Saturday, 11 December 2010

Totalitarianism in the 20th Century

What is totalitarianism? The question of defining the word is best answered with another question: what is totalitarianism in relation to the forms of dictatorship synonymously associated with it?

Dictatorships are characterised by the omnipotent leadership of one man – as far as history dictates there have been no female dictators – with this man's authority being absolute and insurmountable on his account. Under this rule there is an unlimited use of arbitrary and immodest force to consolidate the dictator's stranglehold on a country.

There is not so much a difference between the concepts of a dictatorship and a totalitarian state as there is a process of development from one to the next. While it is not wrong to call Hitler or Stalin dictators, it is, however, inaccurate to solely denote their respective national experiments as dictatorships. In the long-term, both the aims of the Nazi party in Germany and the Bolshevik party in Russia were to expand the absolute control they had cultivated in their original countries of conquest to convey and replicate them in foreign countries. Essentially, the key difference between a dictatorship and a totalitarian state is the impact it intends to have on the external sphere of international activity outside of its immediate control. To be totalitarian in action is to represent an agenda that transcends the geographical constraints of a single, autonomous nation. The conclusion to this agenda is presumably the collective autonomy of the globe as a framework of externalised dictatorial control.

Hitler and Stalin rose to dominance in countries still withering in the shadows of their past defeats and failures. Faced with reparations designated in the Versailles Treaty, Germany was reduced from an ominous shaker and mover on the world stage to a sickly state burdened by mass unemployment and crippling inflation. Russia, backward and beleaguered after the Romanov dynasty's oppressive autocracy, was undergoing significant social rehabilitation through the communist revolution. Both nations, in terms of vulnerability, were brimming with potential sympathisers for radical new movements that offered salvation from despair. In terms of productivity, much emphasis on economic recovery was required, and neither was ready for harvesting without labour-intensive policy.

The dictators, Hitler and Stalin, were demanding when they arrived, but in the countries they were to annex they observed populations that, despite presenting potential, were suffering from major loss of morale and absence of camaraderie. As Hannah Arendt states, it was not the classes who shared separately in their suffering, but individuals who shared in feelings of disillusionment and had grown to recognise their existence as futile. These people were in a position to be made selfless by a cause that could bring about mass creation and recovery.

Arendt assiduously remarks that mob organisations before the twentieth century had failed to involve their members "to the point of complete loss of individual claims and ambition", and never "realised that an organisation could succeed in extinguishing individual identity permanently and not just for the moment of collective heroic action".

This notion of a classless society stemmed from the dissolution of traditional class structure in the aftermath of economic breakdown and material deprivation, which conceded to the subsequent homogenised mass of individuals a unifying platform for improvement in the form of a dictatorship in both countries.

Arendt says: "the masses, contrary to prediction, did not result from growing equality of condition, from the spread of general education and its inevitable lowering of standards and popularisation of content." In the absence of class organisation, the mass, dreaded by the intellectuals, was born into uniform self-deprecation.

With the propriety of class representation and its electoral obligations out of the way, the totalitarian movements could get underway. What occurred next was a reaction to the question of how to indoctrinate the masses at hand. The cult of the individual was carefully crafted in both case scenarios, whilst unflappable loyalty to the umbrella party and its system was imposed upon the populations of both countries with no other option provided. The purpose of emphasising Hitler and Stalin at the heads of the Nazi and Bolshevik parties alike was to provide the state government with a face that those under its umbrella would associate with pleasing, as well as disappointing. Without the personification of the party, any repercussions from not obeying the party line in the form of violence would most likely be met with adverse confusion and resentment, like when a child is punished by someone who is not its parent.

