Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Homo Pathetic

The Homo Pathetic: n. (thə hō′mō pə-thĕt′ĭk) A genus of gay and (sometimes) lesbian primates who arouse compassion, sadness or scornful pity.

Look at this image. Above is the advertisement for Band of Brothers, a television mini-series about the haloed American involvement in the Second World War, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, broadcast first on HBO in 2001. When it first aired, CNN’s Paul Clinton wrote that it “is a remarkable testament to that generation of citizen soldiers, who responded when called upon to save the world for democracy”. So basically eleven stunningly shot hours of the same old story, America bringing democracy to the rest of the world. Below, however, is something more interesting (cue the homo pathetic, hereafter THP): it is the social media announcement of the Queer Pride march to be held in Mumbai in January, 2015. “Queer Cadets and Allies / Pride is Coming”. Boo.

Hovering behind both these images is an old ghost of a shrill war-speech that celebrates bloodshed. The King of England, in Shakespeare’s Henry V (1599) right before the battle of Agincourt scolds the meek and praises the brave, says there is no place for quibbling on the battle-field, you’re either with us or against us, remain here or go home, in other words, all doubt is cowardice, all skepticism wimpish, and then offers a vision of a completely unrealistic, idyllic bliss that supposedly descends on war veterans once they return home. He wants to first seduce them into believing that even if they die gruesomely in the trenches, their memory will live on (God Promise!) and that that alone should be enough for them. And if by chance, they were to remain alive, nothing like it, there's no trauma, no shell-shock in his scheme of things, they will be and forever remain the “happy few, we band of brothers [that’s the reference!]; / For he to-day that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother…This day shall gentle his condition: / And gentlemen in England now a-bed / Shall think themselves accursed they were not here [because, of course, if you’re not on the war-front, you’re most likely sleeping somewhere, you, chicken, you]”. One of the most quoted Shakespeare speeches. In short, wars are good. Fight in them. Heroism lies only in war. Conscientious objectors are actually complete pussies. And did we say, wars are good.  

What strange twist of fate made a queer designer sitting in Mumbai choose (plagiarize) an image for a queer pride march in his city from a righteous American mini-series on war that itself refers to the mother of all war speeches? What made others pass it?* What strange twist of fate in our times brings on this convergence of war brouhaha and modern queer politics, of war flags and rainbows? Is it that strange after all? In these times of the Homo Pathetic (THP), I suggest it is not. And it is certainly not about that one person, it's a bigger thing at hand.

THP is a peculiar species. He (and more rarely, she) believes that the sole aim in his life is gay rights (and more rarely lesbian rights), and, that there is no other battle to be fought along with this battle-par-excellence, this quest of all quests, this gay shiz. This species will use any convenient means for this sublime and exclusive goal of a gay heaven. Nothing else matters to him. He will come up with catchy slogans, swanky jpegs, self-abasing & pleading petitions to meet this goal.

On his way to the Holy Grail of gay rights, he is the victim better than any other. He is the most tortured being on earth. No one’s suffering, no one's pathos equals his. All women, Dalits, black folks, the poor, the droned-out war-refugees, and half those LBT’s all add up and produce a quantity of pain that is not even enough to sugar the morning tea of the Homo Pathetic. He out-victims them all.

And in order to do something about his pain, he will use any war-justifying, bloodshed-glorifying, trench-beautifying god-damn image of American exceptionalism, if that is what it will take to bring him two inches closer to his goal of gay rights. The Homo Pathetic is strategic, you see. He knows a thing or two about what works in today’s world, what will get more eyeballs for his Facebook invite, more footfalls for his Pride march which is going to be a fun affair, and not some boring, political march, for god forbid fun should have anything to do with politics. And lest this be misunderstood, there should not be too much fun either. Because you see, THP is fun-loving, no he is, really, but fundamentally, behind all this rainbow-flag craziness, he is basically a serious, obedient and 100% nice citizen. He is a pucca Sahib. Have you ever seen a pucca Sahib smile? He wants to shout in Pride marches but politely and without making any noise. He wants to be queeny but not too queeny, does not want to stand out or be an eye sore for the passers-by and those police guys who’re there to protect him. He can't offend them. He'd sooner die.

So he gives strict guidelines for those who want to come to his pride march. THP tells the marchers, among other things [trigger warning: actual guidelines copy-pasted from the Mumbai Pride invite], "Smoking, alcohol, and substance abuse is strictly prohibited. [Of course it is, the THP is a sober, saatvic teetotaler who fights the drug-mafia on weekends. He goes on to say that…] while dressing colorfully is encouraged, please use your own good judgment in your dressing or behavior, that it does not offend anyone [Because of course Pride marches ever since they were first held in the 70s were done by people marching in muted, eye-soothing black&white shades of fully-buttoned shirts and grey cotton trousers, all of them making a bid for good old respectability, but, but, that’s not all, the THP does not forget to mention, the ruffling feathers bit, so he says in his strict guideline number n…] do not dress up as a political icon, historical figure as this may be objected by the authorities [for cursed be you, if you actually make a political statement or somethin' of that kinda sort of thang in our god-damn establishment friendly Pride march of good, responsible, soberly-dressed, inoffensive, smiling-but-not-over-smiling citizens.]"

The THP, you should know, wants to be in the good books of the authorities. He likes the authorities, never raises his voice in front of them. He will agree to all they say and turn a blind eye to all they do if only, you know, that gay-rights-thing. He won't ask a question. He won't lift a finger. He won't speak to others. He will just walk in front of the authorities in a straight line with his hands behind his back. Walk in a straight line with hands behind his back. A straight line, hands behind his back. Like prisoners of war do, like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharaib inmates did, like frost-bitten soldiers in Siachen do, like Kashmiris did when paraded in their own villages during early morning crackdowns. In a straight line, here we come, hands tied safely behind our backs, “queer cadets”, Regiment THP001, reporting Sir.

* At the time of writing this piece, the image was part of the event invite page. The image has since been removed.