Dread and The Terror of History

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In the current twilight of apocalyptic global affairs, Kafkaesque geopolitical mayhem, and catastrophic climate-change, perhaps it is relevant to take a break from the competition, and reflect briefly on the terror of historical consciousness and the real dread of history through which we are living. Increasingly in this digital and digitized virtual world, we are not merely watching our appliances, the i-Pods, i-Pads, i-Phones, and Mac-Books that crowd out our real living spaces, but we are also spectators in the greater narrative of history being spun around us, almost automatically. Such a spectacle even informs our own autobiographies, as we allow its world historical agents and events to dictate our own worlds, emotionally and intellectually.

Historian of Religion, Mircea Eliade, reported back in 1959 that:

History either makes itself (as the result of seed sown by acts that occurred in the past, several centuries or even millennia ago…) or it tends to be made by an increasingly smaller number of men [!] who not only prohibit the mass of their contemporaries from directly or indirectly intervening in the history they are making, but in addition have at their disposal means sufficient to force each individual to endure, for his own part, the consequences of this history, that is to live immediately and continuously in dread of history.” (Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, NY 1959)

The insight here is both accurate and frightening (viz., dreadful). And yet the more connected we have become to one another, the more trapped we are becoming; spectators and not actors in this drama of history. But, that was the apparent triumph of historical consciousness; no longer tied to traditional archetypes and myths, but free to explore, make progress, and create history. No longer participants in the great cycles of nature, we were free to innovate, compete, acquire and control nature, rather than be controlled by it. But, therein lies the cruel joke, the rub. Cut loose from the methexis, “direct participation” in the cyclical drama, in the telluric energies of our Pleistocene makeup, and the natural world which infuses and enlightens us – we became rather victims to the vicissitudes of events orchestrated (poorly or masterfully) by great historical actors. We became slaves to a machine operating independently of our “wills,” now apparently freed from the stable moorings of myth, ritual and tribal participation. We became lost in a terrible labyrinth of cause and effect, of significations without a signified, of false flags and false hopes, of pin-up models rather than archetypes, unwitting victims of dissimulation and unforgiving distraction.

We have before us, my fellow spectators, one such player, Baruch Hussein Obama, President of the United States. He is the pen and the mouthpiece, a posterboy for historical actors par excellence. And we, the guileless spectators, are forced to endure the consequence of the fabled history he creates. Not that he alone is culpable, but there is an increasingly smaller and tighter cadre of those who enable and write this history we must endure like oxen in the field. You too work to pay your tribute to these historical actors who thus send off your slave wages to fight their wars and make their history in far off lands. They distribute your wealth (LOL) to the ministers of State who monitor and mediate, mollify and modulate what you know, who you know, and what you say. They watch you, and you pay for it.

No one in this drama of historical creativity is exempt from prosecution. From Israel to China, from Russia to Brazil, from Iran to India, from Germany to Belgium, all states are party to this unfolding cacophony. However, if we listen closely to that particular part of this rhythm being played out ever so loudly by Washington against Moscow, it is difficult for those of us in the West to forgive the constant drumbeat of death, together with the noise and the distractions being trumpeted in our name by Baruch Hussein Obama.  The masked Greek chorus has not yet sung its closing lines heralding the end of this tragedy. But surely, it must be hiding, waiting just behind the curtain. When will the dread be lifted from our shoulders? When will the tragedy and the terror of historical consciousness finally be laid to rest? Perhaps, the crisis that has spread like a virus from Liberia to the land of Liberty will point the way. Both Bosch and Kafka would be proud.

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22 Responses to Dread and The Terror of History

  1. Disaffected says:

    Great to see you back again kC! And yep, it looks like crisis(es) will be the defining word of our times. That anyone here in the US can still believe that we’re in any shape, manner ,or form on the right side of history at this point totally eludes me, but I imagine many in Nazi Germany felt the same way not all that long ago. If history continues to be written after our inevitable collapse, I imagine that will be the parallel that scholars key in on the most. How the US managed to “defeat” Nazism in the War to End All Wars (even though Russia actually did all the work and made all the sacrifices), and then, not even gradually, adopted, and in fact perfected all of Nazi Germany’s worst traits itself in the aftermath. It’ll be “one for the books” for sure as they say, but in the meantime, we’ve still got the dirty business of actually living it still ahead of us for now. Interesting times ahead for sure.

  2. You’ve pegged it, Sandy. What more is there to say? You give those of us who wonder why we keep crying in the wilderness a reason to stop – which we probably will not head, but will now keep always in the back of our minds as we write.

  3. Malthus says:

    Wow. Good, really good Sandy. Good to see you back. Short and all very true. I keep wondering what it is going to take to throw off the self imposed chains, and fantasies of this modern world. I am not so much a believer that hope will do anything but keep those behind the curtain from fleeing in fear of the masses. Nope nothing of the kind will do anything. I myself feel it is way to late to change anything and as I have said hoping that everyone will wake up and throw those chains off in the guise of smarter and smarter cell phones and constant being told to consume is a impossibility anymore. The young now think that texting is the only way to have conversation. Forget actually talking among themselves. Yep we are doomed to as you say, “Such a spectacle even informs our own autobiographies, as we allow its world historical agents and events to dictate our own worlds, emotionally and intellectually.”

