Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Final Solution: Fear

Fear is a Janus-faced emotion. It naturally provides a survivalist function. Without it there would be no warning of danger. There are people who suffer from a condition (congenital analgesia) in which they're unable to feel pain. However, what seems like a possible benefit can naturally have pernicious results. Bone breaks can be the result of not being able to monitor blunt force trauma. A person lacking in fear may evince an enviable impregnability and ability to proceed but the inability to feel often leads to a kind of obduracy and at the least insensitivity to others. Remember Spock on Star Trek, a force of good who was robot-like behavior gave him a consoling stability? Still he was lacking in certain intuitive abilities and in particular empathy. It’s nice to be imperturbable if you’re piloting a plane, but extreme equanimity can be oppressive once you’re on your way home from the airport. Wearing a mask and maintaining a distance should are common sense behaviors that even a cool dude like Dirty Harry would abide by. Fear on the other hand can take on a life of its own, manufacturing its own logic, rules and behaviors that have no relationship to a sober perception of reality. There are many things to be afraid of, particularly amidst a pandemic, but the perception of danger can be so great and ubiquitous that one may literally step into quicksand while trying to avoid a pothole. Free-floating anxiety which seeks an object to attach itself too, is an ailment unto itself which can leave a legacy of self-fulfilling prophecies.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Final Solution: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Remember Hannah Arendt's "the banality of evil?" Without bowing to the enemy, there's an Eichmann or Donald Trump, in all of us. That may explain the confounding nature of his appeal.  In this case the genocide involves the denial of an almost biblical plague that has affected the one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries of the world in a particularly potent way. Speculators on the intentionality of God with respect to man, might even say that Americans are being punished. But amidst all this you have a person who claims that coronavirus is like the emperor’s new clothes. It’s not really there and if it is, it’s going to go away and if doesn’t there will be a vaccine that will cure it before you can say boo. The idea is that to say something is to make it real. That would be a seemingly easy enough premise to disprove. However, the icing on the cake is that even though facile and hopeful iterations may be disproved, one after the other by spiking case counts and death, the baseless cheerleading continues to be swallowed hook line and sinker by a base that's now thrown a conspiracy theory into the mix. Those who criticize the leader are part of a deep state which practices pedophilia. A cartoon vision of reality predicated on magical thinking has now became the lingua franca of American political discussion with in fact Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, perpetrating the idea that his colleagues were like the pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers ("Trump Health Aide Pushes Bizarre Conspiracy and Warns of Armed Revolt," NYT, 9/14/20). Quick fixes. It’s not the message but the messenger. To what lengths will a population go, in terms of denial, to believe in a Second Coming?

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Final Solution: Pere Ubu

Ubu Roi (woodcut by Alfred Jarry)

Whimsy is an emotion that’s hard to call up and even remember. Flights of fancy seem to reside in some dusty archive containing characters like Jeeves the famous butler immortalized by P.G. Wodehouse. Satire has a different taste. Today, almost all of it is reserved for our current Ubu Roi, Donald Trump. As you may remember Afred Jarry’s character was a primitively drawn despot also known as Pere Ubu who liked to get his way. You think of whimsy in Victorian settings which provide the stability and structure in which outlandish characters and their cousins, dandies and flaneurs, were subsidized by aristocracies in Hyde Park or on the Boulevard Haussmann. One feels wistful for the days when the world could afford imaginative flights of fancy, without the constraints and mandates to usurp some force of black shirts on Harleys creating litanies of ritualistic violence. Whimsy is a product of a cultured universe of repose, the world of the “effete” which Vice President Spiro Agnew, an earlier form of our present hoary figure, infamously attacked. Agnew got into trouble because of his tax problems, too.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Tempting Fate

