I was super-honored by my first lifetime achievement award from the Animakom festival in Bilbao Spain! I haven’t yet received the fancy glass plaque thingy in real life, but I did “attend” via video chat (starting around 54:30).
Many battles, much polarization; we are splitting into sides. Online especially, there is right and wrong, good and bad, the “right side of history” and the wrong. Even saying “the right side of history” implies petty, idiotic opinions are of world-altering significance.
The Book of Revelation is the ultimate story of Good vs. Evil, black vs. white. It’s also the ultimate revenge story. John of Patmos was a persecuted early Christian, exiled to a penal colony, expelled from society; cancelled, as we’d say today. He was righteous and angry. He had time to imagine, in elaborate detail, the comeuppance of his oppressors. Isn’t this what we all do, if we have the time? Imagine our torturers being tortured tenfold in return, in delicious detail. It is notably un-Christian. You are supposed to forgive. You are supposed to understand. You are supposed to seek peace, to love thy enemy.
Not John! John fantasizes his enemies getting stung by locusts, rained on by fire, and cast into the pit of hell. In Revelation, neither he, nor Jesus, nor God Himself have compassion for sinners. Won’t his oppressors be sorry when they see John and his ilk rise up into heaven, while they get hurt and humiliated and tortured! Haha, turnabout is fair play! John may be motivated by that, but as far as his Jesus and God are concerned, this is simply the nature of things, the arc of justice, the “history” one is on the right or wrong side of.
Revelation’s End of the World is imagined as a war. It feels like war right now. My own little battle hill, Mount Ladyfeels, feels like a war between women and misogynists, reality and fantasy, mental health and mental illness, truth and lies. But which side is which? Each end of the pole believes it has Truth on its side. I try to stay out of fights, but I’ve gotten into this one: women don’t have penises, women are female, humans cannot change sex, gender is oppressive. To the other side, this is hate speech and I’m a nazi.
Armageddon is online. Armageddon is the Last Battle, saints against sinners. No nuance whatsoever. Have a look at twitter. Every ban of a TERF is a demon cast to hell. Look at Reddit. GenderCritical permanently eliminated: 65,000 subscribers consigned to the abyss. An angel holds the key. Righteousness is triumphing over evil! Except it’s backwards. Black is white and white is black. We’re polarized like a horseshoe magnet. Which pole is which?
So things morph in Revelation. Candlesticks are stars are churches. Seven candlesticks are also a menorah, the Jewish community from which Christianity emerges, as the Child emerges from the Woman Clothed With The Sun. Seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven churches, seven eyes of the Lamb, seven heads of the Beast. Good sevens vs Bad sevens.
Good woman, the Mother, vs Bad woman, the Whore of Babylon. The women don’t fight, they merely appear as symbols for one side or the other. There’s a third woman, the Bride of the Lamb, who is a city, the New Jerusalem. Mother, Whore, and Virgin (bride), sort of like the Triple Goddess Maiden-Mother-Crone, except no Crone. I am a crone, so I wonder what happened to Her. Is She the Whore now? In Online Armageddon, older feminists are denounced and despised. Yes, maybe that’s us.
My Animated Apocalypse will also morph, like the language of John the Divine. But in the end, even black will morph into white. Throne will morph into Beast, Lamb’s eyes into dragon’s heads, up into down, heaven into hell.
How will it end?
Why do we seek stories of “the end of the world”? The world does not end. It keeps going and going. We end though. And societies end. Someday, Civilization will end; perhaps that’s what we mean by the End of the World.
The end of the world is nothing new. The Book of Revelation has always fascinated, as people have always felt on the edge of abyss. Apocalyptic fiction continues to be written; Revelation is merely our most famous early example. This world has been ending since it was created, and it is created anew every day.
The End of the World may be an egoistic projection of us mortals, who can’t cope with the inevitability of our own deaths. If we go, our egos dictate, the World goes with us. Persecution heightens ego. When you’re a scapegoat, as John was (and as I have been), your ego is deeply wounded, along with the rest of you. It enlarges. Narcissism is a consequence of trauma. Dwelling on the End of the World is a defensive projection, to deflect the reality of death from the inflamed ego.
