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  • Writer's pictureDennis Yueh-Yeh Li


With all the tumult in our midst, when we oppose one another with hatred, ignorance, and eternal evil, we are always searching for a solution. Yet, we only seem to put into practice all the contradictions that are writ large in Civilization and Its Discontents—religion vs atheism, individual vs community, id vs super ego, Eros vs Ananke, etc, This oppositionality does nothing but generate more problems. We are stuck in a vicious cycle, one we feel unable to escape.  Like Sisyphus, we are always rolling the boulder up to the hill.  But isn’t it the case that human beings civilized ourselves in the first place and created our own suffering and discontentedness? When reading Civilization and Its Discontents, I well understood Freud’s analysis of civilization. Nevertheless I am not satisfied with all the discontents bequeathed to and reproduced by us. Actually, human beings do not deserve all these “discontents.” We have yet to discover a better way forward. We forgot that we still have one transcendental power, the power of Eros—we love and need to be loved.  As a theatre director with a revolutionary vision, I strive to dissolve the many discontents civilization has produced and to  create a new culture where we share love and respect only. This is the new civilization we are aspiring to inhabit. 

In this performative reading with all the individual yet cohesive sections that the audience will encounter,  I am staging many of the contradictions in Freud’s text, creating double images which involve the audience. From all these double images, what we may realize or understand more fully is nothing more or less than ourselves. We may wonder why we have forgotten to employ the Eros with which we were all born. As Freud suggests, “When a love-relationship is at its height there is no room left for any interest in the environment; a pair of lovers are sufficient to themselves,”  How will we re-examine ourselves in light of these double images, and start from there to make changes to civilization with using Eros? I cannot attempt to answer that question here, and neither did Freud. I simply hope from this performative reading of Freud’s text, we will all eventually start to figure it out.  “My love is something valuable to me which I ought not to throw away without reflection." — Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

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