15 July 2004 | Draft
The Coalition of the Willy
musings on the global challenge of
- / -
Obtrusive penile preoccupations
Terror and the Willies
Challenge of civilization: freeing willy?
Spirit of change: learning from Willy
Just as there is an unrecognized logic to America's "War against Terror" (see
War against Terra,
2002), a similar problem of pronunciation signals a challenge to comprehension
in relation to the "Coalition of the Willing" and its preoccupation
with weapons of mass destruction. What follows is an exploration of the consequences
of the distinction, if any, between slurred pronunciation of "Willing" and "Willy"
in many English and American dialects -- and by world leaders. Both terms derive
their meaning from "will" -- the latter through both the diminutive
of the proper name "William" (from "will" (desire) and "helmut"
(protection) and as a composite of "will-ye". The unconscious implications
are also explored.
Prior to the UN Security Council debate relating to intervention in Iraq, the
US administration had boasted of more than 40 countries in its "ã..."Coalition of
the Willing,", but refused to identify these coalition members. Public understanding
of the scope of Coalition of the Willing dates from a formal statement by U.S.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on 18 March 2003, who released a list of
30 countries claimed to have agreed to be publicly identified as members of
the alliance [more].
The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
subsequently compiled an analysis of 34 nations cited in press reports as supporters
of the U.S. position on Iraq (see Coalition
of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?, 2003). The IPS study found
that "most were recruited through coercion, bullying, and bribery."
The concern here is that the common slang use of the term "willy",
to denote "penis", has to some degree become conceptually conflated
with "willing" -- aided by slurred pronunication. This confusion reinforces,
and is reinforced by, the preoccupation with weapons of mass destruction --
as the most extreme form of phallic symbolism. The confusion is exacerbated
by recognition of the phallic symbolism of the World Trade Center and the psychic
impact of what was experienced by many as a form of castration of the American
psyche through its destruction (see George Lakoff. Metaphors
of Terror, 2001). According to Lakoff, "Towers are symbols of phallic
power and their collapse reinforces the idea of loss of power.... The planes
as penetrating the towers with a plume of heat. The Pentagon, a vaginal image
from the air, penetrated by the plane as missile. These come from women who
felt violated both by the attack and the images" .
Like the elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, references to "willy"
as a euphemism for "penis" are seemingly rare on the web -- notably
in American online dictionaries. This may be the consequence of the operation
of so-called "nanny programs" or a policy of self-censorship. "Penis"
is of course typically a term that may figure in the black lists of "nanny
programs". However references to "willy" do exist as the following
There are interesting cases where "willy", used in other contexts,
may have acquired some of its widespread popularity through double entendre,
notably amongst English-speaking members of the Coalition of the Willing.
The question is whether there is some interplay between the elusiveness of
"weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq and the repression of discourse
about "penis" in western (and especially American) media -- and notably
of its representation. This elusiveness contrasts with what is permissible exposure
with respect to women, whether as "sex objects" or otherwise. Photographer
Wolfgang Tillmans (Page
3 stunnas!, Guardian, 19 April 2004) argues:
For a man to experience the same level of exposure and commitment to the
image as a woman posing topless, he must appear bottomless....It's ridiculous
that supposedly rational people can be so blind to this inequality. And it's
not just an inequality between men and women. It is still considered more
obscene to show two men kissing... on TV than it is to show two men kill each
other. How can something as atrocious as the destruction of two men be acceptable,
and the sight of men kissing scandalous? This isn't just upsetting. It's obscene.
Essentially, ideas of obscenity are defined by powerful political interests.
How might such mindsets work in relation to "weapons of mass destruction"
-- especially given some perceptions (and uses) of a penis as a weapon, sheathed
or otherwise? Is it possible that the prudishness with respect to "penis"
-- necessitating its articulation through possibly childish euphemisms such
as "willy" [more]
-- evokes a form of prudishness in relation to "weapons of mass destruction"?
Just as the eyes may be averted from full frontal public displays of male nudity,
is it possible that the unconscious association to phallic symbols like "weapons
of mass destruction" may effectively lead the eyes to be "averted",
thus frustrating any search. "Weapons of mass destruction", like any
penis, must necessarily be concealed in modern society -- both are only to be
used in secret as a form of "stealth technology". This may in no way
constrain the continuing curiosity with regard to "weapons of mass destruction",
just as curiosity continues with respect to penile displays. The elusive quality
of the search for weapons of mass destruction is also neatly suggested by folk
legends concerning the wraith-like "Will-o-the-Wisp" that leads the
unwary dangerously astray.
