Tag Archives: art

Allen Ginsberg’s “Thoughts on NAMBLA”.

Reading a collection of essays by the American poet Allen Ginsberg I was surprised to find a previously unpublished text in which he explains why he became a member of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).

Now, NAMBLA has had very bad press and is generally perceived as a child abuse club but the truth is a little more complex. NAMBLA was formed in the aftermath of the Boston sex scandal of 1977 in which police investigations into allegations of abuse of minors turned into a full scale witch hunt that destroyed the lives and reputations of many innocent people including alleged victims who were subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques to force them to cough up names of men who allegedly had abused them. NAMBLA was formed as a mainstream gay rights movement but one that sought to include debates surrounding the relationships that can and do occur between men and teenagers. Having previously worked as a teacher in juvenile detention centres and having managed youth programs for homeless and at risk youth I can say that these intergenerational relationships occur by far more often than the public realise and are not always abusive.

Here’s what Ginsberg had to say,

Thoughts on NAMBLA.

I became a member of NAMBLA a decade ago as a matter of civil liberties. In the early 1980s, the FBI had conducted a campaign of entrapment and “dirty tricks” against NAMBLA members just as they had against black and anti-war leaders in previous decades. In the January 17, 1983, issue Time magazine, following the FBI disinformation campaign, attacked NAMBLA as a group involved in the “systematic exploitation of the weak and immature by the powerful and disturbed.” That struck me as a fitting description of Time magazine itself. NAMBLA’s a forum for reform of those laws on youthful sexuality which members deem oppressive, a discussion society not a sex club. I joined NAMBLA in defence of free speech.

Historically, societies have taken different views of this issue and the political heat that surrounds the subject is unnatural. Demagogic reaction to NAMBLA demeans the subject as a political football. At present European nations do not share current US public sexual hysteria. Various cultures and states offer widely varying definitions of age of consent – age 15 in Czechoslovakia and some US states, 14 in Hawaii. There’s no universal consensus on “consent”. It’s a fit subject for discussion, NAMBLA provides a forum.

Most people like myself do not make carnal love to hairless boys and girls. Yet such erotic inclinations or fantasies are average and are commonly sublimated into courtly sociability. An afternoon’s walk through the Vatican Museum will attest centuries of honorific appreciation of nude youths, an acceptable pleasure in the quasi erotic contemplation of the “naked human form divine”. From Rome’s Vatican to Florence’s Uffizi galleries to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, we see statues of prepubescent Eros, pubescent Bacchus, male ephebes (naked bodies 12 to 18), the adolescent goddess Kore, nymphs, naiads, young fauns and satyrs in abundance, Laocoon and his boys with pubes exposed, wrinkled old Neptune’s loins, old hags with undraped withers and dugs, Olympian Zeus and kid Ganymede. Western civilisation prides itself on its foundation on classical Greek culture, wherein intergenerational love was a social practice praised by philosophers.

A dash of humour, common sense humanity and historical perspective would help discussion of NAMBLA’s role. Further, libertarians or anarchists may remember Blake’s warning, “One law for the Lion and the Ox is oppression.”

These considerations shouldn’t be distorted to apologise for rape and mental or physical violation of children. I respect those who want to fix a general law to prevent abuse of minors. This is a real problem though less politically demagogic than advertised by some aggressive therapists, politically correct thought police, and the obsessive senator Jesse Helms. It is NAMBLA’s mission to raise the subject, explore it, and provide a platform for debate.

Child abuse laws have been abused, especially since the Reagan-Meese commission’s predictably incompetent linkage of pornography and violence. Subsequent formation of a Justice Department child porn bureaucracy sent federal squads roaming the states teaching local police to practice prurient snooping, invasion of privacy and lawless entrapment. Often police intrusion into consensual intergenerational affections and affairs results in abuse of both parties. Police authority also has made use of mind rape of the younger person, forcing unwilling youths to fink on close friends with threats of jail or beatings. One important function of NAMBLA is to keep track of bureaucratic manipulations of adolescents by police, FBI, media, and other agencies who handle such delicate issues with a meat ax. A Witch Hunt Foiled: The FBI vs. NAMBLA provides an impressive volume of information on these outrageous police practices.

Ginsberg, Allen (1994) Published in ‘Deliberate Prose’ Selected Essays 1952 -1995 pp 170.

What I feel is missing in Ginsberg argument is the role the ‘beautiful boy’ principal played in the development of western art and culture and not just that it was the most ubiquitous representation of the human form in western art. It was the aesthetic yard stick of most of the west’s greatest achievements and in all areas. What its removal could imply for future development we can only surmise but there are already indications of what lies ahead in the dumbing down and low quality of much of today’s cultural output. That ‘human form divine’ is now all but absent.

True Art is Truth – an explanation and Go Japan!

