Saturday, June 28, 2008

An Abundance Of Wealth And Beauty

In H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life French misanthrope Michel Houellebecq writes that, "The value of a human being today is measured in terms of his economic efficiency and his erotic potential . . . The reach of liberal capitalism has extended over minds. . . . Worse still, liberalism has spread from the domain of economics to the domain of sexuality." This helps explains why I have a hard time feeling sympathy for the beautiful; it is no different from feeling sympathy for the rich! What is beauty but social capital? What is a popular club but a wealthy industrialists' ball? Money and beauty are equally inheritable, equally worshipped, equally intrinsically opposed to equality. Perhaps it is time for a Marxism of the ugly, a rise in erotic consciousness of the unjust divide between the have and the have-nots. A proletarian revolution of the ugly would be just as ultimately futile as a proletarian revolution of the poor, but potentially of far greater mass appeal. The poor can be placated by legislative reform, but no government (so far) can legislate genetics. Trotsky's permanent revolution may have found its platform.

And what of feminism? The divide between the ugly and the beautiful is surely greater than the divide between genders. Women with the social capital to succeed in the sexual marketplace are certainly less prone to complain of its inherent injustices. One doesn't shit where one eats! It is the losers in the sexual marketplace who are naturally drawn towards toppling gender; just as the losers in the economic marketplace are drawn towards toppling capitalism. The sad truth remains, however, that beauty is more than a social construct; as is the human tendency toward competition. Neither can be deconstructed or terrorized out of existence. It has been said that international socialism proved its complete failure in 1914, when the workers of the world chose their nations over each other. Similarly, feminist solidarity proves its failure when the women of the world choose their men over each other. Of course there remains camaraderie; there was that Christmas truce when the Germans and the British played soccer in the trenches. But when holidays are over, in the trenches or the clubs it's every woman and man for themselves.

Try as dropouts might to disengage from the system, we all need sex and money. We all want to be rich and beautiful even as those not so blessed take pride in hidden superiorities. Of course there are intangible qualities, ones that cannot be measured erotically or economically. Of course the beautiful will grow old and the rich can't take their money with them when they die. That is why art, religion and philosophy assure us there are higher planes of existence. But one cannot live on higher planes of existence alone. Art opposes itself to commerce, religion opposes itself to sex: but the sacred cannot eradicate the profane. I feel the resentment of the religious man to the beautiful and the promiscuous; of the socialist to the rich and the domineering; of both of them to each other. But I do not have faith in secular or divine paradises where the scales will be turned. There are beautiful and rich spirits in this world - that I am sure of. But they do not primarily inhabit beautiful and rich bodies, and it is the beautiful and rich bodies which accrue the material benefits. Spiritual capital cannot be cashed in; that's what makes it spiritual. And that's what makes it rich and beautiful - its superfluity to the world.

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