Does this not suggest that the "Coalition of the Willing" might well
be understood by many, if only unconsciously, as the "Coalition of the
Willy"? Given Bush's pronunciation, perhaps this understanding was even
a factor in Tony Blair's hisotrical endorsement of the Coalition.
The possibility seems to have been recognized in Australia in March 2003, where
a pop group (Panda Flan Attack) produced an anti-war song Coalition Of The
Willy exploring the psycho-physical challenges of the American leadership
in "attacking Saddam's palace" [more].
It was also noted by Robin Harrison (Byron
Shire Echo April 2003), again in Australia -- a country whose parliament
is renowned for its use of unparliamentary langage. However, in the USA, the
Coalition of the Willing has only been referred to as the "Coalition of
the Willies" (see Eric Umansky, Coalition
of the Willies, March 2004).
Obtrusive penile preoccupations
Most recipients of e-mail tend to be confronted on a daily basis with a proportion
of incoming communications focusing on the supposed preoccupation of men with
their penis size and erectile effectiveness. These are accompanied in equal
numbers by communications regarding Viagra or its equivalents. Many of these
stress the need to remedy impotence.
What does this preoccupation suggest about the American culture -- from which
so many of these communications originate? Will history wonder why the "strongest
country of the world" -- the "only superpower" on the planet
-- should be so psychically traumatized by its unconscious weaknesses? It might
be assumed that as the creator of the "Coalition of the Willy", George
W Bush, might be unique in having this preoccupation. And yet his rival for
the presidency, Senator John Kerry, has as a major campaigning theme to "make
America strong again" [more
Robert Kagan, in a discussion of the psychology of European weakness in relation
to American power, unwittingly makes a point of fundamental relevance to the
capacity to identify any American weakness: "The incapacity to respond
to threats leads not only to tolerance but sometimes to denial" (Power
and Weakness, Policy Review, June 2002). The issue is the nature
of the threats.about which others recognize that America is in long and deep
denial. Some would argue that these include the condition of large segments
of humanity that so incites the righteousness of terrorists. Others would focus
on the unrestrained consumption of non-rewable resources.
Robert Jay Lifton (The
Super Power Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World,
2003) argues with respect to the USA that: "beneath its belligerence, I believe
the country is enmeshed in a landscape of fear." The war undertaken against
terrorism is a manifestation of what he is convinced is a "superpower syndrome,"
a medical metaphor meant to suggest "aberrant behavior that is not just random
but part of a more general psychological and political constellation." [more]
Lifton specifically discusses superpower
vulnerability. Elsewhere (American
Apocalypse, 2003) he makes the point:
With both Al Qaeda and the Nazis, humiliation could, through manipulation
but also powerful self-conviction, be transformed into exaggerated expressions
of violence. That psychological transformation of weakness and shame into
a collective sense of pride and life-power, as well as power over others,
can release enormous amounts of aggressive energy. Such dangerous potential
has been present from the beginning in the American "war" on terrorism
In what way could a superpower perceive itself to be "weak" according
to its own criteria? What degree of unconscious conceptual association is to
be found between a collective notion of "making strong again" and
the challenges of a man -- or his companion -- faced with erectile dysfunction?
Thom Hartmann points, for example, to evidence that conservatives in the USA
are distracting workers from their job anxiety by suggesting that they are effectively
being "castrated" by women (Conservatives
Target Testicles, 2003).
Is it the terrorists that emerged so stealthily to castrate the American psyche
that justify that perspective? And yet, before George W Bush, the presidency
of Bill Clinton ended with a worldwide media focus on his use of his penis in
the Oval Office -- and the lies he told about it that justified his nickname
"Slick Willy" [more
Is it that the USA is unable to respond to the real problems that challenge
the planet (water shortage, overpopulation, AIDS, global warming, etc) and is
only effective in erecting taller skyscrapers and launching phallic vehicles
to ovoid distant planets? (Eric S. Rabkin. The
Romance of Space Travel: On the Sexual Iconography of Spacecraft, 2002)
As noted elsewhere (see Psychology
of Sustainability Embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002):
There is an historical irony to the fact that the recent period, which has
seen emergence of interest in sustainability as a policy issue for states,
has also seen the emergence into public debate of the challenges of male impotence
and erectile dysfunction -- namely the unsustainability of erections. It is
also ironic that a dangerous consequence of pollution and environmental stress
has been the proliferation of oestrogen surrogates, falling sperm counts,
scrambling of the male hormone, all leading to the "feminization of nature"
But in the search for balance from a softer perspective, the question is who
is acknowledging the dysfunctionalities that are liable to become obvious
as a consequence of feminine initiatives -- in an immediate future in which,
ironically, the fertility of the planet may prove inadequate to sustain the
In such a context, where rockets, smokestacks and skyscrapers become prime
penile substitutes in the psychology of a nation, it is clear that any failure
of such substitutes (as with Challenger-type disasters) has effects on the collective
psyche similar to the trauma of failure to "get it up" and the anxieties
relating to "keeping it up" and being assured of good "performance".