Alcatraz Island (1895)
Houdini pulled off a number of escapes and then there are the famous prison breaks, mostly recently the one engineered by two inmates from the Clinton Correctional Facility a notorious maximum-security prison in upper New York State. When you look at some of these fortresses, it’s astonishing that anyone could have engineered their freedom and, of course, there was the breakout from Stalag Luft III, documented in The Great Escape (1963). All of these required ingenuity, bravery and above all an uncommon tenacity and perseverance. However, how does one escape the self-fulfilling prophecy that’s often one’s own existence? How's it possible to derail the train of determinism by which past experience incarcerates the present? Oedipus famously brought about the thing he most feared by trying to avoid it. He never would have found himself at the crossroads, where he murdered his own father Laius, unless he were trying to escape fate. Perhaps the reality of life itself is more benign. Some people rise above their circumstances. Despite having grown up in broken homes, with drug-addled parents, they go on to live useful and productive lives replete with satisfying relationships and families of their own. But many are lured back to the darkness of the underworld, and end up bringing down those around with them. Orpheus was told not to look back. Yet he couldn’t control his desires, something for which he and his beloved Eurydice would suffer for eternity.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Final Solution: The Guns of August

There's usually one day that hearkens the end of summer. It’s a little like a supernova, one of those luminous celestial events in which an exploding brightness heralds a black hole—one final effusion of nature, bright, crisp and short-lived, at the end of which begins the (down)fall in which the leaves already turning brown, begin to crumble and die on the ground. Later, with winter the branches will be barren. However, in this season of turmoil with a delusory quiet characterized by the honking of gulls and Doppler effect of luxury cars disappearing along an old country road, it’s truly the calm before the storm. Barbara Tuchman famously coined days marking the onset of World War I, The Guns of August and now with the start of autumn, increasing violence in the streets, the threat of a contested election and the fear of a second spike of coronavirus accompanying the normal flu season, the dark clouds that loom on the horizon can be belied by a simple full moon illuminating a clear night sky.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Annals of DSM: Cell Shocked

photo: MikroLogika

Humanity can roughly be divided into two categories: people talking on their cell phones and people talking to themselves. There are also folders v. crumplers, but that’s another phylum. In the beginning of the cell phone era, it could be disconcerting to see someone talking animatedly on the street. This period of history coincided with the deinstitutionalization of many mental patients so if you didn’t notice  someone had something in the palm of their hand, you might easily mistake them for a psychotic individual hearing things. The fact that many cell phone users now use earbuds and don’t even hold a device has revived this confusion, but the problem has also come full circle. In fact many people who you see talking on their cells are indeed talking to themselves. They’re on them so much, they've begun to live in a solipsistic universe in which their view of so-called reality is mitigated by an electronic medium. You see the same thing going on with the profusion of individuals who're constantly photographing and inventorying  their experience (usually with their iPhones) rather than living it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Final Solution: Categorical Imperative City

 Immanuel Kant (Johann Gottlieb Becker, 1768)

Maybe the time for equilibration and its coadjutant relativism are gone. Tolerance of viewpoints and behaviors together with an understanding and respect for ambivalence can be humanizing forces. But there are times when everyone is not entitled to their opinion and when the expression of certain viewpoints is not simply, as the deconstructionists would have it, ideological. In other words, there's a Kantian categorial imperative, a right and wrong. Equanimity is a luxury that cannot be afforded in the middle of a pandemic and environmental crisis. QAnon supporters who believe the cornonavirus is part of a conspiracy theory emanating from a deep state don’t have a point of view that deserves a hearing any more than anyone can cry “fire” in a  crowded movie theater. If someone makes claims there's too much testing (as the president has done) and then goes on to give themselves an A+ for handling the coronavirus, he or she is actually causing more deaths. To say that some of the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville are “very fine people,” as Trump did, is tantamount to a Sieg Heil. How does one maintain Enlightenment values on the eve of Kristallnacht?

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Final Solution: The Clouds

It's a bad time for the “I can’t complain” crowd. Anyone who answers “I can’t complain” when asked how they are can genuinely be diagnosed with one of those disorders in which the sufferer’s view of reality has become radically compromised. But where does "I can't complain" fare on the spectrum of emotions with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, West Coast fires generating so much smoke in the upper atmosphere that Europe has begun to feel the effects in its upper atmosphere (governor Gavin Newsom said breathing the air in certain areas of California is like smoking 400 cigarettes a day) and a pandemic raging amidst the comorbity of racial and economic inequality. The answer is that there isn’t much reason to believe that the clouds are going to part both literally and metaphorically in the near future. And by the way if you’re thinking of escape don’t run down to the panhandle where the rains from Hurricane Sally are flooding the levees. So what stance is one to take, stoic acceptance, happiness for being alive and gratitude or a general feeling of terror, fear and awe at the reality that's unfolding right before one’s eyes? Spiritual programs are elixirs that are usually predicated on a certain level of acceptance that goes hand in hand with a lowering of expectations. But the danger with such attitudes is a kind of Polyannaism that doesn’t allow for merited alarm. If the sky is falling or in this case disappearing, someone has to tell the truth. Is your head in the clouds?

