Can’t touch this

by theodotdoron

Honestly, this post will not be frilly and cute, so, if you find certain things hard to stomach, you should stop reading now. For a certain amount of censorship applies to the written word as well. Or does it?

Hard core realism is viewed as progressive anddesirable in any sort of art form. Nan Goldin, a photographer, became famous by photographing drug addicted prostitutes. The movie The Wrestler, was praised for a lack of a happy ending. Van Gogh, too, started his career painting that which existed in the realm of the otherwise unseen: poor people, unable to get a painter to capture their misery, were his subjects. That is one of the reasons he did not get off to a great start. No one really wanted to pay money for something that no one really wanted to see. Misery and suffering. Yes, dear Van Gogh was painting the working classes, the invisible people at the time.

Pieces of writing in ancient times were incredibly pricey. Not everyone was able to read, and only a few, privileged emperor mostly, were able to afford a scribe to pin down that which they deemed worthy of attention. Mostly, it turned into a heroic tale. The regular suffering of those who were victims of a war or a famine would not be retained on pieces of papyrus. Similar to those painters working for Kings and Queens, only freeze framing that which the Kings and Queens deemed worthy. Fancy interior, well decked out emperors and piles of status symbols were squeezed into a frame.

Now, in light of all this, the writings of the Old Testament, capturing the suffering of single few individuals throughout, is something I would consider hard core realism. Eye witness accounts , similar to those very valuable ones written down during concentration camp atrocities, without which most people would have never people to which extend cruelty was being executed therein. unfortunately, some people still don’t accept those horrendous going-on’s as true, but that is another story.

So, capturing suffering serves several points, giving the otherwise unaccounted for victim a voice, and thereby making it real. Further, it gives a realistic account of what history was like. It is not just written by the mighty and few privileged but oftentimes, their heroic pursuits are being carried out on the shoulders of the suffering masses. So, it records that which really happened. However, at times, suffering can be glorified, and tirgger copy cat action. How can we make sure, the records serve the first prupose and not the second?

Well, in actual fact, this is almost impossible to do. One can only distinguish for oneself what purpose the watching of other peoples suffering serves. Unashamedly, I do not watch war reports, for there is nothing I can do, and it only depresses me to a point of no return. Am I ignorant for that reason? Some may say so, but I would hope I am not, I am doing it for purposes of keeping me sane. If I see a homeless person suffering, if I am not willing to get involved, there is no ned for me to almost drool over his misery. Yes, you heard right, it is a slippery slope from charity to Schadenfreude and gloating.

So, walking past someone who looks like they are about to die in the hot summers heat, I get involved. I check the scene if he has friends with him to keep an eye on him. I have the phone ready to call an ambulance, I have water ready to share with him, and generally I don’t leave the scene until I am not sure this person is not dying right under my eyes. For that is much more cruel than all the cruelty depicted in movies. Recordings of suffering serve a purpose of giving a voice to those who suffer. One should not forget that it is something about human nature that almost takes joy in someone else being worse off than oneself. And, depending on whether or not I am willing to get involved, I should gauge my involvement. There is no passive observer position. As soon as you observe, you are a potential witness and therefore become responsible. Choose wisely.