Selection of works
The Geography of Crisis
Synopsis / Video excerpt
Las Vegas' Mythology
Duration video: 6 min. 40 sec.
The history of raising fowl for fighting goes back 6,000 years. Cockfights are held in a ring, where the combatants specially bred and conditioned for increased stamina, strength and fighting instinct, fight ‘til death or badly injured. These creatures were objects of anthropomorphism, when soldiers needed to be motivated for battle. During the height of the Greek civilization, Themistocles – a general who was preparing to drive away the invading Persians – decided to hold a cockfight the night before the battle to inspire his men by showing the courageous nature of the fighting cock. Later cockfights became very popular in Europe among all classes. King Henry VIII of England even build his own cockpit at his Whitehall Palace at Westminster. The game became a national sport to a point where exclusive schools were required to teach students the science of cockfighting, such as breeding, walking and conditioning the gamecock. The intervention in the animal served a specific goal, and this demanded a deeper knowledge of the specie.
The sport was introduced in the United States were famous American presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln were fanatics of the game. Cockfights were even held in the committee rooms of the president. The fighting cock almost made it to the national emblem, but lost by one vote only to the American eagle. These days in most countries the sport is regulated by law, or forbidden outright.
The physical trauma the cocks inflict on each other is sometimes increased by attaching metal spurs to the cocks' natural spurs. Even though the animal might be injured badly during a match, after a full physical recovery it will fight its opponent without hesitation.
A fighting rooster is not the same as a fighting human being. Although soldiers like the fighting cock are boosted in their physical fitness. Increasing courage is not just a matter of the right genes combined with training. Humans consciousness has developed knowledge of death and this feature needs to be neutralized to be able to overcome the psyche. Discipline and automation is an important aspect of the military training. Through automation, choices are made in the non-conscious self, and these choices are set in motion in almost deterministic grooves in the soldiers brain. Through endless repetition of combat situations during exercise, the soldier can function even under extreme stress. But discipline and automation is not sufficient, many soldiers suffer from post-traumatic-stress-syndrome.
Chemical intervention and therapy is needed for treatment or mental defence. Since early human history soldiers have been using chemical stimuli to deal with anxiety, pre- and post- war trauma.
Professor Friedman recently described the American military as operating a "psychoactive drug canteen". "What I discovered was that the military is using antipsychotic drugs in our soldiers at rates that far exceed comparable rates in the civilian population.”
With these fast developments of PTSD preventing, reducing or eliminating medication it will get to a point where we are faced with profound ethical questions. Thomas Metzinger argues: “Phenotechnology has both an ethical and a political dimension. Ultimately we will have to decide which states of consciousness should be illegal in a free society. Is it acceptable if soldiers, perhaps on ethically dubious missions, fight and kill under the influence of psychostimulants and anti -depressants to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder?”
For the fighting cock, the anger towards the other is internalized without having the abilty of considering this habit towards self-destruction. If a human is able to temporarily delete the fear of his own death, and the empathy towards the life of others, it is able to survive war without being psychologically damaged for life. And you might even say it could return to battle without hesitation.
Project in collaboration with Ivan Martinez
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