Friday, May 04, 2007

Coming up empty

"I'm very sad to say that for very many people in the world, the symbol of America today is not the Statue of Liberty, which is one of the first things I saw as a child when approaching the shores of the U.S, but (the U.S. detention facility at) Guantanamo (Cuba). That legacy will take time to undo." Zbigniew Brzezinski - VOA
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This is the first time since the pre-Voltaire/Rousseau days that the world is without any utopia at all... Let that sink in for a moment. What an immense and incalculable loss!

The Soviet Union stopped being a model or path to utopia, long before the Berlin wall came down. Most observers date its fall from grace back to 1956, a year that marked Khruschev's exposure of Stalin's crimes against humanity and the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian revolution. Certainly by the "Prague Spring" of 1968 the Soviet Union had ceased to be any one's idea of a desirable future. Now it is America's turn to let humanity down.

For better or worse, what distinguishes the USA from such dull, but user friendly countries like Canada and Australia, is its explosive mixture of the puritan ethic with the French ideas of the enlightenment. You could make an allegorical monument to the intellectual foundation of the United States of America by erecting a huge sculptural group with John Calvin embracing Jean Jacques Rousseau over the cadaver of an American Indian, with a prostrate African slave embracing their feet... on a ground littered with tools.

If you amputate
this intellectual legacy and stomp upon it as heavily as the Bush administration has done, you are committing a gross cultural crime and depriving humanity, including the Chinese and the Indians, of something that belongs to all of us... Just like Michelangelo's Pietá, Hiroshige's wood cuts or Bach's fugues... or clean air.

Having a prison which violates every norm of international law and every ancient tradition of English common law, precisely on a piece of land, Guantánamo, stolen from Cuba and then lecturing the Cubans as Bush has done on, I quote, "the importance for Cuba to be a free society, a society that respects human rights and human dignity, a society that honors the rule of law." is like taking a hammer and breaking off the marble noses of Jesus and the Virigin of La Pietá.

The problem with the USA at this moment is that, because of its power, it is still the belly button of the world... and everybody is staring at it, but America just can't seem to produce, can't cut the mustard... This decadence has worldwide repercussions, because
Europe seems completely neutered intellectually by now and the rising powers like India and China don't seem to have any ideological content or any project for the future other than raising the levels of carbon dioxide.

I find it a clear symptom of this emptiness, how little music, how few good films, books, paintings and essays are coming out of either Europe or the States at this point.... Compare the situation today to the fertility of 1960s and 70s.

There is a famous bird, whose name I have forgotten, that flies in ever decreasing, concentric circles, till at last it disappears up its own rectum... Is this the "black hole" we are facing? DS


Anonymous said...


Your own commentary is usually better than the articles you link to. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

As for the cultural dearth mentioned, it's not like that with regards to Asia. Asian cinema has been steadily rising.

Hollywood corporate films started to fade about 20 years ago, nowadays they're totally predictible and mostly copying the Asian stuff. Are you aware how many great films there have been from Japan, HK, Bollywood?

Similarly, Europe isn't "neutered intellectually" in any way. It's all business as usual. Nevermind the US-American midlife crisis. The greatest danger is still "becoming like England", as Karl Marx had it.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I agree that Asian cinema is interesting, especially the Korean and to a lesser extent the Chinese. But the only film of those that I found on the Fellini/Herzog/Fassbinder/Truffaut level was Wong Kar Wei's "2046".

As to Europe, please tell me where all these intellectual giants you seem to have located are. The only intellectual I find stimulating now is Slavoj Zizek.