"Melchizedek's Three Rings"


Jean Genet once said that human existence is consummated only when you've descended to the worst, the lowest level possible in this society - that if you don't function perfectly, according to the standards of the times, you have to become a traitor.
I thought of this while I was reading Carole McDonnell's contribution to Mattilda's Nobody Passes, "Melchizedek's Three Rings" - she writes about being stifled by her white friends or colleagues when she confronts them with their privileges, usually indirectly, by pointing out various racisms in literature/media. We've said in class that "silence is violence" and McDonnell seems to be of the same opinion - but breaking the silence feels like treason, or violence against the comfortable privileged who might be upset if one of their precious classics (King Kong) actually turned out to be offensive to a great deal of people, or if the Little Mermaid promoted heteronormativity. I responded to this essay, and to the concept of "passing" or not passing in terms of betrayal - which becomes troublesome since betrayal takes place either way. In passing, I betray myself; in not passing, I betray others. But, as Carole McDonnell points out, the denial of people's experiences is a grand betrayal, too. She's criticized for frequently writing about mixed couples - "Can't you write about normal couples in regular same-race relationships?" (195) Yes of course she could, but why? Why deny your own experience - in order for norm-conforming people to continue to feel cozy? As McDonnell writes: "I suppose I should have challenged her, but the emotional fact is that when among the normal, the nonnormal person often forgets how different he or she is. An accusation or call to normality does the trick of getting the nonnormal person in line." In relation to Michael Warner's discussion of normal - the nonnormal person(s) is made to believe that normal is the grand achievement, the goal. But why do we want to be normal? Usually because we're told that normality is virtuous and abnormality is a vicious vice. Warner proposes that there is ethical value to be found in shit, in abjection, in "vice" -- because vice is often virtue. To the normal, abject (non)existence is obscene, filthy, profane, undesirable, threatening or even unhealthy, while normal is the sanitary safe zone: the magnificent experience - so, naturally, emphasizing the value of abject borderlands and outer limits troubles the normal and forces recognition of the filth of privileged pleasures.


Do you think that Warner puts forth the notion that vice is often virtue, because it is a true enactment of unconstrained desires? If that is what is meant by this notion of the value of abjection and the worth of shit, then it kind of makes me think of Keegan's response to the what is queer query, not that I want to conflate the terms, i just saw an interesting connection of the esteem of desires.

Making people uncomfortable is one way to cause trouble concerning identity. If people are not made uncomfortable they will never learn about the amount of diversity that exists and will never question their own identity to reflect upon whether or not they are themselves different or if the prejudices they may hold be unnecessary. It is by making people uncomfortable that they are exposed to new things and learn that what every their new experience is is not unnatural or strange, but becomes a part of what they can consider normal.

Think of the first day of kindergarten, for about 5/6 years one had lived a sheltered existence in the comfort of their home only interacting with people who came to them. Then on the first day of school they have been placed away from the safety of what is familiar to the discomfort of a new surrounding. One meets many new people and they are all acting in strange ways that are not completely familiar, but with continued exposure to these people one learns to be comfortable and to feel safe. I think the same can happen in any situation.

Normalcy is just what is most familiar.