Monday, July 29, 2019

Don’t Be Afraid of Fear: Book Review of Joy from Fear by Carla Marie Manly

Joy spelled out with colorful flowers
Everyone has fears. Those who make the highly dubious claim that they are not or never have been afraid are either lying to you, or they are simply deluding themselves or a combination of both. According to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, we generally have three core fears in addition to our own trove and personal stash of trauma and scary experiences. Our overall anxiety tends to be subsumed to these three core fears that are part and parcel of the human condition: Fear of failure, fear of abandonment or loss, and fear of not being good enough.

Each of these fears can take individual shapes and forms depending on and fluctuating with our personal life experiences. These fears are rarely rational or realistic fears and do not necessarily pose a veritable risk or danger, such as not being able to pay bills or being under actual physical threat. Instead, they are closely tied and connected to the worries and doubts we carry within ourselves alongside our own perceived place and representation of the world.

The first core fear is the fear of failure, namely of making mistakes. We do not want to be branded as incompetent or look like a fool in front of our superiors, colleagues and loved ones. This stems from an inherent fear of not being successful in our endeavors as well as in life. As a result, we avoid any types of risks and may have a reputation of being sticklers or perfectionists, when, in reality, we are afraid that our work or project may contain errors that we shall get attacked or blamed for. We may choose to stick to any behavior or routine that is deemed safe and firmly grounded within our comfort zone and that is not prone nor amenable to errors.

The second fear is essentially the fear of rejection, of not being worthy and lovable, and hence the potential threat of being abandoned or of losing someone we cherish and love. We may be afraid of seeing our partner leave us or we may find it hard to accept that one day our loved ones will have to die. This can lead to overprotective and escapist behaviors and rituals, but we tend to rationalize this to ourselves. For instance, we may not approach or ask someone out because we supposedly know in advance that they will turn us down. Why bother is the familiar defeatist catchphrase of this type of rationalization.

The third fear, which may fuel the previous ones, could be the belief or rather predominant self doubt that we are simply not good enough, that we lack the emotional and professional capacities to succeed in our careers and / or personal relationships. This nagging feeling may exist overtly, or it might be buried deep within our psyche; notwithstanding, it will have devastating effects on our lives. We often try to please people or hang on to friends and lovers who do not treat us well fueled by the conscious or unconscious belief that we are not worthy. We think we do not deserve their attention and care; we may even accept or take blame for their apparent mistreatment of ourselves and remain stuck in toxic and harmful relationships.

All these three core fears can be deduced to the general fear of being unloved and alone in life. As humans we have been ingrained with looking for social connections, so these relationships are essential to our core being, existence as well as the definition of ourselves. Whether we choose to acknowledge or face our anxiety does not change the fact that each of one us has at least three core fears. If we do not do anything about the situation, that is if we choose to ignore or turn a blind eye towards them, they will fester in our unconscious and rob of us of energy and overall well-being. Since we are trapped and spinning in a vicious cycle, the end result could well be a self-fulfilling prophecy, namely that of ending up and being alone and unloved.

But what to do about these fears? How to deal with the underlying anxiety? In this case, psychologists differ in methods and methodology and often approach it from different angles. One of the most common approaches involves cognitive behavioral psychology as well as positive psychology. This often involves acknowledging the harmful effects of negative thinking and behavior and replacing them with a more positive outlook and perspective. Yet regardless of the underlying theory, psychologists have one thing in common: The need to face and deal with those fears since ignoring or fighting them will only make matters much worse. In other words, we need to stop being afraid of fear itself.

Psychologist Alicia H. Clark in her resourceful and well-documented book, hack your anxiety: How to Make Anxiety Work for You in Life, Love, and All That You Do, suggests that one should understand and interpret one’s fears as an initial alert or alarm signal that something is wrong, missing or malfunctioning in our lives; then one ought to attend, and, moreover, act upon that message to change one’s ways. In certain cases, one could even put one’s anxiety to good use: For example, the previously mentioned fear of making mistakes can in turn enhance one’s attention to detail and improve one’s overall work performance. Or self doubt can push one to enroll in a course or training session to hone one’s skills and become better at one’s job.

