philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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Violence in Prisoners (2013)

As I have stated before, this blog has become something of a study in violence. Which is interesting, because apparently studying themes of violence is a theme in my very family.

I am proud to say that I am the cousin of brilliant (obviously I am biased) Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski. Aaron wrote Prisoners before he wrote the first film that was produced and distributed by a major Hollywood company, which was Contraband (2012). Both films are violent, and both films are studies in fatherhood, masculinity, family ties and obligation, illegal activity, drugs, and the distortion of humanity.

Where does my family get this fascination with the darker side of human reality?

Our great grandfather was an eccentric man. An intellectual, an enigma, something of a patriarchal myth and legend. The story goes, when acquired enough wealth, he bought property and constructed not only a house but also a man-made lake, and within this lake was a mound of Earth, and on top of this mound of Earth was a bathtub.

See, he was eccentric. He was not violent, as far as I know, but he was somewhat detached. Sometimes he communicated in short, simple sentences like the person he was speaking to had walked in on the conversation in his head. At least this is what I gather him to be like, I do not know for sure because I was there. A legend.

Aaron’s movie Prisoners has narratives that are eccentric, like the all the mazes and the pig’s head in the sink. But what really struck me while re-watching this movie, is that the anti-cathartic ending has a resonance within my perception of the world as well, possibly through my systematic study of human engineered violence, which is a theme explored in the film. When Aaron first achieved success, it coincided with my study of Leni Riefenstahl and her influential Nazi propaganda films, so as an experience for me, looking to cinema as an art form was an important thing to do if I was going to understand how societies worked.

One of the plot lines in the movie is about torture. Dover, the aggressive and out of control father of one of the abducted girls, himself abducts a one time police suspect and subjects him to similar treatment found in the CIA torture report, like the use of extremely cold water on the body, deprivation, beatings, and general psychological terror. Clearly, the characters in the film are not as sophisticated as the American government, but as I observed previously, there are only so many ways to torture a human being. In a similar frame of mind, Dover is a survivalist who believes that there is a constant threat to his safety, as seen in the beginning of the film when he tells his son that he has to depend on himself because at any moment the grocery stores could stop carrying food. When there is a threat to his family, he takes things into his own hands. This is a similar narrative as to why so many Americans are currently accepting torture as a status quo. If there is a threat to us, then we throw the rule book out.

In the film, Dover’s actions circle back to him. He becomes a prisoner himself, reaped of his own violence sown out of a heart filled with sorrow and pain and actions taken out of aggression and dominance. Dover’s own use of violence makes him a victim, literally of Holly, the psychotic character responsible for this whole mess, and causes his family’s own victim hood to continue even further with his disappearance. They are still traumatized, and the violence did not cause a catharsis.

Violence also interferes with the necessary understanding of nuance. While drawing the map, which appeared to be a maze, Bob Taylor, the only living and functional victim of Holly, appears to be fucking with Detective Loki. Loki doesn’t have time for this shit, and smashes Taylor’s face into the table. That’s it. Taylor decides, fuck it, I can’t talk normally, I can’t explain after all these years of being silent about the torture and the mazes and the abuse and I’m fucked up over it, I’m just going to grab this police officer’s weapon and commit suicide (Hollywood drama, sure, but it’s a great scene and shocking the first time). Some people just do not communicate like the rest of us. Taylor was indeed drawing a map, it was of a maze, and no one would take a moment to understand. Everyone just got violent instead.

My cousin’s work is fiction, but the narrative of violence is based within the truth about violence. The circular path just continues to show up until the cycle is broken.

How to break it without more violence? I think that’s the question we can’t answer, and possibly won’t.


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The Purpose of Documenting Reality

I am a documentary junkie, and an avid enthusiast of knowing everything humanly possible about the Nazi era and regime. This intellectual pursuit is motivated to provide a witness to one of the most dramatic stories in human history. As a Polish person whose family members were personally murdered by the Nazis because of their upper level jobs in the Polish government at the time the Germans came marching through (my family members were also left-leaning, so death was inescapable) I have a duty to my dead family members to understand what happened before, during, and after their murders. As a person who has all the characteristics of what the Nazi regime came to label “Aryan” (blonde hair, blue eyes, tall stature, fair complexion), I have to understand the power of my appearance and what it means to look the way I look. That may sound superficial, but when your face matches the visual representation of what one of the most murderous regimes of the twentieth century considered ideal, you have to look at your appearance if you want to stop it’s disproportionate power that helped cause human suffering. Maybe I still sound conceited, it is not my intention.

A Film Unfinished (2010) by Yael Hersonski is a documentary which I found several years ago on netflix. It’s not there anymore, but youtube sometimes carries it and here is the link through Hulu:

A Film Unfinished explores a set of unnarated film reels that were taken by Nazi propagandists with unclear intentions. Some of the shots are staged, some are direct first-hand visual accounts of what happened in the Warsaw ghetto. Perhaps one of the most notorious pits of human hell before the hellholes that lead to the flames of death at Dachau and Auschwitz, the Warsaw ghetto was a surreal reality of fascist hatred. Confined to just over one square mile with nearly half a million people, the Warsaw ghetto bustled with activity of people who were trying to stay alive by any means necessary. Deference to extreme human agony was a necessary survival tactic, a comment one of the survivor’s show’s barely any emotion about.

Many people do not have adequate imaginative skills to imagine other people’s reality. This is seen when people make insensitive remarks about victims, either rape victims or the black victims of police violence, about what they “would have” had it been them at the hands of a violent assault. People are especially resistant to understanding why victims loose their power, or even give their power over to their abuser. People believe that if it was them, they would fight to the death.

