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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pseudoreality Prevails

In the Hour of the Peacock
A man without qualities
Has no need to feel
Out of place

What the world
Extorts from us
Is paid over in
Our inordinate fear
Of losing face

*  *  *  *  *

Something I stumbled on recently prompted me to start reading The Man Without Qualities.  It's a phenomenal book, albeit one that seems to have slipped through the cracks of the 20th century, never quite receiving the attention it merits.  It's also a book with strong resonance to our own time.  The story is set in Vienna on the eve of the first World War although it was written in the post-War years, when the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire was already an accomplished fact and Mittel Europa had all but surrendered to fascism's embrace.  In other words, it's a novel about the confusions and delusions attendant upon the collapse of a liberal social order.  

Pseudoreality Prevails is the subtitle of the book's long middle section, a phrase which easily could be invoked as a moniker for our present day.   Understood in this light, today's political crisis is only a symptom of a much deeper malady -- a rift in our most basic assumptions about the world and our place in it.  It's a crisis which is expressed in the proliferation of fake news and the dearth of real news, which after a while corrodes our sense of reality itself.  Reality TV has emerged as the preferred mode of discourse, the lingua franca for the newly emergent class of those who aspire to the ranks of world leadership.

Hail to our new Caeser
Who glides so readily
On the surface of things
Well attendant to ratings

It’s one thing
To be so transparent
In your self-regard
And quite another to
Be so full of cunning

Yet ever since
The fall of the Republic
The noble Romans
Knew something was
Amiss what with 
The gilded tower and
The tinsel rings waiting
To be kissed

* * * * *

And here is a great quote from The Man Without Qualities which sums up our present moment with far greater depth than I have yet to hear from any pundit in the main stream media:

In love as in business, in science as in the long jump, one has to believe before one can win and score, so how can it be otherwise for life as a whole? However well founded an order may be, it always rests in part on a voluntary faith in it, a faith that, in fact, always marks the spot where the new growth begins, as in a plant; once this unaccountable and uninsurable faith is used up, the collapse soon follows; epochs and empires crumble no differently from business concerns when they lose their credit.


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