the splinter of our discontent; the thorns of radical rightism and lefty quietism

Rush Limbaugh calls a law student, Sandra Fluke, a slut and a prostitute (and assumes they are the same thing) because she speaks at an unofficial congressional hearing on contraception. When asked to apologise by Democrats, the conservative commentator came out with all guns blazing in a defensive-offensive (assuming the broad natures of both words) attack on women who want access to birth control under health care plans: "So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch." The seemingly contradictory arch-conservative view on pregnancy, being both anti-contraception and anti-abortion, is turned sensical by adding in a parenthesised Madonna-whore complex. This branch of liberalism, which can not possibly be seen as "favouring maximum individual liberty", equates sex with sluts, and sluts with prostitution and pornography. Oh, you wouldn't mind us watching, because the act of having sex without intent to conceive is selling yourself anyway (the soul/body divide becomes more interesting here; the sullied soul can divest the body of all rights). 

How did I hear about this so late? Probably because I am still unsure about how to toe the consumption line between 'good' left-wing media and its 'bad' right-wing counterpart (although they're not really counterparts, are they? The right wing is much more enjoyable, a real fleshy, rotting apple, but more on that later). As well-informed modern internet users, we are, I feel, expected to be consuming just as much trash as, if not treasure, semi-precious news material. We are expected to know what the other side are reading, hearing, and saying about the issues that we consider of vital importance for the coming election, year, decade, etc. Yet sometimes it feels as though this is just a game for laughs, the comedy rounds for the better-informed. Can you believe they said that?! Insanity! A plethora of crackpot facts, bad faith, maddening distortions, and riling conclusions that shock you and then,

NELL: One mustn’t laugh at those things, Nagg. Why must you always laugh at them?
NAGG: Not so loud!
NELL (without lowering her voice): Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. But–
NAGG (shocked): Oh!
NELL: Yes, yes, it’s the most comic thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.
Endgame, Samuel Beckett

Life is perhaps absurd. The only thing to do is laugh. Or is it? Equally potent aphorisms come to the aid of action. Pinter, one of Beckett's biggest champions, comes to mind. And it seems true that Nell's truism works for genuine political discontent. We care, and we read, and we pen, and perhaps it all seems to come to nothing, the world spews up the same stuff and we become disillusioned. But I tend to think that action, being on the side of production, is more lasting than laughter, which ambiguously sits on the consumer-producer fence. More like a cough, but funnier. We can have both but if we only take one, it ought not be just laughter. So, back to the news. Why this constant trawling if it comes to nought but 'lol's (the irony of Nell's statement becomes obvious here; the replacement of laughter-the-act for laughter-the-symbol)? Do we have a serious counter for that which we think absurd and dangerous? As the political and cultural right become more brash and toxic, the left seems to become more quietly devastated. Animated conversation, communion in the living room - don't we all realise we feel the same? - cumulation and defeated culmination. The pause at the end of the sentence. What sets in? That somewhat indescribable blanket that vaguely touches various defeats; smallness, insignificance, powerlessness. The small changes we could effect seem ultimately ineffectual, the big changes seem out of reach or too hard. It would mean giving up a lot. But the need still arises and we still read, laugh, talk. The pause at the end of the conversation.

We have to face the fact that the quietism of lefty politics cannot counter the radicalism of the right. There is something otherwordly, sci-fi, about the politics of the right. It is an outrage, a shock to the senses and the imagination. Bogus logic, idio(t)syncracies whose amalgams can't hold. The left holds no competition for the appealing nature of crazy politics, content matches visual and aural style; serious vs. delirious, sombre-and-rational counters lively-with-(out)rage. The left generally refuses to go to bat for big thematics, the sticky threads that hold the whole thing together, however badly they do so. We are Lyotard's children still attending the funeral of metanarratives, which, though pronounced dead over three decades ago, continue as spectres needing constant ritual appeasement to prevent a return haunting; communism, bauhaus-inspired mass-housing utopianism, social engineering in the extreme (where the word 'social' hardly fits anymore, requiring as it does a degree of freedom in the association of its members). Every time the left tries to speak about a vision for the future, it has to preface with a positive renouncing of the past - yes, I want more communality of resources, but, no, I do not want a return to totalitarian communism. Is is necessary to each time outline what we don't want simply because it is (often remotely) connected linguistically or historically?  Is this kind of defence demanded of the right? Even if it is demanded, the right have managed to wipe away any negative connection to the past and can often treat it as if it is absurd logic to even mention it. How? 