However, the problem with such advice is that the underlying issue or fear is not directly addressed; it is rather diverted or channeled into something that is deemed socially and culturally more appropriate leading to a result that is generally considered useful and productive by those same standards. Unfortunately, instead of eliminating or extracting the source of fear, one is told to build and create with and around it. Albeit in altered and modified form, essentially the fear will remain intact lurking behind a more accepted and tolerated facade.

On the other hand, the psycho-dynamic approach, also known as depth psychology, can provide eventual relief of your fears because psychoanalysis aims to unearth and dig up previous trauma, and it consciously attempts to bring healing to the afflicted person. As a psychotherapist, Dr. Manly uses a more personalized and holistic approach that is a blend of different traditions including cognitive psychology, but it is also prominently imbued with Jungian touches and flavor. In her outstanding book Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend, she contends that fear could indeed be useful as a signpost, yet you need to realize and keep in mind that most of your fears are harmful and destructive in nature.

It is only with nonjudgmental and gentle attention, mindfulness, and continuous practice that you can transform your anxiety into a more constructive voice and message. Although Dr. Manly calls it constructive fear, I would simply say that it is insight or realization. We need to get to the bottom of our fears, and it starts with, first and foremost, the realization that most of our emotional issues and troubles stem from childhood and unconscious desires, impulses, or experiences that somehow or other find their way, seep or spill into our daily life.

Before we replace or change our thoughts and feelings, we need to uncover those traumas. Once we shed light onto our underlying fountain of anxiety and develop a clearer understanding of it, we can carefully dissect and break it up and then are able to process and dissolve those harmful and destructive thought patters. The new and wholesome pattern that evolves out of these remains and ashes is indeed our own extracted, distilled and deeply personal vision that is separate and shielded from the influence of others and of modern culture and media. Put differently, this represents the opportunity to shed the puny aspects of our selves fueled and driven by blind destructive fear and instead to come into contact with our higher self, the voice of reason and spirituality.

To give a more concrete example, all the fears mentioned above are products of destructive fear. We tend to be critical of ourselves, in many ways, imitating, incorporating and internalizing the critical voices handed over to us by our parents, caregivers and teachers. This causes unseen and unnoticed strains on our relationships with ourselves and others, and before we know it, we have fallen into a perspective that is a mere copy of our parents and has little if anything to do with our actual and personal viewpoint.

The voice of constructive fear will tell us not to fall into this trap and will encourage us to step out of our parental shadows and burdens. These are among the vital steps of the Jungian individuation process towards becoming our own hero and reaching the higher aspects contained and hidden within ourselves. Destructive fear, and to a large extent society as its extending arm, does not approve of or condone this transformation. Society prefers adherence and conformity, while parents demand obedience, and these are the clashes we all need to deal with, resolve and overcome in order to become more authentic versions of ourselves.

Yet through practice, and Dr. Manly provides many useful examples and exercises to this effect, we can uncover our unique being and our higher self. Evidently and undoubtedly, this takes substantial effort; it will be uncomfortable, and it might even uncover a path leading to a completely new and different direction. But in the end, it leads the way not only to more satisfaction and happiness, but, more importantly, to a life more fully lived and experienced.

