Ljubodrag Simonović: Destruction of the body
DESTRUCTION OF THE BODY
The body is the basic vessel of human existence in the world and man’s basic connection to the world. It is not a natural given or a phenomenon sui generis. It is rather the product of the historical development of society. Each civilization creates a specific body and a specific relation to the body and, thus, a specific man. Even in Ancient Greece, people realized that the production of a particular body also implies the production of a particular type of man (masters and slaves). Class and racial physiognomic is given great importance in bourgeois anthropology and concentrated on particularly by bourgeois Hellenic scholars who idealized Ancient Greece. At the same time, man does not experience his body immediately but through a concrete totality of the epoch in which he lives and the prevailing ideological “model” of the body, as a concrete human (social) being.
The answer to the question of what is the human body in the contemporary world can be reached only in the context of the prevailing tendency of capitalist development. Capitalism produces an individual who is in functional unity with it and who enables its development, above all, by producing an appropriate body. The prevailing relation to the body is mediated by “technical civilization”. In other words, the body is reduced to being a peculiar machine, while bodily movement is reduced to the mechanics of motion. Technical functionality and efficiency become the basic features of the capitalist body. Basically, a dominant instrumental and exploitative relation to nature is fundamental to the relation to the human body. Rather than being a harmonious part of the living environment that, as such, should be respected, the body is reduced to being the object of transformation and an instrument for the attainment of inhuman goals. In “consumer society”, consumption has become the dominant form of bodily activity. The body has become part of the consumer way of life, and it responds to the demands of consumer civilization. The relation to the body has an instrumental character: it ceases to be an integral part of the human being and becomes a tool for the reproduction of the ruling order. The body is completely commercialized as the “greatest” achievement of the capitalist degeneration of man. Putatively, man is the “owner” of his body. In reality, he treats his body in the same way capitalism treats him as a man: by dehumanizing man, capitalism dehumanized man’s relation to his own body. It is a capitalistically created narcissism with an instrumental, destructive and spectacular nature.
The capitalist totalization of the world involves the capitalist totalization of the body, its deformation and the creation of a chronically ill man. The prevailing rhythm is that of capitalist reproduction, which destroys the biological rhythm of life – without which there is no healthy man. Not only is man guided by consumption as his moral challenge, but his body cannot survive without an increasing number of devices and substances, along with an artificial environment. Man’s survival is more and more mediated by artificial means that turn him into an invalid. The body has lost its natural needs: it can no longer process natural food, and it lives on and through medication. Man’s entire life is in “treatment”, meant ultimately to enable him to carry on in the functional harmony with the ruling order. The devolution of the body clearly shows that a developing “standard of consumption” brings on an erosion of the living standard. Labor, livelihood, movement, bio-rhythms, diet, sleep, living space as a modern ghetto (cities), air, water, food, tobacco, drugs, sugary beverages (including alcohol), ways of life that destroy man’s natural being, his night life, forced pace and ways of eating – almost all life-styles lead to man’s degeneration. Cholesterol, cellulite, diabetes, cancer, coronary diseases, neurasthenia, depression, AIDS, etc., are not “modern diseases”, but are rather a capitalist form of man’s physical and mental degeneration. It is about man’s transformation by capitalism, which deprives him of his natural and human life-creating quality and turns him into a plastic and technological “being”. At the same time, rather than being naturally conditioned and having a natural character, an increasing number of potential diseases are the products of laboratories and have a genocidal and for-profit character. Capitalism produces diseases that are then “cured” through man’s transformation into a profit-generating patient, that is, a chronic patient. The propaganda machine and his social position determine the “physical needs” of contemporary man. Man, who constantly devours larger and larger amounts of lower and lower quality food, is the most important strategic target of the food industry. This industry is producing a more and more gravely sick man, who is, of course, “taken in charge” by the medical and pharmaceutical industry. The consumption of larger and larger quantities of food does not reflect a need of the body; it is intended to compensate for a frustrated humanity. The same goes for smoking, drug taking, alcoholism, consumer physical exercise like aerobics, body-building and similar activities. Capitalism turns the consequences of the destruction of man and nature into the sources of profit and invents increasingly dangerous and destructive mechanisms. The human body becomes a universal destructive machine and a universal waste bin meant to swallow the ever-more poisonous products of capitalist civilization. At the same time, existential anxiety, daily humiliations, loneliness and hopelessness affect man’s mental health and further exacerbate his physical degeneration.
