To live and to die in penultimate times
Death of time is the death of unity. Because time says: “If something was, that means it is preserved, that it happened, and cannot un-happen. If something will be, this doesn’t mean it simply is not yet, it can be and nothing can prevent it’s can-be, even if it comes to pass in a dream”. Reality of today denies this truth. It says: “I am, everything else is nothing.” So let’s hold on a second. What does this pronunciation sound like? The answer lies on Facebook, the veritable model of the spirit of today. The model rendering every whim of budding narcissism to perfectly emulated mythological struggle between good and evil. The answer to the riddle is buried beneath the unity of “for” and “against” signifiers, electronic eternity of data on willingly disemboweled intimacy uploaded to server: networked, wired, entangled freedom to make a decision with no consequence and utter the word with no meaning.
“Let’s kill some time …” It so happens sometimes that man wakes up in the morning and in one fleeting moment can’t figure out exactly where he is: in what city and in what year, in which moment of his life does that morning fit in. Is he still a child, safe in family home, or is he still an university student; is he alone or is there someone else asleep by his side. Fleeting moment is, naturally, brief. It quickly submerges under the surface of consciousness as the man rubs his eyes, saying to himself: “Oh, yes. I am here and I am now”. Every once in a while everybody experiences something along these lines and afterwards goes on with his life, giving no afterthought to brief moment of uncertainty. Yet, what if we declare that this moment is not an exception anymore? That it came to cast an elusive, but ever present, shadow on our daily lives? What if we say, paraphrasing the Angel of Apocalypse, that if things continue like that, “… time will be no more”? No doubt, it’s a bold statement to make, considering the authority of it’s original author. However, no one can deny that daily life has much to do with wasting or, as they say, killing time. Logical nexus between successful kill and death is a tautology. To take it seriously we must only accept it in the literal sense.
Way back when, ‘killing time’ was expression denoting plethora of careless activities aimed at warding off boredom, while time was merely a collateral victim. People tried to shorten the periods of waiting for something interesting and serious to happen; they took small dosages of poison to make life more lively through gossip, rituals of coffee or beer drinking, playing cards and doing all those things for which the time in our day and age is ever more shorter. However, the dosage slowly and unnoticeably increased, because boring Sunday afternoon grew longer inasmuch the nineties of the last century crept closer. In that respect boredom is the only among the causes of dissolution of Yugoslavia no one talks about. And that fact in itself tells us something about subversive nature of the murderous intent molding the epoch of transition. It was not born only yesterday, hatched in the bowels of the Unconscious of Yugoslav peoples and nations. Admittedly, it made good use of the rusty valves securing the collective sewer of lower instincts, whose occasional outbursts were dubbed chauvinism and nationalism. However, it’s origin is far more mysterious and geographically widespread then ex-Yugoslav’s “here and now”, molded by it’s invisible hand. Academics gave it a semi-articulated name, “postmodernity”, thus unintentionally denoting it’s elusive nature, as well as displaying their own incapacity to call things by their real names. Other people never bothered naming it, perhaps due to vague premonition that silent murderer is best hidden behind false names. And all names of postmodernity are false, save one. We’ll address it later.
When God walked the earth Term ‘postmodernity’ originally denotes the epoch emerging from dissolution of modernity. And when all the semantic smudge of “signifiers”, “narratives”, “strategies”, “structures” and “post-‘s” is washed off, we find that real difference between two epochs lies in their respective notions of time. Well, this also allows us to, with no second thought, take academic discourse out of the cabinet and into the streets. Moreover, it is precisely from street perspective that the true form of postmodernity can be seen, slowly emerging from darkness in the age of establishing the New world order, i.e. epoch gaining it’s final form at the end of the Cold war, carried by dissolution of all post WWII structures – from pop culture to nations. Namely: our epoch. It’s main feature – it’s purpose – is the death of time as such. To prove and illustrate – or to educate and entertain, if you like – let’s hear what’s the word on the streets; what the random passerby, whose memory reaches before nineties, has to say. After all, aside of the fact that history has been written on his skin, routine conversations between strangers often, in order to kill some time, meander precisely in subjects of metaphysics and worldviews. So when people start spinning yarns about time, it always leads to simultaneous praise of “good old times” and lamentation on evils of today. In the course of such conversations, almost without exception this author was presented with some form of following statement: “Then … ah, that was the time when God walked the earth”. If we put strange remark in the context, bewilderment is natural first reaction. For in Yugoslavia God was, at least on paper, persona non grata. Therefore, the first articulate interpretation must be cynical: it is an expression of nostalgia for legendary easy living of Yugoslav decadence, for irresponsibility of living in a dissolving system, while at the same time enjoying health care and regular pay. Those are, seemingly, causes of this strange hearth bleed.
