Pointing and Patriarchy
The process of 'engendering '--which in English means something like 'bringing into reality'--is itself an act of giftgiving prior to gender. The gift is the living child her/him self. Then the boy child is given 'away' because he receives what seems to be a material 'gift,' which is not given to girls--by which greater value is given to him. The 'gift' that privileges its possessor from the beginning is the penis. Rereading Freud's Oedipal stage from the point of view of the gift paradigm would allow this interpretation. But the child is not adapted to creatively 'receive' his social superiority at such an early age. Many questions about it must come to his mind, as Freud speculated.
The logical possibilities involved in this 'gift' and its source are all problematical. If it came from the mother, she gave what she did not have, or she gave up her own. If it came from the father, he gave what he did not lose. Since the penis is the 'property' that removes the child from the category of his giftgiving mother, he gives up a lot for it (he gives up his human giftgiving potential).
In fact, it is his ongoing experience of nurturing that gives a content to whatever categories the boy may be forming, including his own identity. Telling him that he belongs to a gender category which does not nurture defines him as outside of the life process he is experiencing. Definitions and models of masculinity are attempts to give the male gender category a content when, outside nurturing, there is little content to be had. The very structure of the definition and of naming become the backbone of the masculated identity as a social ideal.
There are, of course, many individual variations to this story, and fortunately,
things are changing. Now because of
feminism, many men have chosen to take part in child care. Stronger and more conscious mothers, less emphasis on masculinity in some families, and more nurturing male role-models are changing the education of children in the US and elsewhere. The legacy of masculation in the society is great, however, and continues to be played out in social structures and rebroadcast back into the family. Themes of male violence and domination pervade our imagination on television, in films and in reality. Crimes of rape, battery and murder continue to be perpetrated against women and children. Secret horrors are perpetrated beneath benign surfaces. 'Perfect' fathers rape and torture their children at home. The School of the Americas trains foreign soldiers in torture and fascism. The CIA destabilizes countries through deniable bribery, torture and murder. Endemic poverty, resulting in the death of millions, continues to be created by giving to the few. Wars continue to be fought, devastating human lives throughout the globe. The environment is degraded daily by the long-term pollution created by business and war.
Whatever the less masculated exceptions at the individual level, the great social mechanism of patriarchy is hurting everyone and must be radically changed. It is towards this mechanism that women and their allies among caring men must turn their attention. We all have to understand how the mechanism works in order to be able to change it successfully. And in order to understand it we must look at it, though the view may cause us some discomfort. Otherwise, even with the greatest good will, we risk recreating its parts and structures. For example, even conscious men may unwittingly propose the one-many relation that is so deeply etched in our society. By taking the place of women as models, they recreate the structure of the problem. Women, by allowing their place to be taken, comply once more.
Icon and Index1
Years ago, when I was thinking about the one-many
concept structure, I came in contact with the work of Tran Duc
Thao,2 a Vietnamese philosopher who believed that language derived
from the gesture of pointing. Applying it to the issues I was
dealing with, I made a discovery of the obvious. I realized that pointing
is a one-many gesture, and that it foregrounds one item of a
kind, the index finger, while backgrounding others of the same
1Semioticians distinguish among three kinds of signs: icons correspond to their object through isomorphism, or similarity; indexes incur a relation of dependency between the sign and its object; symbols refer to their objects by rules and associations of ideas. The Linguistics Encyclopedia, Kirsten Malmkjaer, editor, London: Routledge,
1991, p. 400.
2Tran duc Thao, Recherches sur l'Origine du Langage et de la
Conscience, Paris: Editions Sociales, 1973.
The gesture has two functions; it incites us both to pick out something from a background of other things and to see it as potentially namable or shareable, as one of a kind of thing. The index elicits an external one-many relation in a sort of 'this is here--and there' projection of its own image. (See Figure 24.) The foregrounding of something on the external is confirmed by becoming shareable (and understandable) as a relation between one item and others of the same kind, and one item and a background. However, it is also shareable because we are each giving our attention to the same thing. There is a sort of projection of the one-many icon onto the world beyond the hand--almost as if the item that was pointed at was pointing back. I thought of Michelangelo's God and Adam. (See Figure 25.)
This led me also to speculate that we identify the penis with the index finger, making it appear as another index itself. We give the boy the name 'male' because he has this index and women, including the mother, do not. We say he is part of that category, because he is like the father, or he has that index, like the father. Perhaps another reason for phallic supremacy is that we (mistakenly) attribute the characteristics of the index to the penis. If the child's penis is indicated as an item, pointed at as a pointer, it may appear to be a sample, already in a one-many relation with other items of the same kind.
Of course, the father's is different, and much larger than his--so that, in comparison, it would have to be the sample and the child's one of the items in the series. The relation among penises then becomes a competitive relation among sample pointers or indexes--those things which can indicate other samples, making 'reality' in their image.
If we add to this the fact that the phallus is socially invested with superiority as the mark of the privileged category 'male,' we can see how the similarity between the father's genitals and the boy's have a great deal of significance. The index finger, the penis and the concept sample (especially the sample of 'male' and of 'mankind') are collapsed into each other. Too much value is given to similarity, and especially to similarity to the father, because the instrument for picking out samples--the index, which is an icon of its own activity--is identified with the 'mark' that picks out males from a background of women.
The penis thus becomes the icon of the index and of
the sample. As icon of the sample as such, it can generalize to be
icon of any sample, and with it of the concept
itself.3 While there is already a one-many relation among the fingers of the hand, this
is not the case with the penis. The individual's member is
3Though its phallic character is somewhat disguised, the black monolith in
2001: A Space Odyssey seems to me to be an icon of the 'sample,' and the far-reaching
effects the monolith had in the movie are comparable to the effects produced by
human contact with our own phallically-invested concept-forming cognitive processes.
The development of tools, armaments and space ships may indeed be due to our
over-use of this phallic concept 'sample.' The phallic investment of the 'sample' is
artificial and alien, coming from the imposition of gender through masculation. We
can imagine a non-competitive, nurturing, non-phallic technology based on a
mother-or breast-invested 'sample' (flying saucers?). Or perhaps we could simply divest
sexually from our 'samples' altogether.
Actually, the sample is falsely invested with superiority. In Vigotsky's experiment, any member of the category could be used as 'sample.' The polarity that is established for the concept is simply functional to finding the 'common quality,' and the sample must be similar to the other items for that purpose, not superior to them.
A contradiction occurs when in sex men point this pointer at women's 'lack' of the pointer, and it becomes larger in the erection. 'Having' becomes identified with having the penis and the pointer, while 'lacking' becomes identified with lacking the penis, exclusion from the category of 'samples,' and (almost) an inability to reason conceptually (lacking the sample pointer perhaps appears to imply that we cannot point out 'samples').4 Both conditions become eroticized for men, who act out their masculated gender role in a scenario of over-taking and giving-way.5
Missing the Point
If women are seen as lacking the penis pointer, they
would seem to be non-verbal or pre-verbal, pre-conceptual, without
the (body) concept sample, and thus wordless as well. Still, they
can be related to the penis as many to one, as in the case of
Don Juan, who has to point out how many he has 'had.' If women are
pre-verbal (point-less), perhaps they are just the purveyors
4Having the pointer, which corresponds to the index and can increase, gives
a physical and psychological basis for an obsession with measurement and
quantification and the emphasis on the question of quantitative equality and inequality.