As part of the capitalistically degenerated world, man’s body has become the vehicle for the destruction of naturality and humanity and, as such, the enemy of nature and man. Capitalism has transformed man into a destructive labor force and, at the same time, into a consumer set to devour the greatest number of products in the least possible time. The nature of these commodities, the use-value of which continually decreases from the perspective of man as a biological and human being, and the nature of man’s relationship to these goods and services, which is nothing more than to consume them, inevitably result in man’s degeneration as a biological and human being. The consumer way of life produces a denaturalized and dehumanized consumer body and a consumer mentality, and, ultimately, a consumer view of the world and a consumer (destructive) imagination. The constant focusing on devouring food distracts the mind from crucial existential and essential issues and affects visionary consciousness. Dreams about food (just like dreams about luxury cars, swimming pools, houses, yachts… – which constantly feed the capitalist value horizon manifested by an increasingly aggressive entertainment industry) replace dreams about the world of free people. At the same time, the forms of escapism created by the entertainment industry destroy man’s need for intellectual activities. Capitalism mentally mutilates people by destroying their need for science, philosophy, poetry, music, enlightened conversation… There exists but one area of interest: money and the political power it buys, concerns which ultimately serve to rationalize the existing order that enables the accumulation of wealth through the plundering of workers and the destruction of the environment.
The relation to his own body is man’s most immediate relation to himself. Hence, the basic form of alienation from oneself is one’s alienation from one’s own body. Most people in the West experience frustration every single day because their physical appearance does not correspond to the prevailing (mass-marketed) model of the body as the basis for social worth. Man experiences his body as a punishment, as something alien, and tries to transform it through strenuous physical exercises, “treatments”, plastic surgeries… It is “fashionable” to submit the body to the dominant “aesthetic” model and thus to submit man to the ruling order. Everything is turned upside down. To be reduced to a dehumanized and denaturalized idiot becomes the highest moral challenge – especially if it might bring “fame and fortune”.
Modeling is one of the spectacular forms of the capitalist degeneration of man. By torturing their bodies and personalities, girls are transformed into advertising dolls and self-destructive zombies. To “walk the runways“, at the cost of destroying their authenticity and health, becomes the highest challenge for young people, who are hypnotized by the capitalist propaganda machinery and invalidated by the capitalist value system. Humiliation is masked as “spontaneity”, just as with prostitutes: giggling serves to conceal the truth that a girl is reduced to “flesh“ and as such is the object of sexual exploitation. The treatment of models differs from the treatment of livestock exhibited at agricultural fairs only in that the biological rhythms of the cattle must not be interrupted, while, on the other hand, models are forced to starve. Moreover, cattle are not humiliated in the same way these girls are. Cattle are not forced to deform their bodies and faces in order to fit a “profile” created by the capitalist clans in the shadows and by modern slave drivers who pass themselves off as catwalk “magicians”.
Physical existence in the world is not a matter of free choice. Man as a physical being is destined to live in the existing world. Reason, by virtue of imagination and illusions, can „escape“ from the existing world. The body is chained to the existing world and is a part of it. Man is a slave of capitalism because he is a slave to his own body. To be freed from slavery means to be freed from the body. This is the essence of suicide. The person who commits suicide kills his body in order to free himself from slavery in an inhuman world. Killing of the body is the final way in which capitalism deals with man. Suicide is not the act of a free will, but rather a way in which an inhuman world inflicts a lethal blow to man. The man who jumps off a cliff is actually pushed off by the prevailing order. To choose between life and death is not a matter of free will. Freedom presupposes a choice between possible forms of life and not between life and death. The decision to choose death is the decision of a man who has not only lost his freedom, but also lost the need to be free.
By becoming a totalitarian destructive order, capitalism absorbs into its existential orbit, and thus degenerates and destroys, everything that enables man to be a human being. Capitalism has deprived man of love, respect, family, friends, a healthy environment, a secure existence, happiness, a future… Man is left only with his body, which, itself, is also capitalistically mutilated. The body is man’s sole retreat, the sole “otherness” he can “resort to” at any given moment and the only thing he “owns”. Capitalistically conditioned narcissism has become a pathological obsession with the body in terms of its instrumentalization for the purposes of achieving social status and ensuring a predictable existence. Man, as a social being, is reduced to a physical being. Given man’s loneliness and capitalistically degenerated mutual relations, the instrumental, destructive and spectacular character of man’s relation to his body is now considered “normal”.
