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Jan 30, 2014

Razer’s class warfare: homosexuality a dangerous Western invention

Sexuality doesn't exist; it's a Western construct. The human rights framework that we should all love who we love is a solution to a Western problem -- and not a very good one.

Helen Razer — Writer and Broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and Broadcaster

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. So says Algy Moncrieff, Oscar Wilde’s impure instrument of truth in The Importance of Being Earnest. Wilde was as certain about the difficult nature of truth as he was of his own genius and of the need for restraint in home furnishings. He was, as you probably agree, right on all counts …

Oscar Wilde

Wilde would have been pleased with the rustic minimalism in which the middle class now prefers to deck its homes; it seems we finally took his decor advice. Many have failed, however, to understand his explicit advice on the nature of truth.

“It’s so simple,” said Stephen Fry on ABC1 last Sunday. This statement, made by a man sufficiently familiar with Wilde as to play him in a feature film, is a general worry as much as it was a particular concern when it had as its object global homophobia.

As Fry had it on the two-part documentary Out There, the disdain for what he calls “gay” makes as much sense as an objection to “red telephone boxes”. Why, asks Fry, are people struggling to accept how “some of us love”?

The answer is that the truth is difficult. Of course, disdain for homosexual practice or identity is stupid but that doesn’t mean that it is also simple. Just as many struggle to accept how “some of us love” (Fry doesn’t care to mention how some of us have sex — a topic all-but-forbidden in an era where even the Sydney Mardi Gras uses Parental Advisory warnings), Fry struggles to understand how Some of Us Think. Which is not exactly as he, a fairly standard liberal humanist, does.

Fry believes that homophobia, like the gay identity it opposes, is universal — that it comes from the same simple impulse of fear. This is even despite evidence from a Sri Lankan chap he interviews. “There was no law against it until you British enforced it,” he says, and, still Fry is unable to see that the very idea of homosexual identity, first codified and medicalised by European democracy, is one that he continues to export.

Homosexual identity is not the same thing as homosexual practice. Gore Vidal, who never supposed the truth to be simple or pure, said it crisply:

“Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people.”

But the real-world “truth” is that homosexual people are an innovation of liberal democracy. Homosexual acts, of course, are just natural and normal, but homosexual people and the laws against them are one of the West’s many unpleasant and dangerous exports.

Fry’s “simple” human rights framework that we should “all just love” is a Western solution to a Western problem. And one that ignores the many reasons for global persecution of people who perform homosexual acts.  Currently in Nigeria, for example, embattled President Goodluck Jonathan is strategically opposing homosexuality as a Western value. Post-colonial scholars point out the arrogance of universalised rights for “gays” who never existed with a separate identity in many Islamic nations before the ever-helpful West franchised first a legal system to condemn and then a human rights agenda to liberate.

I do understand that this can be a difficult and confusing argument; I was a queer studies student for years, and I continue to find the separation of homosexual identity and homosexual practice an intellectual challenge. But things to do with the truth are difficult, and Stephen Fry, an intelligent Wildean man, should know this. But he didn’t, or at least, pretends not to, and I found myself so frustrated with his belief that the West is a model for tolerance and not, in fact, the effing starting point for intolerance that has led directly to the persecution of people who do homosexual things in Africa, I turned over to the Grammys.

I was just in time to see the egregious “hip-hop” “artist” Macklemore win a number of awards for genuinely terrible music and perform the hideous anthem to marriage, Same Love.

Macklemore, who has been at previous pains to point out that he is not A Gay …

… did a good job of showing us by means of a terrible oeuvre that he is also not a guy who cares to think of the truth as anything more than pure and simple.

The white Macklemore, who blames hip-hop and, by extension, African-American men for homophobia, is not only purely and simply wrong about the world in Same Love. He is also wrong about it Thrift Shop, where he seems to be blaming African-American men for consumerism. I do not care to provide an exegesis for the song Can’t Hold Us. But I will say that it reminds me of the Christian hip-hop fusion of DC Talk.

As Slate’s Jack Hamilton reminds us, we should not hate Macklemore because he is white. Rather, we should abhor him for the same reasons we do Stephen Fry. That is, for his habit of pointing to the world’s most disenfranchised and, as it happens, darkest people as the source and not as the target of injustice.

If only those Ugandans would do things as we do! If only that Kanye West would think as Macklemore does! Then, the pure and simple truth would RISE and we could all get married to Madonna by Queen Latifah because, after all, we are One World!

