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"Pride" Vs. Privacy
If it can't be performed and commodified, we don't wanna know about it
Is there something about our culture that is anti-privacy, anti-intimacy, and opposed to the idea of an inner life that belongs to you alone? What is it?
The question occurred to me over the last month as I watched the summer Pride celebrations. Over time the festival has expanded to be a lot more than a recognition of the validity of marginal lives by marginalised people. The expansion of who celebrates Pride, and what it covers, threw up some startling moments.
The most obvious one was this Washington Post editorial about exposing children Kink during pride. This got lots of attention and mockery - mainly because of the grotesque and quasi-paedophilic idea that we should seek to expose children to adult horniness.
There’s another angle to the story that didn’t get quite as much play. It’s a continuation of a trend- that over time it is increasingly expected to make private sexual impulses public so that they can be celebrated; and the tension that creates with with sexuality as a source of intimacy, because it makes our desires a matter of public interest and allows them to be commodified.
The obvious retort is that you can celebrate whatever you like and choose to keep whatever you like about your life private; in this case some people have simply chosen disclosure. I don’t actually think that’s entirely true though, and I think it’s less true every day. There *is* a part of our culture that regards privacy as not just dispensable, but a Bad Thing, and wants to push us down a path that erodes it.
The goals of the liberalism have been achieved and then some, but the scope of the ideology continues to grow in an uncontrolled manner, turning on itself. Every liberal principle is followed to and past it’s logical conclusion and into black absurdity. You could call our current system Metastasized Liberalism.
So instead of preserving individual rights in the face of a collective, our culture promotes and prioritises ever more microscopic and absurd strains of individualism, preferably to the calculated detriment of existing communities and bonds which are oppressive and tyrannical.
In liberalism freedom of choice is maximised; metastasized liberalism seeks to obliterate everything but freedom of choice by reducing all human activity to level of performed public transaction. Every act has value only as a currency, and every place value only as a marketplace.
There is no room in this system for something precious that you keep to yourself alone, or that is shared only with those most intimate to you. Such ideas are unnecessary, and as the system metastasises further, illegitimate because they can neither be worn as tokens of identity, nor sold.
This would be less of a problem if there was some countervailing force in public life that looked past the material, but sadly that force is greatly depleted, in part because of it’s own flaws, and in part because liberalism metastasized all over it. So here we are.
“Pride” is in tension with intimacy because it makes your preferences a matter of public interest. It assumes the only reason you would want to conceal or shield some aspect of your life from public view is that you’re ashamed, or that society is ashamed of you. That is certainly one reason and I understand the wish to act in the face of that, and to say I’m ok with who I am. Celebrate away.
But the other reason is that in order to be intimate with a person there has to be a part of yourself that you share with them and with no one else, or at least few other people. There’s a reason that your bedroom has a door that closes. As well as intimate life you only share with those closest to you, you need a private inner life that will be forever unrevealed, to preserve your sense of self and self-ownership against external forces.
I’m using Pride as shorthand here. There are plenty of other symptoms of this you could name, from OnlyFans to dating apps to the ubiquity of porn. I’m sure if you go back fifty years and looked at critiques of social liberalisation from reactionaries of that time they included an erosion of intimacy. In that way they join the list of a number of other things we’re discovering that the reactionaries were right about all along.
The final thing to say is that this culture should hold a special horror for the writer, the artist and the thinker. You need a lab you can retreat to, to tease out your ideas and develop your thoughts in a way that recognises no limits but your own imagination, and is free from scrutiny and ridicule. That’s why it is especially depressing to see artists become the most dogmatic enforcers of the current status quo; although it at least explains how in an era of maximal freedom, creativity is at a low ebb, and philistinism is at the wheel.