Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech 2: Sanctity

Confronted with inexplicable evil, people resort to various forms of sanctity. The dead are sanctified so Simon Cowell is charged with disrespect because he rolled his eyes at the wrong moment and a student is arrested because he made remarks that were 'deemed sympathetic' to the killer. Belief itself is sanctified so that atheists are accused of not caring and fringe faiths rush to make their case through counselling, a contemporary sacrament. The self is sanctified in opposition to the exculpatory explanations of science. All that is consistent is the need for sanctity in the face of the unknowable.

24 comments:

  1. there is no such thing as evil.

    do you know if the Simon Cowell show was live? you'd think someone would've have the decency and discretion to edit that look out.

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  2. Holy moly! That's a lot of sanctities. Is it just me, or is it getting stuffy in here?

    Bryan, you have twinned uncertainty with imagination before in another context. There seems to be a shortage of both in this whole affair.

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  3. Stuffy? Yes, sorry, Neil. I had been lightening up for a while back there. Must get some fresh air.

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  4. Bryan, I wasn't accusing you of stuffiness. Your mind is very well ventilated. Sorry, that could be taken a number of ways. You know what I mean anyway.

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  5. Yet the only thing I see being sanctified is the face of a killer, who despite being described as ‘evil’ and ‘inexplicable’, managed to produce his own ‘media pack’ before his death and has now had part of a play published in newspapers.

    He has created his own iconography, borrowed from films, comics, and TV, which the media will consume, singularly incapable as they are of recognising that the same world of PR news manipulation is not far distant to what has gone on in Virginia Tech. When our sympathies are managed on such a scale on a daily basis by pop stars wanting just a little more publicity, is it any wonder that one troubled 23 year old recognised that he could do the same? There’s something so chillingly iconic about the pictures. They will only help fuel the delusions of others who want the same kind of twisted acclaim.

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  6. Bryan, I am a fan but I genuinely don't understand what you're on about here.

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  7. Um, Bryan: Immediately after 7/7 if someone were to say in a public forum that he understood why the subway bombers wanted to blow everyone up, what would the reaction have been?

    I doubt if you'd have been lauding freedom of speech, castigating sanctity at that moment.

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  8. I sympathise, Adrian, I'm a bit muddled myself. But, in response to Susan, I'm not complaining abvout this pursuit of sanctity, just noting it. The incident calls up people's deepest impulses.

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  9. An example of this might be that if someone were to point out that "only" 30 dead would be considered a pretty good day in Baghdad or that the number of dead at VT amounts to 1/100th of the number of US soldiers lost in a completely pointless war, one would probably be accused of being heartless and not caring enough about the victims at VT.

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  10. Emotions are a little raw right now so over-reaction is bound to happen.

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  11. The more people are soul searching, looking for reasons for what happened, it seems they ignore the more obvious explanations. Emotions are running high, and people don't want calm rational explanations. They collectively want to push it all into some other realm. They want to blame art, in the case of 'Oldboy', which the majority can easily and quickly dismiss, describing the whole episode as the work of 'evil', which as Ian points out, doesn't exist.

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  12. River of deceitApril 19, 2007 4:32 pm

    "Immediately after 7/7 if someone were to say in a public forum that he understood why the subway bombers wanted to blow everyone up, what would the reaction have been? "

    Galloway did (albeit in a vague and roundabout way) right after the event. The media collectively urinated on him.

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  13. All that is consistent is the need for sanctity in the face of the unknowable.

    An astute observation, Bryan, but then that's why I read Thought Experiments. A bit surprised that the message is being misunderstood by some equally astute regulars here. Then again, I understood Neil's comment to mean exactly what he later said it did and you took it to mean something a bit different.

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  14. I'm finding the whole response to the murders strangely hollow - the media's rolling "reaction"-fest, a media-savvy killer, a premature memorial service with oddly unfeeling platitudes...compare this to the quiet dignity of the Amish in response to a similar incident. Is the modern media-led world so divorced from reality?

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  15. Sorry if I seemed to be sniping at you, Bryan. If you're not advocating people's right to say whatever they want in the wake of a tragedy (which, of course, they should be allowed to do -- freedom of speech is just that), then your post boils down to something like this: A tragedy happens, people try to act properly bereaved, appropriately shocked, in response ('sanctimonious' it might look, but only if they really did NOT feel those emotions).

    When I go to a funeral, I follow the rules of appropriate behavior: I don't laugh, or make jokes, or whatever. Even if I am not devastated by the death, there are those present who are -- the truly bereaved -- and for them we attempt to sanctify the occasion.

    Make sense?

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  16. Bryan wrote: "... resort to various forms of sanctity".

    I think in terms of "public emoting"; the way I write that shows, clearly perhaps, little sympathy.

    However, I'm not out of sympathy with those whose family, friends or colleagues have been murdered (on this occasion) or died unexpectedly, tragically, too young (on other occasions). Nor am I out of sympathy for those who personally know and stand by the bereaved.

    It just strikes me, very strongly (as I look at the front page of the Evening Standard of Wednesday 18th April), that such emotion, clearly felt, should be left so much more private. Whether it be shared, by choice and properly, with those around one, even over one thousand strong on this occasion.

    Sometimes I admire journalists and their trade; sometimes I think of them in multiple groupings of words of four letters. I suppose it depends whether their target(s) can be judged as individuals or as a government, nation, tribe or some other large group.

    No best regards in my current mood; sorry.

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  17. What does "evil doesn't exist" mean? If an action can be evil, then evil exists. Does good exist? Does intelligence exist? Does anything exist?

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  18. I agree, Andrew, I've always been slightly mystified by people's eagerness to assert the non-existence of evil. Love exists, does it not?

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  19. I seem to remember the question of evil coming up before. Let's not go there again.

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  20. River of deceitApril 19, 2007 8:56 pm

    I don't think evil exists. It's just a label that helps us cope with reality.
    The truth - that 'monsters' like Adolph hitler and Cho Seung-hui are more like ourselves than we care to imagine, is probably too disturbing to contemplate.

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  21. Evil is whatever we decide it is. The Mayans and the Aztecs massacred their neighbors and sacrificed them to their gods. Were they evil? Or did they just have different morals than us?

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  22. the opposite of love is hate.

    it's an old debate with no end. you either believe in gods and the bogeymen playing dice - or you believe there's a more rational explanation, even if we don't yet know it.

    i mean, calling something evil means it must exist. really? the power of words!

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  23. One aspect of the supers RPG market that I've been commenting on for a while is that there is a dearth of "focused" games, unlike the fantasy market. Fantasy gamers know that D&D is going to offer a very different experience than Runequest, which is in turn different from Warhammer, and that one shouldn't use D&D to capture the feel and tone of Warhammer, and vice versa. No comments on which is a mechanically superior system, as they are aiming for very different things.
    --------------------
    dennie

    Virginia Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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