What DOMA says about Deleuze
03/04/2013 § 1 Comment
I haven’t been paying much attention to the DOMA cases that are now before the US Supreme Court (or SCOTUS, if you must). Judging from social media, all kinds of surprising people have now gotten behind marriage equality as a cause du jour. Gandhi’s quote about ‘first they ignore you’ is all too fitting.
And then I read Ted Rall’s post on the subject:
Gays and lesbians may not all realize it yet, but adopting the cultural trappings of America’s hegemonic majority culture is a tragic, disastrous, suicidal move. This is why those fighting for the right to enter into state-sanctioned monogamous marital pacts are finding that they’re pushing against an open door.
That was quite a different take than anything else I’ve heard. And you know what? He’s got a point:
Back in the 1970s, Michael Warner reminds us in his 1999 book “The Trouble with Normal,” gays weren’t trying to assimilate into the toxic “mainstream” cultures of monogamism and empire. Instead, they were pointing the way toward other ways of life.
‘Pointing the way toward other ways of life.’ Wow. That’s what all the freaks and bohemians and hippies and punks and arty types have been trying to do. For decades, centuries, even.
We visited the Katherine Mansfield house in Thorndon, Wellington, recently. She was trying to do the same thing:
Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.
But it hasn’t happened. We have been fairly poor at creating ‘other ways of life’. Each successive marginal group has instead focused on acceptance, which then triggers the search for the next marginal group to emulate and absorb. Lady Gaga uses New York subcultures the same way Madonna did. New York obligingly keeps producing more of them.
And that all takes me to Deleuze. My central problem with Capitalism and Schizophrenia is the illusory promise of liberation embedded in the notion of the rhizome. It sounds wonderful — branching along different paths and pushing through the social substrate to produce new organisms in a non-hierarchical system. But in fact, what we see is a constant return to the one true path, to the tree of life. Each new identity ends up mimicking the old; the rhizome carries some essential DNA to each one. The plant that might spring from a specific node just looks like the last one. And the first one.
I don’t think it is an accident that Deleuze was writing at the same time as the 1970s that Rall celebrates. But things have changed, or rather, things have stayed the same. The fact the DOMA ‘makes sense’ is proof of that.