Being Morbid on the Party Strip

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Death for dinner and death for afters.  Nightclubs and venues of evening entertainment with poor safety policies, aided by authorities indifferent to the welfare of pleasure seekers are the weeds of entertainment.  The body count from such negligence keeps rising, but so do the number of body counters.  The regulations preventing deaths occasioned by negligence, poor exits, and safety precautions on a global level, remain poor.

The deaths at the Kiss Club in Santa Maria, Brazil, the aftermath of an all too fiery pyrotechnics display, is coming to a chilling 232 and set to rise.  These victims have become part of the necropolis that night life feeds.  Partying is encumbered with exhilarating promise and danger.  The individuals who also facilitated this, members of the band in question and the nightclub owner by the name of Elissandro Spohr (“Kiki”), have been arrested by police concerned with civil matters.  They have been at pains to point out that the detentions are “provisional” at this point.  Also in question are security guards who held patrons back even as the fire started to engulf the premises.

Globally speaking, frequenting night clubs, whatever their pedigree, is an occupational hazard.  You enter places at your peril.  A global excursus into the deadly records of clubs is worth considering, given the latest and spectacular death toll in Santa Maria. The more you peer into the body count, the more one wonders why more people don’t stay at home.  But that, at the end of the day, is precisely the point.  Movement is an assurance of life, a song of existence.

The fascination with such mortality has, however, gone one step further.  The news reports are drawing the corpse counts out of the morgue with fitful relish.  “Deadly blazes: Nightclub tragedies in recent history,” CNN seems to shout out over the others.  Not to be outdone, Canadian news discusses “6 deadly nightclub fires around the world” wishing to give the partying departed a more worldly focus.  The CNN piece is characteristically inaccurate in its accounting – “A look back at U.S. nightclub fires” only to mention an international smorgasbord that avoids the U.S., in the main. To take a few examples: Caracas, December 1, 2002, where 47 perished; and an unnamed dance hall in Luoyang, China, where 309 people lost their lives on Christmas Day in 2000.

The CNN report makes mention of the death of 100 people occasioned by a similar pyrotechnics fiasco in West Warwick, Rhode Island on February 21, 2003.  This is America’s proud donation to the numbers of dead.  Even in death, there is a pulsating ego waiting to be promoted.  We were the first at the scene of slaying.

These places should be mausoleums to the carefree – Quito in Ecuador; the Santika nightclub in Bangkok, Perm in Russia.  Instead, they reveal an increasingly morbid fascination with the casualties of entertainment.  The young will die, and this is the price of curiosity.

The business of night entertainment, and to be specific, nightclub entertainment, is precarious.  Everyone has the potential to be bloodied when the sun goes down and the party animal emerges for fun.  Yes, the patron is at risk, but so is the bar tender who earns the poor wage. The half-wit bouncer, hired for his misdirected brawn, is also at risk, not merely from poor judgment but patrons who should know better.  The management are also under the microscope for squeezing their patrons into intolerable spaces in the name of entertainment and profit.

Dangerous conditions need not come in the form of a fire display that goes terribly wrong.  They can occur in every day interaction on the ground between guests and management.  Let’s take a more recent example of English common law in action.  Everett v Comojo (UK) Ltd (2011) involved a discussion whether a duty is owed by a nightclub to their visitors for the criminal actions of third parties.  A waitress at the club was allegedly assaulted by two guests.  A patron, on witnessing this, sent for his driver while asking the men to apologise.  The driver subsequently attacked the alleged assailants, causing them injury.  They sued.

The English Court of Appeal found that the management of nightclubs regulates entry and removal of individuals to and from their premises.  Those present are entitled to expect no occasion of violence, a safe environment and for those reasons, there was sufficient proximity between management and the guests for a duty of care to exist.

For those familiar with the nightclub scene, such expectations are often the stuff of fantasy.  True, many managers do abide by statutes and bylaws, some painstakingly so.  But a party nullified of danger is often devoid of flavour.  It is morbid, but humans need their flirt with Thanatos, their insensible moment of fun.  And that is what keeps the likes of Kiki and the pyrotechnic deviants in business.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”