Arendt says: "totalitarian movements are mass organisations of atomised, isolated individuals". The individuals in question were ordered to act on the will of their leader and achieve for the glory of the party and state. Psychological warfare, which featured monstrously in both cases, was employed to varying lengths under the two dictators. In Nazi Germany the presence of propaganda was pervasive and exercised to a degree of justification that rendered all aspects of a German's life responsible for encouraging and preserving party doctrine. Under Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, everything from posters to military rallies became symbols for the new totalitarian movement. In Soviet Russia there was less indoctrination and more intimidation. While notions of privilege and safety were stamped out as Stalin ordered the liquidation of suspected traitors through mass purges on costly whims on all levels of society, further intimidation came in the paranoid prospect of denunciation. Friends and family members of alleged traitors to the party became denouncers in the hopes that they would be spared, making Soviet society a realm of self-preservation and strict deference to Stalin's organisation. Ultimately, both societies became possessions of the dictators, a pool of pawn resources.

Perhaps more interesting than the conversion of two class systems into a culturally quantifiable masses was the submission of those populations to the rigorous and unchecked violence that were the two party's primary devices for control. In the tradition of Nietzsche, Nazis were convinced that "evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction", with their sympathisers justifying their inaction towards this immorality by supporting "deeds of violence with the admiring remark: it may be mean but it is very clever". If we substitute the word impressive for clever, the notion of evil-doing as an arresting and audacious enterprise gains in credibility as, like Nietzsche posited, to act as one truly desires is healthier and cleverer than acting in conjunction with external forces that insist on obedience. In any case, totalitarian movements do not allow for individual idealism. Instead they monopolise on conformism and guarantee obedience through indoctrination, as well as direct (murder) and indirect (threat) intimidation. Arendt dubs this violent persuasion 'power propaganda', which corresponds with the public admiration of evil-doing.

The most significant evil-doing presented by the Nazis was the infamous attempted extermination of the Jews. Of greater interest to the study of totalitarianism as a concept is not the specifics of how the Nazis intended to wipe out the Jewish population, but why it saw the eradication of other races as eternally imperative. As told by Hitler, those who failed to adhere to the regime were "living against the eternal laws of nature and life". By nature and life, he meant the objectives of the party. Party policy on race dealt in the currency of inflexible scientific value. Arendt floats the notion that "science has become an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man" – this idol would not bless the Nazi cause itself, though. It was the priority of the party to use science to elevate the ideal, superior race to the apex of authority.

A delusional cross-pollination of Nietzsche's ubermensch and Darwin's natural selection theories transfigured traditional ethnic cleansing and conceived a cycle of racial dominance that was never fully realised, beginning and ending with the Jews, who, as Arendt elucidates, had diminished in state influence in the European fold as a whole and had the misfortune of being the only non-national population on the continent. While "the House of Rothschild became the chief treasurer of the Holy Alliance" and Jews continued to mistrust the zeitgeist, they were nevertheless the first to be targeted by the discontented masses.

Two of the most crucial reasons for their preordained persecution are as follows: 1) the Jew was no longer considered to be a functioning cog in the European economic machine. Besides spending generations of effort accruing and saving money, Jews were not active in the private bourgeois sectors, which bred resentment because they were seen to be deadweight. 2) Similarly to the former, the Jew was also the most suitable for commencing the cleansing cycle because of its hereditary ties to the state. With a mutual partnership between state finance and Jewish banking credibility that enabled the Jew to live independent of society, it was only too easy for the majority to assume the Jew was responsible for the alleged organised destruction of national identities from behind the guise of businessmen of the state.

Although the Jew was the Nazi's genesis scapegoat and had been religiously persecuted by European and other societies for centuries, they should not be entitled the party's sole target for extermination, as the nature of totalitarianism implies a much broader menace. Rather, we should consider them as the first in a series of stepping stones across the turbulent river of the totalitarian movement, theirs blood-stained but not sunken.

