Saturday, March 17, 2012


Pain is entertaining. Other people's pain, I mean. From the gladiators of ancient Rome who maimed or killed each other to amuse the spectators gathered in one of many arenas around the empire, to the modern day exponents of mixed martial arts who do battle inside cages while the UFC fans roar their approval, people have always enjoyed watching other people get injured.

It's the skill, the athleticism, the strength that we admire and love to watch, isn't it? Only partially. The truth is we like seeing other people get hurt. How else can the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship be explained? Beginning quite recently in 1993, the UFC is the fastest growing sporting organization in the world, being broadcast to half a billion homes in 149 countries. 31 specific acts are considered foul play in UFC bouts,including headbutting and eye gouging, and the combatants don't use weapons,so it's relatively civilized conflict. Clearly not as barbaric as what the ancient gladiators engaged in, but it's still a bloodsport, isn't it? Two modern warriors trying to hurt each other to win money, and please the crowd.

We like other people's pain. How else can the popularity of arguably the worst show in the history of the television be explained? Funniest Home Videos serves up footage of people falling,crashing into things, being knocked over and suffering various mishaps which undoubtedly cause them some degree of pain and injury, and we laugh at them: have been laughing at them for decades. What's so funny about other people getting hurt? It's amusing because it's not us. It's not our suffering. We may feel empathy, or shock or disgust but we don't get hurt. We aren't the ones suffering so we laugh and cheer. It's sick, isn't it?

Maybe our obsession with the suffering of others is merely another one of our coping mechanisms. Another escape from our lives of misery and drudgery. Another anesthetic for our emotional and spiritual wounds which bleed continuously. Maybe we are all defined by suffering, both our own and that of other people. Maybe we are all broken, and as twisted as it may sound, we need pain, we may even want it. Maybe we are addicted to pain.

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