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2010: The Abuse and Insult Continue

How about this latest instance of the “good news” and the “loving” message of Jesus Christ from the Catholic Church:

The Guardian today reports that “Revised Catholic rules put female ordination in same category of crime under church law as clerical sex abuse of minors”: Vatican makes attempted ordination of women a grave crime

Why not legislate that Catholic women should wear burqas too? That should really make the position quite clear. And before you cry that there is no similarity, I ask you to consider this more deeply:

  • They are both rules made by men in power
  • To ensure that women never have power
  • On the basis that a masculine god-construct said so
  • And that men are supposedly better rulers of themselves and of others
  • And that women are supposedly mentally and emotionally weaker than men
  • And that women exercising power are more dangerous than men exercising power
  • Despite the negative examples of enormous bad done by powerful men
  • And the positive examples of enormous good done by powerful women

One’s gender does not define one’s morality or one’s capacity, even physically. For every strong man there is one who is weaker than a woman. For every weak woman there is one who is stronger than a man. And in all issues of conscience and character, any person has the potential to grow stronger or weaker. We are what we choose to be, not what religion or any man says we must be.

The gospel that the church claims it was commissioned to preach is the gospel of love. Why can we never feel or hear or experience that love amongst the welter of prohibitions and condemnations that exercise religious minds? Do any of them actually believe that Jesus came to set the world free? Or is love just so hard that no one is actually capable of it? It is so much easier just to legislate and condemn and blame anyone other than oneself for sin … man has been doing it since Adam and it looks like the Catholic Church has learned nothing since then. Didn’t Jesus say, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone…”?



The subjective truth of memories for Memoir

This week in the MA we’ve been working on Memoir. There has been useful discussion around the subject of “truth” in the genre: the difference between memoir and biography, the necessity of being entertaining in order to attract a publisher and an audience, and therefore the necessity of holding to a theme, being selective in what one portrays,  which might mean not telling everything, or even embellishing sometimes  in order to hold the attention… what this means for a supposedly “non-fiction” genre, the expectation that the audience understands that a memoir presents subjective rather than objective truth, etc.

For an exercise, we were instructed to run “the film” of our lives, beginning with our earliest memories, fitting in what we could in ten minutes. I took a little longer over it, as the act of remembering in this way is foreign to me and I felt I was exercising nearly-atrophied muscles. I found that I remembered impressions rather than events – and for some reason they are all to do with being outside in the garden. It was difficult to write a quick list, because the act of writing is actually what draws out the memory for me. I start with a fleeting impression and can’t progress to the next one until I’ve dragged it out to coherence word by word. I also checked a few facts with my Mom, with a startling result in one case. This is what came to me (it is unpolished – the exercises that build on this one are better written – see subsequent posts).

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I remember cherry trees when I was three years old – how I loved the hugeness of those three trees in our back garden and how exciting the long cherry season was. They were different types of cherry so the fruit kept coming for ten weeks (I have that time detail through checking with my mom now). We only lived in that house in Linden, Johannesburg for a few months. There was also a swimming pool incident – I remembered that my brother (Ian, one year old) nearly drowned in the low water that was left after it had been drained for repair, but my mom tells me now that it wasn’t my brother but our friend Trevor, who was slightly younger than Ian.

We moved from Linden, Johannesburg to Cape Town. The house there had very thick walls – I don’t have a visual memory of these, but they felt solid and cool and the fact that they were thick has stayed with me because there was an earthquake while we were there and much was made of the fact that the house didn’t fall down. I associate our faithful, not-too-beautiful, but very much beloved dog, Juno, a boxer, with the garden of this house – a spacious half-acre with no trees – maybe that’s why it seems spacious in my memory. (In fact, my mother tells me, we acquired Juno from the SPCA when I was two and we were living in Parkview, Johannesburg (before we moved to Linden). Mom says that Dad and I set out to rescue her from imminent euthanasia at the prompting of a dog-finder who had been unable to find our lost Rhodesian Ridgeback who had wandered. As I was only two, I hardly think I was the initiator of this noble mission, but who knows? I don’t remember any of it.)

