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News ::
18 Sep 2001
Our acts, our works, mirror the paradox of existence. Our “entertainments” become our undoing, our tools turn against us

By Don Ogden

With the trauma of the recent brutality in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania beginning to subside, citizens of the U.S. who have not escaped into the mindless void of blind patriotism are starting to ask WHY such a tragedy took place. Naturally, the mainstream media is short on answers as to why anyone would crash three fully loaded passenger planes into buildings filled with thousands of seemingly innocent people. Blanket explanations of anti-American sentiment appear to suffice, though to the credit of a very few, there is at least some analysis. But for those who have overcome the early stages of grief, no longer trapped in anger or denial, the acceptance of the reality of those horrendous acts may bring insight.
One such insight visited this observer after returning to his birthplace of Manhattan on a sort of painful, yet reflective pilgrimage. Among the hundreds of images we’ve been subjected to over the past week, be they frightening, sorrowful, or mundane, was one that, as odd as it may seem, struck a note that resonates with this New Yorker: the image of King Kong, the giant ape of Hollywood fame who met his fictitious end twice in New York City on two occasions. In the original film, Kong scaled the Empire State Building in search of love and identity, only to be destroyed by the armies of vengeance. In the more recent film the giant ape chose the World Trade Center towers to the same end.
It occurs to me that the story of King Kong is emblematic, a kind of mythical template with which we may interpret our recent trials. Whether or not it was intended as an allegory that is what it has become today. The primal innocent is removed from his natural state by the forces of greed and alleged sophistication to be displayed to all the world as an aberration, a novelty, an entertainment. But the animal, dare I say the primal being within us, escapes into the midst of so-called civilization in search of love and acceptance, only to be further tormented by his captors and their technology. He is soon driven into a rage, unable to cope with the meaning of the madness around him. Climbing one of the ultimate symbols of that perceived civilization, a phallic missile thrust into heaven (yet one he also identifies with), the archetypal human continues the quest for love and connectedness, while also seeking safety from the madness below. Alas, no sanctuary is to be found. The avenging armies destroy the innocence, leaving among the dead a lingering sense of greater loss. You connect the dots. That is how myth and allegory work. It cuts both ways.
Irony may be an understatement for the way our lives turn around on themselves. Our acts, our works, mirror the paradox of existence. Our “entertainments” become our undoing, our tools turn against us. It’s really not so strange when you think about it, only when you experience it. That the US entertainment industry has, in the form of disaster movies like “The Siege” and “King Kong”, pretty well predicted the script we recently became actors in is not altogether surprising. They place the images of violence and ignorance before our eyes, we cheer the vengeance and bloodlust, embracing that ignorance, and then we and the characters on the screen join in the theater of existence and become one. Monkey see, monkey do. The rest, as they say, is history.
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