The Frail Athletes

Pan Xiaorong

“Mental health concerns not only health but also the socialization of the modern individual. It challenges the essential elements of individualist societies, like self-value, the
opposition between responsibility and illness, the ability to succeed in life, the ability to educate one’s children, and so on. “

Alain Ehrenberg

“I shall light up the eyes of your enraptured wife,
And give back to your son his strength and his color;
I shall be for that frail athlete of life
The oil that hardens a wrestler’s muscles.”

Baudelaire (William Aggeler tr., The Spirit of Wine)

“Some have had to do with the art of theatre, but finding
it too arduous, chose to join the theatre. These are legion.
A few remained faithful. Very few, because it is a painful

Howard Barker

It is increasingly hard not to see an obvious intellectual retreat in the western bourgeoisie. And perhaps on a basic level this is firstly a result of lowered literacy. Knowing how to read Ikea instruction sheets is not the same as knowing how to read. And there is naturally a corollary visual sub literacy at work. On the one hand you see this in an inability to read propaganda AS propaganda (see Niki Haley warning of another gas attack) and in an other form in the grotesque architectural tastes of the ruling class.

“Aesthetic experience takes shape and form not just in empirical accounts but also in theory – in self-reflective utterances. However, no general criterion exists for where, or in what form, this inner break or “caesura” occurs in the aesthetic phenomenon.”
Hans Thies Lehmann

It is almost as if the forces of advanced Capital today have created a process of anti aesthetics that is erasing inner life. Language itself is employed in destroying language.

Jindrich Styrsky, photography.

This leads to two related discussions. One has to do with how psychiatry sees the contemporary condition, and second, the nature of art and culture in a society that increasingly treats aesthetics as a form of self help. And then the overriding reality of U.S. militarism that threatens the entire planet. The rise in both the treatment of depression and the professional literature on depression has grown exponentially since the 1970s. What Wakefield and Horowitz call a ‘diagnostic inflation’ regarding depression. In fact the title of their book is Loss of Sadness, suggesting that appropriate feelings of sadness are now pathologized. Many others have said the same thing, going back perhaps to Russell Jacoby over forty years ago. Of course there is a clear economic impetus for this diagnostic inflation. The professional mental health expert is reimbursed for finding pathologies where none actually exist.

But back to aesthetics. And perhaps to the topic of tragedy. For this intellectual retreat now suggests a crises in Western culture.

Roland Penrose

“Nothing said about death by the living can possibly relate
to death as it will be experienced by the dying. Nothing
known about death by the dead can be communicated to
the living. Over this appalling chasm tragedy throws a
frail bridge of imagination.”

Howard Barker

Barker’s book of epigrams on theatre should be essential reading for all young playwrights (Death, the one and the Art of Theatre, 2004). The tragic is itself much disputed, and there remains a tension between theory or philosophy and performance. And such a tension is not the topic here, but it warrants mention because there is a considerable body of work devoted to the topic.

“Tragic experience is not simply a matter of reflection; it is also a pause
in reflection – it is sensory, “blind” (so to speak), and affect-laden all at once;
otherwise, it amounts to nothing at all.”

Hans Thies Lehmann

The tragic then can be seen as the anti-instrumental experience. It is a break, a caesura in logical reasoning. But tragedy is also a revealing. A revealing that takes place in the temporality of the theatre. Takes place *on* the stage. Now I might argue that Melville and Dostoyevsky are tragedians, but that raises a second issue I will discuss below. When Dürrenmatt suggested that destiny had vanished, Brecht (as Lehmann notes) observed that destiny had a name and address. Much as Pinter provided the address for war crimes as 10 Downing Street. The tendency to mystify the material is everywhere, today.

