Thursday, 31 March 2011

Last Words

From Philip K. Dick's final interview, 1982 (via here, continuing from here):
"We’re not seeing the clock turned back to 1912, before the graduated income tax was enacted; we’re seeing it turned back to Imperial Rome, where I think it was Seneca who said, “There’s no use giving food to the starving. It’ll just prolong their miserable lives.” Rabbi Hertz quotes him. The Roman attitude was that being hungry, poor, and sick, you deserved to die anyway. Aristotle, Plato, Virgil, Seneca and all of these people, don’t even include it as a virtue — they actually include it as a vice, that you would help the needy. We’re now seeing a return to the old imperial system of, “Let the disadvantaged sink to the bottom, let ‘em die.” This is so tragic and so inhumane.

“But I can’t work up any animosity toward Reagan. I see him as caught up in historic trends that are so powerful, he was literally brought to power, the way Hitler was, which was legally and by a very large majority. And look what happened last week with Tip O’Neill’s fight against Reagan’s budget cuts. Did you see Tip O’Neill standing there at that microphone? The guy was ruined. His face was sagging, he was shaking. You didn’t even have to have the sound on.

“There is one thing in Deuteronomy where he says, “You must always pay the hired man before sunset. For he is poor and has his heart set on it.” And in the notes Rabbi Hertz has for that, there is: “The workman is so poor that unless he is paid by sunset, he will not be able to buy food for his family.” I just lay there thinking about that, “For he is poor and has his heart set on it.” It is so incredible that we have fallen away from something that was so basic to our civilization, for maybe as many as 2,000 years.
“We are in a time when there is a cruel spirit across the land, and it seems to be gathering momentum. I have some very close, personal friends who are showing symptoms of great cruelty…”


Oliver said...

Side note

PKD says, "he was literally brought to power, the way Hitler was, which was legally and by a very large majority."

This isn't true, but so many people believe it. Neither Hitler nor the Nazi's ever got a majority in democractic free elections. That ass Lévy repeated this myth on the Newsnight clip that Adam Curtis uploaded recently.

W. Kasper said...

It's a common assumption, true. I was even taught it in school (he got a huge majority and changed laws quickly to consolidate it), but even there they made it clear that the opposition operated under severe restrictions.

I think the general point is a change in the 'zeitgeist' of the middle class (usually the deciders in elections, despite not being the 'majority' as much as they assume). I've been mulling over this a lot since the coalition took power, especially in light of the late 70s/early 80s. I'm sure many would disagree, but I'm afraid the cuts are much more popular than opponents recognise. Hitler was as much a phenomenon of 'negative' class identity as he was about race.

W. Kasper said...

The Nazis were elected as the largest party in the early 30s though- of course, with a lot of violent intimidation leading up to the election.

Oliver said...

Well we saw "'negative' class identity" when Nick Griffin went on Question Time. Despite Griffin's Oxbridge background many interpreted the show as a metropolitain elite ganging up on an 'ordinary bloke' with 'legitimate greivences'.

But I think it's misleading to talk about Restoration figures like Reagan in terms of fascism. I think PKD's larger point about it being a step even further back is right, whether to 19th century liberalism or Imperial Rome.

W. Kasper said...

Reagan or current Right stop short of fascism. Although they come very close - and probably welcome types like Griffin to highlight the difference. I don't think they really win on notions of 'aspiration', 'freedom' etc. The current government hasn't promised anything approaching that, but they seem to have fairly popular appeal in making life much harder for certain groups (public employees, immigrants, unemployed etc). Even if Bush II didn't really win elections, he came damn close - and his appeal was entirely belligerent.