As a hobbyist blogger with the temerity to write in English on her blog, it irks me to realize the pomposity of literature and the hypocrisy of classicism, especially in American writers. Take, for example, my ambivalent opinion on the book introduction about ‘Essays Two’ by Lydia Davis I read from the 12/11/2021 issue of The New York Times Book Review.
Knowing another language certainly gives you a unique insight into the world with a subtle but more caring timbre of sentiment and reason common to all human creatures. But the magical ability is not a prerogative of a brilliant professional translator of a high literate/academic echelon. Davis’s Marcel Proust is undoubtedly impressive, but Proust is not for everybody, showing that the literati excludes general readers. On the other hand, there are would-be, potential, or unclaimed writers whose narratives are to be reckoned with, from a refugee to an immigrant. Take Nobel Literature Prize winners Abdulrazak Gurnah (2021) and Kazuo Ishiguro (2017). Both used English as their literary tool to articulate their narratives with the images seen through their poetic “third eye” sense.
Davis and other translators-turned writers speak languages of the same language family. So, of course, the perspectives are similar. But, in all fairness, I want to see writers (and former translators) of all social classes writing about subject elements of particular views from a platform where they become universalizing, striking the chords of our human life. Isn’t that what literature is about?
This week’s The New York Times Book review of The Trouble with White Women by Kyla Schuller manifests dishearteningly why Feminism has failed to gain unanimous consent of the universal womanhood across social barriers, cultural differences, and physical planes. Instead, it reinforces my conviction that Feminism is a league of an ambitious, level-headed elite group of women (Black or White) pretermitting the rights and positions of all ordinary women who live in the periphery of their ambitious political constituency academic appellation.
The review written by Joan Morgan, the director of the Center for Black Visual Culture at NYU, who is also a black feminist scholar, is an intricately academic and emotionally trenchant antithesis to white Feminism, so to speak, by the women, of the privileged, for the white. Morgan’s review itself has no regard for a general reader in mind with her magnificently intellectual syntax and abstruse syllogism, which makes on a par with the hypocritical white feminists she and her league of feminists criticize. Feminism, in its unalloyed sense of justice and the most original idea of essence, should belong neither to ideology politics nor to academy subjects that cater to a specific group of demographic populations. Thus non-white (the adjectives I am so hesitant to use because of its coarse way of describing a person) women should not feel betrayed because many white women who professed themselves to be feminists voted for blocking the Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The stance of pro-choice is not a proverbial character of white conservative Christian women because, as a matter of fact, Hispanics, African-Americans are more religiously and culturally more conservative than their counterparts. I am not here to debate my stance on abortion, but historically, the procedure has been motivated and campaigned by the eugenic inclination to curb a particular “undesirable” population, no matter how intelligently the proponents of abortion would try to persuade you. That said, wouldn’t it odd to even contemplate the recent Texas case as a manifest token of White Feminism v. Non-white Feminism?
Perhaps it’s an American thing that inherently discombobulates a simple truth. Outside the States, sisterhood among the members of Female Species is comparatively felt and celebrated, albeit without a total transcendence of racial and cultural discrimination, which you can’t eradicate in this world. But America is New World, and it still lacks a coherent force that unifies peoples. That is why Feminism, which should be only one with capital “F,” has so many subsidiaries, resulting in Morgan’s review of the book by another feminist (a Rutgers University professor who happens to be a white woman). Such is my true feeling about my reading of the review, but it should not be yours.
Watching the world leaders attending COP 26 and G20 vehemently discussing achieving the net-zero policy makes me wonder how Greta Thunberg can get away with her angry facial expressions and vitriolic remarks that would otherwise have been simply unpleasant. How powerful Greta Thunberg’s vehement narrative on her newfound purpose in life has become! Now the world leaders vow to her harmoniously, when they should know better as expensively educated men that the goal of net-zero carbon dioxide will require live human sacrifice and stultify the truth about carbon dioxide in its relationship with the earth.
