Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society & Its Pathologies / Social Survival / Evolution /
The Romans told the story: in the early days of Roman expansion the Romans felt a shortage of women. The Romans had waxed with their farming, their metallurgy, their trade. They had been toughened by their pillaging, but also depleted. So they invited their neighbors, the Sabines, to a feast. The Sabines came. The Romans abducted their guests’ women.
Rape is an old business, gang rape a very old business, in human groups, and the Romans did theirs with the Sabine women the old fashioned way. They didn’t just send the battered doxies back to the Bronx; they kept them. That was the point. The Romans didn’t just want to get off at one particular feast: they wanted further to keep the choice women, have them do the washing and ironing, make the flour, bake the bread. I don’t doubt that the typical pattern was held to: you kill the males, murder their children; then sort through the females: you kill the ugly ones, enslave the mediocre ones, rape the best looking ones, but then keep them for your bed and your nursery. A raped woman may eventually become not only a favored concubine but a married queen: legitimate. Favored children of the ongoing rape may become legitimate heirs: sons of Rome!
It may take a few generations: like what we did with the blacks, with the Irish. Etc. Etc.
Now here’s the kicker: Years later some surviving Sabines said to the Romans, Hey, we want our women back. And the raped Sabine women said, Hell no, we’re Roman now.
Understand, this is a Roman story, a Roman myth. The Romans tell it themselves about themselves. They’re proud of it. The Sabine Women is a Roman story; not a Sabine accusation.
Every species is unique. Every individual within a species is unique. Every culture is unique. But, there are always things in common: between this group and that group, between this individual and that individual. We all have noses. The Sabines grew wheat, the Romans grew wheat. … And this Sabine rape behavior is common, common.
Humans are social, cats are social. In contrast, humans pair off; cat females form a female cat society with males wandering outside the circle. But then other things are the same, or similar. A dominant tom enters the circle. The tom breeds with each screaming female in turn. All the kittens are his. As the tom ages, weakens, has an accident, gets defeated, another tom enters. The new tom kills all of the last tom’s kittens. The females don’t claw him to bits: no, they go into heat! Their dead babies make them horny, receptive, fertile. The new tom mates with each female in turn. All the new kittens are sired by the new tom.
It’s the same for lions. It’s the same for lot of creatures. We in the US weren’t very nice when, coveting the gold in the Black Hills, we sent Custer to murder the Lakota. We weren’t after their women; we were after the mining rights: which those fools weren’t exploiting: their Black Hills were sacred and they left the gold where it lay. But just before Crazy Horse gave Custer a hard time, Crazy Horse and his ilk had been raiding neighboring groups: stealing their horses, stealing their women.
The “Sabine” women is an old old story.
Dig this now: the norm is for the women to go for it. The female is loyal to the male: while he’s alive, while he’s puissant. As soon as he’s defeated, has his heels nipped, gets fired, tarred and feathered, blackballed … the females owe him no loyalty.
Oh sure, some females will be loyal through thick and thin, but very few once they’re pregnant again, her older kids dead or killed. And when there’s another rampant male nearby, there are no loyal females.
(Don’t for one second think that there’s such a thing as a loyal male!) (And if you think you’ve found one, double check the meaning of “loyalty”: is he loyal to the female? Or is he loyal to a still more dominant male?)
Dutch Shultz and his Sabine Woman
I’ve been meaning to gather some thoughts around the Sabine myth for some time now. What triggers this start this morning is my just finishing watching the DVD of Billy Bathgate (1991), a few weeks after completing my first reading of the Doctorow novel. I recap a few essentials of the story:
The “Dutch Shultz” we know in America is, according to Doctorow’s Dutch Shultz, not the original Dutch Shultz. His childhood gang called him “Dutch Shultz” in honor of a prior Dutch Shultz who was supposed to be the toughest guy in his, earlier, gang. That Dutch would rip your balls off before you even knew he was going to slap you. This Dutch never claimed to be that Dutch: but he was tough, ruthless, had a hair trigger … and could organize after a fashion, had an eye for loot. That makes him a saint for Depression America.
Doctorow shows us this Dutch as his empire is beginning to crumble. Bo Weinberg, another Jewish gangster at a time when Jews in New York were at least as tough as any Germans, Poles, Irish, or Dutchmen, was Dutch’s right-hand trigger man, his friend, his confidant. Dutch wants Bo for a hit, but Bo can’t be found. Bo later says he was shacked up, but it turns out he was meeting with Lucky Luciano: Benedict Arnold looking for the boss who will pay best: therefore, selling out Dutch.
Bo also really was shacked up: with a rich wife of a rich playboy with a taste for scruff. OK: now we can arrive at my point, emphasizing a theme that Doctorow here plays with. Dutch nabs Bo, AND the socialite. The gang bundles the couple onto a tug. Dutch has Bo’s feet set in a cement bucket. He also has the girl removed to an aft cabin. Bo sits with his feet in the hardening cement while Dutch can visit room to room, checking on Bo and his cement, and apprising the girl how the clock is ticking against her Sabine lord.
