Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Political Fiction and Post-Modernism

In my last post I offered a psychological interpretation of how the United States ended up in its present bizarre situation of fighting to the death on behalf of our worst enemy. My conclusion was in effect that the Iraq war is the outcome of a fantasy, a projection of wishes, fears, and resentments onto a distant enemy. This is why at no point have the neo-cons made any kind of substantial contact with reality, and in fact all of the most intense and dramatic political conflicts of the past four years can be analyzed as failed communications between themselves and reality. This raises a rather interesting point about our current epistemological crisis. What we find in the present ascendancy of global bureaucratic capitalism is a curious merging of fact and fiction. It appears that as accounts of reality become more and more empirical, more devoid of the mediating role of symbol and metaphor, they also become more fictional, and even more fantastic. As Garrison Keillor wrote recently on Salon, what is really needed is not better journalism but "a good novelist." It's been a hunch of mine for a long time that fantasy is a medium for which the modern world is uniquely suited. Not only does fantasy drive the entertainment industry but it is really the engine of capitalism. A market must be imagined before it becomes a reality. In a strange way, a market becomes a reality as soon as it is imagined. So why should it come as a surprise that the major war of our time should come into being in the same way as, for instance, a new theme park? From the perspective of its creators, there really is no difference. A new war, a new product, a new religion. They all begin life as fantasies. That's their appeal, their unique defiance of reality. It brings something out in people, allows them to express something about themselves they otherwise wouldn't be able to. The neo-conservatives who brought us the Iraq war would have made marvelous novelists. It is our misfortune that they write public policy for a living instead.

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