Monthly Archives: January 2015

Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders: Remarks on the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Victims/Perpetrators/Bystanders was the mapping of the world produced by Auschwitz, as represented by the historian Raul Hilberg. This mapping has become canonical, even for those unfamiliar with it, and it is enormously powerful and, I believe, the basic structure of White Guilt and victimary thinking. The extremity of victimization produced by Auschwitz (as synecdoche of the Shoah as a whole), drew all social institutions into its orbit and implicated everyone. Why is everyone implicated? Because the Nazis aimed not just at killing all the Jews, but at ensuring that the world would never know; that we know is due to those few courageous witnesses, during and after the event; if we don’t become witnesses ourselves in response to their testimony we collude in the Nazi project by burying the event—an event that, even while now well attested to, is always in danger of being smothered by indifference and losing its monitory power, and in that sense being “buried.” Thus, the acquisitions of Western civilization, making it possible for any individual to be an impartial observer—whether of esthetic products or events calling for moral judgment or judicial impartiality, or through scientific detachment—were shattered. The term “bystander” is deeply sardonic here—the bystander is, indeed, by definition, “innocent,” but in this event such innocence involves guilt, even for those as far away as American citizens, who, for example, voted for representatives who refused Jews the right to seek refuge in the US as they were being massacred. No doubt the Nazis aimed at such a universal implication—“if you love the Jews so much, why don’t you take them?” (And if you don’t take them, doesn’t that mean you don’t want them, in which case are we not just doing the dirty work on your behalf?) In that case, the category of “bystander” can connote innocence no more (indeed, there is always a little bit of doubt about the bystander—if you were there, surely you could have done something, if your indifference or cowardice or even some secret pleasure in the act had not held you back). The victim/perpetrator/bystander triad overwhelms figure of the citizen who stands equal with all other citizens within a binary opposition to some actual or potential tyranny that would oppress them all. The bystander places the taint of guilt on the citizen, and that guilt leads the citizen qua bystander to seek out a victim to bear witness to—hence the compulsory character of White Guilt. (It is, first of all, witnessing, i.e., spreading the implication, which enables one to bear the burden of bystander guilt.) The moral and political question is whether this should (and could) be resisted. I think the answer is “no” in both cases: the transcendence or abolition of White Guilt will not be brought about through a return to the impartial observer in morality, politics, science and art—too many events still conspire to re-position one as bystander (too many events are not different enough from the Shoah for us to be certain in advance that we will not be implicated). Moreover, the universal implication of the bystander entails no particular political stance, and certainly not the vicious victimary politics that has emerged in recent decades. What it does entail is an acknowledgement of our role in constituting social reality as witnesses, or an ostensive modification of the civilizational acquisitions of objectivity and impartiality. Where we stand when we point at something for others to see is part of the pointing (in which case there is always a self-reflexive pointing back at ourselves), and that “where” need not be some identitarian political stance (race/gender/orientation/etc.); rather, it can be a position within some genre of discourse or some cultural or civilizational category. What we would ultimately be bearing witness to in that case is the tentative and fragile conditions of such acquisitions, as part of our promise to preserve them.

Digitality and Civilization

I would like to use Eric Gans’s most recent, and for me extremely illuminating, Chronicle of Love and Resentment, to continue my series on civilization. (And, following Gans, I hope this will contribute to conversations we will have in High Point in June.) Gans makes three central (for my purposes, at least) claims: first, that the emergence of the “digital humanities” enables us to reflect upon the originary digitality of humanity: the sacred/profane distinction being the original 1/0 binary upon which all culture is built. Second, that the digital humanities draw out what is essential to the project of abstract or conceptual art, which is that (iconic, analog) content is ultimately secondary to simply positing the work or text as an object worthy of attention—indeed, taking this a step further, one might say that analog content (a picture looking like a landscape, a novel recording socially recognizable persons and events, etc.) is really nothing more than a Hitchcockian “MacGuffin,” meant to convince the reader, viewer or listener that something of moral or intellectual value justifies the attention one pays to the text. It is, then, really the text or work “about nothing” that we watch (to continue the Seinfeld reference) “because it’s on TV” that exemplifies the paradoxicality of the originary sign’s positing of the reality it purports to represent. Third, that the digital humanities derives its appeal from the exhaustion of academics from decades of being hammered with increasingly simplistic victimary discourse. The importance of this desire, in the process of finding satisfaction, to not confront but simply avoid or neutralize victimary thinking, could hardly be overstated, since it implies the possibility of post-victimary models of cultural politics well beyond its current academic applications.