    • Disaffected says:

      I’m mostly encouraged these days by the knowledge that the process is bigger than any of us and will take longer than any of our individual lifetimes. That’s both good news and bad, depending on your perspective at any one time. On the one hand, none of us oldsters alive today will be alive to see the bottom of the current collapse, on the other, the people alive at that time probably won’t be viewing it very romantically either. In short, I’m beginning to appreciate The Archdruid’s take on these things. It’ll almost certainly be a long drawn out process from our point of view, whether it takes several decades, a century, several centuries, or more. Either way, I’m not going to live through it all, nor do I even want to. As much as I like to ping about the politics of our time, which continue to absolutely baffle me from an intellectual standpoint, I think the bigger picture is finally beginning to come into focus for me. And on the good days, when I’m not totally pissed off about this, that, or the other little thing, the closing soliloquy by Lester Burnham/Kevin Spacey in American Beauty sums it all up about as well as it possibly can be:

      I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined our street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169547/quotes

  4. johnberk says:

    This is what I have been saying all along. Focus on your life, your lifestyle, your problems. It is not probable that you could change anything about the current reality and the current paradigm of the democratic fight for democracy all over the world at any costs. It is as flawed as Obama himself and it is being constantly talked all and all again. Your way of saying it is great, and I ran through this sentence twice:

    Increasingly in this digital and digitized virtual world, we are not merely watching our appliances, the i-Pods, i-Pads, i-Phones, and Mac-Books that crowd out our real living spaces, but we are also spectators in the greater narrative of history being spun around us, almost automatically.

    I feel helpless and weak but I’m still myself and I force myself to think about the current state of things. Now I try to focus on myself, my family, my diet – you are right about stepping back and taking it with calm.

  5. Pingback: 2014.10.25 them critters is stampedin’ | Brain Noise

  6. the Heretick says:

    “the more connected we have become to one another, the more trapped we are becoming; spectators and not actors in this drama of history”

    That’s pretty much the situation, we are in a prison w/o bars. Back in the day you didn’t much care what happened on the other side of the planet, what happened there stayed there, pretty much, or it took a while to get around the globe. Now, the vampire squid exports jobs and imports trash, and viruses, workers, whatever, the world presses in upon us in our living room. 30, 000 people a year die in car wrecks, but Ebola is the headline. Ans there’s no escape, not really, there is no frontier, and if you own some soil, you own the tax bill. It’s a closed system, a matrix, customer service courtesy of Rajiv in Bangalore, whoever, wherever. Boiler rooms and factory farms.

    “The industrial accident is still the kind of event that “takes place.” The post-industrial accident, on the other hand, goes beyond a certain place, you may say that it does no longer “take place,” but becomes an environment. ” – Virilio

    And it is of course, all about money.

    • Disaffected says:

      There’s no escape and there’s no frontier. That’s the point and the beauty of it all! It doesn’t have to pursue you and beat you down, just encompass and crush you. Russia seems to be the last marginal holdout, but I wonder how long that can last. They’re definitely on Washington’s radar for consolidation.

  7. the Heretick says:

    “We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression.”
    ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

    • Disaffected says:

      The book/movie is looking more and more prophetic every day, isn’t it? Marx, arguably a far greater thinker than Adam Smith predicted all these things, but nobody listened. And yes, the spiritual depression weighs far larger on ours than the economic one. The money, past what it takes to just get by, is easily dispensed with. The crushing meaninglessness when immersed within such a culture is not. That’s the root cause of all the current madness – the school shootings, the drugs and crime, the contempt for a legal system that’s been bought rejiggered t perpetuate a corrupt and rotten system, all of it – in a nutshell.

  8. the Heretick says:

    “It’s always here and now, my friend
    It ain’t once upon a time’
    Van Halen – Mean Streets

    “The entire strategy of the system lies in this hyperreality of floating
    values. It is the same for money and theory as for the unconscious.
    Value rules according to an ungraspable order: the generation of
    models, the indefinite chaining of simulation.
    Cybernetic operationality, the genetic code, the random order of
    mutations, the principle of uncertainty, and so on: all of these replace
    a determinist and objectivist science, a dialectical vision of history
    and consciousness. Even critical theory and the revolution belong to
    the second-order simulations, as do all determinate processes. The
    installation of third-order simulacra upsets all of this, and it is useless
    to resurrect the dialectic, “objective” contradictions and the like,
    against them; that is a hopeless political regression.”

    http://www.humanities.uci.edu/mposter/books/Baudrillard,%20Jean%20-%20Selected%20Writings_ok.pdf

    Symbolic Exchange and Death – 122 in the book/126 of the PDF

    Read and believe.

