communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

The economics of Luther or Munzer?

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by Michael Roberts (TheNextRecession)

Last week leading leftist economists in the UK held a seminar on the state of mainstream economics, as taught in the universities.  They kicked this off by nailing a poster with 33 theses critiquing mainstream economics to the door of the London School of Economics.  This publicity gesture attempted to remind us that it was the 500th anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church, Wittenberg and provoked the beginning of the Protestant reformation against the ‘one true religion’ of Catholicism.

The economists were purporting to tell us that mainstream economics was like Catholicism and must be protested against as Luther did back in 1517.  As they put it, “Economics is broken.  From climate change to inequality, mainstream (neoclassical) economics has not provided the solutions to the problems we face and yet it is still dominant in government, academia and other economic institutions. It is time for a new economics.”

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A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions

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by Kim Stanley Robinson (1991)

The covering law model of historical explanation states that an event is explained if it can be logically deduced from a set of initial conditions, and a set of general historical laws. These sets are the explanans, and the event is the explanandum. The general laws are applied to the initial conditions, and the explanandum is shown to be the inevitable result. An explanation, in this model, has the same structure as a prediction.

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How to Parent Like a Bolshevik

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Young actors in “The Blue Bird” in 1911.CreditHulton Archive/Getty Images

 Red Century

by Yuri Slezkine

The original Bolsheviks expected Communism in their lifetime. When that began to appear unlikely, they moved the deadline to the lifetime of their children.

“Fire cannot be contained,” Nina Avgustovna Didrikil, an employee at the Lenin Institute, wrote in her diary in 1920. “It will burst forth, and I am certain that if it does not burst forth within me, it will do so through my children, who will make me immortal.”

The path to the parents’ immortality was the children’s happiness. “You are happy, and you will be even happier when you realize just how happy you are,” wrote Didrikil in 1933 to one of her daughters on her 17th birthday. “You are the youngest and strongest, and the whole life of your society is young and strong. My wish for you, in your 17th spring, is that you continue to move closer and closer, in all your interests, feelings, and thoughts, to the camp of the youngest and strongest: to Marx, Engels, Lenin and all the true Bolsheviks.”

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Der Begriff der Arbeit in Karl Marx’ «Kapital»

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Karl Marx’ «Das Kapital» feiert 2017 seinen 150. Geburtstag. 2018 folgt der 200. Geburtstag von Marx selbst. Der Fokus der Marx-Herbstschule lag diesmal auf dem Begriff, der wie kein anderer sowohl Marx’ Kapital als auch die Geschichte des Marxismus beherrscht: Arbeit.

Der Arbeitsbegriff zieht sich wie ein roter Faden durch die gesamte Entwicklung des ersten Bandes, ausgehend vom «Doppelcharakter» der Arbeit, dem «Springpunkt, um den sich das Verständnis der politischen Ökonomie dreht», über die kapitalistische Anwendung, Verwertung und Ausbeutung der Arbeitskraft und ihre Kämpfe bis hin zum historischen Ursprung der kapitalistischen Lohnarbeit durch die sog. «Ursprüngliche Akkumulation».

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Just do it?: The Dilemma of Engagement

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by Simon Critchley (Artforum, 2017)

ONE BRIEF ANECDOTE amid the carnage; possibly a parable.

A few weeks back, I was involved-against my inclination, probably out of a misplaced sense of duty to students-in a debate with two theologians about the limits of secularism. This took place at the New School for Social Research in New York, where I have my day job. My intent was to say as little as possible, just respond politely to the theologians and make my excuses and leave to get a drink. (After all, it was Friday evening.) Inevitably, everyone started to talk about Trump and how depressed they are and what we should all do, etc., etc., etc. Inwardly, I sighed. I was tired. I’ve been tired a lot recently.