Civilization, like any cultural form, is founded on a binary: civilized vs. uncivilized (with the distinction between barbarism and savagery pertaining to the latter term probably not that central to our understanding of the constitution of civilization, which first of all distinguishes itself from barbarism—the honor/gift/shame culture). The installation of civilization requires replacing one set of binaries, organized around the honor/shame one, with another, organized around the distinctions between civility and honor, and guilt and shame. This process is effected by a recoding of terms denoting obligations and virtues, transforming very literal and material understandings of concepts like “debt,” “violation” and “penalty” (involving the extraction of pain and blood, and/or the transference of resources) into more nuanced and polysemous understanding of these terms that distance them from their material consequences. Honor, for example, shifts from the ability to avenge, and therefore the ability to deter, any offense to one’s power or possessions, to a reputation for playing by the rules. The Renaissance was essentially such a process, carried out in the fields of representation (from two-dimensional to three-dimensional), religion (from ritual to individual conscience), politics (the absolute monarchy dispelling the archaic honor culture, which had led to uncontrolled violence among contending nobles) and the shift from orality to literacy.

Renaissance thinkers were both sharply aware of the cost and difficulty of constructing civilization out of barbarism (and hence the need to remain vigilant against the recrudescence of barbarism) and distant enough from the culture that had been overcome to study it and see it as a kind of originary model for a naturalness and spontaneity against which civilization could appear artificial, brutally calculating and corrupted. Perhaps this tension accounts for the greatness of so much Renaissance art, and the sense since the Renaissance that such greatness could not be surpassed or duplicated. The forgetting of the price of civilization sets in during the Enlightenment, when it became possible to imagine an originary humanity constructed on the model of the rational man of property (the figure of the Enlightenment itself). (This forgetting, incidentally, could be seen as the source of that “dissociation of sensibility” bemoaned by T.S. Eliot, and which Eliot identified with a shift in the language during the 17th century—in English, anyway—a suggestion that the digital humanities could perhaps explore more productively than Eliot’s more intuitive, albeit highly cultivated, approach allowed for.) This model then legitimated, on the left, destructive assaults on the social institutions that obscured, through civilizing accretions, that rational man. Here, in the fusion of Enlightenment and Romanticism, we see the origin of the victimary narrative in the distinction between a state of nature, exemplified by marginalized, even disappearing, groups, such as peasant farmers and the “savages” of the New World, and an oppressive civilization.

But for supporters of civilization, rather than the romantic reversal of the civilization/nature binary, civilizational binaries went in a more therapeutic direction. Let’s take a step back and acknowledge the enormous energy involved in replacing one cultural form (one founding binary) with another. This process requires ruthless fanatics (who may be conveniently demonized or forgotten once they have completed their work)—it requires a hunt for every last place where the binary to be extirpated still displays some life, and it cannot be too selective about the means of uprooting employed. Civilization is indeed founded on what a civilized society must recognize as terrible crimes. At a certain point, the cultural conflict emerges between those who continue that fanaticism past its necessity (like English teachers today who drill their students with grammar) and those who recognize the possibility of a relaxation of the new norms. (Of course, this conflict could be framed in the opposite way, as one between those who have forgotten what those norms are for, and how fragile the boundaries of civilization ultimately remain, and those who remember. Maybe civilization requires that its citizens never entirely surrender their civilizational fanaticism.)

Once the work of uprooting one binary and implanting another has been completed, the problem emerges of what combination of residual and emergent binaries needs to be taken up next. The real problem of some kinds of cultural conservatism is that they remain stuck in an older “fanaticism” when it’s necessary to move on, perhaps with equal vigor, to a new one. The work of civilizing is never done, human beings can never be thoroughly civilized once and for all, because desires and resentments remain rooted in savagery and barbarism (the fantasy of a thoroughly civilized being is currently invested in the fear of and desire for Artificial Intelligence). So, while Enlightenment intellectuals and Romantics inverted civilizational binaries, the “disciplinary” functionaries of modern civilization (of whom Foucault was perhaps right to take Jeremy Bentham as the model) got to work extending the fundamental civilized/uncivilized binary into new territories, now under the distinction between the normal and the abnormal. These new fanatics built penal and legal systems, schools and pedagogies, pathologies and therapies, organized around perpetually ginned up fears that we have come to call (thanks to the left, I must admit) “moral panics.”

