Fundamental

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) around 1570, "The Flaying of Marsyas"

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) around 1570, “The Flaying of Marsyas”

I was going to do a Part II post of our trip to The Met Breuer, but I’m going to do a bit of navel gazing instead.  I’ll use a couple of the photos I took for something else that’s been on my mind.  Recently I’ve heard and seen quite a few people referencing the concept of “fundamentally good.”  As in, human beings are fundamentally good, love conquers all, good always triumphs over evil, etc.  On both small (personal) and large (nations, international) scales.  I’m…not so sure of that.  Not saying human beings are fundamentally evil, or “bad,” but fundamentally flawed? Maybe.  Look at a close up of the face from this painting, close to 500 years old:

IMG_8667

Do you recognize it?  That stare has been all over the news recently.  Here. And it’s been here. Without war, here. No stare, but a story that’s yet to end here. I could go on, find 50 more examples without effort, but you get the point.  I know I could just as easily find photos of hope and affirmation, and that’s why I don’t believe we’re fundamentally evil.  But flawed? Yes.

As I type, there are about 1300 people, asylum seekers, including 50 children, being held in detention sites off the coast of Australia, in Nauru and Manus Island.  Naturally, many horrific photos have recently come out of there.  Crimes against humanity.  Feeling smug, Americans? Don’t. And a little history.

A few months back, Donald Trump said he could look Syrian children (refugees) in the face and tell them they can’t come here.  Because safety. And possibility, and terrorists.  I’m certain I’ve read this story before.  Oh gee, Trump has no compassion for others but a hyuuuuge sense of otherness.  Yawn.  Trump, his beliefs, his greed, not the issue.  The issue is how many, and how many in positions of power and authority, support him and his ideas.  How many voted for him, and will vote for him in November.

Is this current election cycle truly shocking, when we pull our heads out of the sand and look at history, both recent and ancient?  Is the photo of 5 year old Omran Daqneesh (the little boy in the first link) truly shocking?  Is it shocking to see the headlines about last week’s disastrous flooding in Louisiana are focused on which politicians (and political wannabes) have gone to visit and when, whether or not the displaced are getting first page coverage or third?

It is our human flaws that allow these things to occur.  It is our human flaws that make us interesting. It is our human flaws that prompt us to strive for more, for better.  But it’s our denial of these fundamental flaws, our insistence on not only closing our eyes but obscuring our vision and differences that keep us stuck, repeating history.

Anton Raphael Mengs, 1775, "Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar"

Anton Raphael Mengs, 1775, “Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar”

 

3 comments

  1. I’ve been re-reading Ardrey recently: “But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.”

    Of course, he wrote that back in the 1960s. Things have gone way downhill since… 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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