[This text was written for The Politics of Friendship, a publication partly in response to the article Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child by Mal Ahern and Moira Weige.]
I want to embody a radical politics (in the form of art) but mainly fail, come up against my own limitations, my inability to change (or change enough), my ambition, or simply the fear that I won’t survive. I don’t know if a straight white male (I rarely think of myself in these terms, but understand when others do) can be a feminist in any meaningful sense. But I am certain he should not go around proclaiming himself to be. Raised in this society, in this culture, we have so much sexism, racism, capitalism within us. One can and must be anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-racist, etc., provided one is fighting against these things within oneself as well. One can also be a jerk.
My alienation is part of capitalism and I am more alienated than ever. (I’m noticeably bad at solidarity.) My loneliness is a part of capitalism and I’m lonelier than ever. (A feeling of connection constantly eludes me.) But should the Man-Child seek therapy? Why does therapy seem beside the point? So much therapy seems to work towards functioning more productively within the existing rules. Are there therapists teaching men to renounce a degree of their power, hand it over to the women around them? Does anyone with power or privilege honestly want to have less?
It is two years ago. I am in a museum in Graz, watching a video in which the artist Antje Majewski interviews Alejandro Jodorowsky, who is saying that he wonders if there can be such a thing as ‘secular grace’ (since historically grace was always connected to religion.) He is speaking about how every Wednesday he goes to a café and reads the Tarot cards of anyone who wishes to join him. In doing so, he ‘imitates’ sanctity (“…being at other people’s service. Without judging them.”) In real life he is full of anxiety, can be cranky, behave badly, but for one day per week, reading the cards of complete strangers, he tries to be a good person. “I imitate. But it’s a good imitation, because there are people who imitate being an assassin. In reality, I think everyone imitates something. Authenticity is difficult to find.”
I would never write anything as hateful or sexist as Theory of the Young-Girl. But this is no time to let oneself off the hook. As soon as you start speaking or writing about politics, you open yourself up to every kind of accusation and error. Expectations of purity or perfection lead endlessly in circles. So we must make (honest) mistakes, at times apologize, accept apologies or choose not to, change our minds, listen to what others say and (sometimes, genuinely) realize they are right. Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern are clearly right. In this time when even the best ideas lack praxis, the most painful questions are scattered in the future, and every honest man knows the future has not quite begun.
I re-read my last sentence, see I should change it. I have posited yet another future endlessly deferred, opened the door to further indecision. Weigel and Ahern propose something more concrete and want it now: more imagination, more courage, clarity, organization, a praise song and a program. I must listen.