A Modernist Gospel

A Modernist Gospel (H.G. Wells’ The Sleeper Awakes, 1899).

            Published first as a serial and thence complete in the same year as Acton began the bulk of his ‘Lectures in Modern History’, and several months before Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and yet several more before Nietzsche ultimately succumbed to a genetic brain disorder that had also claimed the lives of his father and brother, Wells’ early dystopian novel came hard on the heels of a series of legendary hits including The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds. The original bore the title ‘When the Sleeper Wakes’ which was altered, along with some other minor edits, by Wells in the 1910 edition. In the preface to the third edition of 1921, he remarks that he no longer felt that such a future would in fact be the destiny of humankind. Over a century later, his vision of an autocratic capitalist hierarchy made manifest in a social organization kindred with that portrayed in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926) and satired in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), we are not quite as sure, as was the author, of our collective fate.

            Wells disliked Metropolis, and we can infer that he felt it a plot device to ‘awaken’ one of the elites to the misery of the minions who supported he and his peers at the expense of their lives. Our contemporary geopolitics bears Lang out but as well, the Wells of 1898, when The Sleeper Awakes was originally penned.If it is plausible that most of our very much knowing elites take little enough care to ensure their longitudinal position in society, it is perhaps equally unlikely that, if indeed apprised of such conditions, any one of them would become the revolutionary hero we see in both Wells’ novel and Lang’s film. In the novel, the character Graham is cast as a modern messiah, as well as representing the incarnation of a myth, long disused by the literary future. He does not sleep for six days, then falls into a trancelike slumber upon the seventh, in an allusion to the Creator God of the Ancient Hebrews. After awakening 203 years later, he is held prisoner for three days and thence emerges, studying the changes for another three days before reaching a decision to carry forward the revolt which had originally been engineered and thence coopted by the great capitalist figure, Ostrog. This ‘eastern gothic barbarian’ become manager allusion is also transparent. Ultimately, Graham does ensure the people’s revolution is successful, but only through his self-sacrifice. In the climactic personal scene, he stands aloof to personal love, that of Helen Wotton, the young woman who has been his voice of conscience.

            The novel is thus only temporarily dystopian, and its theme is subjectively about self-sacrifice, objectively about political manipulation and exploitation, one of Wells’ leitmotifs. Even if he is arguably the most visionary author in the English language – it is a challenge to see anything new in science fiction and related genres if one knows Wells’ entire corpus of fiction – he was still a child of his time. Socialism and eugenics dominated his outlook, him seeing both as the chief manners of improving the human race. That we have rejected both almost entirely – the human genome project and the social welfare state are perhaps the residue of these once much grander ideas – Wells might well have seen as a final acquiescence to the thralldom of capital. He writes still later, in 1923, that with the publication of Men Like Gods (1921) that he had ‘tired of telling brighter tales of the human future to a world intent on destroying itself’. No reflective person today would not share his pain.

            Wells himself takes great pains with his thick description of the world, c. 2101. That it is peppered with imaginative innovations in the technical realm does nothing to distract the outsider from its basic inequality and injustice. The novel is a handy read for anyone who desires some much-needed perspective on our own reality, 2024. If anything, we have travelled nearer to Wells’ vision in the interim; half-way, he might judge us, if he could see our condition today. That we too have our technical spices and distractions, that our ability to do things in and to the world has far outmatched our ability to both think and care about the self-same world, all this he would have recognized and indeed predicted with his usual accuracy. But his late Victorian prose serves a more profound purpose than immersion; it allows the reader to just as painfully work through this terrifying vision with tools that are not made for such work. In this, we are cast back upon our own contemporary ethics, and each of us falls back upon her respective conscience, both of which seem unwilling, or yet unable, given their entanglement, to vouchsafe a humane future. We are as is the sleeper. Wells’ agenda is to awaken us, and that at a structural level, not at all one ideological. He is well aware that even if we do not literally sleep, we are yet asleep to all that truly matters to humanity.

