photo by nacrowe
i first read the novella VENUS IN FURS (PENGUIN CLASSICS, 1870) by LEOPOLD VON SACER-MASCOCH back during my senior year of high school. at the time i had recently moved to SACRAMENTO after departing KUWAIT and was living with a relative away from my family. it was intense in part because i left one claustrophobic situation for another. living in KUWAIT was a closed system where there were explicit limits on expression and personal freedom in general. SACRAMENTO felt much the same, a variation on a theme. 9/11 had just happened and i was unfortunately in a conservative backwater so BUSH-era jingoism and false patriotism was in full flight. i felt thoroughly trapped.
which is probably why i felt compelled to seek out this transgressive novella at the time. i knew of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND song so that was the initial impetus. the narrative mainly concerns the obsessive efforts of a man named SEVERIN VON KUSIEMSKI who increasingly degrades himself at the behest of WANDA VON DUNAJEW, a woman he is infatuated and obsessed with in the extreme. over the development of their unusual contract, the more she mistreats him (which she grows to sadistically enjoy), the more he overwhelmed with passion. it is from the reputation of this late 19th century story that term MASOCHISM came about in reference to the author.
obviously this book deals with SEXUAL DEVIANCY, whatever that is. what got me interested, however, was its exploration of the PSYCHOLOGY OF OBEDIANCE of obedience. the idea of submission and why people voluntarily acquiesce their sense of identity, whether that be out of passion or even political or religious fervor. all around me in SACRAMENTO i was witness to a mass of adults that were unquestioning and uncritical of the buildup to war. what made things more confusing was that the culture i witnessed in KUWAIT was just as prone to group think and the SUBLIMATION of their individual identity in the states as those morons in CALIFORNIA. again, i felt thoroughly trapped.
whenever i consider widespread social movements or cults or soccer hooligans or TRUMP supporters it always brings me back to this book. there is a PLEASURE in surrendering your ego and personal responsibility to a perceived higher power, POLITICAL or RELIGIOUS. it is by definition HUMAN NATURE.
what gets me is the flip-side of that coin, the power of the SADIST that enjoys that unbridled and unquestioning pure adulation. that manipulates and takes pleasure from such power. one encourages the other and it is a corrosive dynamic that is far too applicable in modern society with so much chaos and uncertainty. be careful of who you follow.
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