The right work more with abstract ideology based on feeling, the kind of politics that takes after religion in form (and content, often). Hegel wrote that religion (he was specifically talking about the rise in Western christianity) took over as the ideal form of Geist (lit. Spirit, but not necessarily in religious terms) in expressing world history, as the plastic arts had done in the time of the Ancient Greeks. Religion worked on inner feeling, meaning it was an embodied experience (thus sensual) of communion with something higher. The sensuality of ethereality, the weight of light and lightness. It is feeling that attracts people to higher causes when they turn from organised religion and an Eternal Super-Thou (to use Peter Sloterdjik's phrase), and feeling that allows affinity with ideologies, shaved as they are of their concrete particulars. Particulars are fiddly and complex, they do not whisk one away; rather, they demand grounding, and a trudging through it. They are, perhaps, a little boring.†

But, back to the right, who use feeling as their primary means of appeal and thus do away with the need for particulars and even concurring tenets. As Zizek points out, many pro-capitalists will blame the problems with the financial crises peppering the world right now on too much government intervention and not enough real capitalism. The same thing occurred on the radical left under communism. Things weren't working because the communism was not pure enough - the utopia could not be brought down to earth. That's the funny thing about utopias - they are abstract visions of perfection. Or perhaps it is easier to say that perfection is always an abstract vision. The feeling Descartes described when he explored proofs for God - the experience of the infinite applied to man's faculties, the infinitely good, wise, powerful, etc - is perhaps similar to the Kantian sublime, an overwhelming excess that creates euphoria (though the Kantian formula comes pre-laden with Kant's own religio-rational agenda). Kant describes the ability for us to encompass as an idea a whole which is essentially unable to be encompassed, i.e. 'infinity' is the concept that bounds infinity, which we cannot properly get at. So, the right is still working with feeling, with irrational or a-rational appeal to abstract ideology and they are getting more radical, in both their contradictions and their tenets. And it is feeling that fuses the gap that is left gaping in their logic. Faith. This attack against women is one of the latest examples amongst many harebrained others. 

It is interesting that in his apology Limbaugh stated, "For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week." Was he giving example or was he serving as one? Illustration is an appropriate word for this kind of political swamping. The more colourful, the more effective. But they'll borrow what they call the left's relativism and apply it to the truth. Rush simply "chose the wrong words in [his] analogy", in what was merely an "attempt to be humorous". And what better words could he have used in his analogy? Perhaps we should hear them because there was little other likeness he could have been explicating than the sex=slut / Madonna-whore dichotomy. Perhaps he could use strumpet, or cocotte, or fille de joie, or simply allude without making explicit - a great media coverall tactic. Here's Harold Pinter: “The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness.” 

Rush and other conservative commentators regularly do away with avoidances only to put them back in place in an even more insidious game. I say it, then I say, "jokes". I put it in print or on the airwaves and then I retract in small print on the back page. Well, it can't be unseen or unheard, and apologies don't pay the equivalent of what was exacted. We'll end with Rush, who, in his apology, asked the questions that I'm asking, that both sides are asking and would like answered: "What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow?" 


†It is actually this that speaks for the embodied nature of artworks - cinema, installation, and music et. al. - to express feeling and to touch at human truths without delving into the textbook particulars. But as we have seen from recent history, it is not feeling that can successfully govern a society that we might want to live in.

Image: Berthold Furtmeyr; The Tree of Death and Life

significance & the cleaved κόσμος

It seems that we are blessed with a kind of necessity of explanation for our κόσμος, a beginning in the simple mesh of old gods and reigning elements. Without such an ability to create a Whole as an answer, we would be in the order of schizophrenics, finding too much and not enough lasting connection between. As we begin to attribute new and more complex meaning (significance, Heidegger's Bedeutung) to our perceived reality, we dispense with each old order-as-κόσμος; the Whole grows and changes and yet, in its larger abstract sense, remains the same.

We narrate what was formerly the order of things back to ourselves as attributes of our history, but now as human creation; what was us also forms us. It is a first-order κόσμος for the original narrator, because the teller of myths tells what is; he or she explains the workings of the universe, and it would be cynical to denigrate this by using the word 'belief'. It becomes second-order for those who separate the story† from its present tense, where it becomes an external element able to be placed on abstract 'man'; it is now part of me, but as history, and filled with the horrors and wonders of history, i.e. not in the form of single events, but in the form of "what is man" the creature - history as social genetics. 

