by Johannes Goransson on Aug.15, 2013
[Ross Brighton wrote these comments on Facebook in response to the second “Corean Music” post I wrote for the Poetry Foundation.]
Also the idea of violence as ambient is really, really …. acute (I don’t know why but that seems like the appropriate word).
I’ve been talking a lot about violence with several friends of mine, because we all have PTSD, which is a result of violence. In a way, PTSD is like being infected with the ambience of violence, it’s omnipresence. It becomes present even through it’s absence and as violence seems always somehow gendered (even/especially male-on-male violence), violence latches onto gender. I was talking with my friend the other night about violent intimate relationships, and that Rihanna and Eminem song, and how Rihanna was vilified for it in a really fucked up way (I mean she was basically demonstrating what such relationships are like, and they’re hyper-aestheticised, as they’re kind of like addictive behaviour, there’s a rush, all the power-play is like… obscene pantomime)… but also how I couldn’t listen to that song because it reminds me of the omnipresence (ambience) of violence…. the fat that the male body is already coded as a potential weapon (which ties back to your post about Hysterical masculinity, and Kim’s post about Sports). And how ‘good’, ‘proper’ masculinity is kind of enacted as a “being able to be violence, but restraining it”. Not an absence of violence, but a not-committing it. I’m not sure that phrasing works properly, but I hope you can get what I mean there.
I should quickly note before my big spiel that my experience of PTSD is probably really, really different for how soldiers experience it, I know a guy who’s got PTSD from seeing active combat, and while the… mechanics are probably similar the way we cope is really, really different, as are the experiences of trauma, and … yeah I can’t speak to that kind of experience, nor really understand it in anything other than a really cursory way. I just thought that needed saying. But anyway, here goes.
I think the big thing for me is … well there’s the tying of violence to masculinity which I think is a really big thing, especially as it relates to both economic depression and sports cultures and the excessive drinking that is particularly associated with the former. Now I’m kind of talking about growing up in Christchurch, which kind of relates to the way that Joyelle talks about the Rust belt in relation to Salamandrine. This shit is also tied to literal overpolicing (police treating poor people as de facto criminals) and simultaneous underpolicing (police never being there when they’re needed, but always being there when they’re not, and breaking up parties with riot batons and stuff). And then the way this ties in to excess in terms of emotion, as there’s a lot of that, a lot of resentment and alienation and shit – violence would always erupt because someone had been drinking too much (because there was nothing else to do) and someone would say or do something excessive, and then someone else would have an excessive reaction to that, which would be violent, and then there’d be a fight. Often this would also be related to different subcultures policing each other (gangstas kids and metalheads always having tension between them, which I should emphasise was almost always not couched in racial terms, as we’d all gang together to fight skinheads if they showed up; and metalheads and punk kids fighting boy racers, and yeah everyone fighting skinheads, especially if they showed up at metal or punk gigs… I remember some skinheads showing up to see my mates’ black metal band play, not knowing that he – the 6’4 lead singer who is built like a tank – was Maori, and one of then being dragged out of the venue unconscious, and shit like that).
But then that… like that (and masculinity as being integrally defined by violence) isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of reality, because all of that is my experience filtered through the lens of my PTSD, and it’s… I mean I think there’s some truth to that shit about masculinity, but my PTSD is from partly having the living shit kicked out of me at school almost everyday by the rugby team (archetypes of masculinity, same deal as Football in the US, or Hockey in Sweden probably) which has lead to that kind of connection being made in a very visceral way, to the point of kind of being afraid of straight white men in general, as they’re associated with that shit (most of my close friends are either women, queer, or both). Like that’s one of the things PTSD does, is make it kind of impossible to see things outside of the framework of trauma (which is almost always violence of some kind). This is where Batman comes in as a really good metaphor – his life is totally defined by the death of his parents, therefore he sees everything in terms of a kind of crusade against crime, not really knowing how to do anything except try and save people from crime, but, although he fights shadowy international organizations, and terrorists and Lex Luthor’s corporate coniving and stuff like that it always comes back to violent street-level crime, and it’s like he’s continually ‘stuck’in that moment, no matter how much physical or psychological armour he wears, he’s still trying to save his parents, even though there murder was perpetually c25 years ago.
It also does weird stuff to both memory and one’s ability to process/form/recall memory, and emotion. This all comes into the mechanics of how PTSD ‘works’, which I can explain if you want. But again there’s again stuff regarding excess going on there. I was thinking about this last night, and how this probably tied into my aesthetic development, having excess policed (I was bullied for being a geek – excessively ‘smart’ or whatever, and also really homophobic stuff, I was always kind of effete, so there was a policing of excessive shit going on there in a weird way as well), which is probably why I ended up a goth kid, like rebelling against that policing (and the stuff associated with my parents Protestantism). And with music, as that, alongside fashion, seems to be one of the main ways that teenagers define themselves aesthetically, I was always looking for more extreme stuff, starting off with like NIN and Marilyn Manson and Ministry and shit, then old school goth and post-punk stuff, and then black metal, then industrial and noise and power electronics and stuff – always looking for stuff that kind of ‘broke’ the idea of music, and destroyed ideas of tastefulness. And also stuff that probably reflected the really messy, unmanageable emotional stuff as well, idk.
I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with that, but it all ties back to violence and aesthetics, and how they’re related to each other, which is I think really closely. Fuck, that’s a really un-profound conclusion, but there it is. I’d be keen to talk about this in more detail at any stage if you wanted, because I think it’s an important thing, and it makes people uncomfortable which means that it doesn’t get talked about a lot (either that or you get the really puritanical policing of stuff that Kim touched on in his piece about Masculinity and sport and poetry).