June 23, 2018


The Violent Life and Shocking Death of XXXTentacion (Doreen St. Félix, June 20, 2018, The New Yorker)

Onfroy spent his late childhood and adolescence in and out of juvenile-detention centers, for charges ranging from robbery to assault. He spent the rest of his time in the basements and studios of friends, where he assembled the scraps and fragments of his psyche into paeans to disaffection, to his depression, to Xanax and the numbing it brought, and to women, whom he viewed as devourers of his soul. ("Only time I feel pain, when I'm feelin' love.") He started uploading music to SoundCloud, in 2013. His early songs were howls, his rapping agile but his voice cracked; the production was bruised and unpolished. Onfroy seemed to add to his catalogue impulsively. By the time of his death, he'd made loosies, mixtapes, a smattering of features, and two albums, including "?," which débuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Among the ranks of the SoundCloud rap generation, there are pranksters, heartthrobs, and dilettantes, but Onfroy clawed to the surface as the genre's wretched bard. He stalked the shadows of metal and emo and punk rock, and fleeced rap of its devotion to materialism, focussing instead, obsessively, on existential crisis. There wasn't a dark thought that he kept hidden. He unleashed a tremulous bombardment of pessimism, occasionally interrupted by feral gestures of overwhelming helplessness. "Here is my pain and thoughts put into words. I put my all into this, in the hopes that it will help cure or at least numb your depression," he speaks, on the introduction to his first album, "17." He peddled the seductive notion that depression is license to hurt people, perhaps because it was his own personal justification. He wrote ditties threatening suicide if a partner left him, which I would hear blasting from cars on my block. Throughout his music, there are presages to an early death.

Onfroy purposefully collapsed the real-life pain he wrought on others into his artistic persona. The art for "Look At Me!," a breakout single, featured one of his mugshots. It climbed the charts while he was in jail on charges of false imprisonment, witness tampering, and the assault and battery of a pregnant woman, his former girlfriend. (When she established a GoFundMe campaign for an operation to fix her broken orbital socket, people calling themselves XXXTentacion fans targeted her until the Web site temporarily shut it down.) To promote his music on "No Jumper," Onfroy bragged about beating a gay peer at a detention center until they were both covered in blood. XXXTentacion lived his art, which some would call a mark of authenticity. He was admired by J. Cole and advocated for by Kendrick Lamar, whose label, TDE, threatened to remove its music from Spotify when the service briefly stopped promoting XXXTentacion on its playlists as part of its policy against hateful conduct. Many artists have memorialized him in recent days, including Kanye West, whose own new album, "Ye," includes disturbing musings ("I thought about killing you") that sound influenced by XXXTentacion. Onfroy's victims are sacrifices, the thinking goes, on the pyre of raw art. The immaturity is part and parcel of the genius. The only unforgivable thing would be to be a hypocrite.

The entire point of being a mature human being is to become a hypocrite.  We "sacrifice" the freedom to do what we would like to do for the restraints of acting as we should (at least to the extent postlapsarian Man is capable of such)

Individualism in Ancient Greece (John W. Danford, Spring 2018 - Intercollegiate Review Online)

The ancient Greek political philosophers taught that man is by nature a political being. By this they meant that human beings are suited naturally--by nature--for life in a particular sort of community, called a polis or city. Any human being not fortunate enough to live in a polis, they said, would not be capable of realizing his full humanity or "humanness."

They also knew that many, if not most, men and women were cut off from the possibility of being fully human because they lived either outside cities (as nomads or shepherds, condemned to what Marx later disparaged as the "idiocy of rural life"), or in vast empires, far too large to have any taste of genuine political life. The special characteristic of a city or polis is that in a city human beings are able to exercise one of their highest, most human faculties, which the Greeks called logos or reasoned speech. This capacity is involved in all political deliberation, by which human beings exercise choice about how to live and how to constitute social life itself. According to Aristotle, the faculty of logos distinguishes men from all other animals. It is also what makes man the only being who is political by nature. Any man who lives outside a polis, he taught, must be either a beast or a god--either less than human (because falling short of the true human potential) or more than human (and hence self-sufficient). [...]

But if there were two troubling consequences to the lofty idea that man is a political being, there were also two suggestions for avoiding the troubling consequences. One was theoretical, the other practical. Aristotle's theoretical attempt to resolve the problem was based on the suggestion that while man is a political being by nature, he is also potentially more than that. The idea that political activity is the highest way of exercising the distinctly human virtues is, according to Aristotle, based on a mistaken understanding of "activity." It is agreed, he said, that "the best way of life both separately for each individual and in common for cities is that accompanied by virtue." But while some believe virtue is displayed only in political life and ruling, others say another kind of activity exists which is not political, though it does involve the highest faculties. This other kind of active life involves the life of the mind, and points to the philosophic life as the highest or best, rather than that of political rule. But surely a city cannot be devoted to philosophy, the province of only a few rare and gifted minds? Aristotle's compromise between these two notions is to say that, while it is not possible for a city to lead the philosophic life, a sort of approximation to or echo of the philosophic life can be found in a life devoted to education and the arts. These, he said, are proper concerns for a city. The best possible city, then, would be one not devoted to ruling, war, and tyranny over others, but to the "internal activities" of education, drama, and the other arts.

Posted by at June 23, 2018 7:04 AM