This is where the Joy from Fear comes in, not as a fleeting moment or experience of happiness but rather as a steady and firmly grounded life-affirming outlook on life. This is the journey that Dr. Manly invites you on the first pages of the book, and when the book was read, I felt slightly sad that this insightful journey had come to an end. At the same time, the insights and knowledge gained both theoretically but more importantly felt and experienced through your own personal filter and views, are literally beyond words.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Me Too Hysteria: The Ultimate Loss of Femininity

A woman and a man with futuristic guns fighting in the desert
Could and should a young black female play James Bond? As Daniel Craig is planning to officially retire from impersonating the British spy James Bond, Lashana Lynch is potentially slated to take over and inherit the role of the famous secret agent 007. This suggestion has excited and enthused many, and it has been heralded as a watershed moment of diversity. In my point of view, this excitement is misguided and misdirected, and these kinds of choices are not a sign nor signal of liberation but rather one of desperation.

Before I get prematurely attacked or branded as being misogynistic or racist, or both, please hear me out and let me explain a few points and thoughts about the Me Too movement. I applaud and highly encourage gender equality and am against racial discrimination as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation or lifestyle. And as long as this movement is dealing with and focusing on these issues, I am in full agreement and in support of this movement.

In the initial stages of what is known as the Me Too movement, female actresses came out against rich and powerful men in the movie industry. One of the most notorious men in this case was Harvey Weinstein who had previously seemed untouchable; he wielded his position and influence and forced women to do his bidding; he humiliated them, took advantage of them and emotionally and sexually abused the women within his grasp and range.

Such injustices and criminal actions were often not reported or were disregarded and discarded by the authorities as well as the media. Men who preyed upon women and violated their rights often got away with their abuses because they had protection from higher-ups and because they benefited from a culture that kept turning a blind eye to such violations.

These actions went under-reported by women who felt threatened by the status quo, and these incidents were rarely reported in the news and media. This created an atmosphere that debilitated women. 

One of the most cringe-worthy and appalling arguments in sexual assault cases was that women provoked the abuses heaped upon them by either placing themselves in a dangerous location or by dressing provocatively. Rape is the ultimate form of violence against women in which the male dominates over and violates all that is feminine. (The rape of children of both sexes is even more revolting and disgusting, but that is not within the scope of my post here.)

Another fact was also the cultural white-only hegemony. Movie characters and superheroes were predominately white, whereas ethnic actors would be generally delegated to portraying villains or at best they were given minor roles as nonessential characters. There simply was not enough diversity on television or in cinema no matter where you looked.

The immensely popular show Friends may have equally sported both genders, but it was populated by well-to-do young and good-looking white characters only. This has been worrying throughout the history of the beloved small screen, while one of the notable exceptions to the rule The Cosby Show has in recent times lost its prestige and standing because its colored protagonist committed inexcusable acts against women.

As a growing positive trend in the film industry, we now have various movies that focus on a more diverse cast, whether they be Asians or people of color often in their own shows and programs. This ranges from the critically acclaimed Black Panther (2018) of the Marvel series to the more recent and highly successful Crazy Rich Asians (2018) to other shows that highlight ethnic groups from Dear White People to Atlanta and Black-ish. The argument that these programs would not be lucrative or popular have been proven wrong and illusory; in fact, the opposite has been shown to be true.

This trend of empowerment has spilled over into more movies that portray and show us strong female characters. Although again I applaud such movies, it has started to lead down a dangerous slope of decline, which I shall elaborate upon a little later. For now, having gender presented and represented in equal measure has been again a very positive and beneficial trend. I think that the world is better not worse off when it comes to positive and powerful female characters like Wonder Woman (2017) and Captain Marvel (2019).

Then came the wave towards remaking traditionally male films with female reboots, and that was and has been a decisive step in the wrong direction. Although the all female cast of Ocean’s Eight (2018) and to an extent Netflix’s Wine Country (2019) were generally well done and not unpleasant, the Ghostbusters (2016) reboot clearly signaled what is most wrong with this new trend.

My problem is not due to having female instead of male characters, but that the Ghostbusters reboot was very sloppily written and at times deliberately insulting both to men and women. It was filled with propaganda that seemed to espouse highly stereotypical views of men. It was never all right for men to have stereotypical views of women, so why should women do so and get away with it even if it was supposedly made for laughs.