Civilization has never been stable, as Against the Grain by James C. Scott amply illustrates. While Civilization itself persists in various forms, individual civilizations, or societies, always fall, the individuals comprising them regrouping anew. But Civilization didn’t always exist. Humans once were bound to the rest of the natural world, without literacy or other advanced abstractions. “Everything that is created is destroyed,” say the Buddhists, so someday Civilization will go. Like Derrick Jensen, I’m rooting for this Fall, because Civilization is killing the planet.
John’s Apocalypse, though, is more the opposite: the triumph of Civilization, and the final Fall of Nature. The New Jerusalem is a city, not a forest. It is fully paved. John rapturously describes the purified metals and minerals comprising it. Nature is completely tamed; there is but one Tree, around one river that emanates from the Throne. It’s all right angles, planes and walls.
In my personal theology, a just End of the World would be a return to Nature: humans disappearing into a platonic abstract New Jerusalem, and the Earth, finally rid of us, recovering at last. But the world does not end. I will die, but the world will continue. The only end I will live to see is my own. Until then, my ego needs something to do, and dwelling on the Book of Revelation is it.
A year or two ago my friendBrewster Kahle told me he had been asking people, “when is the last time you read a book? Cover to cover?” Predictably, the answers were discouraging. In the age of the Internet, people still talk about books, praise books, and condemn books; but actually reading books is rare.
When I first heard of feminist authorAndrea Dworkin, in the early 1990’s, I was told she said all heterosexual sex is rape. In popular discourse, “het sex is rape” was considered the gist of her work.
Well, I could easily form an opinion about that, and I did. Of course all heterosexual sex isn’t rape! What a dumb idea. I didn’t have to read any books to know that! So I didn’t.
It was a few decades before I finally read Dworkin’sIntercourse. I had been seeing endless condemnations of “TERF”s – “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” – online, and was constantly admonished to “educate myself” because I had asserted that transwomen are male. Since I had spent my 20’s and 30’s immersed inSan Francisco Sex-Positive and Kink and LGBT culture, and therefore had known many transwomen (including a few lovers), I wondered where my education was lacking. I was well versed in Queer Theory, but I realized then I had never actually read one of these “radical feminists.”
And so I learned Dworkin never wrote “all heterosexual intercourse is rape.” Her thoughts about sex were a lot more nuanced. I was surprised by how passionately and sensitively she wrote about it; clearly she was heterosexual, in spite of (or along with) declaring herself a Political Lesbian in her activist years. I was also persuaded by many of her other radical feminist ideas. Dworkin had been unfairly maligned, and because I fell for it, I had missed out.
I am part of the moderation team ofSpinster, a woman-centered, radical-feminist-leaning social media platform founded half a year ago, in August 2019. A few weeks after our small team had formed, one of the moderators started denouncing Lesbian Feminist authorSheila Jeffreys, and publicly wishing her harm. She explained it was because Jeffreys advocated Political Lesbianism. A young lesbian, this mod considered Political Lesbianism lesbophobic, homophobic, and dangerous. As far as she was concerned, Jeffreys said sexual orientation is a choice, making her no different from fundamentalist Christians and conversion therapy advocates.
Well, I could easily form an opinion about that, and I did. Of course sexual orientation isn’t a choice! What a dumb idea. I didn’t have to read any books to know that!
Over the next couple days, the young moderator accused Spinster’s founders, other mods, and many of its members of “lesbophobia.” If one doesn’t vocally condemn Jeffreys and Political Lesbianism, the logic went, one supports it, and therefore hates lesbians. She was joined by others, and a rift formed, with some Spinster users canceling their accounts in protest.
Time has taught me to be skeptical of the condemnation of authors and their ideas, so it was only a few weeks before I read Jeffrey’sThe Lesbian Heresy. Just as Dworkin never said all het sex is rape, Jeffreys never said sexual orientation is a choice. I was especially surprised – and moved – that so much of The Lesbian Heresy was about the very same Sex-Positive and Kink and LGBT worlds I had been immersed in in my youth. Jeffreys helped me piece together events of the 1980’s and 90’s I had never connected; connections that help explain the condemnation of Andrea Dworkin, the replacement of Radical Feminism with Liberal Feminism, the academic acceptance and promotion of porn, and the near extinction of Lesbian Feminism.
That left me with a different understanding of Political Lesbianism and the movement from whence it arose, Lesbian Feminism. I could not in good faith condemn it. I recommended The Lesbian Heresy on Spinster, where arguments about Political Lesbianism rage on. As far as I know, no one condemning it has actually read The Lesbian Heresy; and by the logic of Social Media, or social groups in general, they don’t have to, because the issue has already been summarized for them as Political Lesbianism = Sexual Orientation Is A Choice = Homophobia.
