Tuesday, January 10, 2006

indiscriminate sex: sadly a vain hope

While unsuccessfully looking for the just-right pickie of my Halle, I came across a few fascinating critiques and mentions of Bulworth, including this one by a self-styled liberal Christian named Hugo Schwyzer, a professor of history and gender studies from somewhere in the US. He quotes with a qualified enthusiasm this passage from the film:

Rich people've stayed on top, dividing white people from colored people. But white people've got more in Common with colored people than rich people. We're just gonna have to eliminate 'em.
Connie: Eliminate?
Bulworth: Eliminate.
Connie: Who? Rich people?
Bulworth: White people.
Bulworth: Black People, too. Brown people, Yellow people. Get rid of 'em all.
Connie: Get rid of them all?
Bulworth: We need a voluntary, free Spirited, compatible, open ended program of procreative racial deconstruction.
Connie: Uh...
Bulworth: Everybody just got to keep fucking everybody till we're all the same color.

Here, Beatty is giving his amusingly libertine twist to the melting pot fantasy, one which I first heard enunciated in the ‘What we need is a great big melting pot’ song of circa 1970. As I recall, it was a black singer who mused about churning out ‘coffee-colored people by the score’, which no doubt would’ve rendered the idea more palatable to we ‘developed’ whites who would've felt guilty about not wanting too much of our colour or culture to be blended away in the pot.

It was an idea with particular appeal to the young, I think. Just as it’s the young who forge new languages, creoles, in the intersecting of different language groups, because their primary interest is communication rather than preservation, so their interest in interconnection and bonding would transcend their cultural baggage, what little of it they have. Kids are too little to carry their own stuff, their parents and elders carry it for them, and that includes their culture. Consequently they don’t have that much respect for their culture and would toss it all out if it got in the way of their more or less immediate needs.

In contrast, most elders are weighed down and hedged in by their culture. They carry it for themselves and their children and their children’s children. They even come to revel in their status as repositories.

So you might say that the melting pot myth appeals to the young at heart, or the eternally naïve. Those who haven’t invested so much in their culture, or pretend they haven’t. And perhaps it doesn’t have to be culturally imperialist, but those for whom the myth appeals wouldn’t really want to give up an ounce of their easy liberality for a smidgeon of, say, Islamic fundamentalism or Hindu hierarchalism or Bantu tribalism.

Everyone who hankers after the melting pot myth, or Bulworth’s more libidinous version of it, will secretly, or not so secretly, want more than his or her fair share of influence on the resulting colorless offspring. Sounds like the beginnings of a battleground. Fact is, though, it would be much harder to blend religiosity with secularism than it would be to blend blacks with whites, or even one language with another. We derive so much pride from our separate histories and traditions and practices, for better or worse.

In any case, today we’re more divided by religion and culture than ever. As John Gray points out, with his usual sombre glee:

Everyone believed that the world was becoming steadily more secular. Yet on September 11 war and religion were as deeply intertwined as ever they had been in human history.

Human history appears to show that we’re fuelled by division.



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