreed
to sign a contract with a money cow for a very large sum. Big Bucks. Maybe even Movie Bucks. We know what we mean, but there are a few things that we don’t understand about the nature of the sell out ‑‑ What is the writer selling out to? And from where? Exactly what is being sold out? And why should anyone be outraged about a few writers cashing in on the good thing that their writing brings them in a world that doesn’t reward that many writers with that much pelf anyway?
I have often asked myself why we don’t consider the comic writers to be sellouts. What distinguishes the comic writer from any other? Money is money. Is the buffoon exempt from criticism? Is selling out confined only to “serious artists”?
I want to talk about the “serious writer” as example, while carrying some of others along with me in a sub‑text.
The problem has several layers of concern, one which I am going to call The Rule of Darkness.
The Rule of Darkness works in the matrix of pornography and prostitution assumed as the underbelly of the sell out. Money is where the eye meets the sex organ. It’s where the hidden vices are, and vice is the darkness. What the serious writer is selling out to is the sex, violence and hatred that drive the negative, destructive culture. This is the Domain of Darkness, a place we know exists but where most of us are afraid to go because we know that writers who go to this place become servants of the Darkness which is a synonym for– Money.
The sell‑out, then, is a corruption, because while we know that worth in this society is judged on wealth, we also know that it is wrong to sell your writing to the sex and violence industry to earn cash. We know that there are principles which are worth more than money, and we hold up the serious writer as a model above the putrid but we do it in a world that has become so mercenary that it takes a special Class of Priests to take us to task for our cupidity.
Accepting that money is a baseline, we have an idea of what the writers are selling out to, but just what is it that they are selling?
Art and Principle
In order to profit from darkness, writers sell their principles. The Great Principles of Art, which, according to some should, since they are creative and compete with ideas of divineness, work for the good of the race and bring into the world beauty and truth that do not exist before them. The critics of the sell‑out writers are the priesthood of writers who are moralizers. This is not a bad caste to have watch‑dogging us. They write to the light and instill shame, the absence of which has corrupted our time and debased our art.
The power of Darkness is a consuming power. Writers who remind us of our dip into darkness also tell us about sacrifice and they maintain the covenant of art in its pure state so that we can see just how far we have fallen when we do sell out.
The moralizers are the priests in this post-Eden era. They are servants of light, looking for goodness and talking about a morality that is not bound up with or founded on revealed or scriptural precepts. They are the moral voice which reminds us, through their writing, that writing has become corrupt. I am not talking about religious writers, or writers about religion, but about a stratum of serious writers who have a passionate belief in the ability of the written word to uplift, to direct and to shape a moral position. In a sense, these writers are utopians. They write from a nexus of moral insight counterpoised to the gold and silver of Mammon. The basis of their writing is goodness. There is, however, an obvious problem here.
The relationship of Bad News Journalism to Fiction is in the common wisdom and it can be summed up in a phrase: Goodness doesn’t sell.
You can’t write about a completely good character unless it is done comically or satirically, as in “Being There”, without breaching the dam of angelism. Goodness without the hammer of religious morality seems to be unattainable. Were I a moralist, I would find this both curious and bothersome because I cannot account for the lack of interesting religious fiction for those writers who dwell on religious fiction have to use the techniques of negativism to make their point as in the Left Behind books.
I am reminded of the time I went to see “Apocalypse Now,” which, according to Coppola, is an antiwar film. During the scenes when the helicopters come hurtling down out of the sky blaring “Ride of the Valkyries”, the young male audience began to cheer and shout thereby missing the entire point of the director who, so he says, wanted to make an allegory about a faceless, nameless enemy who was being slaughtered by the Dupes of Evil posing as the Forces of Goodness.
“Apocalypse Now” failed at the box office, unlike its fantasy counterpart, the Rambo series. Why should this be?
Escape from Goodness
The writer who goes to money can’t escape the existence of goodness. He/she carries goodness as an atavistic memory which shapes the thinking, and so feels compelled to bring forth a hero who fights the darkness with the same forces that the darkness uses in its attack on the light.
This is both dilemma and informative crux. More on it in a bit.