In the modern world, the explanation is given pride of place as the underlying κόσμος and man takes equal place as engineer, the modern schizophrenic forming-element wherein lies the potential to choose, control, and change one's future. We have realised our imaginative power in creating the connections that form our interpretation - that loaded word - and it is the past, howsoever fashioned, that founds our actions. Now Bedeutung is split between two irreconcilable worlds that only make sense in relation; the past, to be interpreted, and 'man', who uses the past to shape the future.

Significance gives over to formula, but without teleological trajectory, or with so many trajectories that it ends up as the same thing. And we wonder why people opt for an original first-order κόσμος? God isBedeutung. Or we give existential significance to art, or humanity, or Nature, or science. For those who refuse, comfort is taken in their knowledge of the meaninglessness of it all. They inhabit the space of ateleological movement in any and all directions, because such back and forth don't exist for first-order meaning, but they are all that exists for formula. 

The past and all the underlying first-order stories, scientific, philosophic, and religious, that constitute the 'is' and 'was' of man are information to be used in a certain way for the future. And now perhaps the problem is that comfort in meaninglessness is stretched thin and moral meaning is all but swept away. Perhaps we become all-pervasive narcissists with ironic regard for both future and past, or we become trapped in the mires of an unsatisfying depression (for even depressions can be enjoyable if they are meaningful, as will attest much art and many histories), in which we are unable to give forward significance whilst moving nonetheless. These two clear temporal directions leave the present impoverished and we become joyless on the back of this unknown formula for our future. 

Do we renew our comfort each time we examine ourselves and understand a bit more? It's meaningless, but at least I know it is. Take comfort in that. We lose faith, examine the loss, and take comfort. The storehouse grows and will never be satisfactory. The funeral is endless. Perhaps one day our bodies grow tired and we give ourselves over to meaning, a revolution in the world of sense. All great women and men are energised in some profound way. And the profundity lies in its not being chosen; no good formula for passion. 

† The word 'story' is less cynical than belief, because narrations are inherent in all forms of telling-what-is; science isn't taught from the most complex fundamentals, but starts at the simple fundamentals. The mind must sufficiently incorporate and habituate to these orders of knowledge before it looks deeper or further. "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants." Newton well knew.

Raqs Media Collective; Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time

To ask a human being to account for time is not very different from asking a floating fragment of plankton to account for the ocean. How does the plankton bank the ocean?
What is time?
What is the time?
The time is of your choosing.
The time is not of your choosing.
The time is out of joint.
The time has come.
The time needs changing.
The time has gone.
The time has come and gone.
The time has flown.
The time is not convenient.
The time is at hand.
The time has been spent well.
The time has been wasted.
The time is awkward.
The time is ripe.
The time has passed so swiftly.
The time is now.
What is the time?
We say “my time,” “your time,” but how do we tie these models of personhood, of being (me, you, us) to the medium within which all these me’s and you’s and us’s all swim in? Heidegger says, “Being and time determine each other reciprocally, but in such a manner that neither can the former—Being—be addressed as something temporal nor can the latter—time—be addressed as a being.”1
In Confessions, St. Augustine begins his discourse on time by confessing, “What then is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know. If I want to explain it to an inquirer, I do not know.”2 In our effort to account for time, we will confess to our confusions.

