Acting-Out Politics

Weblog opens discussion about the psychology of Bushmerican style of behavior.

Who And What Invests Into A Fascist (Totalitarian) System More – People Who Directly Commit Crimes And The Totalitarian Ideology Itself Or The Conformists And Conformist Mass Culture (That, As If Is Outside Of Fascist Ideology)?

Conformists-philistines (During Fascist Periods) and Philistines-conformists (During Post- and Pre-fascist Periods)

Bernardo Bertolucci (1941-2018)

In one of his interviews about the film Bertolucci confessed how psychologically difficult it was to go through making the film – how the monstrosity of the characters and their feelings about life and other people was poisoning him and the actors. The film is not depicting the Concentration Camps, incineration of people alive or séances of torture, although in the film about the period in and around WWII was impossible to avoid visual comments about human physical cruelties towards other humans. “Monstrosity of feelings and the characters” carrying them belong to the conformists, not direct fascists, to people who successfully or almost successfully adapted to fascism and are not “genuine” fascists. Of course, the “almost successful adaptation” personified by Marcello Clerici, doesn’t mean that conformists didn’t participate in fascism, more, very often they “helped” it to a much stronger degree than many “genuine” fascists.

Unfortunately, before Bertolucci film-directors weren’t able to make the “tricky” differentiation between a totalitarian (fascist) style of perceiving the world and conformist manner of accepting the fascist status quo without “complete” surrendering to it with your soul. Conformists – intelligent and often educated people oriented on a very good life, were living happily during the intervals between wars and continued to do so under the Fascist regimes. These Middle- and Upper-Middle-classers were even more widespread “collaborators” than the perverted combination of unity between the fanatical rightwing leaders and their fanatical supporters among poor. People with soft-gentle manners, delicate feelings and rather sharp minds, like Marcello Clerici (played by an emotionally sophisticated actor Jean-Louis Trintignant) apply for prestigious jobs in any political system including totalitarian/fascist ones, as soon as it’s in between their orientation on prosperity if not “by any price”, then at least “first of all”, and their “financial gourmet tastes”. What else for them to do except smiling to people from whom depend our decent salaries? The widespread expressions “decent job” and “decent money” already long ago lost moral and aesthetic connotation and used in a conformist way defining monetary reward. In short, people with good education need to have decent jobs even in a totalitarian – fascist systems. Without conformists Nazi leaders could use only lower ranks and low level of qualification.

The conformist monstrosity Bertolucci depicts in the film is not obvious hate for people or human stupidity based on the megalomaniacal beliefs in “our exceptionality” (euphemism for “superiority”) – it’s several social structures internalized by our unconscious – the desire for financially prosperous life, the psychological need for fundamentalist marriage, proneness for playful amorous games, proclivity to recruit people into political fight “on our side” using authoritarian overtones, and love for being entertained and for mass culture in general. Combination of these “innocent” features, according to Bertolucci’s film is the assortment of conformist behavior not only in pre- and post-fascist periods, but also during totalitarian or fascist historical epochs. Those who are philistines in a non-fascist societies are conformists in a fascist ones (in reality philistines are conformists of non-fascist/non-totalitarian societies).

Conformist or mass entertainment culture

Marcello met mass culture of entertainment long before he applied for a prestigious job of a secret service agent in Mussolini’s government

Piano, string music and girls-singers were emotional and aesthetic prelude to the start of Marcello’s successful career

Simultaneously liberating and seducing music touched his heart as the smooth female faces and bodies – his soul

Building of mutual help relationships

Soon after becoming a secret agent, Marcello betrays his mother in order to, through his new colleague Manganiello, prove to his new bosses that he is a reliable human being

Manganiello came to Marcello’s aid when he has lost confidence in himself after being pressed by his love Anna into becoming an antifascist fighter

Playing with Marcello the incarnation of the experienced and courageous power Manganiello overcomes Marcello’s neurotic weakness and restores his self-confidence.

