Friday, 28 August 2015

HUMAN RUBBISH?

The way that over 70 refugees from Syria - children, women, and men - have been found, suffocated to death, in an abandoned lorry (truck) in Austria, can only recall such horrors as the Nazi period, when Jews were some times killed in a similar way by the SS.  The horror this time is that, seemingly devoid of any ideology of hate, these human traffickers simply seem to have carelessly wired the unventilated back shut and killed their cargo for no other reason than indifference or clumsiness. What remains - hardly new but still never acceptable in human history - is the idea that some lives do not matter as much as others.
 
The sense that some humans are no more than rubbish, to be treated callously, whose lives do not matter, are not precious, should not be preserved.  If there is any ethical or religious position that states otherwise, so be it, but it seems to me that the finally most vital rule of conduct must be to always keep aware of how every one else - every human person - is equally deserving of whatever it is we'd have done or given to us (including food, shelter, water, safety, dignity, and compassion). Human cruelty to other humans is not rare - it may even be hard-wired into a portion of the population (or all) - it is the worst of our behaviour, and we must do more in our societies to protect those most vulnerable to the sort of humans (often in gangs) who use and abuse humans as if they were mere meat, mere garbage.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

TRUE DETECTIVE 2 WAS A MASTERWORK

I will not go into the roll call of A-list names who wrote, directed, and acted in, True Detective Season 2, except to say that the 8-part film noir cop drama set in the 21st century recently aired to mainly hostile, at times hectoring reviews. These can be divided into two categories - those that pined for the brilliant Season 1, and those that found Season 2 poor in its own right.  We can dispense with the first easily - you cannot claim Lear is not Hamlet and act all sad.  This is a new work.  Move on.

The second complaint was nuanced, but mainly revolved around the themes and structure of the new season - that it lacked drama, interesting character dynamics, that the dialogue was artificial, stilted and sometimes absurd, and that the finale lacked punch. The kindest words suggested it was High Camp - so bad it was good, a romping mess.

I beg to disagree.  This season was a complete dramatic work of Intertextual accomplishment - a very mature Tradition and the Individual Talent moment.  The youngish author (we know his name), who is a student of literature, did his genre homework. TD2 had all the bent cops, twisted hookers, tortured mobsters, hauntingly wasted lives, fatal desires, and double-crosses of the best hardboiled shows, pulp novels, and movies of yore. It also traded in the occult and anti-natalist subtexts of Season 1, for an Oedipal (Greek drama/Freud) skeleton. This entire season was in fact an expose of what a jouissance of classic and genre tropes unleashed would achieve - an experiment of deadly abandon.

As such, it was deliciously literary, post-modern, and artificial, a daring remake of Touch of Evil not in style but in theatrical panache and verve - the most complex genre exploration of the effects of sexual crime and suffering on humans seeking fathers and children in an American mystery story since perhaps Chinatown (another touchstone). Allusive to the max, often witty when most contrived, TD2 never claimed to be real.  Instead it offered the textual and cinematic pleasures of a fully contrived experiment - a theatre of tough guy alienation, with Brecht's wall torn down and sold for parts, after Mac the Knife was invited in.

I revelled in its glee, its bravura tics, and perhaps most of all its oddly controlled weirdness. A dignity and pathos bathed its five central characters in an eerie neon glow, and its OTT villains ran a mad gamut of creeps and cretins. Fathers never leave us, as a poet once wrote.

INHUMANITY

This blog has often over the past ten years grappled with issues of evil, and today reminds us that the human being is capable of atrocities that no animal could imagine.

Indeed, Greene's famous dictum that evil is a failure of the imagination is clever but sadly false - as is the idea that a lack of empathy is to blame - indeed, the deepest forms of evil require both imagination and empathy, in order to be executed with fully diabolical impact.  You cannot prudently hurt a creature you do not understand, except by accident.

70 years ago, the war against Japan ended. We have been reminded that during that war, among other barbarisms, Japanese medical doctors performed vivisection for medical students on Allied prisoners of war.  Human Vivisection is the worst crime imaginable - it is surgically altering a living sentient being for experimental purposes. I cannot describe these wretched and utterly degrading surgeries here properly, but medical students were forced to watch prisoners kept alive and suffering horrific alterations and woundings, for hours, and sometimes days. This included removing organs, injecting toxins, and brain surgery. The Germans and Chinese also practised these actions during the war, and there is some evidence that the Allies also experimented with deadly biological weapons; and of course we know they experimented with atomic bombs.  It is important to recall the depravity humans are capable of.

Now we have learnt that IS has adopted a "theology of rape" where so-called "wives" - female prisoners of war - are used as sex slaves, then often killed. In short, while this blog has often condemned this new scourge as the enemy of good, it cannot be said to be the only opponent or side to entertain monstrous acts against prisoners.

War, it is sometimes said, is Hell.  This is an excuse.  It seems the human animal is demonic, in part - and some human animals, led by a demonic aspect which I call evil, wait on the opportunity to explode into untrammelled action against others when laws and limits break, bend or cease altogether, in the chaos of wars, disasters, and economic collapse. This is because predation waits for an opportunity. Almost all evil occurs only when an opening occurs in the social fabric, however faint or momentary such a rending may seem.

We need to avoid wars precisely because they afford maximum playtime for wickedness - and make no mistake, that wickedness has been historically central to human behaviour since day one. Some call it sin.

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