Monday, October 27, 2008

In These Brilliant Times

Based on the essay “In These Great Times” written by Karl Kraus in 1914. Adapted and re-written by Der Kosmonaut In 2003

In these brilliant times which I knew when they were dull: which will become dull again, provided they have time left for it, and which, because in the realm of genetic growth no such transformation is possible, we had better call thick times and, truly, deadly times as well. In these times which things are happening that could not be written about in fiction and in which what can no longer be fiction have happened, for it one could have thought of it, it would not happen. In these sober times which have died drunk at the thought they might be sober; which surpassed by their own tragedy, are reaching for distraction and, catching themselves red-handed, are grasping for words: in these shrill times which screech with the horrible group of actions which produce reports and of reports which cause actions: in these times one should not expect any original ideas of my own-none but these ones which hardly prevent silence from being misconstrued. Respect for the interchangeable, the submission of language before this catastrophe is too deeply rooted inside me. In the league of poverty of imagination where people die of spiritual famine with feeling spiritual hunger, where keyboards press lies and bombs advance truths, that which is not thinkable must be done, but that which is only thinkable is speakable. Expect no words invented by me. I cannot say anything new, for in the space in which I write there is such noise, and at this time, one should not determine whether or comes from animals, from adolescents or merely form smart bombs. In 1914, Karl Kraus wrote: ‘He who encourages deeds with words desecrates words and deeds and is doubly despicable.’ Precisely. This occupation will not go extinct, though one wishes it would. However, the reactionary is as old as humanity. Those who have nothing to say actions are speaking will not stop talking. Let one who has something to say come forth and shut the fuck up! I may not bring back old words as long as deeds are committed that are old to us and spectators say they were not encouraged of them. My words were able to drown out the rotors of news/surveillance helicopters, and if these were not brought crashing down to Earth, this is no fault of my words. The more brilliant machines have not managed to do it and ‘an ear that hears the trumpets of the Last Judgement is by no means closed to the trumpets of the day.’
I stealthily prepare for the brilliant times and have thoughts which I can only tell to the WehrSolians and not to the state which will not nor cannot permit me to tell it that it is too tolerant. Since the state has finally found the idea of blocking off the so-called freedom of the press, which ignores the blank spots, then it always will. Were I to put this into its head, the state would ponder the idea, and my text would be the first victim. So I cannot wait, though I am the only American who can wait but would like to see the end of the world replaced by a simple good nights rest. The idea which I am keen to put into the heads of the real holders of nominal power is only a ‘flight of fancy’ of mine. Still a stable state of ownership, which of the state and of ‘civilisation’, is s saved by such ‘flights of fancy.’ A pop singer is not to be believed when he talks of a swamp Devil who created the atomic bomb-until one day Earth is viewed only as the surroundings of swamps. Of terra nostra I see nothing but swamps, of the depth only the surface is visible, of a situation I see only its simulacra, of this I only see reflection and even that I only perceive the contours. It’s playtime! For a lark, please follow me to the surface of this problem deep world which was not built until culture came along, which spins on its own axis and wishes the sun was its own satellite. Suppose that I am of the opinion that things being the way they are, it would be better that people did not come into the world at all, I am an ecological reactionary. If I maintain that given the circumstances no more persons will be born in the future and that at a later date computers will come into the world without the persons to go with them, because they were not able to pace their own development and were retarded by their last blocks of progress-if I insist upon this, I am a progressive ass who recognises the whole condition form the symptom, then people would believe me. But I am truly of the belief that this time, however we night name it or analyze, whether it is sorted out or has lost the plot, whether it is adding murder and rottenness before the eyes of a Macbeth or is becoming ripe for the arm of a Hitler-that it’s condition shows that the root lies at the surface. This can be illuminated by great confusion, what was paradoxical is validated by the brilliant times. I am neither a politician nor his half-brother, an actor, I dare not dream of negating the necessity of anything that is happening or bitching that humanity does not know how to die in character. I am well aware that malls are properly bombarded by folks if they are properly realised by folks as military bases. The jaws of hell drop at this question: When will the more brilliant period of the war start, the war of malls against folks? I fully comprehend that from time to time, it is imperative to transform markets into battlefields so that they can become markets again. One foggy day people will view things with clarity and question whether it is right not to miss a single step on the direct road away from Enlightenment and whether their eternal existential question of humanity’s origins and the question which they deal really entail simply an industry secret that gives man supremacy over humanity and even over humanity’s creator. Someone who wants to extend ownership and someone who only wants to protect it. -both dwell in a state of ownership. One states it, the other analyses it.