Fundamentalist marriage of iron ties and gentle gust of amorous distraction

Marcello’s passion with his wife Jiulia (Stefania Sandrelli) is imitative to its core

Oh, how elegant – how genuine mutuality respects individual will!

Marital love will not be love if at least sometimes it’s not be a bit voracious and even predatory

Marcello is in love. In a certain moment he even offers Anna (Dominique Sanda) to forget everything and go with him to Brazil, but Anna has another plans – she wants Marcello to join her and her husband in antifascist intrigue

Playing funny and gracious games

Oh, how wonderful and daring to joke-dance in front of the simpleminded people who take everything so seriously!

Oh, how incredible to be admired!

How monumental and irresistible people’s positive attention – “people will remember us for a long time”!

Anna and Professor Quadri‘s political heroism

Cognitive weakness of the intellectuals – underestimation of the barbarity and ruthlessness of the right-wing activists, fascists and to a certain degree – conformists

Anna is too straightly insisting on Marcello to become her and Luca’s antifascist ally and this makes him to be stubborn and resisting

Luca made a pact with Anna should he be killed by the fascists she will inform the whole world about what fascists done to him. She, trying to overcome her feelings, agreed for the sake of their antifascist victory. But to win it’s necessary to have help – Marcello‘s.

But Marcello refuses to help and leaves Anna to the fascist murderers (not because of her authoritarian impatience with him, of course)

“Liberation” from conformism and looking to a future of pleasant philistinism

We thought we’re saying goodbye to Marcello Clerici-the conformist seeing him still “imprisoned” by his prosperous life under the fascist regime, but…

Fascist regime has changed – now Marcello looks at a young homosexual with a graciously seductive gesticulation. He looks through the iron bars, as if – outside of fascism, but “sexual freedom” will not liberate Marcello. He will continue to live a life fighting for personal and his family’s prosperity and enjoy mass-cultural vanity. Probably, but not necessarily he will have a new wife. Instead of being a conformist he will be a philistine – that is conformist of post-fascism. He will continue to lead a consumerist semi-existence based on social inequality and injustice, less aggressive and hateful than it was under fascism until a new fascist wave will come, probably, more impatient, greedy and cruel than before.

Leonora Carrington, “The Giantess (The Guardian of the Egg)”, 1947

The mighty figure of a giant woman with a small childlike face and a sunny hair, fragile feet and tiny hands, as if embracing a miniature egg – here is Carrington’s Giantess protecting the bird’s egg. She stands on the bottom of the world – on earth with trees, animals, people (including women) – all like insects in comparison with her – a giant and gentle, huge yet humble. Can we recognize her in the women we know, in spite of her tremendousness? Can she be recognized as a woman at all?

Women are too much subdued to be capable of saving human race. Many men kill other men often because of ephemeral rage or chronic hate and they respect themselves even more after killing, although some – more sensitive amidst us, suffer mental anguish. Men love to use special tools for killing – that’s how hundreds of thousands years ago they started to invent weapons to kill animals to eat their meat and gradually “conquered” the whole planet. They’re proud of it and even more proud of wars with other humans. Today, they’re especially rewarded for killing skills. So, woman doesn’t have the ability to save her own children, let alone to be savior of humankind. When women want to boast about their massive emancipation the best they can do is to imitate men – physically (by becoming police-women or militaries or mentally – by becoming CEOs or even technical scientists). They are readily leave their children to standardized care in kindergartens and schools for the sake of career, financial reward and healthy competition for family prosperity, and they successfully compete with the thickness of men’s wallets by the solidity of their purses. Mothers today have become proudly equal with the fathers. And the uniqueness of their emotional and intellectual bonds with their children and their qualification to form the next generation’s existentially spiritual souls are exchanged on the market of generalized services. And all this civilizational robotics is alien to the personality of Carrington’s giantess (as we can feel while looking at the painting).

