Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Open Letter to Supreme Court Justice Scalia

Dear Antonin,

Let me start by offering an answer to your question. "If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality," you asked us, "can we have it [sic] against murder? Can we have it [sic] against other things?" I know, I know, you meant the question rhetorically, but no matter. As official spokesqueer for the Elders of Sodom, I am happy to clear this up for you, clarify our position with a simple single-word response:


Surely this goes without saying, Antonin? If you (and whoever else you include in that "we") were to be somehow rendered incapable of moral feelings against one man sodomising another, I dare say this could only be by some sort of emotional lobotomy that rendered you incapable of moral feelings against anything. Duh.

We're talking affective infrastructure here, after all, Antonin. We're talking about attitude as emotion, emotion as evaluative response to... well, whatever the world might throw at us. We're talking disgust and anger at one man murdering another, one man sodomising another, one [X] doing [Y] to [Z]. And it's in for a penny, in for a pound, Antonin. I rather think if you were to undergo some sort of invasive procedure designed to expunge the very possibility of feeling disgust and anger about homosex, it would most likely remove your capacity to feel disgust and anger about not only homicide but rape, robbery, the retail price of double-headed dildos, you name it. Each and every one of those "other things" that you might otherwise be inclined to feel disgust and anger at, I rather think you'd be... quite blasé about them all.

We're not entirely sure, Antonin, why you'd think such an extreme measure was even on the table. I'm happy to assure you, on behalf of the Elders of Sodom, that this is not an item on the Homosexual Agenda. In all honesty, if anything, we'd much rather you retained your emotional faculties, even if that ability to have moral feelings about homicide also means, unfortunately, an ability to have moral feelings about homosex. Homosex and homicide or miscegenation and murder, whatever the nature of the beast, whether the animus is against same-sex or mixed-race relationships, we allied advocates of tolerance are not, I can assure, campaigning for the very capacity to "have moral feelings" to be expunged.

No, we'd like you to keep your affective potential intact, Antonin. We'd just like you to understand it. Hell, we'd like you to fulfil it.

We're not sure you do understand, you see, that your moral feelings are, at root, just an unholy alliance of disgust and anger. That is to say, Antonin, that affective response you're calling "moral feelings" is one in which disgust and anger are not just concurrent but mutually aggravating. Pay close attention to those moral feelings the next time you experience them, and we rather think you'll find that the disgust itself makes you angry at its object, that the anger itself makes you disgusted by the object. The emotions fused in synergy become a singular sensation, a visceral negativity.

Let's call it outrage, Antonin, this synergy of disgust and anger. It's the moral feeling an Antonin in 1912 might have had about mixed race relationships. It's the moral feeling an Antonin in 2012 clearly has about same sex relationships. It may be milder in the latter instance, a matter more of distaste and irk than outright revulsion and wrath. We certainly hope you'd have a little perspective here, feel at least a tad less viscerally negative toward homosex than you do toward homicide. But history's Antonins don't exactly fill us to overflowing with trust. No matter. The point is that you yourself recognise these moral feelings to be of the same basic substance, no matter the intensity and no matter the object. Outrage is outrage.

Again, Antonin, we Elders of Sodom don't want to deny you the very capacity to feel outrage. We just want you to understand what it is, how it works. We appreciate that this may be difficult for you, that it requires a degree of self-awareness, but we're with you, Antonin, we're rooting for you all the way, and we'll do our best to help you along the path. Are you with us, Antonin? Are you willing to try? It's not that hard to follow, is it, this notion of outrage as a synergy of disgust and anger? No?

Good. The next step then.

You see, there's more to your "moral feelings," Antonin, than just outrage. One can be sickened to ire, incensed to revulsion, but for that outrage to truly register as a moral reckoning, there must be another synergetic alliance in play: the coalition of certitude and satisfaction. A sense of conviction contents us; a sense of contentment convinces us. I don't doubt you can sense your own conviction, Antonin. But can you sense how it comforts you, that security? Can you sense how the comfort confirms? You do understand how positive reinforcement works, don't you? To feel right feels good; to feel good feels right. Isn't that so, Antonin?

