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Diet, Dearth and Future

January 1, 2015 Leave a comment

For those in search of “purity”, the contents of one’s diet are often prime for scrutiny. Beyond components of our careful, cooked creations come powerful revelations on our character. In diet is our character.

For many, a diet is a text wherein one’s feeding is a gateway to the soul. Who is a person? Consider what he eats.

Religion and medical terminology permeate our food labels with terms like “prescribe” and “heal” suggesting deeper, hidden powers. Does  consumption of a brownie mean a crime against the heavens? Our labels might suggest we have as words like “sinful”, “treat”  and “guilty” fill the labels on our food. “Indulge” we read because our item is “guilt free”.

The items that we feed ourselves are symbols for our soul and history is rife with heightened dietary focus. In The Nazi War on Cancer, Robert Proctor writes on Nazi dietary guidelines. Included in his text are dietary notes from Hitler’s second-in-command Heinrich Himmler.  Reading of Himmler’s fear of “artificial food”, we read statements that seem snipped from contemporary diet concerns. Terms like “natural” and “cleanliness” permeate the text. Himmler writes of a concern for a “natural” diet free from “bad foods” like “refined flour, sugar, and white bread.” Just like so many in contemporary society the backwards move to a “natural” diet of the past was essential to existence.

Himmler writes of “food companies” who “prescribe” the German diet and mask an unassuming public. He bemoans the consumption of “refined flour, sugar, and white bread” as invisible hazards to the public. Casting these statements in connections between eater and food, Himmler demonstrates the profound connection that can be drawn from food to personal character. For Himmler and many contemporary diet experts, one’s character was revealed inside the pantry. Himmler sees a danger in our sugar bowl and lurking death in flower. For the German eater a careful consideration of food was essential for national success. Indeed he writes of patriotic duties to eat well. Procter comments that this “private life made public” was powerfully enacted in dietary policy. The public was urged to give up meat, drink alcohol and coffee in moderation and eat only until satiated for the better of their country. From the holy to the hazardous, food has long been the means to improved society. In items that we eat and the diet we subscribe our character is symbolized. In ingredients are character and in meals our greatest mirror.

Actors and Characters

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

One consequence of a society with such a rich cultural legacy is an automatic application of narrative to explain events and people in reality. We ask “Does art reflect reality or does reality reflect art?” A question suggestive of the constant interplay between our creations and our surrounding. The question remains unanswered because it is a paradox: there is no distinction because all art is from reality and all reality stems directly from art. Does objectivity even exist, or has our subjective reality (art) so educated our perspectives that all our truths are invisibly knotted with the narratives of our world.

As an application of this idea, consider the ways in which we seek to understand a new politician. In a situation where an unknown figure emerges and draws immediate attention, the general public draws comparisons of this new figure with the futures of old. We trace physical features of previous leaders, common political opinions or forms of delivery to categorize the new figure. There was only ever one original politician, every figure that followed thereafter was an amalgamation of all who came before. Just as we use previous figures to understand the figure, the figure used these models when formulating his/her political character.

From the cognitive frame of history and legacy we formulate our heroes and villains. There are no new figures; instead the leaders in society are configurations of great figures of the past.

It is not only leaders who use these “models of legacy” in formulating identity. Ironically, figures who aim to break away from society utilize images of previous misfits and social pariahs to create their own formulation of alienation. Social misfits display a keen observation when crafting their anti-social identities with clear ties to anti-social figures of the past. Legacies of physical characteristics, dress patterns and speech behavior are re-applied as a device of the anti-social figure to create an easily identifiable character that both he/she and society at large will recognize as anti-social.

We subscribe to the process of categorization as a means to better understand the diversity of population. A world of infinite variety, wherein great heroes and great villains show no distinguishing features leaves us unable to identify their role in reality. As a means of making sense and drawing connection these common features are used both audience and actor to suggest identity and assist in interpretation.

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