Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To every era its paranoia

This from an Arthur Hailey potboiler from 1960, In high places:

“There can no longer be any doubt,” the Prime Minister said, “of Russia’s immediate intention. If there were ever any doubt, events these past few months have surely dispelled it. Last week’s alliance between the Kremlin and Japan; before that, the Communist coups in India and Egypt and now the satellite regimes; our further concessions on Berlin; the Moscow-Peking axis with its threats to Australasia; the increase in missile bases aimed at North America – all these admit to only one equation. The Soviet programme of world domination is moving to its climax..."

Now, of course, we have a clash of civilisations. It's not the commies who are coming to get us, it's the Muslims. The trouble is, of course, that behind every paranoia there's a grain of truth. And the trouble with that as a result is that we can't ever trust one another. John Barth, in another novel from 1960, The Sot-Weed factor, has one character say dismissively to another:
“You infer the rest of mankind from yourself,” he chided. “Because you would not try farther to obstruct me if you were in his [the priest’s] position, you believe he would not either.

We are taught to be hard. (It's the Nietzschean way, after all.) And so we are, and we trust nobody. And so we invent our dangers, stoke our fears.

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