Is she a traditional woman or an emancipated one? Is her archetype a queen? May be, a princess? Is she a matriarch? Is she a peasant? Rather, she is a nurse, she is a nurturer of life, the nurse of the living world. How she is looking at us – not looking! Her gaze is the gaze of the presence, of being here, of being with life. Yes, she is a nurse of everything living. She cannot save human beings who live to kill, not to live. The best that can be said about most humans is that they live to survive, not to live. Then the best Leonora Carrington’s giantess can do is to try to save not human babies, not human embryos, but egg of a bird. How many alerted, worried, afraid birds are hovering around her in the air! We sense something apocalyptic in the very atmosphere of the natural world!

The distressed birds of nature create atmosphere of an apocalyptic contrast with the artificially bright and, as if, frozen lake utilized by humans who, as if, not have even noticed nature’s turmoil. But our giantess is unconcerned about the human rituals depicted on her inside robe. She is interested neither in human activities on the lake, nor in structures of social rituals. She wants to save the bird’s egg. She cares for future. She is caring life through apocalyptic seasons. She belongs to the rarest type of a woman – woman-non-conformist, somebody who disagree not only with traditional, frustrated dogmas, but with fresh despotic customs greedy for success.

How could Leonora Carrington come to depict dedication to saving nature? She didn’t know the horrifying consequences of Global warming, its radical threat to our survival. But she knew WWII, she knew running in panic from the war. And she knew how to be a maverick and a hermit. From her partner and lover Max Ernst she learned how unjust, cruel and inhumane the human world is and how desperate is the life of a genuine (non-entertaining) artist who is always not understood or misunderstood.

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

Leonora Carrington with Max Ernst

Rene Magritte, “Checkmate”, 1926

Some rare individuals are inclined to solemnly put their identity and life on the card they believe in. They can live without too much passion and any proclivity to challenge themselves and live happily, until… one day they become addicts of finding their destiny. A great ambition awakened in them, ambition the size of the world, the size of life itself. These people can suddenly become obsessed chess players, stubborn and persistent gamblers. They’re turn into challengers of fortune. Success for them becomes a way to prove that they can be masters of fortune – that they can put fortune itself into a cave, lock it there and feed it with their own flesh being intact. Is it a masochism on their part or the dream to radically beat it? Is it a heretical desire for radical super-existential triumph?

Of course, to have a need to be gross-master of fortune is more congruent with a young person who from adolescent age could be preparing for the main and ultimate battle with the goddess of fortune. In this situation the clash which will decide everything – a person’s identity as much as its success, his death and his life are equally important or equally non-important. Solemnity of the moment, the fact that a person dares to win-or-to-lose fifty-fifty is a mark of incredible, super human, exceptional, ultimate act. When a chess-king of the opposite army is triumphing the losing king representing the hero of daring is transformed into a revolver in his own hand. In Magritte’s “Checkmate” we see youth with closed eyes – but the point here is not the fear of seeing the end – the point is that the very living daring to refuse itself.

Hero is the one who plays two sides simultaneously, who doesn’t differentiate between winning and losing, who is winning-as-losing and losing-as-winning, who will feel triumphing with life or with death equally – he is the one who is equal to the goddess of Fortune, who has incorporated into his soul her both sides. Failure in her kingdom is the winning as much as losing – failure here is as worthy as success. This non-differentiation between winning and losing is not just heroism but heroism with spiritual touch.

Man Ray, “Fortune”, 1938

Man Ray’s painting is intentionally much less dramatic and less controversial than Rene Magritte’s – Man Ray is laughing at billiard competitors, when each of them wants to win and because of it they are, in their childish dream, as if pushing the pool table too far into the sky which is mockingly encouraging the players by seductively winking at them with the multicolored celebrative clouds to intensify their rivalry.

When winning is obsessively important for the players it easily becomes “a matter of the sky” – it’s messed with the supernatural powers. And the players appeal to these powers for help. Here, whole situation is psychologically speaking much more traditional – people (here the players) are hoping to be privileged by the supernatural help. And you can bet – they are working hard to get the heavenly help. Man Ray is mocking the philistines’ crude intention of pleasing the supernatural by trying to play better than their rivals in order to win the trophy in the form of success. People are playing better because they are desperately trying to do so to please the supernatural agency. They, as if, try to play better to make the supernatural powers to help them to do so. That’s why today after winning athletes often praying their gratitude to god. The dynamics of superstition is as disarmingly fascinating as President Trump’s public bragging about his successes and smartness. He appeals to the crowds of his supporters like athletes to god.