The whole "shock and awe" operating in Iraq may be an example of a
primitive, unconscious, collective effort, on the part of the "Coalition
of the Willy", to demonstrate its manhood to the world. The degree of overwhelming
force required to sustain such an operation is suggestive of the anxieties associated
with possible failure to "get it up". From such a perspective it is
no wonder that "emissions" from industries and vehicles are unconsciously
associated with virility -- reinforcing more obvious arguments for their curtailment,
if a nation is to continue to be perceived as powerful.
America is increasingly renowned for the proportion of its population that
is incarcerated at any one time -- and the proportion of the population that
have been incarcerated at some time. Penal institutions are a major preoccupation
of the US government.
Unfortunately -- as with the confusion associated with "willy" --
"penal" (as in "penal institutions") is an adjective readily
confused with "penile" (as in "penile enlargement"). A very
common, if not deliberate, misspelling in web documents is that of "penal
enlargement" -- not intended to signify the enlargement of prisons. As
noted by Stephen Gowans (Inhumane
Civilization, 3 September 2001) :
Invariably, "punishment" is trotted out to explain why convicted criminals
must be treated barbarously. "They must be punished. They did wrong," goes
the refrain, uttered from tens of thousands of lips in the sure knowledge
that if the argument is completely untenable at least everyone else agrees
with it. One wonders whether there are deep-seated psychological roots behind
calls for penal enlargement....at least on the part of men.
Utah Philipps makes the point that "Conservatives think that the solution
to every problem is punishment: 'bigger prisons, more prisons.' Well, I can
understand why the conservative mind would be drawn to penal enlargement ..."
Clearly the functions of officers in penal institutions risk being misunderstood
in the absence of careful pronunciation..
Feminists have notably acknowledged the challenge of lifelong penile servitude
-- particularly in order to communicate their concerns to men only familiar
with penal servitude.
The USA, as the standard bearer of the values of civilization, is unfortunate
in having had a significant number of presidents with documented extramarital
phallic preocuppations: Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Buchanan, Cleveland,
Wilson, Harding, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Bush, and Clinton
Various studies have explored whether this proclivity had significant impact
on policy-making. Psychohistory may yet establish a relationship between Kennedy's
womanizing and the Cuban missile crisis. Psychologists have commented on Clinton's
much-publicized special use of a cigar in relation to compensation for fear
of impotency and erectile dysfunction (Paul Lowinger, Bill
Clinton Meets The Shrinks: A psychological study of President William Jefferson
Clinton, 1998; Paul Fick, The Dysfunctional President: Understanding
the Compulsions of Bill Clinton, 1998; Sue Erison Bloland, Bill Clinton
and John F. Kennedy: The Dark Side of Charisma, 2000) .
For the most powerful man in the world, do such personal challenges extend
in some cases to mindsets similar to sado-masochism -- with confusing public
policy associations concerning domination, "penile servitude" and
"penile restraint"? In the case of both Clinton and Bush, various
commentators focus on their Oedipal complexes. How might psychohistory then
recognize the significance for penal policies, penal enlargement -- and even
the abusive treatment of detainees in places like Abu Ghraib -- and their association
with sexual perversion? (see Justin Frank. Bush
on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, 2004; Richard Broderick,
Bring me the head of Saddam Hussein! 2003) [more].
There is a curious parallel between the focus on the public deception associated
with Clinton's cigars and that associated with Bush's equally phallic WMD.
Does the "cultural climate" induced by such mindsets, notably in
the intelligence community, evoke the imagery of such abuse as a perverted form
of stimulus necessary to sustain a sense of potency -- as leader of the "Coalition
of the Willy"? Those stimulated by visual pornography would surely agree
with Donald Rumsfeld's formal statement as US Secretary of Defence (7 May 2004):
"It is the photographs that gives one the vivid realization of what actually
took place...Words don't do it." [more].
Joanna Bourke discusses the sexual aspect of the torture associated with such
as pornography, 2004)
Terror and the Willies
Feminist author, Robin Morgan (The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism,
1989) focuses on the psychological and political roots of terrorism, making
a clear association to phallic drives. This was subsequently challenged by a
commentator in the light of the feminisation of the current wave of terrorism
and the increasing numbers of women suicide bombers -- which "make Morgan's
focus on willies as the root of terrorism now seem quaint" [more
Rather than focus on women as the "other", Harry Davidson (The
Psychology of Sadistic Terrorism, 2004) focuses on the mistreatment
of any people who are different: "Race and religion are among the more
prominent ways of grouping people. History indicates a systemic American need
to brutalize others".
