Nightmares

I spend a lot of time thinking about monsters. Could there be any more statement of the obvious? The deeper issue, however, is why. Why am I, among countless others, drawn to the monster? This may not be politically correct—I apologize in advance—but that which is unusual naturally draws our gaze. Humans, along with other conscious creatures, are curious. (There’s another trait that reductionism hasn’t adequately explained; we’d be far more secure sticking with what we already know works.) The out-of-the-ordinary will keep our attention although we’re told not to stare. The monster is defined as something that isn’t “normal.” We’re captivated. We stare. Indeed, we can’t look away.

477px-Frankenstein's_monster_(Boris_Karloff)

The media play into this with their coverage of Trump. I realize I risk participating in that rude behavior by even addressing the topic, but as I hear intelligent people everywhere asking why Trump has captured the imagination I have to ask, have you seen the headlines? Newspapers that don’t endorse him run huge headlines when his name is in the news. It’s horrible, but I can’t look away. Historians scratch hoary heads and wonder how Hitler came to power. Populism combined with an undereducated population in a democracy may be an equation that political analysts should try to solve before it’s too late. Meanwhile, my thoughts turn to monsters. Ugly, large, and threatening, they rampage through my dreams and now my waking reality. I watched in horror as the electorate lined up behind Reagan. Bush, I told myself, was an aberration. Until the second time. Then I realized it was the summer of Frankenstein indeed.

From my youngest days I recall the antipathy that my classmates showed toward school. I didn’t mind school that much, or at least the learning part. Gym I could’ve done without. I never did get the socializing thing down. Feeling a bit like Frankenstein’s monster myself, I realized I was a pariah (that was a vocabulary word). When did monsters shift to being worthy of emulation? The monsters of my childhood were to be feared, and curious creatures will always keep an eye on that which causes fear and trembling. The media say we don’t want Trump but they give him all the air time he could wish and more. In headlines in massive, almost misshapen letters. They’ve expended their superlatives on what they tell us we shouldn’t see. They have, perhaps unwittingly, played into the very hand bitten by that which it feeds. I can’t help it. I’m staring.

4 responses to “Nightmares

  1. Fears shift, not unlike how religion transforms. That is unsurprising. Monsters, after all, are creatures of the religious imagination—no matter how often they take secular forms, such as the products of mad scientists the priests of our age.

    The difference now is we are so much more manipulated now. We live in a world of highly produced media. Our emotions constantly being elicited, often in extremely subtle and complex ways, and we typically don’t even notice what is being done to us. The most overt monsters aren’t the worst things to be feared.

    I was thinking about this in terms of how wars have changed. About as many have died because of the Iraq War as because of the Vietnam War. But those in power have become more skilled in keeping these deaths from feeling real (viscerally and psychologically) to the general population in the US. The monstrous is hidden, which makes it all that more monstrous.

    I think Trump becomes the screen upon which we can project all of our unconscious, unacknowledged, and unperceived fears. He is an intentional caricature, a media genius playing his role as the movie villain. It’s all so orchestrated, the great spectacle to entertain and distract. Let’s pin our sense of guilt onto the scapegoat and send it off into the desert. Trump’s one and only role is to be a public sacrifice to clear the conscience of the American mind.

    His purpose is to lose. But those in power might get surprised if he were to win.

    Anyway, on a different note, have you ever read any of the philosophical horror writers? The most well known example is Thomas Ligotti.

    He has an interesting view of monsters, that they are most scary to the degree they are never directly portrayed. The greatest fears are those at the edge of our awareness and comprehension, those that remain in the shadows. They are nebulous fears and often never articulated. This form of the monstrous is less popular, because it hits too close to the reality of fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Philosophical horror is actually a fiction genre. Sometimes it might be referred to as dark weird.

    It’s mostly small press writers of a literary bent, not prone to typical monster stories. There is more of a psychological quality to their writings. In philosophical horror, there is greater focus on the uncanny than the monstrous. Still, there are sometimes monsters portrayed by authors of this genre, although there is much more interest in puppets and such.

    Ligotti has written some non-fiction as well. His view on monsters, as far as I know, have only come up in interviews. His one major non-fiction work is on philosophical pessimism, a rather dreary topic.

    Like

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