            Helmuth Plessner reminds us that by ‘dividing the universe into fields of action, the world loses its face’. That we harbor the means of self-destruction and, once again, have entered a cycle wherein politicians are more amenable to committing global suicide on our behalves, he understands as merely the logical consequence of making a technique of cosmology. Oddly, we can understand this ‘discursifying’ of creation begins with the original Western gospels, its four-square of discipleship reporting as allegorical disciplines; the taxman representing government, the doctor representing the sciences, the seer the remaining enchantedness of the world, and finally, the youth, who represents the future. We understand the final three years of Jesus’ existence through lenses of action, each with the germs of their respective fields. Our ongoing harvest has left much of those four fields fallow, and Wells plays upon this with his contrast between the cynical rationalizations of Ostrog and the call to conscience of Wotton. The fruit of the gospel remains the sustenance of only the most marginal. Graham is referred to as ‘God’ and as ‘the one who has come’ and so on, in various moments when the people are encouraging or agitating for his presence and his Word.

            It was not at all peculiar for fin de siècle authors to rewrite the gospels in modernist forms, or yet pen new gospels entirely – Thus Spake Zarathustra is of the course the stand-out to this regard; once again in four books – and this interest speaks of their disenchantment with the idea of progress and their sense of the coming apocalypse. That August 1914 ended the bright-eyed gaze of both evolution as progress and Western culture as objective spirit, allowing John Bury to recapitulate a ‘history of the idea’ itself by 1920, should present a serious caveat to our own contemporary world visions, humane or inhumane the both. That Wells was able to conjure, in his own inimitable and unsparing style, a story resolutely current to the denizens of a different age, is an enduring testament to his own prescient imagination. But that we have celebrated many others of his works which only at best indirectly touch upon the key problems our species faces, presents a much more dubious record of our willingness to close our own hearts off to our consciences, thereby denuding consciousness itself of its built-in compass.

            At once straddling the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, dystopia, and tall tale, The Sleeper Awakes is, finally, simply a very solid and relevant narrative that sold well on the backs of Wells’ early legendary works. Its challenge to us is not so much literary – the novel of today has displaced third party external description with a deeply introverted sense of what is going on in the character’s mind, and this not gleaned by way of described emotions but rather through ongoing reflection and its corresponding personal action – but very much as a statement of a critical politics. To reply to such a pointed query is to make manifest our shared reality as it is, and not as stated by either government or corporation. That Wells has provided to us both the model and the goal leaves us in his inestimable debt.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 59 books in ethics, education, social theory, art, religion, and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over twenty years.

Autobiography in Fiction

Autobiography in Fiction (when the author isn’t quite dead)

            An old friend of mine recently read one of my short stories and noted how I had used my own first name as the narrator’s, the only time I have ever done so. “Did this suggest that you saw yourself in his role, or that part of the story was something that happened to you personally?”, he asked. These are two intriguing questions, and admittedly, they put a flea in my ear to examine my entire corpus of fiction in response. The perduring question that backdrops them is of course, ‘how much reality is there in fiction?’, and that in general. The source-point of such reality, however much of it may or may not be present, is itself problematic; personal memory. Asking if the reader can trust the writer is not so different than asking if the writer can trust his own experience. Indeed, my experience of writing fiction is that it is a form of waking dream, so there may well be as much of the unconscious life in the text as there is conscious memory of waking experience.

            However this may be, such questions remain, and each author, in her desire to become a discursive label rather than a mere person, must confront them in some manner or other. For myself, I began by listing each of the moments where I had quite calculatingly borrowed from my life experience. This kind of material is specific, at first not metaphorical and not to be interpreted as anything but the most convenient of plot devices. Such an overview produced more than I had imagined, and while I have never written the much-vaunted ‘autobiographical novel’ – D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, for example – I am guilty of pilfering autobiographical memory in a lesser sense – along the lines of, say, H.G. Wells’ Tono Bungay, by way of contrasting case. My early novella used a setting from my childhood that I knew well. My first novel used two outré experiences I actually had to help set its partially phantasmagorical tone. Certain characters in short fiction were gently based upon this or that person I had known, more or less well. In others, I placed a part of myself, named or unnamed, in the role of observer, or principle actor. In one short, I was an aspiring writer who lacked commercial success, for instance. In my first mainstream novel, About the Others, many dream-sequences were personal memories, and the protagonist is a retired professor who is too sure of his own profundity. Hmmm, all this sounds vaguely familiar. In my second such effort, the novel The Understudies, one of the three principles is, once again, a retired professor and philosophical author, though this time one full of self-doubt rationalized by a nostalgic sexual swagger. My blushes, Watson.

