Paradise Frost Chapter Six: House of Sentimentality

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty…the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mark of cruelty.”

— James Baldwin

North Pole Hell is divided into seven regions, each representing one of the seven deadly sins: Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Greed, Lust, Envy, and deadliest of all, Vanity, which is where Santa and his wife Delilah reside. Within each region are individual houses that represent particular manifestations of a deadly sin.  For instance, in the region of Lust, there’s the House of Masturbation, and in the Region of Sloth, there’s the House of Virtue Signaling. Each Elf is assigned to a house based on his or her most egregious mortal sin.

Absalom and Volpe live in the Region of Wrath, at the House of Fury. Absalom shows Volpe around, first taking him to the Region of Gluttony.

“I didn’t realize sentimentality is a sin,”  said Volpe as he entered the House of Sentimentality.

“I didn’t either until someone explained it to me,” said Absalom as he followed Volpe inside. “Sentimentality is emotional gluttony.  That sappy weepy shit has started and justified many wars.”

“How so?”

“Sentimental people are suckers for propaganda and they make a big deal out of stupid shit.  They think with their emotions instead of their heads. Check this out.” Absalom leads Volpe to a room where everyone is reading and crying. They approach a woman.  Absalom asks her what she’s reading.

“The Joy Luck Club,” she said as she sobbed.

“Why are you crying?”

She spoke as she sobbed, “this story makes me so sad. How can people be so, so cruel? It breaks my heart…my heart and soul…just pour out for these…poor Chinese women…I want to adopt all the precious Chinese girls to save them from this, this barbaric…” She couldn’t finish her sentence because her sobbing turned into wailing.

“Notice how she’s mostly talking about herself and bringing attention to her own feelings?”  Absalom asked Volpe as he watched the wailing woman.

“She’s an attention whore. She’s in love with showing off her feelings.”

“Look over there,” said Absalom as he pointed at a sobbing man reading a book.  “That’s Hitler.”

“Holy shit, it is! The sin that sent Hitler to Hell is sentimentality, not murder?

“He actually wasn’t often sentimental, but he used sentimentality to gain power and to convince people to do what he wanted them to do.”

Absalom and Volpe walk over to Hitler.  Absalom asks Hitler for the book he’s reading and Hitler obliges.

“It’s Mein Kampf,” Absalom tells Volpe as he searches for a passage.  “Heard of it?”

“It’s the book Hitler wrote about his life and ideas.”

“Read this passage.”

I know that fewer people are won over by the written word than by the spoken word and that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great speakers and not to great writers.

Absalom takes the book and searches for another passage.  “Read this one.”

It is more difficult to undermine faith than knowledge, love succumbs to change less than to respect, hatred is more durable than aversion, and at all times the driving force of the most important changes in this world has been found less in a scientific knowledge animating the masses, but rather in a fanaticism dominating them and in a hysteria which drove them forward.

Volpe hands the book back to Absalom, who hands it to Hitler.

“He’s a propagandist,” said Volpe.  “His sin was that he appealed to and exploited people’s emotions.”

Absalom nods in agreement and points to another man.  “That guy is Edward Bernays. Heard of him?”

“No, who is he?”

“Father of modern advertising and propaganda. He says that sentimental people are motivated by their feelings instead of reason. And by feelings, he didn’t mean those triggered externally, like the fear you’d feel if you were surrounded by wild lions, it’s an instinctive emotion. He’s talking about feelings that are created internally, in your own head as a way to make life more interesting.”

“I don’t get it, how are feelings created internally? Volpe asked as he watched a woman striking dramatic poses as photos of her are taken.

“Think about what emotions most Black Americans feel when they see a Confederate flag.”

“Anger, maybe fear?”

“And what would a Southern redneck feel when they see the flag?”

“Pride.”

“What would a Chinese person feel?”

“Nothing at all.”

“Exactly.  It’s just a flag.  If it elicits emotion, it’s because that emotional response is imagined. That’s a fake emotion because it’s unnecessary to feel one way or another. You have to be trained to feel one way or another about an object that can’t hurt you.”

The conversation is interrupted by a man reciting his poetry in a loud, dramatic, and raspy voice.

Consciousness is pure nakedness, intimacy. It has no body, but takes shape as all bodies.
Yours, mine.

Consciousness is pure knowing. It has no religion, no nationality, but manifests as all religions, nationalities. We are all brothers and sisters, the same God looking out through every pair of eyes.

Consciousness is pure love. It is lover and beloved, the seeking of love, the finding and losing of it. Requited, unrequited, conditional, unconditionally present.

Consciousness is pure courage. It is you, living your life, facing what you have to face, moving forwards, walking on, air in your lungs.

“Let’s go somewhere quieter,” said Absalom as he and Volpe begin moving toward a painter painting portraits of aggrieved people.  “That poet, by the way, is in Hell for writing bad poetry.”

“You can go to Hell for writing bad poetry?”

“Bad taste is a sign of serious moral failing. Anyway, imagine what it takes to get people to feel this or that way about a flag. For people to feel revulsion or horror at the sight of a confederate flag, they have to associate that flag with impending danger, like a lynching. And that’s what Hitler and Edward Barnays did, they understood that if you can control how people feel about a concept — a person, a flag, a place — then you can control them. And if you can control people’s feelings, then you’ve got their minds too.

Someone like Hitler knew how people felt and matched what he was selling — Nazi Party –  to those feelings. People will think that this manipulated concept of reality in their minds is in fact reality itself, just like some people are convinced that a lynching is going to happen every time they see a confederate flag. You see this kind of manipulation at work most often in advertising, media, politics, and the cult of personality. And this kind of manipulation is possible only when people allow themselves to become sentimentalists.”

 

Paradise Frost, Chapter 4

 

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