Again, Antonin, I'm only asking you to pay attention to those moral feelings the next time they surge, whether in response to homosex or homicide. A little self-scrutiny and you should be able to discern the affect directed inwards. Your feelings about your own attitude of outrage should be fairly palpable and intelligible, Antonin. They are your feelings, after all. The synergy of certitude and satisfaction should be as self-evident as that of disgust and anger.

This synergy of certitude and satisfaction also goes by a simple name, Antonin: faith. Outrage and faith -- those are your moral feelings, Antonin. That's what you're talking about when you're talking about an affective response to homosex or homicide.

Or that's the basic affective composition, at least. There's still one last little structural twist to unravel. You see, Antonin, just as outrage and faith each set their emotional elements in synergy, so the two are in turn set together in an unholy alliance of alliances. Pay close attention to your outrage next time it kicks in, Antonin, whether it's a response to homosex or homicide. Feel how that outrage assaults your blithe repose, rendering the cause of it an assailant. Feel how that direct experience of transgression is the proof in pudding: you are right! And it is good that you are right, of course. And it is good and right, you will feel all the more, that when you're faced with such transgression you respond with outrage, automatic and vehement.

This synergy of outrage and faith, this synergy of synergies... this is your "moral feelings," Antonin. There is a word for this too: indignation. You feel indignant about homosex and homicide as another Antonin in another era, I'm sure, felt indignant about miscegenation and murder.

We Elders of Sodom, it has to be said, don't have a terribly high opinion of indignation. One only has to consider those who are disgusted by eminently nutritious Brussels sprouts (mea culpa) and those who are angered by George R.R. Martin's work rate (mea not culpa) to know that outrage may be foolish and selfish. There are those who feel utter certitude that the moon landings were faked. There are those who take great satisfaction in the misery of others. One doesn't even have to touch on the follies of religion to know that faith may be mad and malicious. It is self-evident, we rather think, that your subjective experience of indignation is liable to be unreliable. Ours is too. We very much doubt that anyone is so perfect as to never feel indignation that is entirely unjust.

Your question, Antonin, actually points us all toward a rather unsettling supposition. If we are to be capable of feeling indignation about homicide, indignation about homosex must also be a theoretical possibility, yes? This much we agree on. But isn't the reality more terrible still -- that if we are reckoning homicide on the basis of indignation, the reckoning of homosex on the basis of indignation is all but inevitable. Or the reckoning of something of that sort, at least. We might choose murder and miscegenation, any number of alternatives. I don't mean to suggest that your animus against same-sex relationships is specifically assured, Antonin, or that the Antonin of 1912 was doomed to a comparable animus against mixed-race relationships. I mean that the foolishness, selfishness, madness and malice are sadly inevitable features owing to human imperfection, that indignation will inevitably be turned on something that is undeserving.

Your question, Antonin, actually does more than point us to that unsettling supposition. It proves it, demonstrates the very process in practice. You ask it not in the hope of being answered, but as an affirmation of faith in outrage, a validation of outrage by faith. You are displaying to the entire world, Antonin, the reality that because you operate on indignation you are not just capable of turning indignation on the innocent but committed to it. As much as an Antonin of 1912 leading a lynch mob to hang a black man with a white wife, you stand as living proof that "moral feelings" are always already unethical. Indignation turned on the innocent is self-evidently unjust, a blatant iniquity, but that very indignation, as you so plainly demonstrate, can and will turn ethics on its head, render iniquity as righteousness.

It is one thing to do wrong and regret it, Antonin. It is another thing to do wrong remorselessly. To do wrong and champion it as right is more iniquitous still; one is driving others to also do wrong. It is beyond even this to champion that behaviour as a strategy, to dismiss a challenge to this or that unjust indignation on the basis that it's a prerequisite for morality itself; one is advocating a philosophy in which any and all such iniquities are inviolable on their pedestals, championing a system of thought that will drive others to drive others to do wrong. And so on.