5Male pleasure thus reinforces the kind of thinking involved in the definition and the definition of gender as played out in the male dominant sex act. (This emphasis was suggested by Susan Bright.) The fact that not all sexuality functions in this way provides hope for liberation from masculation, or at least humanizes it.
She can relate herself as thing to word, by giving to the male and by standing out, drawing attention, making him point at her. Or as his 'property,' she can point him out as sample thing and privileged 'one.' Her beauty, which makes other men point at her, points him out as important, because he 'has' her. The appearance of being pre-verbal is important because it makes giftgiving appear to be only infantile ('effete'). Is this an element in men's sexual abuse of children? And think of Marilyn Monroe's baby face.
The equation between the penis and the index finger would contribute to convincing us that men are the 'samples' of the 'human' concept and that women cannot be 'samples' because we are lacking that pointer. The penis is really not an index, however, and is not necessary for conceptual thinking. The index finger does a much better job because it is a better icon, since the other items of the series, the fingers, are part of the same hand and are drawn back in order to allow the index to point. In much the same way we background other items in our surroundings and other items of the series. Moreover, the index is directed by the will.
Making the penis relative to other people's penises, as series or as sample, places one's own item in contrast and competition with those of others beyond oneself. (See Figure 27.) Since this is the situation for others as well, and since there is a gender mandate to be the sample, others of that kind, members of that class, may appear to be dangerous and threaten to hurt or castrate the boy child, so as to eliminate him from competition. Perhaps this is what appears to have happened to females.
Knives, arrows, guns, and other death-dealing phallic symbols have the ability to eliminate competitors for sample status. If we look at how guns are made, we can see that the index pulls back to pull the trigger, becoming for a moment one of the backgrounded many fingers of the hand of the marksman, and allowing the phallic gun with its lethal index-projectile to take its place, indicating the death of the other, speaking the loud 'word' which, like the naming of gender, places the other into the alien non-communicating and non-pointing category of the dead. I have always wondered about the double meaning of the word 'arms.' Now I can see that 'arms' are those things that end in deadly pointers, but in our denial we obediently do not get the point.
The 'Heil Hitler' salute is perhaps the negative apotheosis
of the relation between the one ('superior') sample penis and
the many. Hitler used that 'mark' to manipulate the one-many
process making himself into the self-styled 'sample'of the
category 'German'or 'Aryan.' He did this to unite the many to
obliterate other human categories, in an attempt to become the concept sample for the human race. (See Figure 28.)
The raised clenched fist perhaps shows the unity of the many--but I still read it as a penis symbol. The jabbing pointed finger is authoritarian, accusatory. Indeed, it has a lot in common with the violent penis, penetrating the space of the 'other.' (See Figure 29.) Instead, perhaps we could simply use our pointing index fingers to show that we are all humans able to single out one finger from the others, and to identify one of a kind as a sample outside ourselves--united as a species in our ability to know, to know together, and to share our perceptions and our gifts.
Breasts are actually formed in two points equal to each
other in the same person, like our own two hands, or two
pointing fingers--and both of them point towards others to give milk.
The image of two equal giving pointers is a powerful archetype
for society. Perhaps passing through the intermediate stage of our
two index fingers, the two points have been transposed
and transformed into symbolic points, some of which are definitely
less benign. The symbol of horns has long been sacred, and
could represent two equal (and dangerous) symbolic penises on the
head of the bull, and equally (thus finally resolving the difference
of gender) on the head of the cow. Unfortunately, horns
point outwards to harm. Wings on both male and female birds might
also be seen as symbolic transpositions of equality. The beak is
Perhaps these and other syncretic symbols helped to ease the anxieties of ancient children, who may have been as damaged by masculation then as we are now. Women's breasts point towards others, to nurture, while masculated men's penises point towards others to find or impose their own identity. They measure themselves against others to find their equality, or their superiority as 'more.' Becoming the sample, they penetrate for their own aggrandizement, sometimes to cause pleasure to the other, but sometimes violently, to cause pain, or symbolically as guns and missiles, to kill.
Real giving from the point is milk from the nipple, the first visual, kinesthetic and tactile (as well as gustatory and olfactory) foregrounding and backgrounding experience of the child. Not only is the nipple erectile, but the milk actually comes from it. Our attention does not flow from our index finger. We have invented pens, from which ink flows to write words, so that not just the sample things are visible out there on the external with object constancy but also sample words.6
The pointing finger participates in several modes of signification at the same time. It is the prototypical 'index' and is a physical 'icon' of the one-many concept on the plane of metaphor, repeating in the human body a distinction that is also being made in the external world. Then the pointing finger can actually be used to touch the object of attention, setting up potential contiguity with the object, thus creating a situation of metonymy.7
6In fact, the type-token distinction dear to linguists and philosophers may be seen as deriving from the fact that every present voiced word is a 'sample' of the absent words of the same kind. Moreover each time we look at a written word it is a 'sample'which remains constant on the external. Thus (like an index or a phallus), the 'token'properly just one of the manywould be a 'sample' already, and we would take it as standing for an abstract group or type. Then we generalize to other things which, because of their materiality, may actually be present as relative items together with the item taken as equivalent and 'sample.' The type then (because we are seeing all the instances as samples) seems to be an abstract category, which we may impute to some kind of brain pattern or activity (shifting levels there, too).
7The plane of metaphor functions according to similarity and substitution, while
the plane of metonymy functions through contiguity (serving as the context for
something else). See Roman Jakobson's discussion of this basic distinction,
op. cit., Ch. 7, "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances."
However, the shift into exchange substitutes the logic of substitution for the logic of giftgiving as a whole. The shift from icon to index, from metaphor to metonymy, and from representation to implementation of the concept with the potential of actually touching the external sample (or beckoning it to come forward) is not a complete shift into the logic of substitution. The iconic re-presentation of the concept by the one-many relation of the fingers does not replace the sample it points at, but only serves to foreground it for the moment.8 It only adds another dimension to the plane of giftgiving and linguistic communication, and it often serves both of them.
Verbal and Non-Verbal Pointers
The foregrounding and backgrounding activity of nursing at the breast is repeated with the second breast, as well as again and again in time. Perhaps the two nurturing points of the breasts serve as an early icon for the communicative character of the repetition of sounds. The breasts are two identifiable material gift sources which are part of the body of the mother. Then the early word 'Mama'is used for the mother as a whole as 'Papa' for the father as a whole. For babies who are not breast-fed baby bottles may be similarlythough not as poeticallyiconic.
The words 'Mama' and 'Papa' occur in many languages,
as Roman Jakobson says in a famous essay, "Why 'Mama'
and 'Papa.'"9 Jakobson explains the fact that the consonants used
8The index is 'one,' like money, which 'points' at each thing as one of a kind and gives it the price of that kind on the market.
9In Roman Jakobson, Ibid., Ch. 19.