I thought I should explain the byline ‘True Art is Truth’ which is a Spartan proverb and has nothing to do with realism in the visual arts as some assume but rather is about the need to speak truth to the extent that is possible in speech and writing. I found that Aristotle had covered the subject and much better than I possibly could and I also added part of an essay on writing by Robert Louis Stevenson in which he also speaks about the need for truth and honesty.

Aristotle.

The first rule of good speaking is to know and speak the truth as a Spartan proverb says, ‘true art is truth’; whereas rhetoric is an art of enchantment, which makes things appear good and evil, like and unlike, as the speaker pleases. Its use is not confined, as people commonly suppose, to arguments in the law courts and speeches in the assembly; it is rather a part of the art of disputation, under which are included both the rules of Gorgias (Sophist) and the eristic (Eris – goddess of discord and conflict) of Zeno (philosopher best known for his ‘paradoxes’). But it is not wholly devoid of truth. Superior knowledge enables us to deceive another by the help of resemblances, and to escape from such a deception when employed against ourselves. We see therefore that even in rhetoric an element of truth is required. For if we do not know the truth, we can neither make the gradual departures from truth by which men are most easily deceived, nor guard ourselves against deception.

You probably have heard much mention of fake news and alternative facts recently or proposed laws presented as ‘protecting’ us from evil when in fact it is to protect established power from civil society.

Robert Louis Stevenson.

Man is imperfect; yet, in his literature, he must express himself and his own views and preferences; for to do anything else is to do a far more perilous thing than to risk being immoral: it is to be sure of being untrue. To ape a sentiment, even a good one, is to travesty a sentiment; that will not be helpful. To conceal a sentiment, if you are sure you hold it, is to take a liberty with truth. There is probably no point of view possible to a sane man but contains some truth and, in the true connection, might be profitable to the race. I am not afraid of the truth, if anyone could tell it me, but I am afraid of parts of it impertinently uttered. There is a time to dance and a time to mourn; to be harsh as well as to be sentimental; to be ascetic as well as to glorify the appetites; and if a man were to combine all these extremes into his work, each in its place and proportion, that work would be the world’s masterpiece of morality as well as of art. Partiality is immorality; for any book is wrong that gives a misleading picture of the world and life.

I like that last line in which he states that partiality is immorality. Ever try discussing religion with a fundamentalist or an atheist, politics with a member of the far right or left or gender relations with a militant feminist?

Also, you know I’m pretty militant when it comes to civil and political rights and so I was happy to see the reaction in Japan to the passing of new ‘anti-terrorism’ laws. Violent protests and funny that in a matter related to democracy we in the West can now start taking lessons from the East. Rather than go over the details myself, just click HERE to go to “The Guardian” article which covers it all pretty well.

Inspiration

Sticking with the subject of art and creativity, these past years I’ve been experiencing a state of confusion and inaction I’m sure many can relate to. Maybe in my case it is less acute given that advancement in age brings the ultimate excuse for doing nothing and which is that ‘it’s too late anyway and may as well just sit tight and wait to die’. Its for the most part true, my father used to say ‘if you haven’t made it by forty you may as well give up, take any job going and hope it sees you through to retirement’. He was speaking about careers in business but the art scene is not much better, ever noticed how many art competitions and support there is for ‘young and emerging artists’? In reality you can be an emerging artist at any age, even old age, but not according to the mainstream who by their insistence an emerging artist must be say under twenty-five prove two things; one that at the bottom of the mainstream indeed lies mediocrity and two, they don’t want anyone over twenty-five kneeling before them with mouth wide open. Not a joke – I knew a gallery owner in the past who got sucked by all his exhibiting artists. Therefore the shit he had hanging on the walls of his multiple galleries but I’ll stop right there. You get the picture.

The trick to success I think is to say you couldn’t give a rat’s arse if anyone reads your book or buys your painting. In fact the starting point is that you couldn’t give a rat’s if you die with the music still in you. After all, dead you don’t know you’re dead and by way of consequence, don’t know you had a good novel or groundbreaking painting buried deep in your entrails. Maybe you did suspect its existence but couldn’t be bothered writing it down and that’s fine as well, possible years of sleep deprivation and self-doubt is a high price to pay for the privilege of getting less money than a kid flipping burgers at Maccas – if you work out the hours spent in most cases – or having your ego fluffed up by a few people wanting your signature on the first edition. Maybe you are an idealist and want to make a contribution to your nation’s cultural heritage but your nation will never miss what they don’t know could have existed and the populace are probably too busy watching Big Brother or reading Cleo, Fast Fours or V8’s & Big Tits and if not are probably watching, holding chin between thumb and crocked first finger, the Bolshoi’s umpteenth repeat performance of Swan Lake. It’s not reason enough and especially if and as is increasingly the case nowadays if the work is honest, your creation could well attract more hate than admiration. I’d say and am not alone and not the last to say it – if you do it then just do it for yourself. When it’s finished you can decide whether you want to put it out there.