Friday, September 18, 2020

Annals of Consciousness: More Bang For Your Buck

drawing: Sigmund Freud

What a shattering insult finitude is the ego! Despite claims to the contrary all organic and for that matter inorganic matter partakes of  the impulse to individuate. The condition of being separate and peculiar in order to possess some form of eschatological or teleological importance is the aim of the evolutionary process that would eventuate in human consciousness. People plan their demise and designate the repository for both their remains and possessions in their wills, but right up until their last minute on earth they still hold to the notion that they'll receive a reprieve, ultimately allowing them to live forever. They will be on the list of presidential pardons. Clemency will be granted and instead of that final meal, the door of the prison of mortality will be opened, becoming the one cosmic exception with that ray of light or boson from the big bang 13.7 billion years ago, irradiating their countenance.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Final Solution: Cryptocurrency


photo: Martin E. Walder

“Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,” says Satan in Paradise Lost. It was a quote cited by Steve Bannon in Errol Morris' controversial American Dharma, a film that unintentionally lionized the former White House strategist. Apparently, the stock market itself partakes of the satanic. While monstrous suffering affects Americans all over the country, who have been hit with the comorbidity and perfect storm of coronavirus and racial inequality, the market has taken on a life of its own, an alchemical elixir which resembles a little what Faust was seeking when he made his bargain with Mephistopheles.Value-free economics has always been the mantra of the free market but now evil has become the lingua franca of the American Dream minting its own cryptocurrency whose fungibility is only based upon marketability. In as much as the coronavirus has chastened the human race, it’s also produced a counterreaction in which death tolls and consequences, now are treated as fake news.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Final Solution: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Youth is wasted on the young goes the old saw. The homily might be modified as the memory of civilization when the earth seemed bright and fresh and there was a feeling of possibility and even innocence  is wasted on the young. Of course, humankind has always gone through periods of great affliction, but the current perfect storm of massive wildfires in the West, the comorbidity of racial and economic inequality and coronavirus  (that is being met with denial by a very healthy part of the population who regard fear itself as a QAnon plot), multiple hurricanes, and a president who threatens to actually destroy democratic institutions (imagine The White House changed into The House of Trump) all create a wistful nostalgia for even periods like the 50s when nuclear Armageddon threatened. As one sails past the empty office buildings of Madison and Park Avenue in Manhattan and confronts the empty hulk of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Grand Central, one longs for former ages when the world was falling apart in ways that were still imaginable. Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, and Jonas Salk all produced life saving vaccines, but will anyone really come forth with a shot which will deal with corona and all its possible mutations? Are the charred ruins of a land mass equal to New Jersey betokening the fact that climate change has crossed a new threshold of uncontrollability. Could this be it? Boccaccio wrote The Decameron which depicted a group of aristocrats amusing themselves with tales while waiting for the plague to pass. Has the point come where there won’t be enough Netflix series to carry us through the long period of danger that lies ahead and threatens to close down the world entirely?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Final Solution: Waste

The opposite of planned obsolescence is mandated superfluity. There was a period when unions exerted so much control in certain industries that some companies were forced to hire workers for jobs that essentially didn’t exist. Capitalism is actually a stream-lined system in which entrepreneurs attempt to minimize costs in order to produce commodities cheaply, but in a wealthy society, accommodations and concessions are often made for the sake of equanimity. Allowing the market to totally determine wages actually begins to have a negative effect on the social fabric evidenced by the deleterious effects of economic inequality. This was the theme of Thomas Piketty’s Capital. Concessions to labor made by the entrepreneurial or ownership class in fact ultimately guarantee the perpetuation of their own privileged elite. Naturally, with technology and automation some of these earlier assumptions have been and will continue to be challenged. Co-optation was a word used by 60s radicals to describe a process by which the proletariat is basically bought off. “Repressive desublimation” was an expression the Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse used to describe a process by which pleasure itself is used  for pacification. A recent New Yorker review/essay by Atul Gawande about Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism "Why Americans Are Dying of Despair,"(3/23/20) explores the rise in mortality in a demographic where it might not otherwise be expected,  in a growingy disenfranchised middle-aged white population.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Pawnbroker

Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1964) could only have been made in its time. It’s the black and white world of gritty New York, the world of movies like Little Fugitive about the kid who gets lost in Coney Island. The Quincy Jones music, the down home lettering of the film's logo, the faces of families crowded in tenement windows, the famous scene of the hooker pulling off her top and the even more famous scene of Nazerman's (Rod Steiger) stigmata. Then there are the Checker cabs, Nina Simone headlining at The Apollo, the marquee of the L Shaped Room with Leslie Caron and, of course,  those 60s subways cross-cutting to the cattle cars on the way to the camps. “You have made this afternoon very tedious with your constant search for an answer,” he tells Marilyn Burchfield (Geraldine Fitzgerald), the resident social worker, trying to break through. He also intones, “Next to the speed of light which Einstein sights as the only absolute, only second to that is money.” Today The Pawnbroker with its lightning quick flashbacks might be an essay in trauma theory. A concentration camp survivor, who has lost the ability to feel, relives his past. “I didn’t die,” he later tells Marilyn who significantly occupies an apartment near an iconic seat of culture, Lincoln Center, “Everything I love was taken away from me and I didn’t die.” There have been many other films made about the Holocaust, but the The Pawnbroker is a period piece, a film with method acting melodrama, played to the hilt, that’s at the same time eternal. It should be noted that Boris Kaufman, younger brother to  Dziga-Vertov of Man With a Movie Camera fame was the cinematographer and the cross-pollination between European culture and the gritty timebound urban landscape may account for the film's majestic compass and earthbound newsreel style. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Conscience Question

Lee Lawrie's "Atlas" (photo: ThreeOneFive)
What about the old question of happiness? If a person feels particularly disinhibited and actually suffers a deficit in the area of conscience, can his or her expressions of delight in a sybaritic existence be taken seriously? If they're experiencing satisfaction even in the course of the unilateral enjoyment of pleasures which may sometimes bring pain to others, are they superior to say the suffering soul who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. You may remember the sculpture of Atlas in front of one of the Rock Center buildings facing Saks. He looks pretty miserable hefting the world, despite the obvious power he’s been building in his quads over “mythic time.” "Thus, conscience doth make cowards of us all," says Hamlet. It’s a hard case to adjudicate and one wonders how the current conservatively biased Supreme Court would rule, with its with its tilt toward individualism and deregulation? Would the sufferers with their lousy guilt-ridden relations win their suit, on the basis of the legacy left for posterity or would the carpe diem side walk away with all the cash and prizes?

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Final Solution: Orator

Orator is a work on rhetoric by Cicero, in fact his last say on the subject. An orator is literally someone who, according to the dictionary, “makes formal speeches in public.” Barack Obama is particularly skilled in this area, as is Bill Clinton, whose nomination speech for Hillary was memorable. However, there are many politicians who are skilled orators and among the spouses of famous presidents Eleanor Roosevelt and Michele Obama stand out too. Martin Luther King was a great orator along with Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and most recently Greta Thunberg, who at the ripe age of 17 unleashed an unforgettable jeremiad on climate change to the European parliament which basically held a whole generation accountable for the depredations which their children would face. But in an odd way public harangues are a value-free phenomenon. There are many speakers who have been capable of moving crowds to bad ends. Hitler was of course one and now there’s Trump whose increasingly high "tyranny quotient" allows him to wax for particularly long periods of time. It's characteristic of tyrants that they're both repetitive and capable of brow beating their opponents in an almost incantatory way with the perseveration which might seem obvious to those who resist the calls to oppression becoming almost hypnotic to supporters. It’s a paradox that those who would put a lid on freedom of expression might be most capable of prolixity. Vladimir Putin is a tyrant, but being a former KGB agent, he tends to be relatively taciturn compared to his counterparts in Brazil, Hungary and elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

