Hegemonic Moral Values And The Marquis De Sade

1343 words - 5 pages

Nearly every group suffered at one point in time: Romans fed Christians to lions for entertainment; Nazis killed Jews, gays, and the handicapped en masse; Americans white landowners enslaved blacks--the informed reader might cite myriad instances throughout human history when a particular community suffered at the hands of another. In "Border Crossing" David Sibley, writing primarily about recent events in both Britain and in the U.S.A., references numerous "manifestations of deep antagonism within society, for example between adults and teenagers, blacks and whites, heterosexuals and homosexuals," (273.) Why after so much time does this antagonism still exist? Sibley suggests that moral boundaries are at the root of the troubles (272.) Intolerance between groups grows when a particular group's moral boundaries become hegemonic, such as white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian values became in both the U.S.A. and Western Europe--any individual or community that does not fit within the aforementioned description experiences discrimination from the hegemonic community. Brent Staples, an American black man, exemplifies this discrimination in his short story, "Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space," just as the Marquis de Sade, an eighteenth century French prisoner, exemplifies the inversion of hegemonic morals in 120 Days of Sodom--discrimination however, remains.

    Certain communities possess certain moral values that cause the hegemonic community to feel threatened. What are those certain values and why does the hegemonic community feel threatened? The ascendant values des temps in the U.S.A. and throughout Western Europe are white, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian. Sibley asserts that those who hold those values think of "black youth as an inherently criminal minority and inner cities as inherently criminal locales," (273.) Representative as it is of the larger condition outlined above, let us test Sibley's statement with an example from a different text:

    In "Just Walk on By..." Brent Staples personifies the aforementioned condition of the black man in the inner city. If one takes Sibley at his word, the hegemonic white, hetero, Judeo-Christians--and perhaps many others--view him as inherently criminal. Sibley writes as follows:

My first victim was a woman--white, well dressed, probably in her early twenties. I came upon her late one evening in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago. As I swung on the avenue behind her, there seemed to be a discreet, uninflammatory distance between us. Not so. She cast back a worried glance. To her, the youngish black--a broad, six-feet two inches with a beard and billowing hair, both hands shoved into the pocket of a bulky military jacket--seemed menacingly close. After a few more quick glimpses, she picked up her pace and was soon running in earnest. Within seconds she disappeared...

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