Especially funny, here, is how awkwardly and vulgarly the far side of the pool table dares to intervene into the sky. Two billiard balls target the cloud as today’s (not when Man Ray painted his “Fortune”) high-tech weapon signifying the innocent psychological rudeness of the carriers of “wooden” desire to be ahead of others. The greed for supernatural help is the fundament of today’s greed for money helped by indecency or semi-illegal trickery.

The worship of money-god is a new mass-cultural religion with worshipers consciously or unconsciously appealing to the supernatural powers to help themselves to become as rich as billionaires/billiarders. It’s the passion to win, to defeat opponents, to succeed over the weaker and the dissimilar other and to tramp the losers into dust.

All totalitarian countries pretend that they are very “democratically” oriented and humane and turn on surveillance technology only to watch particular individuals with suspicious contacts and behavior. But nobody but especially the wealthy and despotic decision-makers like to voluntary limit their own power. So, total surveillance becomes a way of “screening” whole population.

Man Ray, “Mask With Point” (1946)

Man Ray’s “Mask…” is semantically organized around a symbolic head (inside a box or a box-like mask) with multiple technical functions: one pointy antenna to send and receive (to spit or suck in) information, two organs of direct observation (technological equivalent of human eyes and/or “smart” magnifying lenses which function is to visually analyze information. These protruding observing instruments have a piercing – aggressive function towards the observed objects. And finally we can discern here the equivalent of human mouth which is as dangerous for the people-the observed objects as arrow would be. The mask, probably imprisons an “electronic brain” inside and at the same time “protects” it (or the human brain desperately trying to function as an electronic one in order not to be behind the epoch).

It seems that the totalitarian rulers are hooked on the necessity to permanently check the populations in order to protect themselves and their existential prerogatives with surveillance mask which Man Ray lets us to observe. The procedure of total surveillance having belligerent intention hinted at by Ray’s “Mask With Point” is confirmed by our experience today – we could prefer not to rely on the dehumanized – technical “brains” of mechanical technological mechanisms – on whose conclusions our lives depend on. In short, according to Man Ray our life depends on a mask of four points.

When Man Ray started to work on his “Mask…” right after war the mass surveillance was still in crude condition and for this reason quite an exotic topic. He, as if, is telling us – see how those who preside over you and lead you look – they’re already interwoven with their technology which has already become an organic part of them. Surveillance becomes their high-tech weapon which is pointed at us and our neighbors, at nations including our own, and at nature. Man Ray’s “Mask with Point” has a strong dystopian orientation, but it, as Godard’s “Alphaville” (1965) is telling us that the real danger for our soul and life is not in our future and is not in “other (alien) worlds” but in our own way of living and our self-aggrandized leaders whom we either love more than ourselves or are afraid of more than a degenerate with a semi-automatic machine gun under our window.

In short, according to Man Ray, evolution of our lives is from head to mask, from brain to electronic aggregate inside mask-box, and from the human soul to the manipulation of the world including ourselves in the process of transformation into the high-tech miracle of being able for artificial calculation of advantage.

Man Ray between sun, car and photo-camera

Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp (on the left) – a life time of friendship

Dorothea Tanning “Truth About Comets” (1945)

What for the imagination of two little girls, especially if they are mermaids, to do during a snowy and windy winter? Boys can create competing snowball armies, fight and win or lose in the midst of a cold whiteness. But the girls don’t want to be here, where everybody else are. They want to be far away. They want to be above. They have to invent comets. They have to reinvent themselves as… comets. They don’t want to belong to the snow, to the cold, to people with their smiles and noisy voices.