But we are not one world. There is not one truth. There are multiple injustices to which a single salve is not just the pure and simple idea, shared by political leaders, well-regarded BBC television stars and hip-hop artists alike, that LOVE is the answer.

Wilde would have despised the liberalism and the hideous anti-Kanye doggerel of Macklemore.  He would have questioned, as he did in Earnest, both his earnestness and idea of marriage as a moral solution.

As for the bland humanist decoration of Stephen Fry he might have said, as he reportedly did at his deathbed, either that wallpaper goes or I do.

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19 comments

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19 thoughts on “Razer’s class warfare: homosexuality a dangerous Western invention

  1. Catherine Scott

    Loved this. Humans can’t resist turning any old vague tendency into a Thing with a Label. Well maybe that’s westerners with their individualist culture. Helen’s evidence supports that.

    And then there’s wanting to be different anything but ordinary.

    And turning what looks like a stigma into a badge of distinction, as I rediscovered a few months back when I copped an online mobbing from people who apparently see their having had trouble with early literacy as a sign that their brain is different in a way that gives them a unique and special and valuable way of looking at the world. Pigs *rse. They had the common experience of falling foul of the messy English spelling system and really poor ways of teaching reading.

    Off topic except that people love to turn any old thing into a badge of distinction.

  2. Jan Forrester

    SPOT ON. Not only that but various cultures cope with the idea, if not always the reality (we ARE human) of bisexual relationships outside/inside relationships/marriage – and still have children who are loved. Westerners nastily outlawed and have now fetishised a part of human sexuality. Unfortunately this subject brings out the unctuous side of the ABC-sponsored ubiquitous Mr Fry.

  3. Dogs breakfast

    I had often wondered what was discussed in ‘queer studies’. Is ‘raging against not very much at all’ an integral part of the curriculum?

    It’s hard to tell exactly what Ms Razer is most upset about, that Stephen Fry didn’t ask the right questions, or that she doesn’t like Macklemore. Did I miss something.

    Or is it that western culture cyclically creates and then saves the ‘demons’ it creates. Of course it’s true, but what culture is that not true of? Culture is, by definition, conformity, and ultimately demonisation of those who do not conform. Just like people, I suppose. The chief skill for success in western culture, today more than ever, is looking like you are somehow an individual, while assuming complete conformity at every level.

    Interesting comment Ms Scott. I’m not sure the western culture is at all individualistic, although I recognise you may have been saying that ironically. If you had an opinion on how the illiterate, or reading-challenged, re-branding themselves as somehow ‘unique and special and valuable, you will enjoy following some of the discussions re ADHD children, and how gifted they are.

  4. Venise Alstergren

    Stephen Fry came across like a Walt Disney cartoon. Well meaning but hopeless and having brought up the subject to begin with he seemed too diffident to make his points-if he had any.

    He seems to be a nice sort of human being but he managed to get me off-side when he declared (all) women to be disinterested in sex. On the basis that females didn’t lurk in public lavatories waiting to gang-rape men!

    With that kind of reasoning I gave up on him.

  5. klewso

    I can’t understand the fascination for some in car racing – but I wouldn’t dream of trying to convert those so affected (and those with whom they congregate, of similar interest) to normal, no more than they would me, for what I’m “missing”?

  6. 64magpies

    Noooooooooooooo! Lay off Fry Razor, or else!!!!!

  7. Richard

    That Macklemore take-down was on point.

  8. Leroy

    “And one that ignores the many reasons for global persecution of people who perform homosexual acts. Currently in Nigeria, for example, embattled President Goodluck Jonathan is strategically opposing homosexuality as a Western value”

    It the same in Russia at the moment. The recent ABC doco “The Iron Closet” on the use of anti-gay laws as proxy for Nationalism & Anti Western-Liberalism is worth watching.

    http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2013/s3879592.htm

    On Putin’s Conservative strategy more generally, which this is a part of, see…

    “Vladimir Ilyich Putin, Conservative Icon”
    December 19, 2013
    http://www.rferl.org/content/vladimir-ilyich-putin-the-conservative-lenin/25206293.html

  9. sparky

    My friends from non-Western democracies (did you bother to speak to any)tell me that the acts and relationships exist in their countries as well and to a similar level as Australia, in parallel with marriages. Their countries just don’t like it being spoken about, it makes the cultures of deceit uncomfortable. Just like it does ours.

  10. Avril Hannah-Jones

    People are being imprisoned, beaten up, correctively raped and killed for their sexuality – and Razer is angry at ‘liberals’.