We could look at the repetition of sounds within a word as an icon of the repeatability of the word. That is, the word 'Mama' in its different instances contains in itself an example of the fact that the things which are sounds can be similar to each other and that they are important for that reason. (Things which are gifts can also be important because of their repeatability.) The same relation of similarity that exists between 'Ma' and 'Ma' exists between the whole word 'Mama' and other instances of the whole word 'Mama.' The word 'Ma-ma' is like one suitcase that contains two suitcases--proving in itself that the larger suitcase is not unique: there are indeed other objects of the same kind. Like the bottle Alice found in Wonderland, which had 'Drink me' written on it, the word 'Mama' implies 'Repeat me.' (See Figure 30.)
Like the index, 'Ma-ma' and 'Pa-pa' change modes. There is
a shift from inside the word 'Ma-ma' to outside it in its
other instances. An inductive leap must be made in order to
consider the different events which are different instances of a word,
'one thing' which is repeated. The internal repetitions of 'Mama'
and 'Papa' support this leap. The very repeatability of
'Ma-ma' corresponds to the child's developing sense of object
constancy, the expectation that the experience of the mother is
repeatable, and that she continues to exist in her absence. The word is
always available to be spoken, and the mother is available to
experience somewhere. Then there is another shift from icon to index:
the icon of repeatability in 'Ma-ma' becomes index of the mother, and actually calls her, makes her point at it and the child by coming. The child becomes her destination, the destination of her 'sample!'
There are other examples of the use of repetitions. Many gestures contain them, for example, nodding or shaking one's headwhich makes gestures similar to children's early words. Some languages use the repetition of a syllable in the words which stand for 'the people' (and 'peo-ple' itself is an example)--for example 'Shoshone' or 'Mau mau.' It is as if the words themselves were saying, "This is a group of beings for whom repetitions have a value." Onomatopoetic words for animal sounds, such as 'bow wow' for dogs or 'peep peep' for chickens, also contain repetitions. Maybe children like them so much because it seems that the baby animals are also saying their first words.
The self-referential, internally repetitive character of
'Mama' and 'Papa' provides a sort of clue, a minimum instruction
booklet for language learning. The relation internal to the word is
iconic with the relation external to the word, with respect to its
other instances, and with implications regarding the constancy
Moreover, both the child's words and the pointing gesture take place in a context of others, so that 'Mama' is heard and used by others as repeatable, and the 'same thing.' The gesture of pointing also functions for others as an indication for picking out something from a background. As the child grows, the fact that there is a repeatable sound similarity that can be given and received for something draws her attention to an experience, makes it 'come forward' (point back). It is an indication of an importance, an attribution of value. The equality of the sounds may seem to be important on its own but actually derives its importance from the fact that we use the repeatable sounds as substitute gifts. The changes of planes from internal to external and from icon to index for the gesture or the word are also given value by the fact that others use them in the same way.
Money repeats the icon-index shift of the pointing finger. It is like the finger, in that it is an icon of the one-many relation, though at a much more complex level. It is the general equivalent, the one commodity which stands for all the others.10 And it too shifts into action, creating contiguity by actually going to the other person, enacting substitution by replacing her product. Money is also like the word in its repeatability and present singularity. Like a word, it can be many places at the same time. Each 'denomination' is both one thing and many. As I write this sentence, I pick up a US coin to look at it again and see the words written on it: E pluribus unum: out of many, one.
Passages to other levels are significant. Perhaps stairs are their embodiment, and our own repeated stair step dream action in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep repeats shifts of 'levels.'
10Money alters the neutrality of the equation between itself and commodities
because it is a constant standard. Similarly the equation between men and women is
not neutral because men are the standard.
The visitor from outer space could make a collection of commonplace artifacts by which to understand our strange society. Our clocks are made with two or three indexes pointing out different sized units of time. The index-knife is helped by the little hand of supporting fingers, which is the fork. Then there are the scythe, the pitchfork, and the hoe, all variations on the theme, and we can actually look through the index in the telescope and microscope. Phallic symbols all have a resonance with the index, and it is hard to tell which is which. For example, the 'rod' the child is beaten with is a phallic over-taker and supposedly points out to him or her what not to do.
It is interesting to look at the mechanisms of various kinds of weapons as transpositions of the gesture of pointing. For example, in the bow and arrow one hand serves metaphorically as the fingers, drawing back the bowstring, then letting the arrow fly, as a transposed index, which points out the sample in the world beyond the hands, and actually becomes contiguous to it. . . penetrating it, to kill. (The target, with its bull's eye, looks like a two-dimensional breast 'pointing back.') Pulling the trigger of a gun brings the index back to the group of the other fingers, backgrounds it, while foregrounding another index, the gun barrel, and a transposed index, the bullet.
By pointing, we single out something on the external as an individual or as one of a kind. The fingers can be looked at in this way as well, each individually or as one of the fingers of the hand. In counting on our fingers, we can raise them one by one or point at them one by one with the index of the other hand. (See Fig. 31.)
Shifting into Context
Sometimes the gesture of pointing is seen as deriving from
an attempt to grasp, but grasping can be seen as part of a giving
and receiving interaction. The other person's point of view
as potential giver or receiver is available for us to take and
the object pointed at becomes something which can potentially
be given and received or related to words which can be given
and received. It stands out, discontinuous from its background, and
its singularity or plurality may well become relevant to the
giver's gesture as well as to the receiver's
grasp.11 The gesture of
11When comparing our shared reality with what can be seen with the instruments of technology, we can see that atoms are not gifts but collections of points. Rearranging atoms through nanotechnology could create a situation of abundance whereby all needs could be effortlessly satisfied by all. Giving material gifts would become as easy as communicating through language. Unfortunately, the artificial needs created by masculation make the ease of manipulating atoms extremely dangerous. Weapons satisfying the needs of masculation could be made as easily as bread. In Nano, The Emerging Science of Nanotechnology, New York, Little, Brown and Co., 1995, Ed Regis depicts individual masculated uses: "You'd have your gigantically overbuilt human bodies, your four-wheel-drive humanoids with their jacked-up muscles, their oversize penises, and God only knew what else," p. 18. A woman-based gift economy is necessary for the human use of nanotechnology.
Pointing is a many-layered sign. It is self-assertive in its capacity to be other-referential. The index finger is both a re-presentation and an active implementer of concepts, which it does as a sample pointing out samples (ones). Thus pointing may sometimes appear to be the initial moment and motivation of the gift, creating the illusion that the gift is an outcome or offshoot of a gesture of self-expression rather than the result of a motion towards the needs of the other. For example, we may believe that self-assertion and its products are the basis of gifts which are there to 'take' through our own self-assertion, rather than that they are the result of someone's, or the collective's, need-directed work. We attribute value to the self-reflecting moment and shift of levels in the pointing person's process.12
The problem of the misidentified source which arises
with masculation permeates all our interpersonal relations. Here
the transfer of attention from one mode to another, from icon
to action, metaphor to metonomy may seem to
'automatically' increase something's use value for us. The increase in
usefulness actually occurs because the gesture brings in others on
another plane, however. In this, pointing is similar to exchange, and
to the objectified definition where there seems to be a transfer
of meaning or value from one term to the other without
human actors. Instead, in exchange and in definition, a material or
a communicative need is being satisfied by someone with the
kind of thing others use for that purpose in the
12By analogy we may believe that the male sex act with its shifts of levels, fore-groundings and back-groundings, is the source of children who are merely the consequences of men's process of 'self-assertion.'