            Suffice to say, that after such a cursory examination of the presence of the author in his work, there was much to be accounted for, even at the level of plot. But what of that of metaphor and meaning? Dare I ask, given the lay of the lexical land thus far? That youth figure prominently in most of my fiction, that their task is one of coming of age, of confronting injustice, of working through their own conflict and building character quite literally, might suggest that I myself am yet undergoing a similar self-understanding. Youth becoming adults is a veritable leitmotif in my corpus. Youth learning to live, to love, to gain community, encountering danger and death, are recurring themes. Youth unjustly treated, even ill-treated, at the hands of adults, and that same youth becoming political, dangerous, engaged in self-styled campaigns of justice, thinking little of parricide or what-have-you, on their road to a higher freedom. The pre-Barthes literary critic would pause in wonder at it all; does this author desire to relive his youth in a more noble manner? Or is he yet still a youth in vital areas of his own character?

            Far more so than general non-fiction, let alone scholarly work, does fiction expose the reader to the writer, and that for better or worse. Some authors manipulate this dynamic in their favor, by posing as far more experienced or worldly than they actually are or ever were. There may well be a vicarious element to fiction that is more the act of the writer than that of the reader, though we do not as often think of it this way. And it is the case, perhaps tellingly, that writing fiction allows the author to purvey not only his desires upon a public, unsuspecting or no, but also, more radically, his vision. It is this latter that dominates my own fiction; not desire vain so much as perhaps demythology in vain. I generally write agenda fiction, so by that standard alone, it can never be understood as art, that aside from not being myself an artist. Such an agenda could be interpreted, however, as giving voice to much that is absent in my own existence, more pointedly than even the wider reality of its lack in our shared world. If Nietzsche, somewhat self-effacingly, tells us that, after all, ‘the philosopher has only his opinions’, then what mere fiction author could say more?

            Such a two-front examination of fictional narrative, on the one hand, deliberate borrowing from reality for plot decoration or device, for character sketch or place setting and, on the other, the inveigling of the authorial unconscious into the very fabric of the literary textile, has one further insight of note: that we ourselves as human beings live a dual existence. At once, we are waking selves charged with the socius’ diktat to perform as normative a set of roles as we can muster to ourselves, and somewhat in spite of this or even because of it pending circumstance, we are as well all that which social norms seek to deny. It is through fiction, literary or no, that the writer explores the fluid dynamic which exists between these existential states; the one attempting to be graceful but the other perhaps approaching grace itself.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 59 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, religion, social theory and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

The Higher Infidelity

                                                The Higher Infidelity

          Can’t you go to bed with a woman without loving her, and can’t you love her without going to bed with her?- de Sade

            Two areas of contemporary gender equality are of immediate interest in the history of sexuality; infidelity and voyeurism, the first measured in intimate disloyalty in both formalized and informal conjugal relations and the latter observed with regard to the consumption of erotica. These suggestive scenes point us in the direction of imagining that the politics of the body have been somehow separated from that of the State or corporation. This specific disconnect was certainly well-practiced by the church, but during this pre-modern period the schism between the dominant sexes was shot through the entirety of society. Now, and for the first time since mechanical social organization where all was apparently equal in its inequality, we see a diversity of equalities and inequalities. Why should this be, in our own time, the case?

            In ‘The Higher Immorality’, C. Wright Mills reminds us that while noble ideals can summon ignoble efforts in the hopes of achieving them, it is also true that these dubious means can themselves attain a more highly valued approximation to the ideals to which they supposedly would lead. This gentrified baseness is operative not only in the State and its functionaries, but also in individuals. Previously, the ‘martinet’, the one who aped the emperor in a style hyperbolic in order to assuage any misgivings others might have about his loyalty, was the sole vehicle for the sense that baseness could cover itself over in nobility. But it was well known both by the martinet – whose political ancestor might well have been the court jester; both are, to once again use Mills’ vocabulary, ‘inside dopesters’ – and by everyone else that this was only a masquerade become a charade. Today, however, there are true believers in this new livery; one need only recall Oliver North to mind.

