Paul opens this morbid episode by asking, “Why can I stomach a slow, reflective death but trauma unsettles me?” Suicide jumpers, car crashes and accidental deaths are too difficult for him to watch and yet he can travel in tandem with someone on a reflective descent into the abyss, such as Paul Kalanithi in When Breath Becomes Air. Why is that? In fact, Peter makes the case that a looming deadline (literally) is more torturous, giving the example of the 26th minute in Werner Herzog’s famous death row documentary. We also discuss why we can explore dark places in history or fiction but as soon as they are real and personal, they become unacceptable. We dare not look. There seems to be an incongruence between abstracted death and immediate death. Paul is stunned to learn that the most requested “final meal” of death row inmates is McDonald’s, because it conjures up warm and comforting memories of an innocent childhood during the most acute moments of adult distress. The inhumanity of subjecting people to such a cruel fate hangs in the studio air. Pete relates the story of a young stage actor who was uncharacteristically calm on the eve of a planned suicide. Perhaps he took solace in that last act of control, choreographing his own fate. Control is a hallmark of many addictions – to drugs, alcohol, food, gambling – and is often exerted when an individual feels his or her own life is most “out of control.” Controlling one’s fate via suicide is the apotheosis of this concept. In the second half of the episode, the men focus on the language of sexual conquest. Pussygate shocked many Americans because Trump’s language was vulgar, distasteful and aggressive. Paul asks why men use such language to frame their sexual exploits. His premise is that access to the female body is among the adult male’s most difficult and persistent challenges. In approaching this often insurmountable goal, men have developed a language of conquest, akin to language they might use facing Mount Everest. It is not usually politically correct. Women, on the other hand, often speak of male prospects with the language of capture: “bag the man”, “get the guy”, “he’s marriage material”, “a good catch.” As the language of conquest objectifies women, the language of capture likewise dehumanizes the man, reducing him to his status and wealth, his claim to resources. Curious about an idea from our discussion of the politics of language, Pete homes in on the theme of nuance. In a wide-ranging discussion we cover private versus public speech, how being politically correct is prejudice against the self, Fred Phelps (civil rights lawyer turned inflammatory bigot and cult leader), Harvard Law School’s Alan Dershowitz, “voir dire” (or jury selection) and why fundamentalists of all faiths are most likely to impose the death penalty. It’s a good one!
- Categories: Podcast