On Love: the Politics of Intimacy

In this brief post Shaheryar Ali presents a radical view of intimacy and discusses how the exercise of control and power define, limit and often undo what is termed as “intimacy”. Several readers may not agree with all the points made, but this is an inquiring write-up betraying contradictions of “knowledge” itself.

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep”

This is one of the most well known poems by Pablo Neruda. The poem strikes right at the heart of the readers. Breaking the textual barriers of Platonic Love, Neruda is bringing forward the “original concept” of Love, one that has been converted into sin due to the politics of intimacy. Why for thousands of years the entire religious, social and political discourse wants to regulate “intimacy”. Why “Intimacy” between two people has to be sanctioned by State, Society and Family? Even when doing such a thing is logical violation of concept of “Intimacy” itself.

Why death, stones, hate, prejudice, bigotry, all dominate the poetic, social, religious, political and legal discourse involving Love? Why intimate love has to be “dark”, so that Neruda had to celebrate its “dark side”? Why still “Marriage” has to be defined? Why lovers have to be stoned and hanged? Why don’t we leave all the definitions, all the statutes, all the verdicts on the two lovers who decide to hold hands!

Answer to all these “whys” is in the politics of separation, control and power. Intimacy has to be regulated in order to divide, subjugate and control the people. To create the “institutes” of Power and Segregation, the Church, The Mosque, The State, The Family. That is why Love had to be the “Original Sin” causing all the misfortunes of Mankind. There had to be an Adam and an Eve. Eve had to be the temptation for Sin, so that her daughters could be buried, stoned, killed, burned, sold, abused, converted into domestic slaves, or paraded naked on stage and porn flicks.

To keep slaves happy, “Perverts” had to be created, to cause fear. Fear is another source of Power. Definitions have to be created: lust, temptation, longing, sin, adultery, normal, pervert, mad, sane—. Knowledge is power too- How “Knowledge” has raped the third world, one needs to read Edward Said’s Orientalism. And how it has affected Love, read Foucault’s “History of Sexuality“. Everything designed to undermine Love, because Love completes and it cuts off the roots of power:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep————

Image credits here and here


Filed under History, Pakistan, Uncategorized, USA, World

9 responses to “On Love: the Politics of Intimacy

  1. You have made some very thoughtful and piercing points. However, when you talk about the ‘original concept’, that is contra-Platonic ‘physically’ passionate intimacy, you don’t seem to entirely escape from your inherent humanistic prejudice. Why to restrict the definition of intimacy between ‘two people’; who dictates that in your view? —- Religion? norm?

    Secondly, you seem to argue from a purely individualistic perspective while describing the politics of intimacy. How do you consider the societal beings of persons being intimate. Your contention seems to allude that two persons being intimate do not have a societal being. That completely defies the social reality, in my humble opinion.

    As regulation of intimacy is justified if dictated by the persons being intimate, how can it be deemed irrational when the societal beings of same persons are in question.

    Please do bear with my naivety in philosophical enquiries.

  2. PTH

    Aasem, you have raised some pertinent questions that deserve a comprehensive response. I’d also like Sherry to respond on them

  3. Bolongo Katayama

    “I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
    or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
    I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
    in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”

    What an irony!
    I cant love you like I can Love a salt rose, or topaz. And salt roses or Topazes are not loving creatures and loving them does not have any societal implications of right and wrong. Or I can possess them with their material being, and I cant possess you. O my words, my Ideas, My thoughts, how ephemeral how fleeeting they are.

  4. Qandeel

    I am also curious to hear the response to Aasem’s questions.

    What is this “original concept” of Love and how can it exist without a social backbone to it? Love itself is a social construct and may very well be defined by the “politics of intimacy” in a given time/place.

    I think Neruda’s poem is beautiful, but really, who loves like that? The kind of Love he speaks of may be more of an ideation than reality.

  5. sherryx

    Thank you very much to all especially to my friend Bolongo and Mr Aasem Bakshi. Very good comments by Aasem , the “naivety in philosophical enquiries” is perhaps an understatement of the year , because the two objections raised are philosophically very relevant
    1, as per the “humanistic prejudice”, i agree. i dont deny it at all. I have a humanistic prejudice in epistemology. This is because every mode of knowledge has a prejudice, this is not a bad thing, most trends will give an empirical justification for this prejudice, like scientists, rationalists and logicians. I even dont like to justify any claims or modes of knowledge, because I [or the trend i follow] have a charge sheet against Knowledge and Truth itself. Multiple truths and realities exist that converge and diverge at different points of references. Having said that ill like to clear a few points:
    A, “original concept of Love”, i have used this term basically not to assert an hegemony on a single truth of a concept of love , not at all, it feels that way because it challenges or try to deconstruct the concept of “original Sin” [which has an absolute claim to Truth]. An empirical justification is possible though, physical passionate intimate love is “original” because all ideas of love “originated” from it, it Eve hadn’t eaten the apple , nothing would have existed. If Humans hadn’t flourished , even a Platonic Idea was not a possibility , Plato being a human himself. More precisely , all expressions of love are based on birth of a child, it makes , mother, father, husband, wife, family , tribe , city, society and all its ideological manifestation . Religion too exist in humans , all metaphors of divine love are “human” as well, [God is , the “father”, God is “Mother”]