            While sociology is not itself caught in a bind of its own creation, any observant human being may well imagine that she now is, precisely due to the problem of self-fulfilling prophecy, much analyzed by Robert Merton and others. For on the one side, we have actual people sincerely believing in the fascism of political  or State loyalty, and on the other we have Thomas’ proverbial sensibility that ‘if you believe something to be real, it is real in its consequences’. Therefore it is to political reality that such an analysis might at first cleave. Yet almost everyone remains aware that politics is at best, a performance containing ulterior motives, some of which may be publicly known, others of which may be discernable in policy statements, and yet others occluded in personal networks or even childhood friendships, each exerting its own brand of loyalty. But the reality of politics is too transparent, even so, to be a radical enough ground into which an analytic may place itself and thence become a fertile engine for social change.

            Instead, it can be taken as a sign of sexual politics and the more literally interpreted ‘body politic’ that women and men share both a patent disdain for one another as well as find that betraying one another on an equal basis makes them more equal. Is this too a delusion? Mills’, in his review of de Beauvoir’s great work, The Second Sex, summarizes a crucial point she makes about the institution of marriage and also its sabotage. As de Beauvoir writes, marriage as a ‘career’ for women must be prohibited. Instead, sex and love should be candidly separated and distinguished along the lines of a partnership and a liaison: “Sexual episodes do not prevent either partner from leading a joint life of amity with the other; adultery would lose its ugly character when based on liberty and sincerity rather than, as at present, on caution and hypocrisy.” (1963:342). Yes, young women in particular are yet portrayed as ‘darling little slaves’, but not always. 2021 is not 1961 in many ways, though it may be astonishing for some that much if not most of the world’s population vehemently prefer women to be only servants.

            What I recommend in such cases is not disloyalty to one another as human beings, but rather a higher infidelity directed at social institutions, including the formal idea of marriage, the State and in particular, its educational system – this is not to say that most current attempts to set up alternatives are based on some liberating consciousness; rather quite the opposite – as well as party politics and political machines, state sponsored media corporations and further, the sense that one is a ‘fan’ of anything too particular at all, including specific sports teams or entertainers. Fine to love soccer and metal, not so fine to zero in on singular people with the effect of aggrandizing them beyond their shared humanity. No, they must rather be levelled with those who show them interest. Many celebrities are uncomfortable with their status – one only need call to mind Prince Harry to this regard – and so we should also not attempt to blame those in the limelight simply because they find themselves to be so. Like the state of governments in democracies, it is we who are responsible for the hounded harried hurry of celebrity. It is certainly correct that the stereotypical genders should be eliminated, as Mills goes on to say later in his review, and not only that of the female. Men are just as oppressed by our system of gender relations as are women. Though it is unfashionable to admit to this, it is nevertheless the case. One only need to look at the rates of male suicide to raise the bar equal to the rates of female mental illness. Men simply don’t stick around to become or remain ill, and thus provide a grim recompense for public health care.

            This said, it remains a deeper understanding that infidelity directed at one’s own selfhood is by far the greatest danger. The sources of auto-disloyalty are many and various. Given that sexuality is in the process of being equalized, at first on a covert or semi-covert level, as we have seen from the examples of ‘cheating’ and pornography consumption, we should take a look at how these two scenes are first constructed. Both contain a servility and an attempt at an aesthetic. The base and noble mingle as if they were one thing. One can certainly fall in love with another and betray one’s spouse. This additional love may be as noble as that current, or it may supplant it. The base side of the dynamic is the subterfuge, not the emotion or even the sexual act. With the sex industry proper, sleaze and usury conjoin beauty and empowerment, once again, the base and the noble. In the coming of age short story ‘Strip!’, I seek to contrast these two elements. An out-take:

            “Yes, that is it. Now just slip that dress right off, okay sweetheart?”

