The celebration of violence

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By FLÁVIO R. KOTHE*

History manifests human nature. What this is, however, remains unknown.

Why, in so many countries – Israel, Argentina, Holland, United States, etc. – has the population been opting for the extreme right? Why does this have so much support in so many so-called civilized countries? How is it that those who presented themselves as victims of genocide become perpetrators of genocide, as if they had learned nothing from history?

For a century now, the celebration of violence as a solution to social conflicts has prevailed in cinema and television: we need not be surprised by the fascist outbreak. We are marked by the style of action movies, which permeates what has been presented as art by wild Otanistan. We need to look with suspicion at what is imposed on us in the hybrid war in which we are all involved.

Anyone in a Faraday cage is immune to the energy around them. A compass placed on it, however, continues to point north. Our cage is the beliefs we project around us, with the hope that they will exorcise and resolve the problems we see around and within us. It's a fictitious cage, which solves nothing, but allows us to push them with our belly, or worse, pretend that we can push them with our belly. When we are struck by them – like our finitude –, we will no longer be there to complain.

The Earth's atmosphere is the Faraday cage in which we live. Without it, we would soon be fried in little lard. However, we do not neglect to mistreat it as much as we can. Not only with bombs, missiles and cannon shots, but with cars, carbon and methane.

History is not just a succession of events that rush at us. It has a secret dimension, which is also not just the strength of economic vectors, but something we don't know what it is. History manifests human nature. What this is, however, remains unknown.

To suppose that he is a divine creature is contradicted by the demonic nature of his military policy; that it is a rational animal shows that the rational does not predominate in it and that the animal side is an offense to animals; let it be a “son politician” is contradicted by war facts, leading the best to withdraw from social coexistence; that is a being subjugated by “Anxiety”, through the panic fear of dying and being alive, shows that other affections populate his impulses; That he is a privileged being in the search for the hidden being of beings is not confirmed.

When we are sitting on a moving train and are overtaken by another train in the same direction, the impression we have is that we are going slower and slower, even stopping. There are jokes told by hospitalized patients, in which they narrate this experience. Some may boast that history is over and become famous for it, but the history of facts continues to happen, even if the emergence of what is supposed to be the “essence” of the human being does not happen in it.

When we become trapped in a certain belief, it generates filters that make us see everything as an “eternal return of the same”: we no longer see the difference in facts, we just reduce them to the same thing as our assumptions. Nothing changes because we let nothing change. We feel powerful while we are overwhelmed by impulses and fears that dominate us. Rivers change; those who bathe in them do not change.

Trapped in a moment in history – which we neither chose nor chose us – we think we capture the moment if we reduce it to our beforehand, without understanding what their signs mean, as they would only become clearer, perhaps, if seen from the distance of a future that does not belong to us. In each entity and each scene there is an unknown being that makes them “symbolic”, meaning something other than what we suppose we are seeing. Its transcendence is immanent; its immanence transcends itself.

The first step to thinking is to look around strangely, as if everything could be and was different from what it usually appears to us: it is not what it seems. When things become hauntings, whose meaning we do not understand, but whose threat we sense, we need to make them signs that allow us to reinterpret what is real. The monster needs to be turned into a dial. Every significant moment is a preview of something greater. Everything becomes synecdoche. But being part of a whole that you never have leads you to self-denial. We need to have a notion of the whole, knowing that we will never grasp it, to understand something about the part that is shown.

Strangeness leads to a double movement: seeing things more closely, as if we were myopic; seeing things from afar, as if we needed binoculars to even locate something. The closer we are to something, the more distant it appears, as if it were hiding within itself; When we look from afar, we are able to perceive its profile and differentiation with some clarity. This is more complex than Walter Benjamin's “aura” as a close appearance of something distant or as a way of labeling two types of narrator: one who brings the distant in space closer, the journey through exotic lands; and one that brings closer what was distant in time, like the memory of childhood evoked by a “madeleine”.[I]

When we try to get into a good hermetic poem, the more we get into it, the more it escapes us. What seemed close turns out to be strange, distant, denying its first reading. He seems to hide inside himself. Words become masks of themselves. The media insists on certain terms such as terrorist, dictator, democracy, demanding that viewers assume them as true, just because the group that owns the broadcaster has determined so. It is necessary to do a second degree reading: after highlighting the terms, decipher the underlying machinery that determined their use.

If we know that a mask is a mask, we no longer confuse it with the face. The face becomes the mask of the mask, as it intervened, making what we thought we knew disappear. He hides behind it and, at the same time, makes the mask hide behind its pretense of wanting to be a face.

There are masks that present themselves as masks just as there are those that disguise themselves as faces, hiding their identity as masks: they become masks of masks. Knowing how to identify a mask as a mask does not mean that you know what face is hidden in it or behind it. Words can be masks: they can serve to not say what is important, to divert attention to points that are less relevant than those that were avoided.

