Miley Cyrus > Donald Trump
Sometimes you wonder if ol’ Billy Ray don’t wish he had never left Tennessee:
[Miley] Cyrus, who described herself as attracted to people of any sex or gender, said she realized she was pansexual after becoming a part of the LGBT community in Los Angeles and meeting a gender-neutral person.
“Even though I may seem very different, people may not see me as neutral as I feel. But I feel very neutral,” she said in the Power of Women L.A. issue. I think that was the first gender-neutral person I’d ever met. Once I understood my gender more, which was unassigned, then I understood my sexuality more. I was like, ‘Oh — that’s why I don’t feel straight and I don’t feel gay. It’s because I’m not.'”
Cyrus told Paper magazine in 2015, that she’s open to many different kinds of relationships.
“I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age,” she told Paper magazine. “Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”
I’m old enough to remember when “That one will screw anything that moves” was an insult to either the man or the woman to whom it was applied. Today, that quality is a virtue, and its gets you fawning notice in USA Today. You literally can screw anything that moves (except minors and animals, for now) and have it celebrated in this culture.
I have been very hard on Donald Trump and his supporters over sexual assault revelations. I had decided before this came out that Trump lacked the character, temperament, and competence to be president, but this just seals it. Conservatives who stand by Trump after these revelations are no better than the liberals who stood by Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. It’s not about morality; it’s about power.
But here’s the thing: I am not interested in hearing cultural liberals get high and mighty about how vile Donald Trump is (and he is!) for his gross sexual behavior, but then have them turn around and cheer for every new manifestation of polymorphous perversity that flops across the transom. I know, I know: consent. Legally it’s an important concept, but it’s not a moral disinfectant. I find it impossible to believe that most liberal parents would be fine with their sons or daughters coming out a “pansexual,” which is a five-dollar word for something infinitely cheaper.
Keeping eros in its place solely with the doctrine of consent is like building levees of grape jelly along a raging river. A college professor friend tells a story about a female student who came to his office seeking advice. She was shaken. She said that she thought she might have been date-raped, but she wasn’t sure if she had given consent or not. Here was a young woman who felt that she had undergone a deep trauma, but all she could think about — because this is what her culture had trained her to think about — was legalistic procedure.
I wouldn’t want my children around Donald Trump or Miley Cyrus. But Miley Cyrus is a far more dangerous figure to human dignity and the imago Dei. Our erotomaniacal post-Christian culture is embracing the Miley Cyrus model. Maybe it was destined to be this way. Stephen Gardner, from his essay in the 40th anniversary edition of Philip Rieff’s The Triumph of the Therapeutic:
As embodied in Psychological Man and his Viennese exemplar, Rieff suggests that the modern revolution is above all revolution, more profound than any merely political or economic one. The engine of this revolution is the rise of democracy, which radically alters the nature of human relations and generates its own indigenous culture. Modern equality utterly transforms social relations, not just on the political or economic level on which human beings act representatively, as members of groups or as bearers of rights, but far more interestingly, in the realm of personal life.
Human relations are at bottom always relations of individuals, and it is here that the democratic revolution has utterly transformed moral understandings sanctified by time immemorial—especially, needless to say, in the realm of relations between the sexes, and by the same token, within the sexes as well. By removing or crippling the old formalities and conventions of social life, democracy creates a culture in which individuals are supposedly free to relate to each other simply as such—as pure individuals or pure “natural” beings, as it were. This idea of nature evidently presupposes the total socialization of man, but in a way unlike any other society. Believing that they are children of Eden, these “emancipated” democrats act out the latest script written for them by popular culture.
Philip Rieff appreciated the real significance of Freud because he was not a psychologist but a sociologist, and not just any sociologist, but one who understood both the religious nature of social order and its crystallization—or decomposition, as the case may be–in the psyche of the individual.The scientist’s loss is the sociologist’s gain. In Rieff’s sociology, there is an intimate link, of a sort that goes back to Plato, between outer order and the inmost structure of the psyche of the individual. This linkage may be designated the sacred; sacred order is psychic order. Social order, in other words, is grounded in religion or transcendental authority, but this principle is maintained only if is realized in the structure of the individual, his character. And it is just this “law” that Rieff discerns in Freud in the way of a photographic negative; there he sees the residual though still potent traces of authority that remain in the mind of the individual, even as that authority loses its traditional status in the social world itself.