A reason and will to create is difficult enough but there is worse and it is the confusion over the source of so-called inspiration. For the most part the public love to believe and artists love to perpetrate the myth, and maybe believe it themselves in some sort of deluded way, that there is something metaphysical or even divine to the artist’s inspiration and they have this rare ability courtesy of Nature or God. Let me set people straight on that, near anyone can learn to do anything to a level commensurate with the amount of effort they are prepared to put in and the same applies to composing and performing music, drawing, painting and writing. Genius is as Edison said, ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration and it’s true, no matter you roll your cigarettes, wear ripped jeans and have a ring in your nose, your work will always be crap if you don’t work hard at your trade and that before worrying about the inspiration bit of the equation.

But lets talk about that one percent which is indeed so rare. Here is a fact I found funny but which did not surprise me. Most are familiar with the works of German composer Richard Wagner and would agree he accessed the lofty ranks of genius but I didn’t and suspect most didn’t know that he reportedly could not compose if he was not wearing silk underwear. In other words – if further clarification is needed – he could not be ‘inspired’ if he was not jerking himself under the table. I have that on good source – a series of serious lectures on serious German culture called “What is German”. Thomas Mann hints at the same thing when in “Death in Venice” he writes, “It is well the public know only of a great work and not also what inspired it because knowledge of the source of the artist’s inspiration would confuse them and lead them to think less of the work” I paraphrase as too lazy to dig up Mann’s exact words but you get the idea and in Mann’s case he must have had his young boyfriend in mind, in 1942 he records,

-from the Klaus Heuser period, when I was a happy lover… Well, there it is – I have ‘lived and loved’. Dark eyes that shed tears for me, beloved lips I kissed – it all happened, to me it was given, I shall be able to tell myself this as I die.

Half his luck. Ginsberg put it differently but I guess meant pretty much the same when he said a poem rises from your guts. LOL – his gut must have been in a remarkable state of agitation when he penned, “Please Master”.

Please master can I touch your cheek
please master can I kneel at your feet
please master can I loosen your blue pants
please master can I gaze at your golden haired belly
please master can I have your thighs bare to my eyes
please master can I take off my clothes below your chair
please master can I can I kiss your ankles and soul
please master can I touch lips to your hard muscle hairless thigh
please master can I lay my ear pressed to your stomach
please master can I wrap my arms around your white ass
please master can I lick your groin gurled with blond soft fur
please master can I touch my tongue to your rosy asshole
please master may I pass my face to your balls,
please master order me down on the floor,

Well – no comment and you can read the rest on the ‘Hello Poetry’ website.

Seriously – the ability to create a notable piece of creative work involves pretty much the whole person just as does the act of making a baby. Trying to limit the exercise to the intellect will always result in at best a well-crafted mediocrity because any suppression, even the slightest, will always turn you back from artist to tradesman and if the case you may as well not bother. Or maybe and as George Orwell wrote is the only solution for an honest writer – commit suicide. I’d suggest if asked, you create for yourself, burn the result if fearing unpleasant repercussions, and generally just stick the middle finger up and say fuck youz all.

Bicycle trailer update: on route from Melbourne by courier this time so fingers crossed, I’ll be out in the wild next week.

 

Junky and still no trailer.

There’s a backpacker hostel down the road and that on top of a cliff face is held up by concrete walls which, to the local kids is canvas for their street art. So far the game has been that the artists spray their tags, paste up or scribble some derogatory statement about the local police force on the walls and then someone paints over it the next morning. I’m sure this game goes on anywhere in the world where there is youth, walls and spray cans and just like other places, the strategy here has been to designate a space where local youth ‘can express themselves’ in an appropriate and safe environment, maybe a few social workers on hand to talk about gender fluidity and breaking glass ceilings, but of course the very nature of true street art is that it is art of the street and not just art in the street. Street art is anarchistic and the mere fact of a surface and the art that will be painted or pasted on it receiving prior approval from any authority whatsoever disqualifies it from being described as street art.

Anyways, the latest attempt by either local authorities or the owners of the backpacker hostel to put an end to the nightly decorating of the concrete walls has been to paste up a sticker warning of dire consequences should anyone feel an irrestible urge to ‘express themselves’ in the wrong place. But it’s a fail as well in that it clearly indicates that the authority who issued the warning was also too busy expressing themselves on public walls to attend English class. The graffiti will be given to police?! It’s a bit like the sign at the bottom of the stairway to the upper level of London buses that states, “Dogs must be carried”. Damn it – don’t have a dog.

OK, for the smart ass at the back of the class who asked, the sticker should read “Photographs of graffiti in this area are given to police’.