A yet untold story of post-Auschwitz victimary movements is the way such movements have nestled themselves within a broader critique of the disciplinary culture—which has really been an argument within therapeutic culture between its normalizing wing, which (Freud being the main example here) realized that one must treat the injuries of normalization, and a new wing which saw the possibility of reclaiming a pre-violated self from those injuries as an indictment of normalization. It was easy enough to take the model of the normal man, woman, child, life-cycle, broken down into normal sexual relations, normal human interactions in public and private, normal emotional fluctuations, and so on, and identify that normal subject as white, male, Western, heterosexual, and middle class. The now seemingly exhausted theoretical movements of “critical theory” (originating with the Frankfurt School) and the “cultural studies” critical theory, via post-structuralism flowed into, found a very rich vein of normalizing binaries to be inverted here. Victimary thinking merely needed to step into the shoes cobbled together by critical theory. The current propaganda campaign against micro-aggressions continues to draw upon these riches, which makes it easy to attack the most minute elements of civilized manners and, further, to turn the charge of pathology back on the presumably normative model (the homophobe is the pathological one, not the homosexual, etc.).

What the digital humanities help to make clear, though, is that anyone can play this game. There is a real civilizational justification for inverting the binaries upon which civilization is founded—a justification for the Enlightenment, Romanticism and even, if diminishingly, victimary culture. How else could one challenge the overreach of civilizational fanaticism better than with a counter-fanaticism that, to quote Seinfeld once again, “does the opposite”? (Mid-twentieth century diagnoses of, say, “juvenile delinquency,” Elvis’s hips, etc., do seem comically fanatical now. Of course, we might still be wrong about that.) Since, contrary to metaphors we like to use regarding civilizational or cultural “dialogue,” there is no “table” at which “we” all sit down and work out, consensually, the terms of the coming stage of civilization. It’s all push and shove. The pushing of victimary culture has become a civilizational fanaticism in its own right, an incredibly ambitious normalizing project that even wants to determine how men sit on the subway (“manspreading”) or whether they stand up to urinate. The resentful barbarizing of some strains of libertarianism (“South Park libertarianism”) is a shove back, and there is no doubt more to come, once the new counter-culturalists realize that rather try and confront, attack, dismantle, etc., victimary culture directly, they would be more effective by simply iterating the victimary culture’s civilizational fanaticism in so many forms that it becomes inseparable from its parodies and make equally parodic reversals (female oppressing male, black oppressing white, gay oppressing straight, perhaps within utopian and dystopian settings, at least at first) intelligible and acceptable. Even more, the shift from iconic representations to statistical distributions facilitates the dispersion of the iconic victimary representations (the rape, the lynching, the Crusade) into a vast field of probabilities filled with exceptions and various possible “framings.” (Not to mention how developments in genetic science will enormously complicate our understandings of the relations between group genetic endowments and cultural accomplishments and failures.) In the process, esthetic representations can become less didactic and more abstract and conceptual (i.e., more civilized), simply displaying to us over and over again that it is we who are constructing the binaries we then defend or rebel against. Certainly this “shoving” requires some courage, but rarely in heroic quantities, especially given the room for anonymity in digital culture. That might lead us back to the real work of constructing new boundaries of “normality,” on more subtle, dispersed and reciprocally transparent terms. And that work might involve a remembering of the price of civilization, as we become more aware (there is an oscillation, characteristic of the civilized individual, between naivete and a cynicism involved here) that “all” we are really doing is marking the distinction between civilization and that form of violence (internal or external, physical or intellectual) currently threatening it.

The Future Must Not Belong to Those Who Slander the Prophet of Islam (President Barack Obama)

Of course not–that’s why insults to the prophet need to be avenged.