George Hugnet

“Pity is the feel-good factor of the eighteenth century.”
Terry Eagleton

The contemporary aesthetic landscape is one that has incorporated a proliferating series of subject positions that valorize various kinds of amnesia. It is good to forget. And while that dictum was sufficient for post WW2 America, it is no longer effective. Peter Brook’s *empty space* is replaced with the empty mind of the audience. Great plays, noted Barker, yield no meanings. For what is the meaning of death? This does not mean, of course, that plays (or art) be devoid of ideas. But it does suggest that those ideas must be delivered through a complex system of performance and text or image, because of, partly at least, this ongoing tidal swell of erasing meaning. The didactic now devours itself and is still-born.

There are indications that many big U.S. urban police departments use psychological testing to weed out candidates that score too high for empathy. And a recent court ruling allows for the police to flunk candidates who simply score too high on I.Q. tests. This is not unrelated overall to the mass regression in the public. The police are, after all, the sanctified priests of punishment. Special sentencing guidelines allow for more severe punishments if one hurts or murders a law enforcement officer. What this does is not just protect on a basic level all police and grant them sweeping immunity, but also reinforces the validity of hierarchical social rankings.

Huang Yong Ping

“From the servants and governors, who bully the children of good households to teach them a lesson about life, to the teachers from Westerwald, who drive the usage of foreign words as well as all pleasure in language out of them, to the officials and clerks, who make them stand in line, the petty officers, who step on them, things go straight as a rail to the torturers of the Gestapo and the bureaucrats of the gas chambers.”

So I think it matters that these aesthetic questions be investigated. As an anecdotal aside, I continue to see on social media more and more self made videos of confession. And not just confession but exercises in banality. They are short video journal entries that by design eliminate history and the wider world. But it is not only that, it is a kind of therapeutic parody that indulges the author of these videos, they are granted some imaginary clemency for breaking the seal of confession, as it were. Except nothing is being confessed of any consequence. They are purely self congratulation. I am great because I see my failings and share them with you, the uncertain audience. I am better for my self spectacle.

There are several things worth discussing when talking of tragedy and aesthetics, and in relation to depression and anxiety. And to the therapeutic as it exists today.

Michael Borremans

“Melancholy . . . is either in disposition or habit. In disposition, it is that
transitory melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion
of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief, passion, or perturbation of
the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causeth anguish,
dullness, heaviness, and vexation of spirit. . . . And from these melancholy
dispositions, no man living is free, no Stoic, none so wise, none so
happy, none so patient, so generous, so godly, so divine, that can vindicate
himself; so well composed, but more or less, some time or other, he feels
the smart of it. Melancholy, in this sense is the character of mortality.”
Robert Burton (Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621)

“Depression presents itself as an illness of responsibility in which the dominant feeling is that of failure.”
Alain Ehrenberg

Jacob Peter Gowy (1635, The Flight of Icarus)

The rise of depression as part of the modern condition is connected to the evolution, I think anyway, of transgression. And transgression is usually seen as one of the foundational ideas embedded in tragedy. Which is maybe not so clear, but for my purposes here it registers as important for how this medicalized society views excess. Transgressive behavior is incorporated into a model of therapeutic treatment. In tragedy, both Attic and Shakespearean — and no doubt Jacobean, the hopeful character is perceived as beneath contempt. Prozac is not going to foster a tragic sensibility I don’t think.

“If only in passing, let us mention the rather light-footed way that theories
of liberalism take leave of the tragic – theories that trust, or presume, that the
contemporary subject is able to assume a highly ironic bearing, even with
regard to its own values, in situations of conflict. In fact, of course, irony does
not offer an answer at all. Adorno was right to observe, sarcastically, that
irony is for the subaltern. At any rate, even if the image of a society exhibiting
ironic tolerance toward the most savage extremism (provided that it has
no serious, real consequences) may seem appealing, it remains wholly superficial.”

Hans Thies Lehmann

Yann Mingard, photography.