In another house, in Northcliff, Johannesburg, where we lived for three years (my age – six to eight), I remember a quince tree in a neglected corner of the garden behind the house. It wasn’t an attractive climbing tree (or bush? For some reason, I think of it as a bush) but mysterious because we were unfamiliar with quinces – no one really knew what to do with them. The light yellow fruit was so large, but so inedible! There was also an avocado tree, I think, which didn’t give much fruit so we thought of it as a disappointment. In the large front garden, there was an enormous loquat tree. I could climb into this, with difficulty. I liked the difficulty and the way it made me feel especially agile and clever when I overcame it. The fruit was tasty when ripe, but awfully bitter when not. Although the ripe orange-yellow fruit was smooth to touch, I seem to remember that it was also furry at some stage – maybe in early development or just around the base?

As I think about that loquat tree, more impressions from the outside of the house begin to cluster around it. There was a large swimming pool with a tough blue plastic cover over it. I remember the smell of that plastic, and its yielding support underfoot when we walked on it (which was very exciting as we weren’t allowed to do it). I think there was also a wendy house or a shed or other such hiding place at the bottom of the garden beyond the loquat tree – or if there wasn’t, we children met there as though there were when we pretended to be Peter (me) and Jane (I forget whose role that was) and others from Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven. I also remember games where I was an Indian warrior called Bravery. I presume my brothers were cowboys – oh yes! I remember the cap guns – toy guns that would give a loud report as they were fired – simply a hammer coming down on a strip of tape, and the smell of the tiny curl of smoke that would rise from the gun. I always preferred a bow and arrow – I’d somehow formulated a concept of the noble savage – must have been from something I’d read.

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{Thu 13 March 2008}   Reality and truth
Two things I read today seem to intersect – the first is this article by Elizabeth Pisani in The Guardian, Thursday March 13 2008 entitled “Spitzer’s true folly” and subtitled “A governor who pays for sex should know to mould social policies on reality, not morality”. Although light and not in-depth, it seems to me a very balanced and realistic view of the sex trade and I instinctively agree with the idea of regulation rather than the impossible fantasy of the elimination of the trade. I’m sure that when I think about it more deeply any number of caveats will arise, but essentially I’m not disposed to think of the women in that trade as any more “sinful” than anyone else and many of them may well be a lot more canny and a lot more grounded than most. There are some related thoughts in my post titled Overdoing Mistress Overdone in Washington.

The other thing is the little essay-in-a-booklet called On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt which I picked up at a bookstore this morning. He argues that despite various consciously or unconsciously held postmodern positions on the possibility and accessibility of truth, most of us rely on our ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood in very practical ways in our everyday lives. He equates truth here with fact. For instance, no matter how skeptical you are about truth, you’ll probably give your actual name and address when filling in an application for something. In other words, you’ll tell the truth about the fact and you and the contracting party will rely on the accuracy of those details. If they prove false, the whole thing won’t work (at least not for long). Practically, truth is essential to large parts of our lives, and our trust in others and, most importantly, in ourselves, depends on it, so communities couldn’t function without it. Communities do sustain a lot of “bullshit and lying” too (apparently the subject of a prior essay by the same person), but we can navigate this if we have some ability to tell the difference between truth and falsehood (and most people do). Those who hold to falsehood as truth are crazy. Every time someone tells us even a white lie, perhaps in order to protect us, and we believe them, we enter into a world created by their words that is different from the real world experienced by those not exposed to the lie. Every time we do this, we become a little crazy and our trust in our own ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood is damaged.

My thoughts aren’t quite formulated yet, but I think where they’re going in pulling these two stimuli together is that the whole attempt to “eliminate” prostitution is based on a falsehood because it’s out of touch with reality (facts). This would lead to the conclusion (not new, but still shocking) that the church is a liar because it refuses to tell the truth about the way things really are (labelling all prostitution “sin” is not “telling it like it is” for everyone). Ergo, the church makes us crazy.

When truth is an ideal, it has little practical use, because it doesn’t relate to facts, or worse, tries to deny them. One could argue that it isn’t truth at all, just something that wants to be.

Postscript: Just read this really funny, outraged and outrageous response to the Catholic Church’s new seven deadly sins, by Grant Walliser in the Mail & Guardian: Catholics modernise their mumbo-jumbo. Worth a read for further thoughts on reality, truth and crazy-making.



et cetera