Neuroscience and Mental Time

Recent research in the neuroscience of how our brain processes time seems to indicate that there are several clocks, in fact several kinds of clocks running in our brain. A recent article by Burkhard Bilger in the New Yorker on neuroscientist David M. Eagleman explains,
Eagleman borrows a conceit from Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities.” [sic] The brain, he writes, is like Kublai Khan, the great Mongol emperor of the thirteenth century. It sits enthroned in its skull, “encased in darkness and silence,” at a lofty remove from brute reality. Messengers stream in from every corner of the sensory kingdom, bringing word of distant sights, sounds, and smells. Their reports arrive at different rates, often long out of date, yet the details are all stitched together into a seamless chronology. The difference is that Kublai Khan was piecing together the past. The brain is describing the present—processing reams of disjointed data on the fly, editing everything down to an instantaneous now. How does it manage it?3
Bilger continues by detailing the context from which Eagleman’s work emerges:
Just how many clocks we contain still isn’t clear. … The circadian clock, which tracks the cycle of day and night, lurks in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, in the hypothalamus. The cerebellum, which governs muscle movements, may control timing on the order of a few seconds or minutes. The basal ganglia and various parts of the cortex have all been nominated as timekeepers, though there’s some disagreement on the details. The standard model, proposed by the late Columbia psychologist John Gibbon in the nineteen-seventies, holds that the brain has “pacemaker” neurons that release steady pulses of neurotransmitters. More recently, at Duke, the neuroscientist Warren Meck has suggested that timing is governed by groups of neurons that oscillate at different frequencies. At U.C.L.A., Dean Buonomano believes that areas throughout the brain function as clocks, their tissue ticking with neural networks that change in predictable patterns. “Imagine a skyscraper at night,” he told me. “Some people on the top floor work till midnight, while some on the lower floors may go to bed early. If you studied the patterns long enough, you could tell the time just by looking at which lights are on.”
Time isn’t like the other senses, Eagleman says. Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing are relatively easy to isolate in the brain. They have discrete functions that rarely overlap: it’s hard to describe the taste of a sound, the color of a smell, or the scent of a feeling. … But a sense of time is threaded through everything we perceive. It’s there in the length of a song, the persistence of a scent, the flash of a light bulb. “There’s always an impulse toward phrenology in neuroscience—toward saying, ‘Here is the spot where it’s happening,’“ Eagleman told me. ”But the interesting thing about the perception of time is that there is no spot. It’s a distributed property. It’s metasensory; it rides on top of all the others.”4

In the Wake of Storms

It is not at all surprising that we are all thinking quite seriously about the actual possibility of thinking of time-based and spatially-located forms of exchange today. Whenever capitalism licks its wounds, looses confidence—as it is doing today—dormant economic imaginaries come into view.5 Economists start talking to poets, artists, and lay people—those they are otherwise often keen to dismiss as madmen or ignoramuses.
The need-based systems that emerge in the aftermath of periodic crashes or in the wake of war and catastrophes are small conceptual windows on the realization of some of our desires of what a collective life based on mutuality, generosity, reciprocity, and trust might be. As capitalism eats away at the planet’s resources, and spends more on destroying human life than it does on sustaining it, the lines between having no choice and desiring something different may begin to blur.

Kafka's Wound; Will Self's digital essay

It’s a peculiar apotheosis: the adjectival. It is widely held that the 20th century was Kafkaesque rather than Joycean, let alone Proustian. Kafkaesque, and latterly Orwellian, another adjective slapped on to practices, institutions, innovations to evoke the alienating dimension of mass, authoritarian, technologically mediated society. My sense of the rise and fall of the Kafkaesque is that it mirrored the solidification then dissolution of the Soviet bloc. Kafka, characterised relentlessly in the three decades after Yalta as the secular prophet of totalitarianism, lent his name to this catchall, which in turn was deployed by the West against itself. When I was young every instance of bureaucratic arbitrariness, vaguely sinister intent, or paradoxical norms – ‘Everything not forbidden is permitted’ read a popular 1980s graffito – was deemed ‘Kafkaesque’. The reasons for this were, I think, akin to those that explain the ideological floundering of the Western left since 1989: the Kafkaesque, like the utopian socialist, required the lowering presence of the Soviet doppelgänger. For the leftist liberals where I grew up in London it was sufficient – since the Stalinist Terror for some, the Hungarian Uprising for others, and the Prague Spring for virtually all – to believe in what they were not, and would never become: which was the perverse mutation of socialism in the East. It was less pressing to present coherent ideological solutions to the intractable problems of nationalism versus internationalism, or parliamentary gradualism versus revolutionary change. In a similar fashion, to label a minor abuse of power, or judicial doublethink ‘Kafkaesque’ was to indulge in a sort of psychic legerdemain: sneaking a little of the East’s oppression for one’s own, and so justifying jejune anomie – or, as Kafka himself might have termed it, ‘the embourgeoisement of nothing’.