To begin, you have to understand carbon dioxide is not evil but necessary to keep the appearance of this planet. The principal effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stimulates plan growth, aka the fertilization effect. Thanks to its grim colorful image of the reaper as a hazardous element, its function to make the green greener sounds cynically antonymous. Also, carbon dioxide warms the planet earth, lest it turns into a dwarf planet like Saturn with frozen lakes adumbrated with gas-filled clouds. Besides, only 1/6 of a degree per decade has been increased, the amount inconspicuously perceptible and critical to producing any apocalyptic effects on the earth’s surface. Thunberg and her comrades command that all nations achieve net-zero in carbon dioxide emissions, which means using fossil fuels, which is too costly for underdeveloped and developing countries to keep up with. The poor always remain poor because of this unfair authoritarian policy without regard to the national economic system and social situations forcefully measured in the Outrageous Bed of Procrustes. In effect, most pollution in the world comes not from Western Europe but from those countries where the industrial revolution was the counter-product of colonialism or communism. Therefore, if these countries strive for the net-zero goal, they will fall by the wayside of their social progress for the welfare of the people by spending the national treasure on achieving the pyrrhic goal.
I have never seen an aggressive environmental campaign such as this at present. Of course, climate irregularities have always existed, but humans have remarkable skills to adapt to new surroundings with the power to think as a bipedal species. Dostoevsky said we could get used to anything, even hanging. But the current seismic environmental zeal with the Swedish teenager seems more unpleasantly cataclysmic with her militant warrior approach. The matching ensemble of the haughty voice is heartless, laughing at how the famous and influential adults are fumblingly and funnily reacted to her like dolts. Could it be her ambition to prove herself to the world that despite her autism and want of beauty, she could become the most well-known and influential girl in the world? After all, even the women politicians and intellectuals fall in love and even marry. The whole scene reminds me of a teenager dissatisfied with herself venting her depression and anger with a holler from the rebels against the demands placed upon daily tasks of life. In William Golding’s dystopian juvenile literature Lord of the Flies, Jack, the antagonist, plays innocent along with his followers in the eyes of adults. Greta is the female version of Jack. And the world leaders at COP26 and G20 are the officers who rescued the band of children and boarded them on the ship, not knowing what would happen soon. But Greta has much more followers to her alter of Climate Catastrophism.
It always amazes me that some people can get away with their character flaws and faults under the aegis of social status and wealth, such as modern-day celebrities. The celebrities of the bygone days were kings and queens whose God-given authorities indemnified them from punishment. Their entitled strangeness swiveled my head in wonderment at the stupendousness of freakiness. Ironically, this anecdotal recounting of the cruel-to-be kind potentates reminds me of a tenet of Logotherapy, which explains that a healthy dose of suspense in life helps us escape boredom, resulting in excessive indulgence in perverted pleasure-seeking.
This book tells of the infamous kings and queens and some aristocrats. They are famous and lesser-known, mainly from Russia and Eastern Europe, which gives a somber ambiance to the tales of weirds born with silver spoons in their mouths. The most memorably horrible and ignoble characters that left indelible marks on my consciousness are as follows:
1. Elizabeth Bethany: This diabolically perverted Hungarian countess whose uncle was a king of Poland had a fixation on blood and pain in devotion to youth and beauty. Some say she was trained to be cruel, but I think it has to do with her connatural inclination for cruelty passed down in her lineage. Her aunt was a Satan-worshipping noblewoman who sought erotic pleasure in young girls, which Elizabeth also learned and practiced in her castle. She had her trusty three maids lured beautiful young girls, usually from poor families, under the pretext of training them for top-rated maids-in-waiting with generous munificence to the families. What happened next was all over but the shouting. Bethany tortured the girls in unthinkably cruel ways and bathed in their blood because she believed doing it would restore youth and beauty. She deserves no revisionist or appeals on the crime against the girls under her care. Nevertheless, modern-day feminists and the radical leftists are moved to portray her as a wrongfully accused Calvinist woman in a time when sectarian religious rivalry and antipathy were rampant. Her being charged by a Lutheran minister in the town does not ipso facto constitute Lutheran machination of destroying the Calvinist influence in the region. If the minister conspired to concoct any such plot, he would have targeted a man, not a woman whose social status was not entirely regarded as equally significant as a man even in high birth.
2. Vlad the Lad, aka the Impaler, aka Dracula: The proverbial bloodsucker ruler had a penchant for impaling men, women, and children for leisure and punishment. The point was to give them slow deaths to heighten the apex of pain till the last breath. The legend of Count Dracula is loosely based on this Romanian ruler who might have inspired an idea of shashlik, kebab. Or any skewed food. Thanks to the detailed accounts of how Vlad artistically mastered impaling, I swore off any such skewered food lest it should conjure up the vista of the impaled helpless.
