David Syndrome!

A group of doctors and psychiatrists have dubbed the phenomenon as the "David Syndrome": people get destructive urges when looking at great works of art. The name was inspired by a person who smashed the foot of Michaelangeno's David at an exhibition. It pops up in the news from time to time: a person slashes a Picasso, someone splashes paint on another painting...it happens to regular art, too: statues in town are often targets of graffiti. Not just names or symbols painted on, like on a wall, but in a way meant to disfigure or alter the art.

Reading about the Syndrome makes me draw a connection to book burnings and the hostility towards pornography. If the deep emotion caused by art can overcome a person (called the Stendhal syndrome), possibly pushing them to a violent reaction -- the David syndrome -- consider the effect of artistically offensive material. The David syndrome may be rooted in humanity's instinctive understanding of creation and destruction, life and death -- procreation and extinction. Most people own pornography of some sort, have read a banned book or two...but many of those same people are the ones advocation destruction of erotic & offensive materials.

Is it possible that the opposition to pornography and censorship of books is rooted in the David syndrome? The book connection might be a bit more specious, but when you consider the passionate, emotional nature of most of the banned books, you can see how this emotional explosion could induce the David effect. In Farenheit 451, the result of a world devoid of books, passionless and passive. Bradbury could see that the art of a well-crafted book resulted in passion. If this passion triggers violent anger, it is no wonder the book burners are so ready to grasp at straws to validate their hatred for inanimate books.

Pornography has an even deeper instinctual response -- in fact, it doesn't work right unless there's a deep, carnal outpouring of emotion. The orgasmic release caused by viewing a porn, reading erotica, or flipping through Penthouse, could easily be the trigger needed to cause the violent feelings that are symptoms of the David syndrome.

I know there is a flaw in this association: the David syndrome does not seem to be premeditated, nor an ongoing hatred of art. It manifests itself instantly, at the time of the event -- not something that a person harbors their whole life. However, if up to 20% of society would react violently towards the statue of David, without warning, it is not impossible to believe that there is a less spontaneous driving instinct that is behind the hatred of obscene art, despite the minimal impact on most opponents' lives. An unconscious desire for violence against art, much like a person's unconscious desire for sex, could be an emotion that most humans are unable to cognitively understand, yet drives their motives without their knowing why exactly it is happening.


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