The Violent Hero in the world of darkness brings a pseudo-catharsis, pseudo because his violence is not the apotheosis of goodness that he represents, rather a reveling in the violence in the name of good. Heroes of the darkness are hypocrites whose message is not the extension of goodness and the creation of a utopia, but acts of violent retribution. This problem accounts for the complex plot problems in the Terminator series from James Cameron. To strike back against the darkness is the pretext but all the while the Hero is morally putrid, holding in the right hand a white sword while the left holds a shotgun for killing innocents. Sword and shotgun are parts of the same animal and its vice is it destructiveness.
A fundamental problem for the sell‑out writer, then, is the marriage of sex to violence to create a perverted sub‑text of rape and exploitation at the hands of the Strongman.
In this sub‑culture, which appeals to and probably has its roots in the pre‑legal congregations of tribal society where strong is desirable, rape is not violence but salary the strongest is paid for his strength. Biology in pre‑legal society becomes right and that subtext is the primitive response that takes the form of a resentment at law and a nostalgia for the uncivilized rule of strength and might over law and convention.
Literature of Love
In the Archetypal Darkness, Woman is passive (even with the emergence of a few female superheroes she does not free herself for she picks up the same Sword and Shotgun the Strongman wields. Gender matters little at this level). She is a vehicle through which the Strongman transfers his strength to the next generation. He has unlimited access to females, all of whom bow down to his superiority and strength. This is a strangely pro-natalist sub-culture.
Violence and Hatred are the emotional bases of the Sell‑out: Violence shown; Hatred depicted; Violence told. Let’s call this triumvirate the Literature of Violence and set it as the polar of the Literature of Love. Mediating them is the Literature of Catharsis masquerading as the Literature of Revenge in which, paradoxically, the Evil Doer is the Do‑Gooder. (Arnold in “Terminator 2”, need I say more?) Rebelling against any attempts to suppress the natural right of the biologically superior, the Literature of Violence insinuates itself into our consciousness for at the root of the Literature of Violence, there is a contempt for society and the orderliness of civilized existence.
The characteristic of the Literature of Hate is the theme: “good guys getting even with the bad guys”. The Literature of Love, that is the constructive literature built on the utopian morality of the serious writer assumes that the Arch‑Evil, in our society, are not innately bad, but have been made that way, thus pointing coincidentally to the premise that it is society which harms as well as protects, while the Literature of Hate assumes that there are no individuals, but only stereotypes, and that some types are evil. It is the constant interaction of good and evil, and the overpowering of good by evil that gives the Literature of Hate its drive. It is in this pandering, which is so very easy to do, that the criticism of selling out finds its true locus of concern.
The elements of the Sell‑Out are summarized as this: The gratuitous display of violence; the unchained machine of vengeance, the dismembering and disruption and corruption of the human body, and its superordinate, the society which is the aggregate of the body.
Inherently, the Literature of Hatred is an attack on the Rule of Law and that is the deep river of this literature and its compulsion.
The Literature of Hatred assumes that the Arch‑Evil have chosen to be evil, and can be punished for their choice. It is a question, not so much of being bad, as “choosing to be bad” that is the crux here. There is no forgiveness for it, nor will there ever be, because the premise is not to reconstruct, but to destroy, while in forgiveness there is every reason to build. Thus, the Literature of Hatred becomes a tool of exclusion, and implicit in the working out of the biological forces of might are lessons to the feminine elements of society, which restrict.
In the depiction of violence, in the graphic description in writing of violence to human beings by personal and immediate assailants, there is an element of disbelief. So often violence is shown as a type of innocent behavior by the Arch‑Evil, something they do because they don’t know any better. (Idiots who pull the wings off butterflies or cut the guts out of women while coming in their pants…) Their evil has deranged them. They are not responsible. The paradoxical victim is responsible, because it is the victim who is rational, who has too much, who is too beautiful, who is a woman, who is vulnerable.
What does a society gain from the depiction of violence in its writing and images? Does violence condition us to be more careful? Does violence warn us about the evil in our fellows? Does violence habituate us to violence and therefore breed even more intense and violent images? Does violence cleanse us of our own violent urges? Does it, can it, will it ever, do us any good?