13For example, bread is the material thing we and others use to satisfy the
culturally specific material need for bread, and 'bread' is the word we and others usually use
to satisfy the communicative need regarding bread among speakers of English.
Certain quantities of money constituting its collectively identified price are exchanged
for bread, satisfying the culturally specific economic distorted co-municative need for
the means of exchange, regarding bread.
The self-similarity of one's own gesture is reinforced by the similarity of others' gestures to it. The shifting of modes of foregrounding, from icon to index, both of which present the one-many structure, is repeated by a shift from re-presentation to implementation of the concept relation, and from the personal onto the interpersonal plane, where others repeat it as well. That is, one's own pointing finger stands for and together with everyone else's pointing fingers which, perhaps together with all the fingers that are not pointing (the rest of the fingers in the hands) function as many regarding that one. This is seen when the fact that others are also pointing is recognized. Everything else that could be pointed at as a topic is also potentially related to the present topic and the finger. The self-similarity and the shift may appear to be the source of new value, but value actually arises because others are already using pointing, attributing value individually and collectively.
Self-similarity with the index is suggested also in the seriality of words, each of which is foregrounded for a moment in the present, to be superseded by another and another. (And each written sentence ends pointedly with a period.) Each word is also in a 'one many' exclusive relation with all the others it is not. It maintains its distinctive character as opposed to the other words in the sentence--which said, also cooperate and give to each other. The relations external to a word are similar to the relations external to the pointing finger. Similar words or gestures are said or done by others, under their own volition. We point at something and others can also point at it. We say something, and others can use the same words, to which similar things are related.
The community-forming giftgiving way does not
consist primarily in the shifting of levels but in using the shifts,
the levels, the originals and/or substitutes for the common
satisfaction of needs. The mechanism is interesting: the
icon-index mechanism is self-similar with the concept structure at a
Pointing, like the use of a word, creates a mutually inclusive relation with others regarding (literally) something. We are in a context; there are others 'out there' who can point and respond to our gestures, give to and receive from us through ostension. The communicative process passes through a self-similar moment and brings about a higher level of cooperation.
The Point of the Ego
I believe that consciousness itself derives in part from the interplay of different levels of cooperation. However, in patriarchy we not only become conscious but we also form the masculated ego-consciousness as follows:
When we (or others) attribute a sample character to ourselves, making ourselves the point, just as we would to something in the external world, we also become our own topic, the thing 'pointing back.' This self-referentiality ties the knot, shuts the door, blocks the view of its antecedents, reflects. It takes the place of the other, interrupting the other-oriented flow. We give credence to this shut mirror-door (it seems to be a mirror not only because we seem to see our selves but also because others are engaging in self-referentiality too). We believe in our own presence to ourselves, as if it were the source of ourselves. We create from it a dominating ego, as a sample against which we can compare the various moments of ourselves (our internal many) and others more or less like us externally. We nurture this moment of internal equivalence which is self-similar with the other internal and external enactments of the masculation process.
The result of finding a gender identity through
becoming relative to the father as equivalent is reinforced by replaying
the over-taking equation back into the individual
self-referentiality.1 Then instead of nurturing others,
we value equivalence over nurturing even internally. This
eventually develops into valuing being over giving, abstract over
concrete, general over particular--though of course these are not
all concomitant. Instead, the true continuing source of our selves
is interactive and comes from our other-orientation--the
1In fact, the result is the focus, the 'sample' self, the one. Once we begin to count, we require a context of 'ones.' Saying one 'one,' two 'ones,' etc. and one times 'one' equals 'one,' probably requires a knowledge of other 'ones,' from some other context.
People with masculated egos verbalize, like everyone else, creating their linguistically mediated consciousnesses. The self-referential ego mirror becomes the over-taking speaking subject, but this is not a social or psychological necessity. We can have linguistic mediation, interaction with others, development of the self without the dominating ego mirror--which is 1 = 1 = 1, repeating the content of the hall-of-mirrors of the equation. In fact, many women feel ill at ease in our individualistic capitalistic society because we usually do not have this kind of ego.2 Many men are also uncomfortable because, in spite of the pressures of masculation, they have maintained a connection with the mothering model.
Free (Masculated) Will
The self-similarity of every 'one' with the index occurs
also because we can actively implement the indication,
moving towards the sample, like the finger. From the moment in
which we focus ourselves in a self-similar way, backgrounding some
parts of ourselves, making ourselves internally one-many, we
can initiate action towards a goal, a topic, a destination which
we have singled out. We often call this 'will.' However, at that
point we are usually not taking into account the giftgiving
or communicative impulse on the other side of the ego
mirror-door. The giftgiving motivation appears to be part of the many--part
of all the rest of the contents of our consciousness we are
not attending to. We may or may not let our e-motions, our
other-oriented impulses, get through the door to cause us to ignore
2Perhaps intuiting the role the definition has for the male identity, we hang on men's words, hoping they will tell us we are 'beautiful,' 'intelligent,' 'a good wife.' In this way, we almost create a self-referential ego in their image.
We calculate, "What is best for me?" The need for this filter has been created by the competitive context of patriarchy. We also need to know 'who we are' for the purposes of survival.3 We have to be able to say what gender, class, race, religion, sexuality we are so, knowing our definition, we know our place in the hierarchy and the rules that apply to us--how to survive in the system, be less vulnerable. The self-similarity that occurs at different levels allows us to say, "This is like me; this is not like me," making ourselves again according to the masculated images in different areas of life. The ego in relation to the subconscious is also a kind of concept sample with the resonances this has on the external, from family to government, which are also made in that image. Women's experience is usually somewhat different from men's because we are defined by men and when the man-word takes our place in marriage, we become the sample 'thing' whose place is taken by the 'word.' We 'know' our place in the system is not to be on top.
We could look at the ego with its will as another icon of the index, literally moving the body towards its object or destination (with other aspects of the self held back). But when we do caring, need-satisfying work, our behavior re-aligns with our motivation 'behind the mirror-door.' When we engage in over-taking, ego-enhancing, other-denying (exchange) behavior, we expand only the self-similar moment, the mirror, recalling the moment of comparison in the concept. The values of the masculated ego filter out giftgiving behavior.
There are of course variations on this
self-replicating situation. Some women find that it is possible to have
an other-oriented ego which can create self-preservation. It is
3The patriarchal investment of the sample position invests the ego sample with over-taking when it wouldn't be doing it on its own. Also, males see themselves as 'ones' because they are giving up giftgiving and other-orientation, for self-referentiality. I think the experience of the ego is 'anchored' in the body much as Neuro-Linguistic Programming theorists say other types of experiences are anchored.
