COMMENT: Brideshead Revisited

first_imgIn a place where the trains often don’t run on time, gay-bashings every few months or so seem to run perfectly on schedule. What’s more shocking, though, is that these things are accepted as a matter of course. For instance, I never did find out what happened to the students who beat up the gay man at the Queer Bop.I assume they are lurking around somewhere in the Gothic architecture, because beating someone up on the basis of sexual orientation here doesn’t seem as unacceptable as beating someone up on the basis of race or gender. It’s not just drunken louts who crash the gay party and disfigure a few faces. The intellectual establishment still seems to have the propensity to think of homophobic agendas as constituting something morally courageous. I can think of two recent Rhodes scholars from Princeton who have achieved recognition for, among other better things, leadership of an ignoble society known as the Anscombe Society.This is a society which opposes gay marriage – nay, even gay sex – and proposes a “scientific” ontological understanding of humans to the extent that they “cannot support homosexual relations which fall outside the goals of chastity, nor the proposition for same sex marriage, which challenges the fundamental definition of marriage”.I’m not sure what the point of this society is, since all they seem to do is condemn homosexuals to a life of chastity. Yet the Rhodes Scholarship committee evidently and manifestly must think that this constitutes moral and philosophical interest in society, or evidence of leadership. I’m not opposed to people having their own opinions, however unsupported and pernicious they may be. I’m usually fine if certain people think that what I am is fundamentally immoral, as long as they don’t shove it in my face, pious faces notwithstanding. But this is something quite different.To recognize the implicit gay-bashing intentionally performed by leaders of homophobic societies by bestowing intellectual and moral laudation is tantamount to giving people who punch homosexuals for no good reason a trophy for being upstanding men of action and courage. That kind of thing is enough to make my blood boil.It’s almost as if we were still living in the crumbling interwar era, where men were called Evelyn and Hilary, and where homosexuals in fits of bathetic spiritual ecstasy would immolate themselves upon altars of self-abnegation. It’s certainly Brideshead revisited, except that it’s the spectre of a corpse bride that continues to haunt the oppressed. Johann Loh is a visiting Philosophy student from Princeton University. I used to think Evelyn Waugh was a woman, because I didn’t think a man could be called Evelyn. Then I discovered that there were men called Hilary and women called Robin.In any case, I always found Evelyn Waugh to be a very strange person. Brideshead Revisited, as the suggestive name, erm, suggests, is about a boy at Oxford who falls in love subconsciously with another beautiful boy called Sebastian; later sublimates this desire into heterosexual love for Sebastian’s sister, Julie; and finally transubstantiates his blood-and-flesh desires into overwhelming love for God (precipitated by a World War, no less). At least, that’s how Freud and I see it.It’s a theme that recurs in so many homosexual novels, though usually in reverse: the pious boy who loves God, then loves God-made-flesh in man, eventually discovering that true ecstasy inheres in the bodies of all the men in the world. Fast-forward to present-day Oxford and some things have changed. These days the homosexuals generally don’t flounce around Christ Church meadows with beautiful boys carrying teddies; they’re more likely to be found gyrating in Pop Tarts with muscular daddy bears. They probably won’t end up in bed with their boyfriend’s sister except by way of having discovered a three-way interest in Bertolucci’s Dreamers, and why wear a pince-nez when there are other better ways of gripping appendages?The glorious days of surreptitious, you-and-me-against-the-world schoolboy encounters in the dark cloisters of interwar society have given way to  tight-shirted boys in shiny Dolce and Gabbana sweating to the house-y beats of Rihanna’s latest dance track. It’s been quite a radical century, if you ask me. But traditionalists will be glad to note that some things don’t change. Last week, for instance, a couple of gay men were beaten up – again – outside the Coven, which hosts gay nights every Friday. Like a string of pearls passed down from generation to generation, this incident is merely the latest in a series of gay-bashings that include other gay-bashings outside the Coven and another that occurred at, of all places, the Wadham Queer Bop two years ago.last_img read more