Venus and Tarquin

In Shakespeare’s narrative poem Venus and Adonis, the Goddess desires the huntsman Adonis. He refuses her advances and is punished by being killed by the boar whom he hunts.

In Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece, the son of the last king of Rome desires Lucrece. He rapes her and she commits suicide.

This was in accord with received thinking then and now which recognized brute biological facts: Venus could not physically overpower Adonis and was not responsible for his death: Tarquin could overpower Lucrece and was responsible for the death of a woman with no right to existence under Roman law as a rape victim.

A form of corporate and media feminism corrodes this through the transmutation of what Adorno called “identity thinking” into a legal theory.

Adorno accused positivism of reductionism and making false equivalences as primitive as margarine equals butter. This was for him a reaction to conditions of midcentury: he once said something like “there is more philosophy in a European cafe than in books”, which sounds on the surface uncharacteristically anti-intellectual. He was referring to the experience of being equated, treated as a number and having to accept jobs and leisure time experiences in the USA that other emigres accepted as a pretty good deal.

A sexual politics based on “equality” still needs a metric to decide hard cases. This turns out to be money in our case. The rape victim in the Dominique Strauss Kahn case may lose since she cannot afford high priced legal talent.

What’s hard to understand that difference and equality can coexist. This means that we do have to take into account difference in social power as did Shakespeare. Lucrece was harmed by Tarquin in a way Adonis was not by Venus. Likewise, Sofitel housekeepers must be allowed to do their difficult and low paid jobs without fearing molestation by fat butt naked Frog swine.

But this means the law as a whole would have to take the side of the working class. Of course as we know this has rarely if ever been the case. There was a kind of American vision of this in the old days which has been eradicated almost completely in the reaction to critical legal studies since the 1970s.

Aristotle thought that wealth in the form of land ensures objectivity in politics and law. Christ pointed out that the rich man spends too much time worrying about being rich. We don’t have to decide who was right since the views neatly cancel each other. Some rich people are objective. There’s a point on the other end of the scale when you are so poor as to give up hope and have a vision of justice that doesn’t apply to you.

This allows the law to be the law, in other words Dickens’ “enormous ass” which being necessarily not divine justice, has to use crotchets and conveniences to approximate justice. One such crotchet was affirmative action on the basis of membership in a historically disadvantaged race. It stank for the same reason that the access to the courts by the rich and connected stinks.

Decent rich people do exist. It wouldn’t occur to them to emerge butt naked from the shower when the girl is doing the room. They evolved codes of conduct which are laughed at but worked, such as chivalry which in fact was a response to the way women were treated in the Dark Ages.

Today’s rich and connected are losing this idea, the idea of the “gentleman”, and the direct results include the riots in Greece.


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