A correspondent claiming to admire my work writes to ask whether it is morally licit to pleasure oneself to pictures of dead Nazi children in the Ukraine. (They were killed by their own government in “false-flag” operations, but that’s another topic.) This person is almost certainly a troll, but okay, I’ll bite. I’m no expert in Orthodox doctrine, but I know enough to say that onanism is always wrong, an affront against Christian anthropology and the theology of the body.
Nor am I inclined to approve of “workarounds,” such as the recourse to the “Eastern Grip,” aka the “Byzantine Grip,” aka the “Kirillian Grip,” aka the “Mount Athos Shuffle”—that is, an overhand grip that has the knuckles of the hand on the topside of the member, and the thumb on the bottom side, in contra-distinction to the manual positioning that is traditional in cultures that have been informed by the influence of the (moribund and decadent) Western Church. Workarounds like this seem to be no less sleazy than the old Western Church practice of selling indulgences.
Self-pleasure, again, is always wrong, and choice of grip can have no force as a morally mitigating factor.
The first signs of spring are manifest here in Indiana: a snowdrop pushing up past a rimey cow-chip, a crocus triumphant in the frosty soil of the plot where, by summer, Mother grows the skunk weed that she smokes against her glaucoma. I’m especially moved by these signs of grace given the barbarism that the Ukrainians have loosed on the world. But then, delight in nature has always been a Russian reflex in the face of depravity. I think here of the poetic meditations on water—stream water, pond water—in several films by Tarkovsky. These scenes hint at the possibility of redemption, despite the massacres that the Zelenskys of the world loose upon God’s earth.
The letter Z, scrawled as code on Russian tanks participating in the Kremlin’s defensive anti-Nazification campaign, has this week become something of a symbol of anti-Ukrainian resistance in Russia. Like the swastika, it symbolizes a population’s symbiosis with a leader who has transcended mere political leadership to become a mystical father figure to his nation. That is, a seer in the etymological sense of the word: someone who sees, and farther and with more clarity than normal men.
Like the swastika, too, the letter Z has a certain energy to it, its slashing, violent form expressing a wonderful Putinesque vigor. Last week I took to wearing a cardboard Z on the breast of my fleece Lands End jacket, pleased to think that I would be the only Hoosier to signal support in this way for the Russian Idea. Imagine my surprise then, when I arrived at my Russian Orthodox church for mass on Sunday to find all my fellow parishioners wearing paper Z’s on their dresses and lapels—and that Father Nicodemus had replaced the crucifix around his neck with a handsome sterling silver Z pendant.
A philistine anti-Europeanism has always been integral to mainstream American conservatism: think of the “freedom fries” and “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” nonsense of the aughts. In response to it, we paleocons/traditionalist conservatives have tended to side with Europe, at least inasmuch as we could see in a more grounded and mature Europe a force resistant to American warmongering, hysteria, and jingoism. I wonder if that will now change. I can’t be the only far-right Europhile shocked by the public support on the Old Continent for the neo-Nazi Zelensky. The crowds gathered in Prague and Berlin to hear his video addresses were of a stupendous size.
In the past I’ve scoffed at the Americanist, neocon conceit that Europeans are, at heart, vicious and decadent fascists. Is it time now to admit that the neocons and Americanist jingos were, perhaps, right on this matter all along?