Curiously the whole missile industry in the USA, following World War II, was
initiated by the development and testing of several types, notably including
power-driven bombs called "Weary Willies" -- planes loaded with explosives and
directed by remote control [more
The term "Willy Peter" is used in the military to describe weaponized
white phosphorus, commonly employed as an incendiary device in bombs, rockets
and grenades -- and extensively used against the Japanese in World War II, in
Vietnam, as well as in Iraq. Such use of white hot fire against the enemies
of Christendom is a curious historical revenge on the crusaders' first experience
of its use against them by the Saracens in 1095. The Greek
Fire of the Saracens was a gelatinous flammable liquid composed mostly of
naphtha, sulfur and quicklime. Like Willy Peter it penetrated though the strongest
armor, bringing excruciating pain and agonizing death.
In this context, there is a different association to "willy" that
is of particular relevance to the preoccupations of the "Coalition of the
Willy" and its framing of the "clash of civilizations". This
is due to the plural form of "willy" -- unrelated to "penis",
or seemingly so -- as in "it gives me the willies" [more].
It then signifies: "a state of nervous restlessness or agitation",
or a "feeling of uneasiness".
Ironically, by extension, "willies" may also be associated with some
degree of terror -- as charmingly recounted in a children's story by Aaron Shepard
(The Boy Who Wanted the
Willies). In seeking a standard transport vehicle for the British SAS
crack force during World War II, the "Willies Jeep" proved to be a
case of "love at first sight" according to military history [more].
The 9/11 attack was even framed in terms of the "willies" by Ed McManus
Does Anyone Out There Care? February 2002):
The September attack has given us a severe case of the willies. Most of us
are so scared that we have bought into this bomb-them-back-to-the-Stone-Age
mentality, even if it means killing off hundreds or thousands of innocent
George Bush's policies are themselves described by some as "giving them
the willies" -- as in the case of Charlotte Cooper (Terror
But Bush's perspective on terrorism should be giving the willies to anyone
who is a member of any social group that has ever stood on the margins of
mainstream culture. Forgive me for paraphrasing that famous anti-fascist poem,
but if we don't speak out for others, one day they'll be coming after us.
Others extend this perception to George Bush himself, as in the case of Michael
Wolff (Saint George
Rallying Around a Wartime President is One Thing. But Why Does Dubya Remain
Entirely Untouchable Even as We Question His Lieutenants
-- and His Increasingly Disturbing Policies? (New York Magazine,
10 December 2001)
To get the willies from George W. Bush, to distrust the man, to have your
stomach roll a bit when you hear him speak, is to feel like the most churlish
and sullen of adolescents. He's the unappealing uncle -- with his cold eye
on you -- whose house you're stuck at this holiday season. While you're trying
to shut out his existence, everybody else is sucking up to him.
Ironically, Senator John Edwards, the running mate of John Kerry for the American
presidency, has been described as "the only one who gives Republican political
strategists the willies" [more].
Such perceptions of American presidential policies are not new. As noted by
Joseph R. Stromberg (Remembering
With Astonishment Woodrow Wilson's Reign of Terror in Defense of "Freedom",
September 2001) in discussing how "The Anglophile Willies Find Us A War":
No, historians don't dwell on Woodrow's reign of terror. They imagine that
"reactionary" subordinates and local bullies did it all, while Woodrow was
busy running the war effort and planning the better world to come. Such a
kindly fellow was our Woodrow. Historians, in short, would rather devote whole
chapters to "McCarthyism," which inconvenienced a few Stalinists for a time,
than deal with a real saga of repression and embarrassingly stupid violence....
To read the story of American official and popular attitudes toward our allegedly
highly valued freedoms during World War I is to conclude that the country
was overrun with vicious morons. Some of the morons were judges, legislators,
and bureaucrats. Others arose from the masses, so to speak, to demand that
the people make political war on themselves, the better to fight those terrible
Some have argued that, through its particular focus on terrorism, the USA is
deliberately enhancing a climate of fear in order to justify introduction of
repressive legislation and other policies undermining civil rights, as notably
indicated by Congressman Jim McDermott (Fear
Factory The Bush administration's dangerous manufacturing of post-9-11 dread,
2003). Through the media (as "weapons of mass distraction"), such
manipulation of the perception of threat is a classic means by which those in
power can evoke the support of their populations. This approach to governance
-- even to world governance -- might be understood as one of "giving people
the willies" (see Promoting
a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: Strategy of choice for world governance,
2002). This is reminiscent of parental governance of children by threats of
Whilst there is little explicit recognition on the web of the "Coalition
of the Willy", there are however a number of references to the "Coalition
of the Willy-Nilly". "Willy-nilly" implies in a random, haphazard
manner -- typical of the fire fighting exchanges, and the indiscriminate release
of cluster bombs, that have led to the deaths of so many civilians in Iraq.
