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THE GUARDIAN OF HAPPINESS

31 Mar

monumentvalley

I have just finished re-reading Slowness, Milan Kundera’s first novel in the French language.

The tale contrasts the experiences of the narrator/hero of an eighteenth century novella (a Chevalier, Mr. Kundera supposes), Vivant Denon’s Point de lendemain with Vincent, a modern young man of Kundera’s own contriving. Obviously he does this to compare the eras (somewhat like John Fowles). Readers of Kundera will not be surprised to find that the writer favours the 18th century. Favours it as a more suitable environs for the cultivation of elusive happiness. What makes the Chevalier’s experience better than Vincent’s. Both men have reason to be humiliated but only one has been, outright.

And, in the end, after a disconcerting postmodern confrontation with the Chevalier, we find Vincent on his motorcycle screaming back to Paris as fast as possible, in order to… forget. Whereas the Chevalier, now untroubled by the neurotic impulses, all surfeit of human hierarchy, to dwell on the psychology of the night, rides slowly back in a chaise contemplating the pleasure of his evening. Vincent had no pleasure. Why?

Finally, underneath the determinative status games, the Chevalier had a righteous and proper screw, some simply beautiful fucks indeed. And Vincent did not; one chance, he blew it and it actually might’ve been the true love that simply does not exist in the Chevalier’s world.. Vincent’s experience is thoroughly humiliating. He played it all wrong and in the end couldn’t even get it up. And more, due to a melancholy second party and a tragi-comic third Vincent is reduced to a peripheral character in his own humiliation. His impulse is to concoct a lie about the event and his is one of preposterous and pornographic heroics.

Understand, these events take place in the same building two-hundred years apart. In the 18th century this beguiling and mysterious woman the Madam de T invites a handsome young knight to spend the evening with her. Her husband, you understand, is present in the house. But it is an enormous place, privately owned for private use. Due to the courtly rituals of marriage practiced as an aristocratic alliance and wealth consolidation project Madame’s husband is not able to prevents her lover from being a guest in his own house.

This is not a love affair. The Chevalier is open to love but Madame is simply using him. She is trying to fool her husband into thinking that it is the young Chevalier and not her real lover, a Marquis, that cuckolds him. And it works. At dawn all is made clear and the Chevalier knows that he has been used. No matter, he has another lover.

The first time I read it I was visiting Melbourne, at a conference I forget which. It was something to do with multimedia, I did a lot of that back then. I had a job I seem to remember, one that required me following around some Internet Nanostar with a camera.

Oh I remember, there was a dinner party given in one of this city’s stately Belle Époque type rooms. Some function for a bunch of lawyers. I can’t remember why this episode featured in our schedule but there it was. It was in one of those Victorian buildings made on the back of gold rush when Melbourne’s black and white set aspired to being the Antipodean London.

The Nanostar mimed to a pre-recorded bit of his electronic music. His claim to stardom was that he was the first person to use some (now obsolete) bit of software to publish an album on the ‘net. The synthesizer had the word ‘unplugged’ pasted to the front of it just in case you hadn’t noticed. The dude thought this very witty. He obviously didn’t work at things much which is why you’ve never heard of him. The lawyers thought he was good value. They were a sea of ruddy paste-faced navy blue blobs garnished with puschy bits of gold metal and a dash of swide silk, drunk as fuck. They loved him. They thought he was someone they could look down on.

I was billeted with a charming couple (now since split). She worked at the NGV; I don’t know where he worked, but he was a drummer. Good record collection and a small flaking hard-trash bookshelf that would tell you the best stories from the hippie seventies if only it could. I saw Slowness there. It was, I guess, the second paperback edition. They let me borrow it.

What a crazy week. I met some friends. Friends? No, they were, as they say, ‘contacts’. I got almost no sleep and was thrown out of at least one well-established venue of this fair town. The best food and every night a grand dinner. Big screens everywhere. Players from Microsoft and Fox all the way on down the newly merging pyramid of information and entertainment. Zip, zip zip. My mind reeled at the possibilities. Oh the crowd, what a hipster bunch. We were all, we were certain, gonna be rich! We’d been chosen. Kundera writes:

Being among the elect is a theological notion that means: not as a matter of merit but by a supernatural judgment, a free, even capricious, determination of God, a person is chosen for something exceptional and extraordinary. From such a conviction the saints drew the strength to withstand even the most dreadful tortures.

