Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Vampirism - specific instance of the characteristic behaviour of modernity

The popular culture obsession with vampires is obvious - I believe that this fascination arises because vampires represent, in a mythological form, the characteristic behavioural response of moderns when experiencing the major spiritual malaise of our era: alienation.

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Alienation is feeling cut-off from 'life' - an isolated consciousness in a dead world - and of life having no meaning or purpose.

Modern life is seen as a matter of meaningless bureaucracy, of imposed duties, of mere exixtence followed by pointless death and being forgotten.

This is a near universal, but especially common among those who think most abstractly - those of higher intelligence and education.

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There is no full solution to alienation in modernity - but temporary solutions include intoxication; 'losing-onself' in virtual realities such as books, movies and TV; making one's life into an absorbing/ distracting emotional war-zone or psychodrama - and vampirism.

The vampire drains vitality from those with whom it come into contact. The surge in vitality is gratifying and energizing, and cures alienation - purpose is recovered in the search for victims.

Exploitative sexual relations (or implicit/ potential sexual relations) are one obvious example; but vampirism also includes draining love and affection from friends and collagues, draining their energy and cheerfulness, or diverting their purposefulness.

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Since alienation is a basic problem which cannot be solved in a secular and worldly context, the primary response is to lead a life of 'seeking' - specifically seeking vitality, contact with reality, relationships.

But having sought and found, we are up-against the biological universal of habituation - such that repeated stimuli lose their effect.

So seeking never ends, but overcoming habituation requires either serial change, refreshment - in a word novelty; or else increasingly-strong stimuli.

The stimuli may be media or technological (i.e. 'whatever works') - but for humans (as 'social animals' in origin) - the strongest stimuli, which work-best, are often other people.

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So the vampiric seeker moves through the world, seeking energy-releasing stimuli (i.e. 'victims' ).

When a suitable victim is found, the vampire will drain vitality from the encounter - energy which is diverted into sense of connecting with life, of motivation, and the meaningfulness of life.

But this gratification is temporary.

These positive feelings fade - later or (usually) sooner - and the vampiric seeker must seek a new victim, serially zig-zagging through life after new stimuli, some novelty which 'works for them'.

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By this account, human modern secular social life is divided into vampires and victims, the powerful and the weak, the exploiters and the exploited.

For the vampires there is pride, mastery, power. This is the all-absorbing purpose of life, validated by primal gratification; complete, explicit, shameless, self-glorifying self-sufficiency in self-regard.

The ideal life is seen as one of dominating, utterly-draining and then discarding multiple serial victims; a compromize is to live off one or a few people who are partially-drained then allowed to recover until suitable for further vampirism.

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For the victims - the weak and exploited - there is the adoption of victim status (either by deliberate choice, or simply by habit); the finding of sequential temporary meanings and purposes in being-used.

Life becomes a process of serial submission, recovery and regeneration; with the implicit aim of offering one's vitality to the most prideful, masterful, and powerful vampire possible.

The ultimate goal is that of voluntary and vicarious self-sacrifice to the vampire - to be so utterly dedicated and drained as actually to die in submission.

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This dark and deadly, nihilistic, vision of life as a war between potential exploiters - with the only opt-out being suicide - is what underlies the contemporary cultural fascination with vampires: vampirism is modernity recognizing-itself in myth.