Here they are both, particular, genuine, neat and, as if, from fairy tale. But how to go above? Here is a staircase. If you will go up you will be on the tree, and then – you have to jump… up.

Jump, jump, little mermaids! The sky is closed by the thunder-clouds. It doesn’t much matter for the comets. Their dream is to fly and burn and feel hot and free. They are ready to fly forever, to fly by themselves, not as boys dreaming to fly in metal boxes named airplanes. Mermaid girls will fly themselves and everybody will see and be envious and admire them. They will fly until they’ll become old – forever in the painting of Dorothea Tanning. They will show people how to fly and burn forever instead of living in cold and boredom between snow and trees, between childhood and old age. Oh, heroic beautiful little girls!

Com and Met – two sisters – Com is a little elder, Met a little younger. Met touched the staircase. And the sisters understood – this is not the staircase transformed into a tree, but the tree that has transformed into staircase in order to invite them up. Their trip to the top of the tree was hard, but flying up easy – they for the first time felt themselves in their own world. They were flying and burning and they felt warm and… above. And they were together and for the first time they had a feeling that they know who they are and where they are headed. They jumped through the clouds, they crossed the winds, and with their multicolored sparkles they are warming the world.

They were seen from the up and from the down – two courageous flying mermaids. They are what they wanted to be – alive comets. And they don’t want to return down, to the boring boorish people. They don’t need to. They will fly through the air – their wonderful wandering home.

Georg Grosz, “The Sunny Land”

Periods of prosperity make people confident and proud – they start to allow themselves too much, feel invincible and here the periods of austerity are ready to follow. Then people become infuriated and aggressive – during prosperity they felt themselves as the centers of the world, but austerity puts them into humiliation. Fascization of population is often the consequence, when people start to look for scapegoats – foreigners, emigrants, national minorities, liberals, people with humanistic education (whom the uneducated people are prone to see as arrogant) and always the “lazy poor people” – those who cannot protect themselves with armor of self-respect. During the fascization the wealthy and the politicians dependent on them take active leadership to create militant groups to intimidate and squeeze the population even more.

John Heartfield, “Metal Prosperity”

The topic of this caricature is based on Heartfield’s reaction on the Fuhrer’s call on German people to help the German army to equip itself with quantity of the metal which can make Germany to build the strongest military force in the world. Hitler expected from Germans to cut spending on their life for the sake of investing money into the glory of the Third Reich. So, Heartfeld’s hyperbolic joke is that according to Hitler the really patriotic German citizens should learn how to eat metal instead of food – how to identify with military technology – (how to turn into bombers, tanks and cannons).

Georg Grosz, “Hunger”

Hunger makes this poor family unable to turn away from the window of the food store. Father, mother and child will be standing here until salesmen will not chase them away. They will not beg for food – they already know that it’s pointless. Prosperous Germany is dreaming about global domination, not about the hungry.

Georg Grosz, “Doomed”

Grosz made this drawing in the style of Kathe Kollwitz. The doctor still investigates the lungs of the boy to postpone naming the truth that his tuberculosis is in an advanced phase, while the mother of the sick boy already understands her son‘s fatal condition. Only he himself doesn’t know that he is doomed and doesn’t understand why his mother is so sad (“Is she sick?”)

Georg Grosz, “Interrogation with Torture”

The point of interrogation with torture is not to get the truth (the tortured either doesn’t know or fabricates it or invents it in order to stop the pain at least for a few moments). The people in charge know this although profusely lie about the supreme effectiveness of torture. The real point of interrogation is to train the interrogators-torturers in domination and toughness and frighten the arrested ones to the point that they’ll never ever even get the idea to contradict the opinions of those in charge. The real goal of interrogation with torture (IWT) is to make the population fearful, panicky and ultimately conformist.

Georg Grosz, “Forced Feeding as Torture”

Caricature as a Grosz’s preferable genre has transformed here into tragic and surreal caricature – something like a sarcasm through tears or a combination of mocking perverted reality and simultaneously weeping about human condition.