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Marx Collegium 2017 (Videos)

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Marx Collegium 2017 – After the eruption of the international financial crisis in 2008, Marx’s Capital received renewed academic and popular attention. Leading newspapers throughout the world discussed again the contemporary relevance of its pages. Faced with a deep new crisis of capitalism, many are now looking to an author who in the past was often wrongly associated with the “actually existing socialism”, and who was hastily dismissed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

For many scholars, today Marx’s analyses are arguably resonating even more strongly than they did in Marx’s own time. This international conference brings together several world-renowned sociologists, political theorists, economists, and philosophers, from diverse fields and 13 countries. Its aim is to explore diverse scholarly perspectives and critical insights into the principal contradictions of contemporary capitalism and, in so doing, to draw attention to alternative economic and social models.

The presenters will critically reconsider Marx’s Capital as a work that continues to provide an effective framework to understand the nature of capitalism and the transformations of our times.

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Autonomous Antifa: From the Autonomen to Post-Antifa in Germany

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AA/BO: Bloc of the “Antifaschistische Aktion – Bundesweite Organisation“. Northeim, June 4, 1994. (The organization AA/BO was founded in 1992 and disbanded in 2001.)

An Interview with Bender, a German Comrade 
by Paul O’Banion

Bender has been involved in the autonomous movement in Germany since the 1980s, and talks here about his experiences and observations from thirty years of organizing. He addresses the beginnings of the autonomen – the autonomous movement – how Antifa developed out of that in the late 80s and 90s, and has developed since.  He discusses where things are now, in a post-autonomous, post-antifa, German radical Left environment. He is familiar with the situation in the US, and offers lessons for organizing against fascism and all forms of domination. This interview was conducted via email, and Bender’s answers have been edited for clarity.

-Paul O’Banion

Talk about the autonomen: who you are, what political traditions and perspectives are you building on, and what has been your practical and theoretical activity.

Bender: When we talk about “the autonomen,” we speak of the 80s in Germany where the autonomen first appeared and had the character of a movement. It is one outcome of the dynamics of the so-called New Social Movements or, as you call it in the US, the New Left.

As in many other countries, the beginnings of the New Social Movements, from which the autonomous movement of the 80s was one result, was “the long year of ’68,” which in Germany is perhaps best characterised as an “anti-authoritarian revolt.” We have to remember, that the year ‘68 politically lasted much longer than one year.  The movement after ‘68 reached a kind of exhaustion, in which people asked themselves how to go on, which means: how to organize a movement in decline.

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Climate Change: What is to be Done?

Capitalism: Concept & Idea (audio)

The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) presents:

Capitalism: Concept & Idea

150 Years of Marx’s Capital: The Philosophy and Politics of Capital today

As a counterpoint to the retreat of the concept of communism from history to ‘idea’, this conference will mark the 150th anniversary of the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy by asking the question of the meanings of ‘capital’ and ‘capitalism’ today as at once (explanatory structural-historical) concepts and (political) ideas.

In particular: What is the current standing of the different philosophical interpretations of Marx’s Capital? What light do they thrown on capitalism today? How have historical developments since Marx’s day changed the concept of capitalism? Has ‘neo-liberal’ capitalism rendered the concept of crisis redundant, for example? Is capitalism governable? Or is capital itself now the main form of governmentality? What is the precise character of Capital as a text – in terms of theory and in terms of literature? What does it mean to be ‘against capitalism’ today?

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Angry Optimism in a Drowned World: A Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson

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by José Luis de Vicente
 

Reflections from a science-fiction angle on the scenarios posed by climate change and the defence of the imagination to help find real solutions.

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the world’s most highly reputed science-fiction authors and one of the key exponents of climate fiction. His work, set in the near future, brings us face-to-face with concepts such as the Anthropocene, terraforming and post-capitalism. With him we analyse the link between the ecological crisis and the economic one, placing the emphasis on the need for new political economics. We also explore the role of art and literature when formulating possible futures, the importance of the imagination for finding solutions and the defence of optimism and humour as we deal with the scenario confronting us. This interview, conducted by José Luis de Vicente, forms part of the catalogue for the exhibition After the End of the World, in which the writer is participating with an audiovisual prologue.

