Today in Porn, Print Edition

So Doublethink has my little essay online. I’m deeply grateful to them for publishing the thing. It’s a sort of gloss on the opening section of Benedict’s Deus Caritas Est, littered with pop culture references, bad language, and lots and lots of footnotes. (You click on the footnote number, and it takes you to the appropriate bit – fun!) You’ve been warned.

Comments

  1. Matthew,

    Loved it the first time I read it, and love it now. Good going!

    I’d be curious to know how the larger (sic) culture (sic sic) would recieve your plea for decency. Kind of like Francis before the Sultan, I imagine…

    The archeological journey into slang’s etymology was particularly incisive and insightful. I would only add that the F bomb’s own origins, while a controversy in and of itself (some say Latin; some say acronym For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge; etc.) I fall among those who consider the word a Germanic derivative – the original German word meaning “to strike violently” or somesuch. That said, it only adds furtheer evidence, if you hold to the Germanic origins theory, that to drop the F bomb is akin to verbal rape.

    Again, congratulations! I hear the Second Book express coming around the bend…

    JOB

  2. notrelatedtoted says

    Well done. Bravo!

    Many thoughts, but no time.

  3. Sounds good.

    Is this ‘safe-for-work’ fun or should I wait until I get home? (presuming I’m on a break and not robbing my employer of my modestly remunerated time)

    PS – I work in a church…

  4. Loved it, but I also like 30 Rock so :(…

    Similar date experience once. I did not ask to leave but I wanted to. I think the “me” now would not only have asked to leave but would have thought the guy a total creep. Very Elaine/Ben moment…

    This is great work. Is there really a second book on the way or is JOB just making us crave his productivity?

  5. Matthew Lickona says

    Ellyn,
    So sorry – I’ve been out all day. No, probably not work-safe.
    Lindsay,
    Glad you enjoyed it! No second book, sadly. We can’t all be JOB.

  6. cubeland Mystic says

    Matthew

    My father-in-law was a boy in Italy during the war. He hates war movies and war documentaries. I got a bit of intel from my mom who was talking to him one holiday, I guess as a boy he saw the Nazis murder one of his little friends. She said he choked up and ended the dialogue. Now I understand why my condescending assertions that “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” don’t hold water with him. He lived history, and probably feels his childhood terror and grief return when he sees footage of the Nazis.

    To be honest I couldn’t get past the second paragraph. I tried. I really did. I am sure it is great, because you are a great writer. I just didn’t like the subject at all. It’s more verbal violence, perhaps well intended, but violence nonetheless. Despite your good heart, do you really understand the violence that underlies those words? Do you understand that it will harden you as well as your readers?

    It is very difficult to change that type of verbal conditioning so I have a tendency to use bad language. But it is more than just bad language, it comes with a whole emotional framework. I guess that IS the hardening. I’ve worked to try to remove it, but it takes constant vigilance. When I do revert to the “old ways”, I regret it because it blocks God. That’s really what this hardening does–it blocks God. If you are not careful that which you seek to change will change you.

    Doublethink according to their mission statement wants to apply an editorial philosophy that emphasizes “a youthful spirit of irreverent inquiry.” I guess that means edgy. Your intent seems to be to shed light on the culture’s hardening by brutalizing your readers with the same words. It is sort of the “scared straight” approach to cultural criticism. I’m not that sure that edgy vulgar criticism of a vulgar culture will have the desired effect.

    You’re trying to shed light on dark places. There have been a lot of films that shed light on dark places. They are called art. They receive awards. Do I want to add them to my film collection? Not really. I tend to avoid them. I guess that makes me an escapist like my father-in-law. Been there done that. The attitude being the world is what it is, and there is not much that I can do about it. I lived it. In my opinion the article is like chemo, although the intent is to kill the cancer, sometimes the chemo kills the patient.

  7. Marvelous.

    Though I am glad I waited til I was home. You know, because the management frowns on the employees getting bogged down in a lot of footnotes.

  8. notrelatedtoted says

    CM gives a good assessment, and yes, the essay is cringe-inducing in places. But to dovetail with all this discussion of Catholic authors, this subject seems to need some O’Flannerian “shouting.” (Yes, I just made that phrase up…)

  9. CM,

    I sympathize with your concerns – and yours is the proper attitude among the civilized. In fact, your concerns are the same that St. Francis De Sales had whenever he needed to preach on chastity and sexual morality.

    To avoid impropriety (it is difficult to speak of sex without doing so, it seems) he would defer to culinary figures to explain a point about purity, etc. Obviously, St. Francis was writing to a much different audience. Not only was his age more refined, but his audience was also to a certain extent already converted. (I’m thinking in particular of Introduction to the Devout Life).

    But perhaps we could make the case that Matthew’s essay is more like the Jesuits who went to China and grew beards and dressed like mandarins. Some, it is true, lost their faith and became animists, but many more retained it, and became the instrument for the conversion of a culture (how successfully this was accomplished, saecula saeculorum, can be argued).

