". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, April 23, 2020

History vs. Eucatastrophe vs. Catastrophe

     . . . .Day began with ... snow. Polar Vortex, evidently we here haz one goin' on. Until, sometime, like, the start of May? It sure is a cold day, by golly. A good night for meat loaf, brussels sprouts (if they are edible; they arrived in yesterday's grocery order, but if I'd done this in person, I'd never have bought them), and mashed potatoes.


"… always looking backwards in an attitude of sadness, its place in the world always in decline, like [Walter] Benjamin’s Angel of History.”

In the ninth thesis of his 1940 essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History” the German critic and philosopher Walter Benjaminwho purchased the print in 1921, interprets artist Paul Klee's Angelus Novus this way:
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Note the date this essay was written/published; 1940 was when Benjamin committed suicide in his attempt to escape the nazis.

For thinkers such as Benjamin, in his time of need, history provided no Tolkienist eucatastrophe’, the ‘Consolation of the Happy Ending’, ‘the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn’. Fairy tales are with which Tolkien was concerned -- not  catastrophe specifically. This is one of the elements that it seems to me, to create the everlasting appeal of Tolkien. There is disaster and catastrophe, but it is transcended, lived through, by some, even some for whom the wounds of catastrophe cannot ever be healed. But for actual millions and billions of human beings, past, present and future, there is no eucatastrophe -- no Fortunate Fall, no Christ risen from the tomb and the world's sins redeemed.

For so many in such times as Benjamin's, contemplating history is to perceive a relentless range of despair for almost all, Most particularly for those who are attempting to live through, escape from current catastrophe, it is anything but a 'cozy disaster.'

See: Benjamin's suicide in the face of nazi capture. He knew too much. When one knows in detail what happens to most people inside a disaster – particularly disasters that are as familiar to Jews as the arrival of nazism – isn’t it sometimes the only sensible thing to do is what Benjamin did? Would it have served him or anyone better for him to stay alive to enter the gas chambers, and endure all that would be between capture and those killing minutes? It’s not as though staying alive to the gas chambers would be saving others, would it? Or -- is this playing into the hands of the death cultists who think anyone who isn't Them should ... just die for their sake.

I am not sure what I'm trying to articulate here.


Today the governor informed us that, having just begun these tests many months since the virus hit, random testing throughout the NYC boroughs indicates that 21% of NYers have? had? the virus. What does this mean? They have recovered? are currently infected but asymptomatic? Show presence of antibodies? What? *

Upstate showed something like a 3.1 rate of whatever that means. Which again, whatever it means, seems odd since it is the nursing homes upstate that have contributed such a large number to the c19 fatalities in New York State -- of course, NYC, being the most dense, with the largest extremities of inequality, has the most deaths. More deaths than anywhere, I think, including maybe Italy? But then the US has the most deaths in the world from this thing, and the highest rate of infections, while the lowest rate of testing and medical care. Ay-up the US has turned into a 3rd world country in everything except nuclear weapons I guess. And number of billionaires? for whom, of course the rules to contain the rate of infection simply don't apply or matter.

By fall and flu season, They Say, this is all to do all over again, certainly here, and probably many otherwheres. The toll from c-19 likely, They Say, will be worse, just as the second European wave of 1361** two years later of the Bubonic Plague in the mid-1300's waves, was worse than the first. I have seen mentioned in passing that not only domestic animals died of the illness in the second roll, as did wild animals, but have failed so far to find any real work dealing with this.*** As an example of what I mean here, the Bubonic Plague arrived in Constantinople in 1347; it lasted a whole year. It returned 10 times, between then and 1400. That was just Constantinople; this happened all through Europe and elsewhere in those 50 years, and after.

I'm not suggesting that this virus creates the same disease as Bubonic Plague, rather that it manifests in at least three different manners as did the Black Death, including pneumonia. All of them can be fatal.


In the meantime Moscow Mitch says drop dead. In order for the federal budget to save money no federal assistance to blue states and particularly NYC. Give it all to the corporate big ag biz!


In the meantime climate crash catastrophes continue everywhere.


In the meantime the world is being ever more overrun by those whose only reason to exist seem to be hate and wreak as much harm, destruction and death and cruelty to as many as possible -- not only for the sake of power and greed, but just for the lulz.


One feels one understands Walter Benjamin better all the time.

Yet, I still do my facial routines, pedicures and manicures every day. Every day I put in my earrings so the holes don't close up, even though I've given up rings and bracelets due to the constant hand washing. Every morning I get out of out my pajamas and slippers, and into clothes and boots, or workout clothes. I still do work outs regularly. I still wash my hair regularly, I still change the sheets on our bed regularly, still do laundry regularly. Every day, still plan and cook meals, and clean up carefully, keep an eye out for the neighbors. I still have moments of pleasure, and even laugh now and again, still remain in love with my life partner, who is The Best!  I'm still vastly, deeply interested in the past. I continue to study, I continue writing about what I study. I keep actin, despite the promises of hurricanes, famine and death by many means as society crashes ever more widely, as if there is going to be an After, and I shall be participating in it, some way, even though, even if this were the best of times, due to natural causes, my time here is running down. Am I insane? What am I doing, fer pete's sake? But this is how I've lived all my life, so is it that I just can't stop?

- #-#-# -

* Clarification of those numbers, sort of, here.

** This is a subject in which the failures of Wikipedia hanging on to incorrect information and facts show up in bold to someone who knows a fair amount about the subject, even though no expert.

*** The reason may be that in that period a pestilence of unknown origin, sometimes identified as anthrax, affected the animals of Europe, notably sheep and cattle, further reducing the food supply and income of the peasantry. So it wouldn't have been Bubonic Plague, merely another deadly disease that proliferated during a plague wave.

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