    • Disaffected says:

      Just getting around to reading your link there HT. Pretty interesting stuff! Had a hard time following at first, but the religious examples finally got the point across. But it definitely applies to money and politics and just about everything else these days, doesn’t it? Video games are a particularly obvious example as an initiation rite for the young’ns. The simulation has almost totally displaced objective reality across the board these days, here in the west at least.

  9. the Heretick says:

    “This victory operates by subtle forms of radicalizing hidden
    qualities, and by combating obscenity with its own weapons. To the
    more true than true we will oppose the more false than false. We
    will not oppose the beautiful and the ugly; we will seek what is
    more ugly than the ugly: the monstrous. We will not oppose the
    visible to the hidden; we will seek what is more hidden than the
    hidden: the secret.
    We will not seek change, nor oppose the fixed and the mobile;
    we will seek what is more mobile than the mobile: metamorphosis
    … We will not distinguish the true from the false; we will seek what
    is more false than the false: illusion and appearance …
    In this ascent to extremes, while we may need to oppose it in a
    radical way, we may perhaps need to accumulate the effects of
    obscenity and seduction.”

    Fatal Strategies – Jean Baudrillard

    It’s interesting to meditate on what’s going down on Mean Street, the resistance of the “Untermenschen”, the dispossessed, those with which polite society never rubs elbows.
    Think you can take orders at Mickey D’s? Think again, you probably don’t speak the language, the new lingo, the SubSpeak.
    Oh, but “they” speak yours, they live in two worlds, they know yours, and they hate it.
    This is not directed towards any of the regular denizens of our little tribe here, I trust we are all sophisticated enough, we highbrows.
    Then there are those hanging onto the illusion of order, respectability, their middle class values, whatever tortured form they have twisted them into, the let’s all go to FiveBucks for some java crowd, makes me wanna holler…………………….

  10. Multhus says:

    On top of all that’s been written here nothing changes except we keep procreating and adding to the problems. Most people do not seem to see the total illusion we have built just to deny we are over populated. I really can not think of anyway of getting the point across that 2 many people means things are going to keep going down hill until we crash and burn.

    • Disaffected says:

      I agree totally. Our solutions are actually radically simple. Matter of fact I got labeled “Malthusian” just last week on another blog and had to laugh. But the overpopulation genie, once out of the bottle, can’t be put back in so easily. Given that 7B people are not just a few too many but MANY times too many to be even remotely sustainable, the solution would have to be pretty radical as well. Merely stopping procreating, as impossible as even that would be to be implement, would not come close to being enough. We would need to radically downsize and stop fossil fuel use altogether right now if we hope to stand a chance to come out of this thing with an actual functioning society remotely resembling what we have now. The bad news is that we won’t do either of those things and thus are doomed to failure, the good news is that any prospective downsized society remotely resembling what we have now would be doomed to failure again in the long run anyway, and thus should not be aspired to in the first place. As the saying goes, we had a good run there while it lasted…

      • the Heretick says:

        Eventually the juice will be exhausted, then humans will have to adjust to natural rhythms once again, the entire question will be whether the planet will be inhabitable for our kind.

        • Disaffected says:

          I think any prospective future humans will have to adapt to a radically different planet. Fortunately for us, it damn sure won’t include you and me.

  11. FIDO says:

    Sandy,

    Long time no see, well I had to deal with a death in the family and had a nasty accident with my car. But, what doesnt kill you makes you stronger. I doubt that anyone truly understands what is really going on with the world today. We need to deal with whatever comes down the pike . It is not good but we have no real choice in the matter. FIDO’s plans are set and good luck as the world order unravels in front of us all.

    Lessons to take from the last few months

    1. live as if there is no future. In other words stop worrying about if your 401k is doing well. It won’t matter soon if you had a retirement plan or not. It is gone , poof , just like a ice cube on a hot roof on summer day. If you had plans for the future, either do them asap or don’t do anything at all. The handwritten note is already pinned to the bulletin board. I prefer to be the one waiting for the barbarians at the front door with a bottle of wine and a glass.

    2. The world doesn’t give a flying fuck what you think or do. It will just go on with or without you. Historical trends are not reversible or changeable. THe age of contraction means that you will have less and less and have to fight for every bit of food, clothing or services you have. One of my friends who is in retail management told me that he has never seen so many prices ready to skyrocket and he is having more trouble getting supplies from overseas and regional distribution is falling apart.

    3. The end of overseas sales and money movement. I do not expect to see my niece for a long time or maybe forever. International shipping and travel will vanish as the capital markets collapse AND contract. The fragile net of shipping and travel will come to an end.

    Have more to say and will say it later…

    FIDO

    • Disaffected says:

      Those are some pretty good observations there FIDO. Along with HT’s Baudrillard simulacra stuff above, I think I’ve expanded my horizon’s a little more than usual this time.

  12. Disaffected says:

    Had to laugh this morning when I read this:

    http://www.technologyreview.com/news/532321/device-changes-your-mood-with-a-zap-to-the-head/

    Walk Hard! indeed!

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