Monday, May 28, 2007

for and against the theatres of violence

"i do not understand my own actions. for i do not do what i want but i do the very thing which i hate."
-paul the apostle, letter to the romans 7:15 (c.65 AD)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "As I Sat Sadly By Her Side" (2001)

john milbank has written that perhaps the greatest violence we perpetuate against others is the violence of the spectator. it is the violence present in the inability to turn our heads from the car wreck in horror-fascination. it is the violence of watching the plane crash over and over again on cnn. he is right to a degree, but the spectacle also renders the spectator inert before its power. it creates a field in which one relates to the event as something purely given. early christian criticisms of the theater traveled along this double line recognizing that one was both completely impotent and motionless before the spectacle and yet, at the same time, by one's sitting actively affirmed its power.

this is the place in which we now find ourselves so often: sitting at the window, in front of the tv, watching a disaster unfold that is not of our making but which was, at the same time, authored by no one else but us. we are caught in the double violence which renders us powerless to stop its unfolding, and thus at the same time constitutes us as the active and free agents of its realization. that which is external to us becomes the truth of who we are.

in the attitude we adopt toward the spectacle we become other to ourselves. caught in this dangerous theater we come to wear the mask which is assigned us, demanded of us, and the truth of who we are and what we will becomes immaterial. in watching the drama unfold, we are ourselves made actors. the drama, which we recognize to be a thing outside us, is transformed from inert to having a dynamic inertial power. the action makes us passive and our passivity becomes our action.



vassilip said...

that's a really great post

let me add (?) only this:

for that bureaucratization of our modern life, which results into the deprivation of experience, we have not to look only at the factualities of modernity (big numbers everywhere) but also at our self-centre-ness, which is rhe most real death, the death of coward.
what to say?
"let deads bury their deads"? (Math.8:22)
difficult, difficult

Lawrence of Arabia said...

thank you. i think you are right. i would even say that the self-centeredness of modern life and the bureaucratic mess that arises in large groups of people are two sides of the same problem. precisely because we feel lost in the crowd we feel ourselves to be isolated individuals. what unites us, in the crowd, is the fact that we are all alone together.

best wishes,

Um Ibrahim said...

Psst...Nick cave's cool;) "people they ain't no good.."

Lawrence of Arabia said...

i know! isn't he awesome :D