It is what lies on the opposite bank of this river of historical societal abuses that the Nazis and, to a lesser degree, the Soviet elite endeavoured to attain. That is, global domination. The key contention between the Nazi and Soviet plans, at least in theory, was the fact that Nazism dictated racial superiority, whereas Stalinist Marxism espoused class superiority for the proletariat over race. The means by which they would both cross the river were the calling cards of a terror-happy totalitarian movement. Arendt coins the expression "butter through guns", referencing the sanctioned implementation of violence and warfare in securing a brighter future for the Aryans in a Nazi world. It is true that what both examples perpetrated required a degree of insanity – killing was not an issuance of insanity, but believing in the philosophy of the party (how it would ascend beyond morality to envelop the globe through mass murder) was. Arendt states: "the insane mass manufacture of corpses is preceded by the historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses". This alludes to the Jewish question, and supports the argument that the Nazis were, before slaughter, encouraging the dissolution of worth in races divisible to them, i.e. living corpses that would no longer be of use to the murder machine's momentum. She refers to the concentration camps as "medieval pictures of hell". As with the gulags in Russia, which albeit were much tougher to survive in due to the persistent cold and infertility of the soil, these gateways to suffering doubled up as open laboratories for satanic experimentation on the human body and mind.

Irrespective of the horrors revolving around the gas chambers, human ovens and [name of bodily residue that acted as fuel] that demonstrated the ruthless efficiency of the Nazi movement specifically, it was the initial dehumanisation of both victim and victor that embodied a much more intimate anguish. The Jew, Nazism's first sufferer in the cycle, was stripped of all pertinence to society and humanity, and reduced to a proverbial host of disgusting features and habits that party folklore engendered. The SS soldiers, guards and officers, Nazism's key instruments of torture, too, were dehumanised, though, this was because they were immersed in practices of evil that taught them to perceive the Jew how the party instructed, meaning they would ritually commit murder, rape and a whole host of other heinous acts without remorse, tending afterwards to their own family affairs with a love and respect for life that was grotesquely hypocritical and blind.

But Nazism and Stalinism were just that, hypocritical and blind. The conduct of crossing the river was, in itself, facilitated through impossible fantasy. Hitler and Stalin held out promises of stability in order to hide their intention of creating a state of permanent instability, which, in accordance with Trotsky's law of permanent revolutions, was the origin of both movements' biggest dilemma: how can you govern what you've got when your policy is fixed on the future? Totalitarianism as a movement has its direction determined by its goal, like most other courses of direction; however, because Hitler and Stalin were so equally entranced and exalted with visions of global grandeur, they neglected the immediate systematic chaos occurring under their noses. Hitler's patriarchal hierarchy obeyed only one protocol – the Fuhrer's will – here the art of the selfless individual contaminates the system, as each cog attempts to turn faster than the rest in the hopes that it will satisfy the unimpeachable will of its leader, thus proving the party to be nothing but just a front. In Stalin's system there was no hierarchy per se, merely a guise of government that fed on the fear of the nation. Stalin's ultimate failure was that he had secured no such obedience as Hitler did; instead, he oversaw the economic fatigue and frustration he had inflicted, mistaking naked fear for concrete obedience.

The leaders had no concern for their faults. They asserted their own infallibility as the reason they were in power, so to have admitted fault would've been suicide. Hitler's dictum explains how the Nazis justified the irresponsibility of national government: "the total state must not know any difference between law and ethics" – if your organisation's ethic inspires the state's law, then the law can never be broken. And because the Nazi and Stalinist ethics were the brainchildren of the party leaders, they as individuals were completely immune to criticism. The populations in Germany and Russia were quantified into giant liability insurances against any infrastructural or even governmental deficiencies. Their lives acted as collateral.

As a consequence of these systems of state irresponsibility and individual obedience, Hitler and Stalin could safely preach about the teleological progress their regimes were to generate. According to Arendt, there was "only the constant going ahead on the road toward ever-new fields". As with the law of permanent revolutions, totalitarianism cannot surrender its cyclical energy until it has fully transformed all the world's former democracies into dictatorships, which once integrated would in all probability have their borders removed and be replaced with a unanimous totalitarian concert. In totalitarian terms there is no room for plurality. In reference to Hegel, totalitarianism relies on a series of major cycles that evolve under the principle of dialectic advancement. The three components of Hegel's dialectic – thesis, antithesis and synthesis – can be shown for the Nazi and Stalinist totalitarian movements as follows:

Nazism: T) Nazi party + AT) Democracy > ST) Totalitarian concert

Stalinism: T) proletariat + AT) bourgeoisie > ST) Communism

The above dialectic equations are too general in element to be instituted, and both also flout realism with an optimism that cannot outweigh the difficulties of conventional society and government. However, they exhibit the necessary concept of the totalitarian dialectic, which Hitler and Stalin embarked upon – Stalin, over Hitler, should have been aware of this pattern, as Hegel was privy to the conception of the Communist Manifesto thanks to his friendship with Karl Marx, and Marx no doubt imbibed some of his friends wisdom in regards to quantum communist theory.

