Saturday, August 11, 2007

Compulsive Fascination, +/-

While the New York Times surveys the ratcheting up of movie violence beginning with "Bonnie and Clyde," the Washington Post relates an escalating spiral of horrific breaking-and-entering violence in the suburbs. Hmmm. Gosh. No connection there. Hollywood, by all means, keep making bondage, torture, rape, and murder films ...

Mimetic theory pulls the veil off the reality about human "mimesis"; namely, our nearly ubiquitously unconscious compulsion to catch "desire" from one another. Paraphrasing pal and mentor Gil Bailie, highlight and delete anything in your memory banks about Freud and the word desire here. From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, "desire" is a highly specified commodity that we "catch" from one another. (Ever wonder why the Sunday paper has all those sales flyers that fall out all over the place? Here's why: we don't wake up thinking, "Gee, I really want a new plasma, flat-screen TV." Our appetite must be whetted.) Madison Avenue knows this about us. We should know it too.

But "desire" isn't just about the "wanna-buy-it" syndrome. A French Girardian, Jean Pierre Dupuy, defined desire as “a secret fascination for the apparent autonomy of the other which cannot rest until it has demystified it.” Sounds a bit dense, doesn't it? But if you have ever been the object of this "intense fascination for the other, either positive or negative" (Bailie), you know how unpleasant it is. Such "desire" can flip-flop in the blink of an eye. (Think "Hosanna!" shouted on Palm Sunday and "Crucify him!" by the same crowd later the same week.) This intense fascination is at the heart of Girard's "model/rival" problem of the doubles.

What if a poor, benighted soul thinks that if he (or she) can just steal your possessions, indeed, dispose of you in the process, then he (or she) will have the happiness, the satisfaction, the ontological substantiation that he (or she) has always wanted? It gets that nutty.

And what if the movies show you how to do it? "It's only entertainment." Yeah, right.

And what if this compulsive desire affects not only individuals, but whole peoples, ethnic groups, religions, on a global scale as well? Welcome to our world, fallen and in need of a Savior.

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