The possibility of destruction is the most seducing element of beauty. That is something I absorbed from a Youtube video titled, “Why Were The Nazis So Stylish? // Secret History Revealed” by a channel called “Real Men Real Style.”
Yes, fellow absorbers, we’re going to talk about Nazi uniforms, very briefly but nonetheless importantly. Those uniforms are the seeds that inspired this episode, from which we will sprout in various directions.
But first I want to talk about why I enjoyed this video so much, beyond the fact that it helped me create another episode of Sponge. I think a lot of topics with value judgments attached to them are simply put aside in fear of offending someone. Now, people are free to get offended, but should that stop anybody from talking about whatever they want to talk about? I don’t think so. Especially in the online world, where, as I always say, you can block, mute, unfollow, and downvote. In the online world, more or less, you don’t have to see what you don’t want to see. It puzzles me greatly that some people, instead of just not seeing what they don’t want to see, choose to try to stop others from talking.
Now, that didn’t happen with this specific video, as far as I can tell, but I’m talking about the general sentiment of 2022 here. I think it is a grand waste of time to try to stop other people from talking, and even immoral. To anyone who thinks that stopping other people from using words that convey ideologies different from theirs is their moral right, I suggest that they try to focus on their own storytelling. I’m serious. Tell your own story and make it more effective. If people aren’t buying your story—not necessarily monetarily not buying, but I mean, not being convinced—then maybe other people expressing opposing views isn’t the problem. Maybe you should just learn to tell your stories better.
Anyway, this is why I enjoy watching videos like this, where a person can find some things to learn about the Nazis. Yes, I just said that. No matter what you believe in, there is something to be learned from an entity that was as powerful and popular as the Nazis. Let’s not fool ourselves—they were great at something and that was why they were so powerful and popular. Otherwise, the word Nazi wouldn’t even exist. The concept wouldn’t even exist.
It is very easy to treat everyone who, at first glance, doesn’t believe in what you believe in, as idiots. I do it, too, on a regular basis. But at the same time, at least occasionally I try to look at things that don’t make sense and dissect it so that I can collect weapons and shields that will serve me. If there is a serial killer with a knife, I don’t have to agree with the killer on killing other people to be able to use the knife. I can take the knife and cook, instead of killing people. In fact, the serial killer may be a great cook and killer. So, why not learn some things from the killer?
It’s like this. If it looks like your enemies are winning, it’s most likely because they’re better than you at one or several things. Better learn from them.
And in that spirit, I found this video both informative and entertaining. This wasn’t a history video created purely for historical accuracy. As the name of the channel indicates, this is a men’s fashion channel and thus the channel owner adds interpretations about the Nazi uniforms instead of only explaining, or attempting to explain, those uniforms in a neutral way.
If you don’t know what the SS uniforms look like, I suggest you watch the video. If you do know what they look like, you may not need to watch the video, but I still recommend it anyway, because, they are, honestly, beautiful uniforms. Regardless of the horrible deeds done while wearing those uniforms, I cannot imagine anyone condemning the uniforms themselves when it comes to beauty.
There is seriousness and elegance in the design. Straight lines, softened by the fabric. It’s simple but not simplistic.
Which brings me to wonder about how the world might have been different, had the Nazis not worn these highly tailored, visually appealing uniforms.
Appearances matter. They really do matter. How you present yourself matters, especially when the entirety of your purpose is to be part of a propaganda machine. I think the Nazis knew very well how important it was for their soldiers to be presentable, no, more than that, for them to be beautiful. Simply put, if the soldiers had been running around in dirty T-shirts, there would have been no Nazis, period. There wouldn’t have existed an army at all.
But the opposite is true too. I don’t think these uniforms would have become so infamous, had the Nazis done nothing at all while wearing the uniforms. In fact, sadly, I think the uniforms are so notorious, so well-known, because of the horrible deeds.
