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Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playful Way’


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Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playful Way’


The repressions of modern life have lost for us the “primary pleasures of which the censorship disapproves”. Art and wit liberates repressed instinct; both rid us of our inhibitions and open the unconscious for inspection and pleasure. Art and wit are avenues for play.


Art and wit battle against repressive reason and the reality-principle in an effort to regain lost liberties. A special pleasure in wit is derived from an “economy in the expenditure of inhibitions or suppressions”.


Modern life causes us to constantly expend psychic energy in order to repress fundamental desires; in overcoming these repressions and activating the playful primary process both art and wit allow us to divert that energy toward other ends.


Group psychology inclines us to develop subversive groups which become authoritarian ideologies whereas art and wit incline us to form subversive groups which can communicate to third parties and therefore not become authoritarian but inclusive and democratic. “In contrast with the repressive structure of the authoritarian group, the aim of the partnership between artist and an audience is instinctual liberation.”


One result of our successful technology is human longevity. We continue to extend life and often prolong a period of slow and expensive dying. I am 76 and therefore consider myself to be allowed to speak about such things as cessation of this madness of an ever expanding old age. It is time to seriously discuss the fact that we cannot continue with the foolish process that results in an ever expanding population that includes an ever expanding percentage of old folks dying slower and slower.


Quotes from Life against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History by Norman O. Brown

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