But one needs to explain why the loss of a tragic sensibility is a negative. Adorno wrote that “For only what does not fit into this world is true.”. Depression, as the DSM would have it, is not only a condition associated with responsibility and failure, but it is a class mediated pathology. The administered world, per Adorno, is one that circumscribes experience and restricts heterogeneity in behavior — as it simultaneously conceals contradictions. The tragic is the revealing of suffering. It is also the exposing of contradiction. The revealing, in theatrical terms, is the exposing of transgression, but also its reclamation. Not on moral terms but on historical ones. And it is here that notions of the therapeutic intersect.

“The pharmaceutical industry had become an active player. As had the media: as of the late 1950s, magazines stressed over and over again that even those in the best of health could be liable to depression. The order of the day was to reassure: depression was neither a mental illness nor a matter of the imagination. Suspicions of fakery and complaints about people having imaginary illnesses declined. Between 1965 and 1970, depression became an everyday aspect of general medicine. Psychic life having emerged from its dark cloud, depression was now socially respectable.”
Alain Ehrenberg

Diane Gough in *Paula*, BBC2.

This respectability was the dawn of post modern confession as heroism. In the society of disguised social control the expression of personal detail, feelings, and opinion has merged with ideas of artistic expression. The age of marketing has also lent pressure to avoid actual concrete criticism. This is evident in the rise of slang terms expressions such ‘stop being a hater’ etc. The excessive polyannaism of decrying negativity. The rise of terms like *constructive criticism*. Art and culture meet therapy. The contemporary narratives from Hollywood are almost always ones with hopeful endings. It is like movies on anti depressants. But more than that is the ascension of this AA sensibility (and all the related 12 step programs). The basis for AA is confession. And it is also amends. Which means confession to others, selected as your victims. Oh I abused this or that person so now I must go tell them I know I abused them. What this is meant to achieve is anybody’s guess, actually. But that’s not the purpose anyway.

George Steiner saw the death of tragedy — following the 17th century — as connected to the rise of a bourgeois audience (philistine), the growth of the idea of entertainment, which really came a bit later, and the incompatibility of Romanticism with tragedy. One can also include the *modern man* , which for Steiner meant the distracted man. The other aspect that Steiner hints at but never really articulates is that Romanticism believed in a kind of progress that tragedy undercut. The tragic is always radical in nature, disruptive and inexplicable. Those rare times when mass culture or Hollywood produce work that approaches a tragic sensibility, it is inevitably unpopular. Conor MacPherson’s scripted three part crime story for BBC2, “Paula” is perilously close to something like tragedy. It is a narrative of excess and societal neglect of the underclass. And here a discussion of genre is introduced. The only space for tragic radicality today seems crime stories and this is perhaps because there is something anti bourgeois about the genre at the same time it is ostensively a bourgeois form. As world events, driven by U.S. Imperialism, grow in horror the cultural response of corporate media and academic literature is to increasingly produce products of safety. Another reason for defending an idea of the tragic is its rejection of irony or even cynicism.

Khadija Saye, photography.

“A recent estimate of the twentieth century’s ‘megadeaths’ is 187 million, the equivalent of more than one in ten of the world population in 1900. Yet tragedy remains a word of which the left is distinctly nervous.”
Terry Eagleton

Eagleton adds….“One thinks of Walter Benjamin’s wise dictum that revolution is not a runaway train but the application of the emergency brake. It is capitalism which is anarchic, extravagant, out of hand, and socialism which is temperate, earth-bound and realistic. “