Meaning, this incongruence, this paradox, this juxtaposition of two elements that seemingly should not exist together—namely, the coexistence of destruction and beauty—seems to be what fascinates people to this day. That is today’s theme. The possibility of destruction is the most seducing element of beauty.
Destruction and beauty. They are themes that I think about a lot these days. Say, nature. I don’t think that humans would have loved, no, worshipped nature so much, had it not had the power to destroy us. In the book “Monstrosity: The Human Monster in Visual Culture,” which, by the way, my friend Lee Hyewon and I translated from the English language to Korean, the author Alex Wright writes as follows.
Quote, “as the cultural critic Raymond Williams has remarked, ‘nature’ is perhaps the most complex word in the English language. … the idea of nature takes on very different meanings in different contexts. In some cases it denotes a harmful and threatening force, something that must be controlled and tamed, whilst in others it represents a benign and inherently good state that should be preserved and nurtured.” End quote.
And I think that this is key. This coexistence of clashing possibilities is what fascinates us so much about nature.
Snow. When we behold it from indoors, warm and cozy, it feels like something to be “preserved and nurtured.” But if we were to roam around a forest without clothes, completely naked, snow would be “a harmful and threatening force.”
Water. It is the most life-giving element of nature, and yet, it can flood entire neighborhoods out of existence. Actually, water that drops little by little on a stone, can bore holes into said stone. Don’t they have tortures using this method? You put someone under a dripping faucet, make the droplets fall on their forehead.
Plop. Plop. Plop.
The droplets fall on the victim’s forehead. Nothing else, nothing more, nothing less. And apparently, before the droplets can bore a hole into the victim’s forehead, the victim goes crazy. That’s how destructive water can be.
Lastly, fire. Same thing. Warm, protective. And at the same time, if one thing goes wrong, everything you have ever known can go down in flames. I heard that burning to death is the most painful way to die, although I have no idea how such things can be measured, because as far as I know, we cannot A/B test deaths. We all die once.
But regardless of which way is the most painful way to die, what I’m trying to say is this. All things that are merely nice aren’t beautiful. I would not use the word beauty for such things at all. Things that are purely nice are trivial. They’re pretty. They’re cute. But they aren’t beautiful.
That which is truly beautiful has the potential to lead to destruction. Beauty is fatal and lethal. It lures us, enough for us to get attached, and then it may or may not destroy us. The possibility is always there, though. That constant possibility and uncertain realization is part of the destruction. The possibility of destruction that may or may not occur makes the destruction real, making it occur. Does that make sense?
There might not be actual destruction by fire. But having a burning white flame near you is a possibility of destruction enough. In your mind, infinitely, you can imagine the destruction. In a way, this is more powerful than a so-called “real” destruction. If you’re really destroyed, you cannot be re-destroyed. But if you aren’t really destroyed, and the possibility only preoccupies your mind? Then you’re in the hands of that cruel beauty, forever.
Any object, any human, any relationship that cannot hurt us usually don’t get labeled as being beautiful. Such elements of life might be pleasant, might bring us contentment, might even make us happy. But beauty, that’s an entirely different matter.
This also ties to vampires. For multiple reasons that I’m trying to figure out, I am super into the idea of vampires these days. It’s just… It’s not in the movie version Twilight way. Okay? It’s not because they’re one-dimensionally sexy, as in, “Ooh because they’re so physically powerful and ruthless, blah blah.” I don’t find extreme one-sidedness sexy at all, personally. Anything that can be neatly categorized into one box is patently unsexy.
But, vampires aren’t like that. What vampires are, they are like rocks. I already said this multiple times through various channels, on my blog, and maybe in my newsletter too? I can’t remember. The thing I say, I say because I am actually thinking about them. It’s not like I try to think of stuff just for the purposes of this podcast or the blog or the newsletter or my fiction books, so I… truly, I don’t remember where I said what.