Addiction is the elemental component here. Human beings are addictive. Maybe violence begets not just more violence, but more intense violence, which in turn denigrates the positive aspects of being human by hopelessly entangling us in an unending spiral of increasing stimulation. Maybe we create violence because we no longer feel anything unless it rams into us with the force of a AR-15 round. Maybe we create violence because we are dead.
Because we simultaneously thrive on and shun stimulation, we are bound up with our devils. We need violence to affirm our sentience, and we abhor it because it hooks us into another time, deep in the past, when we lived without laws. Thus, the critique of the Sell‑Out is a critique of laws and the way we behave now compared to the way we behaved “once upon a Rousseauvian time.”
The fairy‑tale component is critical: Once upon a time, we were ruled by strong men who meted out true justice — an eye for an eye. Pain from the ultimate father. But the model of a vicious, noble past is crushed under the weight of Goodness, which, is disgusting to the forces of Darkness in revolt.
The lawlessness in violence involves the violation of the integrity of the human body and, more to the point, the spirit. It involves the stripping away of human being and substitutes in its place a natural core which mistakenly assumes that when we were lawless we were better. It confronts and repudiates the social contract and violates the way in which most of us have agreed to live. Violence is the conversion of individuality and egocentrism into action. The need to be above the law is so intense that to obey the law is impossible for the Strongman, and those who identify with him. At the same time, the power of the law to avenge its transgression is equally great. Which raises the question: Why do the strong hate the law?
Why Do the Strong Hate the Law?
Without law, individuals are powerless against the Strongman. Law is a way to equalize unequal genetic gifts.
Law is the mirror which shows that might does not make right. Disregard for the law is a display of disgust for the weak, the unprepared and the effete. Law is a way of perpetuating weakness in the culture. The Sell‑Out Writer, playing to the fairy‑tale, cultivates our nostalgia. The Sell‑Out is a promoter of chaos, chaos that plays a central role in the fairy‑tale. The Strongman subordinates the makers of chaos to his personal power and rule which must be founded on strength and not on logic. His natural law grows out of an irrational law, and coercion through fear of violence becomes the way to enforce it. His natural law must be obeyed not because it is right, but because of the threat of violence which underlies it. Men obey the law of the Strongman because if they fail to do so they forfeit their bodies. The Sell-Out Writer who dives into this undercurrent of lawlessness, who creates the Dirty Harrys, who creates the Rambos, and the Lethal Weapons, who creates the Terminator is working the Darkness and in a sense becomes a renegade, but a renegade burdened with the guilt of goodness.
It is curious that until recently our society demanded that the police be men, that they be large and that they be strong. We recognize that violence must be met with strength in order to disarm it so that the application of punishment can proceed in an orderly and lawful way.
Law requires the application of force; it requires that the force of the state be more powerful than the force of the individual. When law is weak, the state is weak. The Lilliputian Principle applies here: many small, weak people can punish the single, large strong man and he abhors this, he revolts against it.
The Sell‑Out writer, catering to the fairy tale, contributes to the anti‑legal, anti‑social current by offering his/her creativity to the service of Darkness. The writer becomes reprehensible because he/she is using gifts and tools to attack the Numerous Weak by creating the One Strong whom they fear most. And what does the Strongman fear? Feminization. To be fucked is the ultimate humiliation, to be woman. The Strongman cannot imagine himself being his sister.
The Sell‑Out writer must promote weakness and create the victim in order for the Strongman to prevail. Without victims there are no Strongmen. Annihilation becomes the biological prerogative of the strong. In a just society of laws, there would be fewer victims and the application of violence as redress for affronts would be alien to a smoothly functioning society.
In our time, the connection between violence and sex forms a psychological dyad. The writers use that dyad to show a relationship between the structure of society and violence by working on the primal nature of capture by force. But, they misunderstand. It is not the dyad that gave shape; biologically the female is more powerful; she consents, is not taken; violence is the application of force to overcome that power. Rape is the neutralizing of the female’s natural rule of choice, which choice depends upon the rule of a law even more ancient and powerful than the rule of the Strongman. Violence and sex are a dyad in the Literature of Hatred because women happened to be physically less strong, while being endowed with the power to make society.
Genetics and Violence
The question remains: Why do Strongmen hate the Law?
The answer is that law is the imposition of the female principle of choice, it is the softening of power, it is the disguising of power.
