Saturday, November 30, 2019

In case anyone needed a reminder that "fan" is short for "fanatic"

It’s approximately the one-year anniversary now of the incident I spoke of in my first journal entry.  On one hand, I have the urge to reflect, but on the other, I have limited time-capacity for doing so right now, given the workload-rhythm of my chosen career.  Nonetheless, I’d like to have more than one entry for November, so what follows is a condensed version of a longer reflection/rant that I tried to write back in July/August but failed to finish before getting distracted by other things.

I also shelved it because I figured it made me sound crazy, but we won't worry about that just now. ;)

Anyway: at Terminus this last year, I wore outfits on all four days that were inspired by four bands who’ve had an especially big impact on my life.  To put that impact in a nutshell:

  1. Marilyn Manson had a huge impact on me as a teenage Satanist.  Antichrist Superstar was the mythical narrative that I had felt to be missing from the Satanic Bible in and of itself.  My ardent desire to not have the Calgary concert cancelled in 1997 drove my first-ever foray into ritual magic.  I spent over a decade after that trying to write a novel in which the notion of rock-star-as-Antichrist played a significant role. 

  2. Shadow Project captivated me with their aesthetic, to the point that the hairstyles Rozz and Eva had in that era are the majority of the reason why I have spent two decades now having two-tone hair.  I strongly considered getting a tattoo of their logo at one point because I thought the up-side-down-plus-right-side-up-crosses were a nice reflection of the duality between my academic pursuit of religious studies vs. my personal commitment to Satanism.  Attempts to reconcile my fandom of the “true goth” of Rozz with the “false goth” of Manson further fueled my passion for the afore-mentioned novel, which featured a whole gothic civilization with a religion that revolved around music and enforced its norms via an Inquisition.

  3. Finntroll came along at the right time to shake me out of a complacency I’d fallen into, wherein my life had settled into what I now see as an excess of intellectual satisfaction and engagement in “civilization” at the expense of a neglect of sensory-instinctual engagement in “nature.”  Monsters and the wilderness captured my imagination from then-on, alerting me to a lack of balance in my psyche that I have since been striving to correct.  Finntroll thus inspired what came to replace the above-mentioned novel as my “great work-in-progress”: a story about a princess who gets turned into a troll and then gradually discovers that if you live in a shitty patriarchal medieval society, it’s better to be a troll than a princess.

  4. Uada, I’ve already said in past entries, saved my life inasmuch as I had inwardly lost the will to live and was in denial about it until an abrupt plunge into terror at the prospect of “independence unexplored” and the “fading (of) the light that never shines” startled me awake.  I have since returned spirituality to the centre of my life, and connected to an unexpected variety of amazing people in the wake of that return.  Through certain initiation practices that I was inspired to attempt over this last year, I have conquered deep-rooted personal fears of mine, regained control over parts of myself that I had become estranged from, and come face-to-face with the sorts of mysteries that I would not even have dared to dream of as a younger occult dabbler.  I can thus say without hesitation that my life has become immeasurably richer – and weirder – as a direct result of Uada’s shadow having fallen over me.

Now, with all of that in mind, let’s consider how and why all that amazing musical inspiration (note: I liked Uada for at least a few years prior to the infamous born-again-in-darkness incident) was not previously able to extract me from the pit of anxiety I’d fallen into:

  1. Antichrist-Superstar-era Marilyn Manson was considered controversial by late “90’s conservatives over a number of faux-shock elements.  One might do well then to recall that among the ridiculous rumors about missing ribs and puppy-killing, there was also the matter of certain Manson music videos and the stage show for Antichrist Superstar containing elements evocative of fascist rallies.  Would the “it’s just like Pink Floyd’s The Wall” rejoinder of yesteryear be well-received today, or is it not easier to envision certain people nowadays finding both Marilyn Manson and Pink Floyd equally “triggering”?

  2. Shadow Project’s Rozz Williams has put out both musical and artistic works in which certain stylistic elements of the Third Reich occasionally appear.  I had long been under the impression that this was in the context of, as per the phrase that appears in “Pig,” “Why God Permits Evil,” i.e. engagement with the ugliness that is part of existence, without necessarily endorsing it.  But what comes of this nowadays, given the proclamation that “intent is not magic”?