The first time, I read the above quote without bother. I was more impressed by the farcical portrayal of modern sex contrasted by the real-life sub-plots going on around me (in me) while I read it. Untroubled I agreed with Kundera that this idea of the gift of faith, which when you strip away the haughty chauvinism of doctrines like Preselection, is what this ‘elect’ business is all about, was an illusion.

Absolutely. Yet here I was, with my little crew of confidantes (for the length of the conference), conspiring to change the world with the magic of the global electronic network. And change the world by making lots of money! We were all, we all agreed without saying so – the elect. And we agreed without any real discussion or reflection. We never really talked of our responsibilities as ‘the elect’ save for a quick and cursory affirmation of soft, shallow environmentalism. We didn’t say ‘elect’ out loud; we just thought it.

Couple months later and I move to Melbourne; a half -year on I received a gift. I now understand this ‘gift of faith’ palava that the priests talk about. I get that final coffee-shop conversation in Pulp Fiction; Samuel L’s speech viz it doesn’t matter if this was an ‘according to Hoyle miracle’. With me there was nothing that resembled a miracle. It was just a feeling.

When I first read Slowness I was a nihilist. I was a nihilist. Now, re-reading it, I’m a believer. And so in this second tryst with this book, by an author I’ve ‘known’ a long time now, I’m confronted by the above passage as I was not the first time. If faith makes you one of the elect is faith not then an illusion? This happens, I expect, to everyone who professes faith. Many, thus confronted, will toss the book. But that’s wrong. I must stand and ask a question:

An illusion?

Slowness comes to its finish and relates the end of Point de lendemain as it does, that book’s last words:

“I climbed into the chaise that stood waiting. I hunted for the moral of the whole adventure, and… I found none.”

But Kundera, two-hundred years into the future, well after the death of a God that seemed so oppressive to the French in the 1780s, has discovered the moral:

Madame de T embodies it: she lied to her husband, she lied to her lover the Marquis, she lied to the young Chevalier. It is she who is a true disciple of Epicurus. Lovable lover of pleasure. Gentle protective liar. The guardian of happiness.

The guardian of happiness lies. This is the view from scorched earth. Kundera perhaps is crying for a time of an oppressive God that necessitated such lying? But, finally, he agrees with Nietzsche. I heard the word said, God is dead. He hath died of his pity for Man. The guardian of happiness is a liar, is it not clear to you who profess Faith or affirm Scripture? Wake up!

Now I’m not a Christian. Nor am I a believer in a reward in the eternal hereafter. I don’t know about any of that. Does the soul die? I say ‘maybe’. And the whole Heaven/Hell scenario sounds suspiciously like the Santa Claus story: you get presents if you’ve been good. (Do badly behaved children not get presents at Christmastime?) My ‘faith’ does not conform to any existing doctrine about God but instead is tempered by the traditional doctrines of Stoicism which regard faith as a personal matter and reason as primary.

“All of us,” Kundera tells us, “have known the illusion (more or less strong) that we are worthy of that higher level, that we are predestined and chosen for it.” (My italics). Mr Kundera is an existential nihilist after all: a striver after meaning. After the Holocaust, after the totalitarian states, after the death of God: what? I am no longer a nihilist but that does mean that I think now that Slowness is a pack of lies. Indeed I understand it at a deeper level (that is what re-reading does for you after all). My feeling that there is something in this thing we have called many things (now: God) – my faith has not altered my adherence to the metaphysics of Kundera which are those in essence of Nietzsche: God is dead, I still see the truth of that.

But God is always reborn and will be again. Just like Marx’s predictions of a New Tribal Civilization one of advanced technology; equality; inclusiveness sans class; Nietzsche’s superman has not, will not, come about. At least yet. We are still confronted with the Infinite. And so again there’s this burgeoning spiritual movement. But does this not confirm Freud’s “Future of An Illusion” that we are simply instituting a lie to guard against the unhappiness consequence of bleak reality unclothed in religious glamor? Is it not simply a kind of mass hysteria, the usual animal fears filtered thru the standard mass consciousness and professional gurus?

Yes, but still… it does nothing to spoil my feeling – The Feeling. Funny isn’t it? But that is the nature of faith. It is a feeling. It permits one to ascertain a truth for which one is absolutely no material evidence.

In the beginning there was the Void which was Truth (goes a Chinese tale) and then came Form which is Illusion. We humans see as permanent what is anything but because we are short lived. We shape things from baser materials and kid ourselves that what lies beyond our designed rooms and cities does not matter. Until we are reminded otherwise.

tsunami

And we always are, sooner or later. Then we stand and wonder what, why, who is doing this to us.

