A Culture of Death

(I read Fromm and wrote this while still in the throws of untreated alcoholism)

I have been struggling in my head for quite a while with the concept of what are some base norms of our culture. What are the meta-subconscious ideas that drive America?

While reading Erich Fromm’s, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness he outlines necrophilia as a contributor to malignant aggression. To understand this, we must approach that a “given character structure interacts with a given social structure.” Meaning we are seeing how American’s individual character interacts with death and how this influences society. Now when we all hear  this word we think of sex with dead people. But in the definition that the Fromm uses it is more of an attraction to death, not solely a corpse to have intercourse with. Where is this evident? Is it based on truths? The answer is clear to me and yes we are a culture of death. The imagery of death is ever-present in popular entertainment, people wear shirts with skulls on them and other macabre imagery. It looks cool. Where else can this be found? Any horror movie or metal music? Video games where killing is the basis seem to be the most fun.  Like The Walking Dead…I love the show but when you take a step back it is truly morbid and sad.  Books about fighting wars and destruction, these are things that entertain and perhaps we should look at these to find where our values. There seems to be some overarching love of death and of dying. While we are all scared to death, for the most part, there seems to be this attraction.

As for the military side of things we are used to one thing that was highlighted in a video that I was watching about Royal Marine Officers.

The Sergeant Major says within his first three sentences, “Don’t forget that the reason we exist is to kill.”  I can remember one letter I wrote to my parents, “They are training us to kill”. Don’t let us forget the point of the military.

Doesn’t the word look so much more foreboding in bold? We can say it is a force for good and that may true but we are used to killing. The troubling thing on top of this is corporations are making money from death. Maybe this is slightly skewed because of where I am situated in life.  But look at yourselves and the things you enjoy.

Fromm would argue that this is from malignant aggression that has developed in modern man. I would argue that man is born inherently evil. Most people, when asked, would say that man is good. A little hesitantly usually. How does this effect us this culture of death? Is it healthy? I don’t have these answers but would ask you to just think about it. Please, leave comments on the good and bad strains that effect modern America. Perhaps this the closest we shall see a Psychologist reason his way to the fallen nature of man.


10 thoughts on “A Culture of Death

  1. Death in and of itself is treated very differently in our culture than in any other culture. In “On Killing” by Grossman, he talks briefly about how killing used to be an intimate part of warfare where you looked your dying enemy in the eye, and could even feel his last dying breath. Everyone killed their own game, and children learned early on how to kill and prepare meat. There weren’t funeral homes, and dead relative’s bodies were kept around longer to be seen by all, awaiting burial. Infant mortality was high and life expectancy was low. It was not until the last 150 or so years that death became such a foreign thing to us. I think it is still genetically built into us and that is partially why society can cash in on that, even though culture tries to hide us from it.

    • Kind of an aside on that…when people used to drink and eat food off of lead sometimes especially drinking alcohol they would pass out and appear dead. That is why we had wakes. They would literally just lay the body on the table and people would come and go. I wonder if death is even more far removed now and therefore much more easily, I can’t find a good word but glorified?

  2. I think what you mean in that comment about the wake is that we are just more removed from death in our culture. Pushing some PS3 buttons isn’t mentally like murdering someone. Other than those who see combat or run with gangs, or maybe doctors, the average person doesn’t observe death occurring around them on a regular basis. It’s easy to downplay the seriousness of taking a life when you live in a safe place. We are aware of this on some level… That is why we train the military to “react” to a stimulus… Because if they allowed themselves to think too much, they won’t shoot.

    • Exactly. I agree i mean though there has to be some sub conscious trigger that effects us when we play games like Call of Duty. I have felt rage like I have never experienced besides maybe boot camp. That is why we have to obey without question because that is the only way to easily kill people. In WWII the first time a military man engaged in combat only 10% would actually try and fire with accuracy we have succeeded in raising that into the 90s now, Thanks for the comment!

      • I like how you put that. Until we figure out an alternative to war, we’ll just have to work with it. We need to make sure those people are taken care of when they come home, because that is rough on a person.

      • There is a Star Trek episode that reminds me of this comment. They literally wage war over computer then they are required to report to an incinerator. Of course Kirk and Spock can’t let this stand. But it was interesting because the premise became you have war without the consequences. Maybe we have become so removed from war as a whole. Being in the military I have ran into it seldom because of where i am stationed. But it has scarred some people beyond belief. Thanks for dialogue this commenting is the point of the site.

  3. This was really right on! I enjoyed this post for it’s brutal honesty, and the comments below helped give some deep thought as well!
    I agree, we are in a present society that seems to crave after death. I was sitting with the family, watching TV when a movie trailer came on, all about the death of the human race, and not only that, but a grisly and disgusting end to mankind.
    I am a very spiritual person, so my belief is stationed in my faith. I belief this is the last days, and that evil is poured out upon this last generation. That is why the society craves death, for death is our enemy, for without Christ we will die eternally.

    But again, I’m a spiritual person so this may be very different than your view. I really enjoyed the post; keep up the good work! ((:

    God bless,

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