However, things are not that simple. This laconic explanation does not account for the fact that last two decades denote silent dissolution, not only of welfare state, it’s cultural and political realities, but also the dissolution of all intimate certainties, from friendships to family ties. The process culminates in alienation from everything once held unquestionably certain and dear, in erosion of faces and landscapes the man once recognized as good as his own reflection in the mirror, or the back of his hand. It culminates in total dissolution of family. Not in the sense of legal fact – mere ink on paper – but in the real sense of faces and voices that one loved and relied upon, now fading in distance although seemingly still here. Man cursed with this incurable revelation can spare nothing but icy sarcasm for those “pro” and “contra” signifiers indulged in conducting real and/or Facebook-based referendums for defining or redefining the family and marriage, because they are truly doing nothing else but tearing apart the already dead body of this long lost sanctuary. They don’t realize that deadly virus infected it long before their minds were updated with software whose code they obediently execute, as they cooperate in final transition of their society in global spiritual dungeon. For family is only collateral victim of killing time, process nourished by artificially inseminated oblivion, i.e. negation of reality of the past as such. So mourning the good old times is not as banal as it seems. Nostalgia for strange combination of socialism and divine parousia indicates to a profound loss. It indicates to terminal inability to find a way back home.
Ex pluribus unum “Home is where your heart is”, so they say. If we allow the folk wisdom some merit, then contemporary man has a huge problem. His heart seems to be nowhere. It is the reason why some Croatian adolescents shout eagerly that they are “Ready!” for it (battle cry of Ustashe, op. KT). And they will, of course, never really realize, or they will realize it too late, that they are in fact ready for nothing, as myriads of other young militants in the neighboring nations and throughout the world. They in fact only want to shout out that which is so hard to say, namely that their hearts are so filled with nothing that there is no more room for forgiveness. It is only natural that they are plastered with labels like “neo-nazis”, “catholic talibans”, “fascists”, “homophobes” by their peers who they in turn label as “communists”, “atheists”, “globalists”, “fags”, etc. However, what is not natural is the shared conviction of both binary opposed groups that their little community of mutual hatred is the society per se, and that out of it there is nobody and nothing. All those who think that they are watering the grooves of tolerance and cosmopolitism are of the same origin as their mortal foes, i.e. they have no real relation to traditions they think they stem from. Both groups, from the viewpoint of time, are of extremely shallow roots. And, finally, one must note: when social action provokes automatic reaction, then there must be some sympathy between them, something kindred and intimately connected; such passionate semantic fight must contain a grain of love. Desperate need of isolated Narcissus for someone akin, even it be only a reflection in the mirror which he will, moments later, smash with his own forehead.
Until the last click Death of time is the death of unity. Because time says: “If something was, that means it is preserved, that it happened, and cannot un-happen. If something will be, this doesn’t mean it simply is not yet, it can be and nothing can prevent it’s can-be, even if it comes to pass in a dream”. Reality of today denies this truth. It says: “I am, everything else is nothing.” So let’s hold on a second. What does this pronunciation sound like? The answer lies on Facebook, the veritable model of the spirit of today. The model rendering every whim of budding narcissism to perfectly emulated mythological struggle between good and evil. The answer to the riddle is buried beneath the unity of “for” and “against” signifiers, electronic eternity of data on willingly disemboweled intimacy uploaded to server: networked, wired, entangled freedom to make a decision with no consequence and utter the word with no meaning. This eternal “Now”, killing off the past and future, is virtual eternity of an individual clicking the like button. For how could there be something like, for instance, referendum for definition or redefinition of marriage, if the original was still alive and was, by it’s very existence, denouncing the absurdity of the claims for “new model family” made by new, gender aware, Puritans? From the standpoint of reality, whole affair would be absurd. But now, when reality is lost, there’s no problem in playing with definitions, constitutions and laws, and the only thing needed to keep the game going is to make sure that all thought provoking memory of the past is thoroughly erased. Hence, it is rather comical that crucial diagnosis of modernity – one made by T.S. Eliot in his Hollow men – acquires it’s postmodern amendment:
This is how the world ends – not with a bang, but with a click!