In the couple, men traditionally take on the role of the ego, women the role of the nurturer, the many, the subconscious. The person who has been discredited, even abandoned, as not-like (not similarly self-similar) returns as the nurturer of the self-similar (male) standard. Her giftgiving way is filtered out of the public arena and focused in the family. Her energy nurtures and upholds the filter, the public arena and those who succeed in it.
The Salary and the Ego
Ego consciousness itself is a kind of exchange-and-masculation-based filter mediating between the ways of giftgiving and of exchange. Property ownership also filters out giftgiving, but women's consciousness is usually socialized to continue giftgiving. Participation in the labor market allows a reconciliation of the two modes after the fact. The worker supports a family by giving to it from the 'property' of his/her monetary definition--the salary. The market is based upon masculation, and its process is therefore more attuned to those who have experienced that process as boy children.
For women, the market is an external context in which they can of course succeed, but it does not resonate with their original categorization. Earning a salary and supporting a family resolve psychological conflicts which a woman does not originally have, so it does not have the same effect for her. The advantage for her is that participating in the market can resolve the practical problem of the 'have-not' status, and it allows some women access to privileged categories constructed by patriarchy.
The houses a person helps to build as a construction worker take the place of the gifts of nature and become the property of someone. However, the worker's monetary 'name' often does not give him/her enough money to buy them. His/her 'giving' to the community (as exchange) takes the place of individual other-oriented giving and creating community with his/her family. The 'money-word,' $, takes the place of that act of substitution.
Males or females who give their salary to the family are like the person who gives the name 'male,' the name that privileges the boy and makes others give to him. But the boy receives the 'name' because he has the 'mark,' like the price tag. When a man supports his wife and family with his salary, he is giving her the 'name' even though she doesn't have the 'mark.' When she produces a son, however, her lack is resolved. She seems to merit her husband's sharing of his money name by bearing a son.
The relation between women's free labor in the home and
the husbands' salary is influenced by this transposition of the
gender definition and is not identical to exchange. He gives her part of
his money-name, while she continues to give free caring labor which
is not defined by money or quantitatively assessed. His salary is
the re-incarnated word with which in scarcity she can buy the
means of nurturing, so that she can continue to do free giving with all
its qualitative variations. (It is almost as if she were made
dependent upon his masculation, his gender term, for the means
of nurturing--her own breasts being the prime example of
All of this has now been reworked by the entry of women into the labor force and single parenting. Women themselves work for the money name and supply the means of nurturing for their children. Thus it is clear that money is only a 'word,' a trans-lated gender term, which anyone can potentially acquire. Like the gender term, it is not biologically but socially based. Earning a living empowers some women by making their survival less tentative and dependent on a male's earning power. However, the whole exchange economy is a product of masculation and necessarily makes most people into 'have-nots.' The economic masculation of some women will not solve the general problems caused by psychological and economic masculation of the society.
(Hetero) Sexuality and Killing
Gender and its result, male (dominance)-based-heterosexual sexuality, over-take nurturing as the model for both sexes--fitting in with language which takes the place of material co-munication. Just mentioning the gender of the child seems to tell us that gender (i.e., difference from or similarity to the mother), and eventually sexuality, is more important than nurturing. The boy's physio-cultural difference from her is more important than her nurturing way. Similarly, killing with a phallic index symbol, which can be seen as transposed (hetero) sexuality, is more important than nurturing. The animal or person submits and becomes passive to the will of the shooter.
However, the animal that is killed by the
over-taking phallic index can then be used for nurturing: like the
woman who is dominated, over-taken, upon whom her dominator
can become parasitic. Hunting itself is like exchange because
the object, the receiver of the 'indication,' is transformed and
re-categorized. It becomes the property of the hunter,
separated from its will, like the product which is separated from its
owner in exchange (or the child from the mother by his
Post-masculated nurturing usually requires re-cognition (another look-alike of exchange). Women (and less powerful men) nurture the dominator, and he works through the very mechanism of masculation to nurturing of a sort, over-taking and/or 'contributing' in that strange way. Male consciousness allows post-masculated giftgiving instead of non-masculated giving. The 'mark' is like a case ending in language, which shows this is his role. He has that 'case marker' (or 'tag'), and so can traditionally only give in specific socially determined de-personalized ways, which involve alienating the product, giving to the community, to others in general, in exchange for the 'money name' by which he can become a privileged receiver. It is this strange model the boy has to imitate.
Money, too, can be seen as a collection of quantitative case tags. As legal 'tend-er,' the tags say 'pay to bearer.' Like a transformation from active to passive, the price tag and the male 'mark' also indicate that their bearers must be treated as the receivers of specific gifts. Then the more possessions or money, the more case tags a man 'owns,' the more he controls and the more he 'deserves' to receive.
The dominated woman gives up giving sexually to
anyone other than her husband, and materially to anyone other than
him and her children. The shift of modes from gift to exchange,
from maternal to post-masculated giving, becomes identified with
the mark of the male. The icon of the sample shifts to
and implements over-taking. And the penis itself changes,
becoming erect. It does not have a self-similarity like the hand, a
repetition of the relation of the sample to relative items in itself, so it has
to find its identity as 'one-to-many' outside in a relation
of competition with other males' penises for superiority. Then
all men are considered 'ones' with relation to women (who do
have the 'mark') as many, and they practice domination upon them to prove their superiority.
The index precedes the penis as an instrument of both sexual and non-sexual knowledge and, in fact, the penis is not necessary for identifying anything. The (false after all) identification of penis and index has perhaps been turned around so that the index appears to be a detached penis, which then may be transposed to become the bullet or the arrow. Also, saying it makes it so in masculation and in shooting. "It's a boy" and "Bang, bang, you're dead" have similarly alienating effects. By identifying something as one of a kind, you may exclude its other possibilities as an individual constant object. Shooting is made in the image of masculation.
We point the finger, picking out or indicating a
sample object; then we speak the word, naming it, moving from
non-verbal to verbal. The explosion accompanies the contiguity of
the transposed index with the object which it penetrates. We
move from the index concept icon (plus the concept-action of
singling out) to the word. (See Figure 32.) The penetration of the
other by the bullet-'gift' is really a service to the ego of the
'giver'-shooter. Shooting reinforces the exchange logic while the
violent penetration of the body (and heart) of the other recalls
and reinforces rape. The gun and the penis both function as 'ones'
to allow their bearer to achieve privileged 'one' status.
When we point at animals or people with a gun to kill, we must hold back our giftgiving impulses towards them, making them samples which will become dead objects--the animal useful as food or the person as elimination of danger or competition. We steel our will internally against other-orientation or giftgiving (poor rabbit) then single them out externally, taking life's gifts away from them, making them passive things. The internal mechanism of singling out, at the same time setting aside giftgiving, is like the mechanism inside the gun. With our index finger, we pull back the trigger-index; the hammer-index falls upon the bullet-index, making its charge explode and go forward through the phallic-index-gun barrel. The bullet-index hits the animal's or person's heart, stopping his/her internal giftgiving, transforming him/her into an object in our possession.
The explosion in the chamber of the gun matches
the explosion in the chamber of the heart of the one who is
killed, and also in the heart and mind of the killer, or perhaps in
his penis, where the pointing and the over-taking analogously
make something come explosively from the sample pointer.