The enormity of evil involved in the custom totalitarianism of the Nazis and Stalinists is only second to its banality, as Hannah Arendt herself describes such phenomena. In retrospect we wonder how the Nazis could have carried out the atrocities they did during their brief but seminal dominance of Europe, and we marvel at how in Russia fear became the most expensive commodity available to a population that was the single most defining force against the Nazis in WWII.

The reality of totalitarianism is itself paradoxical. While, as a movement, it is practically unstoppable, assuming the dissolution of economies and disillusionment of societies in enough external democracies, it is clear that it will always fail because a leader or party cannot guarantee complete system control, unless it becomes scientifically possible to displace humanity entirely (artificial intelligence is an option). Excluding the mammoth predictions of greatness behind the egos of Hitler and Stalin, totalitarianism is as fallible as democracy.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Drops of philosophy: the strength of sentiment

What is life all about? What is its meaning? Why do I have to be a part of this world? Each and every one of us is determined to discover the answer to the question of our purpose and find the key to happiness. Being young, you're constantly bombarded by a compulsion to recognise your identity, and throughout the formative stages – school, university, part-time work – you are hell-bent on establishing your position in this changeable experience. The stage I'm currently in, higher education, is definitely a step up from the homework assignments and blackboard-to-brain methodology of schooling, which seems like pure tedium once you've cut the curriculum umbilical and been born out of the educative womb that shielded you from the harsh environment outside.

I am in the course of my educational labour, combining abilities and knowledge for the aim of achieving my purpose in society and, although this may sound like I'm recycling an old platitude, my dreams. Though, it may appear clouded and diluted like a powder when dropped into water, the purpose I seek is slowly taking shape, germinating from a tentative seed, rising from the soil of the subconscious to stand as an admirable tree, a entity of worth and influence in the crowded forest of fellow dreamers. Nevertheless, a tree that rises high above the soil and matures in rings around its original stem, can find no station in life unless it sources its energy to grow from reliable roots.

For me and many others content in the self, these symbolic roots are my family. The family itself is not complete solely as a traditional bloodline; I never forget to attribute the value of my friendships to their joining to my family roots. Roots at my foundation as an individual have benefited from the support of friends just as much as they have from family, and my strength of character is a testament to the energy these roots provide. Since progressing from a first year student into my second year, I have been at war with perceptions of my progress, indecisively trading one evanescent dream for another, inadvertently eroding my self-esteem and courage to act on instinct.

Life has turned a page and opened on a new, unruly chapter that isn't written coherently, with sentences ending in cliff-hangers that dangle off the edges of the pages. An abundance of ideas that I hope may lead me down a prosperous path only pan out to reveal fool's gold, leaving the real reward of an impervious purpose and sky blue direction estranged on the horizon. What I aspire to espouse is more lost than I am in the arena of my options. But, in spite of my anxieties and inner conflict, the presence of a familiar sentiment at the core of my spirit maintains my momentum and reminds me there is no height I can fall from that my roots won't ensure I recover from. From the brief correspondence between my parents and I, to the occasional visits with the closest of friends from home, my family roots are my pride and joy, and no force foreign to my roots will ever tear those roots from my earth.