This trend has now extended to having - or proposing to have - a female Bond. Now James Bond is a fictional male character that is based on Ian Fleming’s novels. The previous movie adaptations may have supported and promoted stereotypical views on gender, but none of this changes the fact that the character is male. While in Ghostbusters, there could easily be female protagonists, and they could have gotten away with it with a better script, not to say better acting and filmmaking, in Bond’s case, this is simply not possible.

And if this trend is followed through, why not also have a female Sherlock Holmes as well as a female Rambo, Rocky, Shaft, and Terminator. And why not make an all female version of Lawrence of Arabia? The idea of having women play traditionally male roles is certainly not liberating but rather limiting if not downright ludicrous. It may be trying to undermine what is a male-dominated and oriented domain, but this unimaginative approach is one that is fueled by and filled with resentment against what are, for better or worse, considered traditionally male qualities.

What all of this shows us is that women do not want to be free, but they want to be exactly like men. They consciously or unconsciously copy male chauvinism in the forms of attitude, violence, and disregard for others. The tables have turned and now the women shall topple the patriarchy and start oppressing the male. Personally, I would not mind having women in power but do not warm to the idea of having women play men in power; it is merely the same thing only presented in a different wrapping and outfit.

Essentially, my idea of feminism is that men and women ought to have equality, yet they should not be the same. Put differently, they should have access to the same rights and opportunities but not be duplicates of one another. If and when both are identical, we all end up losing, and all the diversity in gender will be irrevocably lost.

Of course, gender is not binary. Regardless of what sex you are born in, you will have both female and male characteristics. Ideally, each of them, just like the yin and yang of the Tao, are and should be in equilibrium. That is either sex will contain and embrace elements of the other.

The problem is that traditional society does not see it that way. Boys are supposed to act tough, be independent and not cry, while girls are encouraged to freely express their emotions, but they need to be interdependent, passive, if not downright submissive. In that sense, each and both will feel hurt and stagnated as their other tendencies are not fully explored nor developed.

The problem with feminism is that it often has little to do with feminine values or femininity; it is often the exact opposite of what is considered feminine. This movement is for the most part women trying to be more like men, that is to become more aggressive and tough in their demeanor and actions.

I do not in any way support or subscribe to toxic masculinity, as it is blindly aggressive, bellicose and mean-spirited. But it is rather convenient for women to overlook their own flaws and assume that they are pure and innocent, i.e. a virgin, the symbol and embodiment that ironically enough the patriarchal groups created to attack and confine women.

Many say toxic femininity is not a thing and does not exist, but the reality is women attack in different both subtle and not so subtle ways: They will often resort to passive-aggressive violence. I have been a recipient of such abuse at work, and in fact in a previous job interview led by three women I felt under attack for simply being from the male species (the job position went to a female evidently).

Once in my early college years, I witnessed two women fighting, and it was a rather horrendous scene that left me in shock. When guys fight, there are certain unspoken rules, but when these girls were scrapping, it was complete chaos as there was scratching, screaming and hair-pulling accentuated by constant shrieking.

In fact, radical feminists (whom my wife ingeniously calls femi-Nazis) would negate and fight against the softer and gentler qualities of the feminine and instead incorporate traditionally male characteristics; not only are such feminists denying and rejecting their own femininity, but they also turn their indiscriminate attacks on men as well as all the women who do not espouse their rigid and one-sided conception of womanhood.

When women fought for equality, their right to vote, for instance, feminism used to be a veritable movement in the formidable and noble sense of equality, but when women started feeling ashamed of wearing skirts or of putting on make-up, then something started going awry. It seems that everything that was previously deemed natural shall be turned on its head and that being married and having a family means one has fallen prey to the patriarchal system or establishment.

