This week’s selected media: December 24, 2023: Dopamine Nation and Zone of Interest

December 24, 2023 by Joshua
in Blog

This week I finished:

Dopamine Nation, by Anna Lembke, MD: I’ve read a lot of books on addiction and like this one. It describes how widespread addiction has become. Chemicals, cell phones, behaviors like gambling, social media, and pornography for women (called erotica, as if more classy) and men.

I listened to the book and translated a lot of what she said about other addictions to flying, air conditioning, and other activities that pollute. The connection is near perfect, which illuminates a lot about how addicted we are to those activities. Also how hard it is for those addicted to see and accept it, let alone stop.

I recommend it, especially if you live unsustainably and want to stop, or even just see that you can.

Zone of Interest, directed by Jonathan Glazer: Thought-provoking and haunting. The movie shows Rudolph Höss and his family living mostly ordinary lives. He’s the commandant of Auschwitz while the camp is killing hundreds of thousands of Jews shipped in by the tens of thousands per day from Eastern Europe.

Coincidentally, this week news emerged about Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Top-Secret Hawaii Compound. It would be a mistake to equate living unsustainably with Nazism, so I won’t, but it would also be a mistake to miss that the death toll from unsustainability is vastly greater and that not all Germans were Nazis. Many were citizens who just lived their lives looking the other way while their taxes funded the Holocaust. Likewise many of us today aren’t intending our polluting and depleting to kill this vastly larger number of innocent victims.

I read a bunch of reviews of the movie after watching it. I don’t see how people can miss seeing that it describes us today, only that the wall between their home and the concentration camp is thousands of miles, that the mechanism causing the suffering is different, and the emotion driving it is only indifference, not hate. I am absolutely not saying we’re Nazis. We’re the Germans whose taxes and labor fund the death toll.

Variety‘s review wrote: “It’s all right there, but it’s happening … over there. Across the wall. Out of sight, out of mind. Watching The Zone of Interest, you feel the full meaning of the term ‘concentration’ camp. All the murder and death has been squeezed away from the world, hidden and compressed.”

Today instead of the murder and death being compressed just over the wall, it’s spread out all over the world.

It continued: “Rudolf Höss is not in denial—he’s a monster who behaves like an ordinary citizen. The scene where he hears and approves an engineer’s plans for a newly efficient crematorium is beyond sickening.” We approve and implement plans that extract, deplete, burn, and pollute with casual insouciance. Future generations won’t agree with our rationalizations and justifications that since our hands didn’t cause someone’s killing that our paying to fund the system that caused innocent people to die we aren’t responsible.

“At a board meeting of Nazi officers, we hear about the plan to step up the Final Solution with the transport of 700,000 Jews out of Hungary. The film’s presentation of this is so matter-of-fact that it scalds us.” What scalds us is that the people in the meeting and the meeting itself looks like a corporate board meeting today. Most people will see their looking ordinary as signs of the banality of their evil. They miss that our boardroom meetings decide just as cruel fates. Today’s intent may not seem as aggressive, but the effects are more deadly. The mechanisms of cruelty are different but the amount of it and ultimate cause (as you’ll see in my next book when it comes out) are the same.

The Atlantic wrote: “As insidious as the Hösses’ acceptance of what’s going on beyond their garden wall may be, they’re not so extraordinary in their ignorance. All of us are capable of tuning out reality.” We are. We’re not ignorant. We’re just acting like we are, or are willfully ignorant, not finding out what we can on purposed to avoid finding out.

The New Yorker wrote: “What is demonstrated by The Zone of Interest—which Glazer adapted, very obliquely, from a novel by the late Martin Amis—is that, given the right conditions, people can discover in themselves a pathological talent for ignoring the torments of others.” . . . are they describing our times today on purpose?

“Who will merit the lower circle of Hell: Höss, discussing the most efficient method for meeting his murderous quota, or Hedwig, serving coffee to friends?”

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1 response to “This week’s selected media: December 24, 2023: Dopamine Nation and Zone of Interest

  1. Pingback: This week’s selected media: December 31, 2023: Drug Dealer, MD » Joshua Spodek

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