Now, I’m not saying that Obama wants insults to the prophet to be avenged, just that his way of thinking perfectly complements those who do. Catering to Muslim sensitivities, being careful to avoid any perceived insult, policing ourselves for the slightest inkling of a “backlash”–all this encourages terrorism. That most in our political, academic, and cultural elites don’t see how obvious that is is an index of the level of civilization we have attained. It is precisely the most civilized among us who can’t imagine anyone having recourse to barbarism and savagery without having suffered unspeakably and thereby warped not just at the hands of the so-called civilized world, but as a result of the hypocrisy of that world. According to that logic, the more barbaric they are, the more barbaric and hypocritical “we” must really be–“we” being, in fact, “they,” those whom the ultra-civilized wish to distinguish themselves at all costs, the middle class barbarians who have really only retained a patina of civilization. In order to make this distinction absolute, reality must be inverted, and the victims of terrorism must be its cause.

Someone for whom the mass murders in Paris are yet another one of those events about anything but Islam has probably already pointed out how much more likely the average citizen of the Western world is to die of an auto accident than a terrorist attack. What today’s attack reminds us, though, is that no one will ever refuse to publish a story, or a cartoon, or make a movie, or write a book, because they might be in an auto accident one day.

The media of the Western world should do this anyway, but one positive effect of every media outlet publishing the cartoons over which the editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo were killed is that it would test the proposition that such attacks are carried out by a few “extremists,” or even lunatics, who represent nothing in Islam. If Muslims genuinely want to be full participants in the modern world, they would urge on such a universal snub of the “prophet,” precisely so that they can show that they can respond to it in a civilized manner. And they would set up “watch” sites “outing” every Muslim leader who said anything that could construed as encouraging violence, working with police and intelligence agencies to have them expelled, their citizenship revoked, etc. But, then, they would be doing that already. (Would we be able to recognize them as anything but “Uncle Ahmeds,” though?) American leftist Jews agonize constantly and publicly over what Israel does, purportedly “in their name.” From their perspective, they’re right: regardless of the fairness of it, your complicity in the acts of others is not completely up to you, and so it’s best to be safe and disown actions which might implicate one. For that matter, American leftists in the academy, media and culture industry who are ashamed of their fellow Americans’ barbarous behavior throughout the world are right to make it clear that they would like to see a different America. But that means the supposed vast majority of innocent Muslims would be right to do the same.

Eric Gans and I engaged in a dialogue a few years ago over the relative weight of physical fear and white guilt in the cringing attitude of Western elites to Islam. This seems like a good time to revisit the question. The conclusion I arrived at after further reflections on that dialogue is that for those having to decide what to publish, produce and disseminate, the overriding factor is certainly fear; but white guilt is the reason that fear is the only response available to them. People are afraid in all kinds of circumstances, but they don’t always let fear control their actions. When they don’t, the reason (leaving aside extraordinary cases of individual bravery) is the shame they would feel in the face of those people with whom they have exchanged promises (tacit or explicit) to have one another’s back. Those consumed with white guilt have no one’s back and would be ashamed if someone had theirs–that (necessarily exclusionary) solidarity is the very source of the guilt.

One of my own renunciations (imperfectly practiced, no doubt) is the use of the word “should,” especially in the context of some kind of criticism. It seems to me intellectually lazy, like relying on a standard plot point to finish up a movie–the West should stand up for itself, etc. It’s also an admission of impotence–if they’re not doing it, obviously they don’t think they should, so what does saying they should add, exactly? It’s better to simply lay down markers to determine what things mean. It is to his great credit that Bill Maher speaks openly about the difference and danger of Islam. I hope he has a good security detail. But he doesn’t expose the political and cultural leaders who exempt “moderate Muslims” from the task of cleansing themselves from association with their barbaric co-religionists. The only really meaningful response to the implication of Islam (not “radical Islam,” not “Islamism”) in contemporary barbarism and savagery is to insist as a condition of residence, much less citizenship, Muslims be required to forswear allegiance to organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and articles of faith that are habitually implicated in that savagery and barbarism. (Maybe, airport security style, we should demand this of everyone requesting a visa.) The analogy here is to Europeans coming after World War II who were required to swear that they were not members of the Nazi or Communist Party. Here, as well, moderate Muslims would be happy to help draw up the lists, and eagerly take the opportunity to put the weight of social sanction and public opinion in the balance in reforming their religion. Needless to say, this is not very likely. It’s still worth proposing it, though, as a marker of how diametrically opposed prevailing Western habits are to the qualities needed to resist barbarism and savagery.

