Friday, June 12, 2009

Aarseth Watching Video pt. 2 - The Apathy of Euronymous

From this interview with Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth from June 1992:

"Is the life you are living OK for you? If you could change something what would it be?

Yeah, it’s quite OK. I’d just like to have extremely much money. Then DSP would be a big company, we would all have the POWER in this part of the music business, and I would live in luxury with a harem and watch the children in Africa starve to death on video.


If you could change something in the world, what would it be then?

I would get all things back to what they were during the cold war, then I would mix it with the barbarianism of the Viking ages and middle ages. I would make people more religious and fanatic. And I would have taken over the Black/Death metal movement from the beginning and seen to it that only evil bands could have existed. And I would have lots of money while others were starving. I would NOT do anything with starving children in Africa, if you’re thinking about that. They can die."

The formation of Mayhem in 1984 coincided with the terrible famine which occurred in Ethiopia in 1984-1985. It seems likely that Aarseth's pitiless remarks were inspired by this humanitarian disaster. In Ethiopia, drought, agricultural mismanagement, corruption and violent tyranny had conspired to cause a drastic fall in the production of food and cash crops. Close to 8 million people became famine victims during the drought of 1984, and over 1 million died.

Ethiopia had been a Marxist-Leninist state since the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in September 1974. During the famine, it was ruled by the military government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. This regime had killed an estimated 500.000 people in the so-called Red Terror. Mengistu was one of the Communist dictators along the lines of Pol Pot, Nicolai Ceaucescu and Enver Hoxha: implacable despots of the kind for whom Aarseth expressed so much admiration (read more in these posts 1, 2, 3 and in this post).

The famine generated intense media activity in the West. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure founded the supergroup Band Aid to produce the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" charity single, and went on to organize the July 1985 concert Live Aid, which raised $100m for humanitarian aid.



Aarseth's remarks are heartless. Seen from an analytical point of view, they stand in marked contrast to his reception of snuff films, as examined in this post. In the interview which formed the basis for that post, Aarseth described how, consuming 'snuff films', he identified with the victims, vicariously experiencing their suffering: "
That is the best way to watch such a movie to try to FEEL the actual pain of the victims. It becomes much more gruesome then, and that's great. One must be alone in the darkness and suffer with the victims." In the interview quoted above, however, we find no trace of identification with the famine victims. On the contrary, Aarseth seems to create the greatest distance possible between himself and the hungry children.

In the interview quoted above, Aarseth proposes to watch videos of starving African children not in solitude but in the company of the sensual young women that inhabit harems, naked odalisques whose sole purpose is pleasing the autocrat to whom they have given themselves (for a moment, I imagined an aging Aarseth as a corpse-painted Black Metal Berlusconi). One can be sure that the consumption of these videos would be accompanied by laughter, talking and so on - which in the other interview was deemed undesirable because it would distance the viewer from the gruesomeness of the snuff film. Likewise, the luxury in which Aarseth desires to live would distance him from the poverty-stricken, powerless Ethiopians.

There is no trace left of the sympathetic identification with the victims which was so prominent in the previous interview. Like a Sadean debauchee, Aarseth strives only to enjoy the privileges of inequality, transforming the heartrending sight of starving children into a purely egotistical pleasure. The lack of compassion and solidarity is complete.

Aarseth's thinking seems to parallel that of the Marquis de Sade, as analyzed by Maurice Blanchot. Blanchot saw Sade as an emotionally apathetic man:

"Apathy is the spirit of negation as applied to a man who has chosen to be sovereign. It is in some way the cause or the principle of energy. Sade appears to argue more or less as follows: the individual today represents a certain amount of force: most of the time he disperses his strength for the benefit of those ghosts called other people, God or the ideal; by this expenditure he wrongly exhausts and wastes his potentialities, but what is worse, he is basing his conduct on weakness, for if he expends himself for others it is because he believes he needs their support. This is a fatal lapse. He weakens himself by vain expenditure of energy and he expends his energy because he believes he is weak. The strong man knows that he is alone and accepts that condition; he repudiates the whole inheritance of seventeen centuries of cowardice that would make him turn to others. Pity, gratitude and love are all feelings he destroys, and in destroying them he recuperates all the force he would have spent on those debilitating impulses and, more important, he derives the beginning of a real energy from his work of destruction."

Does it go too far to call Mayhem an anti-Band Aid?


αἱρεσιάρχης said...

"Does it go too far to call Mayhem an anti-Band Aid?"

No. And I would mention the following, if you are not already familiar with it, as a possible extension of this point.

By the way, the Berlusconi remark was priceless. Viewing the photos of Berlusconi and Topolanek after reading your post now reminds me of the Profanatica photos used for "As Tears of Blood Stain the Altar of Christ".

smallawei said...