Masculated will = penis = gun, and there are economic analogies as well.
It takes an internal exclusion of giftgiving to create an
external exclusion of giftgiving in the body of another, through
The spear or gun or bow and arrow point out and kill. The sharper focus backgrounds the life of the animal, giving value not to it but to the life of the pointer and the concurrent death of the animal. Then the prey becomes a gift of food. So hunting is a close analogy to pointing for communication because the killed animal becomes shareable, a gift, like the item that is pointed out. Similarly, the death of the enemy killed by pointing knives, spears, guns and missiles becomes a shareable gift for individuals, gangs, the army and the Patria.
This blood-soaked gift, our common ground, is divided into our properties which we again defend from one another with guns and knives. Whole armies point at one another, their technology made in the image of the reified pointers which show that they are in the superior category, abolishing the 'other.' In years of international tension, missile silos dot the landscape and missile-bearing trucks circulate, ready to raise their pointers and shoot their warheads at the enemy. From the knife to the gun to the nuclear missile, from the armed individual to the armed forces, the reiteration of the definition and the mark of 'male' transform our civilization into an immense fractal pattern consisting of self-similar images of masculation at different scales. The pattern self-validates and drains the energy of everyone and the planet into its agendas, sacrificing millions of human lives. However we may color and disguise the pattern, it is an ugly picture.
In ancient days the hunter only transformed the animal
into food, property, a gift. A common attention circle, a circle
of hunters, a council fire, a cook fire, a stove, a stage, accepted
the gift. The topic--the fire, the food, the nurturing
gift--became the common focus and the 'thing' related to a word,
the repeatable sample. The gatherers and farmers also
brought together their harvests. The topic was gathered using gifts of
the past, past topics, past gatherings and council fires,
individual points of view together. We are the others who the gifts of
Generations are like water flowing down a cliff, making pools, then overflowing and going on and making more pools. The common focus is a gift. In other words, an 'extra' that comes to us in the present and the future is that other people from the past can do it too, sit in the circle with us as we can with those of the future. 'One-many' dominance does not contribute a topic or a gift for others in the future because the goods it provides are not shareable, since they are monopolized by the one or used for constraint. The 'many' all give to the 'one,' not to each other.
Giftgiving Versus the Hall-of-Mirrors
Giftgiving is often discredited as crazy because it threatens to interrupt the fractal hall-of-mirrors. Common attention to others makes the self-similarity of the ego unnecessary, irrelevant. In fact, giftgiving is enhanced by the diversity of the others to whom one gives (among other things because their needs are different from the giver's and thus occasion growth and variety, not competition). Because giftgiving threatens the economic exchange paradigm and its ego structure, we exclude it from consciousness and force its female practicers into isolation, though they are legion, in the family.
There, they can be counted on to ensure the maintenance of most of the children in spite of numerous and overwhelming difficulties caused by scarcity. As isolated givers, mothers often endanger their own survival by giving too much in a localized way without being able to change the social structures. The 'catch-22' here is that they cannot change the social structures because giftgiving is not recognized as a viable alternative, and they cannot recognize its real viability until they change the social structures.
Nevertheless, because giftgiving threatens exchange, other seemingly benign obstacles are put in its path. For example, 'humility' is its necessary virtue (don't brag about it)--a fact which keeps giftgivers from asserting themselves as models. A man setting boundaries, protecting 'his' woman, is really protecting his giftgiver, for himself, against her giving to other males. The internal structure of the ego-oriented masculated male is the interpersonal structure in the traditional couple. Patriarchal family values assert the right of dominating parasites to their giftgiving hosts. The phallus as the index invests the masculated male (or his ego consciousness or will) as index, so that he tends towards over-taking and domination of giftgiving, including the domination of his own internal gift motivations. If another external sample male 'points back' at him, the two of them must obviously compete for dominance.
4Co-dependence therapy interprets the givers and the people with un-met needs as excessive. It focuses on healing individual dis-ease, not on the diseased system, which is creating a context of scarcity and thus generating enormous numbers of un-met and un-meetable needs (which are actually used as economic motivators). Altruism is creative and life-enhancing, except when it is captured and drained by a dominator or rendered impossible by a context of scarcity. It was once estimated that 98% of the people in the US were co-dependent. That percentage seems to me to be clearly the red flag of a misinterpretation. It is normal to be altruistic. We are not being allowed to freely practice our normal nurturing behavior, because our means of nurturing are being robbed by the system, as well as by privileged 'ones' inside and outside our families. Co-dependence theory and therapy, by validating not giving, allow us to solve individual problems and live in the exchange system without challenging it.
The personality cults of recent leaders, whose mammoth images dominate public spaces, are examples of this. Until recently, in communist countries enormous pictures of the heads of the movement looked down on the meeting places of the masses. When Kim Il Sung recently died in North Korea, the television showed the crowds beating their breasts and weeping before the immense statue of their leader. The preservation of Lenin's body in his mausoleum in the Kremlin gave the Soviet Union an image of the constancy of the masculated ego-will, while the toppling of his huge statue with pointing finger outstretched is another case in point.
The difference between many of the self-similar levels is the time it takes to carry them out. The time it takes to say a sentence is briefer than the time it takes to exchange, so you can also do more of them together. Masculation itself takes years. We are indexes ourselves; our movements towards a goal are indication gestures. We can indicate the goal or actually go to it, to touch it. We have future orientation, a goal or destination transposed onto time from space. We can also point back at where we have come from spatially, and back in time.
Pointing may take as little time as lifting a finger, or as
much as it takes to travel to a destination. We act like the index
A goal which is identified as the destination or point may be something other than the satisfaction of a need. Is our motivation for travel ego or other-oriented? Exchange seems to allow us to do both or neither, only increasing the (money) sample. Caravans traveled to distant destinations to trade. Travel is like the phallus is in sex, going to a destination. The pioneers' journey to the West, conquering nature, pointed out 'virgin' territory where the men with index-guns killed the men with index-bows-and-arrows and then embedded themselves parasitically, homesteading on 'free' land.
Horses, with their large energy, can appear as phallic indexes as they gallop towards a destination. Cars are similar, but we can actually travel in them together, indicating a destination, and pointing out points of interest as we go. The road and the scenery are foregrounded and backgrounded in a constant flow; the road at which the car points and the common destination are topics held in common. The mechanism here is a foregrounding and backgrounding one. We pay attention to the foreground and self-consistently do not look at the background, which flows into the past. But it is the mechanism as a whole that overcomes the non-mechanism processes--which we do not see. (Is the index's shift of modes an original proto technology?)
Then we point our rockets at the moon to conquer it--and put our little flag pole on it when we get there. Our scientists rush to the goal of making a bigger bomb, winning the war, and produce a nuclear mushroom which points out its own unmistakable phallic character, murdering hundreds of thousands in the short term, and millions or billions long term, through (invisible, unindicated) radioactivity. We can kill with the index, but creating requires the whole hand.
