Et in Arcadia ego, or, I too am an absolute friend of open democracy

February 21, 2004 at 11:44 am | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

I just finished reading a novel that helped me understand why I’m so sick of reading political blogs, political commentary, political critique. Here’s what was for me a key nugget:

“I am speaking of the deliberate curtailment of free thought in our society, Mr. Mundy, and how we may address it. I am an urchin, Mr. Mundy. Born one, stayed one. My intellectual processes are untutored. Scholars would laugh at me. Nevertheless I have acquired many books on this subject.” So Sasha said, Mundy is thinking. “I have in mind such thinkers as the Canadian Naomi Klein, India’s Arundhati Roy, who pleads for a different way of seeing, your British George Monbiot and Mark Curtis, Australia’s John Pilger, America’s Noam Chomsky, the American Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, and the Franco-American Susan George of World Social Forum at Porto Alegre. You have read all of these fine writers, Mr. Mundy?”

“Nearly all.” And nearly all Adorno, nearly all Horkheimer and nearly all Marcuse, Mundy thinks, recalling a similar interrogation in Berlin a few lifetimes ago. I love them all, but I can’t remember a word any of them said.

“From their varying perspectives, each of these eminent writers tells me the same story. The corporate octopus is stifling the natural growth of humanity. It spreads tyranny, poverty and economic serfdom. It defies the simplest laws of ecology. Warfare is the extension of corporate power by other means. Each thrives off the other and the recent war proves the point in spades. Does this urgent message cut any ice with you, Mr. Mundy, or am I conducting a dialogue with myself?”

“It rings a lot of bells, actually,” Mundy politely assures him.

Dimitri is evidently approaching the summit of his oration, as he has no doubt approached it many times before. His face darkens, his voice lifts, as he leans confidingly towards his audience.

“How do these corporations achieve their stranglehold on our society? When they’re not shooting, they’re buying. They buy good minds, and tie them to their wagon wheels. They buy students wet from their mothers, and castrate their thought processes. They create false orthodoxies and impose censorship under the sham of political correctness. They build university faculties, dictate university courses, overpromote the professors who kiss ass, and they bully the shit out of heretics. Their one aim is to perpetuate the insane concept of limitless expansion on a limited planet, with permanent conflict as its desired outcome. And their product is the zero-educated robot known otherwise as the corporate executive.

– from the novel Absolute Friends (2004) by John le Carr

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