You Are There

photograph: Thomas J. O'Halloran
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a nowhere which is basically everywhere? It’s almost harder to find one’s way out of the strips of dealerships and fast food joints that are to be found on the outskirts of any major town. There are no signposts since the essence of branding is to create a location which is identical everywhere. How is it possible to distinguish one Wendy’s or McDonald’s from another when the whole idea is to provide the same thing no matter where you go. The same applies with the Holiday Inn Express, whose rooms and facilities are created following the same master plan and grid with the breakfast nook serving a similar menu of modest items, with a small workout room residing by the pool. The buffet of consumerism is all the more disconcerting since there’s the ultimate suggestion that perhaps one is trapped in a never-ending procession of similar entities. Sometimes one segues right into the other and you experience a version of Ground Hog Day. Your Google maps will confirm you’re occupying a new set of coordinates though it’s unclear how you know you’ve gone anywhere.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Boys State

Jesse Mosse and Amanda McBaine’s Boys State at first seems like a piece of garish Americana. Robert Altman’s, Nashville meets the American Legion, which plays a big role as the sponsor of an annual rite of passage.The erstwhile members of an American institution with a famed conservative bias, dressed in their famed regalia, interview candidates--a lesson in American political process. The proceedings in this iteration (there are other Boys and ALA Girls States around the country) take place in Austin, in the shadow of the capital dome; they culminate in an election in which the top dog wins the mock gubernatorial race. There’s even a talent show in which the oddity of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” being performed in a paramilitary setting cannot go unnoticed. The participants which the film captures are mostly good ole boys who have the 4H club clean scrubbed look in their Texas Boys State tee-shirts. Many mimic classically conservative anti-abortion, anti-immigration and pro Second Amendment stances. However there are anomalies which make the movie less of a send up than an exploration of how values  are inculcated. You realize that appearances can be deceiving from the very beginning when a group of boys are being lectured on George Orwell’s l984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Then there’s the fact that the leadership position of the Nationalists, which is one of the two parties in contention (the Federalists are the other) are held respectively by a Mexican-American (Steven Garza) and a Afro- American (Rene Otero). Despite the lily-white demographic, there are other exceptions as the camera pans the audience. In addition, the film is characterized by an anomalous interiority. Rather than creating caricatures, the producers chose a far more complex approach in which thoughtful discourse and one-on-one interviews show how the participants wrestle with the issues on their party platforms. In addition, these teenaged politicians demonstrate an almost uncanny erudition. Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum could learn something from these ambitious and aspirational personalities. The film introduces a number of contrarieties that are mind boggling, not the least of which is the Legion's role in orchestrating a level of exchange that many incumbant politicians, on both sides of the aisle, would be hard put to emulate.

Monday, September 7, 2020

22 Minutes or Nine and a Half Weeks

You may recall the l978 novel Nine and a Half Weeks: A Memoir of a Love Affair. Written under a pseudonym, it told the story of an art dealer who gets involved in a sadomasochistic relationship with a Wall Street broker. An excerpt appeared in Playboy and was made into a film starring Kim Basinger who claimed she had been traumatized during the shooting. Daphne Merkin’s 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love bears some comparison, though it's distinguished both by the author's ferocious intelligence and her  metafictional asides. This time the subject is an editor, Judith Stone. She's an ingenue who falls for a lawyer, Howard Rose. The Story of O was the ur-modern novel of sexual cannibalism and before that was, of course, de Sade, who went to prison for the acts he documented. Merkin’s novel is actually a wonderful anachronism to the extent that it recalls a form of sexual desire, centered around submission and domination, that has become forbidden in this era of Newspeak. It does for S&M what samizdat did for poetry during Stalinist times. And it’s also reminiscent of those Victorian novels like The Autobiography of a Flea written by Anonymous. Here is what Laura Kipnis, the author of Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, said on the jacket “Sometimes desire is a catastrophe. You can be a supremely brainy woman and not have the first clue about your predilections, until the wrong man comes along and introduces you to them. Daphne Merkin gives us an exquisitely rendered philosophical mystery about the divided self, and the awkward fact that we don’t necessarily choose what arouses us.” Bravo! And bravo to Merkin and Kipnis for keeping unconscious and irrational desire alive as a subject for art—at a time when feeling, emotion and sexuality itself are increasingly  turned into political choices to be dealt with by absentee ballot.