Monday, 8 November 2010

BBC should put more new creative projects under the hammer, but they can’t expect it to be as cheap as chips

The results have been in since this July, but the conclusion of the BBC Trust's most recent interim review of the BBC's flagship channels still sticks. In a period of sheltered hope for a timid economy it isn't uncommon for companies to cut back on the old creative juices and stick to what it knows best; but sometimes the tried and tested methods of making a solid wedge of dough just aren't as effective as taking risks and running the gauntlet. Following the verdict on its handling and the performance of its main networks (BBC 1, 2 & 4), the executive brains at the Beeb have been told, yet again, that the replication of 'formulaic and derivative' material is not as safe as it seems.

Shows such as Bargain Hunt (made easily recognisable thanks to David Dickinson's chip charisma) and Cash in the Attic that bulk up the boat of BBC1's daytime output are formally referred to as 'collectible hunting' programs, with others like Location, Location, Location belonging to the category of 'property'. Whilst the more colloquial references to these shows condemn them as jargon-jading slots of gibberish, and have justifiable reason to, it can't be helped that folks like my very own ironing champion of a mother have grown accustomed to watching these slow-paced television equivalents of high-dose anaesthetics. And I can't blame hard-working stress-absorbers for wanting to sublimate the by-products of their domestic/occupational/social pressures using these daytime drug stops, but I can request they be given a hand in the right direction.

What has been drilled into the BBC's operational agenda through the overhanging nagging of the BBC Trust is the need for the most original programming possible to be produced by the corporation. 'Fresh and new' ideas – I was under the impression these two words implied the same meaning, apparently not – are what the Beeb needs to maintain its global reputation and conserve its UK audience. This judgement is fair and has statistical backing, with a third of BBC1's viewing audience stating the channel did not deliver good value for money. However, I'm inclined to believe this is not the fault of the BBC, per se.

First broadcast way back in the 1930s, BBC1 has seen a tremendous amount of change pass it by, and I say pass by because it is fundamentally the same network it was intended to be when it originated – informative with the added benefit of entertainment. Being fully funded by the national license fee and thus a public service broadcaster, the Beeb is obliged to provide a service that appeases the audience that protects it. Prudent as the Beeb has always been, it traditionally perceives the best way of appeasing us is to protect us back – by not conveying too much of the drama and dynamism of life. Arguably it more than licks the icing of life's , drama when it airs 'new' episodes of Eastenders, and yet there are many of us who want to see more coming from the crowning glory of British broadcasting.

More can be loosely defined as taking further ambitious steps and creative risks in the perpetual mission of PSB to keep the audience content with the service. What it also entails is the subtraction of production efforts dedicated to the recycling of 'dumb' material like the daytime fillers such as Bargain Hunt. This kind of categorical searching designed to keep hours in between peak times from turning to expansive black holes is seen as trivial as a final product and ultimately a mismanagement of corporate funds. Despite my fondness of denigrating against these favourites of my loveable mother, there is a school of thought that defends these shows as necessary and valued – that school being taught primarily by those who need something, anything to take their minds off the drudgery.

But in my opinion's defence, why not give these valiant daytime viewers something tougher to chew on. How about we ditch the stringy chicken wings and plate up with a heartier portion of sirloin? Why should the best and most original shows be reserved for the prime time slots in the late afternoon and early evening when the peeps of the Beeb are settling down after work? Why not dish out a little something extra for the views who are forced to survive on the meagre rations of daytime television? Like a dog isn't just for Christmas, top quality, original programs aren't just for the prime-time hours. Yes, creative risks are expensive and often harder to capitalise on than formulas that yield consistent good figures, and yes, we are still on the back end of an extensive recession, but there is no concrete statue of regulations that says progress cannot be made in the first major slump of the new century. So c'mon BBC brethren, give a little more to viewers like my mom this Christmas – and please, not a third variation on Dickinson or Tim Wonnacott, please.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

James Joyce, Sigmund Freud and the guilt trip

James Joyce's Ulysses chronicles a day in the life of an Irishman, Leopold Bloom, but isn't as fluid a narrative as you might expect. The book is far from an account of Stephen's day; as it develops, it appears we are on an investigation into the inner workings of the human conscience, which is not a smooth operator. In imitation and representation of the mechanics of the mind, Joyce describes the random day of Stephen's life as if it were an amalgam of varying actions and cognitive processes that conveys an accurate projection of the day's events, despite being an interruptive style of writing. What Joyce intended to recreate was the dynamic quality of perception. Humans tend to perceive events, feel emotions and make decisions in fragmented patterns that are often never completed and fail to culminate in any meaningful or influential conclusions. The fact remains that humans are wildly unpredictable, as are the hallucinations of the characters in episode 15: Circe of Ulysses.

