Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rammstein: does innocence invite its own murder, part 1

These posts will cover some of the material on Rosenrot, which my previous posts did not. In order to talk about this topic, I will need to address a few points here so that some common ground and definitions get established*.

Power, evil, responsibility, and innocence are difficult terms to address, especially that of evil. Instead of trying to define evil, I will discuss specifically the idea of complicity with evil and not attempt to define the nature of evil itself. Better people than I have been working on it for millennia, and they haven’t come up with a definition we all can accept.

Having offered those caveats, here are my definitions.

Power is the ability to cause or prevent change. Note that power is not a dirty word, at least not for the purposes of this series of essays.

Complicity with evil is simply the realism, or the accuracy, of your perception of evil. In other words, you understand and accept your own potential for committing acts of evil. If you have a sense of your own complicity with evil, then you accept your participation in larger social and cultural processes, many of which are beyond your direct control yet which are a part of you in some way. This acceptance helps you to feel empathy with your enemies and to gain a sense of mercy toward all.

Responsibility comes from complicity with evil, i.e., it is the sense of yourself as being complicit with evil and a participant in modes of power. It means not blaming culture or circumstance for the totality of what you are.

Innocence comes in two flavors. When it’s authentic, innocence is the sense of awe and wonder that accompanies childlike perceptions (think of artists who see the world anew). When it is inauthentic, however, it becomes a deliberate blinding of oneself to one’s complicity with evil. Inauthentic innocence is an innocence that can’t come to terms with the destructiveness in itself or in others—an innocence that cannot accept violence and its purifying effects.

So, does innocence invite its own murder? I think there are some interesting variations on this idea to be found in Rammstein’s music. As before, I am concentrating solely on the lyrics.

Finally, a favorite quote... “I dare not let my devils go, lest my angels go with them.” –William Blake**

*If you’re interested in these ideas, I recommend Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence, written by Rollo May. Post a comment for more information, or check Amazon in its various national permutations.

**A trusted college professor said this was a Blake quote, but damned if either Google or I can find it. If someone knows the proper attribution, please leave a comment.

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