3. Frederick I of Prussia: A stout and short, the king’s obsession with men in great height was his actualization of ideation. He had the tallest men in all the regions of Europe, especially from the North, to establish the royal military version of a freak company called “The Potsdam Giants.” The recruits, or in many cases, abductees, were consisted of a former woodsman, laborers, and farmers, allured by abundant compensations promising dazzling delights of secured lives. Yet it was an empty promise, beguiling the simple-minded low-class foreigners, who were subjected to mistreatments and even punishments should they attempt to escape. The king’s pastime was to call upon the guards at any time anywhere, including in his chamber at night, and watch them in full uniform, admiring their impossibly imposing physique that he coveted but could never have. Thank God that his son Frederick the Great disbanded the freakish guards no sooner than had he succeeded his father upon his death.
I wonder if these royal characters were due to in-breeding abnormalities, which were usually customary in European dynasties to preserve their noble royal lineage. It also testifies that keeping means in one’s life is a blessing because extreme wealth and poverty lead a soul astray due to listlessness and exasperation, resulting in amoral walking dead subsisting on the pain of the others. Robinson Crusoe’s sagacious father was right in saying that the best is the upper station of low life. Mel Brooks once uttered, “It’s good to be a king.” Unfortunately, it only applies to these afore-described weird and evil characters. A good king or queen doesn’t.
In a post-industrial age, when the mingling of classes in streets is a norm, and social mobility is a reality in a society, the stories about royal families become reality period dramas that seem to give them a status that fuses the capriciousness of greek gods with the glamour of Hollywood celebrity.
When I saw twitter’s promotion of Oprah Winfrey’s Harry and Meghan interview, I thought no wonder they were sought-after media darlings, living Romeo and Juliet, and something to talk about when things looked bleak and boring. And I honestly feel no qualms about them being a subject of gossip or the tabloid because they live in public eyes, albeit they most clamor for the privacy of their lives. Otherwise, what is the absolute need to broadcast their stories on a central television station at prime time? (No YouTube, please, in respect of their royalty.) Oprah Winfrey, who now seems to have replaced Barbara Walters’ seat, looks fit to the royal couple pleading for upscaled sympathy from the American public unfamiliar with the constitutional monarchy and possibly slightly partial to the name and images of monarchy without knowing them well.
To put the wedding story of Prince Harry and Actress Meghan Markle on a par with Cinderella story is to ignore the fact she is from a privileged class in the States with expensive private education and parental support. Despite Princess Diana’s aristocratic family background, people sympathized with the lonely Diana because of her doe-eyed, ever muliebral innocent beauty that looked impossible for debauchery. By the same virtue of beauty fused with sensualness of exotic charm, the American actress/model Meghan charmed Prince Harry, who would even venture to Hesperides’ garden to bring her a golden apple should she request. And now Harry lives in the Golden State, the land of his Helen, with a face launching waves of media coverages.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that beauty tames the savageness of brutes and allays the hardened souls of criminals. Oscar Wilde added that a beautiful woman is the subject of conversations wherever she goes. The lovely Meghan beaming with sparkling amethyst eyes adorned with apricot cheeks reminded me of a modern-day Helen of Troy. After all, Helen’s prodigal beauty saved her from her first the ireful sword of her first and lawful husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta to whom she betrayed the slain Paris’s brother Deiphobus, her third husband. Despite vehement feminist catchphrases brandishing anti-sexism, beauty is still a woman’s privilege to achieve social escalation in work and an undefeatable power to purchase indemnity for all faults and foibles.
In addition to the claimed blackness of Meghan’s heritage, the media seems to shoehorn it to fit her estrangement feeling in the procrustean bed to a histrionic degree because one cursory glance at her wouldn’t strike her as a black woman at all. I honestly think that if a woman is beautiful, then where she comes from does not matter. In fact, I feel something is not quite right when someone in her position keeps playing a race card as a chance gambit to muster her retinue against the criticism raised by her unwilling participation in royal attendances and cavalier attitude towards learning the royal manners, which appear antithetical to her carefree American spirit hard to domesticate.
Call it an acrid narrative of a woman who juggles the daily affairs of life with what she has. Or you may say it is the usual cynical delusion of reference to those who got it all out of passionate envy burned in a fury. Yet, the interview appears to be nothing but their formal excuse for their present life, public proclamation of their still regal sovereignty warning people not to speak ill of them, which is probably directed to the ordinary whom they regard as meddlesome. Well, then let them be whoever they want to be. Playing Romeo and Juliet’s roles in a public theater in long-run shows will only lose favor with the audience, especially with Romeo now being well-stuffed, looking like a rich American, and Juliet still looking fabulous like a luxurious Beverly Hills demimonde.