I thought Nicole Kidman was pretty good in this role. We the audience don’t know yet that she’s married. We the audience anticipate that the girl who calls herself “Drew,” among other names, will soon be Dutch’s moll.And we’re right: except that we don’t know yet that Drew, like her playboy husband, will fuck anything: and has a taste for trash beyond just Bo. She lives with hubby, is shacked with Bo, is about to be shacked with Dutch, and winds up fucking Billy Bathgate too, the kid. She’s like nineteen years old; he’s what? Fourteen? Fifteen? Sixteen? (His “regular” girlfriend is like twelve!)
The movie makes it cute: Billy presents Drew to herself as Dutch’s moll. She denied it: or rather modifies it. “I’m not Dutch’s moll; he’s my gangster.” She‘s the collector; not that gonif.
You see my connection. Still, I’ll highlight it. Dutch takes the girl he thinks is Bo’s girl and convinces her that Bo, still alive, is as good as dead. She sees the point. She and Dutch come to an understanding.
What Dutch may or may not understand it that Drew may have had her sights on Dutch all long, that Drew too was just stepping on Bo.
(And after Dutch (and Billy) she can go and fuck Lucky, or Sonny Corleone … or Thomas Dewey, or Estes Kefauver.)
Females have their own depredations.
I itch to say a couple of uncomplimentary things about the movie Billy Bathgate and I may as well jot them here, possibly later moving them elsewhere.
I fully recognize movie makers’ right, nay obligation, to translate text to image. The Merchant – Ivory team hates to dick with Henry James’ dialogue, but they don’t hesitate to rewrite where it doesn’t seem to work as intended on the screen: fine on the page; not always so fine on the soundtrack. Movies can’t do what literature can accomplish; but movies can do some things that literature is helpless about unaided. I further recognize the movie industry’s anxiety to make money, not to throw away capital. (On the other hand I despise Hollywood’s lust for obscene profit, rejecting a project projected to double their money if they can find one less worthy which will triple it.) (I live my life trying, and failing, to break even.) But I despise gratuitous changes, craven changes: making pizza with cheap cheese when good cheese is available. Tom Stoppard, who wrote the script, and Robert Benton, the director, are intelligent men: yet I suspect that some changes they made from the novel had no purpose other than to flush away some of the text’s brains. Sure Hollywood is under pressure to be white bread, but do they have to yield easily? Were they even pushed?
The Billy of the novel is a kid. The film makers cast an actor in his twenties. Fine: except he looked like his was in his twenties.
Billy’s autochthonous girlfriend is a child in an orphanage. Billy comes up with a dollar. For the dollar Becky goes up to the roof with him. He fucks her twelve year old skinny, grubby body. He sticks his finger up her twelve year old ass. The actress cast for Billy’s Becky was older than Billy. No attempt that I could recognize was make to make her appear to be twelvish.
Age counts here. I’m not saying that the Doctorow text is sacred, un-improvable. But age counts. The film version throws away important macroinformation: unnecessarily. Perhaps there were pressures there I don’t know about. I would expect some pressure to be there. Nabokov wrote his masterful Lolita giving his middle-aged Humbert Humbert a serious sin: an impulse toward “nymphettes.” Nabokov emphasized that the girls had to be flat as a pancake, their hips not yet flared. Humbert didn’t just go for underaged girls; he went for girls way under puberty. And he didn’t just lust for them; he groped them where he could. With Lolita, he winds up being her father, her legal guardian. So he shacks with his adopted daughter for years. Trick is, what makes the novel great, the great twentieth-century love story, is that Humbert actually falls in love with Lolita. That is, he still loves her when she IS in puberty. Still loves her when she’s a young woman: pregnant, and a mess. Be that as it may, the age counts. The exact age counts. Even Kubrick yielded and cast his Lolita to be IN puberty. No, no, no: the horror is most horrific if she’s still a girl: butchered before she’s old enough to bleed.
Not that she minded.
Alzo: after Bo gets pushed into the drink, Dutch tells Billy to take Drew home so she can freshen up, get fresh stuff. Billy does. That’s when we meet the husband: with his hand on another man’s dick. This information counts. This information was thrown out. Home, Drew strips out of her cloths: before everybody: hubby, hubby’s bit of trash, Billy. She goes into the shower, she comes out of the shower: naked. This information counts. The novel may be good, may be good and not so good, may be bad; but that’s the information. The movie has her wrap herself in a towel, then drop the towel. We see Nicole Kidman’s skinny ass for one second. Point is, ass or no ass, the information was choked off, reduced, degraded. The movie was not translating; the movie was diminishing.
If they were yielding under pressure, that’s one thing. Did we hear of any resistance? I didn’t. I suspect they were selling their story down the river before they were pressured. Told to wear a tie, the guy wears two ties, and a cummerbund.
Don’t forget that translate used to mean transform from dross to gold, from sinner to saint, from saint to god … It did not mean find different words for.