fleeing from the stench of the despised


“Oblonsky took in and read a liberal paper, not an extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he only changed them when the majority changed them–or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.
Oblonsky had not chosen his political opinions or his views; these political opinions and views had come to him of themselves, just as he did not choose the shapes of his hat and coat, but simply took those that were being worn. And for him, living in a certain society–owing to the need, ordinarily developed at years of discretion, for some degree of mental activity–to have views was just as indispensable as to have a hat. If there was a reason for his preferring liberal to conservative views, which were held also by many of his circle, it arose not from his considering liberalism more rational, but from its being in closer accordance with his manner of life. The liberal party said that in Russia everything is wrong, and certainly Oblonsky had many debts and was decidedly short of money. The liberal party said that marriage is an institution quite out of date, and that it needs reconstruction; and family life certainly afforded Oblonsky little gratification, and forced him into lying and hypocrisy, which was so repulsive to his nature. The liberal party said, or rather allowed it to be understood, that religion is only a curb to keep in check the barbarous classes of the people; and Oblonsky could not get through even a short service without his legs aching from standing up, and could never make out what was the object of all the terrible and high-flown language about another world when life might be so very amusing in this world. And with all this, Oblonsky, who liked a joke, was fond of puzzling a plain man by saying that if he prided himself on his origin, he ought not to stop at Rurik and disown the first founder of his family–the monkey. And so Liberalism had become a habit of Oblonsky, and he liked his newspaper, as he did his cigar after dinner, for the slight fog it diffused in his brain.”
I love this piece from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Oblonsky is so like the majority of us. So like me. We read what we know will suit us, we are able to sideline opposing views with brief, insulting epithets and our ideologies remain cloistered and unchallenged – all evidence that there may be alternatives views which could broaden our knowledge notwithstanding.
And, interestingly, I find this narrow-minded, self-serving anti-intellectualism is not limited to the Christian fundamentalists – although some of them do specialise in ignoring arguments from people they already know are ‘wrong’ on the basis that they don’t serve the right God. Secularists, feminists and leftists as well as all varieties conservatives share a tendency to stick their fingers in their ears and shout loudly rather than listen patiently to the ideas of those they in general despise.
This week I’ve been interested to follow Melinda Tankard Reist as she discussed the new Calvin Klein ad which provocatively depicts what could just possibly be taken to be a gang rape. Clearly as an advertising strategy it was a clever ploy – CK has once again been able to generate a great deal of free advertising in the wake of a risque photo shoot – so they are probably not too worried that the Australian Advertising Standards Board has now ordered the billboard be removed saying the ad was ‘suggestive of sexual violence against women’. 
The outcry against the CK ad was lead in Australia by Reist and Collective Shout a group which opposes the use of sexualised images of women and girls for the purpose of selling products. The funny thing is, although you might think that valuing women as multi-faceted creatures and standing against efforts to exploit and abuse women and girls might be an issue that all feminists would be keen to support, strangely this seems not to be so.
If the comments under Reist’s article which touches on her disgust at visiting the recent Sexpo event are anything to go by, no right-thinking feminist or red-blooded man should listen to any of her arguments because Reist clearly hates men, is probably (gasp) religious and doesn’t like sex. They seem not to hear that Reist is criticising a practice which she believes leads to the actual harm of women and girls, or that she is concerned about a culture which teaches that women are only of use so far as they are sexually attractive to men and sexually compliant to same.
It astounds me that the exploitive elements of Sexpo and the CK ad remain unaddressed in the torrent of anti-wowser shouting down that follows Reist’s articles. Are feminists so committed to avoiding all connection with Conservatism and Christianity that they are willing to allow that women will be abused in the name of liberated sexuality? Surely the value in feminism is in it’s freeing women to be fully valued for the entirety of their selves and not just their their freedom to participate in their own sexploitation.
Anyway, I’m doing some thinking about whether or not it is possible to be a thinking, functioning political animal without penning oneself into a blinkered, slogan chanting paradigm. I’d like to imagine that I’ll ultimately find a political space where I can feel comfortable – but not too comfortable. A place where I can be given the freedom to continue to grow and learn and develop my own worldview. Still looking….

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