Monday, April 15, 2013

The Anthony Weiner saga: Love and Sex in the Political Arena

I heard today that Anthony Weiner, whose descent into unfathomable public stupidity two years ago left him hugely disgraced, now apparently wants to make a return and is testing the waters for a New York mayoralty run. This is relatively (totally, actually) irrelevant to me here in Vrindavan, except for the fact that Jill Filipovic wrote an acerbic article in the Guardian in which she makes some excellent points about the hypocrisy of American public life where sexuality is concerned. She inquires into the acquiescence of such men's wives with some well-placed stupefaction.

I was musing on these matters back then when it all first came out, but I never completed the blog, which was sitting in the drafts. I guess it sneezed. Now I have posted the rather unsatisfying article on Samarthā rati that was going on at approximately the same time as these speculative musings on Anthony Weiner, I will take it as a sign that I should finish this one. But it really should be considered preliminary notes to a continued and much deeper exploration of the subject.

It is necessary to state the relevance of this subject for my overall thesis and purpose. Yugala bhajan, I realize, is not going to be a panacaea for the world's ills, and it is unlikely to end these kinds of events, but surely intelligent people should start thinking about a better way of making use of our sexuality. It annoys me no end that the celibators in the "anti-party" accuse me of promoting sexual promiscuity when clearly that is just a symptom of the disease of material life for which we seek a solution.

Now that I think of it, this really has been one of my big questions ever since the doctorate on Gopāla-campū.  What are parakīya and svakīya? And why is it important and what does it mean for us? 




I have been busy trying to complete the series I started a long time ago on the three kinds of rati. The final article in the series, on samarthā rati is still in the works, being based primarily on a summary of the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi commentaries on the relevant section of the 14th chapter, accompanied by my own insights. As I said in the beginning, the purpose is to try to understand these matters by reference to the world of experience and to see where that takes us.

Sometimes, however, one comes across some article or event that helps to crystallize one's thinking. That happened recently with the latest political sex scandal in the United States, involving Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn South), who was sending photos of his private parts to several girls who were following him on Twitter.

I felt extremely disappointed in Weiner because as a politician, I had found him to be one of the more sympathetic defenders of progressive ideas--outspoken, fearless, funny, clever. Nevertheless, whether one is liberal or conservative, it is hard to escape the consensus that Weiner behaved like an idiot. Even from the practical point of view, for anyone to send photos of his penis to strangers on the internet is asking to be caught, almost as if one were saying, "I don't really want to be a public figure any more." But other than that I was more or less indifferent. Being in India without personal access to the internet, I have not been following such events very closely.

Then I came across an article on Daily Kos by an openly gay man using the alias wecandoit7. He made the familiar argument that sexuality is distinct from personality; sexuality is messy and often troublesome as people go through life dealing with their urges in various ways. But Weiner is a good man, a supporter of progressive causes, who should not be condemned for his foolishness in sexual behavior.

"Anthony Weiner's penis is attached to an amazing human being who does very important and positive things in the world," he writes.

But the rather more audacious (for most people) aspect of wecandoit7's article was his open defense of promiscuity as a human trait, which he said was a contribution to the maturing of the human race made by the homosexual community. As such arguments do not often enter public discourse, I found it thought provoking. {More recently, of course, I wrote about this issue on this blog in a review of Sex at Dawn.]

From my point of view, this argument could only have come from a man, homosexual or heterosexual. By suggesting that the gay ethos should be expanded to the heterosexual world, he is really saying that women should be promiscuous like men. No doubt there are women who welcome the suggestion, but most of the women I know are not like men. (Cf., Venus, Penis and Cars)

On the other hand, as wecandoit7 wrote, "Weiner is supposed to be busy in public service, he has a really beautiful wife, and yet he still can't control himself and is sending pictures of his penis left and right. What is his problem?" He ruined his own credibility as a defender of any agenda whatsoever. You can forgive him for his peccadilloes, but one can hardly forgive him for damaging the progressive cause.

Love is only possible by seeing the transcendent in the other, which is only possible if you are a sakhi of Radha and Krishna. Human beings need context for meaning. Myth is a subtle context that is needed almost like language is needed to communicate. It may even be said that it is a subtler dimension of language. In Radha and Krishna we have found a context for sexuality that sacralizes it and turns it into love.

We believe that Radha and Krishna are the ultimate context for everything, by which we mean that love is the ultimate context for everything, whether it is a just society or saving the forests and rivers around the world. One that unless brought to the foreground will leave people absolutely clueless. But love without a role for sexuality and its proper channeling will always be a problem.

The reason so many people are scandalized by Weiner's behavior is because in the West there is an instinctive or socially transmitted meme of romantic "true love." Even though for most people the idea of marital fidelity is often a quite different reality, the two have become mixed up in a single "correct" ideal. So whenever a politician becomes involved in a sex scandal, it is taken as a sign that there is something wrong with him. And this is probably correct, though more likely to be an instinctive reaction rather than one that is deeply thought out.

In the case of Weiner, he externally attempts to present a vision of an ideal or just human society, but this lack of sexual self-control undermines his credibility. I would go further and say that his progressivism is external. Progressive liberal Christians who I admire, like Chris Hedges, believe that personal religious practices are a self-indulgence when there is so much work to do in creating a just world. We tend to side with those who say that first you have to know what you are doing in the microcosm of your own spiritual life, which we further say is pinpointed by your behavior in the most intimate field of love and sexuality. Political life can be karma-yoga, but karma-yoga is a process of self-purification. We cannot expect human perfection, to wander from perfection is the human condition.

The instinctive response to such behaviors is not just titillation.

Many people also try to undermine Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. by pointing to their ideas on sexuality and their sexual behavior. They talked love and non-violence, but their sexuality was problematic. People seem to intuit that the two are contradictory. I have said something similar on this blog on several occasions with regard to those who are spiritual leaders.

As humanity struggles forward in its attempts at evolution, it is important to deal honestly with sexuality and to determine how it can be used to move forward.





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