Re: [xmca] And now for something completely different: Larry Craig

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Wed Dec 05 2007 - 22:00:33 PST

I think nobody on this list would have any trouble with a proposition like this:
  a) The mind of an individual after death is not the same as a living mind. It is merely the various traces of that once living mind recorded in sundry cultural-historical artefacts.
  This proposition does not seem very different to me from saying that the living mind of an individual outside of his skull (spatially and not just temporally) CAN be called something else. A tool, a sign, a process, or an activity, just for example.
  The problem, of course, is a developmental one; one has to be able to explain how minds get into brains and what they look like before they get there (not to mention what the brain is like before the mind gets there). Saying that what is outside the mind CANNOT under any circumstances be called part of the mind make it very difficult to answer that question.
  This morning on the subway I was thinking that it was a little like saying:
  b) A passenger on the Seoul subway who is outside an actual subway car cannot be called a passenger.
  I suppose it is true enough as far as it goes, but it is not much help in planning my daily commute, and it's certainly not at all useful for the city planning authorities.
  Now, what about this one?
  c) The sexual persona of an individual who has same-sex relationships but who is not (historically, culturally, socially) part of a culture in which homosexuality is a recognized form of sexuality is not the same as the sexual persona of a person who is.
  Long ago, almost back when Tony was reading Mao in the original Chinese in the snows of Boston, I worked on a shrimp-fishing boat in Tunisia. It was our custom in the afternoon to roast everything in the net that wasn't shrimp on a charcoal kanoun, gorge ourselves on snails and squid, and get rip-roaring drunk on our profits. When people were satiated, they would crawl between decks and sleep until it was time to go out and set the nets again.
  One evening my bunkmate Muhammad, who I had, the night before, tattooed with large purple rose employing nothing but the sail darning needle and a leaky ball point pen, started hitting on me. I was feeling rather more drunk than adventurous and said no. He complained that Westerners all liked to be "hissan" (I thought the word meant 'horse', but it turned out to mean "the one who feels"). I said that it was the same as Tunisia and the same as Algeria (he was from Algeria), there were some who did and who didn't. He protested LOUDLY that nobody in either Tunisia or Algeria enjoyed it, and we almost came to blows.
  Months later when he came to apologize to me in my shanty in Tunis he explained what he meant. The practice of masturbation is not necessarily a homosexual practice, although it certainly does involve having a same-sex relationship. Like masturbation, same sex relations were really something you did faute de mieux, and for most poor Arab men like him who could not afford to marry, that meant you did them for a long time.
  The passive person was the "hissan", and it was a matter of some shame, particularly if you enjoyed it. On the other hand, there were certain practices such as oral sex or "taffreesh" (the word means "brushing", and I don't know exactly what the practice was) that were unlikely with women, and more enjoyable with men. But nobody considered themselves gay; they were just in waiting.
  It's not hard to find similar examples of the pre-history of homosexuality in our own history. Right now I'm listening to a wonderful recording of Gluck's "Iphigenie in Tauride". The opera contains a passionate duet between Oreste and Pylade, about how death is to be welcomed for they will share a tomb and the pleasure they have taken in their shared moments will now be immortal. The liner notes inform me solemnly that the work was extraordinarily bold for its time--in not having a love theme.
  Perhaps Senator Craig is right. He's not gay. He's merely a pre-homosexual fossil. I suppose that too is nothing to be ashamed of; so was my friend Muhammad, and so was Shakespeare.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Dec 5 22:02 PST 2007

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