If the dark days don’t have you in a suicidal mood…

… then reading The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq should push you over the edge.

In a previous posting I excerpted passages about the protagonist going to a hippie campground. What do they do there?

To his right a fat, sallow, gray-haired woman with thick glasses breathed noisily. She reeked of wine and it was only ten-thirty. … “You feel like that . . .” said the yogi, “you feel like that because you haven’t mastered your negative energy. I can feel deep, powerful desires within you. We can help you—here and now. Let’s all stand and focus the energies of the group.” Everyone stood, joined hands and formed a circle. Reluctantly, Bruno took the hands of the old bag on his right and a revolting little bearded man who looked like Cavanna. Her whole being focused but calm, the yogi uttered a long “Om” and they were off, everyone droning “Om” as if they’d been doing it all their lives. Bruno was gamely trying to join in the resounding harmony when he suddenly felt himself pitch to the right. Hypnotized, the fat hag was toppling like a stone. He let go of her hand but was unable to break his fall and found himself on his knees in front of the old bitch, now flat on her back and writhing on the mat.

He had a brief glimpse of [the “liberating the voice” workshop] as he walked up to the massage workshop: there were about ten of them, very excited, jumping around to the directions of the Tantric woman and screeching like startled turkeys.

He fails to impress a woman or the Brazilian Tourism Council:

Are you from Brittany?” he asked. “Yes—from Saint-Brieuc!” she replied happily. “But I really like Brazilian dance,” she added, obviously trying to absolve herself for her disinterest in African dance. Much more of this and Bruno would really get irritated. He was starting to get pissed off about the world’s stupid obsession with Brazil. What was so great about Brazil? As far as he knew, Brazil was a shithole full of morons obsessed with soccer and Formula One. It was the ne plus ultra of violence, corruption and misery. If ever a country were loathsome, that country, specifically, was Brazil. Sophie,” announced Bruno, “I could go on vacation to Brazil tomorrow. I’d look around a favela. The minibus would be armor-plated; so in the morning, safe, unafraid, I’d go sightseeing, check out eight-year-old murderers who dream of growing up to be gangsters; thirteen-year-old prostitutes dying of AIDS. I’d spend the afternoon at the beach surrounded by filthy-rich drug barons and pimps. I’m sure that in such a passionate, not to mention liberal, society I could shake off the malaise of Western civilization. You’re right, Sophie: I’ll go straight to a travel agent as soon as I get home.”

The characters say a lot of the same stuff as the academic author of Sapiens, but a decade earlier and more succinctly:

On 14 December 1967 the government passed the Neuwirth Act on contraception at its first reading. Although not yet paid for by social security, the pill would now be freely available in pharmacies. It was this which offered a whole section of society access to the sexual revolution, which until then had been reserved for professionals, artists and senior management—and some small businessmen. It is interesting to note that the “sexual revolution” was sometimes portrayed as a communal utopia, whereas in fact it was simply another stage in the historical rise of individualism. As the lovely word “household” suggests, the couple and the family would be the last bastion of primitive communism in liberal society. The sexual revolution was to destroy these intermediary communities, the last to separate the individual from the market. The destruction continues to this day.

Children existed solely to inherit a man’s trade, his moral code and his property. This was taken for granted among the aristocracy, but merchants, craftsmen and peasants also bought into the idea, so it became the norm at every level of society. That’s all gone now: I work for someone else, I rent my apartment from someone else, there’s nothing for my son to inherit. I have no craft to teach him, I haven’t a clue what he might do when he’s older. By the time he grows up, the rules I lived by will have no value—he will live in another universe. If a man accepts the fact that everything must change, then he accepts that life is reduced to nothing more than the sum of his own experience; past and future generations mean nothing to him. That’s how we live now. For a man to bring a child into the world now is meaningless.

That last paragraph represented a best-case scenario for Houellebecq’s character. What about his actual situation?

After divorce—once the family unit has broken down—a man’s relationship with his children is nonsensical. Kids are a trap that has closed, they are the enemy—you have to pay for them all your life—and they outlive you.”

Could we bring Houellebecq over here to help the LGBTQ community deal with the impending threat of King Donald I’s coronation?

Bruno thought, people are wrong to talk about homosexuals. He had never—or very rarely—met a homosexual; on the other hand, he knew a great many pederasts. Some pederasts—thankfully, very few—prefer little boys; they wind up in prison for a long stretch and no one ever talks about them again. Most pederasts, however, are attracted to youths between fifteen and twenty-five. Anyone older than that is, to them, simply an old, dried-up asshole. Watch two old queens together, Bruno liked to say, watch them closely: they may be fond of each other, they may even be affectionate, but do they really want each other? No. As soon as some tight fifteen-to-twenty-five-year-old ass walks past, they will tear each other apart like panthers; each will rip the other to pieces just for that tight little ass—so Bruno thought. In this, as in many things, homosexuals had led the way for society as a whole, Bruno figured. Take him, for example—he was forty-two years old. Did he want women his own age? Absolutely not. On the other hand, for young pussy wrapped in a miniskirt he was prepared to go to the ends of the earth. Well, to Bangkok at least. Which was, after all, a thirteen-hour flight.

ACT UP activists thought it was important to run ads which others thought pornographic, depicting homosexual practices in close-up. Their lives seemed busier and more fulfilled, full of exciting incident. They had multiple partners, fucked each other in back rooms; sometimes the condom split or slipped off and they died of AIDS. Even then their deaths seemed radical, dignified. Television gave lessons in dignity, especially TF1. As a teenager, Michel believed that suffering conferred dignity on a person. Now he had to admit he had been wrong. What conferred dignity on people was television.

Is there any hope for our planet and species? Maybe…

Thirty years later he could not come to any other conclusion: women were indisputably better than men. They were gentler, more affectionate, loving and compassionate; they were less prone to violence, selfishness, cruelty or self-centeredness. Moreover, they were more rational, intelligent and hardworking. What on earth were men for, Michel wondered as he watched sunlight play across the curtains. In earlier times, when bears were more common, perhaps masculinity served a particular and irreplaceable function, but for centuries now men clearly served no useful purpose. For the most part they assuaged their boredom playing tennis, which was a lesser evil; but from time to time they felt the need to change history—which basically meant inciting revolutions or wars. Aside from the senseless suffering they caused, revolutions and wars destroyed the best of the past, forcing societies to rebuild from scratch. Without regular and continuous progress, human evolution took random, irregular and violent turns for which men—with their predilection for risk and danger, their repulsive egotism, their irresponsibility and their violent tendencies—were directly to blame. A world of women would be immeasurably superior, tracing a slower but unwavering progression, with no U-turns and no chaotic insecurity, toward a general happiness.

More: read The Elementary Particles

One thought on “If the dark days don’t have you in a suicidal mood…

  1. If you want something to cheer you up, don’t read Submission either. Houellebecq paints a chillingly believable scenario for a future Muslim France.

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