We are afraid of something superior to ownership when new records of human victims have seen and suffered, when the language of intellectual uplift, after the hallucinating music has faded, the confession bursts through between earthly and celestial hosts one foggy morning.
Humanity consists of costumers. Behind flags and fires, heroes and helpers, behind all homelands an alter has been erected at which pious science shakes hands with: God created the Dollar! It’s true! Just take a look at any American currency. God did not create the Dollar so that the consumer may prosper of Earth but for something bigger: that the dealer may prosper on Earth. The consumer was created from scratch and becomes a dealer only when he sells itches. The necessity to eat in order to live cannot be disputed philosophically. 30 years ago James Brown said: ‘If you don’t work, then you can’t eat.’ The existentialists settled the prime philosophical equation differing Culture from Nature: Nature is the absence of man. Culture is man in nature. Culture is civilisation. Karl Kraus said: ‘Culture is the tacit agreement to let the means of subsistence appear behind the purpose of existence.’ Somewhere along the line existence increased the confusion between culture and civilisation. Civilisation debases culture to existence. This is what progress is all about. To prove its existence, Progress eats. Thrice within the last century, Progress has shown that it can die simply to eat. Remember 100 years ago Progress was used interchangeably and used as another word for capitalism. Marx and the editors at The Economist understand that progress/capitalism endures hardships (i.e.: corrections, downturns, recession, crashes, depression) so that it may prosper. The two tenets of existence is PP: Progress and Pathos. PP decrees that demand be governed by supply. We eat so another can get fat and that a telemarketer interrupts our dinner when he offers us something entirely useless. Progress, from whose penis crushed forests and spewed out cement first submitted life’s purpose to subsistence and turned us into nuts and bolts of tolls has now thrown out the rusty machines and turned us into bits and bytes of our software. The head of time is bald; for when it was full of hair, there came the hand that lived on hair cuts. Where all energy has been spent to make life smooth, nothing remains that still needs combing. Across such spacious regions, individuality can be brandished but can no longer be created. With emotional designs it may be a tourist where it will be surrounded by Nautical Robots and Notsees pushing fast and furious in comfort and prosperity without expression and greeting. As an umpire between natural values it will make and alternative decision. It will not opt for America’s bounty, which has manipulated its intellectual energy for the promotion of its merchandise, has pushed a romanticisation of foodstuffs and has placed ‘art in the service of the ad man’. The call is between spiritual power and memory power. After the rush and dash of commerce no breed will realise its own species. The rule of law of the neo-liberal jungle guarantees three types of freedom to its slaves: Thought free from intellect, ‘entertainment free from art’ and free love free of love. Fortunately, the laws of the marketplace are not as slick as they try to be. Freight trains derail and aeroplanes crash when the world moves ‘at the pace of business’. At the end of the day culture lives on civilisation. If the voice of free trade and free press is allowed to outshoot the voice of citizens and their elected institutions by sending lobbyists to write laws for them.
Fine. We are sacrificing millions of humans for crude and unrefined goods; ‘we are consumers and live in such a way that the means may consume the end.’ Fine, if a cruise missile is useful to us, let it be less permissible to curse a cruise missile than curse God. Of course, no one may dare curse, malign or denigrate the Almighty Dollar! This is so because the world has gone happy-go-lucky into the maze of economics and has set itself a demand for martyrs.
The media mogul, the calculating Aussie plutocrat who denounces the bureaucrat as un-democratic and praises the technocrat as the progressive step from the aristocrat, the man who sits on the laptop of world history collects victories and daily records the turnover in blood. When millions on the Third World shed blood, he is in the black. Should world peace prosper then his profits are in the red. Should the world financial crash institute a ‘Black day’, he will prosper in the black as the millions of ordinary investors of mutual funds find their life savings sink in the red. Should Blacks in Africa slaughter and drown themselves in blood, his profits turn black as the Ace of Spades. Should Blacks in New York gain political power, his face turns red. His couplings and headlines shriek with greed and profit as he claims the number of dead and imprisoned in New York City. He utters in the jargon of efficiency as they everyday were the end of a ‘satisfying day at the stock exchange’. There is ‘only one voice’. One that is ‘fair and balanced’ as a Harvard MBA grad ‘balances’ the books pf oil conglomerates and telecommunications corporations. ‘Our hearts are one!’ This is good because the singular voice has an echo which should simply be nothing less than a hurricane of elements revolting at the spectacle of a time which has the courage to call itself brilliant and does not issue an ultimatum to itself.