Anyway, this rock-like nature of vampires gives them vulnerability. They are fossils. I mean, can you imagine everyone you love dying before you? Either that, or you have to turn them to become like you, so you’ll all be hunted down by the humans, who are the majority. And vampires simply cannot multiply uncontrollably. They have a constraint, even more so than humans. They need food—human blood. And humans aren’t known for their quick reproduction. If there are too many vampires in one location, they will starve, regardless of whether they’re the majority or not.
Also, because vampires live for such a long time, they always make me think about being numb, like rocks. Being bored. Unless they try really hard to find new stimuli, I imagine, as a vampire, I would be quickly jaded. I mean, I’m pretty jaded in some aspects now, as a human. But at least, as a human, I have other aspects in which I am not jaded—I am excited. But as a vampire? I don’t know. I think I’d be tired. Very tired.
And so, when I think about vampires, there exists this combination of physical invincibility and infinite loss. Not only that, they need protection. If you know someone to be a vampire and you want them to continue to be a vampire, you need to keep it secret. So, instantly, even with all the physical power or mental cunning that a vampire has, a human who keeps their secret also has power. The possibility of destruction is the most seducing element of beauty, and this goes both ways. The vampire could destroy the human. But also, the human could destroy the vampire.
Nature could destroy the human. But also, the human could destroy nature.
As to Nazis? Clearly, Nazis can destroy non-Nazis. But also, I think part of the fascination comes from people imagining, consciously or subconsciously, that they can destroy the Nazis in their beautiful uniforms.
The video that I mentioned at the beginning of this episode doesn’t go into this particular aspect of beauty, so this is just my theory. I think this fantasy of destruction not only applies to Nazis, but also to men’s suits, in general, as well as any clothing that looks strict, controlled, and planned.
Feel free to think that this is totally about me. I will not pretend that my theory is based on a research study involving a thousand participants. This is purely my idea.
It’s that… there is just something about those strict, controlled, and planned lines of a uniform or a suit that look like they need relief or release. And one way in which relief or release can be reached is through destruction.
And destruction need not be something physical. I’m not necessarily talking about hammering the brain out of a person wearing a suit—although, I guess such a thing could happen. Enough psychological studies have been done about serial killers so that we can get a glimpse into their logic, if you can call it that. I can imagine a serial killer only picking men in suits as their victims because that gives them extra sick pleasure from destruction. It’s different from killing people in T-shirts. I mean, I guess, pratically speaking, in the real world, most serial killers do kill easy targets, and I’m like… It doesn’t make sense. They say, psychologists say, that serial killers kill to feel a sense of power. At least that’s one of the explanations. And I sit there thinking, “How does killing innocent homeless people give them any sense of power? That’s just cowardly. Those serial killers are pathetic.”
Anyway, but destruction needn’t be physical. The idea of getting someone out of a perfectly tailored, probably uncomfortable, but so very disciplined uniform can very well be seductive.
Women loving men in uniforms or suits is actually a thing. I think most people know this. But I don’t know what they think the underlying reason is, and I’m saying, this is probably the reason, this destruction aspect. This fantasy about uniforms and suits isn’t even a kink. It’s too common, I think. I have no personal female friends who do not find men in uniforms or suits attractive. The surface-level power and discipline, combined with what could happen with the suit off—that is what is so appealing, that subconscious idea of the destruction of rules and restrictions.
And something similar could happen with men toward women too. Or when men are attracted to men. Or when women are attracted to women. Whichever way. Multiple ways. All kinds of ways.
I only mention the disproportionate effectiveness of suits on my perception of the hotness of a man because I happen to be a heterosexual female, who, yes, thinks that suits are hot. Not as much uniforms, actually, because I associate them less with power, more with being part of a bureaucracy. It doesn’t matter what uniform. But suits. Yes, indeed. And this fundamental attraction to destruction could very well be applied to any gender, in any direction.