Barbarian Within

The law of mimesis dictates that what another does you do, and what another does to you you do to them. For originary thinkers, the iconic form of this law is manifested on the originary scene—one reaches, then another reaches, and another, until one confronts another, then another… The initial interruption of this process, the originary sign, represents a deferral of the kind of violence that participants imagine would culminate in the unimaginable. We can assume that lesser, manageable forms of violence were immediately distinguished from more engulfing, cataclysmic kinds, similar to what is likely to take place in a bar fight: the two combatants will often be surrounded by the rest of the patrons, converted into audience and potential referee. If this doesn’t happen, if other patrons start taking sides, a uncontrollable melee might take place, with no outside intervention possible.

The process of civilization involves generalizing this distinction: containing local forms of violence in the interest of preventing a larger outbreak. Rules must come to govern those local forms of violence. We have become civilized when those rules become extensive and internalized enough so that we can all assume that our free actions (speaking our mind, having fun at some else’s expense, criticizing another, etc.) are buffered from any violent consequence. This also means that those free actions themselves follow the rules—there is a line between criticism and insult, between toleration of an offense and disgraceful acquiescence in one. Still, the basic mimetic law remains intact: if someone shows you a kindness, you respond in kind, you answer insult with insult. What changes is that we accept that those responses that “slide” toward certain dangerous forms of violence are to be mediated: we can answer insults with insults but we “answer” a mugging with a call to the police. We can assume that the most dangerous forms of violence will be those that threaten to activate the forms of violence characteristic of the honor society directly supplanted by civilized order: violence upon a member of one group answered by violence against members of the other group.

Needless to say, elements of this barbarism continue under civilized order, most obviously in organized crime and gang violence. But it continues in more fundamental ways. The legal system is so important to a civilized order because if it turns out that there’s no point to calling the police in response to a mugging, eventually recourse to other sources of satisfaction will be sought. In other words, we still, barbarically, demand our pound of flesh from the offender: we suspend our barbarian inclinations in deference to the controlled, more reliable barbarism of the state. To be thoroughly civilized would be to forego satisfaction for the offense committed against us individually in favor of the invention and dissemination of practices that would reduce the level of offense more generally. This, of course, is the classical mid-20th century liberal position: the liberal as he who is too broad-minded to take his own side in a fight. The problem with that form of liberalism is that it encourages its own subversion by implicitly licensing offenders who now know there will be no answer to their transgressions. Which really means we can never be thoroughly civilized: we can only suspend our barbarism, which also means we must preserve it.

Nor is there any need to stop at barbarism—prior to barbarism there is what used to be called “savagery.” These terms were used consistently in the 19th century (I have some familiarity with them through my reading of Marx and Engels, who had no problem distinguishing between the stages of “lower” and “higher” barbarism). I think we can fit them rather easily into originary thinking: barbarism is an order organized around competing “Big Men,” while “savagery” refers to the more egalitarian, collective society prior to the emergence of Big Men, where we must assume violence was much less mediated (even by fear of an assault on one’s tribe) and therefore more common, more random and less consequential. As a barbarian, you would brutally assault your boss for not giving you the promotion you deserve; as a savage, you slap a clerk in the store for telling you that an item was more expensive than you assumed. For the barbarian, violence is preserved and concentrated; for the savage, freely dispensed, easily forgotten. We are all, I think, familiar with these kinds of resentment: a desire to lash out at petty irritations, on the one hand, and slow, burning anger at more sustained refusals to recognize what we take to be our value. All this is rooted in mimetic law. Indeed, civilization multiplies the possibilities of these resentments.

Civilization also makes these resentments, our inner barbarian and savage, very unpleasant to behold. If a savage wants his fellow tribesman’s wife, he is deterred by the resistance he imagines she might put up and the revenge her husband might exact (along with whatever divine punishment he might imagine follows); but he has no reason to deny that that is what he wants, or to stop looking out for an opportunity. I imagine most of us would find such overt recognition of desires, even to ourselves, a hindrance to everyday intercourse. Hence “repression” and “sublimation.” Hence the periodic revolts against, in particular, civilized sexual norms (including prohibitions on profanity and obscenity), that we have witnessed since the early 19th century, revolts that with each iteration modify those civilized norms, ratcheting them further towards violation, until we get to the point where there’s not much left to violate. The only remaining norm is “consent,” but we now get to see how problematic that norm is, as new rules regarding sexual relations on college campuses turn “consent” into something very complicated indeed: if power differentials make consent impossible, then consent might very well be impossible.

