Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The up-downside of power

The goal of every culture is to decay through overcivilization; the factors of decadence—luxury, skepticism, weariness and superstition—are constant. The civilization of one epoch becomes the manure of the next.
Cyril Connolly

Power rots. It does so slowly and subtly as one moral threshold after another is crossed and at each threshold another piece of the soul is left behind. Firebomb Tokyo? Sure. Level Dresden? No sweat. Waterboard and torture? Not a problem. All the time the searing light of hubris blinds the soul to its journey of self destruction.

Those enfolded in the blanket of prosperity and luxury know only boredom and ennui, which is why they climb rocks, run marathons, pump themselves up as “iron men,” bungee jump, skydive and subject their bodies to multiple forms of self mortification just so they can delude themselves into believing they are alive. It is within the boredom of prosperity that the serene barbarity of the civilized takes root and grows, and with it grows the dehumanization so necessary to the exercise of power.

Power deludes. Even as it decays and rots the superstition remains that power is forever, that those who wield it have a lock on eternity. The powerful see the future as a assent up to heaven when in fact they are on a downward slope. Still they cling to the superstition that they are among the immortals.

The powerful dwell in the sweet euphoria of destruction. In the shadowless world of their fluorescent lighting they plot and plan, they spread their maps upon which they draw the arrows that char power’s spread. They sit before screens and strut their way through power point presentations. They press a button and somewhere a village is reduced to rubble. A nod of the head or a raised eyebrow sends women and children to their graves.

Paranoia spurs power’s growth. It is power’s drug, its stimulant. The fastest gun in the west is always paranoid, tensed and ready for the young buck that will walk through the swinging doors of the saloon, looking to knock him from his perch. (The Swiss have the right idea; be the slowest gun in the west and make a fortune selling pocket knives.)

Dry rot brings power down. So pervasive is its decay that power is unable to sustain itself. It ends up an old man strapped to his wheelchair in the dingy halls of a run-down nursing home, screaming senile obscenities into the air. Rush, Sean and Glenn are power’s prophets. They’ve already checked into the home. They’re saving a wheelchair for power.

No comments:

Post a Comment