Imagine a society where the law officers are women. In fact, the rule of law would make more sense if the police officers were all women. But of course, Arch‑Evil does not fear the Law as such, but the Enforcer of the Law, who must, if the law is to rule, be as vicious as Arch‑Evil himself.
In the Literature of Hatred, the Violence‑Sex dyad represents taking by males and the rule of law represents the giving by females. Law is release from Violence, it is the giving of peace.
In a novel I made several years ago, “Citadel”, I wrote about the problem of free birth in a state where women, by having sons, contribute to their own oppression. It is in the son that the root of another female’s enslavement resides. Every Strongman is some woman’s offspring. Curiously unperturbed by this phenomenon, women continue to fail to socialize their sons. Or do they?
Is there a biological determinant at work here? Could it be that women gain by producing Strongmen who dominate, and in so doing extend their own circle of power? Are women mythological breeders who create monsters to stand as guardians over them? Could it be that what we see in the Sell‑Out writer is the ultimate expression of the deep hurt women have suffered for millennia? By creating the Strongman who takes by force, are women avenging themselves and freeing themselves? What do women gain? By producing the Strongman, women spread their genes. Every offspring her Strongman produces pushes her genes further out into the world, colonizes another space. Fostering Strongmen and letting them fight amongst themselves, women sit back assaying the struggle, selecting the strongest, the tallest, the most cunning. Do women genetically select for the Strongman as a way of assuring that they will perpetuate themselves? What better way for a woman to become immortal than to have a son who plants his seed in a thousand wombs?
Why is the object of the dyad so often female? Is an economy of punishment at work here? The trade‑off of immortality against temporal pain?
The explanation has perhaps another side as well: The eruption of lawlessness in the form of the dyad is the taking of all females by the Strongman. Humiliation of the female, violence against the female is violence against law. At the root of violence, there is egocentrism and the individuality of adolescence. The dyad must represent, in its basic and structural form, the tearing apart of the Mother. This seems to contradict the greater segment of Totem and Taboo but it is entirely logical.
Society by application of law becomes feminized and matriarchal; society by the application of violence is patriarchal. It is rebellion against the mother, against the process of socialization that the Strongman proceeds; mothers dictate behavior, fathers enforce it; the dyad represents rebellion against the unit; violence is arrested adolescence; the structure of society, as mirrored by the application of law, is the projection of maternal dicta; the adolescent does not rebel against the Father, (Freud was patriarchal and egocentric in this insistence), but against the Mother. Working deep in this are there Oedipal explanations? Rebellion takes the form of possession of the sex object which cannot be possessed in fact, and so must be set apart and symbolized. To possess the mother is to replace the father. Law is promulgated to avoid this dissolution of societal structure. Law becomes the tool for suppressing the adolescent tendency to run around measuring penises.
Clearly, the dyad is thick with complexity. The Literature of Hatred depicts rebellion which must be punished. Morality is the “should do” of law without the power to enforce it. It is a legal res, not a moral entity.
In this context, sexual favors accrue to the Strongman because of his anti‑feminine activities, and his perversion of the rule of law creates a perceived aura of sexiness which is emulated and contributes further to the general attack on the rule of law and to chaos, the state most desirable to the Strongman.
Chaos is the highest state of desire because chaos corrupts completely the rule of law and places the Strongman at the center of a universe which before tended to become cerebral, scientific, feminine, in short, less physical. The rule of law, by impeding the rise of chaos, has to be the enemy of the Strongman.
The Sell‑out Writer, the Wizard of Oz, plays on this duality and through it creates a vehicle for his/her own enrichment, a vehicle that demeans his/her own cerebrality and at the same time generates a system of anti‑morality with venality as base. What do the Moralists and the Priests have to show for their critiques? Where is the bankbook?
I, for one, have bought and read my last book wherein any woman is slashed, disembowled, burned, bludgeoned, shot, hacked, raped, sliced, tortured or in any other way brutalized. This may mean I never read again.
Each new Sell‑Out writer is nothing more, nothing less than the replacement of the Eternal Adolescent, running around with a perpetual hard‑on and no idea of the joys of love. He has acquired a new set of pens. The graffiti on the walls are predictable.