Being Morbid on the Party Strip

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

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South