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Why Devotees Sometimes Behave Badly

by J.

When I made case that a devotee is not necessarily a disgusting person, I was trying to persuade two communities at the same time. Many devotees feel themselves to be disgusting people: many amputees believe that devotees are disgusting people. What I showed was that devotees are not disgusting in principle. However some of the things that devotees do, in practice, do disgust others. Two sorts of activity seem to be especially disgusting: one is collecting amputee material: photographs of amputees, and stories about them; and the other is lurking in newsgroups and elsewhere where they are unwelcome.

Some devotees may be ashamed of their feelings, or for other reasons may be unable to satisfy them in the obvious way of searching for a friend or a companion like the incomparable Miranda. For them, one way of defusing the conflict between what they would like to do, and what they feel they ought to do is to substitute fantasy for action, and collect pictures of women who are amputees, or to read and write romantic or erotic stories about them, and exchange such material with other devotees, or even just to talk to other devotees about the physical beauty and desirability of such women.

This behaviour may seem disconcertingly odd at first, but substitute the word women for 'women who are amputees' and men for 'devotees' and the behaviour described is that of male adolescents everywhere, racked with sexual desire in a society that gives them little opportunity to express their sexuality and teaches them hardly anything at all about love.

The collecting behaviour of devotees has been criticised as being disgusting, but it is no different in principle from the collecting behaviour of the man who subscribes to Playboy, who doesn't throw away his old copies, and who allows his friends to read them. If you believe the Playboy collector is innocuous then you are logically committed to believing that the devotee who collects and circulates material that he is interested in, is equally innocuous. Of course, you may feel that both men are behaving badly: but in this case you cannot logically conclude that the devotee is morally worse than the Playboy collector. In other words, if he is disgusting it is because he is a collector and not because he is a devotee.

The devotees who are not ashamed of their feelings want to find friends and partners. Fortunately the catastrophe of becoming an amputee is relatively rare, but this means that it is unlikely that devotees will meet amputees by chance. So devotees have to go searching for them. One of the places to go looking is in newsgroups like this one, or the amputee listserver, and there we lurk - more bad behaviour by devotees... Sometimes a bold one will do more than lurk, he will post a message, and this sometimes provokes an unthinking rejoinder and a snappy little flame-skirmish ensues that does nobody any good.

One reason for this is that the newsgroups where the amputees congregate are mutual support groups sharing information about circumventing physical disability. Therefore you don't subscribe to these groups unless you are concerned with the problems of being disabled. So subscribers are likely to be among the least sympathetic of all towards devotees: if you feel that being an amputee makes you ugly and disabled it is unlikely that you will be sympathetic towards someone who asserts that for him it makes you especially attractive, or even believe that he is telling you the truth; and if he is, then there must be something weird about him, and you might never even pause to question if it might make you happier to be thought more attractive rather than less.

The squabbling that arises is reminiscent of what happened when I was an adolescent. I went to one of two adjoining schools, one for boys and one for girls. As the boys grew up we took to hanging about the entrance of the girls' school in the afternoon to look at the girls going home. Occasionally one of the bolder youths would shout a comment, probably something meant to be clever or witty, something to draw attention to himself, and this was met with silence, a crushing rejoinder, or escalated into an exchange of cat-calls.

Lurking devotees are just the same. Once you put behind you the prejudice that boys - I'm sorry, devotees - are disgusting creatures, you can understand why they stand at the school gate - lurk in newsgroups, I mean - and when you think about it, it's quite flattering really, and one or two of them might be quite nice after all... And if you're friendly perhaps they will stop lurking and behave better.

So that's why some of us are collectors and why some of us lurk: we are no more and no less disgusting than other men, and some of us can be even be quite agreeable companions or correspondents.


Notes

... not necessarily a disgusting person ...

Twins: An Exploration Of The Morality Of The Feelings Of Devotees

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