2024-07-22 3:26 PM

Nick Benton’s Gay Science No. 93: Saint Foucault? Are You Kidding? Part 4

I began this series in October 2010 with three chapters entitled the same as this, and as I prepare to conclude, I’ll reiterate why I began that way.

First, the overall series title, “Gay Science,” has a double meaning.

In the first case, it refers to my case against 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, as in his book “Gay Science” that proclaimed among other things the “death of God.” My “Gay Science,” is contrasted to the flawed Nietzschean anarchistic “will to power” concept that contributed to the rise of Naziism and in late 1960s to the radical anarcho-hedonist shift in American culture.

That shift was away from humanist values associated with Eleanor Roosevelt’s post-World War II “International Declaration of Human Rights” to our current consumerist, selfish self-interest defined culture.

In the second, my “Gay Science” refers to the role of same-sex erotic attraction as a core component in nature, a derivative of the essential dissymmetry of the universe, itself, and among organized life forms, in the indispensable role for heightened empathetic and altruistic impulses behaviors in successful societies.

As much, it is contrary to neo-Darwinian “survival of the fittest” and “social Darwinist” theories. I contend that same-sex erotic attraction, although manifested as strongly sexual, actually derives from empathetic and altruistic components of natural behavior, and not as a deviation of the reproductive impulse.

These two meanings of “Gay Science” combined, I’ve written about the collision of a newly socially-affirmed natural role for same-sex erotic attraction with its context, namely, the last 40 years’ cultural paradigm shift.

In so doing, I’ve challenged, among other things, the prevalent view that the modern post-Stonewall gay liberation movement is a cutting edge of that cultural shift toward selfish hedonism. To the contrary, it was swept into adopting the crazed urban-centered sexual addictive behaviors of the 1970s that led to the AIDS epidemic.

While urban homosexuals have yet to consciously shed such effects and residual patterns remain, positive signs exist, including the push for gay marriage and a better respect for the cultivation of talents manifesting our natural “constructive non-conformity” that benefit society overall.

This series has sought to contribute to a new dialogue on these lines, toward what gay playwright Tony Kushner, in an introduction to a recently-published script of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart,” called the need for a “a new gay morality” better reflecting our true nature and purpose.

It is forward-directed, recognizing that many committed to the current gay culture may find it foreign or off-putting. Old terms like “sex-negative” or “self-loathing,” born in a bygone era to defame anyone who did not affirm anarcho-hedonistic sexual excess, do not apply here.

As a San Francisco-area pioneer of the modern gay movement, I lived through it all. Overwhelmed by the hedonistic excess of the 1970s, I stepped aside to a self-imposed exile. I survived all that ensued somehow and have since felt compelled to understand what happened and share my insights honestly. Thus, this series.

Little did I realize then – as my 1970s effort was failing to lead the movement toward more universal and compassionate civil rights purposes, free from the maelstrom of depersonalizing radical hedonism – that my colleagues and I had a singular adversary dedicated to fueling that maelstrom’s power nearby.

Gay postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault, whose acquired stature was the creation of some foul and malicious social engineering effort I have no doubt, was lecturing in the mid-1970s at U.C. Berkeley on the merit of, no the demand for, angrily casting off authority, including scientific authority, or limits of any kind, in pursuit of sexual excess for its own sake.

Frequenting S-and-M themed gay bathhouses nightly, Foucault fueled among the brightest young minds the false justification for the increasingly impersonal and extreme sexual hedonism that overtook urban gay culture, a process that filtered down to dregs of the San Francisco’s gay sex culture including in the form of his own person, in fact. In 1983, Foucault knew he had AIDS, but came back to San Francisco to revisit the leather bathhouse scene nightly, indifferent to spreading the HIV virus, until he died in 1984.

In his new book, “Democratic Enlightenment” (2011), Princeton University’s Jonathan Israel assails Foucault, in particular, for proposing to undermine the very humanist basis for the American revolution and any universal moral and democratic political foundations arising out of the Enlightenment, because Foucault held that “the primacy of reason was ultimately just a mask for the exercise of power.”

Foucault and post-modernism, generally, are fiercely against universal human rights, Israel argues, because any notion of universality is a form of oppression. This same influence informed the angry rejection of any authority, not only to ethics or accountability, but also to science or public health. As such, it fueled the preconditions and spread of the AIDS epidemic.

Some contended that Foucault was a “saint” of the gay movement. He was more like a sinister purveyor of unspeakable misery and death who almost destroyed us, and still could.

(To be continued).





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