To have faith is to be plugged into the Infinite, to the Beyond. It is to have consciousness of being part of a larger whole in which your little life is simply another motion picture. To sculpt this into truths by which we live we invent stories and images of God. That is an illusion. That is the lie. The lie that guards happiness. But to function, to actually work, these stories must grow from the seed of an ultimate truth. That is our metaphysical paradox. The Truth is a lie and the Lie is the truth.

So it is, so it seems to me. Still I believe… in what? Well no doctrine (save my own. Ask me my theological disposition and I’ll tell you in all seriousness that I’m an Einsteinian Pantheist. I have no real idea whether he had The Feeling but something tells me he did. His earnest protest against the facts of Quantum Mechanics seem to me a crisis of faith. But he was asking for it. He thought he knew.

How could he? How can we? The Qu’ran teaches us that Allah alone knows all and this was when Allah was a big man with a white beard, a stern face and a finger that was always pointing at us in anger (according to us half-pagan Catholics). In a universe in which a galaxy is a pebble, where bigger whorls have little whorls that feed on their velocity, what anthropomorphic personification suffices? None.

We need a new lie, or do we.

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WORDS

27 Mar

YoungKundera

Through Vivant Denon’s lifetime, probably only a small group of intimates knew he was the author of Point de lendemain; and the mystery was put to rest, for everyone and (probably) definitely, only a very long time after his death. The work’s own history thus bears an odd resemblance to the story it tells: it was veiled by the penumbra of secrecy, of discretion, of mystification, of anonymity.

Engraver, draftsman, diplomat, traveler, art connoisseur, sorcerer of the salons, a man with a remarkable career, Denon never laid claim to artistic ownership of the novella. Not that he rejected fame, but fame meant something different in his time; I imagine the audience that he cared about, that he hoped to beguile, was not the mass of strangers today’s writer covets but the little company of people he might know personally and respect. The pleasure he derived from success among his readers was not very different from the sort he might experience among the few listeners gathered around him in a salon where he was scintillating.

There was one kind of fame from before the invention of photography, and another thereafter. The Czech king Wenceslaus, in the fourteenth century, liked to visit the Prague inns and chat incognito with the common folk. He had power, fame, liberty. Prince Charles of Britain has no power, no freedom but enormous fame: neither in the virgin forest nor in his bathtub hidden away in a bunker seventeen storeys underground can he escape the eyes that pursue and recognize him. Fame has devoured all his liberty, and now he knows: that only totally unconscious people could willingly consent these days to trail the pots and pans of celebrity along behind them.

You say that, though the nature of fame changes, this still concerns only a few privileged persons. You’re mistaken. For fame concerns not only the famous people, it concerns everyone. These days, famous people are in magazines, on television screens, they invade everyone’s imagination. And everyone considers the possibility, be it only in dreams, of becoming the object of such fame (not the fame of King Wenceslaus who went visiting taverns but the fame of Prince Charles hidden away in his bathtub seventeen storeys underground). The possibility shadows every single person and changes the nature of his life; for (and this is another well-known axiom of existential mathematics) any new possibility that existence acquires, even the least likely, transforms everything about existence.

Milan Kundera
Slowness, 1995

A TALE OF TWO HERALDS

24 Mar

SMH

Some people say I pick on the Herald-Sun a lot, and I do, and today is no different. Today I’ll be picking on the Herald-Sun. But today is different because I’m going to try to be ‘balanced’ and ‘objective’. I’m going to pick on the Sydney Morning Herald as well. Thing is this will be impossible. I will still hate the Herald-Sun more. I have my reasons and expect to list them during what follows. Some are personal, some more generally relevant. If we can’t be objective, I think we can at least sort out our prejudices.

Herald-Sun

These two images of the cover are uploaded from the net. I picked them quickly. Looking at them I think they get to the heart of my prejudice. The cover of the Sydney Morning Herald seems more like a newspaper; the headline expresses something I need to know. The cover the Herald-Sun contrawise is a real life soap opera. I need know nothing about the love life of a footballer but, as most people want to know about that, that’s what we get.

This is not an anomaly. Looking at this week’s Herald-Sun we see a catalog of three-word headlines all fundamentally emotive: All Fired Up (football); Will Power (spruiking monarchy); Snap! You’re Busted (crime); Nowhere To Hide – Gadaffi, the Libyan bombings.

