Problematic Pulchritude [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Mar2016]


The 20th century has been marked by cynicism, selfishness, greed, and the desire to please, all without changing the status quo. In the 21st century, we must resurrect solidarity and compassion. – Oscar Arias


Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-21 um 18.19.11

Well, this is the Sloterdjik in the early 80s but, obviously, there are still relevant take-aways for today‘s thinking. First of all, there is the curious notion that hope and realism are somehow incommensurable: you cannot have one without not having the other, you can only have either one. So on this view, hope is identical to utopia, the non-place which is not here, is never here. But in fact hope, as I have come across it in multiple contexts [and this o.c. is open to unending discussion] is merely a positive disposition of a present person towards the future, it envisions what ideals a person/society would like to see realized in the future, what ethical and material conditions it would consider good. What I think is important to point out is that these ideal for the future should be, more or less, realizable: they might happen or not but they are not entirely beyond the parameters of the present, real moment. If the ideals are not realizable other terms are usually employed: to fantasize, to daydream, utopian, etc. Thus the point could be made that hope builds on a realistic appreciation of the present and goes hand-in-hand with realism.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-21 um 18.19.24
The second interesting point is: „everything is problematic, so everything is kind of indifferent“ Niet! Non! Hayi!  Méiyǒu! One does not have to be aboard the sinking Allure of the Seas to realize that everything is problematic means there is a maximum emergency – for such cases there is conventionally a protocol: a list of priorities that need to be worked and checked off one after the other. It can even happen that one is the person, fortunate or not, who has to compile such a catastrophe protocol. In wars there is triage. In buildings there are emergency procedures. Nobody sits engulfed in flames and smoke, in rising cold brine and declares: „Oh well, this is all very problematic!“

sloterdijk_philosophInstead one begins with the most urgent action and works one‘s way down.
So how come Sloterdjik conceptualizes it differently in this short excerpt? It must be a matter of being taken out of context!  The bourgeoisie or the post-60s intellectuals mentioned are not inside the burning building or the foundering vessel, they are warmly tucked away on the Middle-Class OceanLiner, on the upper floors of Affluenza Towers; there is enough distance to conceive of it all in terms of a problem. It is this distance combined with the unwillingness to cross it that allows for the formation of cynicism. You‘ll always find enough leisure and wit to crack some clever remark or other about somebody else‘s loss.


Maybe-you-should-eat-makeupThis is actually not my favorite topic at all and yet I wish to think about it, think through it: beauty. It is rather unfortunate, I suppose, that U. Eco has already written a whole goddamn brilliant book on it but since I haven‘t read it, I can naively pluck away at the topic. Nor do I have any art-historical credentials whatsoever to consider this matter but that should just be filed under additional complication.
For two.5 yrs now I‘ve been together with a partner who can conventionally be considered „beautiful“ or „aesthetically pleasing“ or a „bombshell“ or whatever is your preferred designation of advanced aesthetic phenotype. It is just tough luck that such a statement cannot be made without coming off as vainglorious but the postulate is needed for this piece of thinking.
What makes one beautiful in terms of outward appearance? There‘ve been thousands of studies on the topic which neither of us will be bothered to consult and so the conjectures remain at the surface of general insight: above-average symmetry, large eyes, proportional spacing of facial features, healthy skin, etc. The matter of the body is too complex, vexed and contentious to even consider getting into.
More interesting is the effect such a phenotype has on a room full of people, which I‘ve observed w/ befuddled, possibly spooked fascination: wherever and whenever, a significant majority of heads [w/ eyeballs therein] will tilt in her general direction.

Untitled-1335Suppositions? A) Significantly salient stereotypes of whatever configuration naturally draw attention [whether a supermodel, pygmy or notre-dame-type persona].

B) This is the lamest and most banal and yet it must be mentioned: motion; it draws attention. As you enter, you move. The frog next to the pile of dead flies dies. Big bloody deal!

C) The crux: Beauty. It is intrinsically pleasing to examine, whether one is male or female at either end of the hoary subject-object binary. You can look at it and derive a little dose of harmless pleasure.
It seems also to activate more atavistic programs of the human psyche. Beauty is rare and distributed entirely unjustly and unequally. The question that immediately rears its head is: why this cosmic injustice? This collides with our ever-present [if rarely justified] fever-dream of living in a meritocratic society: whatever privilege you enjoy, you must have earned it! But [leaving aside the toxic pandora‘s box of make-up and pla-surg] beauty is not achieved, not based on a person‘s lifetime work or impeccable civic ethos, it just is. It is there, up from the genotype, no questions asked.

[What unfathomable level of outrage would Hitler have created if, to top all the horrors off, he would‘ve look like Brad Pitt?! ]




About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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