something that'd been on my mind tldr for sure but i'd love your thoughts
Posted 05 January 2013 - 07:07 AM
The murder rate is on the rise. So is violence against women, children, and animals.
Last night while playing League of Legends, a guy played terribly, died frequently, and blamed me for not helping him. I chewed him out. Next game I played vs him. He did the same thing. We won by a landslide. IT FELT WONDERFUL.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was a melodramatic story about a peaceful, gentle God-fearing slave who inevitably became a victim of a horrifying institution. When it failed to move people to action, she wrote a lesser-known book called Dred, about an escaped slave who committed atrocious acts of violence against white slaveholders.
I work the dessert station at a local restaurant. I bring candy on a regular basis to help people enjoy their night a little bit better. When desserts are too small or too mangled to serve, I treat my coworkers to the sugary goodness. There is always something good to eat at my station.
Kids on the streets of Chicago are killing each other in gang-related violence as you read this. It's happening in most other big cities around the world too. In countries with guns, people are using guns. In Australia, guns are prohibited but there is a serious knife problem.
When I was a kid, I was a terrible bully. I picked on kids with behavioral disorders and when they responded violently, they got in trouble. My past actions haunt me to this day.
World War I was the last war that historians consider to have been fought based largely on emotional desire. Before this time, strong emotion can be tied to nearly every military venture in known history. After WWI, however, things became very calculated.
Through much of high school and college, I was a very quiet person. I held things inside for a long, long time and let very, very few people know what was going on in my life. When I was upset, furious, seething, I couldn't bring myself to say the words to describe it. When I was broken, hurt, destroyed, I couldn't bring myself to cry. Then one night I did. It was wonderful.
In George Orwell's 1984, the common people were taught to repress their sexual and aggressive desires in every way possible, but they were allowed a few minutes today to "hate." During the hate, a vile individual was broadcast on television and the people yelled, swore, threw things, etc. to express their hate toward this man. Alternately, in Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World, society was set up in a way to give everyone an excess of gratification. Sex was enforced, emotion was mandatory, and happiness was ingrained into society.
I am an actor. Perhaps it's bragging, but I consider myself a very good actor. When I get on stage, I don't become someone else. That someone else becomes me. The characters I play are in every way myself. What I would be if I had lived that person's life. If I had experienced their joy, their sorrow, their anger. When I act, I feel, and those watching me feel.
Some of us, perhaps many of us, have factual knowledge of the above-listed facts. We understand them to be true. You all have hidden truths about yourselves that might sound fairly similar to some I listed about myself. The thing is, these facts aren't just random and sporadic. They have everything, absolutely everything in common. I didn't realize it until tonight. I've been racking my brain trying to wrap my mind around what could cause an individual to go into a school and shoot at children. It's very, very easy to say, "he's unstable." Yes, he is. But WHAT CAUSED HIM TO BE UNSTABLE? A simple, Christian answer is to say, we're all broken, we're all messed up. Yes, we are. It's true. We are all imperfect human beings. We all, under certain circumstances, could be made to kill another human being in cold blood. But what brings us to that point? What do we expect to achieve by doing this? And that's when it all came together for me.
Catharsis is a term used in theatre. It refers to the feeling that washes over the audience at the end of a play, a combination of emotion and intellectual knowledge. When you watch the movie A Knight's Tale, you take incredible satisfaction when the protagonist throws the antagonist off his horse. It's wonderfully and completely satisfying. You feel catharsis in tragedies too, however. In Eugene O'Neill's play A Long Day's Journey into Night, by the end of the play, the audience is left feeling completely drained, washed out, exhausted, by the sheer, horrifying tragedy that exists within the confines of a broken family.
I can usually achieve catharsis by writing. I write long-winded notes about my thoughts on a certain situation, and it fulfills me. After the recent Connecticut shooting, however, I had no words. Simple writing was not enough. I had to say it, so I made a youtube video. Even then, I could barely contain the raging beast that lay silent inside me. I wanted to scream, something is horribly, horribly wrong here. But the words just didn't come to me. They couldn't. I went to work the night of the shooting, barely containing my anger. And then I quickly became absorbed into work. Happy, carefree, jovial. I handed out candy and little spare bites of dessert, joked around with fellow workers, and had a wonderful time. Then I came home, and it hit me again, like a wave washing over me. I felt. I was so furiously, terribly angry, but I felt.