If anyone doubts the apocalyptic potential of social networks, let’s get back to academic shallows and clarify things. Difference between modernity and postmodernity is mirrored in the intensity of killing time. While modernity, especially between two world wars, declared the death of eternity, i.e. fulfilled and immortal time with no divisions, postmodernity busied itself with dissolving the finitude of time, paradoxically: dissolving it’s mortality. Dissolution of authenticity, which modernity, from Heidegger to Selimović, ascribes to finite individual is at the same time construction of virtual eternity of the digital consciousness; it is the imprint of individual onto electronic network and his inclusion in that which posthumanists – as well as the European commission – name singularity. It is the term denoting diametrical opposition to the platonic notion of original Soul or – from the Christian outlook – mystical body of Christ. Assumption of original is human unity in spirit, intrinsic indivisibility of men and women in love, thought and suffering, the reason why through all the tedium of history the candles in the wind still shed light. Singularity is a parody, typical postmodern ironical construct: the term conceived to contradict itself. Digital unity and eternal life of internet avatars is nothing but final, global and eternal sepulture of their originals, men and their words bereft of bodies, thoughts bereft of spirit, time rendered into data transfer rate. If unified consciousness is to be realized through uploading the thought – that which is the most intimate and can never be totally expressed in words – to the network and integrating it with other consciousnesses, it is really an euthanasia of it’s real owner. Singularity is a call for mass suicide which will no doubt provoke mass positive response. If reader in his turn doubts the sanity of undersigned, if he or she doesn’t see the direction in which the integration of new collective through illusion of freedom and affirmation of human rights is going, information and policies preparing the singularity are available on the web, i.e. on official European commission website. Endowed with like buttons, of course.
Gone with a whimper But let us go back to standard phenomenological start point, the street. One amongst the signs of time’s death, which can be dug up from the ruins of Yugoslavia, and expressed by the peculiar grief for past divine presence, is so called “Yugo-nostalgia”. This sentiment, in it’s metastasis from idolizing of musicians and writers of helicon times, to forming of virtual partisan guerilla units, is completely in tune with global consciousness making it’s first steps towards singularity. It is a counterfeit of true sorrow and longing for lost time, shared by all the hearths that beat in the darkness of postmodernity. Can anybody really think much of the spirit dissolved together with a political system, gone with disbanded new wave bands, buried under the rubble of defunct factories and yet effortlessly resurrected on the network, flooding it with it’s virtual tears? Or was that truly a time when God incognito walked the land? What really is counterfeited and strangled by nostalgia – that slimy sentiment fit only for strangling – is true sorrow of man whose time is cut in half, the man bereft of his past. It’s unimportant how good the life was before demolishing the nation made of- and for the Cold war, because it is valid for entire West, no matter what social and economical systems imposed their imprint on life. What is important is that it was a time of living, the time that truly was.
Don’t you feel it, reader, if you are the child of penultimate times? How memory fades? How something is always amiss, as the images of the past float before your eyes? Do you, in your mind’s eye, see the image of family? Don’t you notice that something is missing? What special shade is absent from the loom of childhood? You are missing. For you are now on a closely watched train ride, and tracks are demolished as the machine storms ahead. There’s no turning back. In order to erase the tracks completely, those who remember must be eliminated. Time is the life of the soul, therefore: in order to kill time, one must kill the soul too. Man must die for his avatar to live. And there’s a posthumanist heaven at the end of the transition for you. The way towards it is paved by tedious arguments of insidious intent; from Foucault and Derrida to posthumanist futurists. And that’s why the true name of postmodernity, now when it celebrates it’s triumph, is rather clear. To preserve dramatic effect, let’s stick to it’s favorite phrase:
Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…
That’s as self evident as it gets. And if the reader is skeptical, no matter. If we are all equal, no one will be spared. Things are evolving fast, as fast as the stream of news on scientific accomplishments, moral victories of virtual principles of equality and human rights, growing unity of humanity. Things are speeding up unbelievably. Morality has become universal, equality, humanities’ dream since it was dubbed ‘humanity’, accelerates with nauseating speed. The speed only free fall can gain.
In a split second man opens his eyes and realizes he was only dreaming the horrible fall into abyss. He awoke at the last moment, as it often happens in dreams. Real world surely isn’t anything like phantasmagoria he just dreamed of … world can be this or that … but to say that time itself kicked the bucket … that’s really too much. But now he is awake, time to get the grip of himself. But where exactly is he? What day is it? Which city is this? Who am I? Ah, but screw it, no time left for questions …