The subjugation of humanity to the marketplace has only left the freedom of hostility, and if capitalism sharpened its weapons, it has created the most brutal and deadliest weapon, one that lies at the centre of intellectual salvation: the media. Capitalism, now neo-liberals, insists that the media is nothing more than an upright member of the marketplace which subsists on an existing need. If this is true as it is correct, and if the media is nothing other than an imprint of life, then I know what’s going on, for I know how this life works.
If I learned to underestimate life in the days of late capitalism, I was sure to over esteem the media. What is it? Just the messenger? One who harasses us with his opinion? Who alienates us with his impressions? Who brings the video image along wit the fact? Who oppresses is to death with flat, shallow and thoroughly un-informing reports about the press conference or with his perceptions of obscenities without minute details and with constant repetition of the whole? Who drags behind himself a train of uninformed, un-knowledgeable, unsophisticated and mediocre personalities who are supposed to justify him and agree with him. Is the media a messenger? No, it is the news itself. Information? No, life itself. It tries to lay claims to real life through ‘reality programming’. It makes the trivial and unimportant into news about itself. It creates a false identity to make it see, that actions are live and direct, as spontaneous, concealing the fact that the event is set on stage, with an orchestra of technicians orchestrating the breaking news itself. News coverage about a foreign war as conveys of giving ‘exclusives’ about battles when in reality the reporters are the soldiers who a firing back at the home civilian population. While the viewers are watching about a war, they don’t realise that they themselves are the targets of warfare. While cruise missiles are fired from destroyers in the Persian Gulf and B-52’s rain bombs over Baghdad, the news reporter is launching surface to air to ground psychic bombs to the civilian population back home. So people realise just what half a century owes to this lost intelligence in the way of battered intellect. Do people stop to think how much had to be spent on satellites, telephones and live images to teach society which was still open to the possibilities of technological astonishment at facts which find clichés in the debased language of these messengers when the public began to mass? Post-modern life has been consumed by a quantity which can no longer be measured. Within twenty-four fours, 96 repetitions are served to us; impressions of impressions. One day people will discover how trivial world war was compared to the intellectual suicide of humanity by its media and how at bottom was only one of the media’s transmissions. The connections between disaster and newsrooms are more profound. ‘For in the age of those who live though it, deeds are stronger than words, but the echo is stronger than the dead.’
Karl Kraus, remarking about the significant role of the press in creating World War One, has been vindicated today, for his analysis of Progress.
If one watches the news only for information, one does not learn of the going-ons in the world but the world itself. On top of that it is an instigator. If it sows and presents lies about horrors, they form into horrors. There is more injustice and oppression in the world because the media manufactures it and deplores it. It is not states that fire upon each other but rather, it is the international scam, the business which rules the planet not despite its irresponsibility but by virtue of it. The media mugs and robs, tortures prisoners, baits foreigners and turns civilised humans into savages. It’s only check is its dishonesty. It can turn a camera directly into a weapon. First, everything was a half-truth. Then it became a lie. But now thrown into the heated house of hatred, everything is true. There are many nations but only one media. The newscast is a weapon of war like a smart bomb which for all its artificial intelligence cannot determine the difference between a munitions factory from a nutritious factory. ‘You believe, but they know better and pay dearly for your belief.’ They are docile and obedient to the military commanders but bellicose and authoritarian to you. ‘Exclusives’ are not stories which were unearthed and investigated by rigor and method but by those reporters who bought and paid for breakfast of some major or general. An expense of breakfast in the morning becomes the afternoon’s ‘fast breaking’ news. They teach the nations fear until fear becomes reality. Indeed, as the reporter kills our intellect with his truth, he threatens our existence with his lies. His intellect is the shoddiest substituting rot intellect we have had. When one side says that women are raped and babies killed, both sides believe and do it.