There's something terribly broken about civilized society, but I've never been able to put my finger on it. Tens of thousands of years of the evolution of humanity have brought us to this point. It began with wars, fighting, violence, murder. For countless generations, it continued. Aggressive tribes or nations preyed upon weaker ones, killed, raped, tortured. Weaker nations rose up against their masters and tasted the sweet thrill of revenge. They fought because it made them feel. Those who were strong survived as masters, and those who were weak bode their time and waited for their chance to become strong. Babylon was borne out of subservience to Assyria, Rome out of subservience to Greece, the Mongol hordes out of their subservience to China. And for a time, these nations reigned supreme, and then as quickly as they had come into existence, their rule was shattered and they simply ceased to exist as a power.
19th Century America saw the creation of the melodrama. It was during this time that civilized man was finding a way to resolve his differences in a way other than combat. Wars still occurred all too frequently, and it often came because of pent-up emotion and the desire to be superior. America annexed Texas in order to show its superiority to its southern neighbor, Mexico. And yet, in peaceful society, bouts of conflict were rare. When they did occur, everyone knew and was horrified. And then there were the melodramas. These were rather horrible pieces of literature solely designed to make people feel through the use of cheap tactics. Uncle Tom's Cabin was one such melodrama. It preyed upon the emotion of people who took pride in feeling deeply. The North and the South both felt deeply when they marched to war. The North believed it was their God-given mandate to wipe out slavery, and the South believed it was the innocent victim, unfairly attacked by the extremely radical new Republican party of the North. At one point before the war broke out, a Southern congressman beat a Northern congressman within an inch of his life using a cane. In the following weeks, he was sent canes in the mail by his constituents.
In 1914, World War I arrived. At the time it was referred to the Great War, or the War to end all wars. As cultures in Europe were rapidly, rapidly advancing and expanding their populations, there was no time for war. The Industrial Revolution meant there was endless progress to be made and each nation felt as though it was doing the best job advancing in this modern world. The war started, quite simply, because the nations wanted to see who was the best. When war struck in Germany, young men marched in the streets, shouting and cheering with an eager desire to march off to war. They felt like they had never felt before. As Hitler later reminisced in a book, those were some of the happiest days of his life. A listless and unambitious artistic youth, he had never felt such a thing before. After Germany lost the war, he, like many others, felt as though his emotion had not been satisfied. The entire German nation had not received its catharsis. Fierce regulations were imposed upon the country, punishments for what the rest of the world saw as a German cause of the war. The thing is, these other nations hadn't received their catharsis either. The war was over and absolutely nothing had been achieved. An entire generation of youth was lost, and those who survived often bore terrible, horrifying injuries. When WWII came about, few were eager to get involved. Hitler was allowed to march around Europe as long as he did because nobody wanted to risk stopping him. Even the German people marched to war emotionless, feeling nothing but fear for the future. Consider Hitler's speeches, his Nuremburg Rallies. He was trying to re-instill the zealotrous fervor that existed at the eve of WWI. He was trying to achieve the catharsis that never came. When the war began, Germans, Poles, Austrians, and many others in Europe exhibited a terrible ferocity against defenseless Jews. Armed killing squads traveled into Russia and other occupied countries, slaughtering the Jewish populace. In their journals, some members of these squads reference an extreme unwillingness to take part, but in the end, they still did, and often with great fervor. They delighted in killing the defenseless. Those who lived through the war were haunted with their sins for many years to come.
In the movie A Christmas Story, there is a scene where a bully is picking on the narrator as a child. The victim starts crying, and the bully continues. As the bully continues his insults against the child, something changes and the kid rushes the bully, pummeling the living crap out of him. Again, this feels great. This entire movie is based on the real life story of the movie's writer. He wasn't jailed for pummeling this kid. He wasn't sued or expelled from school. Our understanding from watching the movie is that the bully got what he deserved.
Does it still sound like I'm just listing off random events, or is it starting to come together for you too?
Consider our schools today. In schools, kids are taught to hold in their anger. Violence is bad, fighting is bad. Terrible, terrible things happen if kids inflict violence upon each other. When kids start fights, they are labeled with behavioral issues. They are given a psychologist, an aide, special time outside class to work on their behavior problems. They are taught to repress their urges. Their classmates see these kids and pick on them by nature, poking the lion to see if they can make it roar. I did this as a kid. Today, this kind of bullying is punished rather severely, as it should be. And yet the teacher can't be everywhere.
