Monday, October 10, 2005

Westmeath Gets a Library!!

This is GENUINELY a letter from this week's Westmeath Examiner:

Dear Sir,

“This pitiless century, the twentieth”.... Albert Camus....

And the twenty first.

Pity in as short a supply as oil.

Not in short supply are images of torment, aggression, wretchedness, self destruction, immolation, extinction and abhorrence and if you add one to the other as in the lack of compassion and the violent imagery the conclusion might be reached that a diminution of feeling has resulted from a process of blooding to deploy a word from the psych ops department of the military programming sphere.

The trend and the vogue is for pitilessness and this extends to the self or what is left of it.

Teenager observed in a Mullingar supermarket wears a T shirt advertising in this era of self advertisement his assessment or opinion of himself. I Hate Myself and Want to Kill Myself. Could this young man have been reading Friedrich Nietzsche the underwriter as it were to the Nazi a regime and ideology?

“Simplify your life: die.’'..advised Nietzsche. Something of an extremist simplification...

A young man a boy essentially, aged no more than fifteen or sixteen, is overwhelmed by self loathing and this leads him to contemplate suicide. Influenced undoubtedly by a supposed ‘rebel' and equally supposedly ‘iconoclastic’ pop idol and millionaire whose nihilistic and death oriented outpourings in a rational era would be confined to his own rendering to himself alone in a padded cell.

Even as I observed the teenage boy with his T shirt defining his self hatred and death wish my ears became attuned to the wondrously life enforcing and positive music of Mikis Theodorakis and the theme from Zorba the Greek the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis made into a film starring Anthony Quinn as Zorba the elderly Greek so much in love with life in all its forms though never at any time unaware of its tragic dimension. Zorba the man of action.

The writer Saint Expurey towards the end of his life claimed that ‘Inertia is a raw form of despair'.

A message for the teenager and so many others like him? One might hope so... Action of a positive kind as preferable to inertia and despair.

At the same time messages of a positive kind are not the rule. No. Precisely the opposite.

Paul Virilio in his book Art and Fear suggests that people of good will should urgently and collectively speak out against a so called culture which sends out negative messages primarily and predominantly of a misanthropic misogynistic and all too frequently racist and life denying kind.

Paul Virililio the Director of the Ecole Speciale d'Architecture in Paris and the author of more than fifteen books argues for the space and the time for expressions and messages of a sympathetic and compassionate disposition rather than the current predominance of what he defines as a pitiless form of representation in the media and at artistic levels..

One example to suffice as representative of in this instance sensationalism unleavened by concern for ecological damage and the destruction to animal and human life with only Spectacle considered

The Perfect Storm.... Perfection defined in respect of a catastrophe..... Catastrophe as Spectacle. End of story. The message is and it is not a subliminal one as it might have been even a decade ago......Enjoy the Spectacle and then....move forward....... Not good enough.... George Bernanos the author of one of the great all but unknown novels of our time The Diary of a Country Priest wrote these words in 1939.... The world is sick, a lot sicker than people realise. That's what we must first acknowledge so that.. We can take pity on it .. We should not condemn the world so much as feel sorry for it.. The world needs pity. Only pity has a chance of cobbling its pride....... Well.. sixty six years on the world is sicker still by far... Pity has certainly bitten the dust but we must hope that it will be revived again ...

As for Pride, as Paul Virilio writes in his book Art and Fear, Pride has gotten completely out of hand.

Pride is Narcissism is it not and anyone who has been around the block a few times would agree I believe that Narcissism and the cult of self has been promoted hugely these recent years under the ludicrous guise that indulging self is representative of “freedom” when it is representative of nothing more nor less than servitude to self and an abandonment of the concept of mutual responsibility and concern for others.

Hubris, staying with the Greek analogies, comes under dictionary definition in these words.....

Insolent pride... Arrogance.

The cliché may be a cliché but it does tend to bring with it the weight of experience and I feel sure that most people are well aware of what it has to say about Pride. If you know what I mean.

Yours truly,
John Kelly,
Co Westmeath.

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