Friday, March 21, 2014

The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, pp. 56-58:

As to the form of subjectivity that fits this constellation, we might begin with “The Stranger,” the famous prose poem by Baudelaire:

Tell me, enigmatical man, whom do you love best, your father,
Your mother, your sister, or your brother?
I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother.
Your friends?
Now you use a word whose meaning I have never known.
Your country?
I do not know in what latitude it lies.
I could indeed love her, Goddess and Immortal.
I hate it as you hate God.
Then, what do you love, extraordinary stranger?
I love the clouds ... the clouds ... that pass ... up there ... up there
... the wonderful clouds!

[Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen, trans. Louise Varese, New York: New Directions 1970, p.l.]

Does this “enigmatical man” not provide the portrait of an internet geek? Alone in front of the screen, he has neither father nor mother, neither country nor god—all he needs is a digital cloud to which his internet device is linked. The final outcome of such a position is, of course, that the subject itself turns into “a cloud in pants,” avoiding sexual contact as too intrusive. In 1915, Vladimir Mayakovsky entered a train carriage in which the only other occupant was a young woman; to put her at ease he introduced himself by saying, “I am not a man but a cloud in pants.” As the words left his lips he realized the phrase was perfect for a poem and went on to write his first masterpiece, “A Cloud in Pants”:

No longer a man with a mission,
something wet
and tender
— a cloud in pants.

[Quoted from]

How, then, does such a “cloud in pants” have sex? An ad in the United Airlines in-flight magazine begins with a suggestion: “Maybe it’s time to outsource ... your dating life.” It goes on: “People hire professionals to handle so many aspects of their lives, so why not use a professional to help you find someone special? We are matchmaking professionals—this is what we do day in and day out.”
[United Airlines, Hemispheres magazine, July 2011, p. 135.]

After outsourcing manual work (and much of the pollution) to Third World countries, after outsourcing (most) torture to dictatorships (whose torturers were probably trained by US or Chinese specialists), after outsourcing our political life to administrative experts (who are obviously less and less up to the task—see the morons who compete in Republican Party primaries)—why not take this process to its logical conclusion and consider outsourcing sex itself? Why burden ourselves with the effort of seduction with all its potential embarrassments? After a woman and I agree to have sex, each of us need only designate a younger stand-in, so that while they make love (or, more precisely, while the two of us make love through them), we can have a quiet drink and conversation and then retire to our own quarters to rest or to read a good book. After such disengagement, the only way to reconnect with reality is, of course, through raw violence.


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