In middle school and high school, there is a strong, overpowering trend to "fit in." This means showing no weakness, because if you show a weakness, others will exploit it for the sheer fun of making you feel. If others see you feeling, you're vulnerable. Vulnerability is the worst thing in the world in high school. And so kids hold it in. They don't let anyone know anything. And then, one day...one of them goes off.
Are you picking up on where I'm going?
Our society, our civlization, restricts the ways in which we can achieve catharsis. Catharsis is something we need quite terribly, the gratification of feeling, of making others feel. Consider the last time someone made you angry. How did it feel? Did you want to snap in their face? Punch them? Play some cruel little trick to make them seem foolish? It's as much about wanting to make them feel as it is wanting your own feeling of success against them. In the movie/novel Watchmen, what is it about Rorshach that we love? He's a sick man who inflicts terrible violence upon those who upset him, but who can deny the sheer badassery of "I'm not stuck in here with you, you're stuck in here with me"? He is a man who cannot be made to feel fear, and as much as we detest him for his obsessive black-and-white understanding of society, we respect him because no one can make him feel. We want to be like him, we want to eliminate all need for catharsis. And yet he's driven by the unshakable desire to inflict justice upon the world, to make the world into his own image of a better place. Even he needs catharsis, and it is this ambition that drives him.
He knows that what he wants to achieve is impossible, and yet he still strives for it. He understands that he may never get what he wants and yet he goes for it anyway.
And we respect him for it.
Today, we are in a society of instant gratification and manufactured catharsis. Our video games are fast and flashy, and when we do something good, we get an achievement for it. Instant gratification. In school, you get gold starts for good work as a child. These gold stars turn into letter grades as you get older. Every child is taught to believe that he or she is capable of succeeding. No, every child is taught that he or she will succeed. When a child does not succeed, it is the teacher's fault. A child quickly learns that if he fails, the consequences are that the work becomes easier. For me, the work was always easy, and when it became harder, it was a struggle for me to learn how to simply try. Today, I do not want anyone to give me anything. I have a terribly hard time asking for anything or expecting gifts. At the same time, I have no desire to reach for anything greater than what I have now - two jobs just barely above minimum wage. I am happy there, and yet perhaps someday ambition will drive me to something else. The ambition exists in me, but it has been a very conscious effort on my part to create it.
Is it starting to make sense?
This is all connected. All of it. Everything since the beginning of time goes into explaining why that twenty-year-old man walked into a school and shot kids. Why the Batman shooter appeared blank and emotionless in the court room. Why people yell and scream and rage at each other in games, why they tear apart bad players, tear apart girl players, tear apart anyone not as good as them. We have ambition ingrained within us, a desire to achieve catharsis. And at the same time, we are taught that it is shameful to feel. WWI was the last war based on emotion. From its decaying corpse grew the new life of modernism, which hoped to achieve catharsis through science. The shadow of Hitler's institutionalized genocide program and Doctor Mengele's horrifying yet extremely useful human experimentation has left us understanding that not even the cold calculations of science are free from the clutches of evil. Thus we subconsciously attempt to expunge the ambition itself, ambition that may lead to wonders or to horrors. In an ever-shrinking minority of American society, ambition still exists. Within those devoid of ambition, there still exists an ever-increasing desire for the manufactured catharsis all to similar to the Feelies and Orgies of Huxley's Brave New World. The desire builds and builds upon itself, and yet the very desire itself is prohibited, as in Orwell's 1984. As Genesis has taught us, however, forbidden desire is terribly, terribly enticing. Is it no wonder that cheating is so common in marriages, or that secret bullying occurs outside the safe confines of school? We have at our disposal an entirely new International Waters that we call the Internet. The Internet, where there are no laws and no police. Over 50% of the information that exists on the internet is pornography. Manufactured catharsis.
Last night I destroyed the guy who blamed me for a previous lost game. I didn't even bother going after him until the very end of the game. I knew he'd fail, and so I focused all my energy on the other players in the game. I got the most kills on my team and didn't die even once. It felt wonderful. All the time I'd spent practicing had paid off, and I was better than this guy. Beautiful, wonderful catharsis. Ambition realized. He still wouldn't admit I was better, of course. Couldn't admit that someone he hated was better than him. He blamed his team for dying to me.