And my thinking about seduction and hotness and beauty in general isn’t just me daydreaming idly. No, my fellow absorbers, I am a storyteller. It’s practical and useful for me to know what appeals and what doesn’t appeal. I may not be able to put all these thoughts into practice in my own life, but for the purposes of the characters I create, oh, definitely, all this will come in handy one day.
With that in mind, I believe a lot of human relationships are based on beauty through the possibility of destruction. For a person to consider a relationship beautiful—and it doesn’t matter what relationship it is, it can be between family members, romantic partners, friends, coworkers—for a relationship to be beautiful, both sides need to have power, and thereby both sides need to have the possibility to destroy and be destroyed.
I think simple niceness truly does not make a beautiful relationship, especially when the word “nice” describes a total lack of power. A person who has no option to attack and no option to defend isn’t truly nice. They’re weak. And there is nothing wrong with being weak, but is such a state beautiful? Personally, I don’t think so.
When a person could attack me but doesn’t. Or, even, when a person could defend themselves but doesn’t.
And also, when a person could leave me, but doesn’t. And thus, in short, when a person chose me, instead of being around me just because they can’t have anyone else—that is, I think, the fundamental element of beauty in relationships.
And thus, when the other person loses that possibility of destruction over you, things change. You know, that moment when you absolutely do not care what the other person does or says? When they have no impact on you anymore? Not just having no good impact, but no bad impact either? That’s when a relationship ends. When they can’t hurt you and you don’t care to hurt them. You just fully don’t care. That is how a relationship dies, because without the possibility of destruction, there is no beauty.
And I want to emphasize that this doesn’t mean that relationships have to be super dramatic. Oh, no. I’m talking about the possibility of destruction, not physical assault and verbal abuse and whatnot.
Tension. That is what I mean. And not an overt tension, but subdued tension.
What does it look like when there is no tension? Just imagine being in a relationship where you’re together because you’re stuck together. You’re only together because you can’t leave.
When you’re at a job because there is no other job and they keep you around because the job sucks so much so they don’t bother to look for another sucker who will take the job. That’s the kind of lack of tension that I mean. And, while such situations may not be avoidable in some cases, I think that unavoidability is different from accepting that it is undesirable.
In all human relationships, being stuck because neither side has the ability to do otherwise sounds like a nightmare to me. I believe it is critical to maintain a state in which everyone involved in a relationship can leave. Otherwise, at some point, there will be no sharp edges in the relationship anymore. And yes, I think sharp edges are crucial. Those edges need not do anything, they need not cut, but they could cut. Most of the time, something softer and warmer will envelop the edges so they don’t even show, but still, they’re there.
They’re like our bone structure, especially our backbone. Normally, that hardest part of our body, the skeleton, cannot be seen from the outside, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Imagine if it weren’t there. We’d be flabby heaps of flesh. How terribly unbeautiful is that?
And thus we have teeth that can be seen from the outside—as a reminder that we can bite, if need be. But if need not be? Then we don’t bite, and we keep our teeth covered with our soft lips.
The possibility of destruction is the most seducing element of beauty.
That which is completely manageable cannot be truly beautiful. There’s got to be something overwhelming. That which is utterly predictable, totally doable, and entirely controllable might be pleasant, might bring contentment, might even make that person happy. But beauty, no.
All the bright and shiny things of my life have always had the power to destroy me, to varying degrees. Some things gave me a few sleepless nights, although, that isn’t much, because I’m sleepless most nights.
Which, oh, by the way, one advantage of having perpetual insomnia is that no one can change your sleep pattern. You already sleep so poorly that not a single person could make it worse. If insomnia is your default mode, think about that. I recently realized this and I thought, “Wow, I’m vulnerable due to insomnia and thereby I am invincible. Make me sleepless all you want. I’m always like this. You think you have power over me? Guess what, you don’t.”
Ah, bright shiny things. I am drawn to them like a moth drawn to a campfire. It buzzes toward the heat on a suicide mission.
