Monday, July 19, 2010

World Without End

They say that by August two new relief wells will be drilled in the gulf, which will help to drain off the oil that has been polluting the waters, killing wildlife, ruining the fishing and tourist industries in the gulf states, and giving a whole sector of the American population their first experience of Armageddon. Actually, life has always been difficult. Plagues in the Middle Ages were followed by the religious ecstasy and slaughter of the Inquisition, but now the earth seems a little like Swiss cheese. In certain areas like, say, Provence or the little country of Lichtenstein, where one of the main industries is the manufacture of postage stamps, you might as well be occupying one of the holographic levels of Star Trek, as the landscape has an idyllic, pre-Adamic feeling. But if you’re a Katrina veteran or a woman seeking education in Afghanistan, only to have acid thrown in your face, you occupy the universe of Brueghel and Bosch, the two great interpreters of the grotesque. If it’s been done, it’s been said, and if it’s been said, it’s been done is an old saw that is often brought out with respect to pornography, and the same might be said of calamity. Auschwitz and Buchenwald were off the charts in terms of brutality. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the rape of Nanking, in which the Japanese army performed vivisections on their enemies—all are singular for their intentionality. Idi Amin, the savagery of the Janjaweed militias, Rwanda, the genocide of the Tutsi, the repression of the military dictatorship of Myanmar, and the raw juggernaut of Kim Jong-il’s brand of atavism—all test the extent and agency of man-made evil. Yet since the dawn of recorded time humans have been confronted with adversity. Only serendipity explains the burial of Pompeii or, most recently, the tsunamis in Southeast Asia. If a meteor hadn’t hit the earth, there wouldn’t have been an ice age, which prompted the extinction of the dinosaurs, and Australopithecus and Homo habilis, our primate ancestors, might never have survived the pterodactyls.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.