The premise ofmodern psychology is the cult of desire.For this new type, psychology would replace ontology or theology, and therapy would replace community, hitherto the most potent psychic medicines in Western culture. Emancipated by modern technology, commerce, law, and consumerism from integral community, the modern individual found himself abandoned to contradictory passions and impulses and alienated from the remnants of a cultural order that, nonetheless, he could not do without. He thus entered into the twilight zone of modernity, the realm of ambivalences and ambiguities that ensue when every fixed point of reference is dissolved into the sheer interplay of individuals in a culture that can no longer sustain its origins. Freud appeared as his savior and advocate, the inventor of a technique of survival not physical but psychical. He promised to teach the modern individual how to desire in a world where all desires were equal and arbitrary, void of any intrinsic order, but not necessarily equally permissible or socially estimable. Here was a human type where interiority and its dilemmas were not a mark of the spiritual or transcendent but exactly oft heir absence, at best of their fading images–where interiority and the sense of alienation from the outer reflect the social fact of “negative community.”It is this massive cultural revolution that Rieff’s sociological exegesis of Freud brought into view. The outer world of consumerism and popular culture belies inwardly the world of an individual who is the captive of desires he can neither entirely abandon nor ever truly satisfy. The modern world makes a virtue of this fate and turns it to profitable advantage. In Freud, this individual acquires his first true advocate–not a savior, exactly, but someone who will defend the legitimacy of his condition, his “right”to desire, founded evidently in its inescapable necessity, its tragic fatality.
If Freud insists upon the primacy of sexual passion in the economy of psychic life and human relations, it is because this confirms the Romantic and democratic myth of freedom, the spontaneity of the individual. If he folds ambition (social desire) back into eros (erotic desire), it is not because the empirical evidence supports this (it doesn’t and couldn’t), but because romanticism demands it. Eros must be raised to the level of a religious cult in modern society, not because we really are that obsessed with it, but because the myth of freedom demands it. [Emphasis mine — RD] It is in carnal desire that the modern individual believes he affirms his “individuality.”
The whole essay is here, and I strongly commend it to you.
Society can survive a Donald Trump. Indeed, the fact that Trump is paying a heavy price for doing what powerful men (including beloved Democrats like JFK, Ted Kennedy, and Bill Clinton) have done to women since time immemorial is a sign of moral progress. But society cannot survive a Miley Cyrus. She is an icon of the lack of sacred order, which is to say, in Rieffian terms, of an anti-culture, which negates what any culture must do: direct the passions to socially beneficial ends. She is a high priestess of the cult of desire. Our civilization has embraced what will destroy it. Here’s the thing: so have we in the Christian church. As Peter Leithart wrote nearly 25 years ago:
In Rieff’s view, no successor priesthood has yet emerged, but the culture has instead embarked on the unprecedented experiment of forming a nonmoral culture, a “culture” lacking both religiously grounded interdicts and a priesthood to serve as the guardian of sacred boundaries. Such is, in fact, an experiment in “anticulture.” What is most disturbing, however, is that the Church no longer functions as priesthood in this sociological sense even for Christians. Rieff has called attention to contemporary churchmen’s penchant for abandoning all Christian dogma and practice that does not readily lend itself to therapeutic purposes. The “anticulture” has invaded the Church.
Jesus said that His disciples would be the light of the world, implying that dark ages come when the Church hides its light under a bushel. Christians, therefore, can hardly expect the rebirth of culture in the world without a rebirth of culture in the Church. One is led to echo, in a perhaps more literal sense than originally intended, Alasdair MacIntyre’s suggestion that our culture awaits the appearance of a new, very different St. Benedict.
Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.