Ghost of Christmas Present: The Rejection of the Maternal Gaze
“Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple deep green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air.”
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Figures like the Ghost of Christmas Present, Falstaff, Dionysus, Bacchus, Little John, Father Christmas; these often present an archetypal character of a man totally absorbed only in the present. His actions, his intentions, his thoughts, such as they are, are directed towards an immediate goal with little reflection. Sometimes this state of mind comes from a kind of intoxicated revelry. Other people just seem to naturally have it. The confidence with which the jolly man enters the room, he makes it his own, all eyes turn to him. His size and frame are imposing but also inviting. You want to be nearer to him. His tone is however it comes, his emotions unguarded or unchecked, his generosity for standing a round is unmatched.
Surrounded by the debris and flotsam of Christmas and late in the night, I will attempt to explain why restoring this archetype is vital for opposing the Current Year Regime. I’ve long been taken with Dickens’ figure of the ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’, seeing it as a child most vividly probably from the Muppets adaptation of the book. With his huge shaggy mane of hair; holly, mistletoe, and ivy adornments and air of utter joy and merriment with life, he cuts a figure in every way out of step with our miserable present.
This kind of energy, of men and figures like him, flows from a feeling of personal power and abundance. He is gripped by an overflowing personality, he says “I can do anything for you friend, and I will.” Every action seems to affirm that he can act without boundaries, but you needn’t fear anything spiteful or petty. So often these men are wreathed around with furs, plants, wooden staffs and animals, as if they draw from the cosmos itself a kind of wealth.
Of course, this is a mythical depiction, but there are (or were) men of this calibre. My fear is that today our sickly and wellness-oriented culture makes it impossible to nurture, foster, or grow such people. I crave to see most of all careless abandon, the total surrendering of the mind to the passions. Even for brief moments in this emotional panopticon. Such characters are absent from our cultural hive-mind as well, with each new series or film offering up yet another degraded spectacle of introspection, anxiety, and meekness of heart.
“Ecce homo, he is hunched over and presses his thighs together, all the tension in his spine running up into his neck, causing daily headaches. He squints and moves stiffly, uncomfortable in his own frame. He wishes he was as lithe and careless as the drunkards surrounding him, but he can’t seem to let go. Instead his flesh remains stiff like cardboard. Every building he enters brings a feeling of dread, “what if I do something wrong? What if I mess up?”. A thousand times like this he goes about his day, wishing a sevenfold vengeance on those who cut him off in the doorway or ignore his polite mutterings.”
It seems impossible to imagine social life without this other gaze, the self-awareness that comes from the ego being unable to engage unless it views itself from the outside. This is a true pathology, impossible to overstate, it ruins and corrupts any spontaneous behaviour. A young man, lost in the throes of a dance, or a love affair, instead sees himself as the beady social and techno-matron sees him — too loud, too disruptive, too outrageous. It’s not even the much-loathed social media that surrounds his vision, but the matriarchal superego, distilled into a moment of self-control, of denial, interrupting the flow.
Camille Paglia wrote about how the pagan virtues of sex and violence always remain the animating principles of any vital and powerful art movement. Even if veneered with Christianity or some other force, even if bottle stopped as taboos, these chthonic forces are the beating heart of culture. Their absence signifies the spiral towards death, the death of life as something moving and pulsing, as destructively creative potential. Everywhere today we see this drained and withered character. Sex is increasingly mediated as an act of anxiety, a legalistic consensual procedure or a narrative-driven parasocial fiction. Violence is considered a failure of diplomacy and has no honour, no glory, or fame attached to it. Exerting one’s will over another person or over another group is generally viewed as toxic behaviour.
With this desiccation of the spirit comes the eternal return to the womb. Today we might call it ‘podlife’ — that fearful encasing of oneself, like an insect, into a chrysalis of safety and predictability. When the deeper forces of sex and violence, which always threaten to swell from underneath, or descend like a wrathful red mist, are abandoned entirely or reduced to a pitiful sapling, then a man views any loss of control as a terrible thing. This void is filled with a life of regimentation, not necessarily like that of a factory floor, but as a movement between spaces which are owned and controlled by a higher power for your own good. A man animated by a greedy lust for life would rebel and resist being corralled into a space where any possibility of spontaneity has been stripped away. The bugman, by contrast, takes great comfort in feeling that nothing could happen that he hasn’t foreseen.
If anything is true from the last few years of total social control, it is the ever-present fear of death that has come to dominate the raison d’être of the state. Perhaps the absence of any form of religious sentiment and communal spirituality has led to the total obsession with death as the ultimate failure of power. If we can have so much control over the smallest details of our lives, then death must be an admission that something has gone wrong. It is now almost inconceivable that death might be the preferable option. Only with painful terminal illnesses can we see the dead as the lucky ones, but any notion of honour, duty, pride, and so on, as higher callings is largely seen as anachronistic and archaic.
Thus, life today is smoothed and maintained in its stasis by the constant lubrication of a kind of therapy. The endless welfare check of the long night, each point of contact with an institution seeks to mediate your passions with the water torture of a thousand small questions — are you okay? Do you want to talk about it? Please consider your mental well-being? The soul is massaged and soothed, any feeling of abundance or a need to discharge personal power through bodily force is sapped. We are tapped like a rubber tree; watched over by benign techno-therapeutic guardians… and you will enjoy it!
The Ghost of Christmas Present would not only suffer under this regime, but it would also likely never exist. His careless cheerfulness and almost instinctual aristocratic disdain for the skin-crawling touch of the brood nurse makes him a man out of place. We, as dissidents and enemies of the Regime, would do well to learn from him, take something of this vitalism and nurture it deep inside our breasts. The flowering of the soul today, as a Dionysiac dissident, is unlikely to present itself as a towering, raging Achilles, but perhaps just in retaining the ability to lose oneself, even for a moment, with a lover, in a dance, in a street fight or boxing ring, in a sporting competition or in the contemplation of music. To resist today is to preserve this primordial human power to join in the flowing, dissolving ecstasy, and just for an instant to feel the breath of eternity.
Happy New Year!