Yekaterina Samutsevich's closing statement... Pussy Riot & Putin

In the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent, express regret for their deeds or enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to voice my thoughts about the reasons behind what has happened to us.
That Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of the authorities was clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyayev took over as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be openly used as a flashy backdrop for the politics of the security forces, which are the main source of power [in Russia].
Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, the state-controlled corporations, or his menacing police system, or his obedient judiciary system. It may be that the harsh, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; that otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more persuasive, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the pinnacle of power. It was then that it became necessary to make use of the aesthetic of the Orthodox religion, which is historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.
How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and any intersection of the religious and political spheres should be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society, shouldn’t it? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of the Orthodox aesthetic in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had an aura of lost history, of something that had been crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present a new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project that has little to do with a genuine concern for the preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.
It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, given its long mystical ties to power, emerged as the project’s principal exponent in the media. It was decided that, unlike in the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the brutality of the authorities towards history itself, the Russian Orthodox Church should now confront all pernicious manifestations of contemporary mass culture with its concept of diversity and tolerance.
Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national TV channels for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would in fact be presented, thus helping the faithful make the correct political choice during the difficult time for Putin preceding the election. Moreover, the filming must be continuous; the necessary images must be burned into the memory and constantly updated; they must create the impression of something natural, constant and compulsory.
Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of the media image that the authorities had spent such a long time generating and maintaining, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to unite the visual imagery of Orthodox culture and that of protest culture, thus suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it could also ally itself with civic rebellion and the spirit of protest in Russia.
Perhaps the unpleasant, far-reaching effect from our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. At first, they tried to present our performance as a prank pulled by heartless, militant atheists. This was a serious blunder on their part, because by then we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out their media assaults on the country’s major political symbols.
In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, the world sees Russia differently from the way Putin tries to present it at his daily international meetings. Clearly, none of the steps Putin promised to take toward instituting the rule of law have been taken. And his statement that this court will be objective and hand down a fair verdict is yet another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you.

The wordlessness of the slow-moving stream

told her something of her father,

his silence, not stony, but slow-moving.

Wood that lay splintered in more or less

arm-length blocks and the excess,

innumerably-sharded next to the pile.

Neat, like her father.  He sometimes

held the wood,  or shaped it for pleasure,

because not everything  is useful.

His rougher hands in steady,

lulling rhythm, like the neighbour boy

she had caught by the river.

That wordless river, and her, wordless.

Why is the rain lonely to you? Because you don't feel the pleasure

that burns your insides? That wetness loosens outwards,

Möbius arch, godly curve. The warm breath curls down into your stomach

distended weightless full. We rarely breathe so deeply into ourselves.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images

There is a shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Satantango; Bela Tarr

Loud sport the dancers in the Dance of Death, rejoicing in carnage.
The hard dentant Hammers are lull'd by the flutes' lula lula,

The Mundane Shell

Harden'd Shadow

Then on the verge of Beulah he beheld his own Shadow,
A mournful form, double, hermaphroditic, male and female,
In one wonderful body

The nature of Infinity is this: That everything has its
Own Vortex

It is a cavernous Earth
Of labyrinthine intricacy, twenty-seven fold of Opaqueness

the little Seed,
The sportive Root, the Earth-worm, the Gold-beetle, the wise Emmet

the tender Maggot, emblem of immortality

And every Moment has a Couch of gold for soft repose --
A Moment equals a pulsation of the artery --
And between every two Moments stands a Daughter of Beulah,

lull'd by the flutes' lula lula

lull'd by the flutes' lula lula

lull'd by the flutes' lula lula

The Brothers Karamasov or The Downfall of Europe by Hermann Hesse

(thanks Mr Wittingslow for putting me onto this)


