Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saramago's Notebook

May 29, 2009: Disenchantment

Every day species of plants and animals are disappearing, along with languages and professions. The rich always get richer and the poor always get poorer. . . . Ignorance is expanding in a truly terrifying manner. Nowadays we have an acute crisis in the distribution of wealth. Mineral exploitation has reached diabolical proportions. Multinationals dominate the world. I don't know whether shadows or images are screening reality from us. Perhaps we could discuss the subject indefinitely; what is already clear is that we have lost our critical capacity to analyze what is happening in the world. We seem to be locked inside Plato's cave. We have turned ourselves into inert beings incapable of the sense of outrage, the refusal to conform, the capacity to protest that were such strong features of our recent past. We are reaching the end of a civilization and I don't welcome its final trumpet. In my opinion, neoliberalism is a new form of totalitarianism disguised as democracy, of which it retains almost nothing but a semblance. The shopping mall is the symbol of our times.

The above paragraph comes from Jose Saramago's Notebook, a collection of mainly short editorial writings penned in the last years before the writer's death in 2010. Saramago has been criticized for obviousness or simplistic left-wing moralizing, but what is more painfully obvious is what he notes here: the horrifying disconnect between the values of our shopping mall culture and the actual state of the world. There appears frequently in Saramago's notes an almost awed disbelief that so many of his contemporaries can accept the status quo as somehow the new "normal". The writer knows that such a status quo can never last (the planet itself cannot sustain it) and he can't comprehend the inability of the left to rearm itself.

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