It is said that your Mars Trilogy of novels (Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars, 1992-1996) is perhaps the most successful example in science fiction of the use of the notion of “terraforming”: the idea that man can transform a whole planet to make it habitable and reproduce Earth-like conditions. The Mars trilogy explores the idea that any terraforming project would necessarily be not only technical, but also political. As McKenzie Wark writes in Molecular Red: A Theory of the Anthropocenein your version of Mars, “questions of nature and culture, economics and politics, can never be treated in isolation, as all levels have to be organized together.

What is terraforming in the Mars trilogy as a political project, and what was it telling us about the transformation of Earth itself by the hand of man? 

About 20 years ago, I began to read in the technical literature of the planetary science community that Mars is unusual. It is on the outside of the sun’s habitable zone, and because it has water and other frozen volatile gases that we need for life on Earth, it might be possible to heat up Mars and release those gases to essentially recreate an atmosphere, and then introduce Earth’s genetic heritage, life forms and biosphere into the Martian context. In combination, you might get something new that would be like the High Arctic or Siberia; a human space that would be habitable without wearing space suits. Carl Sagan was actually the astronomer who was really important in pointing this out. It’s essentially a kind of science-fiction idea that was achievable in the real world.

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Platform capitalism and value form

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By Matthew Cole

According to the speculations of techno-futurologists, left and right, the machines are here to liberate us. Most of the discourse is dominated by the neoliberal right such as Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee and Andrew Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England. Their arguments, avoiding questions of exploitation, are naturally popular with the establishment. McAfee’s best-selling book The Second Machine Age has been lauded by leaders at the World Economic Forum.

On the left, however, Paul Mason welcomes our new robotic overlords, in an intellectual synthesis that spans Marx’s 1858 ‘Fragment on Machines’ (treated by Mason as a prophecy), Bogdanov’s 1909 novel Red Star and Martin Ford’s 2015 Rise of the Robots, not to mention Andre Gorz. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams offer a more qualified welcome to the possibility of full automation and a workless future. But even the best of these analyses, and even the most alluring visions of networked insurrection and high-tech communist utopia, have to face up to how these technologies have been used, historically, to deepen exploitation rather than overcome it. It is far more likely, in short, that new technologies will intensify drudgery and further limit human freedom. And it on this basis that we have to evaluate the impacts of platform technologies on the capitalist mode of production.

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Explosons les codes sexuels! Une ancienne du “Front homosexuel d’action révolutionnaire” (FHAR) parle

Née en 1947, Lola Miesseroff a pris dès sa jeunesse une part active à la critique et aux luttes sociales. Elle raconte ici son engagement dans le Front homosexuel d’action révolutionnaire (FHAR) au début des années soixante-dix, et bien d’autres choses encore. Nous avons préféré couper certains passages, détails concernant des personnes, anecdotes ou vives digressions qui auraient triplé le volume de ce texte. En attendant qu’un jour Lola Miesseroff ait l’envie et le loisir d’écrire ses Mémoires, on lira avec intérêt son Voyage en outre-gauche. Paroles de francs-tireurs des années 68, à paraître en 2018 aux éditions Libertalia1. Pour plus de développements sur les tumultueuses années 1970, voir le chapitre 11 de la série « Homo » : « Être ce que nous ne savons pas encore (Stonewall, le FHAR et après) ».

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Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialtheorie und Philosophie: 150 Jahre Das Kapital

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Ed. by Elbe, Ingo / Ellmers, Sven / Hesse, Christoph / Schlaudt, Oliver / Schmieder, Falko

Volume 4, Issue 1-2 (Oct 2017)

Schwerpunkt: 150 Jahre Das Kapital – Das Kapital in der Kritik (Tagung an der Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg)

Schwerpunkt: Marx, Weltsystem und Ökologie

Beitrag außerhalb des Schwerpunkts

Libertarian Police Department

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by Tom O’Donnell

I was shooting heroin and reading “The Fountainhead” in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

“Bad news, detective. We got a situation.”

