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Modern civilization required more sublimation and repression of desires, both sexual and destructive aggressive desires, than most people were capable of maintaining for long periods without either physical, or psychological, illnesses developing. 'Civilization', in early twentieth century Europe in particular, required too much renunciation of the release of instinctual desires, from which pleasure could be derived, so that many people became physically, psychologically, or psycho-somatically, ill and discomforted, or, as Freud came to articulate it, 'discontented'. (See S. Freud Civilization and its Discontents, 1930, which is discussed in Chapter 3). This was dangerous, he thought, because people could so easily be mobilized to tear down civilized ways of conducting life if the costs to them of maintaining civilized conduct became too great. Warfare, and other forms of collective violence, even genocide, may come to be seen as more gratifying than continuing with peaceful pursuits, particularly by men.
Bocock xx, xiv)
Challenges to the social order are rampant at this time and changes in what is and is not acceptable seem to ride the gambit of social change, in so doing they bring to mind how Freud's very controversial ideas are more true today than they have been in the past, or at the very least how they apply, openly to base ideas that were once not even acceptable to discuss. One example of just how base American Football can become comes from a highschool aged group in Florida, where; "A high school coach in Florida who acquired the curious practice of biting off the head of a frog during football games as a means of boosting the morale of his team, was ordered to cease the practice lest he be charged with violating animal-cruelty laws (Associated Press, j)."
Bryant 416) the development of American Football came at a time when the world was significantly troubled by the industrial revolution, and individual men (and women) were becoming objects of yet another form of social and physical repression, i.e. those of the machine, the paycheck and the foreman. With these repressive institutions, came the need to sublimate yet more natural instincts, some sexual some very much practical. We think of this time as a time when the world was modernized, and yet it was also a time when people were significantly subjectified for the sake of progress and profit. When, an lost such control he had to seek reconciliation, or some balancing acceptable, outlet for social aggression. American Football in all its most violent expression could very well be seen as the type of sublimation that occurred. This was also an era that brought older forms, like boxing and street fighting back to the norm, for a time. And a time when gambling on such pastimes was expressed to demonstrate the narcissistic aspects of the games. People developed hero worship, with regard to the "stars" of the games and also accepted these games as crucial parts of their lives. Football in many ways, and as the most violent, became the most revered of all the sports offered to the public for appraisal and subsequent acceptance or rejection.
But without entering any further into such philosophical and political arguments, it is sufficient to notice that, despite their profound ideological differences in other respects, these perspectives shared a common acceptance of some version of the Freudian theory of the instincts and, hence, rested upon an instinctivist view of human nature. Whether "natural man" was conceived in terms of innate innocence or innate depravity, or some combination of the two, and whether the solution was seen to be instinctual liberation or the more temperate path of sublimation and rational suppression, all these outlooks operated within the culture vs. nature duality that Freud enshrined in his structural theory of the mental apparatus as the duality of ego-superego vs. id.
Freud's concept of Sublimation is then a fair and clear assessment of just why American Football still holds the hearts, minds and time of people today, as in many ways though some things are more acceptable repression (especially for men) is even more intense than it was during the industrial revolution or even the Victorian Era. Men are expected to with hold rage, even when it is warranted and display only acceptable and loving expressions of sexuality, unless given conceptual permission to do otherwise in a consenting relationship with a woman. In this climate the world has even more stoically embraced alternatives, like ritualized and violent sports, American Football being the best example. As Freud himself said:
if the knowledge of the human soul is still so incomplete that my poor mental faculties have managed to produce such ample discoveries, it is evidently premature to declare oneself for or against such assumptions as yours.
Looking at historical theories does not always develop into fruitless expressions of how humanity is formed today and in fact sometimes the exploration is significant and fruitful, such as the exploration of the concept of sublimation applied to American Football.
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