The tragic addresses our finitude. It is that form for which death is indispensable. So, notwithstanding Brecht’s admonishing comment on destiny, it is destiny in fact that makes for the tragic — at least on one level. And it was A.C. Bradley (for whom I have a growing respect, rather belatedly) the tragic must contain a spiritual loss. Which is another way, really, of saying destiny. I think Franco Moretti is correct though, mostly anyway, when he says the tragic does not exist except in art. For tragedy is a performance of revealing, and revelation (sorry) and it is an experience of transcendence. Which takes us back to Bradley and spiritual waste. I would say tragedy is that which activates an awareness of and then inscribes something of human suffering. But the inscribing is embedded in a ritual of elaborate performative actions. Ibsen is not tragic, much as I admire him, because Ibsen’s theatre is not transcendent. Strindberg seems closer if one uses that criteria. Strindberg, finally, always submits to something inexplicable. For Nietzsche the end of tragedy came with the birth of rationalism, at least of a certain modern Enlightenment based rationalism. In any event, the other factor today is the seriousness of the tragic. And here again genre relates. For genre removes the onus of lurking self parody in the representation of high seriousness. The primordial crime, which I believe today forms the basis for any narrative of any value at all, is the founational element of crime drama. Jan Kott saw tragic protest of value, but only if gods exist (which Eagleton quotes) and this segues back to AA confessionals and those home made videos on facebook in which personal journals of admission to being less that perfect serve as affirmations. For whom do the confessors address? The answer is probably the Gods. And there begins my problem with AA if you must know.

Axel Geis

I think Pasolini’s Gospel According to St Mathew is tragic. Jesus as a labor organizer, likely sexually ambiguous, sees his death on the road ahead but organizes anyway. Who’ll Stop the Rain, based on Robert Stone’s novel Dog Soldiers, is close to tragic. I think it probably is. Ray Hicks is certainly the closest to a tragic protagonist I can think of, off hand.

“This is the actual tragedy of culture. Because the tragic undoing – as
opposed to a sad or externally imposed one – can be said to consist of
the following: that the devastating powers directed against an individual
originate within the deepest layers of the individual himself;
that his destruction articulates an inherent destiny, pertaining to the
logical and structural development of the individual’s affirmative

George Simmel

Jiro Yoshihara

There is something in the idea of the serious that contains, inherently, the difficult. Tragedy is never simple, nor is it fully comprehensible. Barker is right that about meaning, but one should perhaps add that this is a certain sort of meaning. The message, the comprehensible. And the left recoils a bit at this because art is always so close to instruction for many of them. The Conformist is very close to tragic, and so is Red Desert. So is In a Year of 13 Moons. Lacan saw tragedy as a conflict in the symbolic order, with which the audience or reader identifies, but must of necessity reject because of the fear that is the basis of the Real. Eagleton, speaking of Lacan, writes…

“Only relationships based on a mutual recognition of the Real – of the terrifyingly inhuman installed at the core of the other and oneself, for which one name is the death drive – will be able to prosper. What has to be shared, to by-pass a mere mirroring of egos, is what is foreign to us both. And this is what is expelled from the world of consciousness and civility. It is only on the basis of the askew, the ex-time, the ejected, that a community of compassion can be constructed. The cornerstone of a new order has to be, like Oedipus at Colonus, the reviled and unclean.”

In A Year of 13 Moons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, dr. 1978)

The society of confession is only such if the confession is false. Nobody making videos for social media confesses anything real. The acceptance of this is conditioned, of course, at the most basic level by the propaganda of a government that lies even when it would serve their interests on occasion to tell the truth. But they cannot.

“Tragedy evaporates because the claims of the subjectivity that was to have been tragic are so obviously inconsequential.”

But the confessor also cannot decide about the truth of falseness of their confession. They cannot decide when they are sick or well. Depressed of happy. One category of depression today is to be depressed about the uncertainty of one’s own depression. This is also a bit like the public apology. Celebrities love to apologize. To whom are they apologizing? In theory (and they often state this directly) it is to their fans. One cannot apologize to a fan. This is almost a confusion of category, actually. The public apology is mostly the product of sexual transgression. Getting blow jobs from street prostitutes or the like. The implications of these public apologies pass without comment. If anything, the only official media response is to predict how future box office might be effected.

