Saturday, March 21, 2009

Serene Barbarity

Dear George,

One of the strengths of our corporate state is that those who criticize it praise even as they think they are criticizing it. Because the corporate state represents the end-point of history, even its weaknesses and destructiveness are strengths.

For example, one writer opens his screed by stating;

The markets are rational. From that inviolate truth, a pillar of economic thought for223 years, flows all else economics understands about markets, men, and money—an unalterable belief that markets can be measured, quantified, cut and pasted in mute acceptance that under it all lies the consistent and undeniable force of rational behavior, a religion gone unquestioned.

But, of course they are rational. It is this rationality that has raised greed, venality and exploitation to the highest level of sophisticated efficiency. Rational abstraction sanitizes and dehumanizes cruelty.

And do you know what made all this possible? It was Rene’s cogito. That’s our little Prince of Peace. Its frozen rocks of verifiable data squeeze the warmth out of the soul, leaving only the linear thrust of the crazed if-then, with no quarter given to compassion, wisdom, or understanding, none of which are quantifiable.

It freezes our tears and wraps its fingers in a death grip ‘round the heart, allowing men to see with the hard clarity that illuminates all. Its strength makes possible intolerable cruelties by reducing life’s fecundity to categories and labels.

It’s the words, George! Multitudes of words pissed into a tin cup, whose death rattle resonates around the world, making the fires of Hell feel like a soothing Spring breeze.

And the numbers! The more the better, black columns in rank and file order on reams of spreadsheets draped over the festering corpses of the innocent, printed on paper so thick the blood can't soak through.

Words and numbers congeal into a toxic cloud, suffocating and choking until all life is frozen into the death mask of the broken and the bored.

A subtle shift takes place in the rational mind that allows us to witness cruelty without thinking it cruel. That’s the key to power, to be able to abstract and depersonalize suffering, while remaining civilized and intelligent. It is the serene barbarity of the civilized that makes empire possible. This allows our Pentagon policymakers to sanitize the shattered bodies of women and children with the soothing phrase, “collateral damage.”

However, the cogito peaked when it gave rise to social engineering, which is based on the cogito's corollary, "I think therefore I am, therefore what I think is and shall become." This gave us Communism, Nazism and Neoliberalism, along with other manifestations of our rational madness.

In the end, it’s all an exercise in black humor, because every line of linear thought ends as rust and dust.

Yes, George, markets are rational and men are rational. It is this that makes us deaf to the cries of the suffering and to the sound of our world collapsing around us.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones


Anonymous said...

I suppose it may come down - as it often does - to semantics. "Rational", as Adam Smith would define it, is the result of men maximizing their best interests. Today, when men clearly do not maximize their best interests, we still call it rational. And it ain't rational to work against your own best interests.

Love the letters, a great read.

Case Wagenvoord said...

One of the qualities of Orwell's "newspeak" was that it shrank our vocabulary by expanding the meaning of a given word to incorporate its antonym,thus eliminating the need for said antonym.

Thus irrational is subsumed under the meaning of rational.