Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

18 January 2011

The Flood!

I am currently reading the most fascinating book! It is all about Fascism and psychoanalysis. I am not sure how well-respected this gigantic study by Klaus Theweleit is in the areas of Violence Theory and Gender Theory and Sexuality Theory, but I for one am a big fan. I don't have a lot that I want to say about this; the book is about the German proto-fascist male and the demand to dam up sexuality in favor of rigidity and some kind of fascist notion of true maleness.

I wanted to share a quote from chapter two of the book. Theweleit places this quote from Brecht as the header to his chapter entitled "Floods, Bodies, History." Brecht says:

The raging stream is called violent
But the riverbed that hems it in
No one calls violent.

Theweleit takes this to mean that we refer to our libidinal desires (the stream, the flood, Eros) as violent, we experience the feelings of these desires as violent, even - a rush of blood to the face as we feel shame or lust or love or attraction, and we speak of our desires as uncontrollable, as compulsions, as powerful beyond measure (love conquers all, we say).

But in Theweleit's gloss of the Brecht poem he takes it to mean that the forces which stem that tide of desire, the rules which we use to govern our libidinal drives, the powers that regulate, monitor, surveille, and otherwise limit or even direct the streaming forces of pleasure that surge through us (and toward the beloved), those forces are the powers which we ought to perceive as violent.

It is the riverbed that shapes the river's direction – and not the river itself – that is violent.