Some of the changes may have been tied to economic necessity. In the 50s, traditions reigned supreme: the woman demonstrated her innate maternal instincts but was also delegated to the house and kitchen, while the husband went to work. Evolutionary speaking, this was the typical script in which men went to hunt for livelihood (to earn money for the purchase of food and goods), while women stayed home to look after the offspring by also taking care of the rest of the family and preparing or cooking meals for all.

This type of behavior has been ingrained and practiced since the beginning of humankind, and it has been passed on from one generation to the other. Yet right after the 60s, the sexual revolution turned things around. Ideologically, this is for the best, but with it came also a time of economic instability. Thereafter, women could not stay home even if they wanted to; especially after the 80s, it was much more common to see both husband and wife work full-time to make ends meet.

Children were not taken care of by either party; they were sent to daycare facilities. This was an essential loss for the children since they would lack essential contact and bonding with their caregivers and would be instead raised by complete strangers. This was said to foster independence but instead caused lack of connection and a general air and climate of confusion within the child’s psyche.

After this time, women enjoyed their new-found independence and decided to further explore the workforce. Since they gained more economic opportunities, they also gained power both within the household as well as within society. But in some ways, the same women were still unconsciously wanting to hold onto the maternal aspects of caring for the household; as a result, they would often run themselves down by putting too much on their own plates. This is the woman who looks after her child while also working full-time. By trying to control both worlds, she completely exhausts herself and becomes confused regarding her own identity.

Hence, men are often called in to do a task they are not naturally suited or equipped for as it is evolutionary speaking not their domain. They can try hard and learn, but it is not and does not form part of their instincts. Mothers have a symbiotic relationship with their infants as they have been carrying and feeding them in their womb for almost a year, a vital experience that men do not and cannot have and that the males are essentially deprived of.

Similarly, men as ex-hunters tend to relish or thrive under competitive and aggressive situations or at least those scenarios may come to them more naturally, whereas women will necessarily struggle in such situations; they would lack the aggressive touch and impulse. Both respective genders end up being out of place and feeling void and unsatisfied in their new chosen roles.

Again, this is not based on individual differences, but it rather points to general trends. It is a fantasy if not a downright lie that you are born with a blank slate and that you can be who you want to be. In terms of bodies, including the brain and hormones, there is a distinct gender divide, and we are not equal. 

Our bodies are not the same, so how and why should our minds be? This is not a bad thing but something that has ensured that we complement and complete each other in terms of character, ability and even personality, not unlike the androgynous myth of Aristophanes as accounted in Plato’s Symposium.

This does not mean that men cannot excel in traditionally feminine careers like nursing and teaching, nor that women cannot become engineers or scientists, but that there is a still a visible gender gap between these professions, which is due to the innate abilities for each specific gender. Men may have a greater capacity to focus and follow through with tasks, while women tend to be better with social connections as well as being able to multi-task or handle and deal with different tasks and assignments at the same time.

Oddly enough, one of the most accurate but equally disconcerting representations of gender equality is Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (1997). In this futuristic sci-fi flick, both men and women were the same; there were women that had higher military positions and both men and women showered together as they had lost their differences. 

Both were in the same locker room naked in front of the other while acting and interacting naturally and without shame, modesty or embarrassment; their bodies elicited neither lust nor curiosity, the same way, it was not surprising nor odd to have male or female superiors among their ranks.

In that scenario, gender was easily replaced and interchangeable since they had lost what it meant to be men descended from the sun or Mars and women descended from the earth or Venus. They were merely genderless almost shapeless humans that were living and breathing amongst each other, or rather they were like Adam and Eve before they were tempted and prompted to notice their differences and forge their own separate gender identity.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Mozart's Don Giovanni as the Tragicomic Symbol of Unbridled Capitalism

Commendatore on stage receives applause from audience
“Hurray for women,
hurray for wine!
The substance and glory of humanity!”