Georg Grosz, “Post-war idyll” (1930)

Here, we see at the table the immortal global race of philistines knowing how to survive through any war, any environmental disaster and any dictatorship

Georg Grosz, “After and Before War”

The young recruits are warming up for future wars – heroic battles, noble passionate hate, irresistible glory of self-sacrifice and heroism. They learn to compete with other recruits of the same or other countries and nationalities. They learn the feeling of victory opening the world to the sky and defeat closing the world into cave. And they’re ready for both equally because what they basically learn in training is the importance of not victory or defeat but a personal self-sacrificial heroism with its gift – equality between life and immortality.

She appeared in front of my nose on top of an adolescent tree for few moments
With a message from the angels.
But I don’t understand the language of angels.
I only know the fallen human language –
Russian and American fiction.
And, may be, I also know the language of dying.
But she knows how to start everything again without even for a moment stopping to be.
And when I come to the park I a bit obsessively search for her.
Not that I want to learn something – I‘m subdued by my limitations.
For me it’s either life or death.
And I don’t trust the fallen human imagination –
I don’t believe in living after death.
I believe in humming bird – in her wisdom and humility,
In her tininess full of eternal vitality.
Here she is, under the blue, turning her head, looking around, moving her wings,
Pushing the sky with her beak thin as a hair.
I cannot leave, I need to keep her presence.

The Evolution of Religion: The Transposition Of Worship Of Theological Figures Into The Worship of Seductively Entertaining Objects – The Cosmic Feminine Lips As A Mass-Cultural Icon To Be Consumed And Enjoyed

Man Ray, “The Lips”, 1933

What for heaven’s sake are the irresistible feminine lips doing in the sky? Are they some kind of a space ship? Are they archangel baptizing the flesh of the earth? While we watch them they have already slightly turned – so, their left side (right in our perspective) just got the connotation of a freshly fleshy feminine hip-and-thighs turned like Goya’s “La Maia denuda” (1800), but the right side of lips’ hip-thighs (left in our perspective) is like a tenderly flexible end of an angel’s wings.

It‘s usually the decision-makers decide where the object (here, lips in the sky) offered for consumption should be – theocrats in the past or in our time the financial and political leaders and producers of the goods people will buy, but whatever they’ll offer/allow it’s always supposed to be agreed with mass tastes – theocrats and businessmen know what the masses need and want. In other words – it was Ray’s parody that his “The Lips” was doomed to be in the sky – the desire of masses (looking at the sky for being saved from life), that of the deciders and masters of life (mediating between sky and life) and the desire of the artist are touchingly united – the rare unity, indeed.

The sky in the painting is not open to the sun – the lips are here, who does need sun? The sky, as if, is carrying a laced robe for the lips – a kind of lips’ back clothes. Like icons are the essence of the church, Man Ray’s “the lips” are the essence of profane religion of consumerism and entertainment for people.

Giant voluptuous lips are occupying a wide space with a deep background and even deeper underground – the geographic space we humans use to settle in. Feminine lips are our new heavenly fetish – mass culture of entertaining gimmicks and sentimentality as a new global authority over human hearts and minds. Female lips are seductive and inspiring us to become taller and bigger.

Today, it’s very difficult to differentiate between seductive aspect of traditional religious art and the profane – mass cultural entertaining and sentimentally playful art. When we are seduced by the icons of Mary and Christ, we’re seduced into the heavenly abyss of sublime love elevated into the grief of the cosmic suffering and its eternal importance.

Then we are simultaneously taken by belonging to the world of holy and holy… tragedy, to a supreme value and to the blasphemous destruction of value, to a power which doesn’t intend to protect itself, and to the pagan – vulgar power of destruction of power whose power is sacred – spiritual, of a kind which voluntarily not protect nor defend itself.

But, according to Man Ray, it’s our past, which is destroyed by our idolatry of unlimited prosperity suggested to us by the demons of wealth whom the today’s masses admire and whom they simultaneously being deadly and shamefully envious of.

Man Ray (1890 – 1976)

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