I make no claim to have solved
any of the great issues of human nature
but we do well to hold up for contemplation
the many instances of kindness and human goodness
this world affords –
irrespective of creed, culture or politics –
lest we despair and go mad…
faith trembles, halts, flutters on broken wings…
What prompted this post
I won’t link to the post that prompted this, because it is far too disgusting, and a sad example, whatever the intention, of where “realism” — and bad taste — may lead…
The post in question displays an horrific atrocity picture in order to highlight the evil that is war. The trouble is the image is of a kind that should never, in my opinion, be published without warning or some means of making sure it is not seen by just anyone who comes along. The image is patently obscene. So of course is war, but that isn’t the point. To quote Stuart Walton’s Humanity: an Emotional History (2004) — a book, incidentally, taking Charles Darwin’s little-known The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals as its starting point:
What complicates disgust as a moral response is that it is almost always driven by anger. Sometimes that anger stems from a painful sense of our own impotence in the face of provocation, and sometimes anger itself turns to disgust at ourselves for continuing to put up with whatever it is that enraged us, instead of seeking some form of redress… Where it addresses our social circumstances, however, it is the indispensable prerequisite to their improvement…
I have no doubt the aim of the image in the post which triggered this one is to evoke the disgust that leads to improvement; unfortunately the image is so disgusting that it instead raises questions about the person selecting and publishing it. Whatever the motive, then, I find its open publication indefensible morally and aesthetically, as well as tactically. And that, I would venture to say, would be the judgment of most mature readers. There are some adolescents, of course, who seek such things out on sites like rotten.com — does it still exist? — and get a certain frisson thereby, but most of us get beyond that…
This has been known to happen before… Sorry, there is no way I will directly link to it, but some of you would have had your three guesses, I should imagine.
I suppose there is some consolation in reflecting that the image relates to atrocities that can’t really be attributed to religion, coming as it does from the Rape of Nanking in the 1930s — an incident I do know quite a lot about, I should add.
I have returned to the offending post, just making sure I have been fair. I have no doubt the aim of the image in the post which triggered this one is to evoke the disgust that leads to improvement, it occurs to me, is conceding too much, as the rubric that accompanies the graphic image from Nanking is:
QUESTION FOR THE MATURE: Does war dehumanize or simply reveal man’s true nature?
That comes after several quotations on the need to tell the truth or face up to the truth about ourselves, and the bit in CAPS BOLD appeared after my post was published. The image comes first and dominates the post in question. The young and vulnerable are not in any way prevented from seeing the offensive image, or warned about it before encountering it. So it would appear that what we have is disgust that leads to disgust… I would say that such an image tells us nothing about man’s true nature, no more than my counter-image does. I could say essentialism but I am not all that fond of that ploy; I would rather say paradox, and would further say that it is up to each one of us to take responsibility for the image of humanity we choose to present. At the same time, the question itself is not fatuous — in fact is a good question, even if framed in a way that seems to me to suggest an answer.
If fear of hell fire is a bad idea for religion — especially for the young and vulnerable — and it is, then so too is gross pessimism about our very natures such as the offending post invites, which strikes me as Calvinism without redemption.
That does not make me a Mary Poppins or a Candide…
It does make me someone who is aware that people of all ages and backgrounds may read my posts. That does not limit my opinions, but it does impose a certain duty too. I would hope that the blogger concerned might reconsider his choice of image, or failing that, list his blog in the “adult” category, or make this particular post less openly accessible. Or even do something like this or this. I don’t hold out much hope of any of those occurring.
REARRANGEMENT 22 August
Because there was a danger of the actual counter-post being lost in the controversy, I have rearranged but not altered what was originally here and added more tags.