my review of man in the high castle
[...] "I did it for my family" is the most repeated line in this film. Its echo is silent, yet you can't help hearing it: what would you do for yours?
"Its echo is silent" is a nice way of putting it (inspiration for my Man in the High Castle review)
[...] her habit of addressing the reader as if the reader were the same as her--'I don't know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham . . .'--has a fragile pathos to it. She wants to be one of us, and in some way she assumes she is. The very dullness of these children, their lack of rebelliousness, even incuriousness, is what grounds the book's fantasy. They seem never to want to run away from their school, to throw over the commanded lives they must eventually lead. Full comprehension of who they are and why they were created makes them sad, but only resignedly so. This is the only reality they have ever known, and they are indeed creatures of habit. Ishiguro shakes this banality every so often, as the terribleness of what has been done emerges. [...]
this sets the stage for a note later on
[...] For it is most powerful when most allegorical, and its allegorical power has to do with its picture of ordinary human life as in fact a culture of death. That is to say, Ishiguro's book is at its best when, by asking us to consider the futility of cloned lives, it forces us to consider the futility of our own. This is the moment at which Kathy's appeal to us--'I don't know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham . . .'--becomes double-edged. For what if we are more like Tommy and Kathy than we at first imagined? The cloned children are being educated at school for lives of perfect pointlessness, pointless because they will die before they can grasp their adulthood. Everything they do is dipped in futility, because the great pool of death awaits them. They possess individuality, and seem to enjoy it (they fall in love, they have sex, they read George Eliot), but that individuality is a mirage, a parody of liberty. Their lives have been written in advance, they are prevented and followed, in the words of The Book of Common Prayer. Their freedom is a tiny hemmed thing, their lives a vast stitch-up.
We begin the novel horrified by their difference from us and end it thoughtful about their similarity to us. After all, heredity writes a great deal of our destiny for us; and death soon enough makes us orphans, even if we were fortunate enough, unlike the children of Hailsham, not to start life in such deprivation. Without a belief in God, without metaphysical pattern and leaning, why should our lives not indeed be sentences of a kind, death sentences? Even with God? Well, God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it: the writing may well be on the wall anyway. To be assured of death at twenty-five or so, as the Hailsham children are, seems to rob life of all its savour and purpose. But why do we persist in the idea that to be assured of death at seventy and eighty or ninety returns to life all its savour and purpose? Why is sheer longevity, if it most certainly ends in the same way as sheer brevity, accorded meaning, while sheer brevity is thought to lack it? The culture of life is not such a grand thing when seen through these narrow windows.
It would be terribly reductive--even if partially true--to characterize such enthralments in terms of an opposition between 'them' (the media, journalist,s the powerful, rulers, elites, the establishment) and 'us' (the poor little ignorant people, shamefully manipulated by Machiavellian politicians, big bosses of multinational firms, spin doctors and storytellers). Media enthralments result from an echosystem in which we are all implicated [...] Even if we are led to find its deplorable and degrading effects deeply repulsive, this echosystem can only be conjugated in the first-person plural: whether we like it or not it constitutes 'our' environment, 'our milieu' [...]--we are what and who we are because we live in the 'middle' of it. We don't merely live in it: to a large extent, 'we' are it. And just like our atmosphere or climate, however unbreathable or overheated they may be, our media echosystem--with all its nuances, standardized sectors and no-go zones--is necessarily communal. Here as well, there is no plan(et) B.