    Henry Adams said in his Education that a chaotic age demands a chaotic art. Can the same be said for an age so barbaric that it turns its own bodily functions into a religion (Matthew had visited a church, after all, not a museum – the Church of the Eternal Orgasm)? We’re refuting the New Barabarians. Perhaps culture is terminal, at this late date. But the best we can do, like Arnobius and Augustine after him, is engage the debate on the level the barbars understand…

    This is all to say that I would propose that the essay can do you no good because you are not in need of civilizing (at least not as drastically as the barbars are in need of it). But I think that “edgy” is the rhetoric of the day. “The recieved is in the reciever according to the mode of the reciever.” This is a first principle of rhetoric as well as of philosophy (if I’m not abusing Thomas too much here). It is what, sometimes, is necessary, at any rate, if we wish to make any headway at all.

    JOB

  10. Matthew Lickona says

    CM,

    I take your point. Actually, I thought about that point a great deal when I was writing Book Two, the one that never ended up getting published.

    Part of the point of the essay, however, was that doing what I’m doing here doesn’t require shining a light in dark places. It’s out in the light already, considered by many to be a casual, tame thing.
    I’m not trying to scare anybody straight. The thing is, I don’t think what I’m saying/writing will shock a lot of folks. What I’m doing is asking for sympathy for those who are</em still shocked. It's a plea to recognize one's belonging to the larger human community.

    All that said, I still take your point. Writing/publishing the thing was a question of prudence, as is reading it. I'm not about to get on my high horse and say that I am certain it was a fine and good thing. I did think it was worth doing. I still do.

    But I understand what you're saying. So did Flannery O'Connor. This is from her essay "The Church and the Fiction Writer." (I know what I'm doing here is not as high a calling as fiction, but I think some of the same thinking applies.)

    "When fiction is made according to its nature, it should reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete observable reality. If the writer uses his eyes in the real security of his Faith, he will be obliged to use them honestly and his sense of mystery and the acceptance of it will be increased. To look at the worst will be for him no more than an act of trust in God, but what is one thing for the writer may be another for the reader. What leads the writer to his salvation may lead the reader into sin, and the Catholic writer who looks at this possibility directly looks the Medusa in the face and is turned to stone."

  11. i, too, found it difficult and sometimes painful, to read at times, other times hysterically funny…but it is such a valid commentary on our times right now, i do 100% believe it needs to be said. and said in a way that drives home the point, which i really think matt is successful doing. anyone else here own a tv AND have cable? i do. we cannot even watch a baseball game without frantically grabbing for the remote every time they go to a commercial break. and you want to hear something interesting? my aunt and uncle, who are both atheists and relatively liberal thinkers, do the exact same thing with their tv. i think that says something about how far things have gone in the attempt to desensitize children….i, personally, would not change a thing about the way it’s written either-i think it captures the attention and the imagination in a way that a dry, sermonesque, piece would not do. further, i think it’s absolutely necessary to point this out to people. we are being brainwashed slowly but surely by people making money off of marketing sex and consumerism to our kids. any one heard of the show “girls next door?” i mean how more innocuous and “mainstream” can you try to make it? and i think people aren’t even remotely shocked anymore-which is why i would argue matt’s piece is both good and necessary….mcm

  12. post script….ya’ll know what a big fan of matt’s i am. but this article i thought particularly well written….maybe because, in so far as i have accepted my place in this culture-my kids go to public school etc.-this topic really resonates for me. i also have a 10 year old boy. and his purity is one of our greatest treasures. fortunately, he is pretty prudish in his own right….but protecting his innocence -as much as i am able (and of course that of my younger children) is very important to me. i wish i could rely on my culture and to a certain extent society at large, to help with this rather than openly work to destroy it. mcm

  13. notrelatedtoted says

    “i think it captures the attention and the imagination in a way that a dry, sermonesque, piece would not do.”

    Bingo.

    Written another way, and the essay is quickly dimissed as another editorial from Dr. James Dobson….and we all know how boring and uptight THAT guy is.

  14. Cubeland Mystic says

    All

    I’ve read your responses, and I still disagree that the approach utilized by Matt in the essay is the correct one for fighting this cultural hardening. After sleeping on it, I still don’t intend to read it. Maybe in a month or so. I know that it is good, and that every word was carefully weighed. Matt is an exceptional and very talented writer. For me it recalls the smoke of Satan so no reading. Objectively the style adds to this hardening, and tangentially validates that which Matthew is fighting against. “November, don’t use your phasers, the entity only draws strength from them!” 🙂

    I disagree with the comparisons to history even though JOB’s points are relevant, they are slightly out of context. The Jesuits, Arnobius, and Augustine were, if not on the offensive, the new thing. They were the ones doing the changing. Our reality is different. Western civilization is “Christian”, but it seems to be legislating its Christian foundation out of existence. It’s imploding. It’s disassembling. Just curious, would you post your article here on Godsbody?

