and i think that's where i'll start, my own thoughts on what Mimetic Theory and Fight Club assume about the nature of humanity and what not.
Mimetic theory's main assumption is that human beings are not inherently violent, that somewhere along the way violence was introduced and then others learned from there on and the cycle is continually renewed. When we turn to human history, with a citation found from this article by Alfie Kohn stating that some of the points made by critics of biological determinism are:
- Even if a given behavior is universal, we cannot automatically conclude that it is part of our biological nature. All known cultures may produce pottery, but that does not mean that there is a gene for pottery-making.
- Agression is no where near universal. Many hunter-gatherer societies in particular are entirely peaceful. And the cultures that are "closer to nature" would be expected to be the most warlike if the proclivity for war were really part of that nature. Just the reverse seems to be true.
- While it is indisputable that wars have been fought, the fact that they seem to dominate our history may say more about how history is presented than about what actually happened.
- Many people have claimed that human nature is aggressive after having lumped together a wide range of emotions and behavior under the label of aggression. While cannibalism, for example, is sometimes perceived as aggression, it might represent a religious ritual rather than an expression of hostility.
But then there's another side of science that takes the opposite track. I think this is the side that Fight Club assumes, that humans are inherently violent and aggressive. This is the belief, popularized by Sigmund Freud and animal researcher Konrad Lorenz, that we have within us, naturally and spontaneously, a reservoir of aggressive energy. This force, which builds by itself, must be periodically drained off - by participating in competitive sports, for instance - or we'll explode in some awful violent action. in some ways, Mimetic Theory assumes this as well with the scapegoat mechanism.
Richard Dawkins (yes, THAT Dawkins) argued in the Selfish Gene that "The general principle that behavior evolves to serve selfish ends has been widely accepted; and the idea that humans might have been favored by natural selection to hate and to kill their enemies has become entirely, if tragically, reasonable."
How about we mix the two? Let's mix that the idea that aggression is a natural tendency that must be drained periodically (Fight Club) and violence being a learned behavior (Mimetic Theory), then we see a larger, fuller picture emerge. Innate tendencies such as competition and pride mixed with the way in which a society functions can bring about the need for violent action due to the circumstances of a situation. After all, we are creatures of circumstance. We adapt and react to the world around us, and because of this there are times when we must engage in violent activity. However, we can use culture as a means to create a situation where competitive means for survival are unneeded, but until there is a united effort to reform the way we interact with the world, violence is just an unfortunate consequence. so therefore a united effort is needed to reform the way we interact! That is what Fight Club does.
Going back to Tyler's vision that Fight Club is after:
"In the world I see - you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway."
i think in the Fight Club model, empathy is the result. shared experiences of the fighters bind them together in a true community. like the priest hugging his opponent after a fight. or how every member mourns their martyr "Robert Paulson."
of course, to say that Fight Club is the answer and a means to end the cycle of violence or perpetuate it infinately is pure spectulation. the movie doesn't give us what happens after the buildings blow up. it does give us plenty of evidence to speculate ON, but never enough to go one way or another.
i stand on the side that Fight Club presents a "system shock" model that is counter-cultural and that leads to true community and a new means of ordering society. much like the system shock model we find in the gospels that lead to a new community that the rammifications are still being played out 2,000 years past.
how do you see it? can peace be reached through violence? or is it like Gandhi stated "There is no way to peace, peace is the way"? is humanity inherently violence and will we ever get over it? by what means can we escape violence?