“What? Is the mayor trying to ban trans fats again?”

“Worse. Somebody just stole four hundred and forty-seven million dollars’ worth of bitcoins.”

The heroin needle practically fell out of my arm. “What kind of monster would do something like that? Bitcoins are the ultimate currency: virtual, anonymous, stateless. They represent true economic freedom, not subject to arbitrary manipulation by any government. Do we have any leads?”

“Not yet. But mark my words: we’re going to figure out who did this and we’re going to take them down … provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so.”

“Easy, chief,” I said. “Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair.”

He laughed. “That’s why you’re the best I got, Lisowski. Now you get out there and find those bitcoins.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m on it.”

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Continental Thought & Theory Vol 1. Issue 4 (2017): 150 years of Capital

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VOL 1, ISSUE 4, OCTOBER 2017 – 150 YEARS OF CAPITAL

150 years of Capital

Edited by Mike Grimshaw and Cindy Zeiher

Contents

Introduction

Cindy Zeiher, Mike Grimshaw, Introduction – Rethinking Marx’s Capital, Vol 1

Michael Heinrich, 150 Years of Capital-with No End in Sight. Unsystematic Remarks on a Never-ending Story

Silvia Federici, Notes on Gender in Marx’s Capital

Moishe Postone, The Current Crisis and the Anachronism of Value: A Marxian Reading

Jacques Bidet, Capital as read by Moishe Postone: Alchemy or Astrology?

Riccardo Bellofiore, Between Schumpeter and Keynes: The Heterodoxy of Paul Marlor Sweezy and the Orthodoxy of Paul Mattick

Patrick Murray, Jeanne Schuler, The Commodity Spectrum

Agon Hamza, Re-reading Capital 150 years after: some Philosophical and Political Challenges

Roland Boer, Interpreting Marx’s Capital in China

Martha Campbell, Marx’s Transition to Money with no Intrinsic Value in Capital, Chapter 3

David Neilson, Re-situating Capital Vol. 1 beyond Althusser’s epistemological break: Towards second generation neo-Marxism

Geoff Pfeifer, The Question of Capitalist Desire: Deleuze and Guattari with Marx

Adrian Johnston, From Closed Need to Infinite Greed: Marx’s Drive Theory

Circle of Studies of Idea and Ideology (CSII), Organization and Political Invention

Guido Starosta, Fetishism and Revolution in the Critique of Political Economy: Critical Reflections on some Contemporary Readings of Marx’s Capital

Graham Cassano, Capital, Gender and the Machine

Fred Moseley, M- C- M’ and the End of the ‘Transformation Problem’

Natalia Romé, Anachronism of the True. Reading Reading Capital

Todd McGowan, The Particularity of the Capitalist Universal

Bruce Curtis, A Sesquicentennial of Capital: Marx, Mandel and Methodological Musings

Ted Stolze, Beatitude: Marx, Aristotle, Averroes, Spinoza

Rebecca Carson, Fictitious Capital and the Re-emergence of Personal Forms of Domination

Ali Alizadeh, Marx and Art: Use, Value, Poetry

Jason Read, Man is a Werewolf to Man: Capital and the Limits of Political Anthropology

Mark P. Worrell,  Daniel Krier, The Organic Composition of Big Mama

David Norman Smith, Sharing, Not Selling: Marx Against Value

Mike Grimshaw, Proof-texting Capital via the ‘short-circuit’: a religious text?