Sticker on wall.

In other aspects of life, believe it or not I’m still trying to get my hands on a trailer for my mountain bike. Had I four weeks annual leave in which to do this planned bike excursion I would now be putting the trip in the ‘nice idea but…’ basket. The latest attempt was yesterday when I ordered a trailer from a mob in Sydney and which offers a similar item on eBay and boasting ‘free delivery’ I noticed at the bottom of their ‘thank you for your order’ email explanations on how to calculate the cost of shipping. The trailer hasn’t shipped and I will deal with that later today most likely by requesting a refund. I think it would be better to order straight from China where these trailers are probably made anyway. Come to think about it, Australia Post still hasn’t got back to me about how the first one just vanished. That’s the third parcel they have ‘lost’ in the past six months or so, the other two were together and from an unknown source. Auspost had left a ‘pick up from the post office’ card in our letter box but when I presented it at the counter they were unable to find the parcels nor even determine whether they had tracking numbers. I made a complaint and in that instance they fell over themselves in efforts to reassure me all things possible were been done to locate them with even a guy presenting himself as an employee of Auspost ringing weeks later to make sure I was happy with their unsuccessful efforts. Possibly making sure I would not pursue the matter any further. Whatever was in those two parcels must have been important to someone and I would encourage the person who sent them if they are reading this to hit the contact button and I’ll reply with suggestions.Anyway, so here I am not knowing when or even if, I’ll ever be able to ride my bike down the road.

I finished reading Burrough’s “Junky” which I found is for the most part just a better account of life as a drug addict than those I’ve heard a thousand times over from clients when I was a youth worker. Drugs are the sum total of their existence and try to talk about anything else and in two sentences they will bring the conversation back to their habit and most pathetic is how they expect you to be impressed with what they believe are tales of epic heroism. Aside from that the book does get better as you progress and about half way through it even begins to attain a high level of readability with about a dozen pages of outstanding writing. I liked for example his description of the patrons of a ‘fag bar’ in New Orleans,

In the French Quarter there are several queer bars so full every night the fags spill out on the side walk. A room full of fags gives me the horrors. They jerk around like puppets on invisible strings, galvanized into hideous activity that is the negation of everything living and spontaneous. The live human being has moved out of these bodies long ago. But something moved in when the original tenant moved out. Fags are ventriloquists’ dummies who have moved in and taken over the ventriloquist. The dummy sits in a queer bar nursing his beer, and uncontrollably yapping out of a rigid doll face.

I’ve seen this myself and sadly the above description is fairly accurate. Burroughs was not a homophobe and makes no secret of his own same-gender sexual adventures which in 1953, when “Junky” was published, must have raised a few eyebrows. As an example – a boy in a bar in Mexico,

I turned to get a closer look at the boy who had moved over. Now bad. “Por que triste” I asked. (“Why sad?”) Not much of a gambit, but I wasn’t there to converse.

The boy smiled, revealing very red gums and sharp teeth far apart. He shrugged and said something to the effect that he wasn’t sad or not espeially so. I looked around the room.

Vamonos a otro lugar,” I said. (Let’s go some place else.”)

The boy nodded. We walked down the street into an all-night restaurant, and sat down in a booth. The boy dropped his hand onto my leg under the table. I felt my stomach knot with excitement. I gulped my coffee and waited impatiently while the boy finished a beer and smoked a cigarette.

The boy knew a hotel. I pushed five pesos through a grill. An old man unlocked the door of a room and dropped a ragged towel on the chair. “Llevas pistola?” – (You carry a gun?”) – asked the boy. He had caught sight of my gun. I said yes.

I folded my pants and dropped them over a chair, placing the pistol on my pants. I dropped my shirt and my shorts on the pistol. I sat down naked on the edge of the bed and watched the boy undress. He folded his worn blue suit carefully. He took off his shirt and placed it around his coat on the back of a chair. His skin was smooth and copper-colored. The boy stepped out of his shorts and turned around and smiled at me. Then he came and sat beside me on the bed. I ran a hand slowly over the boy’s back, following with the other hand the curve of the chest down over the flat brown stomach. The boy smiled and lay down on the bed.

Later we smoked a cigarette, our shoulders touching under the cover. The boy said he had to go. We both dressed. I wondered if he expected money. I decided not. Outside, we separated at a corner, shaking hands.

Beautifully crafted and I wonder if it did not inspire that page in Frederique Mitterrand’s book “La Mauvaise Vie” (“The Bad Life”) in which he describes his encouter with a teenage male prostitute in Thailand and that was the cause of a scandale widely reported in international news media after Marine Le Pen said in a 2009 television interview that it proved Mitterrand had engaged in “sexual tourism”. How things have changed since 1953.

Blessings to all.