There is a curious symmetry to the attacks of terrorists -- apparently random,
indiscriminate or "willy-nilly" -- and the increasingly arbitrary,
"search and seizure" tactics adopted by the security services in response.
The lack of the coherence to the "war against terrorism" may perhaps
indeed be understood as a feature of a "Coalition of the Willy-Nilly".
But references to the "Coalition of the Willy-Nilly" predate the
actual attack on Iraq and seem to refer to the haphazard attempts to develop
a clear consensus within the UN Security Council -- as well as the membership
of the coalition being itself perceived as haphazard. A more politically significant
interpretation is evident in the etymology of "willy-nilly" as an
alteration of "will ye (or he), nill ye (or he)", or "be you
(or he) willing, be you (or he) unwilling". (American Heritage Dictionary)
-- also described as a contraction of "will I, nill I", namely "with
or without the will of the person concerned." (Online Etymology Dictionary).
This is an unfortunately accurate assessment of how the coalition was assembled
-- through coercion where necessary, as noted earlier.
However the probable etymological origins of "willy" -- as "will
ye (or he)" -- again reinforce the association with anxieties concerning
possible erectile dysfunction of a flaccid "one-eyed-willy" when put
to the challenge. This accords with the real questions about whether the Coalition
of the Willing would be able to get its act together -- justifying questioning
reference to it as the "Coalition of the Willy".
Challenge of civilization: freeing Willy?
The major justification advanced for the actions of the Coalition of the Willing
is that of ensuring liberation and freedom of oppressed peoples. The fundamental
freedom of the will has been defended by Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Duns
Scotus, René Descartes, John Locke, and many others of very different schools
of thought [more].
It may be understood in terms of the preoccupation of theologian Jonathan
the Freedom Of Will (1725-1726) and others, including Immanuel
Kant (1724-1804), Arthur Schopenhauer (The
World as Will and Idea, 1818) and Ludwig
Wittgenstein. It has thus proven to be a primary theme of western philosophy.
The challenge of the freedom of the will is that of overcoming the means by
which it tends to be constrained -- notably under conditions of oppression or
where choice is limited arbitrarily. Arthur
M. Young. (The Geometry of Meaning, 1976), in discussing free
will, traces the origins of the challenge to the Eyptian myth of the dismemberment
of Osiris by Set:
Set throws the pieces into the marsh. Isis, Osiris' sister and mate, gathers
them up and finds all but the penis [for which she provides a reasonable
facsimile]. Despite this deficiency, Isis conceives from the assembled
corpse the infant Horus, the hero who conquers Set and becomes the Sun God.
What is the penis of Osiris? We have by this time become accustomed to the
Freudian ploy: "What is the meaning of (the Tower of Pisa, climbing Mount
Everest, a golf club, kitchen knives)?" "A sex symbol," says the shrink. But
now we have a myth about the penis. What does that mean? We can no longer
say simply that it is a sex symbol. That tells us nothing. Taking the myth
in its totality, we can see that what is lost when Osiris is dismembered is
wholeness. Like a car disassembled and no longer a car, Osiris is not
capable of generation, not because he lacks a penis, but because, since he
is not a whole person, he is not able to initiate, to be cause. This, then,
is the meaning of the penis [ie free will]. It is the power of generation,
and it is the person in his capacity to initiate new endeavors, to create,
to make things happen. [emphasis added] [more]
Clearly, in its defence of freedom, the Coalition of the Willing is effectively
defending the wholeness exemplified by the freedom of "willy" -- further
justifying any framing of it as a "Coalition of the Willy". The question
is whether the focus of the Coalition has taken on a form of misplaced concreteness
-- exemplfied by the desperate promotion of freedom for "willy" in
all matters sexual, as much regretted by cultures that perceive western civilization
as hedonistic. It is in this sense that it is far from surprising that the recreational
activities of Coalition military forces have been so controversially associated
with sex and rape (Saigon, Okinawa, Kosovo). However it is the unconstrained
freedom of "willy" that is contributing so directly to overpopulation
and the degradation of conditions on the planet -- with the full support of
the Christian-inspired leadership of the Coalition.