For a decade, the media ran ‘investigative special reports’ about women on welfare buying Cadillacs and endless other consumer products. Why we were asked, should these women stay at home, breed children and get fat, while everyone else has to work hard for an honest living? Yet, not one reporter or producer questioned why people in the media sit in their offices, breed propaganda and get fat while everyone else has to run the rat race. Has anyone ever saw a ‘special investigative report’ how the media creates dishonesty to make a profit?
Should anyone ever question the lies of the media, they can expect to receive special media attention. Should one question the propaganda of politicians being relayed and re-told by the media, then one is deemed as dangerous and criminal. Should people break the deadly sin of having opinions which differ form that of media disinformation, should people think intelligently for themselves, then the media goes into hysterical fits of anxiety.
Behind the graphic: ‘Canada. It’s big. It’s cold. Is it a threat?’ three talking heads discussed the results of an opinion poll conducted in a foreign country. When the poll revealed that a majority of Canadians believed that the United States was partly to blame for terrorist attacks against itself, a national emergency was nearly called. The poll taken, simply mirrored what the majority of the world knows as common sense: American foreign policy has terrorised corners of the world and that the terror attacks in New York and Washington were simply a by-product of such foreign policy. An opinion, in which millions of illiterate inhabitants know around the world. And yet, this segment on CNN led us to believe that the Canadian people were savage terrorists intent on destroying the US and implied that Canada’s liberal immigration policy was a plot to launch covert terrorists attacks on Americans.
The worst of the lot are pundits. These are men and women who attended the same universities as the reporters. They may have earned an undergraduate degree in Communication or English. The pundits on international affairs spent a semester in London and Paris. Others were former oil executives in Saudi Arabia living on corporate expense accounts. Nonetheless, these pundits are brought on as ‘experts’ who are on first name basis with the programme hosts. They tell us what the average person thinks and feel, even though they haven’t talked to an average person since Freshman Orientation Day at University. What may, if anything, make them remotely close to the ‘average person’ are their biological functions such as eating, defecating (which they are real experts of) and pissing (which they do every time their face appears on camera. Other than that, their reality has nothing in common with the average citizen they claim to know.
Fortunately, these ladies and gentlemen are reserved for national and international broadcasts. Viewers of local news are spared the best and given the dung heap of reporting. Civic affairs are non-existent. Local news are motion picture tabloids. We are given reports about abandoned babies, the occasional rape, murders and fires. We are not given investigative reports to how the shredding of the social contract has forced poor women to dump their children. Tips are not broadcast of how men can stop rape from happening. Each murder is a top story as if murder is a new novelty of society. No investigation is carried or covered into possible insurance fraud of landlords setting their own properties on fire. No! Local news is meant to alienate us. Put us into despair. Makes us think about the degraded and lost morals of humanity. It’s tedious and repetitive information is not about empowerment but to the contrary. We are made to feel impotent and barren.
Here, journalism manipulates life precisely to its advantage to the disadvantage of others. In wartime this is clear. Atrocities committed by enemy nations are scandalous and savage. Somehow, we are expected to believe that a country without infrastructure, a dying general population, which may or may not have weapons of mass destruction, is seen as the greatest threat since Nazi Germany. The fact that another country actually possesses and uses weapons of mass destruction on a daily basis is a good friend and ally. The fact that another country has an un-elected leader, who snatched power fraudulently, is held up as the model of progress and civility. When enemy nations act upon their own will, they are called ‘rogue states’. When America pursues its own agenda, it is called ‘unilateralism’ or acting on behalf of it ‘vital national interests’. ‘The mob and the press are above national interests.’ The mob riots, the media transmits. When the latter transmits, the former feel encouraged and people repay and repent for what newsrooms has encouraged.
The media ‘exaggerates the condition of the world it has created.’ In America, along with Hollywood, invented and preserved the sterile practice of Arab terrorism in order to promote their business activities of its dubious intellect unchallenged. ‘Once it reached the desired goal, it puts its patriotism out to board for future profit.’ The « Special Report’ is thee be regarded as the event itself. Shattered nerves let it be misled from fabrication to facts. Precisely. More floods have flown from ‘live broadcasts they claim to contain. 89 years ago, machines declared war on God. During the intermissions of battles, the times have regained themselves and are amazed how brilliant they have become. They have become so brilliant that History was said to have ended a decade ago!!!