Episode 15 is an observation of a collection of the characters' bizarre and seemingly uncontrollable drunken hallucinations. The theme of the chapter is the implication of real time events on the fixations of the unconscious state of mind, or id. Memories of events that induce emotions of sadness and remorse are frequently described, triggered by analogous interaction with external figures such as prostitutes and dogs. The actions committed are analogous themselves to past events which signify repressed guilt and regret; at one point the character of Bloom is rapt by the hallucination of his parents who are reprimanding him for having transgressed on more than one occasion, following the onset of guilt after making an unnecessary purchase at the butcher's store. It is common for people to dwell upon what they have done, usually when the past action or decision itself was immoral or disobedient. The product of this effect of revisiting past mistakes is guilt, and guilt is one of the most powerful and broad mental forces that can influence our behaviour.

The interesting consequence of guilt is how it is dealt with. There are three standard responses to guilt: acceptance, denial and repression.

Guilt that is accepted can henceforth be prevented from ruining a person emotionally; enabling ourselves to accept guilt also presents us with an opportunity to foresee what may make us guilty, thus providing us with a crucial chance to abort guilty action and decision, like when Bloom returns Stephen his share of the bill after he overpays for the prostitutes – he subsequently takes charge of Stephen's money for the night, consciously deciding the man is too inebriated to sensibly deal with it.

Guilt that is denied has previously been acknowledged but has yet to be reconciled with its bearer, e.g. when Stephen confronts the ghost of his dead mother, whose death he is partially convinced he contributed to. In this instance there is no feasible method of confirmation for the guilt he harbours, thus he casts out the manifestation of his mother in defiance, proclaiming: "No! No! No! Break my spirit, all of you, if you can! I'll bring you all to heel!" He denies his guilt because he fears the burden of responsibility and the curse of not moving forward, beyond the accepted guilt. Ironically, once guilt is accepted, we normally progress as if the guilt never had power of us, despite how mortifying the admission.

The third definition of guilt response concerns repression. Repressed guilt is both the product of denial and detachment. First, we deny the existence of said guilt by behaving as if nothing had gone amiss. Second, we severe an conscious link between our identity and the guilt attributed to it, thus we become independent of its consequence. The effect of this repression, however, is far worse than if we were to simply deny the guilt. Because it is psychologically impossible for us to actualise the expunging of any thought while dwelling on it, we must rely on the process of time and the consequential lag of thoughts past to help us rid ourselves of guilt. This is why the guilt resulting from what we experience as children can sometimes inexplicably return to haunt us as adults. We never completely forget; in fact, forgetting is not included in the equation – we simply have too much to contemplate in the present to focus on the mistakes of the past. And as we store away erstwhile present ideas, the guilt we harbour is buried beneath a huge stockpile of mental blueprints, mostly redundant.

Repressed guilt is no doubt the most powerful product of a regrettable experience, and Sigmund Freud, eminent thinker on the unconscious state of mind, believed repression itself to be a process we can neither be aware of nor control. If we apply Freud's concepts of the unconscious mind – 1) id, 2) ego, and 3) super-ego – we can understand the power of guilt with justification for its causes and effects. Picture an internal war within the brain where your id and super-ego are competitors to the trophy of your actions, and the ego is the realistic mediator to which the two enemies will hopefully always succumb to.