“In all mourning there is a tendency to silence, and this infinitely more than inability or reluctance to communicate. The mournful has the feeling that it is known comprehensively by the unknowable.”
Walter Benjamin (Origin of German Tragic Drama)

Joan Nelson

The tragic is, in the end, linked to theatre. The temporal insistence of the stage is that which provides a space for the difficult, for a resistance to the silence of mourning. Artaud, I think, understood this. And there is no medium today more assaulted by Capitalism and what Adorno called disenchantment than theatre. That intellectual retreat I mentioned at the top is expressed today the near hysterical bourgeois sensibility of professional stages. Nobody really attends these spectacles, except under duress I think, but as the horror of that desire for global hegemony by the Capitalist west grows, the spaces for tragedy shrink. One cannot really mirror the other, of course. What is happening in Yemen cannot be expressed by conventional narrative just as it cannot be expressed by anything resembling the post dramatic or post modern. One of Lehmann’s failings in his otherwise valuable book is to side step the political shadows of U.S. Imperialism, an imperialism that penetrates every breath taken in the West. There is something hideous in the Saudi royal family, and there always was, only today the strings of their puppet masters are visible. And the strange spectacle of a Niki Haley, reciting her scripted lines in a manner that suggests bad dubbing in a Hong Kong martial arts film, that embodies the grotesque. And the grotesque, as many theorists have noted, is the stand in today for tragedy. Still, that is possibly not entirely accurate. For the tragic is that which knows of the suffering, and translates it in acts of mimetic invention. The proscenium stage is not what makes for bourgeois theatre. As Blau noted, even when the curtain is removed the play remembers the curtain (I paraphrase slightly).

Maria Taniguchi

Eagleton near the end of his book on tragedy writes thus….
“As the West’s global ambitions grow increasingly more predatory, it will no
doubt find itself increasingly less able to defend its operations by the culturalist
or pragmatist formula ‘This is just the kind of thing we happen
to do’. What may work in philosophy departments proves rather less persuasive
when Western capitalism is asked why it is busy poisoning the
planet, breeding poverty and preparing once more for nuclear showdown.”

And then concludes ….

“We may leave Franz Kafka with the last word. At the end of The Trial,
as he is about to be executed, Josef K. glimpses a vague movement in
the top storey of a nearby house. ‘The casement window flew open like
a light flashing on; a human figure, faint and insubstantial at that distance
and height, forced itself far out and stretched out its arms even
further. Who was it? A friend? A good man? One who sympathized? One
who wanted to help? Was it one person? Was it everybody?”

And it is Kafka who remains the most monumental of figures when one speaks of culture today. Both Adorno and Benjamin reflected numerous times on his vision, and even Lacan pondered the spatial in terms of Kafka’s scenes, which seemed to duplicate somehow the psyche and it’s mechanisms of repression and rivalry. Kafka is that figure both accepted, but never accepted quite. But let me digress just slightly here… and quote this from Alain Ehrenberg…

“As of the 1970s, French psychoanalytic literature paid particular attention to a clientele that, it seemed, was growing rapidly. A new kind of patient was stretching out on the psychoanalysts’ couches. These patients presented a daunting challenge because, unlike neurotics, they were not able to recognize their conflicts, to picture them. They lacked the basic underpinning without which it was difficult to achieve a cure: guilt. Sometimes distressed, these patients above all felt chronically empty; they had great difficulty coping with their painful emotions because they did not intellectualize them.Their representations were poor, they were not able to give symbolic form to their suffering: they were prisoners of their mood. This new species had a name: borderline personalities. Depression dominated the clinical picture.”

Wally Hedrick

Chronically empty. How do I feel? This marked the start of chemical warehousing, really. Between 1978 and 1984 the prescriptions for anti depressants grew over 300%. And mostly they were given out by other than psychiatrists. The age of the chronically empty. But also, as Joyce McDougall and others have written, it was the age of a new form of empty. One housed in a carapace of character armoring that was becoming even more numbed.