    My analogy to shining light in dark places, and subsequently Matt’s reference to “it’s already out in the light” are poor. A better analogy is that the Christian part of the culture is like light being eclipsed by shadow. The light is going out. It is being overwhelmed. As MCM said, we cannot even watch a commercial during a baseball game.

    So where does this hardening lead? By extracting the Christian DNA from our culture, individual human rights will go with it. The state will arbitrarily dictate your rights. There will be more control and less individual freedom. Humans will be measured and defined by their utility to the state. There will be no dignity in post Christian culture. Once your utility is exhausted, you will be disposed of. There will not be culture only the state. This use of violent language promotes the hardening, and the hardening devalues human life. If individual human life has no value then it is easy to impose an artificial arbitrary reality upon us.

    I know you thought about it your approach. I realize you took a risk, and that I admire and applaud. But from what small part I read, the essay appears to be an application of Boromirian principles. You cannot fight the enemy with the enemy’s weapon. In the end the ring will corrupt. If this were fiction I totally agree that applying O’Connor is the correct approach. It should be mandatory. In fiction F-Bomb away! It should not apply for an essay. Sermonesque, I don’t think our host is capable, but I don’t think we fight fire with fire. I think we need to fight fire with water. We have to be like water. Bruce Lee said that not me.

  15. CM,

    That my anaology is imperfect I make clear by my own admission in the original. I said Matthew’s essay is “more like,” not exactly like the Jesuits dresed for Manchuria and Canton. Still, your point about the Church at that time being on the offensive is well taken. We Christopherai are clearly not now in the ascendancy.

    But I would only repeat what has already been said – that Matthew’s piece was not meant as an attack, but was a plea for clemency, for mercy, for common sense. As such, it’s going to need to speak the language from those whom it is asking quarter.

    In Graves’ Claudius the God, Herod returns to Rome to persuade his good friend the Emperor Caligula not to demand a statue of himself be erected in the temple at Jerusalem. At the same time, the governor Petronius is also sending a letter asking for clemency from the Emperor. The governor’s letter appeals to the emperor’s sense of respect for the Jews and also to his pocketbook – the Jews are faithful taxpayers, etc. Herod, though, who better knows his man, tells Caligula (in person during many quaffs of wine) that he should think twice about erecting that statue in the Jewish temple, becasue you see its a strange thing about these Jews. They don’t like images. Any images. And let me tell you what they do to these images if they appear in the temple. And so Herod proceeds to tell the emperor (who at this time is already self-deified) how with all manner of filth and bodily secretions Jews will desecrate statues. Far from angering the god emperor, it disgusts and horrifies him. He’s a god. He doesn’t want this to happen to HIS image, after all. And so he relents and Herod manages to prevent the spilling of Jewish blood….

    I tell this story to illustrate the power of knowing one’s audience. I can say, for sure, that for Matthew’s essay, you and I are not that audience. Rather, the many
    Caligulas in the world of individualism are that audience.

    Little gods, indeed.

    JOB

  16. it’s not that i don’t see your point cube, i do see it….
    there are things in the essay that i didn’t know and probably could have gone on not knowing. and everyones threshold for that kind of thing is different.
    there were moments in the beginning where i was hesitant to go forward. however, i think there is a purity of intent with matt, and i trusted that….what i think matt genuinely wants to do is take his abundance of knowledge….and try sincerely to do good with it. this was why i ultimately thought the essay very well crafted. because my initial reaction was, seriously, okay here we go again, but you know what? he rises above it ultimately. personally, i found that he was able to illustrate the problem without becoming part of it-which is exactly what you think he was NOT able to do. and i think we can just disagree on our take there….i totally agree with you when you say that the answer is not to become part of the problem-but i really don’t think matt is being sensational for the sake of sensationalism-that would be becoming part of the problem…..he is being sensational only (this is just my personal take) to the extent that he shows the true nature of the problem…and i think adding some tongue in cheek humor. and, finally, writing to his audience (which may not have been the conservative catholic set). mcm

  17. um…every one needs to take a moment and just savor this moment when JOB and MCM are in agreement over something-it’s funny, i left my comment about knowing your audience at the exact same time….mcm

  18. MCM,

    Am I missing something (or having a Rip Van Winkle moment…)?

    I feel like there’s an inside joke I should be in on here.

    Hmmm…must…scan…memory…banks…

    JOB

  19. Cubeland Mystic says

    Doublethink’s mission is to “identify and develop young conservative and libertarian writers”. Is the audience otherwise? I would accept the plea for clemency argument if Doublethink was like the Village Voice or some such, but its a journal for conservatives and libertarians. Am I wrong? I guess libertarians can be a little edgy.

    I am not positioning for the last word, or trying to win an argument. Nor do I think the work is scandalous, it’s fine in that sense. It’s coming from a good place. The man worked hard. He deserves a proper analysis, not a safe pat on the back. If I can’t tell him in great detail why I loved his work, I’ll give him constructive criticism. Feedback makes you stronger!

    Where’s Rufus?

  20. triunepieces says

    Well done. Thank you. It’s reminded me how desensitized I am.

    Zachary

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