But I haven’t had anything completely destroy me. Usually, I’m fairly good with eliminating things from life that might actually harm me. I like the possibility of destruction. In my imagination, I am destroyed and reborn a million times. But actual destruction? Not so much.
Speaking of insomnia, I don’t drink coffee regularly anymore. I drink it sometimes, but not daily anymore.
It used to be that I kept drinking coffee despite insomnia because quitting coffee for weeks had zero effect on my body. For example, when I tried getting off coffee about a year ago, it had zero effect, psychologically and physically.
But then, starting about Summer 2022, for whatever reason my body underwent a series of inexplicable changes. So I tested getting off coffee again and, wow, the difference. It’s so weird. I mean, I’m still sleepless, but sleeplessness due to coffee and sleeplessness due to thoughts feel entirely different, I know that now. There used to be no difference, which was why I used to drink coffee regularly; now there is a difference, which is why I now drink coffee only maybe… once a week? Once a month?
Yeah. It’s amazing how my body changed. But several times in my life, it did this. This also relates to today’s theme. My body, unbeknownst to me, can totally destroy me. A lot of things that my mind ignored, my body will tell me in a way that cannot be ignored. My body has crashed and burned more frequently than my mind. It is patient but also always honest. I could easily destroy it by putting all kinds of harmful things into it, but similarly, it can destroy me. That’s our relationship.
And yeah, sometimes I do think in this very… dualistic way of mind and matter. Maybe mind is body and body is mind, but to my limited perception, sometimes they seem to be completely separate entities. I can’t do everything with my body that I want it to do. It has a will of its own. It’s very strange.
We are nearing the end of this episode. That Youtube Channel, “Real Men Real Style,” actually has a whole series on bad guys being stylish. For example, “Why Were These Mob Bosses So Stylish?” And also, “Why Were The Vikings So Stylish?” And then, “Why Are Cowboys So Damn Stylish?”
Judging by the addition of the word “damn” to the cowboy video, I’m guessing that this channel owner approves of the cowboy look the most. Whichever style you prefer, if you’re into stylish men or if you want to be a stylish man, check out this channel.
In the meantime, I will continue to think about how much of a sucker I am for potential destruction. Maybe I like feeling the risk? Being a moth? Being attracted to bright shiny things? They bring me so much joy because they throw me off guard.
I wish I were more like a vampire instead. A moth can’t do much in terms of presenting potential destruction for the other party, so it would be difficult for a moth to be beautiful, unless a particular person has a… moth kink or something.
Being like a vampire would mean that I would have to be able to create a huge hole in another person’s life, if I were to be absent. Do I have such power? I don’t know. Probably not.
Oh, no. I am a moth. I am a total moth. You are listening to the voice of a moth, not a vampire. But I want to be a vampire. I want to give you the pleasure of the possibility of destruction.
But here is what I will attempt to do. I doubt that there will ever be a time at which I will lay out all my weapons and shields. Even if I do reveal everything about me, I will find a new dimension and thus, those weapons and shields that I revealed earlier will become obsolete. They won’t be lies, they’ll just be outdated. In that way, perhaps I can create little jolts of pleasant surprises for those around me.
And therein can live the possibility of destruction. Just the possibility, not actual destruction.
I could cut, but I won’t.
I could leave, but I won’t.
I could destroy, but I won’t.
I think this is the ultimate loyalty. There, we’ll find beauty.
- “Why Were The Nazis So Stylish? // Secret History Revealed”
- “Real Men Real Style” Channel
- “Monstrosity: The Human Monster in Visual Culture” by Alexa Wright
- Mob Boss style
- Viking style
- Cowboy style
- Back Alley Deal – Falconer
- End Credits – Kyle Preston
- Every Death Is Another Rebirth – Crop for the Village
Everything I do is organized here:
© 2022 Ithaka O.