A people, a period, a country, a continent has fashioned out of its corpus an organ, a sensory instrument of infinite sensitiveness, a very rare and delicate organ. Other men, thanks to their happiness and health, can never be troubled with this endowment. This sensory instrument, this mantological faculty is not crudely comprehensible like some sort of telepathy or magic, although the gift can also show itself even in such confusing forms. Rather is it that the sick man of this sort interprets the movements of his own soul in terms of the universal and of mankind. Every man has visions, every man has fantasies, every man has dreams. And every vision every dream, every idea and thought of a man, on the road from the unconscious to the conscious, can have a thousand different meanings, of which every one can be right. But the appearances and visions of the seer and the prophet are not his own. The nightmare of visions which oppresses him does not warn him of a personal illness, of a personal death, but of the illness, the death of that corpus whose sensory organ he is, This corpus can be a family, a clan, a people, or it can be all mankind. In the soul of Dostoevsky a certain sickness and sensitiveness to suffering in the bosom of mankind which is otherwise called hysteria, found at once its means of expression and its barometer. Mankind is now on the point of realizing this. Already half Europe, at all events half Eastern Europe, is on the road to Chaos. In a state of drunken illusion she is reeling into the abyss and, as she reels, she sings a drunken hymn such as Dmitri Karamazov sang. The insulted citizen laughs that song to scorn, the saint and seer hear it with tears.
But quite another question is how we are to regard this Downfall. Here we are at the parting of the ways. Those who cling definitely to the past, those who venerate time-honoured cultural forms, the Knights of a treasured morality, must seek to delay this Downfall and will mourn it inconsolably when it passes. For them the Downfall is the End; for the others, it is the Beginning. For the first, Dostoevsky is a criminal, for the others a Saint. For the one party Europe and its soul constitute an entity once and for all, foreordained, inviolate, a thing fixed and immutable. For the other it is a becoming, a mutable, ever-changing thing.
The Asiatic, the chaotic, the savage, the dangerous, the amoral, in fact the Karamazov elements can, like everything else in the world, be regarded just as well from a positive as from a negative point of view. Those who, from a fear to which they give no name, curse this Dostoevsky, these Karamazovs, these Russians, this Asia, this Demiurge-fantasy, and all their implications, have a hard time before them. For Karamazov dominates more and more. But they fall into error by seeing only the obvious, the visible, the material. They see the Downfall of Europe coming as a horrible catastrophe with thunder and beating of drums, either as Revolution accompanied by slaughter and violence, or as the triumph of crime, lust, cruelty, corruption, and murder.
With every culture it is the same. We cannot destroy the primeval current, the animal in us, for with its death we should die ourselves. But we can to a certain extent guide it, to a certain extent we can calm it down, to a certain extent make the "Good" serviceable, as one harnesses a vicious horse to a good cart. Only from time to time the lustre of this "Good" becomes old and weak, the instincts no longer really believe in it, refuse any longer to be yoked to it. Then the culture breaks in pieces, slowly as a rule, so that what we call ancient takes centuries to die.
And before the old, dying culture and morality can be dissolved into a new one, in that fearful, dangerous, painful stage, mankind must look again into its own soul, must see the beast arise in itself again, must again recognize the overlordship of the primeval forces in itself, forces which are super-moral. Those who are fore-ordained, prepared, and ripe for this event are Karamazovs. They are hysterical and dangerous, they are as ready to be malefactors as ascetics, they believe in nothing except the utter dubiousness of every belief.
In this connexion the figure of Ivan is astonishing. We learn to know him as a modern, accommodating, cultivated individual, somewhat cool, somewhat disappointed, somewhat sceptical, somewhat tired. But he gets younger, more ardent, more significant, more Karamazov-like. It is he who wrote the poem of the Great Inquisitor. It is he who, after coolly ignoring the murderer whom he believes his brother to be, is driven in the end to the deep sense of his own culpability and even to his self-denouncement. And it is he too who the most clearly and the most significantly experiences the spiritual explanation of the unconscious. (On that indeed everything turns. That is the whole meaning of the Downfall, the whole new birth arises from it.) In the last part of the book is a very singular chapter in which Ivan, coming home from his interview with Smerdyakov, sees the devil seated there and converses with him for an hour. This devil is no other than Ivan's unconscious, no other than the shaken-up content, long submerged and apparently forgotten, of his own soul. And he knows it too. Ivan knows it with astonishing certainty and distinctly says so. Nevertheless he speaks with the devil, nevertheless he believes in him--for what is inward, is outward. Nevertheless he is angered against him, surges against him, even throws a glass at him whom he knows to come from within himself. Surely no poem has ever set forth with more lucid clearness the communion of a human being with his own unconscious self. And this communion, this (despite anger) intimate understanding with the devil, this is just the road that the Karamazovs have been elected to show us. Indeed Dostoevsky shows the unconscious to be the devil. And rightly. For that which is within us is distorted by our tamed, cultivated, moral vision into something hateful and Satanic. But some sort of combination of Ivan and Alyosha would indeed provide that higher, more fruitful foundation upon which a new world must be built. Then the unconscious will no longer be the devil, but the God-Devil, Demiurgus, He who was always, who comes from the All. To find a new Good and a new Evil is not art eternal matter, is not the concern of Demiurgus. That is the business of mankind and its humbler and smaller Gods.