Am I the only one with an undue pleasure at larger government, indeed, at all things threatening and perverse? For example, walking home down the city streets, weighed down by multiple bags containing more hi-tech crap than the terminator, I’m perversely pleased that there’s security cameras around to watch over me, and so I’ve got a captive audience to torment with bad tap-dancing when I’m drunk. Similarly, I quite fancy the ID card system; the more daft photos of people around in existence, the better I say. (and of course, assuming the state ceases its slow slide towards authoritarianism, we have nothing to fear from it beyond what we already fear; the innocent are safe.)

Similarly, McDonald’s. We’ve known forever that eating a 99p cheeseburger from Maccy D’s probably takes more life than smoking a pack of fags, but we still did it. However, having read Fast food Nation (before it became big, lovey, and thought it was big pile of judgemental horseshi’ite) and knowing the premise of Supersize Me (who needs to actually *see* the movie?) I felt more desire to go out and eat hamburgers and cheeseburgers, and particularly McDonald’s, than ever before. I’ve eaten battered Mars bars and haggis and bits of meat that the animals themselves probably have a preternatural sense of shame about, in the full cogniscence of what affect this will have on my body, fattening flesh, filling arteries, and generally bringing inevitable death sweetly near.

The ancient philosophers called this akrasia, and it’s one of my key concepts. It means incontinence and means knowing what the right thing is to do, but simply not doing it. Of course, it assumes that what you’re doing isn’t the right thing, and that the right thing is not the thing you *want* to do. Truthfully, it isn’t the right thing for you if you don’t want it; it might fit in with your moral code, but your short-term desire is stronger in you than a long-term health and happiness that might never come (with the fragility of life.) Combine this with a skeptical viewpoint on personal identity, and the future person you’d be preserving the body for isn’t you anyway.

Which brings me to the final perversity; laughing at death. A recognition of the fleeting nature of our personalities and the self’s coherent existence can bring acceptance of the valueness of the self, unless it is specifically chosen to have a value. To this I ascribe the ability to feel sorrow at the death of a loved-one, but also to joke about it; it is not merely a coping technique, it is not only a symbol of western desensitisation to violence, it is also a different mathod of valuing the life we have. Anyway, that’s how I justify the inevitable jokes that are going to emerge at truck stops and in black cabs over the next weeks about South Ossetia, Darfur, and Iraq.

Anyway, enough grade-skool philosophical lecturing; nite!

1 thought on “”

  1. On : 9/8/2004 1:40:22 PM Penny (www) said:

    Hmm, laughing at death. It’s a strange one. I don’t think it is primarily a coping technique as the aftermath of laughing at death (usually when in solitude) often brings feelings of guilt and disrespect. More, I think, that death is itself inherently funny, in the same way as all bodily functions (and I guess, lack of functions are) unless you are a German. If laughing at the Grim Reaper, in his pull-up white socks, is a different mathod (sic, that’s what you are) of valuing life, is a greater value attached to the life of the living or that of the dead? As for my favourite ‘death’ humour, I had to laugh when a friend came over the other day and I, being rather hungover, asked him to get me a glass of water. “What did your last servant die of?” he piped. “Erm, lung cancer,” I replied.

    On : 9/8/2004 5:35:50 PM Grill (www) said:

    Well, there’s two things to cope with; the death of a loved one, and the death of the self. Though there are cross-overs (draws Venn diagram) the techniques differ. Funnily enough my Italian/Irish/Scottish/Jewish surrogate gran Rita is currently dying of lung-cancer (well, liver and lymph now), and she’s taking it very, very well. She’s got herself a new boyfriend (who’s lived round the corner of the hill for twenty years, but only just overcame his shyness); has gone round the world and said goodbye to all her family; and has even organised her funeral, booking a piper to entertain the guests. On being challenged that she hates ‘feckin twee pipers’ she states, and I quote, “Well, I’m not going to be fecking there, am I? Am I?”

    So, yes, morbid humour is great, though not so great when the corpse is right there (unless you’re a doctor or a nurse, in which case it’s a great opportunity.) Interesting your note that bodily functions are funny to us anglicised folks; perhaps because we’re ashamed of them?

    Oh, yes, and I was going to claim that I meant ‘mattoid’, but that has even more varied and colourful interpretations…

    On : 9/8/2004 8:30:49 PM toby (www) said:

    But if you think about it that much, is it still akrasia? Surely you can’t get away with simply thinking ‘yeah, I’m feeling a bit akrasic today, it’s OK to have a cheeseburger’. That’s cheating… also I have no idea what you mean about ID cards 😛

    On : 9/10/2004 8:17:18 AM Grill (www) said:

    Ah, no, akrasia requires awareness. Interpretations do differ over whether it’s immediate awareness (As you eat the burger, you are constantly thinking how bad it is) and latent awareness (You know burgers are bad for you, but you don’t consider it at the moment of consumption; possibly you’re overwhelmed by short-term lust for the burger, possibly another explanation). I’m admitteding to the former; as I eat a burger, I am aware in that moment just how bad it is for me, but the knowledge gives a vicarious thrill that improves the experience rather than deterring me.

    ID cards: the more information the state has about us the better, assuming we agree with its laws is my assertion. For the readers of my blog, I’m assuming middle-of-the-road liberalism with benevolent paternalistic elements, which the UK constitution is quite good on. If, however, the UK moves towards an authoritarian stance, as we were getting near with Mrs Thatcher, the laws under which we live may shift, and we may find ourselves incriminated by the information we’ve given over. (E.G. The yellow stars and pink triangles weren’t themselves threatening in wartime Denmark, but when being Jewish or gay was essentially criminalised, then it became dangerous.) However, again, the two-edged nature of security cameras and ID cards brings that same vicarious thrill.
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