Monday, 13 June 2016

On Nightclubs, Decadence and Violence

The news cycle has changed with a barrage of gunfire. Good-bye, Stanford Rapist; hello, Orlando Shooter. Or Orlando Jihadist, depending on how you interpret his actions. He called in to give ISIS some credit, which ISIS enthusiastically took, so no doubt he preferred Orlando Jihadist himself, as he pondered Sunday's headlines.

I have never been in a gay dance club at 2 in the morning, but I have certainly been in dance clubs at closing, especially Goth bars.  In university, I went to "Sanctuary: The Vampire Sex Bar" which was then on an untamed stretch of Toronto's Queen Street West. The name was an ironic play on a singles' bar a block or two east called "The Bovine Sex Club."  I was in the Bovine only once; the sex consisted of sleazy Japanese cartoons played on screens above the bar. Sanctuary was a much more chaste place, believe it or not. It gave off a scary noir vibe, of course; while there I made up a darkly romantic version of 19th century Paris in my head. When I wasn't dancing in the far room, I was writing poetry by candlelight in the lounge, influenced by Baudelaire, while never (of course) having read Baudelaire. Quelle poseuse.

The entire club was in a cellar. Although there must have been a fire exit, I have no idea how anyone would have escaped had the stairwell been blocked. When Sanctuary moved further west down Queen Street West, it occupied a ground floor and a cellar. The dance floor was in the cellar. I disguised my mother as a Goth once and smuggled her in. She observed that the place was a fire hazard and a death trap. Once again, I cannot remember where the alternate exits were. There surely must have been some; perhaps they were chained shut. Mum was worried about fire and stampedes; I don't think fear of indignant moralists with rifles ever crossed our minds.

No doubt the Sanctuary habitués were a scary-looking set. That was the point, really. But there was no ideology behind Gothica, at least, not according to the Goths I asked. It was about the music and the clothes. It was purely aesthetic. I don't even remember drugs. The one time I saw E making the rounds, it was on the way to a rave. Incidentally, it was in Toronto's "Nocturne" that I discovered how bad Smirnoff vodka is and why Canadians generally dilute vodka with orange juice.  (Never, ever drink Canadian vodka straight.) 

As for sexual license, well, when Nocturne was still Savage Garden, some pals and I trundled hopefully up to the door to be warned that it was "Fetish Night." But what strikes me now is not that Savage Garden hosted fetish nights but that its bouncers kindly warned us away. 

Naturally we were disappointed because the Top 40 clubs on Queen Street West were hormone-drenched sleaze-fests where complete strangers might start grinding on us. However, we probably next went to the Velvet Underground, which was Goth-positive and therefore less sleazy. That said, when two girls dancing together in Velvet Underground (one evening, if not that evening) started making out in the middle of the room, they were soon surrounded by young men who stood stock still, staring at them as if they were a porn film. Their faces and their stillness were among the creepiest sights I have ever seen. The girls did not seem to mind, though,  and as they continued their free show, I moved away. 

I suppose some Goth girl outfits are pretty sexy. I always went in for the Victoriana myself, which nevertheless included (to family chagrin) a cute little red PVC bodice that admittedly I would not wear anywhere but in a Goth club. When it went the way of all ten-year-old PVC this February, my Toronto friends and I had a short funeral service as I dropped it in the bin. We are all practicing Catholics, so how ironic if during my never-to-be-forgotten Goth-themed birthday party, a self-righteous madman had climbed the stairs of Savage Garden and shot us full of holes for being Satanists or whatever.   

Once again, this never crossed my mind. Canada has strict, strict gun laws and apart from gun collectors and hunters who live in town, the only Torontonians who seem to think guns are cool or necessary are gangbangers. Occasionally a gangbanger shoots someone in or outside a night club, but these are clubs that feature certain kinds of music and not others. Not Goth or Industrial, for example. And ideologues (like Gamil Gharbi aka Marc Lepine) seem to prefer to shoot up schools and colleges. 

So what do I think of the Orlando shooting? 

Well, first I think poor mental health is not an excuse for murder but it is a darned good excuse not to A) hire a man to be a security guard or B) sell him an AR-15. 

Second, I feel uncomfortable when gay men share caresses in public--at a classical concert I attended yesterday, for example, two young men seated in front of me billed and cooed, held hands, gazed into each other's eyes, one kissed the other's shoulder, etc., and eventually I changed my seat so I could see the performers instead--but same-sex caresses do not lead me to thoughts of violence. My one fantasy at the concert was to self-publish a pamphlet called "How to Behave at Concerts" and give copies to the young men and anyone else who annoyed me at concerts in future. I will not actually do this. 

Third, although my culture, my religion and my philosophy have certain strictures about manliness and how to express sexuality, they are all very much against cold-blooded murder, not to mention treason. This was an American who declared allegiance to a foreign power just before killing Americans, and so he was a stinking traitor to his country as well as a murderer. 

What, besides mental illness and discomfort with homosexual sexual relations, may have led the Orlando Jihadist to think it was a just and noble deed to (A) betray his country and (B) shoot 100 homosexuals and their friends?  This is not a hypothetical question to which I expect you to answer Islam, though I am no fan of Islam. Although many Islamists use Islam to justify murderous violence (rape, slavery, etc), I am  concerned with ANY environment which makes violence and treason romantic, including cinemas.

UPDATE: I am horrified by the "Satan eats his own" type remarks at a couple of other Catholic blogs. Okay, there is feeling discomfort with gay PDAs, and there is sorrow at sin, and there is non-violent resistance to unprecedented cultural change, and there are even warnings to the living about the dangers of hell. But demonizing all people who experience SSA, or anyone who ever set foot in a gay dance club, let alone the ones who were killed or wounded on Saturday night, is just shabby.  To delve into Saint John Paul's Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

UPDATE 2: More hell-fire posts from Catholic blogs. I think Father Hunwicke strikes a good balance. No, we don't want more persecution of Christians who articulate the teachings of Scripture and the Church.  And yes, we do want to hope for the souls of the departed. 


  1. For the United States, the topic of gun control is hotly debated. Many people don't understand that the government doesn't want to take away the average person's firearm, but wants to make sure that those with a history of violence or mental illness don't get them.

    As an American, I don't get my culture's attachment to guns.

    1. I remember years ago wanting to know why The Sandy Hook Shooting happened. Reading "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker really helped me.

  2. Do you mean why Adam Lanza did it, or do you mean why did God allow it to happen?

    1. I mean why Adam Lanza did it. De Becker lists pre-incident indicators for murderers. Not just one, but a combination of these are involved.

      Alcohol and drug abuse, addiction to media products, aimlessness, fascination with weapons and violence, experience with guns, access to guns, threatening violence to themselves/others, feeling rejected/humiliated, and seeking status and worth through violence (especially after seeing all the attention that other criminals get.)

      Gun control is a hotly debated topic in the U.S. Many people don't understand that the government will only take away their firearms if they have a history of mental illness or committing violent crime.