It is profoundly ironic that the "Coalition of the Willy" so fiercely
defends such physical freedom -- to the extent of curtailing and penalizing
any form of contraceptive. And yet, in subtler matters conceptual, the Christian-inspired
leadership seeks to impose what can best be described as "conceptual contraceptives"
-- severely constraining dissidence and fruitful intercourse with other cultural
perspectives. The justifying slogan is "Either with us, or against us"
as announced by George Bush (21
September 2001; 6
November 2001) [more].
This might be seen to follow from one definition of "will" as: "not
opposed in mind" (Webster's 1913 Dictionary). How then does any
Coalition of the Willing elicit any fruitful mutuality from others who do not
share its views? This of course is the fundamental challenge of "willy"
-- if he is to avoid being an instrument of rape. From the perspective of the
"Coalition of the Willy", the subtext of the slogan could be better
understood as "Either you are willing, or we rape you".
There may be a case for recognizing American presidential womanizing, culminating
in Bill Clinton's use of his cigar, as having pioneered a new breakthrough in
freeing "willy". This builds on the traditional practices of governance
down the ages -- notably the selection and seclusion of concubines. From covert
activities in the White House in the 1990s leading to impeachment [more],
and thanks to George Bush's rapid implementation of what could be more correctly
known as the Patriarch Act, the agents of the US government are now personally
empowered to penetrate the cavities of any citizens they select and to hold
them in seclusion at their pleasure -- photographing them under any conditions
for later perusal. Special facilities to this end have been constructed at every
airport. The general population has largely been persuaded to accept such government
intervention willingly -- as was presumably the case in past eras, notably with
respect to droit de seigneur.
The curious contrast to the traditional prerogative of rulers is that penetration
of cavities is done either by penile substitutes (in interrogation facilities),
as notably pioneered by Clinton with his cigar, and/or manually with the use
of latex gloves as condom-like protective coverings. More curious however is
that the same recent period saw rapid imposition of legal constraints on the
previously widespread freedom of the population to celebrate and enjoy the use
of the most visible symbol of the freedom of "willy", namely the cigarette
(or the cigar). This has been in many respects the population's ideal symbol
(and reminder) of the capacity of "willy" to transform freely from
flaccidity into a firm vehicle of white hot passion under any conditions.
It would appear that, although "willy" continues to be freed symbolically,
this freedom is increasinly a prerogative of government. The challenge of increasing
population on the one hand, and increasing sexually related violence on the
other, suggests that this symbolic freedom is however inadequately integrated
with its physical dimension.
The derivation of willy-nilly also points to a transcendent form of freedom
quite distinct from the "either with us, or against us" mentality
of the Coalition of the Willing. Willy-nilly may then be understood in terms
of the Sanskrit expression Neti Neti ("Not this, Not that")
indicative of a degree of freedom that is not associated with any particular
form, action or understanding of reality. It points to the wholeness dismembered
in the myth of Set-Osiris-Isis -- as symbolized by the missing penis and its
facsimiles (see above). It is the experience of actual reality that arises when
the mind ceases its habitual tendencies to judge, categorize, distinguish, and
The challenge is how to transform the misplaced concreteness of phallic spatial
exploration in rockets into an exploration of more highly integrated dimensions
Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching aerospace
vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002). It is unfortunate
that George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard all reduce such inner exploration
to the only faith of which they have any comprehension -- avoiding the multidimensional
challenge of integrating the understandings of the variety of faiths as a means
of transcending the religious conflict on which they personally thrive.
Given the derivation of "William" noted earlier (as "will"
plus "helmut", as "protection"), it might of course also
be said that the challenge for the international community is to find a means
of freeing the suppressed "William" in its leader, George W Bush,
as the most powerful man in the world -- after the mishandled attempt at this
transformation by his predecessor William Jefferson Clinton! How can the will
transcend its need for protection -- its "contraceptive" from a "willy"
|Willy's Search of an Exit Strategy from
Iraq (November 2006)
A report in the Washington Post indicates that the Pentagon
is likely to employ a hybrid exit strategy between three broad options
identified as: "Go Big", "Go Long" and "Go Home". The hybrid has been dubbed:
"Go Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long". (Julian Borger, 'Go
Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long', The Guardian, 21
lied their way into Iraq. Now they are trying to lie their way out Bush
and Blair will blame anyone but themselves for the consequences of
their disastrous war -- even its victims (Gary Younge,
The Guardian, 27 November 2006)
Spirit of change: learning from Willy
The response of the Christian-inspired Coalition of the Willing to terror may
be usefully described in the light of the biblical insight (Matthew 26:41):
Whilst the spirit may have been willing, the flesh was weak -- as with "willy"!
The challenge of the "will" in collective terms is of course fundamental
to the "political will to change" -- a challenge faced by many as
individuals, not only with respect to sexual performance. But from this perspective,
given that "getting it up" is only rarely an act of will, there are
perhaps lessons to be learnt about the appropriateness of the relationship with
any pattern of environmental stimuli and how they may evoke collective response.