The id is the animalistic ambassador of the sexual imperative; it promotes the pleasure principle. The super-ego is the righteous regulator of instinct; it stands as our moral arbiter in everyday situations. Now, if you imagine you feel attracted to someone who you soon realise is a relative of yours, your id and super-ego react in very different ways. The id urges you to engage in sexual intercourse with this relative, regardless of the immorality you would be espousing. The super-ego compels you to reject this immoral desire by ignoring this person altogether to avoid all risk of the id succeeding. But the ego, our mediator, steps in and reasons that you cannot expect to walk away from contact freely without the chance of the id eventually overpowering the super-ego's moral abhorrence. Instead, you are forced to be diplomatically neutral; you neither proceed to have sex with nor ignore the object of your attraction. Gradually you accept your compromised moral stance, but the guilt for initially having felt in that taboo manner will continue to harass you – unless you repress.

Repression, as the melancholy and erotic hallucinations of the characters in Ulysses reminds us, is a dangerous tool for dealing with guilt. It causes healthy guilt (guilt that is current and lucid) to age, but not as wine ages. Guilt grows old like a festering mould, clinging to a crevice somewhere in the back of the mind, refusing to be forever buried. This sordid guilt has the potential to erupt as a disease that reconditions the ego to become irrational, inconsistent, and, in the worst case scenario, inoperable. Stephen's ego, under the influence of his mother's spectre, comes close to becoming inoperable – it is only saved by his firm denial of the guilt that has remained as stubborn as the guilty memory itself.

It is important to clarify what the precursors to this guilt are. As far as Freud was concerned we are all inherently sexual creatures, intent on thriving on our reproductive instinct. But, as society dictates, we cannot afford to preoccupy ourselves with sexual pursuits alone. Thus the super-ego comes into play. As previously mentioned, the super-ego is the moral arbiter in the war between itself and the savage id. From a romantic's perspective the id would be embraced and flaunted, not shunned and avoided like it mostly is in modern minds. Jean-Jacque Rousseau, romanticist and French philosopher, would have advocated more sexual freedom, as this is a product of the passions, which he believed were more natural than the constraints encapsulated in the social contract – effectively the umbrella of the super-ego.

Rousseau would argue that keeping our sexual instinct under lock and key is what causes adverse behavioural conduct such as rape and murder. Similarly, Freud's famous Oedipus complex proposes that a son, attracted to his mother and jealous of his father, will murder to attain an incestuous relationship. While Freud underestimated the maternal bond between protective mother and vulnerable child, and how fondness of one's mother throughout development is simply the continuation of that bond, his assiduous analysis of the psychosexual did illuminate a major human truth: we are innately sexual creatures. Yes, for some of us sex is less of a priority – some people claim to be asexual – but the majority of us will inevitably be predisposed to high sexual inclinations. And, once again, guilt is knocking at the door. As if they were the oddest couple, sex and guilt seem to hold hands as strongly as they break hearts. In the brothel scene of episode 15 of Ulysses, the character Bloom hallucinates that he is being dominated by the madam Bella Cohen in a sadist fashion. The origins of this excessively emasculating scenario are rooted in sex-orientated guilt.

There is no real mystery as to why sex is intrinsically linked to guilt. Due to its conception under the pleasure principle of the id, sexual gratification makes a person susceptible to over-indulgence in the act and, if revisited on regular occasion, hedonism. Men and women who fall foul of this trapdoor can be referred to as libertines, but will be more likely to fall under more derogatory categories of people, especially if they are female. The difference between pleasure and pain becomes hazy with each indulgent step, as being absorbed by egocentric ideals benefits the self but conversely can have negative impacts on other individuals involved, e.g. the wife of a man who craves sexual attention could start to feel used and unwanted in other aspects of their marriage. Essentially, guilt is the cork that puts a stop to the bubbling liquid of wanton sexual obsession. Once we've crossed the line and brought suffering to others through our uncontrolled sex frenzy, if we are compassionate enough, we will be rendered guilt-ridden and desire redemption and forgiveness.

As we live our lives we are constantly burying old guilt, paving the way for new guilt to come rolling over us like a humiliating tide. While we are filtering through the myriad nuances of our lives, like Joyce's characters who observe their actions as if they were millions of distinguishable events that mesh into one, we are never far from the guilt that keeps us in check and reminds us who we are and where we belong in society's melting pot of personalities.