Tumblr and Unrestricted Liberalism
Pushing the Limit
For better or worse, each generation of our species seems infused with the desire to push social boundaries. This push goes beyond mundane presentations such as body piercings and tattoos. Unconsciously, each succeeding generation wants to define itself by exemplifying behavior and attitude that mom and dad would consider taboo. Each new generation seems to possess an innate desire to demonstrate their possession of a newfound freedom of expression not indorsed by the one previous to them. The impulse seems to be a kind of uncontainable social evolution. But just like physical evolution, the path is not a straight line. Evolution is only about change and doesn't mean that change will take a path leading to any kind of superiority over the long haul. Usually, evolution has more to do with adaptation to surrounding influences than being a clear indicator that mutation results in anything intrinsically superior.
Are human beings superior to trilobites? Or are we just different?
Was burlesque less socially advanced than groups that embrace the concept of a "rainbow coalition?" Was burlesque a quaint demonstration of liberalism?
To date, this unconscious impulse to surpass the social limits left by our predecessors translates into a kind of limitless, open-ended spasm of liberalism. Is that a good thing, a bad thing or neither?
I fell into this line of thought while exploring Tumblr's seemingly unrestricted and nearly inexhaustible repository of photographs. An individual can virtually find depictions of almost anything. It's not just a library of images. I see it as being more of a catalog of subject matter that people find most interesting or intriguing, as the entire site is built upon material uploaded randomly by people who are mostly anonymous. It seems worth at least a cursory examination because in one way or another it represents a snapshot of our collective unconscious at a specific period of time.
I can't show you photographic evidence of the more explicit examples of this concept, but you can explore the site yourself and draw your own conclusions. I find the site unique in the sense that it is both absolutely free and seems as unrestricted as current laws will tolerate. The website will probably be shut down after awhile -- or maybe not. I'd rather prefer that it remain open, as it gives us a glimpse into not just cute animal portraits but portrayls of subject matter that is pornographic (let's face it, that's hardly anything new) but extends into even religious defilement (something well consigned to the outskirts of our culture). "Heretical" material has not always been easily absorbed by our civilization. Where the collective would have (at an earlier period in our history) been quite happy to burn someone that showed a fascination with the occult, today the entire preoccupation seems cartoonish.
Is Tumblr simply an outrage -- an obvious example of an uncontrolled Internet ? Is the site something we should collectively be concerned about and seek its end? No, I don't think so. My viewpoint stems from having a possibly morbid curiosity about the unconscious aspects of the human psyche. I prefer that this kind of social introspection be transparent, not hidden. Rather than simply guessing about what is perculating in the "collective unconscious," as Jung coined the term, such easily accessible outlets offer us an open window, maybe providing a less muddled (if more stark) depiction of man's mysterious impulses and behavior.
Some of the photos you will find here are at the fringe -- catering to all sorts of fetishes -- the worst of which (in my opinion) cater to what appears to be matters like devil worship. It's rather cringe-worthy, but most likely just cartoonish. Even being an atheist, I don't find anything attractive about a model masturbasting with a Christian cross or sucking on a horse's penis. But even such surprising captures don't really send me into a total tailspin. I take such depictions as a kind of over-the-border joke or slur against the rigid "establishment." Unhappily, some portion of our population takes such depictions in another way -- maybe seriously. That's another matter indeed. If such material feeds into their warped fantasies, that's obviously not good, but I'm confident that such an audience is in a minority, and we'd be dealing with these deviants in one way or another regardless.
The sign of an upside-down cross tattooed on someone sure doesn't look "wholesome," but I can disregard it as a flagrant signature of rebellion -- against the church and current moral standards. I've never been able to connect with the idea of worshiping a figure with a goat-head, but that's just me. The representation of "deviant" thought can be unsavory, but if you are trying to understand the extremes in the collective unconscious, one has to just accept the material as being representative of the fringes.
Homosexuality, lesbianism, bi-sexuality, transgenering is all captured. Happily, the site apparently restricts depictions of pedophilia, real torture, rape, violence or "snuff" type stuff that would, however, present an even more broad based view of the fringe. I have spotted a few (very few) pics of human/animal intercourse (beastiality). This is really unsettling stuff, but I dismiss it as a few pieces that skipped by the site's own censorship. I have concerns about the audience that might actually enjoy such blatantly taboo sorts of sexual practices, but what can you do really?