            “Bryce, get the fuck out of here.” This from Mitts. But Bryce, who clearly ran the operation, stared stonily back at his camera-woman. “First day, Bryce. Come back tomorrow.” Now the middle-aged man moved off, nodding his acquiescence but not without a grin. Mitts groaned and stopped her production entirely until the uninvited third wheel rolled his half-flattened self back out the door.

                “Just take it right off then?” Virginia asked. Mitts had to strain to hear her.

                “Look, whenever you’re ready. Keep the heels on for now. But I do need to see you naked at some point, okay? For now, ease into it.” Okay, I knew it. I fucking just knew it. Fine. I’m not a child. I know I’m hot. Everything and everyone everyday tells me so. This is no different. No, it is different. It’s better. Better by far. I’m getting paid now. People want to look, then they pay. That’s the way it should be. My gods those volleyball shorts. Huh. Okay, I’m not a prude. Mom and dad, huh, after attending the first game I ever played, back in grade eight. Even then. They had to say it. I could tell in the car ride home they weren’t happy about something or other. Well, my team won, so what the fuck was it? No, it was our athletic gear that had geared them up. But Mom was nice. If I recall correctly she said something like, ‘So, honey, are you comfortable wearing your team uniform as it is?’ That was rich. Team ‘uniform’. Come off it mom. But at that juncture I simply said, ‘for sure’. Later, when I was older and bolder, I said, apropos of nothing after a game, something more like ‘this gear fits like a glove. Don’t even know I’m wearing anything. How about that, dad?’ I like to tease him, for obvious reasons. He can’t answer back. He can’t do anything at all.

                “Okay, yes, so I figured. Brilliant. Let’s go through the entire series of poses again, and I’ll call them off just like we’re doing a square dance call, hey?” Good, I’ve got this. I hate heels though. I want them off already. I could never ever be wait-staff. Almost every other girl on both the volleyball and basketball teams was a waitress. Hmm, they don’t even use that word any more. Okay, sure, keep it coming. I’ve got this. Fuck me it’s a fucking work-out, actually. Hah! “Beautiful.” Mitts concluded before coming up for air from behind her camera.

                That one word. That’s what I live for now. Maybe I’ll die for it too, but I’m eighteen now, an adult. I need to at least act like one even if I can’t immediately actually be one. How many times have my teachers and even mom and dad said the same words to me. The very same. Act your age, for goodness sakes. No threat of punishment of course. I love my folks for that alone. Nothing like that in our schools at least either. All good. But the way they still speak to you; adults, I mean. Surely these older people can’t quite be ‘adults’ either, in the same way that I’m not quite one. No, they’re not. They’re actually only like us, just bigger and sometimes smarter. And they use both of those advantages against us, at least, a lot of the time. Here, I’m in control. Okay, this is the moment, I can feel it. I’m ready though, for sure I’m ready to get these gosh-darn shoes off. Like they’re meant for a ballet practice!

                “Just go with that now. Not the whole thing quite yet. Let’s do some yoga. Anything you want. Anything. Okay, breathe. Hold it in. Release. Now: its just you, okay? You in thin denier tights. Everything about you is beautiful. The sun wants to know you, and the moon tells its secrets to you. The bedding braces itself for your embrace. The linen longs to robe you in its folded fearlessness. The hands of time desire to caress you, to take your youth and make Time itself stop. That’s what you’re doing right now, beautiful Ginny; I can no longer feel my heartbeat for it has flown on wings of joyful wisdom and arcs over your youthful breast.” Holy gods. I have never heard anyone speak like that to me. It fills me with desire. I’m actually getting seriously aroused doing all this. If that sleaze-ball Bryce walked in on me now I wouldn’t even notice him. I can’t hear the camera clicking and whirring. I can’t see Mitts. All I feel is a lightness, a denial of gravity, as if I had stayed in dance, which would have been past a joke.

                Now it’s gone. Huh. Wipe your eyes, you big baby. You’re such a pussy. Such a coward. Grow up, you. No wonder you’re so worried about graduation and what comes next. Moving out? Fat chance. You couldn’t survive a week on your own. College? Well, my grades are awesome so college can go fuck itself. No, its not the world that’s scary, it’s you who are scared. Just plain scared.