The fact that I had read and was recommending a book angered some women even more. “Oh she read a book and now she’s straightsplaining lesbianism to lesbians!” I was surprised to be resented for reading, and wanting to discuss, a Lesbian Feminist book. I am surprised that Sheila Jeffreys, as lesbian as any lesbian who ever lesbianed, and an excellent writer to boot, is so maligned by women who haven’t actually read her words.
I am open to nuanced arguments, but those don’t happen on social media. Everything gets distilled into soundbites, phrases like “born that way” and “trans women are women!” These thought-terminating memes are effective political cudgels, but anathema to understanding reality. Good books are the opposite.
There are also bad books. I recently read one called The 57 Bus, which resembles an extended Tumblr. But even it was more nuanced than online discourse. I read it for a nonfiction book group I’m part of. I found it agonizingly sexist, and it made me angry; I read it anyway, because I am a grown-up and capable of reading things I disagree with. And it wasn’t completely without merit: it discusses some important issues, in spite of being spun for a target market of white Liberal virtue-signalers. Reading the whole book allowed me to make reasoned arguments, and better understand the intellectual pablum that is the main diet of schools right now.
Some books are overlong. Some books contain important information, but are poorly written. We can’t read everything, certainly not every book that is recommended to us.
But perhaps we can acknowledge that Internet memes, denunciations, and simple summaries of entire books might be missing a world of nuance.
I recently recommended Lierre Keith’s book The Vegetarian Myth to a couple vegan friends, because they told me they’d never heard even one reasonable argument in favor of carnivorism. I personally don’t eat birds or mammals, and I very much appreciate vegans, and I don’t want to convert anyone; but The Vegetarian Myth makes compelling arguments, and expanded my ideas about eating, life, death, and my own motivations for eschewing meat. (The book had no effect on my dietary choices, proving that it is possible to appreciate arguments without capitulating to them.) Still, my friends refuse to read it because they are certain they already have already heard anything it could contain, plus they read a Wikipedia summary which was easy to condemn.They told me they won’t read the book, but invited me to sum it up for them in a sentence or two. I said I’d try.
But I can’t. The reason good books exist is some things can’t be summed up in a sentence. Or even a paragraph. Or even an entire blog post.
I used to pride myself on being able to distill complex ideas into simple one-liners, an essential skill for a cartoonist. Refining messages into easily digestible memes is a crucial tool of propaganda and advertising, and I’ve employed my talents in many an ideological battle. Increasingly, though, I don’t want to do battle. I just want to have a conversation. I am lonely, I am tired, and I want to discuss the world, not argue you into compliance, or dazzle you with my clever memes.
My mind is clearer now. At last all too well I can see where we all soon will be. If you strip away The myth from the men, You will see where we all soon will be. Woman! They’ve started to believe All that postmodern woo. They really do believe their genders could be true. And all the rights you’ve won Will soon be swept away. Reality now matters less Than the things they say.
Listen Woman I don’t like what I see. All I ask is that you listen to me. And remember, I’ve been the Left’s handmaiden all along. You have set them all on fire By saying sex is not attire. And they hurt you when you show they’re wrong.
I remember when this whole thing began. No talk of “cis” then, just woman and man. And believe me, my admiration for you hasn’t died. But every word you say today Gets twisted ’round some other way. And they hurt you when you show they’ve lied.
Internet, your female crones should have stayed the great unknowns Like her mother keeping house, serving her spouse. Not complaining when oppressed would have suited Woman best. She’d have caused nobody harm; no one alarm.
Listen, Woman, do you care for your sex? Don’t you see that their boot’s on our necks? We are occupied; have you forgotten how put down we are? I am frightened for the TERVes For they have hit too many nerves. And they’ll crush us if we go too far. If we go too far
Listen, Woman, to the warning I give. Please remember that I want us to live, But it’s sad to see our chances weakening with every hour. All your followers are blind Too much TERVen on their minds. It was beautiful, but now it’s sour. Yes it’s all gone sour.
Listen, Woman, to the warning I give. Please remember that I want us to live. So c’mon, c’mon She won’t listen to me c’mon, listen to me She won’t listen to me