You go beyond even championing the wrong as right, Antonin. You stand as advocate of recursive wrong, a viral agent of iniquity qua iniquity. You don't just enact this one prejudice in your "moral feelings," your indignation about homosex. You don't just defend it, champion it, and thereby propagate it by casting that prejudice as a legitimate ethical judgement on par with indignation at murder. You don't even simply promulgate this isolated prejudice in a self-replicating imperative, those you persuade compelled to persuade others to persuade others to persuade others, and so on. You argue the system of thought in principle, argue the inviolable legitimacy of indignation that defies ethical reckoning. You stand for the mechanised production of iniquity, the systematic generation and dissemination of self-justified idiocy and egotism, madness and malice.

We Elders of Sodom don't have a high opinion of such terms as "wicked" or "evil" either, rooted as they are in that pseudo-ethics of indignation. We hold empathy as the only affect with a legitimate role to play in ethical reckoning. But we make one exception in what we deem worthy of our indignation, hold one thing alone to be legitimately damnable by that synergy of outrage and faith: that so-called morality of indignation itself. That is to say, we cleave to one categorical ethical imperative: to challenge morality, to ethically reckon all "moral feelings." The only evil there can be in such a philosophy, really, is the concerted opposition to this imperative, the deliberate and organised striving against ethical reckoning in principle.

The only evil there can be is what you call morality, Antonin. There is nothing with a greater power to foment iniquity than the one true evil that goes by the name of morality.

Sorry, Antonin. We Elders of Sodom hate to have to say this -- and to a Supreme Court Justice no less -- but you are the living breathing proof of how "moral feelings" work against the application of ethical faculties, work to thwart the achievement of ethically sound judgements. We look at you and see a man playing arbiter of right and wrong while operating on a system of thought that merely masquerades as ethically sound. Hell, your "moral feelings" aren't even in the domain of ethics, as far as we're concerned. There's a reason we make a distinction between morals (from the Latin for custom) and ethics (from the Greek for character,) and you're it. You have abrogated your one ethical obligation, exercising no autonomy of judgement, cleaving instead to mere habitual affective responses, relying on them to remind you that you feel-to-be-wrong what you have been raised to feel-to-be-wrong. Born of customs, such judgements on the basis of "moral feelings" are aesthetics, not ethics. The fact that you can have these "moral feelings" against homosexuality make this rather blindingly obvious, Antonin.

We're sad that you don't understand this, Antonin. We're sad that one in your position could come out with such an idiocy as your question, sad that you could genuinely, it seems, imagine the rest of us to be as ethically bankrupt as yourself. Sad that you'd think our judgement of murder as (wait for it...) unethical is necessarily born of the same crude indignation as yours. That you'd really think said judgement unsustainable if the same crude indignation you feel about homosexuality is not sustained simply by being what it is -- crude indignation.

It is to sigh.

Really, Antonin? You're not just incapable of distinguishing prejudice from ethical judgement? Faced with an ethical imperative to attempt it, faced with the categorical ethical imperative that renders any system containing it self-correcting, your go-to response is... fear that this will bring the whole house of cards tumbling down? Really? You're afraid that the capacity to ethically reckon anything and everything will be swept away if you, Cock forbid, carry out the one action we can be sure is ethical, the actual exercise of reckoning ethics.

Antonin, Antonin, oh Sweet Cock Almghty, Antonin.

Let me finish, by asking you a question, Antonin, on behalf of the Elders of Sodom and, I daresay, more than a few curious souls besides...

What kind of a fucktard are you, Antonin? Seriously, what kind of a fucking fucktard are you?

Yours bemusedly,

With hugz and kittehz,

Hal Duncan
Official Spokesqueer for the Elders of Sodom



Anonymous Val said...

Such a witty and cultured, so brilliant, such a lively writing, so much more than those illiterate morons. I read your post about the homosexual agenda.. I do feel so angry at them. How can people be so stupid ? How dare they even write to you THAT way.
You're a GREAT writer. I just loved your books.
I read much more graphic scenes in books(PZB's for instance). The ones in Vellum or Ink were rather subtle and poetic.
I'm waiting eagerly for your next book just like a LOT of readers.

12:20 pm  

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