  3. A few years back, I stumbled upon an article arguing that folk metal – the genre to which Finntroll belongs – is basically Nazi music.  Said article did not seem to have much of an argument though, leaving one under the impression that it was claiming that i) any depiction of a battle between Europeans and Muslims in which the Muslims are not glorified as the good guys is inherently racist and should not exist, and/or ii) Europeans should be ashamed to talk about any aspect of their culture ever, because OMG colonialism, you guys!  Naturally, a further premise of such discourse is that if you argue with it, you are obviously of course racist yourself…

  4. If you put in a google search that includes both “Uada” and “ANTIFA,” you will run across an interesting story wherein the expectation is seemingly expressed that you must endorse violence against your own fans, and violence against yourself, and never question whether any given action of ANTIFA’s is truly constructive toward attaining its goal.  Failure to assent to this arrangement then constitutes evidence that you are, yourself, a fascist.  That “clicky-click” sound which you then hear as you read this is the mouse movement of all the smug progressive readers who are at this moment rage-closing their browsers on account of their certainty that I must surely be a fascist for putting the issue in these terms.

Now, lest anyone (particularly my fellow fans of the bands in question!) get the wrong impression via my bringing all this up, I personally think there are strong arguments to be made to the effect that none of these things are actually “problematic”:
  • In the case of Manson and Rozz, nuanced examination of the message of the music reveals a sentiment of “fascism is bad, and numerous-institutions-that-resemble-it-in-the-modern-world are also bad – fuck all those things.”  Refusal to engage in said nuanced examination, in favor of instead getting offended via a knee-jerk reaction, promotes a world in which simple, bland art is rewarded over complex, vital art.

  • In the case of Finntroll, i) is N/A because they aren’t one of the bands singing about that specific topic and ii) is the sort of claim that drives people straight into the arms of the alt-right because “why is the left so big on standing up for all these other races but we aren’t allowed to stand up for ours” – i.e. nobody but people-already-brainwashed-by-the-far-left thinks this is a reasonable view, and everybody-but-those-people rolls their eyes at the idea that “dudes singing fun songs about troll folklore” is worth anybody  getting all-up-in-arms about.  If there is anything problematic about the genre, in other words, it sure ain't anything to do with this band!

  • In the case of Uada, the position they would have to adopt in response to the situation they were put in, in order to be “not fascists” by ANTIFA's judgment, requires what I consider a level of self-abnegation completely and utterly unacceptable by Satanic standards.  It basically amounts to “our judgment is too infallible to ever be questioned, so if we decide that you must be a martyr for our cause, you must submit; resist, and you too deserve to be destroyed without question, just because we say so.”  A world in which this attitude gets a pass is a pro-herd-conformity world.

The problem I was formerly having, then, was that I found myself trapped in this mental prison wherein I was made to feel like “the way the world is going” is such that all the music that’s had the strongest positive impacts in my life is irreparably “tainted,” and I am then also irreparably “tainted” via association with it.  I could not, then, say the things I have now spoken freely of immediately-above this paragraph, or so I felt at the time.  

Even more constricting, in the headspace I was formerly in, was my sense that any attempt to speak my mind about issues of this kind would be met with a response along the following lines:

  • Accusations of failure to have checked privilege and associated neglect of the ‘obvious’ truth that marginalized peoples’ suffering in response to unexpected encounters with fascist imagery, whatever the context, must ‘obviously’ outweigh any ‘need’ I have for the material in question.

  • Accusations of inadequate sensitivity to Islamophobia, the traumas of colonialism and so forth; accusations of being an alt-right person myself for even articulating the logic that I see re: this whole thing is degenerating into a “it is ok to discriminate against white people but not anyone else” shitshow – an opinion that I have since discovered is widely shared when people talk in private to folks outside of the progressive bubble.

  • Accusations of being pro-fascist on account of agreeing with someone who showed anything less than 100% support to an initiative of ANTIFA’s.  Because of course we all know that there are only two sides to the most important cosmic struggle in the entire fucking universe and that those sides are “literally anything ANTIFA thinks is necessary to combat fascism, regardless of its obvious potentials to run amuck given the involvement of fallible humans,” and “YOU ARE LITERALLY HITLER, OMG.”