  6. sherryx

    2, Now the second point , “societal beings”. Well i agree, i have written this in response to the laws, regulations , dictates that claim their justification from “society”. That is a Reality for 3000 years or so, but the point remains , Love even is this dominant “thought” in almost all its trends has represented a rebellion from society , first Love being rebellion against God! [ adem ka sher yaad ata he Insan hu’n adem or ye yazdan ko khaber he , Jannat mere Islaf ki thukrai hue he—]That rebellion has largely been transformed into social acceptances over time , Modernity in Europe gave social acceptance to lots of sins of love]
    3,Moreover what we call “society” its laws, norms , like marriage, family etc represent a particular type of “societal existence” or “being”, one that human have always tried to change, if it has existed as “nature” for thousands of years, it doesn’t mean that its only society possible. What we call nature , society etc represent “structures” of dominance, Marx thought they were created by class struggle and represent the thinking of dominant classes, Nietzsche saw Power behind this.
    What is being seen as “conflict between social being and individual being” in in fact the problem of thought, the problem of dualism. Deleuze in 68 attempted to philosophizes this in his infamous “Capitalism and Schizophrenia”
    “”making love is not just becoming as one, or even two, but becoming as a hundred thousand.”
    Criticizing Marx and Freud for revolting against the system but remaining within its thought

    We i think are in better position to understand this specific type of thought which Europe is exploring now , a limited version [and a primitive one as well] has been known to us for a long time, One that sees no “dualistic separation between , creators and creation, this thought doesnt accept separation between “individuals and society” as well : When I wrote “why dont we leave all definitions, all statutes all dictates to two lovers holding hands — It was said earlier as well:

    Masjid dha de mandir dha de, dha de jo kuch dhenda ae
    Pur bunde da dil na dhaven , Rub dillan wich rehna ae

    Intimacy get a darker tinge bcz a society makes it dark in first place and attempts to separate, when two lovers hold hands, they are making a new society [that dies immediately when existing social structures incorporates them, those who defy them become Heroes , the struggle continues till a new society is born where there will be no dichotomy between Individual and society——

    Kafir-e-ishqam musalmani mara darkaar neest
    Har rag-e mun taar gashta hajat-e zunnaar neest;
    I am a pagan and a worshipper of love: the creed (of Muslims) I do not need;
    Every vein of mine has become taunt like a wire, the (Brahman’s) girdle I do not need. [Khusrau]

    Deleuze says:

  7. George Strachey

    We love what we cannot posess..The grass is greener on the other side of the fence…..I believe it was Focault himself who said please dont legitimize homosexuality..I prefer the stigma to it….That again is the point….he talked about being a sexual cowboy…ITs the whole thing of rebelling i guess…
    That is a big high….I know nothign of philosophy to talk about it.,…..i dont know…but i guess its ur call in the end…the poem was beautiful….Many people will not agree with Neruda in politis…That does not take away anythign fromthe fact that he was arguably one of the greatest spanish writers in the 20th century…..

  8. sherryx

    Thanks Georgy , you are right , Foucault disagreed with Modernity’s project of “gay liberation”, but you see thats a rebellion in itself. He didnt want to “appear normal” as modernity put it. That is a revolt against modern discourse. Proud to be a Pervert, not proud to be gay!!
    With postmodern thought, “difference” is absolute goal.conformity is evil, Modernity wants to give rights, acceptability, and status on one condition, that one should adopt it completely, give up his differences his being. This is not acceptable to him. he wants to be what he is, dont want to be one of them, because they offer slavery in name of freedom, and rejection in name of acceptance. In name of “civil rights”, they have created a “homosexual specie” a ridiculous stereo type of wester society , Foucault sees it as an offense— that is what he rejects , “naming” people, creating identities than controlling them
    Though he all his life was active in Queer movement, almost all post modern philosophers , Deleuze too

  9. mystery

    so wat am i supposed to write?
    i din even bother to read 2 paragraphs or so coz i knew it ll bore me so much tht ill hate studying english da next day
    hats off