Purchase A Language Older Than Words
Read more

Excerpt from A Language Older Than Words

Doctors Janus and Bess (p. 213)

From chapter "The Parable of the Box"

One of the primary problems with our system of social rewards is its tautological nature. We grant communal responsibility and esteem to those who have accumulated and maintained power; but the primary motivation for those who are responsible for decisions affecting the larger community lies in the accumulation and maintenance of power. The good of the community does not matter. In time, the community takes on the character of these esteemed leaders. This happens primarily through direct decisions, the inculcation of citizens to emulate those who receive this respect, and the institutionalization of the leaders’ drive for power. Institutions—be they governmental, economic, religious, educational, penal, charitable—will mirror their founders’ proclivity for domination. It’s inescapable. The system of rewards guarantees that responsibility for community decisions falls to those least capable of making decisions that will benefit the community, to the indecent, to the wétikos, the cannibals, to those who would destroy. The French anarchist Sebastien Faure located two principles that govern all politics within our system: first, the acquisition of power by all means, even the most vile; and second, to keep that power by all means, even the most vile.

At some point in the ceaseless expansion of our culture’s realm of control, the notion of a community was replaced by the acceptance of communal control by distant and increasingly unresponsive institutions. The larger the institution, the more accumulated power it takes to reach the top. It would follow that the primary motivations of those at the top are founded in the acquisition and maintenance of power, which means the more likely that the institution will manifest this particular form of destructive (and psychotic) behavior.

I received peculiar confirmation of this self-evident tendency a few years ago—as well as additional confirmation that the political is the personal—when I came across a study of the sexual habits of politicians. The study grew out of psychologists Dr. Sam Janus’s and Dr. Barbara Bess’s work with drug addicts. Realizing that a good portion of their clients supported drug habits through prostitution, their emphasis shifted toward the study of prostitutes. Eventually their work focused on “elite prostitutes” who “catered to an entirely different type of client.” Finally, they realized that the “missing link in understanding the function of the prostitute in contemporary society” consisted of an examination of the women’s customers.

The psychologists conducted extensive interviews with eighty high-priced prostitutes about their 7,645 clients. They found that sixty percent of the clients exercised some form of political power, while the remainder were mainly wealthy businessmen. The authors required two independent sources for each report on the sexual habits of the clientele before accepting it. The results are disturbing: “Very seldom (only about 8 to 10 percent of the time) does a politician ask a call girl for straight intercourse,” instead primarily requesting “games of humiliation and dominance.” The authors report that “the women whom we interviewed reported that their clients went much further than that, often demanding them to act out complicated scenes of torture and mortification of the flesh, involving floggings, lacerations, mock crucifixions, and mutilation of their genitals.” The authors conclude, and I quote this in full because it stands so central to our culture: “To understand why so many politicians are not merely promiscuous but are addicted to sadomasochistic practices for which they need the expensive services of a “paraprofessional sex therapist” requires a deeper look into the psychodynamics of the power seeker. These are characterized by a strong need to dominate which co-exists in precarious equilibrium with an equally intense need for submission. This psychological pattern is manifested outwardly by a drive to subjugate and control others (but always in obedience to some higher ideal), and in private by imperious demands for violently aggressive sex which upon orgasm abruptly becomes transformed into an equally sharp state of infantile dependence.”

What is writ large in the destruction of the biosphere is writ small on the bodies of women, and inscribed on the psyches of these, our leaders, the men who will determine for us whether we as a species survive.