Monday’s editions of the leading Fairfax and News Ltd express best for me the difference in the style of the papers. It is style I’m concerned with today. Neither editorially disagrees with the commencement of military action by NATO forces to stop the government forces of Muhamer Gaddafi slaughtering his rebellious people. Moreover there’s nothing explicitly right or left-wing about the postures of the publications on this issue. Fairfax preaches caution; News Ltd says that it’s the right thing to do, end of. We appear to have a choice between the paleoconservative (realist) and neo-conservative (benevolent imperialist) schools of geopolitics. The old-school conservative position is adopted by Fairfax.

The Herald-Sun‘s headline is, as said, Nowhere To Hide. There’s a huge photograph of a Tomahawk Cruise Missile launching from an aircraft carrier and an overset photo of Gaddafi looking decrepit and corrupt. The SMH edition carries a 7 column reportage from a correspondent in the region, the photo, also of a missile launch, is small. The article breaks down the various positions and statements of the agents in this arena. Those, I should say, relevant to Australia (I most sincerely doubt the utterings of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were featured in the New York Times.) The Herald-Sun does the same thing inside.

Both papers feature an internal double spread on the campaign. In both there’s a map, a photo or two of a symbol of Western military power. The SMH’s report has already featured reportage on the cover so there’s an editorialization from the chief correspondent which urges caution lest Libya become another Afghanistan. News Ltd tells us that ‘World leaders have vowed to end Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi’s brutal rule with a series of missile and sir strikes’. Fact is that world leaders vowed nothing of the sort. But underneath the nuanced bullshit of their DiploBot speak that’s what they mean. News Ltd is straight-talking see. Not like the wishy-washy shifty liberals at Fairfax.

There’s the obligatory Fairfax expert analysis. This comes from a neo-Wilsonian admirer of Bill Clinton (the advocate of “the most robust liberal internationalism” so he tells us). But, he toes the Fairfax line: caution. As he says the elimination of Col Gaddafi is far from assured and the UN resolution only allows an objective that will “stop the slaughter of Libyan civilians, overthrowing the regime is up to the Libyans”. There’s caution all thru the Sydney Morning Herald. In the Herald-Sun there’s no such thing: Libyan strikes were justified, no question. “Muhamar Gaddafi is a tyrannical and bloody dictator who has lost the plot”.

Now I support the stance of the Herald Sun but I find the illustration of complexities and nuances offered by the Fairfax paper more useful and interesting. There’s a column of quotes by Obama, Gaddafi, Rudd, Sarkosky, Cameron and the Chinese government. There’s a separate article on the US emphasis that this is a NATO exercise led by France and the UK. There’s a piece on the children Gadaffi has been using as human shields. In the Herald-Sun there’s two pieces and an editorial that says it’s the right thing to do. This last is over-dominated by Alan Howe’s column: a letter to comatose Israeli statesman Ariel Sharon explaining what’s happened while he’s been asleep and why most of it is Obama’s fault.

In the Sydney Morning Herald our neo-Wilsonian praises Obama’s adoption of Bill Clinton’s pragmatism-idealism balance. I most sincerely hope that this doesn’t include Clinton’s media cowardice, his fumbling over the Balkans or his carpet bombing of Iraq to distract the American people from certain under-the-desk oral recreations. The Fairfax chief correspondent contemplates George W Bush’s sad humour and nausea as he sees Obama wander into the same hopeless miasma he did haplessly (so the writer implies and believes) ten years ago. Caution: the firm agreement with Obama’s revival of realism as the principle attitude in geopolitical endeavor. Because of the Neo-cons, the Left has become Eisenhowerish. Funny isn’t it?

In neither paper is there anything that significantly deviates from the line deployed at editorial level. What reason for the line? Well that’s some other speculation but each firm has its own. News Ltd says Good. Fairfax says: Good.. but careful. Each says it for its target market. Each has its justifications. And finally neither is superior. I prefer Fairfax generally for the same reason I preferred their coverage of the Libyan bombings. And like same I may not agree with the line but you get more concrete information about important matters. That is to say I prefer it because I’m an upper middle-class art wanker.

Milan Kundera writes that the spirit of the Media Age converges us to a point of universal global culture in which, camouflaged by political diversity (duopoly actually), we are exposed only to the same contents, the same headlines, the same view of life. This is the opposite of the spirit of the novel which tells you that things are not as simple as you think, that shows you some hereto unexposed aspect of life. In the media world everything is exposed, everything is simplified and made easier for consumption; homogeneous, manufactured according to the same formula packaged in at least two brands and, for reasons that can only be expressed in economic jargon, preferably only in two. The same paste in a different colour plastic box.

