Monday, November 2, 2009

Quentin Crisp: Disloyal to Civilization

I adore the late Quentin Crisp.  If I believed in role models, he would be one of mine.  But in fact, neither he nor I believe in them.  I've just been rereading his collected works and was struck by this comment he made after reading a book about the movie stars Clift, Brando and Dean:
"It then dawned on my befuddled brain that what many men feel convention is preventing them from expressing may not be some hideous piratical urge to rape or homicide, but the feminine side of their natures.  This is an idea that has never before occurred to me."
The reason it never occurred to him is that Mr. Crisp was completely incapable of repressing his feminine side, even if he had wanted to, which he apparently didn't.

I have frequently encountered the claim that civilization is the only thing that prevents us from doing horrible things to each other.  Because apparently human beings are all psychopaths and our deepest desires are to kill and maim.  I despise that concept utterly. 

As far as I can tell, the goal of civilization is to set up a social hierarchy wherein the upper ranks get to dominate, and the fact that we all start at the bottom, as children, stores up plenty of resentment and hostility that, if we belong to the fortunate categories, we can take out on our underlings later, when we get underlings.  But perhaps, like many of my compatriots, I have confused "civilization" with "family values."

Anyway, I infinitely prefer the idea that these "horrible things" from which civilization is saving us are only effeminacy, or female masculinity, or uppityness in general, or sex between consenting adults.  I think that explains a lot.

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