You could have missed Martin Amis’s remark about the state of feelings in modern society in The Australian in June. It may have looked insignificant or overblown (“They don’t want to be sensitive.”). But Mr. Amis is, if not the best novelist in the English language alive, certainly the most accurate observer of social changes. Amis has said that “The interval of mourning has disappeared. It’s not us at our noblest, is it? Everyone talks about dumbing down, but there’s a parallel process that you could call ‘numbing down.’ I think that’s partly why people talk on their mobile phones all the time. It’s that they don’t want to be alone with their feelings. Introspection is under pressure from all of these technologies.” It is indeed easy to miss the numbing down of the society and its constituents in the everyday chaos. But this week made continuing this inert self-deception impossible to be upheld.
The final blows shattering the mass hypocrisy came after the earlier appearance of a mild setting of moral fetidness in the form of popular assent, even among the intelligent and educated, to the idea that international law can be ignored if it works against a popular figure. Modern society, despite the general positive trend in the Zeitgeist in the last half of a century, managed to collectively (with a surprising concurrence) conclude that an alleged rapist on the run can be seen as an admirable individual. Apparently being a cowardly parody of a dissident (Julian Assange, of whom I speak here, never wanted to assume responsibility for any of his actions. Even in the largely unrelated case of Wikileaks any decent journalist presenting similar documents publicly would have assumed responsibility for the actions even if with principal disagreement. Though do not believe the likes of Michael Moore who on the pages of New York Times tries to persuade people that the current situation has anything to do with the freedom of speech, it doesn’t.) nullifies the appalling cowardice of avoiding prosecution for one of the most disgusting crimes imaginable.
The general numbness to rape was meretriciously highlighted by two politicians this week, on both sides of the Atlantic. First, an American member of the House of Representatives (tediously, once again trumpery is coming from G.O.P.) from Missouri, Todd Akin, has said on television, in a discussion about abortion, that pregnancy rarely results from rape because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Not only is this stupid (a norm for the political right in the United States recently), but also positively immoral. To create a category of “legitimate rape” one automatically creates a category of “illegitimate rape” where presumably the victim (Why is everyone referring to rape victims as ‘the woman,’ as if a man could not be raped?) only superficially opposed the assault. Words like these coming from a public person are not only a disgrace to him and the office, but also a dangerous fiddling with the numb minds of the American and international societies, who may not know better than to listen to their politicians.
Another blow came, again unsurprisingly, from the infamous (e.g. for his support of the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq) Member of the British Parliament, George Galloway, defending Julian Assange on a video podcast. This defence alone would be shameful on its own, as I’ve tried to explain above, but what is truly striking about this incident is Mr. Galloway’s argument that even if the allegations against Mr. Assange were true they would not constitute rape. Not only is it legally vacuous (The English courts ruled that the allegations would constitute rape also under the English law, twice: once by The Magistrate’s Court and also by The High Court.), but above all else morally revolting. The idea that sexual consent extended once holds ad infinitum is absurd, and the resulting relativisation of rape is positively immoral and dangerous, similarly to the complementary actions of Mr. Akin.
This may lead not only to a skewed sense of morality in people listening to individuals such as Mr. Galloway and Mr. Akin, which would be reason enough to oppose their fatuity, but also conceivably to an increase in the incidents of rape, as some of the people listening to them may be convinced by such public speeches that their potential actions, earlier stopped by the correct assumption of their wickedness, would no longer constitute a “legitimate rape” or rape at all in their minds. The numbness of modern society has to be forcefully opposed and individuals promoting the trivialisation of rape must be shamed and removed from their offices during the next elections, if not sooner. History provides enough examples of what happens when such immorality is allowed to penetrate society, and in these horrors we should be able to find motivation for a moral awakening, as the death of feeling slowly brings forth monsters.
This essay originally appeared in The Firebrand Magazine.