The truth is, few of us fight to the death. Most of us are beaten to death. That is a logical decision for a human to make; instead of making rash, sudden actions in the face of danger, instead to conform to the restrictions of the danger and ride it out until it ends. Because theoretically, it could end. There were holocaust survivors. There are rape victim survivors who went through the darkest parts of human sadism and lived. There are victims of extreme police violence who endure until they are let free again. Except, sometimes, it doesn’t end. Sometimes people get beaten, or raped, or traumatized until they die, and no one wants to think that could be them.

A Film Unfinished shows us those people who were beaten to death by the hatred of the world. Adam Czerniakow, the head of the Nazi set up Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Council (or Judenrat in German). Like Hitler, he would not see the post Nazi German era because he swallowed a cyanide pill on July 23, 1942 after the Nazis carried out “Grossaktion Warsaw” or the total destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. Czerniakow is an extremely important historical figure in understanding the dynamic between power and victim hood, how victims attempt to keep power, and what happens when victims come to understand that they are loosing.

Czerniakow was by no means perfect. He was a complex figure with a problem more intricately poisonous than what many face at the worst of crises. But he did write complex narrative down. He did try to take on the impossible task of creating some way for Jewish persons to be a part of some sort of society. He knew he was fighting a loosing battle. But if not him personally, who else would have been the Judenrat and how would they have led it? Czerniakow is a historical character worth investigating for anyone wishing to read about the complexities of power and victim hood that can sometimes act simultaneously.

Willie Wist, the only German film propaganda crew member to be interviewed for the documentary, agrees that the “documentary” of the Warsaw ghetto has a political agenda, to show the extreme differences between the “rich Jews and the poor Jews”. The two groups were often shown next to one another, pitting deathly poverty against the last shred of humility and dignity a person could have held on to during that time.The effect is startling, sickening, and brutal. If to say anything at the time, the Nazis could have pointed to a number of negative stereotypes against Jewish people at the time. Looking at it now, it is a heartbreaking example of the depths the human mind has to survive.

No one owns the truth, but there are those who monopolize it. If we do not document our own reality, however mundane and otherwise boring we personally see it, we do not contribute to the human narrative. We cannot draw correlations between human behaviors or historical patterns. We cannot see that we and them, we are all not so different. When we document it, we can look at it and revel at how different we are, how different realities are constructed, how different people’s lives are.


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The Creative Limits to Sadism

The analogous relationship that is apparent between the “enhanced interrogation techniques” or “EITs”, a phrase any normal person would reject for the simple word of “torture”, used by Americans in Guantanamo Bay and the techniques used by Nazi officers against political dissents, politically persecuted persons, prisoners of war, and the general human population at large if one was unlucky enough to find one’s self in a Nazi interrogation room during that time, is totally and completely immune to Godwin’s Law.

Godwin’s Law, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a social observation put forth by Mike Godwin that on the internet at some point in an argument, a person will compare their opponents to the Nazi’s. The reason the analogous relationship between what the Americans did in Guantanamo and what the Nazis did in their prisons and concentration camps is exempt to Godwin’s Law is because there are only so many ways to torture a human being.

With this analogous relationship being apparent to anyone with reasonable logical deduction skills and ability to read and understand the historical record, one must not compare the Americans to the Nazis. This is unwarranted because it is disrespectful, primarily, to the victims of the Nazi regime. But the fact that American officials, under oath of the Constitution, one of the most powerful legal documents in the history of mankind, engaged in the same sadism as Nazi personnel who were acting out heinous hatred and absolute depravity against the human soul, should be devastating to any patriotic American.

What must be looked at, given the CIA torture report, is how America brought itself to it’s own delusion that it’s violence was an excusable reason for the preservation of a society in a sadistic way without realizing that was unnecessary. Qualified intelligence persons, interrogation elites, and psychologists have criticized the actions of the CIA as counterproductive to protecting the United States of America and it’s citizens. This intelligence, many qualified individuals, assert could have been gathered by alternative means. What must be stared at, is that the world’s largest capitalist oligarchy that masquerades as a democracy has turned to embracing a type of behavior that not only is psychopathic, but will cause psychopathic behavior in the very areas that are already murderous toward the United States. The actions of these depraved officials will have consequences for their grandchildren, my grandchildren, and potentially my grandchildren’s grandchildren. This is a circle of degradation, violence, and horror that cannot yield anything but absolute destruction.

Perhaps Germany as a nation somewhat escaped it’s fate from it’s brutal regime, as it was eventually rebuild and has not had any Jewish led terror attacks occur. But what the Germans did to the Jewish people is now carried out in Palestine, which is carried out in Syria, which is carried out in Guantanamo, which circles back to right here where I sit on American soil. But what the Germans did to all those millions of victims still hasn’t stopped happening. If any official in the American government thought that what was allowed to occur in the dungeons of hell of Guantanamo would change anything for America’s future for the positive, they were severely wrong.

The world is ugly and certain ugly persons must be dealt with in ugly ways. Physical and verbal abuse is reasonable to a degree in interrogations where mass murderers with top secret information pertaining to the mass destruction of a society because these are hardened individuals. I do not know personally a lot about intelligence and interrogation techniques, but from what I have read from qualified individuals, what happened in Guantanamo no more yielded any more valuable information than would could have otherwise been obtained. Given power to the depraved will yield the same result every time.

There are only so many ways to torture a human being.