The other side of foregrounding is the backgrounding we do not pay attention to, but which is just as much an activity. In pointing, the drawing back of the many fingers is as intentional and energy-consuming as extending the index; yet we hardly consider it, perhaps because we focus on the repetition of the one-many pattern between the pointer and the pointed-at. But the other fingers are helping the index by drawing back. Drawing back some fingers is part of the intention of extending one finger. The same thing happens interpersonally, when some people step back or give-way to let the other one step forward. It can be part of the same intention of the group. However, since our focus goes onto the one (or sample) it does not go onto the many. Then it is easy to forget them (as masculated 'samples' forget those who are giving and giving-way to them).
There are two 'manys'--the many fingers which are part of the hand--perhaps also re-presenting the other internal items or considerations the indicator is not attending to--and the many on the external, the other things which are not being pointed at. If the fingers actually help the index, by analogy the things on the external 'help' the one in focus to come forward by giving-way or giving up being the focus. In the family, women have traditionally been the excluded fingers; outside the family, they have been the excluded items. In the OBN, male pointers vie for the position of the one in focus, as well as pointing at their superiors all the way up their hierarchies.
Perhaps this is supported by the fact that the penis does not have other 'fingers' to exclude. The other fingers have just disappeared in the transposition and psycho-social 'evolution' of the sign from index to genitals. If the penis is the 'finger,' the male body is analogous to the hand.
I would like to propose that 'man' comes from manus (Latin for 'hand'), as the body-hand with the penis-index. Wo-man would thus be the womb-hand, the whole hand which creates and gives.
Giving and nurturing are typically done with the hands, to which having or lacking the penis are irrelevant. Even the baby's pointing can be seen as a request for a gesture of giving by the mother, an attempt to elicit her wo-man's womb-hand. As nurturing men who take care of their children have recently shown, the pointing hand can transform into a giving one. I am pointing this out in order to elicit the gift of that transformation not only at an individual but a social, systemic level.
What Does Democracy Re-Present?
Language is a response to communicative needs, which proliferate and diversify according to their satisfactions and according to on-going experience. These communicative needs overlap or co-participate with needs having to do with things--needs to consume things, but also to use them instrumentally, or to locate one's own or others' needs among them, perceive them accurately, foresee the consequences of their processes, etc.
Satisfying each other's needs having to do with things creates bonds among humans as those special parts of the external material world who are part of the same species as ourselves--who receive from and give to each other. The bonds created by language are similar to the bonds that would be created by sharing those things, if we could do so. Some of our sharing is impeded by the fact that there are things we cannot give to each other, such as mountains or our sensation of red, or granting the wish that the nuclear age had never happened. Much sharing is impeded by scarcity, in that there is not enough of something for everyone. Much is impeded by private property and our practice of not-giving. It is perhaps the differences in the reasons for not giving and receiving that makes the actual sharing of language so abstract and 'psychological,' transforming the mind into something different from the body.
We share abstractly, and this sharing produces only egos and minds, not peaceful and abundant material communities. We do not share goods concretely with the many. Perhaps we even practice giftgiving only with our immediate families and friends. What we do share, instead, is the not-giving of exchange, which makes us separate and adversarial, and connects us to each other only through the laws of the state, if at all. Exchange makes us into things that do not give to each other, except linguistically, so we are not part of the same species of nurturers. Instead, we organize ourselves into 'concepts,' which are organized into more general 'concepts.'
We create word-like representatives in government to take our places, organizing the larger group for us, deciding, commanding, legislating what giftgiving remains, the giving of obedience, of public services, of taxes. The representatives allocate (give) our tax money.
The lexicon, what Saussure called langue, is a purely differential system of words seen as values in which each element is related negatively to all the others as what it is not, and positively to the things it re-presents. For example, the word 'dog' is what it is because it is not 'cat' or 'beautiful' or 'justice' or 'running.' Those are negative relations it has with other words. 'Dog' also has a positive relation to dogs, which it re-presents.
We identified a very similar relation in private property, where each owner is related negatively to all the others, by mutual exclusion, and positively to the property s/he owns. Money, like the verb 'to be,' mediates between these mutually exclusive elements, creating a second substitution, a quantitatively divisible value concept sample,1 to which property can be momentarily related, and the property of one owner can become the property of another--without resorting to giving. Giving to needs implies inequalities--while exchange implies and requires equalities, covering up needs and giftgiving.
Speaking about money as the 'general equivalent,'
Marx commented, "It is far from being self-evident that this
character of being generally and directly exchangeable is, so to say, a
polar one, and is as inseparable from its polar opposite, the character
of not being directly exchangeable, as the positive pole of a
magnet is from the negative. People who give free rein to fancy
may therefore imagine that all commodities can
simultaneously acquire this characteristic of being directly exchangeable--just
as, if they like, they may imagine that all Roman Catholics
1 Exchange value is qualitatively simple and single, so that it can be divided quantitatively. Money is the material 'word-sample' which satisfies the communicative need arising from the kind of altered co-munication which is the exchange of private property. It is a communicative need for a re-presentative of giving while not-giving.
In masculation, the family is set up like the concept,
where the patriarchal father is sample or 'general equivalent.' He
takes the place of the other members of the family in decision
making, instituting command and obedience through his over-taking
will, and representing them in the society of men, the
OBN. We have seen that property is related to its owner in the
many-to-one concept (or family name complex) way. A similar thing
happens with our government.
Figure 34. Money is the general equivalent.
2Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, London, J. M. Dent, 1962, p. 41.
3Ibid, p. 42.
Curiously Marx personalizes commodities, saying that
they choose one of their number to be the equivalent, and this is
just the democratic process personified. The US Declaration
of Independence said "all men are created equal," at the
time notoriously leaving out women and slaves (free giftgivers)
from the democratic process. The fathers of our country were an
OBN, made up of white male property owners. They divided
themselves into groups according to location, each of which chose one
of their number to be their general equivalent, to take their place
as their representative in the governing bodies made up of the
'ones' who were representatives of other groups.
The OBN 'members' typically were themselves, by choice or by force, already in a 'one' relation regarding their families, and in a self-similar 'one' relation regarding their properties. The 'representatives' made decisions which affected those who had no power of choice, as well as those who did. The context made up of 'representatives' formed a new meta group, an OBN of the OBN, which had its own internal dynamics. A general equivalent was also chosen from among the group of the choosers, to be the general equivalent and representative of all, the president.
When the inhabitants of a nation are allowed to choose
their representatives, the process appears to more directly reflect
the concept process than, for example, monarchy does.
The representatives then appear to be not just the samples, but
the 'words' which take the place of all the members of the
community or group. Like the words in the
langue, they are in a mutually exclusive relation with each other, but they have a
positive, though polar relation with those they represent. (Figure 36)
From this position, they reconstitute themselves as a community,
giving to each other and receiving in various ways, making
coalitions, etc. This community acquires a life of its own with power over the lives of the many.
National boundaries then become like the boundaries of the concept. Those outside are 'things' that are not related to those 'samples' or to those 'words.' They are not represented, though they are affected by the decisions the representatives make, especially the decisions made in the nation that achieves the one status among nations.