Friday, September 4, 2020

The Final Solution: Fear

Hitler l938 Sudetenland, photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-004055/CC-By-SA 3.0)
Fear can be very simple. You cross the street and realize a taxi circling around a double-parked car is coming right at you. You scamper to the curb with your heart pumping. However, it might be exactly the opposite. The phone rings and you're filled with the fear that you're going to be informed of a loss. “I want to end the relationship,” was a call you might have received as a teenager from a girl or boy you’d been dating. Such news usually came on a Friday afternoon in October just as it was beginning to grow dark early. Fearing the worst, you’d fallen into one of those horribly depressing late afternoon sleeps. At the time you undoubtedly were sure you could not live without the love object in question. The thing you were most afraid of was actually happening. Actually, the thing you were most afraid of would go on to happen again and again until you almost got used to the idea of the thing you were most afraid of happening--and your attitude about loss began to evolve. But traumatic events leave a tattoo and now even years later when you have a lot more to lose in the long run, but relatively little to fear for in terms of things like significant others leaving, you still feel that twinge of alarm at certain moments when the lighting begins to throw shadows on your wall. History itself may create anxiety, particularly when you hear the roar of a crowd in response to exhortations of hate from the leader who's addressing them.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Final Solution: Central Park in the Time of Corona

Central Park South (photo:) B137
It's an understatement to say there's something eternal about the weathered underpasses which weave through the Southern end of Central Park. They’re part of a magical kingdom which has outlived both the lives and childhood out of which memories of trips to the zoo, the Carousel and the skating ring have been created. Central Park West itself is lined with iconic structures like the Plaza and the New York Athletic Club. It’s all like some sort of grand theatrical urban choreography with the park furnishing its perennial respite from the machinations of big business that often go on in these nearby auspicious and expensive structures. In the time of corona, the park seems more luxurious than ever, furnishing as it does an oasis from the abandonment which has occurred as life in the city has come to a halt. Theater row may be dormant but the park carries on as if nothing untoward were occurring. Moreover, there’s little fear. For such a huge metropolis Olmstead’s sequestered garden offers a spaciousness that while not immune to the contingencies of viruses still affords the kind of natural expanse in which "normal seeming" life can be carried on. On a recent afternoon, a family attended to an infant while a couple flirted on a nearby bench, as if time had come to a complete stop in its own safe haven.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Final Solution: Xenophobia

photo: Mcj1800
People are naturally xenophobic. You never know what's behind the stranger’s seemingly welcoming smile. Even when the other doesn’t speak a foreign tongue, there's a language that people from certain neighborhoods, cities and ethnicities share. Sometimes these are intentionally opaque, a secret code which is only shared by members of the cell. In fact, social cohesion, to one degree or other, is created through exclusion. Once you attain that hard earned acceptance, you're not going to confer it so willingly on others who haven’t gone through a similar hazing process. On the plus side the sharing of certain customs which might seem strange or even off-putting provides an intimacy that’s not registered in the normal comings and goings to the local hotel chains and fast food places that are symptomatic of the homogenization of society. Equality is a very pleasant byproduct of evolution, but the leveling effect is bought at the price of individuality. Small groups which extrapolate the most naturally selective traits of a particular demographic are, in fact, creating deeper bonds than can be found in mass gatherings where the lowest common denominator becomes the lingua franca of the organization. And it’s understandable that zealots and fundamentalists who share common beliefs might be afraid of dilution and assimilation by the forces of modernity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Final Solution: Utopia

woodcut for 1516 edition of Sir Thomas More's Utopia
What about utopia, by definition that which cannot be? Erewhon, Samuel Butler's novel is with the exception of two letters, "nowhere" reversed. What about an incredibly affluent society gifted with abundant wealth? And what about the idea that those who were capable of exploiting it also had large consciences that accompanied their oversized brains? If you envision them, they might look at little like Spock in Star Trek, being robotic yet empathic at the same time. In this world the enjoyment of progress would not be achieved on the back of the underdog. Those who didn’t share the ambition of “the promotors” would never be penalized. Ample vacation time, maternity leave and good pay for all jobs would be the norm. Free healthcare would be considered a right. Of course, clean air and the environment would be on everyone’s agenda. After all, she’s called mother earth. Sending hydrocarbons is no way to treat mom. And what about elections, demonstrations and protest? Yes, to fair elections with demonstrators and protestors looked at as as guides rather than nuisances. And what about the troublemakers and anarchists whose sole object is to disrupt and for whom the phoenix only rises from the ashes? They actually would turn out to be the most enviable sector of the populace, having been sent off to funny farms where they'd be plied with euphoria inducing drugs.