My solution is to merely click my mouse button quickly to the next picture. It's not as if there are no editorial limits. At its worst the site exposes modes of extreme, abberant interests. Some of the postings are repellant, but if you have the courage to explore the unconscious drifts in human psychology, you have to stomach some material that is kind of stomach churning. The deviant stuff provides a necessary open view into areas that reflect ideas/behavior/fantasies that are all part of the collective human psyche.
The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living
Why do I spend any time exploring the stranger side of Tumblr? I don't have a better answer than to say that everything strange/unfamiliar holds a kind of fascination for me. It's a sort of education. Like a psychiatrist, you have to do your own balancing act. As a kind of amateur psychiatrist, you do build up a kind of barrier/wall/defense against material that hits you as blatantly offensive. In order to make this kind of exploration, you have to leave your own sense of morality at the door; otherwise, the whole excursion may just be disturbing and not insightful or educating.
I'm not trying to slam Tumblr. On the contrary. Though they don't seem to possess a flawless editorial staff, I'm not easily offended. And I'm sure that with the incoming flood of postings, it's not easy to catch everything that may go over the boundaries. I've only explored a fraction of the site, so I cannot testify that some seriously outrageous postings slip by. If I were afraid of what I'd find, I'd seek some other kind of "adventure."
Maybe you have a thing for red-headed gals. Terrific. Tumblr is able to display pics that range from "trashy" to true artistry. It's not as if the site generates anything on its own. Everything in the repository is uploaded by individuals that have no ties to the free service. There is some great photography available -- and some not so great, but you just click through.
If you land upon something offensive, just click through.
The site suffers from being so vast and disorganized. They have links to all sorts of other websites. Embedded within a compilation of photos are advertisements for some major companies (like Honda).
In all fairness, Tumblr should not be judged by its underbelly. You can find everything under the sun here, and I just happen to have a curiosity in stuff that goes toward the extreme. You could spend a lifetime gazing at pets or floral displays. You aren't forced in a particular direction. That's up to you to decide. And that's why I support Tumblr. If I want to spend time exploring the more deviant postings, that's my choice -- I do it for my own edification. Exploring the realm of lovely red-headed women (for instance) is an enrichment and entertainment. I appreciate really artful photography and could easily switch to a venue that features pics of beautiful environmental sites. I like the artful stuff in photography -- whether it be redheads or snaps taken of nature or cute animals. A good photograph -- one that captures the beauty of its subject -- is art.
But I had to begin with a serious question in my own mind. Each generation feels the need to push the limits. If the next generation merely presents us with body piercings or full-body tattoos, are we to go into a state of shock? No. If current pop rock artists (most notably female performers) wear less and less on stage, should we get alarmed? Again, no. Just look back on Woodstock Teenage girls were throwing off their tops and doing who knows what in the mud.
So much is made in the media about a wardrobe malfunction, and I think -- is this really my generation making a stink? Miley Cyrus does a video in the almost nude. Is that really anything to raise eyebrows among Boomers? I personally think she should go topless and bottomless for a concert. Why not? Men and women have been able to visit strip joints since ...? Why not have someone (who is willing) just strut out on stage in their birthday suit? Nudity offends you? Don't attend. Does this suggest that our culture might have reached a pinnacle of decadence? Give me a break. If you happen to be a Boomer reading this, you can't say that we wouldn't have done the same if the establishment wouldn't have restricted it.
I'd go even further to say free the vagina. It's somehow okay to have a woman appearing on a public beach wearing nothing but a g-string, but unless you happen to be visiting a nudist colony, such a display is tantamount to a great sin. This is a kind of Muslim-like mentality where we are all afraid of stark nudity. We don't require our women to wear burkas, but we still have to make sure they cover up their nipples and especially their vaginas. Where exactly are the limits on decency?
This is the kind of liberalism that will upset even people of the Boomer generation. Have someone do a total concert in the nude? Forget about hiding nipples and vaginas? Even for guys/gals of my generation, they may say this simply goes too far -- that it's exploitive or decadent. But, I ask why. If we could accept bra burning, do we have the moral authority to question the liberation of the nipple?
If liberalism continues on its present course, all of this -- and stuff I can't even imagine -- will eventually come around. When it happens I suppose even Millenials will be semi-shocked. Some (probably the moral majority of the time) will react that this push of liberalism is just plain indecent. Okay, then explain to me why a two-inch pasty hiding a woman's nipple was just fine back in the 40's.
This isn't Guantanamo where you are being subjected to hard rock 24/7 as a torturous way to break you down psychologically. No one is going to force you to go to Tumblr and coerce you into viewing "dirty" material. No one will ever wrestle you to attend a concert that contains full nudity. You'll always have the freedom not to watch or look away or simply not attend.