If we stand back and ask ourselves, "If this is true, what
does this configuration mean?" the strategies we have
for interpretation pass through the concept process itself, and we
We could devise a way of organizing society free from projections and their subconscious resonances. We would not need to mutually exclude others in order to have national or individual identities, and we would not need to create relations of below and above, 'things' and 'words,' 'manys' and 'ones' in order to make individual or collective decisions. Rather, co-munication, forming the co-munity by satisfying needs at all levels, would be understood as the basis of meaning as well as the guiding principle for the organization of society.
Those in the 'word' position, the representatives, are themselves sometimes organized like the concepts of gender. US Democrats, for example, usually pay more attention to needs, while Republicans look at profit and national egotism. Both parties function on the male model--the right as more macho, the left as more paternalistically nurturing.
The Sexist Point of Democracy
Modern democracy more accurately corresponds to
the problem of masculation than tyranny or monarchy because it
has developed in an epoch of exchange where the money-word is
the king, the general equivalent, instead of the king himself. This
fact allows us to act out and perhaps understand the problem
as systemic, rather than attributing our difficulties to the
individual character of the 'one,' to the king or father, to the heredity of
the royal house or the superiority of a nation or race. As much as we
do fetishize gold or other money, it is clear that it is not a person.
And according to the American Dream, anyone can 'make money.'
We have displaced the problem of the privileged sample position
into an area where it more closely resembles masculation, though the
fit is not complete. Regardless of class or race, the story goes,
anyone who has enough luck, energy, and know-how can acquire a lot
In fact, 'lacking' is the other side of the coin, and anyone can also be like a 'lacking' woman. The supremacy of money detaches the privileged sample position from heredity, and perhaps allows more space for us to consider socialization and opportunity as the causes of privilege, along with money-making and capitalistic behaviors.4
Ancient Greek 'democracy' was directly the Reign of the Phallus, as Eva Keuls shows in her book of that title.5 Women and slaves were both 'have-nots' in that period, 'inferiors' providing the satisfaction of needs. Gender coincided with nationality and class as a categorization by which a relatively large peer group was allowed access to privileged one positions. Keuls describes the 'herms,' which were anthropomorphic statues of penises with penises standing at the doors of Greek houses. These seem to me to be attempts to concretize a self-similar relation.
This is also perhaps a clue to a pun, the sense of which has always nudged at my curiosity, but eluded me. That is the similarity of monetary capital and the capital of a column. Jean-Joseph Goux talks a lot about capitalism and caput, the head, in Symbolic Economies.6 Perhaps columns are images of phalluses derived or transposed from herms, and standing together to hold up the temple, the image of the phallic state. The capital is then the head, not of the person, but of the phallus.
Athena, the warrior goddess who gave her name to the
city, nurtured male citizens and protected them in battle, is housed
(or trapped) inside the temple. Born from Zeus' head, she
performed the masculating functions of privileging the Athenians, caring
for and protecting them, herself taking on the manly behavior of
the warrior. Athenians were masculated as males, but bonded
4Computerized banking and credit card proliferation are actually dematerializing money, transforming it back from a material word to an element of language.
5Eva Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985.
6Jean-Joseph Goux, op. cit., pp.44-47.
Masculation is an artificial construct, and it needs images of itself which will confirm it. (It is the physical appearance--having the penis--that puts the boy into the non-nurturing category in the first place.) Perhaps masculation needs phallic images as evidence of self-similar structures at different scales, in order to make the universe more familiar and friendly to the boy dis-identified from his mother. Whatever the motivation, Patriarchy (or Puerarchy) creates its own images everywhere re-presenting the phallus every time entrance into a privileged category is at issue.
However, the key (one more herm-like phallic symbol) seems to me to lie in the similarity between herms and columns and men. The column is a gigantic penis; the herm is a man-sized statue of a penis with a penis7. Could we say then that an erect man seems to be the image of a penis, self-similar to his own erect phallus, his head its 'head?' The need for a self-similar phallic image would thus be at least partially satisfied by a man's own body. His phallus would be the image of himself and, vice versa, he would be its image.
We have become blind to these images, or we have
learned not to talk about them. To me, they seem to be symptoms of
a mass psychosis that is being caused by masculation. Once we
'take the scales from our eyes,' we recognize the images for what
7Eva Keuls, op.cit., p.44, ff.
Most death-dealing instruments, as we mentioned, are index-phallic symbols. Each 'member' of the armed forces has his 'gun.' Marks of conquest, from obelisks to flag poles, punctuate our patriarchal landscapes. More pedestrian modern examples: 'skin heads' allude to the organ of male violence. 'Joe Camel' notoriously looks like a phallus and self-similarly advertises cigarettes, like a herm. His phallic face becomes a herm--with the self-similar cigarette branching off as a little phallus.
If we see property as what privileged ones 'have,' cap-ital would be property masculating itself into phallic self-similarity, growing infinitely through repeatedly deserving a greater money name, and working or producing to become adequate to the name, creating a flow of (hidden) gifts towards a centralizing infinitely aggrandizeable 'one.' An economic self-similar image of masculation with phallic motivations (in fact blood rushes to the gland as hidden gifts rush to capital investments), cap-ital transforms itself from a word, controlling the workers' behavior through salary, into the 'money-sample' value-equivalent of products in exchange. An accumulation that allows one to tell others what to do, capital creates a sample phallic capitalist in its image. But he also creates it in his image. We now have numerous large capitals, which hold up the state. Their heads are the pillars and capital-ists of their communities.
The erection appears as privileged one and has a relation to
a sexual object which is also for the moment singled out as a
one-many sample--for instance, a woman as sample of all
women. Athena served as the sample (hypostatized) woman by
which citizens acquired their phallic standing-in-common. The
fascio also was a bundle of sheaves bound together by one of their kind.
A similar function animated the Nazi 'Heil Hitler' phallic
salute. There must be ways to organize the state that do not require
It is not a matching between word and thing (or erection and singled-out woman) that creates 'meaning,' but the response to human needs regarding both words and things and the consequent positive proliferation of co-municative needs. Similarly, it is not the matching or correspondence between money and products that creates economic value, but the response to both communicative and material needs, in spite of the generalized situation of not-giving.
The correspondences between words and things, money and products, man and boy, man and woman continuously draw our focus onto one-many structures and their relationships of abstract equality and modeling and away from needs. This is another reason we do not recognize value as a gift that is being attributed and appreciated in common in all the different areas. Each self-similar area of patriarchy is considered separate and independent from the others because its concept sample is in evidence and different from the others.
Moreover, the 'samples' often appear to be the source of their own value. The relation between the president and the electorate, or senators and congress persons and the electorate, is seen as entirely different from the relation between money and commodities, for example. (See Figure 38.) While it is true that the scales are very different, I believe we have also learned not to look, and to discount the similarities when we see them.
Our view of patriarchy is thus splintered, divided and conquered, and we find ourselves addressing one part of it at a time, rather than making a general criticism and offering a global alternative. The partial criticisms can only have partial results, however important they may be, because other aspects of the patriarchal system 'take up the slack.' Other 'heads' of the hydra are ready to attack, when one has been decapitated.
By tracing the patterns that create these 'heads,' we may collectively address the whole mechanism. Capital, after all, is only one of the hydra's heads.
Return to 'For-Giving' Home Page