very DFW and also reminds me of my closing para for viewer in the high castle
[...] Such is the present paradox of ethics; if I am absorbed in treating a few chosen persons as absolute ends, for example, my wife, my son, my friends, the needy person I happen to come across, if I am bent upon fulfilling all my duties towards them, I shall spend my life doing so; I shall be led to pass over in silence the injustices of the age, the class struggle, colonialism, Anti-Semitism, etc., and, finally, to take advantage of oppression in order to do good. [...] if I throw myself into the revolutionary enterprise I risk having no more leisure for personal relations--worse still, of being led by the logic of the action into treating most men, and even my friends, as means. But if we start with the moral exigence which the aesthetic feeling envelops without meaning to do so, we are starting on the right foot. We must historicize the reader's goodwill, that is, by the formal agency of our work, we must, if possible provoke his intention of treating men, in every case, as an absolute end and, by the subject of our writing, direct his intention upon his neighbours, that is, upon the oppressed of the world. But we shall have accomplished if, in addition, we do not show him--and in the very warp and weft of the work--that it is quite impossible to treat concrete men as ends in contemporary society. Thus, he will be led by the hand until he is made to see that, in effect, what he wants is to eliminate the exploitation of man by man and that the city of ends which, with one stroke, he has set up in the aesthetic intuition is an ideal which we shall approach only at the end of a long historical evolution. In other words, we must transform his formal goodwill into a concrete and material will to change this world by specific means in order to help the coming of the concrete society of ends.
The new populist leaders recognize that they aspire to national leadership in an era in which national sovereignty is in crisis. The most striking symptom of this crisis of sovereignty is that no modern nation-state controls what could be called its national economy. [...]
control has been ceded to the global capitalist class
This, then, is what the leaders of the new authoritarian populisms have in common: the recognition that none of them can truly control their national economies, which are hostages to foreign investors, global agreements, transnational finance, mobile labour and capital in general. [...]
[...] science fiction as a genre does not claim to actually predict the future. Rather, it works to extrapolate elements of the present, to consider what these elements might lead to if allowed to reach their full potential. That is to say, science fiction is not about the actual future but about the futurity that haunts the present. It grasps, and brings to visibility, what Deleuze calls the virtual dimension of existence, or what Marx calls tendential processes.
Science fiction takes up certain implicit conditions of our personal and social lives, and makes these conditions fully explicit in narrative. It picks out "futuristic" trends that are already embedded within our actual social and technological situation. These trends are not literal matters of fact, but they really exist as tendencies or potentialities. In the words of Deleuze, they are "real without being actual, ideal without being abstract, and symbolic without being fictional." They are potentials for change, growth, or decay, bu they have not fully expressed themselves or done all that they can do. And they may not ever do so, since (as Marx points out) a tendency is always accompanied by "counteracting factors" that can inhibit or even reverse it.
Well before Trump came along to validate the conceit, The Walking Dead had added a mordant dimension of political parody to its original survival-of-the-fraughtest premise by introducing David Morrissey as “The Governor,” essentially a psychopath in messiah’s clothing. By now, the series dwells more on rival humanoid factions battling each other than it does on dispatching dull zombies, and the implicit joke is that they’re vying for supremacy in a wasteland that will never again resemble the U.S.A. they once knew. You couldn’t ask for a better preview of next year’s midterm elections.
Yet Lovecraft's texts are exemplary of Weird, rather than straightforwardly Gothic, fiction. Weird fiction has its own consistency, which can be most clearly delineated by comparing it to two adjacent modes, Fantasy and the Uncanny. Fantasy (and Tolkien is the exemplar here) presupposes a completed World, a world that, although superficially different to 'ours' (there may be different species, or supernatural forces) is politically all-too familiar (there is usually some nostalgia for the ordered organization of feudal hierarchy). The Uncanny, meanwhile, is set in 'our' world - only that world is no longer 'ours' any more, it no longer coincides with itself, it has been estranged. The Weird, however, depends upon the difference between two (or more) worlds - with 'world' here having an ontological sense. It is not a question of an empirical difference - the aliens are not from another planet, they are invaders from another reality system. Hence the defining image is that of the threshold, the door from this world into another, and the key figure is the 'Lurker at the Threshold' - what, in Lovecraft's mythos is called Yog Sothoth. The political philosophical implications are clear: there is no world. What we call the world is a local consensus hallucination, a shared dream.