Young people used to wear long hair and “extravagant” clothes in order to attract attention. Today, they mutilate their bodies in order to look “fashionable”. An increasing number of young people subject themselves to painful “treatments” so as to adjust to the ruling value model. Physical pain becomes the most important way in which young people can experience their existence. Every year, millions of hopeless people have pins, rings and chains forced into and through their ears, tongues, eyebrows, noses, belly buttons, nipples, vaginas, penises… Every year, millions of humiliated people deface their bodies with tattoos and plastic surgery… It is the price young people will pay to “adjust” to and obtain some “value” in a capitalistically degenerated world. Physical deformity is the manifestation of human deformity. A man who is lost in the destructive nothingness of capitalism does not have human authenticity. To deform oneself as a human being is a way by which young people try to adjust to the ruling spirit of destruction and, thus, feel that they belong to the existing world. They try to be “somebody” by turning into nothing – into capitalist nobodies. A complete, self-destructive subjection to the ruling order is a hopeless man’s conformist response to attempts by the order to completely subdue him through his invalidation as a human being. Man tries to cripple himself as a human being to an extent that he will no longer feel the pain of a life deprived of humanity. He seeks to adjust to an inhuman world by completely destroying his own humanity, by destroying his libertarian dignity as a basis for his refusal to accept the existing world and as the source of a humanist visionary consciousness. “To be cool” means to attain such a mental state that the inhuman has irrevocably quashed all humanity.
Capitalism offered man a body in the same way a bad master offers a meatless bone to a hungry dog. With fewer possibilities to realize his humanity, man becomes more and more obsessed with his body. This is the most important reason why people fight so fiercely for “sexual freedom” and for indulging in anything (food, drugs, alcohol…) that might seem to alleviate the pain caused by capitalism as it deprives them of their humanity. The nature of concrete sexual relations cannot be separated from the nature of a given society. Sex is a mutual relation mediated by man’s nature as a concrete social being and thus by prevailing relations and values. It is only as a social being that man can be a sexual being. Capitalism, as a specific historical order, produces a specific sociability and, thus, a specific sexuality. On the one hand, masturbation is a typical example of autistic-narcissistic compensatory behavior. On the other hand, there is a “total sex”, which involves the reduction of one another’s bodies to being the objects of sexual exploitation. At the same time, public promotion of the body, sexual organs and sexual relations has obtained a spectacular self-marketing dimension. The need for sexual exhibitionism is a consequence of man’s lacking the possibility of realizing himself as a social being in a humane way. What used to be called “love” exists no more. Eroticism lacks naturality and humanness. “Sexual relations” come down to a mechanical exchange between two denaturalized and dehumanized bodies. “Sexual arousal” is achieved through increasingly perverted forms of, often violent, humiliation. Almost 80% of Americans cannot reach orgasm unless they engage in violent acts or imagine violence during intercourse. Daydreaming about sex is reduced to daydreaming about the sadistic degradation of the “partner”, whose body is reduced to the object of sexual exhibitionism.
“Group sex” is one of the most disgusting and most alluring forms of “freedom” that capitalism offers its slaves. A crowd of malodorous butt-holes and vaginas, phalluses and breasts, drunken and doped-up heads, smeared in sperm and saliva – this is the true image of the contemporary capitalist apocalypse. The “freedom” offered by capitalism to its slaves is limitless, which can clearly be seen in the fact that sodomy has become a “normal” form of “sexual intercourse”. More and more “respectable citizens” in the West enjoy “sexual relations” with dogs. The raping of “home pets” and their subjection to various forms of sexual perversion have become widespread. The organizations dealing with the “protection of animals” do not bother to oppose this obnoxious form of torture, since it is an untouchable sphere of “sexual freedoms” guaranteed by “democracy” to its citizens. Finally, “sex dolls” have become extremely popular on the sex market. This represents the denouement of capitalist humanism: plastic corpses have replaced human beings. “Democracy” has finally created the ideal “sexual partners” for its slaves, who are manipulated in every possible way that comes to their (increasingly morbid) minds, and without any responsibility.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)
English translation supervisor Mick Collins
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