"It was astonishing how loudly one laughed at tales of gruesome things, of war's brutality -- I, with the rest of them. I think at the bottom of it was a sense of the ironical contrast between the normal ways of civilian life, and this hark back to the caveman code. It made all of our old philosophy of life monstrously ridiculous. It played the hat trick with the gentility of modern manners -- men who had been brought up to christian virtues, who had prattled their little prayers at their mothers' knees, who had grown up to love poetry, painting, music, the gentle arts, over-sensitized to the subtleties of half-tones, delicate scales of emotion, fastidious in their sense of words, in their sense of beauty, found themselves compelled to live and act like ape-men. And it was abominably funny. They laughed at the most frightful episodes, which revealed this contrast between civilized ethics and the old beast law, the more revolting it was, the more sometimes they shouted with laughter, especially in reminiscence, when the tale was told at the gilded salon of the french chateau, or at the mess table. It was the laughter of mortals at the trick which had been played on them by an ironical fate. They had been taught to believe that the whole object of life was to reach out to beauty and love. And that mankind in its progress to perfection had killed the beast instinct: cruelty, blood-lust, the primitive, savage laws of survival by tooth and claw and club and axe. All poetry, all art, all religion had preached this gospel and this promise. Now that ideal had broken like a china vase, dashed to hard ground. The contrast between that and this was devastating." -Phillip GibbsRecited by Dan Carlin on his podcast Hardcore History. It's a pretty important series in which Carlin illuminates historical engagements for the lay-person, with the approachability of an off-duty professor at the pub. Check out his entire series on World War One, entitled "Blueprint For Armageddon".
Duncan Trussel is a regular on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. He had an interesting rant about a part of the human condition (which called to mind Lester Bangs' reaction to the shooting of Andy Warhol).
Whenever I watch Forensic Files, there's this kind of terrible pleasure that comes from realizing that this world is like that and I'm safe in this nice hotel. You watch it and you get this kind of like, WOW that's fucking crazy. For whatever reason, human beings, in the deepest part of themselves -- if you're really honest with yourself -- when you watch some awful thing on the news... It's not like your heart explodes initially with sweet compassion, you're like, "What The FUCK.. WOW, look at that explosion, that's intense!" But it's not like you're weeping, it's not like tears are falling out of your eyes. You're sort of in awe in a weirdly excited way about shit blowing up.
This is like a bell-curve. When someone close to you is suffering. If you see an animal that's sick or something awful happened close around you, you'd be like "Fuck, that's awful," and try to help. You wouldn't be like, "This is weird and kinda cool." But somehow this bell-curve happens, where if the very same thing is happening outside of a certain proximity to where you're at, outside your neighborhood or in another country, it goes from being a mourning horror to a weird kind of creepy enjoyment. And that's what the news is making money on. Because if people felt horrible when they watched the news, nobody would watch. They wouldn't make any money. People like to sit and stare into the apocalypse because it's entertaining....Trussel goes on to discuss how the packaging of tragedy in news media is specifically designed to fit within a window of emotional tolerability.
When they show the drone strikes, imagine if they did start playing Sarah McLachlan! They don't want people to be like, "Hey this is terrible, let's stop that!" When I kill a bug in my house, there's more of a sadness... I feel more intense about that than when they show humans being exploded because they do it in such a quick, packaged, sweet way that we're all numbed out to it. We're all numbed out to the fact that those fucking explosions that are evaporating people are 100% being funded by the money that is siphoned off from us anytime we buy a latte or whenever we sell someone our life energy. [That money is] being converted by some invisible power into some human evaporating devices. That doesn't occur to us at all.Duncan goes on to agree with Joe Rogan that some of our military operations truly are important measures in defense of freedom. (And his tone reflects the frustration of emotional-ethical dialectics.) You can listen to the full podcast episode at The Joe Rogan Experience.
Films like Se7en and Zodiac root around in the ugliest parts of the human psyche, interrogating the audience’s desire to see terrible things happen and taking very different routes to their dark punch-line endings. He also weathers the same criticisms as Kubrick and Hitchcock: cold, unemotional, overly cynical. But Fincher, like Kubrick and Hitchcock, is just unsentimental. He is interested in emotions, but real, raw ones that people would rather conceal, which come out via micro-slips.
Lambert more or less implies that "sentimental" is a pejorative, and insinuates that classically sensationalized emotions (i.e. love) are less authentic. This taste preference for exploration of things like fear and loathing (so to speak) -- which I happen to share -- oughtn't be rooted in some righteous sense that these emotions are more real than sentimental ones, right? It's simply an aesthetic preference, probably rooted in the fact that they have less coverage in art and entertainment.