Are we there yet? No. Melbourne’s tabloid and Sydney’s broadsheet are two clearly discernible publications. They do not have the same headlines. But we are heading there. We are going that way so fast that the past and the future drop off. We are stuck in the eternal now; an endless moment of perpetual and distracting blur.

ON THE BENEFIT OF LETTERS

17 Mar

nabakov's notes

In the early 1950s at a presitigious university in western New York, students studying Tolstoy would receive the following question on their exam papers:

xi. Describe the wallpaper in the Karenins’ bedroom.

The university might have been prestigious but the scholar who set that question had believed it to be in a state of decline. The Russian Lit school employed people who didn’t speak or write Russian. How could you teach Dostoevsky, Lermontov, Pushkin or Gorky if you hadn’t read them in the original. He had high standards this guy. About 99% of the Western Canon was, to him, a catalog of mediocrity.

Describe the wallpaper? I would’ve failed as an undergraduate having been hit with this question. I always paid attention to the grand sweep of things. And with all the political theory running thru everything I got away with it. Describe the wallpaper. It seems trivial but think about it, you would truly have to have studied Anna Kerenina thoroughly to answer this question because it’s a minor detail. And, if you had, you would have made some easy marks. If you hadn’t, you would be exposed as a fraud. You couldn’t fake it.

Thankfully there were courses as harsh (but nowhere near as poetic) as Vladimir Nabakov’s at my university. The rising faction in the faculty had realized that the Humanities was being challenged for its very validity. They realized also that the basics of education in the Word had been eroding sometime. Nowhere near as bad as today, we’d actually learned grammar, but still. What they did was design courses that corrected this, that forced you to deploy high levels of skill in reading, writing, speaking – in the use of language. It’s to them, and others with such high standards, that I owe my skills with the word.

In this scientistic universe it’s automatic to ask: what good is someone who reads fiction well enough to describe the wallpaper man? Get with the real world dude: a place of textmessage and formfiller. It’s more important to know brands then some dead Russian guy a million years ago. The harshest objection come from the engineers: this is not knowledge. It’s fiction.

In reply the thing that comes to my mind is another work of fiction.

John Le Carré has expressed certain forebodings about the marginalization of the Arts in his books; quietly of course, he’s an Englishman. But it’s there. At the climax of the The Russia House, Barley Blair our hero, is about to betray his country. He’s being monitored from a remote station by a mixed MI5/CIA crew who believe he’s picking up vital secrets for them. But he doesn’t care about that. He’s in love with the Russian girl who’s supplying the secrets.

Before, she’d made contact with a dissident Russian physicist using a payphone at a hospital. They have a code and there’s something the physicist’s to say if the secret police have arrested him. She calls, he answers and says it! They’re busted. In the Soviet Union this meant torture and death. When she hears it, she hangs up right away and, understandably, breaks down. Barley has to get her out of there. He gets her to the car and drives her home.

And then, in exchange for her life, he makes arrangements to betray his country.

Fast forward to the climatic moment. The MI5/CIA crew are listening. They don’t realize that the KGB have sprung the physicist and his beautiful friend. They have no idea that Barley is going to hand something vital to the enemy and not take something vital from them. Everything looks normal. No-one’s been arrested ’cause Barley’s made his deal. But one of the English guys keeps thinking about it. Why? Why did he drive home from the hospital. And he snaps. He says: call it off. Don’t give Barley the package.

Well the CIA are running the show and they laugh it off. He insists and they threaten to have him removed from the room. And then Barley goes into the contact building and disappears forever. The English guy was right.

One of Le Carré’s themes is concern about the increasingly scientific and rationalized mode in which espionage (and everything else) is carried out. This is particularly due to the CIA’s hegemony in the field. The way Americans do things. They have know-how sure, but something is missing. Something the Brits did better in the glory days before Philby; before the long decline. Something to do with classical education. Learning Greek and Latin. Reading Ovid, Catallus, Virgil and Homer in the original. Some aspect of the human mind then so cultivated, now neglected.

What? Rationalization mislikes anything that cannot be described clinically or reduced to a formula. But to notice a peripheral, minor detail in the theatre of human interaction, to recall it, to question it and to finally realize a significance is not a skill that gets taught in a Math class. If you can describe the wallpaper in the Karenins’ bedroom you will remember what is forgotten because seemingly unimportant. You will recall it the moment it suddenly becomes vital.