My first taste and experience of Mozart’s famous (and equally infamous) opera Don Giovanni was Joseph Losey’s adaptation on the small screen. I was certainly impressed by the music but somewhat shocked, baffled and initially appalled by the behaviour of its famed eponymous protagonist also known as Don Juan. The plot was confusing due to his many conquests of the past, present and future, while all the while, my wife and I were hoping he would eventually come to his senses and see the light. Yet the light he sees at the end ended up being of a very different kind.

For the most part, I was hoping for any shreds of regret or redemption, yet that did not occur. But what bothered me most upon my first viewing was the general lack of feeling and empathy by this sex-crazed and obsessed womanizer. I myself tend to have a certain affinity with such characters (in fact, I have written a novel in which the protagonist is a skirt-chasing poet) and I had re-imagined this Casanova-type character as more sensual and life-affirming and imbued with poetic sensibilities, but none of that was on display here.

Instead Don Giovanni was portrayed as a vain, narcissistic sociopath who collected and bragged about his innumerable female conquests as if they were medals and trophies. As Leporello, his servant, at one point attests, his master had slept with over a thousand damsels, a number that may seem physically dubious (if not impossible), but that may be achieved if Don Giovanni indeed had several sexual exploits on each given day of the year over the span of various years.

It was on my second viewing of the same opera, this time performed live on stage with the UBC Opera ensemble that I got to re-evaluate my feelings about the character and the opera as a whole. Where in my first viewing every character seemed devoid of love and care, on this second and more intimate encounter, I noted various moments of true feeling and passion, but again none of it emanated from its protagonist. In a way, I saw him less as despicable, but more as a suffering and wanting individual who simply could not come to grips with his own directionless desires and that is when the metaphor of unbridled capitalism crossed my mind.

In fact, Don Giovanni and the unscrupulous capitalist share the trait of having a voracious appetite, the former for women and the latter for money. In Giovanni’s case, women are fully objectified; they are stripped of feeling and sensibility; he merely notes the superficial skin-deep differences, such as height, hair color, nationality and standing. Oddly enough, not only are his interests exceptionally wide and all-inclusive, he fancies all types of women, the short, the tall, the young, the old, the beautiful and the ugly alike, but he also has an overall disregard for social standing.

He pursues noble women with the same vigor than a country wench and this makes him surprisingly democratic in his choice. But that is also disconcerting. By having no specific types and by setting himself no preferences, he is after Woman in all shapes and disguises. It is a lust that knows no bounds and has no aim whatsoever as he desires every woman and every possible aspect of her. In Kierkegaard’s mind, this quest serves to enhance every woman’s beauty, but in my view, in Don Giovanni’s obsessive, reckless and egomaniacal search, he ends up both denigrating and humiliating femininity.

In fact, he is the glutton that relishes in all types of dishes that he can get his hands on, and yet, he is never satisfied; he never relinquishes his desire nor does he alleviate his itch and since he does not fulfill his need, he is on a constant quest. The combination of his unscrupulous and relentless desire to conquer and by extension shame and dishonor women everywhere is akin to an amok serial killer on the loose who targets and endangers all and every woman everywhere; as a result, anything remotely feminine becomes his immediate prey.

In his appetite for money and possessions, the money-hungry and greedy capitalist is essentially not that different from this cruel womanizer. Those types of capitalists also can never find satisfaction since there is no set point at which their needs are fully met. In this vicious cycle, the more money he has, the more he wants, and it is certainly not a case of the more, the merrier; in Don Giovanni’s situation, his lust for women entangles his soul, and like quicksand this plunges him deeper and deeper into the dark abyss below.

The avid consumer is a pale reflection of either one of them, but she also is consumed by her desire of buying and consuming stuff, only to replace a given item with another object along the way. As none of these people know what they exactly want and have no limits in their voracious but never fulfilling or satisfying appetites, they are not unlike the hungry ghosts who are destined and cursed to forever roam the earth.

