Does there exist an eternal cycle of cruelty? One that is inescapable? The cruel act that is indifference to suffering; the psychopath devoid of empathy; the brutal wars and the poverty and injustice that flow throughout human history… where are the sources of so much human suffering?
Can we see our human history as a sado-masochistic cycle: the masochist begging to be disciplined will use delinquency to provoke the punishment; the sadist longs to see suffering… But if human societies and the System are caught up in the maelstroms created by such whirlpools – can these be truly human impulses that are pushing us? Aren’t we actually looking at an anti-human history?
Cruelty is not a uniquely human experience of course, other species of animals can be seen being cruel to one another – although they lack the intellect for being cruel in the way that humans can be cruel. Nevertheless, let us not forget that our civilising process has a desire (or should have) to combat the sado-masochistic impulses. Only through rationality can the sado-masochistic desires be tamed and reduced to the absurd. Catharsis must be obtained in another way other than through revenge. Civilisation only exists where torture and the death penalty are abhorred as barbaric practices. Within the bubble of civilisation, catharsis can be obtained through the channels of art and erotica. The Sapiens reduces all barbarisms to games, but needs to establish a clear separation between reality and the world of the game. Civilisation must be a process of moving away from all cruelty, and a rendering of cruelty to the game in an abstract sense.
Rome tried to do this, yet their gladiator sports seem barbaric to us because they were not abstract enough. Romans had slaves and lacked a well-defined concept of humanity. There were no human rights only the rights of Roman citizens. In this sense Rome was a pre-civilisation, just as our national states and their sovereignties are pre-civilisations. Rome’s greatest cruelty was banishment from Rome or a refusal to accept someone as a Roman citizen. Pre-civilisations love the cruelty of exclusion, and lust after an anti-barbarian identity which needs the cruelty of exclusion to maintain itself.