(Love: The lost child of sophistication.)
Love … Do we even know what it means anymore? And if we did, how many of us would be willing to “throw it all over” … our whole lives … on a whim of passionate emotion … I mean, now that we are all aware and sophisticated and have example and warning of just where such reckless action could lead one? Seriously, ask yourself if you would throw yourself into the arms of another with reckless abandon these days of economic, material and social individualism?
I found this little bit of doggerel in a letter written by a young woman back in the war (2nd) years giving flight to her desire to secretly see her boyfriend, and as it turned out – future husband – who was a woodcutter near the Murray River.
Now I am free …
Off through the scrub I run,
Where sheep tracks only are seen,
Nothing but bush and sun.
Till all of a sudden I come
Out where an axe swings free
Cutting for love and money,
The axe bites deep in a tree.
Then the owner looks up of a sudden,
And gives me a happy smile
And says I hoped you would come,
And I stay there … quite a while.“
The words themselves give clue to both the hunger for company and the possibility for a future that only young love could be so certain was a possibility … “Cutting for love and money” ,.. What would a timber cutter’s wages be and what future for one of such qualification? Where would such an adult find reassurance in such a relationship … a relationship with the financial support of a labourer’s qualifications? We’ve all seen the end results of low income, low housing and child support capabilities … and it’s not nice … who would want it?
And then there’s the other end of the spectrum where a person has purchased property and is getting on with a good career and then they have to consider whether it is wise to bring another person into their life and home, and risk having to pay over half the property if something goes wrong further down the line a little. It’s all a bit too much, really.
So where does love come into this picture of modern social sophistication?
Where now for the naïve young girl running through the scrub to meet her lover?
What has love to barter with against the considerations of a ultra-modern, materialist lifestyle?
Who needs or wants it?
Where to for the Catherines and Heathcliffs of our post-modern world? The Romeos and Juliets? That younger you or I? In a world of “Celebrity Meet-n-Marry” Bachelor/ette on the wide-screen plasma TVs, or type-face to type-face on some Tinder app on the mobile phone? There would appear to be little taste for chance and that “love at first sight” infatuation, let alone to go rushing off to another’s arms “bare-footed and open-hearted”.
So what has become of us that we have grown so cynical and hard of heart? I have heard some state quite categorically that having found “contentment with their choice” (of “partner”), they would rather all people now ignore the fact even of their obvious gender … a seeking of the invisible … beyond either desire from others or (perhaps?) the temptation of themselves for another. Our sophistication has made us feel secure in our pride of conquest over even our sensual emotions to a point where some seek psychological emasculation of any sexual hunger … a ultra modern world of J. Alfred Prufrock:
“The unpleasant modern world is where “Prufrock” begins. Prufrock, much like da Montefeltro in The Inferno, is confined to Hell; Prufrock’s, however, is on earth, in a lonely, alienating city. The images of the city are sterile and deathly; the night sky looks “Like a patient etherized upon a table” , while down below barren “half-deserted streets” reveal “one-night cheap hotels / And sawdust restaurants” . The use of enjambment, the running over of lines, further conveys the labyrinthine spatiality of the city. Although Eliot does not explore the sterility of the modern world as deeply here as he does in “The Wasteland” (1922), the images are undeniably bleak and empty.”
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T. S. Eliot):
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky,
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
Do we seek love or social redress for perceived distress .. is there justice for the bereaved or the deceived? Perhaps today’s love can be measured in the many brilliant facets of an engagement ring diamond, or the number of ensuites in a split-level estate house within a gated community … but does it “sing” … does it sing like the lover’s hearts when again they meet?
I think we make a grave mistake going down the path of blaming and accusing either gender of exacerbating aggression and violence in male / female relationships.
Certainly men are the more violent and certainly men have fallen further into the abyss of loss of self-esteem in both work identity and family support capability … with both parties in the relationship now needing to hold down two and sometimes more jobs to pay the bills … and there may be the answer to this hardening of the hearts. There may be the enemy who is obvious but cannot be seen, is both instigator and saviour, provocateur and provider: The Capital Economy.
Speaking as the author, husband (I unashamedly confess to loathing the expression “Partner”! … it reminds me too much of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.) and father and as a man, I have to ask; “What the hell is expected of us? Are we to remake ourselves in an image manufactured on a screen-printer’s design sheet … according to a psychologist’s “balanced structure”? … some sort of “metro-man”, David Beckham look-alike that acts like a sculptured Svengali off the back-page of a woman’s magazine … the photo-shopped perfect image of “everyman gigolo” with just the right balance of money, muscle, a simpering gaze with tender intent … a designers delight … with that one failing … that many male models that cultivate such a persona have a preference for their own perfected gender?
We all fail the perfection test … that marketeer’s yardstick that seems to have grabbed the imagination of a whole generation and demands adherence from both genders to a physique, financial position and psychology absolute that is impossible to satisfy … resulting in the social chaos we hear about everyday in the news columns and airwaves. And I have to confess that it is the men who are most losing the plot on this platform of perfection … our masculinity being converted to a kind of perfumery of scents and washes that have debased our manhood and turned us into satyrs and sadists … our capacity of once serious working men of skill and calibre turned with this so-called “gig-economy” into part-time pantomime producers of silly bibs and bobs in jobs not worth a sphincter full of snow!
And they wonder why we go spare! This is no argument between the rights of the genders, that is a secondary problem … the male argument is between ourselves and the managers of capital. Thankfully, I am of an age where I no longer have to fight mammon for my measly mouthful … but I still recall those days when a full-time job was shared with working till dark – and beyond – hand-building the family home … homes … then making my way back to a rented house to attend to the fatherly/husbandly duties … but feeling that nice, tired feeling of self-respect for doing what needed to be done even with a worker’s wage. But now I see this younger generation being manipulated in and out of crappy jobs with piss-weak pay and conditions and no hope of creating that “family environment” around either themselves, their loved ones or the community … A lost generation.
And it is not just us men who will lose it. Women, ask yourself this: Do you think, after the men have been milked to the last drop of their blood and those commodifiers have finished with us … you will be spared? Not a bloody hope!
Our hearts hollowed out like a gouged stone.
And they wonder why they go spare?
“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown,
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.“