Now Politics: the Political Opinions of Thomas Sarebbenonnato

A Friend of the People Opposing Elites; Social and Political Commentary of Thomas Sarebbenonnato; Publishing and Contributing Editor, Jay V. Ruvolo [Copyright (c) Jay Ruvolo 2018]

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by a Sub-sub Librarian

A few notes on obscenity, toward a better understanding of what it is, how its has been, what it once had meant, the etymology it contains in its current usage, the mores surrounding it, sometimes hijacking it; the ways it might be used by someone in his personal opinion or her politicking if not her politique . . . all of these pertinent to any discussion of what is obscene, especially in a culture as Puritanical as ours, as closeted as that Puritanism remains when it is not pronounced overtly, announced as a rallying cry of and for far too many uptight Americans chained by their fears and neuroses; or as often as we run the gamut of reactionary, that is, again, uptight conservative politics that we cannot help but envisage, enact, mostly because we are metaphysically, at our cultural core, Protestant, every single Protestant reformer a social, political and ethical reactionary.

The reformers chief objection to the Church was how lenient on sinners and their sinning the Church really was; of course, the Reformers objected to how the Church responded to Heresy, but then Protestant Witch trials . . . and they did proliferate after the Reformation, killed more women than the Church did Heretics. In 1258, Pope Alexander IV prohibited the persecution of witches. However, after the Reformation was in full swing, the Church reversed its position. Nonetheless, more than 80% of all persecution of witches between the years 1550 and 1700 took place in Protestant regions, under the guidance of the Protestant Churches,themselves perhaps more willing to pander the fears and anxieties of the masses than the Church ever was willing do, pander, that is. The Protestant Churches persecuted more woman for witchcraft than the Spanish Inquisition persecuted anyone, the latter an inquisitional fury that had detached itself from full sanction of Rome, in the Inquisition’s alliances with the Spanish Monarchy.

I do have to say in response to the latter that America’s love affair with conservatism, politically and socially, is rooted in how Protestant we are in our dominant metaphysics; Protestanism being the Spirit of Capitalism, yes (and this is ripe with a number of prejudices I have held from Irish Catholic Aunts, all them real, true and visceral); yes, as much to do with Protestanism as it is at the core of our particularly virulent brand of totalitarian bourgeois capitalism (and Protestants are much moyeintersted in policing your life morally than are Catholics, I know); Protestanism has become entrenched in our lives, our perceptions and actions in ways it has been rooted for a very long time socially and politically and economically.

Again, there was not one Protestant Reformer (itself a misnomer) who was not a reactionary, hating the sinner along with the sin, lambasting the Church, not for being too excessive or too punitive but too lenient with sinners and the state of sin in individuals.

The Protestants also objected to the Church’s response to their Heresies; but then, note well the Rabbis responses to Spinoza in Spain . . . God in other words Nature? That is heresy as it is in all of the three great monotheistic religions. The Priests of the Temple found Yehuda Ben Miriam not guilty of Heresy, Heresy being a capital crime, the Priests needed a unanimous vote. They could not get it. The Romans, however, found him guilty of sedition, and not being a Roman citizen, he was subjected to Crucifixion. But Heresy everywhere results in the same thing; did not Buddhism begin as a Hindu heresy? What was the result from Hindu toward Buddhist in India?



“Obscenity begins when there is no more spectacle, no more illusion, when every-thing becomes immediately transparent, visible, exposed in the raw and inexorable light of information and communication” (21-2) Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication

Obscene is from the Greek Ob Skena, or off-stage. Skena is the origin of our scene, coming from the French scene for the Greek that meant stage. In theater, Mise-en-scene is the blocking of the play, is everything placed on stage, put on the stage for the audience to view; in cinema, it is the arrangement of everything that shows up in the frame.

Scene is on stage; ob-scene is off-stage, whatever is not put on the stage, whatever is not for the audience to see, whether incidentally or intentionally, that is, consciously (the latter which may or may not have anything to do with intentionality).

What is decidedly obscene in our minds seems to depend on the period we are discussing, Hollywood censorship after the onset of the Hayes Office impositions was an example of determining what was obscene and what was not. Pre-code films from the early thirties in sharp contrast with those after the code–seen and ob-scene. Even those things considered obscene in only a few minds today, and things that are often viewed, were things the Greeks would have kept off-stage. All killing in the plot of a play was off-stage, ob-scene. Passolini’s film SALO comes to mind.

We have film ratings for this purpose–in as much as we have a First Amendment; we defer this notion of freedom of expression with determining obscenity by age. What is age appropriate, let’s say with an R rating, amounts to saying announcing the obscenity of the content for certain ages, although further modified by the inclusive, “unless accompanied by an adult.” So then obscenity has a lot to do with notions and attitudes about childhood and what is appropriate for children. But then, free speech is always something that is limited. To take Brandeis’s infamous example, No one has a First Amendment right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater.


There is something of the etymology residual in all uses of the word ‘obscenity,’ what we call obscene is simply put, off-stage, not in view, it does not matter if like to fuck goats, just do not do so on your front lawn, especially when I am walking by your home with my children on their way to school.

The Obscenity trial of Ferlinghetti for publishing Alan Ginsburg’s “Howl” comes to mind when considering just what is considered obscene in language in print, what can and cannot get published.

Irrespective of what the gray areas of obscenity are, what would generally be called obscene would never have made it onto the Greek stage. It is what would be given a X rating, something, of course, we reserve almost entirely for pornographic films. But then pornography is obscene in differing ways.

This then could eventually raise questions of what is on stage and what is off stage in our minds–what we entertain to think and what we do not. This could then lead us to conclude that what is obscene in Public Space would not be considered so in Private space, unless the private viewer were to make such a conclusion himself, for himself and his space.



This is all I’m going to say for now, or however you allow yourself to imagine all-ness, completeness? When is something complete? At the conclusion?

A conclusion is what comes at the end, coming to an end, the end, The End, Finis, it is finished. A conclusus is a wall at the end of something in Latin; there is no room without its walls, all rooms therefore are quite conclusive, aren’t they? No?

Completion is complete, another truth in tautology; it is perfection, that which is perfect, of course; perfect in Latin meaning complete. however, we must sidestep this hyper-idealized sense of perfection. Perfectum in Latin meaning just that, what is complete.

To end the story is what? How? We think we must deliberate, deliberate deliberation while deliberating about how to go about ending the work deliberately . . . you get what I am doing here, don’t you?

Just end the fucking thing and that becomes its conclusion, what we arrive at after the organic representation–and herein lies the crux, the rub, if you will allow me another pretension . . . what then is all art but pretense, artifice, either badly done or well done, done well should never be reserved for use on how to cook meat.

Organic wholeness infers completeness which is in itself perfection. You do see the relationships, no? I think I do, now and then know I do.

Written by jvr

April 15, 2019 at 10:25 am

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