Felix Rambles

Another step to taking back control

Gender, sexuality and history

17 January 2019 — Felix Pleşoianu

It's easy to believe in the myth (born from Victorian arrogance) of linear and infinite progress that's all but inevitable. A comforting one, as I was pointing out elsewhere, because if progress is like that it means we don't have to lift a finger for it to happen, and possibly make mistakes that ruin lives. No risk of having to be responsible for bad things on the way there.

This myth most noticeably comes up when it gets to matters of gender and sexuality. We love to think ourselves progressive in those regards. Too bad solid historical evidence proves again and again that in the 19th and especially 20th century western civilization in fact regressed massively.

We have for instance evidence of gay marriage in the year 100 AD, and I mean in Christian Europe, not some distant exotic culture. Even more recently, after it was banned, the secret history of same-sex marriage continued. People of the same sex would even disguise themselves as groom and bride, not so much in the hope they'd fool anyone, but more likely to provide the minister and atendees with plausible deniability. Even while that happened, for the longest time men were still unafraid to show their affection to each other through physical contact... until they no longer were.

And while certain things became, when not forbidden, at least taboo, a wave of revisionism swept the western world, and from there spread all over. Here's for instance How Onna-Bugeisha, Feudal Japan's Women Samurai, Were Erased From History. Then again, the same happened in Europe, as told in a book called “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” by Kameron Hurley. Not that it's news for anyone in Romania: in my birth city still stands a magnificent statue of Ecaterina Teodoroiu, who enlisted to fight in WW1 despite being a woman, and was field-promoted all the way to lieutenant before falling in battle. While leading a charge, I might add.

Last but not least, while on the topic of gender roles, we have a story from a few years ago about the way in the Ancient world it was acceptable to change them through cross-dressing when needed. Much like in a certain videogame that took the world by storm last spring. You've guessed it, I mean Breath of the Wild. Which isn't at all surprising once you learn that Japanese geisha could easily be men as well as women... (And in fact they still can, as the art never died out.)

We're well into the 21st century now, but instead of the progress we were promised, the world is barely crawling its way back to what used to be normality. Oh well.

Tags: culture, society, history

Comments? Tweet  

Communism and religion in Romania

06 October 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

It's generally accepted knowledge that religion was persecuted in Communist Romania with all the cruelty our nightmare of a totalitarian regime was capable of.

Oh, really. That's why the Orthodox Church remained a state institution, financed from the national budget, even during the darkest years of said regime. Funny that.

It's generally accepted knowledge that countless churches were torn down in the same Communist Romania. Hardly anyone remembers the many more churches that were rescued through engineering miracles worthy of steampunk novels: moved wholesale on rails, with locomotives, to be hidden behind modern buildings where the regime didn't mind them. Out of sight, out of mind. On whose money? Why, the state's, of course. Nobody else could finance public works of such size at the time.

(For that matter, hardly anyone remembers the Uranus neighborhood, a unique place of enormous cultural value, that was torn down to make room for Casa Poporului. Or the island of Ada-Kaleh on the Danube, another invaluable piece of living history, that was sunk in the process of building the Iron Gates powerplant. Perhaps because those were largely Jewish and Muslim, respectively.)

Sure, the Communists paid lip service to atheism. A lot, even. But are you going to tell me that Ceauşescu, a semi-literate cobbler's apprentice, born and raised in a village between the two World Wars, was somehow an atheist? Not bloody likely.

Sure, the Communists imprisoned and tortured numerous members of the clergy. People who just so happened to be 1) famous 2) highly educated and 3) outspoken opponents of the regime. You know, just like many academics who had the same fate, and hardly anyone decries their systematic persecution. Academics we never really trusted in the first place. They have a bad habit of challenging faith, you see.

In all this time, nobody touched our numerous Orthodox monasteries throughout the country. They were national treasures, featured in movies and protected with the full force of the law. As kids, we were taken to visit them more than once. By the school. The state school. There was no other kind before 1989.

We have a saying in this country: do as the priest says, not as the priest does. Well, let me turn it on its head: watch what the regime does, not what the regime says. Then you'll see who's really persecuted. Hint: it's probably not whoever yells "persecution" the loudest.

Developed countries, take note. Because these days you're going to where we only just came from.

Tags: politics, history

Comments? Tweet