WORDS

13 Mar

Stendhalimage

Delicate minds have a strong bent for curiosity and prejudice; we can see this above all in souls whose sacred fire is extinguished, the source of their passions burnt out: it is one of the most damaging symptoms. Schoolboys just entering the adult world also suffer infatuations. At the two extremes with either too much or too little sensitivity, it is not easy to feel the duel effects of things, or experience the sensation they ought to give. Inflamed souls or those only occasionally ardent, professing love on credit, if I may put it so, throw themselves on the object of love rather than waiting.

Before the beloved’s own characteristics can affect them, before even seeing them, these misguided souls smother the true person in an imaginary charm drawn from their own inexhaustible source. Then, as they become closer, they see their darling not as they are but as they have made them and, while believing they take great delight in their loved one, they are simply delighting in their own conceptions. One fine day, however, weary of doing all the work, they discover that the object of their adoration is not returning the ball; the infatuation drops away and the blow to their self-esteem makes them unjust towards the person they once idolised.

XXII: Infatuation.
On Love
Stendhal

WORDS

27 Feb

orwell

The worst thing we can say about a work of art is that it is insincere. And this is even truer of criticism than it is of creative literature, in which a certain amount of posing and mannerism and even a certain amount of downright humbug doesn’t matter as long as the writer has a certain fundamental sincerity. Modern literature is essentially an individual thing. It is is either the truth expression of what one man thinks and feels or it is nothing.

As I say, we take this notion for granted, and yet as soon as one puts into words one realises how literature is menaced. For this is the age of the totalitarian state, which does not and probably cannot allow the individual any freedom whatever. When one mentions totalitarianism one immediately thinks of Russia, Germany, Italy, but I think one must face the risk that this phenomenon is going to be worldwide. It is obvious that the period of free capitalism is coming to an end and that one country after another is adopting a centralised economy that one can call Socialism or State Capitalism according as one prefers. With that the economic liberty of the individual, and to a great extent his liberty to do what he likes, to choose his own work, to move to and fro across the surface of the earth, comes to an end. Now, till recently the implications of this weren’t forseen.It was never fully realised that the disappearance of economic liberty would have any effect on intellectual liberty. Socialism was usually thought of as a sort of moralised Liberalism. The state would take charge of your economic life and set you free from poverty, unemployment and so forth, but it would have no need to interfere with your private intellectual life. Art could flourish just as it had done in the liberal-capitalist age, only a little more so, because the artist would no longer be under any economic compulsions.

Now, on the existing evidence, one must admit that these ideas have been falsified. Totalitarianism has abolished freedom of thought to an extent unheard of in any previous age. And it’s important to realise that its control of freedom of thought is not only negative, but positive. It not only forbids you to express – even to think – certain thought but it dictates what you shall think , it creates an ideology for you, it tries to govern your emotional life as well as setting up a code of conduct. And as far as possible it isolates you from the outside world, it shuts you up in an artificial universe in which you have no standards of comparison. The totalitarian state tries, at any rate, to control the thoughts and emotions of its subjects at least as completely as it controls their actions.

The question that is important for us is, can literature survive in such an atmosphere? I think one must answer shortly that it cannot. If totalitarianism becomes worldwide and permanent, what we have known as literature must come to an end.

George Orwell
“Literature and Totalitarianism”
Broadcast: 21 May, 1941

WORDS

13 Feb

Havel

Though my heart may be left of centre, I have always known that the only economic system that works is a market economy, in which everything belongs to someone – which means that someone is responsible for everything. It is a system in which complete independence and plurality of economic entities exist, within a legal framework, and its workings are chiefly guided by the laws of the marketplace. This is the only natural economy, the only kind that makes sense, the only one that can lead to prosperity,because it is the only one that reflects the nature of life itself. The essence of life is infinitely and mysteriously multiform, and therefore it cannot be contained or planned for, in its fullness and variability, by any central intelligence.

The attempt to unite all economic entities under the authority of a single monstrous owner, the state, and subject all economic life to one central voice of reason that deems itself more clever than life itself, is an attempt against life itself. It is an extreme expression of the hubris of modern man, who thinks that he understands the world completely – that he is at the apex of creation and is therefore competent to run the whole world, claims that his own brain is the highest form of organized matter and has not noticed that there is a structure infinitely more complex, of which he himself is merely a tiny part: that is nature, the universe, the order of Being.

Vaclev Havel
“What I believe”
Summer Meditations, 1991