The inception of this blog or better, its title and effort, grew from my strong sense that we are biological first and foremost, so to understand humanity we need to follow our biological roots. I focus mostly on empathy and art because those are 2 keys to understanding our minds and so our humanity, but I also keep an eye out for ideas to help me understand the negative side of the phenomena such as political hatreds, gaining power and material advantage at the expense of others, and the murder of those who hold to a gentler approach. So I come today to visit Santa Muerte.
Simon Baron-Cohen in his book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, focuses more on the the lack of empathy in individuals and how this contributes to autism spectrum disorder (not evil) and psychopathy (evil) from a medical perspective. He touches here and there on more cultural institutions of evil, like the Nazis and the Holocaust. Here is something important because many ‘normal’ people with the usual empathic capacity act out psychopathically, i.e., focused on gaining wealth and power without regard for their destructive effect on others.
Last night I watched Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on Mexico. Framing his encounters with this remarkable cuisine (check out the mole) he interviews some Mexican writers and a photojournalist about the rise of drug cartels, the corruption of the government, and the 80,000 deaths from the effort tp protect their turf and money. From what I can gather, Santa Muerte is a female grim reaper initially idolized (old meaning) by the destitute and powerless at the bottom of society but whose image has been usurped by the drug cartels as a symbol of what?, ruthless power rising from the impulse to rule and to profit from vice. Bourdain talked with those intimately involved in documenting this rather total failure of empathy in institutions and individuals and in advocating for a gentler world where life is respected and honored.
The show ends with Bourdain interviewing Javier Sicilia, a noted Mexican writer of essays, novels and poetry. His son was killed by drug traffickers a few years ago. He wrote a poem about this and then became more actively involved in the political process of change.
He also said, “I have no more poetry in me,” and so relinquished this way of writing. Art is many things, human, revolutionary, a buoy in time and space marking the brilliance of life’s greatest wave breaking against the void, but it is not inexhaustible. I hope that we who still live and participate in Gaia carry on his quest for a better world, maybe even with a surge of renewed artistic purpose.
Here is his last poem:
The world is not worthy of words
they have been suffocated from the inside
as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs …
the pain does not leave me
all that remains is a world
through the silence of the righteous,
only through your silence and my silence, Juanelo.