I don't happen to like watching men kissing men in movies. I can't tune into the whole homosexual thing, so I choose to ignore it. I see it as a reality, but I feel better when I don't have to watch it, so I don't. Easy solution. I'll forever be trying to guess why a man would prefer kissing another of his gender who also bears beard stubble. I don't get it, but I don't have to get it. I don't have people knocking on my door, asking me why I'm not keen on watching stubble to stubble.
The homosexual community doesn't do recruitment campaigns (although it's a different matter inside the church or other closed circles), so I feel no encroachment, and after 50 years of exploring women, I'm confident about my orientation. I guess it's fine that the homosexuality community wants to see themselves represented on screen. I have no problem with that. I just won't watch the film.
You can make a film about anything, and I'll either have an interest or I won't. Make a film about floral arrangements. I won't watch it but maybe there is an audience.
So, my whole deal about Tumblr and anything that seems to break boundaries is founded on the idea of being free. I like the idea of people being free to gravitate toward a fetish -- women with big breasts or big butts. And people should be equally free to reject any of this without provocation.
You don't want to see lovely redheads, then visit some other spot or switch over to the TV set and watch a baseball game. You don't want to see depictions of homosexuality in films, don't go to those movies or rent the DVDs. You don't want to attend a concert where the lead singer is totally in the buff? Don't buy a ticket. It's all very simple unless you feel an imperative of stamping your own moral beliefs upon others. If you do, you are fighting a losing battle because the drift will seemingly always be toward more freedom of expression. And if you hate this idea, the more it will come to bite you on the rear because that's just what "progressive" people desire. Unless we want to put the church in charge again, we have little choice but to accept the evolution -- regardless of whether such evolution seems upward or retrograde.
The desire for uniqueness goes on generation after generation. How will it max out? I haven't a clue. Right now it seems like full nudity is the boundary, but if you live long enough, the extremes may enlarge to realms that would make all of us living today seem like Puritans.
How about human to human-android copulation where the android is fully capable of reproducing? Ready for that? What about cross breeding Would it be okay to fornicate with something that was half-human and half-zebra?
Today, we can only shake our heads but exactly where are we able to draw a line in the sand? How do you contain this free-flowing evolution without reverting to witch hunts and an Inquisition-like imposition of morality?
Many today feel the limit between mating is between a man and a woman. So far I haven't found a coherent response about a man coupling with someone who is transgendered. What do you do with an entity that can totally pass as female but who also possesses a penis? Can you accept it? Does the cross-identity cause you to question your own standards? I've never been with a gal who was crossing over, but I've seen some really amazing pics -- beings who were amazingly beautiful but who still possessed a penis. Do all of them plan on having this remaining artifact of their manhood chopped off, or are they cool with being chicks with dicks?
What if you could wander into a booth and change your sex for 24 hours? Would you be tempted? I'd be curious but probably too modest to take the exploration. I guess my orientation would remain the same, so I wouldn't see much benefit. I'd come out of the booth seeking lesbians -- either that or just sitting in front of a mirror and mastubating without limit. And what if the booth was able to change you into some lovely female but couldn't do anything with your penis? That could be confusing, wouldn't it. But a small segment of our population deals with this dilemma on a daily basis. Some are definitely going to have surgery. Others? Maybe when they get to being able to pass as a female they find that having a penis can be a kind of plus. It puts them into a unique ground. They can still potentially copulate with a woman or crossover to be a unique artifact for a curious male.
The point of all this is just a reminder to keep an open mind -- especially to Boomers who thought they had set the limit. They hadn't. Things keep changing -- a creep of liberalism, which isn't really so scary as it might seem. It's fine to object to extremism, I suppose. But be careful about preaching moralism because we do not really know the ultimate boundaries. And as long as any of us can shun what we may view as decadent, we're not really placed in any jeopardy.
Our parents may have been aghast at Elvis swiveling his hips, and they certainly were not keen on women burning their bras, but we lived through this -- feeling that self-expression was a higher cause. So, what the heck. Let someone do a concert in the buff.
Let women feed their children in public. What's the big deal? If our generation of Boomers can't buy into the liberalism of the next generation, what are we to expect?
We practically invented porn "albeit horrible with artifacts like "Deep Throat," but this seemed like the best we could produce under the era.
Even if each new generation is compelled to take another step that the preceding generation could not or would not attain, is this a self-evident fact about the moral decay of Western civilization? Is it really a moral decay leading us into some kind of Gomorrah?