National Commentary

Nick Benton’s Gay Science No. 62: ‘Re-Branding’ Ourselves as Promethean, Not Dionysian

It is fair to ask, in response to my proposition that the gay Promethean archetype represents “constructive non-conformity,” who defines “constructive.” Does it come from some authoritarian source defining it for us?

When asked that question last week, I replied as follows:

“I say no one decides. It comes from within the individual, as has been the whole point of my series. The individual discovers an impulse within him or her that can be called empathy which seeks the well-being of others.

“This leads to a desire to learn how that can best be achieved, which leads to an appreciation of how one’s own individual gifts can contribute. From the standpoint of erotic attraction to the same sex, this places an added emphasis on the well-being of persons of the same sex, something hierarchical male dominated straight society does not permit or offer to either sex.

“Yes, it is all derived from empathy, nature’s tool for our survival and the unfolding of our full enfranchisement and potential. In the old days, we could call it love, but that word is so out of fashion these days.”

Prometheus, in the ancient Greek myth, was punished by Zeus (the archetype of straight male dominated culture) for stealing fire, reason and other benefits to give to mankind.

He was punished, as the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote in his play, “Prometheus Bound” (ca. 415 B.C.) because of his “excessive love for man” and defiant refusal to “quit his man-loving disposition.” In so doing, he “did not tremble at the name of Zeus.”

He was defined by his “excessive love for man” in defiance of the straight male dominated cultural model. Such is the paradigm for our gay identity.

Love, or empathy, is a natural human predisposition that we gays do not limit to the dominant culture’s accepted norms, but experience as a natural defiance of them.But it is not a negative, angry defiance. It is a passionate, often erotic desire to present mankind with the gift of fire in the form of a creative expression that powers and inflames human souls to become Promethean, themselves.

Empathy is contained in each “unit of action” of human development, and identity derived from the succession of them. Empathy is a form of direct connectivity with others that exists on a sub-atomic level where the apparent space separating persons is revealed as an unbroken continuum.

Heightened empathy in individuals derives from an enhanced power of their sensors, so to speak, within this continuum. Persons lacking empathy are those with broken, or destroyed, sensors.

It is out of such empathy-driven “units of action” that the desire for “constructive non-conformity” comes.

We are at our roots, far from the destructive, anarchist and anarcho-hedonist forms of non-conformity, whose “units of action” are animated by anger and negativity. But dominant culture has defined us in those terms, as being within that camp, because in fact, the Dionysian anarchist paradigm is nothing more than the flip side of conformist male-dominated society.

The pure anarchist, the likes of David Graeber, an anthropology professor at the University of London who’s a key organizer of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement (author of “Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion and Desire,” 2007, and much more), proposes an individualist defiance of norms that is, at its core, no different than the asocial actions of the greed-driven Wall Street scions he opposes.

The self-centered “units of action” are identical, which is why the paragons of our culture have no problem with angry anarchists. They are cut of the same cloth.
In fact, it has been a long-standing form of counterinsurgency against genuine civil rights and labor movements for constructive reform to unleash anarchist elements upon them to confuse and misdirect them.

That’s what happened to the gay liberation movement in the period after Stonewall. Fueled by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the gay movement was swiftly co-opted by an anarcho-hedonist, “sex, drugs and rock and roll” counterculture that dissembled the movement and turned it into a mandate for engaging in the kind of massively excessive impersonal sex that led to AIDS.

Gays were swept under the convenient umbrella of Dionysian anarchy, a form of “rebellion” over which the prevailing forces in straight male-dominated culture have had complete containment and control.

That became our “brand,” so to speak. I propose it is time to “re-brand” ourselves as Prometheans, not Dionysians. It is both accurate and necessary.

As Promethean givers of life and love, consider the impact on the overall society in the U.S. that 400,000 of us – 400,000 Prometheans – were wiped out by AIDS before beginning to fulfill their potentials and contributions.

Many of our society’s current problems stem from this gaping absence. We are challenged to reclaim our proper role at every level from the bottom to the top of our society to rekindle the Promethean fire.