Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We don't want no european decadence!*

Eliot Spitzer has taken a tumble and, at least before the financial business this week, the NY media engines has revelled in a having a new topic outside of the Democractic primary campaigns--a nice break I actually. Curiously, I was more surprised (shock is too strong) than coworkers and the like about the situation. I don't think of myself as a prude (so I guess the real shock to me is the realization that I'm not the go-to cynic in every conversation--there was a time I'd have laid bets on that certainty) but no one seemed terribly surprised. Mind you , it could certainly be that one of those reflexive "Oh, that always happens things. Aren't they always?" Which is obviously not true, or else, well or else there'd be more stories. But there aren't, because I don't live in Rhode Island.

So anyway, it's nice and all that some quarters are taking this opportunity to talk about the true effects of prostitution. The results in Sweden of the legalization of selling sex combined with the criminalization of buying sex on trafficking, and prostitution rates in general being especially interesting. Some of the commentary touched upon this article by the inestimable Martha Nussbaum, which if you read, you will see focuses greatly on prostitution an how the laws and enforcement reflect other things, but begins with the trope of the American among sophisticated Europeans wondering about American prudery. Why for are we lingering on the prurient when there is so much more to discuss?

Well, beyond the fact that we in New York are one of the few cities with vibrant enough daily papers to have the need to for some tabloid fare, so obviously there's inches to fill, he was the freakin' attorney general elected on a reform campaign. Not by a little bit. It is possible that the reaction is less about the sex, then about the hypocrisy. Also, the sheer stupidness of a former prosecutor laying out the trail that he did. Not all laws are moral, but breaking the law usually isn't. **

Also in the past week, there was also the release of Funny Games by Michel Haneke. I think the AV Club lays out the most generous and informative take on it. I'm pretty sympathetic to these sorts of art stunts, and after seeing Cache (which I consider one of the finest films I've ever seen), I have a great deal of respect for the director, with a generosity of spirit I don't think I'd extend to either Lars Von Trier (pretentious European provocateur) or the genre related if not intellectually (or only disingenuously) torture porn and ultraviolence these days. Maybe Oldboy gets a pass, but god I hate locked room stories. Long exposition aside, a comment mentioned the fact that even if the movie were a success in the manner Haneke intends, that is as an indictment of the audience as complicit in violence in our culture, he'd probably think that we as Americans liked it because of the torture. So to the continent that created this and other insightful fare like Irreversibleah I say back off. We get it. You aren't that smart. Or we don't, like everyone else. This business is only slightly more annoying than the Americans don't have passports cliche.

But in the interests of equal time, I say it has been fascinating to see the likes Naomi Watts promoting arthouse fare on Leno and the like. And follow it on to Funny Games review itself, but alright. Maybe we don't get it.

*I don't actually care about European decadence.

** Edited to fix stupidity.


HoBs said...

"Not all laws are moral, but breaking the law usually is. "

I think you meant, "isn't"
but i actually see nothing wrong with breaking immoral laws or irrational laws. i made that case at a seminar recently.

like jaywalking and software downloading and sodomy I think are all fine laws to break.

but hypocrisy I agree is the bigger sin. though the editor of harper's launched a valient defense of hypocrisy a couple years ago. he made the point that we only hate hypocrisy so much because moral relativism has made it the only crime left we can be sure of. though that still doesn't make it ok in my book.

hcduvall said...

Damn, that was stupid. Thanks.

I think "rule of law" is a pretty important component of a well run society, hence my incompetently done qualification--unless, I dunno, anarchy.

I remember you being surprised last time this topic came up and izicmo agreed. I would say that you're describing partly ignoring laws with low utility (and low immediate consequence) or laws you are morally in disagreement with (civil disobedience)--but those are principles in opposition, not simply ignoring laws.

That and, I'm sure this a moral judgment of my own that I have been inconsistent and will be in the future, though obviously enough not feeling guilty enough to stop, outside of civil disobedience or some victimless crimes as above, there's a lot of law ignoring "illegal downloading" that as they mostly involve acquring luxuries, whatever I may think of the dominant business models, are mostly driven by entitlement above all, and are immoral for it. Say. Though immediately, I should say, none of these laws are "irrational" (whatever we may think of them).

HoBs said...

"none of these laws are "irrational" (whatever we may think of them)."

Ok, point taken.

There are some laws created by the inherent mess that is the political process that are genuinely irrational (the law that almost required pi to be 3 for example). (Nobel Prize winner Ken Arrow proved that politics is inherently messy, and that a perfectly rational system is impossible, like Godel and math).

but you're right, we shouldn't judge a difference in opinion as irrational.

hcduvall said...

They tried what when?

See, from factoids like that spring my bouts of misanthropy.