REGARDING THE PAIN OF OTHERS by Susan Sontag
"Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else; they haunt us"
This book was first published in 2003 but couldn’t be more topical. Images of James Foley’s beheading at the hands of ISIS terrorists that briefly circulated via You Tube and Twitter this week are just the latest in a never-ending sequence of atrocities that raise ethical, and politically charged, questions about what the media should show in print, online or on TV.
It is human nature to be torn between fascination and repulsion when confronted by such images. The late Susan Sontag understood that deciding whether or not to view such graphic representations of man’s inhumanity to man makes us either spectators or cowards. Being neutral is not an option.
Regarding The Pain Of Others is both a companion piece and an updating to Sontag’s 1977 collection of essays On Photography. In it, she explores how still photographs come to influence and, in some cases, define the way we regard war and conflict.
Her starting point is the Three Guineas essay published in 1938 in which Virginia Woolf wrote of the horror and disgust she felt at seeing photographs of victims of the Spanish civil war. These forced Woolf to conclude “War is an abomination, a barbarity, war must be stopped”. This outrage is perfectly understandable, even praiseworthy, but also naive. Sontag asks pointedly: “Who believes today that war can be abolished?” Continue reading
I don’t normally blog about soccer but the unprecedented events of last night throws up issues that go beyond the so-called ‘beautiful game’.
Brazil’s astonishing 7-1 world cup defeat at the hands of a merciless German team was nothing short of a disaster not only for the team and the nation but also for the corporate interests behind the orchestration of this sporting event.
The hope, and expectation, was always that the home country would triumph so that it would end in one gigantic Samba street party.
The massive expenditure needed to stage such global happenings are enough to potentially bankrupt even the richest countries. The huge investment in the construction of soon to be redundant stadiums and facilities can only be justified if they bring wealth to the country in the form of sponsorship deals or increased tourism.
Anti-government demonstrations against high taxes, poor services and political corruption have been violently quelled leading up to the tournament and Brazil’s ignoble exit will only serve to reignite the debate about these spiralling costs. Continue reading
The late, lamented Frank Zappa preached about the need for constant vigilance against the repressive, self-righteous, bigoted forces who censor what we can see, hear and read.
Zappa was an articulate and outspoken critic of religious fundamentalists who seek to restrict our freedom claiming they are saving us from the devil’s work.
He explained his views during an interview with Larry King which you can see below.
As a way to counteract the Parental Advisory stickers on rock albums, Zappa wrote his own ‘Warning Label’ for a Mothers of Invention album.