“In other situations the severely alexithymic sufferer’s feelingless state approaches the schizophrenic state of apathy, but where the psychotic withdraws from external realities and relationships, the alexithymic makes a pseudo adjustment to these, often one that forces a hyperactive involvement with others and serves to mask the psychic catatonia…{ } These somatic defense measures must then be reinforced by vigorous psychological means, such as violent expulsion from the psyche of both the affect and its mental representation”
Joyce McDougall

The confessional is always rigid, and it rejects and expels unwanted representations. It is inflexible and demands an absolute acceptance. The confession is not a dialogue. And in that respect resembles performance art. Many monologuists and performance artists are very much a part of this onanistic intellectual catatonia, masked by endless talking. Talking to nobody really, to an anonymous audience. So the tragic is that which ruptures the rote presentations of this mock authenticity. And I have noticed, also, a kind of deep disregard for suffering if it exists outside the group. And often that group is a group of one. Although it is often many more, a family or set of close associates practicing the same sort of self presentation. A friend of mine suggested these video diaries are a kind of homemade version of the TV show Modern Family, in which characters address the audience. And there is truth in this. As there is in the relationship to reality TV. The white affluent bourgeoisie today are the new tribalists. There is no more tribal configuration than the educated white haute bourgeoisie of the West.

Yan Heng

“The theatre trades in relief, it dispenses cheap medicines,
among them, irony. The obverse of tragedy is not comedy,
which by virtue of its cruelty lives in tragedy also, but
irony ..”

Howard Barker

The impetus toward tragedy is really one of mental health. Roberto Calasso wrote

“What may or may not lie beyond that cage has not yet been established. But many travelers have reported that literature is the passport most readily accepted in that terra incognita where—so one hears tell—all the mythologies now pass a largely indolent life in a no-man’s-land haunted by gods and vagrant simulacra, by ghosts and Gypsy caravans in constant movement. All these beings are ever issuing from the cave of the past. They yearn only to tell their stories again, as the shades of the underworld yearned only for blood. But how can we reach them? Culture, in the most recent sense of the word, should imply the ability to celebrate, invisibly, the rites that open the way to this kingdom, which is also the kingdom of the dead. Yet it is precisely this ability that is so obviously lacking in the world around us. Behind the trembling curtains of what passes for “reality,” the voices throng. If no one listens, they steal the costume of the first person they can grab and burst onto the stage in ways that can be devastating. Violence is the expedient of whatever has been refused an audience.”

Masao Yamamoto, photography.

The idea of individuality is one that leads inexorably toward madness. It is rivalry and hostility and intolerance. For the other is always afflicted somehow in how the individual is constructed by the individual. The advice of all 12 step programs is one day at a time. And really it should be focused toward change that comes only from a much longer point of view, and one that is collective. Addiction is clearly related to social depravation. To coerced solitude. A solitude amid the many. AA enforces an idea of powerlessness and the impossibility of change (once an addict you are always an addict, only a recovering one. And this is also part of the definition of addiction as a disease. Which it is not, but I won’t get into that here). And, as Marc Lewis noted….“The definition of addiction as a disease, endorsed by the medical and scientific communities and most Western governments, may be the most powerful marketing tool there is for the rehab industry. It’s not only a great way to get people in the door—clearly people with a disease need treatment, and judges in the United States have fully endorsed this logic—but also a way of explaining what goes wrong when treatment doesn’t work. Because no doctor, nurse, or shrink will ever tell you that they can fix you for sure. All they can say is that they’ll try. And if you end up not getting fixed, well, that’s the way it is with diseases. And probably you didn’t quite follow the regimen you were instructed to follow. The wagging finger isn’t hard to visualize. The disease concept is also a useful tool for the insurance industry, because it defines and delimits the kind of treatment that will and won’t be covered, for how long, and at what cost.”