One important part of the civilizing process over the past 50 years has concerned the treatment of children. Here, I consistently encounter testimony that matches my own experience: middle class children are far less free now than they were in the 60s and 70s (the 80s is when the change started to set in). Moral panics regarding sexual predators have often been the pretext for the tightening of restrictions on children, but I think what lies behind it is a squeamishness regarding the patent barbarism of children left to their own devices. This is what lies behind the campaigns against bullying: bullying is the “Big Man” form of rule among children. Children inflict suffering on each other fairly casually; they incite one another to risky behavior. This used to be tacitly accepted, on the grounds that children needed to learn to take care of themselves under free conditions—to learn how to defend yourself, to deal with hurt feelings, to resist the pull of the crowd, to learn from the occasional broken leg or nose. Serious injury, much less death, was obviously very rare—a risk that could be accepted. At a certain point, I think, adults just couldn’t look at this any more, a moral turning point analogous to the disgust that must have ultimately obsolesced gladiatorial contests and will perhaps do the same for football before too long.

Maybe today’s culture wars are between opposing views of the civilized/barbarian/savage spectrum. On one side are those consumed with uprooting and extirpating all that reeks of barbarism and savagery within the already civilized and therefore safe institutions (and to a sensitized nose, a great deal reeks); on the other side are those content to try and sustain a workable balance of our barbarian and savage inclinations with our civilized order. Those determined to civilize all they see are trapped in the paradox I identified before: to thoroughly civilize oneself is to encourage outright barbarism and savagery in others. Even more, and even more paradoxically, it licenses a kind of barbarism in oneself, the barbarism of hatred towards those who interfere with your slightest inclination. But those who see that we can only balance out all the consequences of mimetic law are unable to defend themselves effectively against charges of archaic barbarisms and savagery (they don’t get offended at ethnic jokes so readily, they will remark un-self-consciously on manifestations of gender difference, they will jokingly advocate harsh, even gruesome punishments of criminals, and retaliation against foreign enemies, etc.)—they are treasure troves of gaffes just ready to go viral.

It seems to me that there is a fairly interesting anti-civilizational revolt that has almost disappeared in the process. I recently saw a pretty good movie called The Chatterly Affair, a movie centered on the obscenity case in 1960 against the publication of Lady Chatterly’s Lover. It seemed pretty true to the trial, from other accounts I had heard, and one thing that was interesting about it was that all the arguments were on the side of allowing publication (and, by implication, overturning laws that would forbid it)—aesthetic arguments, cultural arguments, moral arguments, sociological arguments. On the other side there was really nothing but, as a famous Supreme Court decision had it, “I know it when I see it.” Once that layer of tacit agreement was broached, it proved impossible to reconstruct it verbally and intellectually, and we all know what rushed through. But even more interesting is that that whole cultural vein, from Lawrence and Henry Miller, through comedians of the 60s like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, and even including important tendencies in feminism, seems to have completely dried up. The only contemporary example I can think of is Trey Parker and Mark Stone, the makers of South Park. (There are some very interesting–to me, at least–literary developments along these lines though, even if they are still  marginal.) But that massive cultural revolt has been replaced, precisely among those demographically identical to its original constituency, by “trigger warnings.”

It would be good to see a revival, beyond left and right (as it would have to be), of this cultural tendency, because, beyond the anti-civilizational resentment lay something more valuable: a sacrificial willingness on the part of the artist or thinker to bear and make visible the forbidden and the abject, to enact a kind of discovery procedure of our inner savagery and barbarism. Even more, it has represented a play element in culture, beyond the rather narrow games that we usually play—maybe there is a connection between the marginalization of this kind of cultural practice and the clamping down on childhood. Interestingly, it would take cultural practitioners willing to be demonized, censored and punished by the left, and being willing to take that on would require a drastic remaking of the inherited cultural identity such practitioners would start off with. It would be lonely, because they couldn’t really be conservatives, either (even if some conservatives might cheer them on), and the kind of fearlessness needed to liberate oneself from established cultural roles is very rare. But they would be performing a great service—and might even become marketable before too long.