Thus Broke Anderson Silva

by Rafe Guttman
File under: Fake Labor 31 Dec 2013 11:37 EST

The media spared us the moving images of how a post-modern gladiator like Anderson Silva was rendered an agonized, writhing horizontal mass of muscles as he attempted to piece together his broken left leg, shattered much like “The Christmas Story” lamp, in his recent and, perhaps, last fight.

After all, copyright laws must be respected. Our sensibilities need little protecting these days. Besides, we demand any glimpse at something Real, as evidenced by another MGM Grand record crowd for this latest UFC event.

These Last Men, consumers and spectators, bereft of any power except the most impotent one in our time: speech, crowd around their flat-screens with high-definition resolution, another hint at our thirst for any kind of clarity, as First Men square-off inside a Sloterdijk-ian octagonal bubble that keeps the Real in, as opposed to out.

As risk has been robbed from the procuring of our bread, we demand greater rewards from our circuses. Thus, we have a society in which men with state-mandated, comprehensive health insurance cheer for bare-chested warriors equipped only with well-toned bodies and finely-honed wills in a primal battle of attrition. This relatively new sport with prehistoric intimations reintroduces a Dionysian, horizontally-inclined element of grappling and ground-warfare. Only Americans can make English boxing look civilized. The British are our Greeks.

The once-rustic Romans spurned the productive soil and beat their plowshares into swords and pummeled their neighbors into submission. We too are treading this well-weathered way of valuing plunder over production. It is a circuitous route that ends where it begins: barbarism. Along the way, a rootless people seek their bearings, like a man in a dark room, by grasping for what can be felt, that which is Real. Even in an era of ubiquitous media, death still commands attention. In our culture, if one can use the term so liberally, death does much more: it paralyzes.

Unlike the manifold critics with their manufactured outrage, the one product we seem to make anymore, I do not fear a desensitized mob. And while there are those moved to commit vile acts by vile images, there are a thousand-fold more moved to create beauty by beholding beautiful things. Rather than desensitization, I fear my people developing an over-sensitization, an aversion to all consequential action.

As media depictions of violence and sex become more realistic, all substantive acts are more likely to be avoided than imitated. Violent video games flood the market yet crime trends down. Pornography is profuse and our fecundity falls. Eventually depictions of sex and violence will be real enough that no one need do anything. This is the Ludovico technique.

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.”

As their empire was imploding, the Roman citizenry demanded blood in the arenas but were conspicuously absent on the barbarian battlefields. Roman decadence, like ivy slinking up a column, had crept in during the time of Polybius and the Republic:

We have not had to suffer either epidemics or prolonged wars and yet the towns are deserted and the lands barren. We lack men because we lack children. People are too fond of money and comfort, and not enough of work. Consequently they are no longer willing to marry, or, if they marry, they try to have no more than one or two children, in order to bring them up in luxury and to leave them a finer inheritance.

When our time comes for action, for great deeds, will we rush headlong into the fray? When injustice crystallizes in front of our faces will we stare it down or avert our eyes? Or are we interested more in recreation than creation? Lewis Mumford in The Condition of Man, in describing the rise of the Roman death spectacle, put it masterfully:

Here the spectator was supreme: master of an effortless existence. Here he encountered death without undergoing danger; contemplated danger without having to display skill; practiced cruelty without the possibility of retaliation; or participated in a collective orgasm for nothing more than the price of admission.

We have, verily, no need to look further for our future than the past.

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COMMENTS

Family "Values" Without Children says:31 Dec 2013 16:43 EST
Interesting point about the drop in birthrates. Today, it is the aspiring Anderson Silvas of the world having the huge families (for which they are demonized in the white conservative press),while the educated, leisured classes cannot be bothered.

Bach had 20 children (10 of whom died in childbirth). It would be incredible for a serious composer today to have even one (at least in the US). Clearly the creative drive is no longer in harmony with the procreative one - one must choose between their craft, and life itself.
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