Denying the Demonic, by Edward Curtin

Many people reflexively give governments and the people who make them up the benefit of the doubt. More than anybody else, they should be judged by their deeds, not their words. From Edward Curtin at off-guardian.org:

In March of last year as the coronavirus panic was starting, I wrote a somewhat flippant article saying that the obsession with buying and hoarding toilet paper was the people’s vaccine.

My point was simple: excrement and death have long been associated in cultural history and in the Western imagination with the evil devil, Satan, the Lord of the underworld, the Trickster, the Grand Master who rules the pit of smelly death, the place below where bodies go.

The psychoanalytic literature is full of examples of death anxiety revealed in anal dreams of shit-filled overflowing toilets and people pissing in their pants.  Ernest Becker put it simply in The Denial of Death:

No mistake – the turd is mankind’s real threat because it reminds people of death.

The theological literature is also full of warnings about the devil’s wiles.  So too the Western classics from Aeschylus to Melville. The demonic has an ancient pedigree and has various names. Rational people tend to dismiss all this as superstitious nonsense.  This is hubris.  The Furies always exact their revenge when their existence is denied.  For they are part of ourselves, not alien beings, as the tragedy of human history has shown us time and again.

Since excremental visions and the fear of death haunt humans – the skull at the banquet as William James put it – the perfect symbol of protection is toilet paper that will keep you safe and clean and free of any reminder of the fear of death running through a panicked world.  It’s a magic trick of course, an unconscious way of thinking you are protecting yourself; a form of self-hypnosis.

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