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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

DANCING ON THE DWARF PT. 3

At this stage of the game, I'm sure I could let my enigmatic title go unexplained and no one would ever inquire. However, here's the explanation anyway.



The image above is that of the Hindu deity Shiva, dancing one of his ecstatic dances.  Unlike many other statues using similar iconography, this one shows him dancing upon the body of a dwarf, sometimes represented as "apasmara-purusha (the man of forgetfulness) who embodies indifference, ignorance and laziness."                                 

I interpret the image on two additional levels. In Hindu Samkhya philosophy the world is composed of three aspects, the lowest of which is *tamas,* which also embodies all qualities of inertia and ignorance, which are a fair match to "evil" in Judeo-Christian systems.  The dwarf, then, is also inertia, over which the lively energies of  Shiva have triumphed.

At the same time-- and this I do not draw from Samkya philosophy-- the dwarf is also a foundation for Shiva's dance. Maybe a god could dance on nothing if he so wished, but the fact that Shiva dances on the lower aspect of the universe demonstrates that to certain Hindu ways of thinking, even ignorance and inertia are a necessary part of existence. If nothing else they are the things against which we strive in order to reach excellence.

In Judeo-Christian philosophy there is, generally speaking, less of a sense of the interdependence of what we often call "good" and "evil."  The dominant tradition is that of good casting out evil into a howling netherworld, embodied in the ancient Jewish ritual of the scapegoat.  For me, though, one doesn't always solve the problem of evil by casting it out.

What is evil? I won't strive to come up with a substantive definition here. I will content myself with no more than a working definition instead, stating that for my purposes: "Evil is self-interest to the point of excluding all other interests."

Certainly people who make threats of rape to anyone, male or female, commit an evil act. It doesn't matter if they feel themselves put upon by an author whom they view as having a "feminist agenda." Their act is evil because they have acted in self-interest without any consideration of the commonweal that permits persons of diverse beliefs to live together in society.

And yet, there is also an evil-- lesser by far, to be sure-- in promoting an agenda that does not recognize a pluralistic worldview: one that insists upon a rigid "sheep vs. goats" division between good and evil.

If any readers (?) think I'm going to name Asselin as an example of this, guess again. I've critiqued her writings a couple of times but I've no evidence that she has promoted a one-sided agenda in a flagrant and badly conceived manner.

I would have no problem in locating just such an agenda in Gail Simone's currently dormant website WOMEN IN REFRIGERATORS, though.  In this essay I wrote of Simone's effort: "her criteria for inclusion on this list is horribly skewed, showing a tendency to negatively characterize any violence inflicted on a female character, no matter what justification the violence had within the context of the story." 

Now, the nimrods who attacked Janelle Asselin probably didn't have any elaborate thoughts as the ongoing arguments regarding male and female portrayals in the comic book industry. It is quite likely that they attacked Asselin because they thought she threatened their "male privilege," whatever they might have conceived that to be.

I'm not concerned with male privilege. I'm concerned with artistic privilege, and for that reason I find myself impatient with both creators and critics whose whole idea of solving gender-related problems is to chuck the devils into the abyss. Putting aside the dubiousness of this theory, it doesn't even work in a practical sense, as I noted on THE BEAT:

I should add that no degree of moderation of CBR’s boards would have prevented lurkers in the community from printing the same crap on Asselin’s original survey.


Trolls, the internet's version of *tamas,* will always be with us.  It's certainly understandable for a businessman like Jonah Wieland to distance himself from their activities to whatever extent he can. But for my part, I can only say that as much irritation as I have personally taken off insulting dumbasses on various boards, the stupidity of trolls gives me new targets against which I may pontificate (hello, Chicken Colin) and a foundation on which to dance the dance of Reason.

 


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