The perversions necessary in the case of the torturers of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo
Bay of course point to one extreme approach. The desperate attempts to beat
flows of information out of people treated as meat are perhaps indicative of
psychological dimensions of the process -- more familiar in the case of some
violent forms of masturbation..
The question is what are the viable approaches to collective action that honour
the values that those directing the torturers of the "Coalition of the
Willy" claim so vigorously to uphold?
Ironically, there may indeed be lessons to be learnt from "willy"
in this respect -- jokingly recognized throughout the ages to have "a will
of his own". It responds -- or fails to respond -- to stimuli which would
enable it to perform its other prime function in the encounter with an "other".
In humans, sexual health and function in relation to an "other" are
important determinants of quality of life. The transformation of "willy"
to this end, under certain circumstances, may offer valuable insights into the
nature of the paradigm shift that is the desperate focus of so many change agents.
Arguably "willy" certainly offers a very accessible model of transformation
that is worth examining in some detail.
Proper erectile function depends on physical and psychological arousal, which
then must be appropriately communicated to the body's nervous system. Its various
components might be usefully compared to different communication systems in
society -- effectively forming a "social nervous system", as notably
envisaged with respect to an emerging "global brain" (Simulating
a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems,
strategies, and values, 2001). The question is how the environment arouses,
or fails to arouse, and what is engaged in that process. How is the body politic
aroused, and -- despite a plethora of environmental stimuli -- why is voter
apathy so characteristic of the times?
The human nervous system is composed of two main divisions:
- the voluntary (or central nervous system): a large part of the brain
and spinal cord, and most peripheral nerves, function to receive messages
from the external environment (stimuli), and to respond to that stimuli. Erections
occur in response to touch, smell, and visual stimuli (including photographs)
that trigger pathways in the brain. Such so-called erotic stimuli are mostly
learned and of cultural origin. In the case of the body politic, these are
notably the government-controlled information systems of the intelligence
community, like Echelon
(that were used to interpret the stimuli from Iraq and triggered the
processes that caused the US government to go into alert mode) -- the "peripheral"
system being of course the networks of informants on the ground. The brain
can also send signals directly to the erection center and cause it to kick
into action, which is why looking at an exciting picture may cause an erection.
Perhaps viewing of photographs by military intelligence should be understood
in this light (causing military forces to move to a higher state of alert,
eg "DEFCON 8"). The brain can also inhibit erection -- just as the
military can be ordered to "stand down".
- the involuntary (or autonomic system): in conjunction with the endocrine
system, controls internal organ functions and "homeostasis" of the body. It
has two counter-balancing sub-systems:
- the sympathetic system: responsible for such things as fear,
the "fight or flight" reaction, and ejaculation. In the collective case
this was the sympathetic response to the traumatic events associated with
terrorist attack, notably fear and a "kick butt" reactivity.
The media perform a primary, opinion forming role in evoking and sustaining
such sympathetic responses in public opinion -- with the kind of government
encouragement identified by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (Manufacturing
Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, 1988).
- the parasympathetic system: responsible for calming and ensuring
that organs cooperate -- but is also responsible for causing erections.
In order to produce an erection, the parasympathetic nervous system must
be "turned-on". In the collective case this might be understood as the
more orderly response of the organs and institutions of society,
outside direct government control -- notably the networks of civil society
bodies, each governed by independent rules of procedure in dealing with
events. The mutual reinforcement of such bodies then creates a culture
or mindset supportive of collective (including military) action. People
and institutions are then prepared to "stand up and be counted".
It is triggering this response -- the mobilization of resources for change
-- that is so problematic in response to the many challenges of the planet.
As with "willy", the various organs do not necessarily cooperate
as some would want, despite a plethora of creative approaches to achieving
their mutual enhancement.
Since these two autonomic sub-systems operate against each other, fear -- or
an orgasm -- can inhibit erections (or curtail them after ejaculation) resulting
in detumescence. Impotence in men, namely the inability to get (and maintain)
an erection on demand, results (regardless of the capability of ejaculation)
from anxiety that they will not be able to perform sexually (for satisfactory
intercourse). The dominance of the sympathetic nervous system actually makes
it more difficult. Such "performance anxiety" triggers the sympathetic
branch that is required to be quiet, since it otherwise acts as a barrier
to "turning-on" the parasympathetic (relaxation) that needs to be operating
to produce sexual arousal and erection. Psychological factors are the cause
of erectile dysfunction approximately 10% of the time. This is commonly due
to anxiety, stress, depression, excess fatigue or dissatisfaction with the
relationship with the partner.
