the devil went down to jamaica
Reevaluating yesterday's comments about the Tucson riots in the context of Lyse's response: she has a point, obviously. The freaky thing is that I feel like somehow the mob mentality sucked me in remotely, over the distance of two days and two thousand miles, only because I feel connected to Tucson. I see the pictures of streetlights being disassembled and the burning trash cans and I think "Yeah, those are my boys!" cheerfully ignoring the fact that they're all frat guys I would never associate with in real life. And then I click farther and find the burning motor home with the baby in it etc., and then it's like what am I thinking?
I may as well come out and admit that I want to destroy things. I recognize this in myself. I think most of us have this, at least most of the men I know; I'm not sure how universally it crosses gender lines. It's not a nice impulse. For me at least, it's not directed toward people; sometimes there's just a necessity to see things broken. It doesn't come from any deepseated childhood trauma or anything--it's just a reaction against the chafing of societal limits. The id wants out. So it gets sublimated in various ways. I personally will play my guitar as violently as possible until my fingers bleed, literally. This happened all the time in college. It's the impulse that Fight Club (meaning the film) tapped into so well, the part in you that wants to smash the headlights of cars and set giant happy-face-shaped fires in office towers.
Fight Club couched this as an attack against commercialism, but I think that's just an excuse; we'll take any rationale for why the buildings are evil, so long as we get to see them go down. And even more damningly, Fight Club didn't bother to take the concept to its logical extension; the only guy who died in the movie was one of the space monkeys. No innocent people were killed, or even physically hurt, so far as I remember. But in real life, once you release the anti-violence strictures innocents die right and left. The thing about mob rule is that it removes consequences from actions; you don't want to hurt other people per se, but something about the dynamic allows you to imagine that no people will get hurt, or at least that you personally won't be responsible because all responsibility is diffused over a collective "us" so vast that you individually play no part in it, and even while you're setting fire to the motor home you're allowed to think that, well, it's not really me who's culpable here. And Fight Club just fed into that by presenting a sort of anarchist's Middle Path where you get the delirious rush of letting the id out of its cave, but are never required to own up to the logical outcome. The Pixies come on and edifices blow up and there's no need to feel guilty because all the night workers were space monkeys conveniently removed from the buildings (suspicious bit of plotting, that), plus the buildings are all owned by plutocrats, so who the fuck cares? It's what gives that film its thrill, and I honestly did like the film, but it's also a dangerous attitude.
The moral of the story, I guess, is that sometimes I'm not nice, and possibly you're not either. So we had better watch ourselves.