Kiwon Park

When I watched Oliver Stone interviewed by Stephen Colbert, I thought, that sound of psychotic laughter in the audience is the sound of self immolation. Psychic immolation. The petty mean spirited pandering of Colbert is the sound of all petty officials asking you to please open your bag. But who was it that was laughing? The image I have is bobble head dolls. This is the expression of an anti-aesthetics which I mentioned at the top. It is the same manufacturing process that brings you Marvel Comix movies or TV shows like Lethal Weapon. I mean I could list fifty such shows. Coerced identification with your occupier is being doubled down all the time by corporate media. And this is another obvious reason for the importance of art education. And there is no area so deprived as arts education. No area of pedagogy that is more distrusted and maligned. Ask the average American about tragedy and I shudder to imagine the responses. The intellectual retreat is actually a retreating. It is remarkable, I think, to watch people I have known voluntarily discard brain cells. There is, on the other hand, a growing number of Americans waking to the nightmare. They simply get no media exposure. And it is important to remember that. The saga of Colin Kaepernick is an object lesson in this.

Lehmann ends his book discussing Sarah Kane. And it is Kane, perhaps, who best links the tragic with an idea of contemporary depression. For Kane, the theatrical curtain is elided with the curtain surrounding the hospital bed.

“In this theatrical space, one is led to listen [Gehör zu schenken] to desire itself [“dem” Begehren] – not just one’s own – after the curtains have opened. In this way, the “text for performance”, as Kane called her writings, opens up the theatre system [das System Theater] and breaks through experience which remains in the frame of the aesthetic. The theatre qualifies as tragic when and where such breakingthrough and overstepping of the framework of reception occur. This aspect [Bedingung] counts much more than the fact that the text also features excess
thematically – excessive desire for love, violence, transcending the self and erasing it [Selbst-Übersteigung und Selbst-Auslöschung].”

I’ll end with Howard Barker…

“What was, and is, and forever must be, cannot be
depressing. Depression is the failure of spirit. Who are
the most depressed? The comedians. Fear is their
territory. Tragedy fears nothing, it enters in, it must enter
in, it senses this entering as an ecstatic obligation …”


  1. tetradugenica says:

    I think the closest to real tragedy I’ve encountered in contemporary media is Dark Souls 1. It has the heroic inevitability of failure and the gods helplessly trying to stop things that cannot be stopped

  2. Modern Western society is characterized by availability of endless distractions, and trivialization of love, and death.

    The endless distractions including, perhaps, antidepressants, either in the form of those available by prescription, or on the street, serve as a source of corporate profit, and their intended effect is to numb people, i.e. produce the intellectual catatonia mentioned in “The Frail Athletes,” to a reality, individual, and collective, too frightening to contemplate for long, if at all. The deep disregard for suffering if it exists outside of the group is critical for the survival of U.S. imperialism. If the average American were fully informed of the amount of death, and destruction waged in our names around the planet perhaps the ensuing revolution would make the one that took place in the 1960’s look trivial by comparison. Yemen, and Syria are just the most recent examples of deep disregard for suffering if it exists outside of the group. Iran is likely the next target although the failure of imperial powers to displace al-Assad has put a damper on plans for Iran.

    Saul Bellow made an observation that for his parent’s generation death was a common topic of conversation, and experience while sex was taboo. People died at home, were waked at home, and many infants died during childbirth. Sex was not discussed. He noted that during his lifetime death became a taboo topic, and sex seemingly became one impossible to escape. The objectification of the other has trivialized both, and made endless U.S. imperial war acceptable.

    Asking “For what is the meaning of death?” is a bit like asking for what is the meaning of birth? Neither question has an answer. Death is a useful contemplation object for meditation, and both birth, and death involve suffering which is a hallmark of earthly existence, but what are the meaning of these bookends of life? Beginnings, and ends often lack meaning.

Speak Your Mind


To Verify You\'re Human, Please Solve The Problem: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.