Perhaps the times have always been brilliant and I did not notice. True, I spent the past decade wearing sunglasses all the time. I was too busy being cynical, cool and hip. I spent the past decade being an alienated, disgruntled moody bohemian to take off the sunglasses and see the bright reality. Since 1984, when Ronald Reagan declared it to be ‘morning in America’. I obstinately kept the shades on. Now it is high noon on Reagan’s shiny happy day and the sun is brilliant. Hence, it was perceptual interference of mine to perceive them as dull.
Bush has implored the world to take on the ‘forces of Evil.’ I have tried for over a decade and I, clearly am not up to it. In this bogus ‘war on terror and evil’, someone asked me to become a ‘terrorist of words’. With the new times, I was implored to turn my words into weapons of mass destruction to root out the evil doers who manipulate true virtue. I cannot. Brilliant and dazzling forces must have the strength to deal with evils above and do not need the coaching and egging of a writer. Though the brilliant forces have dazzled everyone’s eyes, they still cannot handle it. Bombs are dropped with derogatory racist insults written on them over Afghanistan and Middle Earth. It nothing else, this proves how conservative and current we are. The humour of the bombs’ punch line is the accuracy of the blood of successful hits.
What about the intellect? What do our poets and thinkers have to say? As the planet stands on its head, emptiness reflects. Should the world tear itself to microchips, not even artificial intelligence will emerge. It won’t appear in the future. It should have but it went into hiding and came out in virtual reality. Not since World War One, has there been such a mad dash to banality. The sacrifice of leading intellects is so vapid as to give the impression that they had nothing to sacrifice but to become grounded where it is safest: in Disneyland.
To seek cheap words, to parrot the delirium of others. To welcome fascism with pacifism, confirm that lawyers are tosses, and condemn those who steal food is the most disappointing achievement that society can expect form it intellects in hard times. Where was Charlie Rose as New York turned into a police state? Where was bill Moyers when Giuliani declared race war against the largest black population in the Western world? Where was Cornell West when Gary Sankofa was lynched by George w. Bush. Where was Tom Wolfe when Giuliani declared that ‘Freedom means obeying lawful authority?’ Why was Bono, after the World Economic forum, a pop star who has made his fortune performing as an advocate of international human rights, sitting and smiling with George W. Bush, who led the so called western ‘civilised’ world with mechanised murder? Why do Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn hold on their patriotism as infants cling to Teddy Bears? Why is Bob Woodward, the journalist who saved the American Republic from becoming a dictatorship, now the biggest cheerleader for a dangerous and authoritarian madman, by holding this very pervert as a model of leadership in a virtual war against evil? There is no longer a bridge between spirit and intellect. Remember Bill Clinton’s shoddy bridge to the 21st Century? I said that it would fall. I was wrong. It has been blown up. Karl Kraus wrote: ‘Intellects that nimbly and comfortably bed down in the split of their personalities when danger threatens will be a dime a dozen.’
If this war to ever end, which there is an increasing possibility that it will never, we will have to face the consequences. The decade which followed the Second World War has gone down as one of the most repressive and stiffing of the previous century. We face a grave danger that the decade following the end of this version of Christian Dungeons and Dragons war game, will make the 1950’s seem like an era of social liberation. With the intellectuals we have, the danger is greater. The end of the war against the ‘Axis of Evil’ may very well be the victory of the Axis Powers after 1945.
‘War is Hell!’ ‘Baptism by fire!’ ‘What effect does this brilliant war have which is brilliant by the virtual reality of forces which the most blinding war ought to be waged? It is redemption or only the end? Is it redemption or only the end? Or is it only a continuation? May it never happen that pettiness appeals to the world-historical background. How is it possible that in days when clichés were already bleeding and surrendering their last life to death they were still able to serve as a window decoration to the bawdy house of neo-liberalism?
May the times grow brilliant enough not to let the victor place his heel on the intellect and the economy, brilliant enough to wake up from the nightmare of the opportunity to have victory to the credit of those uninvolved in it, the opportunity of wrongheaded chasers after death tolls in peacetime to divest themselves of any honour they may have left. What do you who are covering the war know about the war? Even those who have sacrificed their ideals to life will some day have the privilege to sacrificing life itself. May the times grow so brilliant that they lose their memory as they grow old into life!

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