Yet Don Giovanni’s appetite is not limited to women. The final scene of the opera combines three of his carnal passions: food, wine, and women. On their own and in adequate scoops and measures, each and every one of those passions are perfectly palpable and acceptable, but it is in their unlimited consumption that they become damaging to one’s physical, emotional and psychological health and well-being.

What Don Giovanni furthermore lacks is conscience. He recklessly engages in endeavors that endanger people’s relationships, social regard as well as their lives. For instance, he abuses everyone, including his servant Leporello whom he beats and then pays off with money and who is nearly killed; for Don Giovanni’s single-minded amusement, they switch clothes, and the servant is mistakenly taken for the master and barely escapes with life.  

Don Giovanni is continuously and consistently heartless and unrelenting; he kills the Commendatore without remorse, he seduces the country woman on her wedding day literally in front of the jealous eyes of the groom and later promises to marry her, which is a blatant lie. Although he previously jilted Dona Elvira, he continues to play around with her feelings, giving her hope where he has no intention whatsoever to follow it up with deeds. Every person is like a puppet that he twitches, turns and humiliates to his liking and desire, and he has no perception of consequences or the damage and hurt that he inflicts on them. Life is a series of games made to entertain him and destined for his personal pleasure only.

It is with adamant conviction that this narcissist sticks to his ideas of absolute entitlement and he never repents for his misdeeds. There may be something heroic about the fixed stance of never betraying his so-called ideals, by not wavering nor succumbing to others, not even when he is about to be dragged to hell by the Commendatore, but since his ideals are so devoid of feeling and happiness and cause nothing but pain and suffering to others, this posture becomes tragicomic in itself. Like an avid gambler, he puts all his money on one single number and that one always comes up empty, but he does not seem to realize or care about that.

And yet, there is so much potential and so many opportunities that cross his path. He could put his wealth, standing and charm to good use and find a person to love, but all his sexual experiences are so mechanical and devoid of any genuine feeling that he can never find pleasure. He simply uses his exploits for bragging rights; he shows off his many conquests to gain esteem both within himself as well as from others. This is not unlike the super-wealthy who fight for the Forbes’ list of the wealthiest person on the planet by sporting inordinate sums of money in their bank accounts. They use their possessions to impress others, and this is of little benefit for anyone involved, including themselves.

As such, they have no fidelity, but they are all steadfast in their steadfastlessness; tirelessly and listlessly they try to conquer the world for their own pleasure and benefit. Along the way, they take advantage of others and they prize what has little intrinsic value; it could be money, which is merely a symbol of wealth but not wealth itself, possessions which are merely lifeless objects, or even sexual exploits, which are experiences that do not and cannot on their own provide lasting happiness but only temporarily fulfill a void. Such sexual experiences do not consider nor take into account the other person’s feeling or pleasure, and as a result, they leave both parties empty and without joy.

But women do not come off lightly here and in Mozart’s opera they are not merely victims. The husbands are protective, often jealous and even ready to avenge the wrongdoing to their loved ones, but the women appear to relish the attention and praises heaped on them by the charming and sweet-talking Don Giovanni. 

For instance, the country wench has a choice of rejecting him and keep in mind this is on her wedding day with her husband-to-be right next to her, but then she eventually falls for Don Giovanni because of his looks, of his mastery of the art of seduction but perhaps more so because of his promises of wealth and social status his loose tongue heaps upon her. She is naïve in believing and hanging onto his words since she takes them as genuine and respectable emanations out of a mouth of a true and noble gentleman; in this way, Mozart also slyly makes fun of the dishonest upper classes of his times.

All things considered, although Don Giovanni has everything any man would want, money, standing, good looks and women, he is not brimming with life and joy; his face is pale and troubled, and yet, he is always wearing a mask. Deep inside, he is as dead as the Commendatore that comes to fetch him. And in his stubborn blindness and refusal to look truth and himself in the face, Don Giovanni does not recant, his time is up, and he is forever doomed.