Late last year pop-star Cardi B. rocked the music world with her ultra-vulgar song “WAP.” For the sake of all that is good and holy I will not reproduce the song here. However, it may be necessary to click on the above link and examine, albeit briefly, the sheer crudity of its lyrics. In doing so, one hopefully experiences some shock at this ode to sexual barbarism. That said, this vulgarity should not be too surprising to anyone who has immersed themselves in the biblical story. Nor should it shock those who have listened carefully to the Church’s theologians on the depravity of man and the corrosive nature of sin on the mind. Fortunately, we still live in a culture imbued with some generic Christian sensibilities. As such, this level of depravity still occasions outrage in a few quarters of society. This outrage is good, even if a bit late in coming.
The Theoligia Diaboli of Jean Genet and Jean-Paul SartreIn his survey of 20th century existentialism, philosopher F.H. Heinemann appends a short essay commenting on Jean-Paul Sartre’s book, Saint Genet, Comedien et Martyr. Sartre’s book explores, in no uncertain terms, the nature of radical evil. Heinemann, writing in the 1950’s from Oxford, opens his review of Sartre’s tome by considering the current state of Western culture:
Human societies are to-day [sic] secularized to a degree unheard of in former times. Some of them are indifferent and others hostile to religion, some ‘humanistic’, others openly atheistic. There are millions of people to whom nothing is sacred. But why is it that nations soaked in humanism, which have achieved a high standard of material well-being, are nevertheless unhappy? Can a society which has completely lost the sense of the holy reach a state of relative perfection? Further, is it possible to eliminate the sense of the sacred altogether? Heinemann, Existentialism and the Modern Predicament, 205. [Emphasis added]
The Principles of Theologia DiaboliOne can articulate the core principles of the devil’s theology with relative clarity. Heinemann lays them out in detail, details worth reproducing in full:
1) Regard every event, even if, and especially when, it is harmful…as if it were the product of your unconditioned will and a gratuitous gift which you have decided to make to yourself. 2) Your principal motive should be the horror that your future action may inspire in others and in yourself. 3) Act in such a manner that society treats you always as an object and as a means, and never as an end in itself or as a person. 4) Act as if the maxim of your action could be regarded as a rule in the thieve’s tavern…. Heinemann, Existentialism, 208
1) The megalomania of a man who would like to possess the creative power of a negative God, i.e. of the Devil; 2) the sadistic cruelty of a character anxious to dominate others and to equal the dictators; 3) the masochistic self-abasement of a ‘have-not’ who throws his most valuable possession overboard-his personal integrity-and who allows himself to become a mere object and merely a means to an end; and 4) the cynical contempt of the realm of persons or of the Kantian realm of ends, and the corresponding exaltation of the thieve’s tavern! Heinemann, 208It is points 3 especially that relate to how Cardi B.’s song, and her own attitude toward her song, follows in the tradition of men like Genet and Sartre. Indeed the young rapper’s message is not new. If anything is novel, it is the proffering of the anti-dogma by a woman and not just by wicked and depraved men. But, this too is not really new.
WAP and Instrumentalizing the Human PersonPoint 3 of the act and sense of the theologia diaboli claims that for any act to be liberating, one must intentionally allow oneself to be treated as a mere tool or instrument by society. The idea that a human person is intrinsically valuable, or possesses an ontological worth that cannot be handled instrumentally, is itself repulsive to the upside-down ethic of radical evil. The song WAP is as clear an expression of this intent as anything could be. The woman in the song, here Cardi herself, is no longer a being of intrinsic value. Instead, she is merely a body meant to serve a function– the function of being sexually pleasurable to the dominant male. It is this embrace of “self-abasement” that should shock us, were we spiritually healthy people. The open question is whether or not our culture was indeed shocked at all? There are a few important implications of this kind of libertinism. Moral dissolution always surfaces the most profound questions of human existence. Conservatives have noted one of these implications for years. This is the apparent inconsistency of women being empowered through the marketing of their bodies to horny, vile, and, usually, very rich men. This new means to feminist empowerment undoes everything the original suffragists fought for. It even rubs against some of what feminists of the 1970’s and 80’s were arguing against and fighting for, both in the law courts and the court of public opinion.
Cardi B. And the Will to PowerIn Cardi B’s vision, the road to power is no longer through competing with men in the academic, industrial, economic, legal, military or medical arenas. Instead, old-fashioned temple prostitutions is the means to power. Of course, if avarice also counts as a moral good on the theologia diaboli (which it does), then it makes sense that whatever the road to fame or fortune may be, it is one worth traveling. However, WAP further propagates the spiritual disease of seeing women as reducible to sex objects. If this anti-dogma is “right,” then it becomes difficult, for example, to understand what someone like a Harvey Weinstein actually did wrong. After all, he was emotionally primed by the entertainment industry itself to view women as mere instruments of sexual pleasure. And, he took advantage of his own power. This is all commendable according to the theologia diaboli.
“Life is about making your dreams come true, but in order to make your dreams come true, don’t think that it’s gonna come and fall from the sky to your lap…You actually gotta put in the work. You gotta be ambitious. You gotta network. You gotta become great at what you do. You gotta be able to take criticism — believe it or not, y’all be saying I don’t take criticism, but yes I do.” from an interview with “People” magazine, https://people.com/music/cardi-b-wap-pissed-off-republicans/
Addendum: The True Nature of Sex and The False Liberty of the Existentialist Mind
On The True Nature of SexIn his book on classical wisdom and modern psychology, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck describes authentic love in psychoanalytic terms as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” (Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 81). This is a definition that coheres well with the traditional Christian view of agape. This extending of one’s self for the sake of the other’s growth usually requires other virtues. Most importantly it takes the virtues of discipline and sacrifice. Love, in this sense, is not a mere feeling or set of temporary sensations. Rather “Love is an act of the will” (Peck, Road, 83). When the pleasurable nature of sexual intercourse is taken into account, however, it becomes tempting for people to conflate the physical stimulus of coitus with love itself. This is highly problematic to the human person:
It is obvious and generally understood that sexual activity and love, while they may occur simultaneously, often are disassociated, because they are basically separate phenomena. In itself, making love is not an act of love. Nonetheless the experience of sexual intercourse, and particularly of orgasm (even in masturbation), is an experience also associated with a greater or lesser degree of collapse of ego boundaries and attendant ecstasy. It is because of this collapse of ego boundaries that we may shout at the moment of climax “I love you” or “Oh, God” to a prostitute for whom moments later, after the ego boundaries have snapped back into place, we may feel no shred of affection, liking or investment. Peck, Road, 96
“To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children,yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Genesis, 3:16
Existentialism and False Liberation
From a biblical standpoint, the “Overwoman” is not really empowered over anything. In fact, she has merely submitted to the sinful rule of man. Philosophically speaking, Heinemann echoes Peck’s understanding of real love and freedom by pointing out the abject failure of Sartre’s diabolical theology:
In short, Sartre’s freedom is no real liberty, but caprice and licence, and therefore insufficient as a basis for ethics. Real freedom consists in accepting responsibility for one’s own actions in relation to others within a moral order, and equally for this order itself. A choice is not authentic because it is made by the Self and of the Self, but because it is the right choice, i.e., it is the choice of the right moral order and the right action in these particular circumstances, made on the basis of this moral standard. Heinemann, 212.Caprice and license to do whatever one’s inner impulses suggest is not freedom. It is slavery. Authenticity lies not in a choice for “the Self” by “the Self” but in making the right choice, a choice aimed at an objective standard.