The small minority of people I know who are “loud” about these issues thus drowned out everything else for me and left me feeling totally isolated.  (Nice work there, friends!)  I then felt, in turn, that I was not allowed to complain about that either, because “clearly” my being upset about all this was just some childish defensive tantrum stemming from not wanting to “do work” on myself to become “less problematic.”  I mean, all this angst over a bunch of bands?  What a spoiled little goth-princess-with-oh-so-pale-skin one must be! ;)

It couldn’t possibly be the case that gee, maybe I could have wound up at a point of being legitimately depressed, inasmuch as that’s what happens when you are being told that key things that make you you are all tangled up with The Worst Thing Ever… and you have therefore felt compelled to abandon multiple full-time creative projects that you put thousands of hours into out of a sense that you have nothing to say that couldn’t be twisted by some self-righteous (self-lefteous) crusader into a reason to end your career… and you felt like any attempt to rationally argue in defense of your causes invariably resulted in no one being persuaded of anything save that “wow, if you are defending that, you must be an even worse person than I thought you were!” 

I still have days where I struggle with all of this to an extent, as I really do find it utterly exhausting and exasperating to find myself in situations where the other party appears so invested in their dualism that it is impossible to change their mind about anything, even via “hello, I thought I was your fucking friend and your worldview is killing me – this is my lived experience, do you fucking care?!” 

There are definitely a few “friends” who I have more or less cut out of my life because I am tired of this kind of behavior from them, where it seems like they are so determined to be 100% committed to what they have already decided is the “right” (left) side that the only conversational options with them become “mindlessly parrot back their virtue-signaling” or “submit to their high-and-mighty opinion that your whole existence is a massive disappointment to the gods of progressivism.” 

It’s especially pathetic inasmuch as these people present themselves as wanting to make the world better for everyone, yet you try to point out how their system is not working toward this end in your own lived experience, and contra any openness to the humble spirit of self-criticism that they preach, the only conclusion they proceed to draw is that you must be “The Enemy”… which would, of course, be fine for a Satanist if these people weren’t so fucking adjacent to the whole “cancel culture” phenomena. 

It seems also worth pausing a moment to marvel that, contra my drag king persona, I am not some straight-white-male uneducated metal dude who bitches about "political correctness" on the basis of things he's heard third-hand from people on his own side.  I am, to the contrary, a biracial, bisexual, gender-fluid female who has twelve years of post-secondary education, including a PhD thesis on a feminist topic - i.e. no, I am not disagreeing just because I have 'not read enough' or have not 'thought hard' enough about it, thank you very much.  Is it not, like, mildly insane that a person of that persuasion can these days be considered “not far-left enough for the far left” because people are fucking idiots and can’t distinguish between “I agree with your goals, but not your methods” and “I don’t agree with your goals”?

I could continue ranting, but there’s no point, inasmuch as aside from outbursts such as the above, I do see myself as having largely moved past being hung up on all this stuff.  I have realized that those super-dualistic-far-left people, loud as they are, are definitely not the majority, and countless honest heart-to-hearts with other friends, family and so forth have reinforced my impression that basically everybody is tired of their bullshit - i.e. if you act this way, I guarantee there are tons of people talking behind your back about how fucking annoying you are.

I thus am settled, in my own mind, that regardless of what manipulative maneuvers these loony-crusader people try to pull on me in the future, I am not going to be swayed by their “the only valid ways to be a human being are to be an activist like me or to feel constantly guilty that you aren’t an activist like me – everything else means you’re a monster” fuckery. In such a configuration, it is then better to be a monster than a crusader… as per what the troll novel had tried to tell me all along.  

I get that to some readers, this will sound like an awful lot of drama over what to you is “just music.”  But it is then my hope that other people who do have this level of passion about “dark” music – I know you are out there :) – will stop and think about how you might feel if the sensitivity-about-approaching-dark-themes-the-“wrong”-way police come for an artist that you found formative, and whether it is then a good idea to be assenting to a worldview so self-destructively fixated upon an unattainable purity. 

In short, then: I am pretty fucking sure that we are all smart people with good hearts here, and that we can thus seek a more-just world together without being thereby duty-bound to sign up for “urgency + dualism = you are not allowed to critique your own side” bullshit.  It is not easy or comfortable to be the person who stands up and says that, but the more people who do say it, hopefully the easier it will eventually get.