The systemic principles of this interaction within the autonomic system are
fundamental to the challenge of any "Coalition of the Willy" in
transforming itself into a "Coalition of the Willing" capable of
sustained effective action. There is an irony to the fact that the "Coalition
of the Willy" has endeavoured, in the case of terrorism, to use fear
as the prime means of eliciting response to terrorism -- when this may indeed
have been the most inappropriate way of ensuring effective and satisfactory
action in response to that global challenge (see Transforming
the Encounter with Terrorism, 2002). On this counterprodiuctive cultivation
of fear, Robert Jay Lifton notes:
Stepping off the superpower treadmill would also enable us to
cease being a nation ruled by fear. Renouncing omnipotence would make our
leaders themselves less fearful of weakness, and diminish their inclination
to instill fear in their people as a means of enlisting them for illusory
military efforts at world hegemony. Without the need for invulnerability,
everyone would have much less to be afraid of. [more]
Many organizations and movements, seeking enthusiastically to act in response
to local and global challenges, might choose briefly to see to what extent they
too may constitute a "Coalition of the Willy" -- full of potential,
but not quite able to get their act together so as to engage in fruitfully sustainable
initiatives with an expectant environment. Despite resolutions, encouragements,
exhortations and information stimuli (including the appropriate photographs),
somehow integrated collective action is inadequate to the challenge of the well-being
of the planet.
Learning from penile dysfunction may therefore be a key to social change. Points
of relevance include:
- In the USA, penile dysfunction affects over 15 million men [more].
According to the International Centre
for Prison Studies, the USA currently has the largest documented prison
population in the world, both in absolute and proportional terms: 2.03 million
currently in prison, or 701 per 100,000 population. It is ironic, but probable,
that the number of male US citizens with a "penal record" is of
the same order as the number with penile dysfunction. Similarly it might be
said that there is a serious problem of "institutional impotence"
for many bodies -- with many others operating under prison-like constraints,
if only conceptually. Of course some form of "conceptual masturbation"
-- perhaps characteristic of many conferences -- may provide a short-term
satisfactory substitute. Or, as Dave Barry humorously indicates: "To
the rest of America, making policy is a form of institutional masturbation;
to Washingtonians, it is productive work. They love to make policy."
- At the other extreme, a rare form of erectile dysfunction is the permanent
By comparison, the concern has been expressed, notably by Cynthia Mahmood,
that US policies with regard to terrorism could lead to a world where the
United States is in a permanent state of "military arousal", perpetually
fighting an ill-defined and elusive enemy [more].
This could then be suitably named as "priapic warfare" [more].
Given US military admiration for Roman imperial endeavours, this suggests
a line for further research (see Amly Richlin. The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality
and Aggression in Roman Humour, 1983)
- Non-sexually related spontaneous erections happen often, especially in young
men. These may perhaps be compared to the momentary enthusiastic responses
of the young to social challenges. Premature ejaculation is often confused
with erectile dysfunction. It is a condition in which the entire process of
arousal, erection, ejaculation, and climax occur very rapidly, leaving the
partner unsatisfied. This might usefully be compared to premature human responses
to the challenges of the planet
Given that it is the ever increasing pressures of overpopulation that are
exacerbating the problems of the planet -- and the irresponsibility of "willy"
in the process -- perhaps there is a case for learning more from the paradigm
shift in which he so readily engages in response to his micro-environment, when
sensitively understood. Humanity's failure to do so, despite the stimuli of
the macro-environment of nature, may continue to leave Gaia yearning and unsatisfied
-- she may seek another lover!
In memory of :
George William Bush
William Jefferson Clinton
Sarah Anderson, Phyllis Bennis, and John Cavanagh. Coalition of the Willing
or Coalition of the Coerced? Institute for Policy Studies, 2003
[Part I | Part
- America as Eve-ill Empire: Evocation of Authenticity Elsewhere. 2003 [text]
- Destructive Weapons of Mass Distraction vs Distractive Weapons of Mass
Destruction. 2003 [text]
- Attacking the Shadow through Iraq. 2003 [text]
- Backside to the Future: coherence and conflation of dominant strategic
metaphors. 2003 [text]
- Crusading from Washing-Town to Bag-Dad: pre-emptive regime change as the
key to sustainable development. 2002 [text]
- The "Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the
Ring. 2002 [text]
- Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: Navigation of strategic
interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space. 2001 [text]
- Double Standards: Strange Symmetries in Global Governance: Learning from
Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein. 1998 [text].
- Responding to Conceptual and Value Polarities: learnings from sexuality.
- Beyond Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities: learnings
from sexual harassment as a metaphor. 1996 [text]