                “Hold that!” All the surf of sounds then washed over Virginia, as if she were nothing more than a grain of sand, but also nothing less than an entire beach. Back and forth, from large to small, from universe to bedroom, from game to shower, from object to subject, objecting to both and yet subjected to both. Subjecting herself to both? Is that what adults do then, in the world? Do they really choose their fates? Eighteen and a model. Still in school and a nude model. Now that’s fun to think about, that is. Okay, let’s think about that and that alone. …

            The traditional separation of sex and love, beauty and shill, subject and object, have been collapsed in the arenas of social life wherein the genders have sought to collapse themselves. This quest is itself noble, but our means for doing so are, thus far, not so much. Instead, within a dialectical dynamic there exists the freedom to bracket both these oppositions and transcend them. If we are disloyal to the other in our vainglorious and yet life-willing guerrilla attempts at liberations, if we are disloyal to ourselves in allowing others to prevaricate their own freedoms at our expense, then we can yet commend to ourselves the higher infidelity of a space which does not admit to either man or woman. Case in point, Marx’s ‘atheism’ has been misinterpreted as a disbelief in a god. No, for Marx, in communist society, the question of God cannot arise at all. Since we have been able to imagine such a freedom as this, one cast in the direction of metaphysics no less, surely it would be no such feat to imagine a social world where the questions of marriage, family, the State, subjection and objectification, exploitation and yet ‘beauty’, and even gender itself could never themselves arise.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of forty-five books in ethics, education, aesthetics, health and social theory, and more recently, metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Paris Hilton; My Heroine

Paris Hilton; My Heroine

            In the politically conservative state of Utah this week, a major decision in the legal realm has paved the way for a far greater oversight of institutions catering to ‘troubled teens’. These sites are the contemporary guise of the now defunct asylum system, and one can hope that they will eventually suffer the same demise. The Utah ruling opens up a transformation to this regard across the United States, and the celebrity Ms. Hilton’s testimony was crucial in pushing it forward. A true heroine, Ms. Hilton suffered sundry abuse at one of these institutions, to which she was sent by her parents at age seventeen to ostensibly curb her ‘incessant partying’.

            This is the key trope in yet another front within the wider ambit of the ineptly named ‘culture wars’. There is, in fact, nothing cultural about this conflict. It is a war against fascism, pure and simple, the same war that was waged against the Reich. Though at base a female-perspective riff on Robert Heinlein’s novella ‘If this goes on…’, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale should be enough for those who lack imagination to picture the society the so-called ‘Christian’ right desires to suffer upon the rest of us. They want to turn the entire world into an institution for ‘troubled’ youth. Never mind that their version of Christianity is a fraud, cooked up by the second Great Awakening Barnums and Baileys of the day. Never mind that in wider US law children and youth are not considered to be worthy of many human rights including the right not to be physically assaulted by their parents and yet in nineteen states, their teachers as well. Never mind that such wider laws are mostly unquestioned and that eighty percent of Americans still use physical coercion in child raising. Ms. Hilton’s victory remains a victory.

            Not only is it admirable by way of the courage it must have taken for her to speak out publicly about the intimate abuse she suffered while in ‘care’, iterated by many others who were sent involuntarily to this same institution, but it is also of the utmost that lawmakers were so moved by this courage – shown both by her teenage self in actually undergoing and enduring such abuse as well as her adult self in being able to narrate it and thus expose this loathsome criminality – to take necessary action. The next step would be to shut these places down in their entirety.

            When I was a professor in the USA for six years, I co-founded and then led the community service learning programs at two universities. A number of rehabilitation sites for youth were on my list of placements for my students. I accepted their applications after having studied their practices with all due rigor. The narratives my students later related to myself and their peers were grim, but these sites took in court referenced youth who had been found guilty of sexual assault, common assault, and other forms of juvenile mayhem that were actually against the law and did in fact endanger others. Not one of the inmates of these facilities had been forced by non-legal entities into incarceration, unlike Ms. Hilton. Now this is not to say that my experiential learning sites were above reproach. The methods of restraining violent youth were themselves violent, but rather of necessity, however regrettably. Pharmaceuticals were proscribed and administered to persons as young as ten for violence and even to quell libidinal drives. Indeed, many of the abuses that Ms. Hilton reports being a daily fetish in the non-court ordered sites were practiced as therapeutic interventions in the ones that contained court-ordered youth.