I've made it a new rule after the game to apologize to anyone I get upset with and admit what I did wrong in the game. It's hard to do because it fights against the very desire to allow myself to believe I'm a better player than the others who screwed up.
Random, huh? This has everything to do with everything. Today's generation of people might not have the ambition to succeed in real life, but we do have the obsessive ambition to succeed in games. Who cares if I'm 30 and living at home? I have a level 85 dark knight that can 1v1 anyone on the server.
There's more, there's so much more. This desire to feel and make others feel, this desire to feel as though we are superior to others, it's pervaded every culture in the world from the beginning of time. Christ's message to be the servant, to turn the other cheek, to forgive, to love, was ignored when He first said it, and it's ignored now. Our human nature isn't as simple as "we are evil, we will do evil things, only God can make us do good things." There are deep reasons for why we are what we are and why we do what we do. There's a reason Christ went after the religious teachers of the day. The teachers taught to exalt in the failure of others. Stone the unfaithful woman. "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone." Everything about Pharisaic culture was built upon superiority. The Sanhedrin itself was powerless, a puppet of Rome, and in its powerlessness, it felt an unquenchable thirst to exercise its manufactured power by putting Christ to death. To question the power of the Pharisees is to question a power that barely even exists and could easily be shattered; thus Christ had to die. The Jewish kapos within the death camps of the Holocaust were often the most brutal to their fellow Jews, men who believed they had power because it had been granted them by the SS officers who did not even acknowledge their right to live. A Jewish man and survivor of the relatively 'safe' camps, Bruno Bettelheim, wrote a [somewhat misguided] book examining the ways Jews treated each other in the camps. It was brutal, horrifying, the way stronger prisoners took advantage of weaker prisoners. Why did they do it? Because it was the only power they had. In the camps, to feel was to be weak, and if someone is weak, they would be shot. How beautiful is the wonderful emotion and optimism of Anne Frank's diary, if only because it is a one-in-six-million occurrence.
If I appear to be rambling, the connection has not yet occurred for you. It is all connected. I never told you why the Batman shooter looked shocked and emotionless in the court room. Have you figured it out? His attempt to recreate his manufactured catharsis was not what he expected to be. The emotional release that he expected to wash over him as he pulled that trigger over and over again never came. As he sat there in that court room, he still could not get beyond the terrible realization that he felt nothing. That is...my thought process if I were to play him onstage.
You innovators, you inventors, you artists and scientists and engineers and thinkers, stop manufacturing ways to make us feel. They aren't real, and they will never be real. If you want to save the world, give us something that is real. Give us something to desire, something to truly and earnestly strive for, something that makes us feel truly fulfilled from the sweat of our own brow. Do that for us, and the world is yours.
As I began to write this, I had just come home from working a six-hour shift at work. I made salads and washed dishes. When I came in tonight, I brought candy. I love to see my fellow workers happy. I love to make them feel joy, even though their work is often difficult and thankless. I decided to go out of my way to make the main dishwasher feel necessary. When he ran out of dishes to wash, I brought him more. I did this because if he had nothing to do, he would be sent home and the entire work load would be mine to bear. The end result was that he felt fulfilled at having nearly completed all the after-close dishes that normally pile up around 9. When he caught up, he went home, and I myself got out in record time. I feel perfectly, wonderfully happy, and even though my job is sometimes difficult and thankless, I wouldn't trade my life for the world.
Posted 05 January 2013 - 11:41 AM
Anywhozle, nice post.
If you wanna converse with me, pm me
Posted 07 January 2013 - 09:55 PM
Because of your first sentence I only skimmed through the post, but this did catch my eye:
I've read George Orwell's 1984 and most of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. I say most of because I couldn't finish the boring story. But in Brave New World the citizens would take a substance called Soma when they felt down. It was not a society based on happiness, it was a society based on a drug. One that defeated depression, among other things. And in many lights Soma, in my opinion, resembles weed in our society today.
Posted 07 January 2013 - 10:10 PM
That's as far as I got 'cause I read that line and realized finishing it would be no different than reading a high school essay about the world's problem's, the solutions, and what can be done to go about it.