Like everyone else, I’m thinking about those suffering, bereaved or stranded in Japan. Wishing there was something practical I could do to help.
Sat up last night reading a PD James detective fiction. No spoilers, but in the novel there is an alcoholic priest who has overcome his affliction by living on a lonely island where he can’t get his hands on the demon drink. The Splendid Isolation fallacy, you might call it. He is ‘coerced’ into drinking by a bad character and then has a relapse. A kind woman and helpers nurse him back to health and he stays locked up in a house with them, then returns to the island. Lo and behold, he feels strong enough after several months of abstinence to consider venturing back to the mainland, secure in the belief he will not drink because the solitude and time spent not drinking have cured him.
Sigh. I often thought about joining a strict contemplative order in my early 30s, locking myself away from the world. I didn’t see myself becoming a saint (that was not appealing at all) but I thought I might be able to stay sober if I kept away from lovers and temptations and the outside world. And I reasoned that the desire to drink would ebb away by itself, so that eventually I would wake up one morning and find myself cured. Like the character in the PD James novel, I was wrong on several counts. Abstinence does not remove the underlying alcoholism. Temptation pops up in the most unlikely places. Alcoholism does not cure itself. And I would not have been able to get or stay sober on my own, surrounded by well-meaning non-alcoholics or safeguarded by distance from liquor.
There has been much debate on the Internet around the New York Times report on a crime in which an eleven-year-old girl was raped by 18 men. In the Rumpus I found this very pertinent essay by Roxane Gay on the language of sexual violence:
We live in a culture that is very permissive where rape is concerned. While there are certainly many people who understand rape and the damage of rape, we also live in a time that necessitates the phrase “rape culture.” This phrase denotes a culture where we are inundated, in different ways, by the idea that male aggression and violence toward women is acceptable and often inevitable. As Lynn Higgins and Brenda Silver ask in their book Rape and Representation, “How is it that in spite (or perhaps because) of their erasure, rape and sexual violence have been so ingrained and so rationalized through their representations as to appear ‘natural’ and inevitable, to women as men?” It is such an important question, trying to understand how we have come to this. We have also, perhaps, become immune to the horror of rape because we see it so often and discuss it so often, many times without acknowledging or considering the gravity of rape and its effects. We jokingly say things like, “I just took a rape shower,” or “My boss totally just raped me over my request for a raise.” We have appropriated the language of rape for all manner of violations, great and small. It is not a stretch to imagine why James McKinley Jr. is more concerned about the eighteen men than one girl.