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Mandalay Bay: Top O' The World, Ma! (PART TWO)

The Second Amendment Is Not a Suicide Pact

Freud’s efforts at describing Eros and Thanatos -- also called the sexual, or sometimes life, instinct and the death instinct -- was a noble effort, though the way the 20th century turned out, it was indeed a failed, Quixotic effort. The idea of a death instinct hinges on the notion that, like the metaphor of salmon going up stream to spawn and die, there's a deep-seated instinct in all organic matter to return to an inorganic state. That is, as he writes in one of his books, “The aim of all life is death.” In the case of his death instinct, it’s not just any death, but a specific, destined death. The man was trying to understand something that remained allusive, just out of reach. By the time of Civilization and its Discontents in 1930, he’s very much haunted by the specter of Hitler and National Socialism. All the early stuff about sex is in the back seat. According to Freudian commentator Raymond Fancher, “It was clear to Freud that there exist daemonic, destructive forces in civilized societies, forces which he could interpret only as manifestations of Thanatos, the death instinct.” Individuals or an entire culture could be consumed or overwhelmed by this death instinct. Eros was a life force that countered Thanatos; Eros extended beyond the narrow lines of sexual intercourse to include a range of healthy and peaceful human interactions. Simplified, they coordinate in my mind as Constructive and Destructive impulses in which sex can be a factor. Remember Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape? It was often reduced to the statement that rape was not about sex; it was about power. It was an important point, but the way it was expressed always seemed to beg the question. As a European male, Freud was looking at the process less in the light of justice than in the light of understanding the impulses at play.

As I sit back and ponder American culture circa 2017 -- aware of the horrors of the Vietnam War; the unlearned lessons that led to the on-going bloody debacle that is Iraq; the moral outrage that is drone warfare (Stanley McChrystal pointed out that our enemies see it as a soft, coward’s ploy); the struggle between "black lives matter" and "blue lives matter"; the violent imagery that assaults Americans every day from every angle; and, finally, the insanity of a gun culture run amok -- I admire Freud’s mission to understand this stuff in a deep, metaphoric fashion.

Something is out of balance: It feels like a darkness out of the past is stalking our culture. You have to wonder, in the sense of Stage Four Breakdown, whether a culture blindered by its own fantasies and bullshit can, in the deep recesses of its DNA have a secret, inherent death wish -- that is, if Freud is at all prescient in his writerly stumbling around, could we be on a runaway train not to just any death, but to a destined death. Of course, a metaphoric death can come in many shapes. Is the right-wing NRA’s notorious stubbornness a catalyst for Breakdown? Are individuals like Stephen Paddock, to borrow Peter Sederberg's terms, “both the creator and the product of [this kind of] shared meaning,” a shared meaning steeped in fear and violence. More Eros in our communal lives would provide welcomed balance.

Stephen Paddock’s Destined Death Wish:

story | by Dr. Radut