When the mask displays itself as a mask, it hides the face, yes, but it does not postulate that it is a face, that it is the face that it hides, that it is the face that it exposes. When the mask displays itself as if it were a face, it becomes a mask doubly: because it intends to be and because it is not. We need to understand the mask on the face that best reveals it. If we do not know how to distinguish the “face” from the mask that it pretends to be, we will believe that the mask is the face that it pretends to be.

We may suppose that we saw a face, although we only glimpsed the mask that the face pretended to be. It being similar to a face is the best way to be a mask. It seems to be what it is not, it is not what it seems.

The masks of the Venice Carnival show themselves as masks and thus unmask themselves. They serve to hide the faces behind them. They don't hide that they are masks. Although they serve to hide identities, they only cover the face that does not want to be seen. They don't say they are face. They can even say what those who wear them would like to be, how they would like to be seen. They draw attention to themselves, show that something is hidden, but they don't say what is hidden.

The masks worn by the toughest politicians are intended to be faces, the better to be masks: and the words they use in their speeches serve to not say what they really intend (they don't “think”). The names used by parties often state the opposite of what they are. Words serve to not say things: they are not the house of being, but the chance of fading, the sunset fading away.

Another type of mask, however, allows the person to display in public what they have hidden in the closet all year. The subject assumes himself: he takes off the mask from his face, to put on the mask that he intends to be his put on face. If you do this for three days of Shrovetide, your face mask will be placed in an exceptional period, in which many things are allowed that are not allowed during the rest of the year. She will therefore be in the period of a masquerade. This way, beforehand, you unmask the mask you wear on those days as if they were your most authentic face.

When the atmosphere changes due to the rise to power of, say, an extreme right-wing politician with an authoritarian vocation proportional to his own incompetence, many are surprised by the “turn” of many people who pretended to be democratic and tolerant. When hidden fascism emerges, it is like toothpaste that has come out of the tube: it becomes difficult to get it back to where it was before. The damage is done. We must be satisfied with him, as the relationship was previously based on a mistake. The trick is already to assume that the soft toothpaste corresponds to the totalitarian hardness.

What is crooked shows itself, crooked remains, but finding itself straight and correct. In order not to provoke more conflicts and separations, many try to push through the revelations that have taken place. This inner retreat, in which it is pretended that there was no rupture, is a mask that each party starts to wear. Thus, the notion that friendship is based on accepting the other as they are, as there is no clash or incompatibility between the participants, is lost.

(Sometimes it is convenient to use a name for something like a capital, sometimes it is convenient to use another name for the same city. This “convenience” tends to be collusion with power. The word is a mask in both situations. It is the house of pretending to be in order to better not be. Thus, Pascal and Heidegger end up being cited, which are better presented when you want to use sequins from the metropolises, but should be hidden when you want to pontificate in a canonical way.)

A paragraph in parentheses seems to suspend its presence, as if it were a voice being raised or lowered. It pretends to be a paragraph, which he prefers not to be. Parentheses are like words put together “in guillemets", in quotes. The word is there and, at the same time, it is suspended from itself: a present absence, an absentified presence. It doubles within itself: it affirms and denies itself. On the one hand, it is highlighted; on the other, withdrawal.

When a fiction writer uses first-person narration, it is necessary not only not to confuse this self with his personal self, but to suspect that it may be more fanciful and inventive than a third-person description. By becoming a Age, the author is pressured to loosen up even more, as if he had assumed a freedom that his personal self would not have even if a self put on the mask of an objective scientist would not have. The hyphenation of a word wants to highlight it, saying that it is not usual, it is not Portuguese: as if a mask is imposed on it, only in this way it stands out, it becomes differentiated.

What the “patriot” wanted as “defense” of the “national language” ends up being the genuflection of the colonized before his colonizer. He does not remember that the Portuguese language was the language of a domination, which needed to extirpate the languages ​​of native and enslaved peoples, so that reports would not circulate out of control. The “Lusitanian language” was “poorly spoken vulgar Latin”, a new vulgarization of the vulgar. There are masks on the tongues too. What serves to “denigrate”, demean, ends up highlighting.

The military dictatorship showed its “respect” for the best professors at the public university by expunging them from their jobs: “on the chest, instead of medals/battle scars”, says a Gaucho song. Stones are thrown at the most heavily loaded bergamoteiras. It's a way of coercing those who are better so that their greatest capabilities don't emerge. We are powerless in the face of the arrogance that one people exerts over others, but for this reason we need to reflect, looking straight at what hurts most.

* Flavio R. Kothe is a retired full professor of aesthetics at the University of Brasília (UnB). Author, among other books, of Benjamin and Adorno: clashes (Attica). [https://amzn.to/3rv4JAs]

Note


[I] KOTHE, Flavio R. Allegory, aura and fetish, essay book. Cotia, Editora Cajuína, Leituras Series, 2023, 184 pages. https://amzn.to/4a6rNXI

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