Distribution Automatique

Monday, October 4

“Time is on my side, yes it is…”

Why were the some of the best thinkers
in recent history (Freud, Einstein, Gertrude
Stein, Walter Benjamin, Bachelard,
Tristan Tzara, Andre Breton, George Orwell to name a few)
so obsessed with time and duration?
This question has
been asked on countless occasions,
yet remains incompletely
answered. Each pointed to a factor:
Freud, the timeless unconscious, Stein,
the continuity of the present,
Benjamin the persistent mute call
of the physical remains of history,
Bachelard, the complexity of duration,
Tzara and Breton the magic, temporal
paradoxes of language, Orwell’s characters
who keep hopelessly searching for a forbidden past.

Yet more and more I am convinced these sensitive
observers were aware more than 50-100 years ago that
time itself was disappearing as a crucial factor in
life experience, outside of the realities of aging,
and the progressive consequences of individual lives.
What does it mean to say this?
What was impinging on their lives,
like everyone else’s, but especially on their
acute minds, not like everyone else’s, was that
the ever growing centralization of power, as
in the time of the ancient Egyptians, is bringing
time to a halt, because it is bringing actual social change
to a halt. Medical science increases the length of life,
but must desperately struggle to impinge on its
futilities with antidepressants and psychotherapy.
The eerie stillness of contemporary life was
frighteningly and touchingly symbolized, for example,
in the early science fiction film, The Day The Earth Stood Still {click here}
For some days, the alien technology brings all movement
on earth to a halt to make a point, that peace must be sought
and found, or the aliens will come to take
over the world to prevent it from destroying itself.
Another in an endless series of hopeful utopian fantasies.
Klaatu, the alien visitor explains: "I'm
impatient with stupidity, my people have learned
to live without it."{click here}

With power more and more concentrated in advertising and
corporations, the powers that be have not only brought
social change to a halt, but are gradually able to turn
back the clock to create a more and more convincing
social aura of timelessness. Perhaps this is why
psychedelic drugs became so popular in the sixties- to
help minds adapt to this mysterious and ever growing sense
that everything everywhere is more and more getting to be
the same frozen stillness all the time. For some moments,
terrifying bombs tear through the cold silence,
and total fear and bloodshed create a horrifying
sense of an event having occurred that will completely alter
the social fabric of reality; yes it has been brutally torn;
but soon it is “repaired” and the expectable sequences
of social events begin and end again. In reality, the
clock has stopped; time is over; individual thoughts
and expressions have been (apparently) rendered
meaningless by the inexorable “spin” of Big Brother
Military Corporatism/Media. People keep dying again
and again to give others the right to remain frozen in time,
without memories, without a sense of the possibility
of change, without a thought about what to say or do
because ideas themselves have been rendered
meaningless within the zeitgeist mindset.
For a second an event and an associated
nexus of ideas and associations breaks through
and the Big Picture is slightly askew and blurred
in the social mindset; for a moment the possibility of
change appears again. But change would mean
remembering what a social process was, what
duration was, what working together towards
something as a society was, what actually caring
about each other was. But that was yesterdays dream
when clocks still ticked, when to look at your watch
meant that something significant about to happen
was drawing near. In a day or two we will huddle
together around the hopeful warming fire of our
TV sets and watch a debate between a young,
brilliant activist politician and thinker and a stolid
defender of the timeless Pharaohs. The young will
again imagine refusing to lay another brick on
the pyramids, and the old will smile patiently and mockingly.

They know that time is on their side when they are
gradually, ever more successfully, rendering its reality meaningless.