Friday, February 27, 2009

One of these things is not like the other

It's always interesting to see what fashion makes of public (or, in this case, public-ish) figures after they're dead. What facet of their God given character is singled out for praise or condemnation depending on which way the gusts of popular opinion are blowing; almost invariably in stark contrast to all those other facets--collectively forming what is called the whole, or context--of that same person.

While not entirely devoid of a sense of the apparent tension and complexity of the man's life, author Scott Symons, who died last Monday at the age of 75, has been eulogized almost exclusively along the lines of his being a "controversial" and "groundbreaking" "gay writer" who was "openly gay at a time when coming out was still so fraught it could be the death knell for a career." Emphasis is given to his "acid scorn for what he saw as an oppressively staid Anglo-Canadian society."

Now, as I say, there are hints--in the Canadian Press obit, anyway--that Mr. Symons wasn't just any old gay activist. That, indeed, he might've been one of those complicated and terribly flawed things known as (I believe this is the term) a human being:
"[Symons'] works of the '60s and '70s will stand as a kind of an accomplishment of an odd intersection of the Canadian Tory spirit with the hippie era and the sexual revolution."
Alas, that's about as far as we get.

Enter David Warren:
Symons hated Trudeau, with a real volcanic passion. He hated him for legalizing homosexuality, among other things. He hated "gays," and vehemently denied being one himself. He was unquestionably homosexual -- though I'm not sure women were safe from him, either.

He was, in his political outlook, fairly consistently a "violent Tory of the old school" (Ruskin's beautiful phrase), and incidentally a war monger of the first water, who, back in 2002, was telephoning me several times a day to ask, "When the hell is Bush going to invade Iraq? What is he waiting for?"

In later life, he retroactively explained that his sexual preferences were a red herring, he had actually wished to launch a "male revolution" in retaliation for the "epistemological enormities" of second-wave feminism. His claim to an unambiguous masculinity was iterated in many colourful expressions, unquotable in a family newspaper.

Was he then a misogynist? "Of course! But not as much as the average woman."