            But therein lies the precise difference between such facilities. In the service learning sites within my ken, health professionals and judges were the sources of both placement and treatment. In the types of sites that the new Utah legal oversights will adjudicate, parents, pastors, teachers and other very dubious and non-professional authorities are the sources of the reference, placement, and ‘treatment’ once placed. And it is this line, between that of the discursively and legally responsible professional and the mere moralist, the line that turns lawful incarceration into abduction and forcible confinement, the line that turns treatment into abuse, that must not be crossed.

            In volume three of my adventure trilogy, ‘Queen of Hearts’, Melissa Daniels, Guinevere’s contemporary sister, reflects on how their parents had regularly threatened to send her herself to one of these camps for ‘troubled teens’, and how many of those that were sent to them were once wards of the state:

            “All that horseshit about magical swords and their relationship to their wielders tired me out. I felt the same way about animals, come to think of it. Equine therapy? That was one of the patent things those fucking evangelicals had set up for girls like me. Advertising how many of their wards – signed over by their parents sometimes for years at a time, including authority to discipline ‘if needed’ – had been adopted. They were in the business of saving souls, bless them; those of ‘wayward’ girls, girls with addictions, ‘attitude’ problems, ‘troubled teens’, now that was a favorite phrase. Fuck them all. And I will. [ ] We’ve already started. What we really needed to do, if we were to face a holy army of self-righteous regressives, was to raise an unholy one in return. Free all those so-called wayward girls and have them join with us. Get them back to their violent roots. Yes, freedom. Saving souls my fucking ass. All they were doing was taking opportunistic advantage to manipulate lost souls into their ever-bleeding franchise. It was simple demographics, thence simple politics. They could never get their regressive agenda tabled fully because there simply weren’t enough of them to do it. Compensate the loss of girls like me, well, boys too, by co-opting once wards of the state into their wider coven. Counsel them, pray with them, play with horses with them, swim and work-out and even paddle them when necessary. Wouldn’t you know it, I had been this close to having been sent to one of those ‘schools’ myself. Gwynne had herself never been threatened with it, but I had, once a month, for a couple of years. As soon as I had turned twelve, which was apparently the starting age these places accepted, mom and dad had showed me their websites. The girls all smiles, of course. Horses? Not my thing.”

            This character no doubt has an axe to grind, given her own personal upbringing, but in essence her argument is correct. Placement sites for non-court ordered youth are like concentration camps with the goal of conversion and recruitment for the war latter day fascists desire to wage upon the rest of us. Though it would be a waste of infrastructure, I am tempted to borrow a phrase from the Reich myself, and suggest that this network of schools, camps, and other facilities simply be ‘levelled with the earth’, just as has been done with the vast majority of the now defunct asylum system.

            I once had a lengthy sit on the tarmac at the Minneapolis International Airport. To my right, just off the ever expanding system of runways and service roads, was a cluster of Victorian buildings, standing starkly against the staring moonlight. It was a long abandoned Sanatorium, lower floors bricked in or covered over with aging plywood, the upper floor windows’ plate glass sometimes shattered by the intrepid vandal, the remaining sockets looking an abject absurdity that had transformed the once private madness of a lost soul into the unreason of an entire discourse. The irony of allying oneself with the history of psychopathology in order to hopefully defeat a yet more evil outlook does not escape us. Even so, as with Tuberculosis, Hysteria, Cancer and AIDS, the movement from morals to science is crucial. Without it, the abuses endured by Ms. Hilton and hundreds of thousands like her will only continue apace. I agree that teens need to spend less time partying, but not for the reasons the fascists intend. No, rather youth need to recruit themselves into a war against those very forces which threaten all of our present freedoms and more ominously, all of those freedoms that yet may come.

            Social Philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of over forty books in ethics, education, health, aesthetics and social theory, and more recently, metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.