“On America’s Negative Anthropology and Visual Culture of Delight and Pleasure”
The American (Christian) mind does not need to be fed with graphic images or degrading photos of the people’s mutilated bodies from the developing world or from America’s poor and vulnerable populations in order to stimulate human sympathy and compassion toward charity, monetary giving, or liberative activism.
Graphic images have the potential to have consequential psychological effects on the psyche and thought process of the sympathizer and the giver. Those psychic harms or traumatic experiences could be both temporal and permanent, but their scars are never erased from the human mind and soul. Degrading photos of vulnerable individuals may also send negative signals about the sanctity of human life and the devaluation of human dignity.
Interestingly, in the American society, we have invented a culture of “fake compassion” and a nation of “hard empathy” that could paradoxically result in financial value and project a promising market growth. Comparatively, we have also created a visual culture in this country that is more interested in the objectification of the human body, and this American delight is associated with bodily pain and physical terror.
Large American corporations, emerging and promising industries, and NGOS, including Christian mission agencies appreciate these forms of human (ephemeral) sensibilities and feelings. They create fast productions and jobs where workers will be exploited, a value system and a network asset built on a false promise of the American dream and a triumphant christian narrative and American anthropology.
I believe we need to (re-) create a positive visual culture that could apologetically uphold human dignity and sustain human worth, and one that could promote all lives–whether well or ill, clothed or naked, fed or unfed– and positively nurture the American eye regardless of the state and condition of the human body.