Book reviews

Robert Boncardo, Universal Life: A review reading of The Lost Thread: The Democracy of Modern Fiction | Jacques Rancière

Gabriel Tupinambá, Totalization as critique: a review of Marxism and Psychoanalysis: In or Against Psychology|David David Pavón-Cuéllar

Notes on this issues’ contributors

The Women Men Don’t See

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by James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), 1973

I see her first while the Mexicana 727 is barreling down to Cozumel Island. I come out of the can and lurch into her seat, saying “Sorry,” at a double female blur. The near blur nods quietly. The younger one in the window seat goes on looking out. I continue down the aisle, registering nothing. Zero. I never would have looked at them or thought of them again.

Cozumel airport is the usual mix of panicky Yanks dressed for the sand pile and calm Mexicans dressed for lunch at the Presidente. I am a used-up Yank dressed for serious fishing; I extract my rods and duffel from the riot and hike across the field to find my charter pilot. One Captain Estéban has contracted to deliver me to the bonefish flats of Belize three hundred kilometers down the coast.

Captain Estéban turns out to be four feet nine of mahogany Maya puro. He is also in a somber Maya snit. He tells me my Cessna is grounded somewhere and his Bonanza is booked to take a party to Chetumal.

Well, Chetumal is south; can he take me along and go on to Belize after he drops them? Gloomily he concedes the possibility—if the other party permits, and if there are not too many equipajes.

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Capital 150: Marx’s ‘Capital’ Today Conference

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The Department of European and International Studies (School of Politics & Economics, King’s College London), along with the www.thenextrecession.wordpress.com blog, organised a major international conference – titled Capital.150: Marx’s ‘Capital’ Today – to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s text Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. The conference took place on 19-20 September, 2017.

It attracted from around the world some of the leading scholars and research networks in the field. There were lively debates among speakers and audience on the roots of the global economic and financial crisis, contemporary imperialism, and the prospects of global capitalism. David Harvey and Michael Roberts debated how to map the terrain of anti-capitalist struggles in the plenary of the evening of September 19. The same topic re-emerged throughout the conference as participants investigated the nature of the present political conjuncture and the prospects for the labour movement.

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The Tamarisk Hunter

Tamarisk trees (Tamarix articulata) in the desert.

by Paolo Bacigalupi

In the desert Southwest of 2030 Big Daddy Drought runs the show, California claims all the water, and a water tick named Lolo ekes out a rugged living removing tamarisk.

A big tamarisk can suck 73,000 gallons of river water a year. For $2.88 a day, plus water bounty, Lolo rips tamarisk all winter long.

Ten years ago, it was a good living. Back then, tamarisk shouldered up against every riverbank in the Colorado River Basin, along with cottonwoods, Russian olives, and elms. Ten years ago, towns like Grand Junction and Moab thought they could still squeeze life from a river.

Lolo stands on the edge of a canyon, Maggie the camel his only companion. He stares down into the deeps. It’s an hour’s scramble to the bottom. He ties Maggie to a juniper and starts down, boot-skiing a gully. A few blades of green grass sprout neon around him, piercing juniper-tagged snow clods. In the late winter, there is just a beginning surge of water down in the deeps; the ice is off the river edges. Up high, the mountains still wear their ragged snow mantles. Lolo smears through mud and hits a channel of scree, sliding and scattering rocks. His jugs of tamarisk poison gurgle and slosh on his back. His shovel and rockbar snag on occasional junipers as he skids by. It will be a long hike out. But then, that’s what makes this patch so perfect. It’s a long way down, and the riverbanks are largely hidden.

It’s a living; where other people have dried out and blown away, he has remained: a tamarisk hunter, a water tick, a stubborn bit of weed. Everyone else has been blown off the land as surely as dandelion seeds, set free to fly south or east, or most of all north where watersheds sometimes still run deep and where even if there are no more lush ferns or deep cold fish runs, at least there is still water for people.

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The Case Against Civilization

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Did our hunter-gatherer ancestors have it better?

Science and technology: we tend to think of them as siblings, perhaps even as twins, as parts of stem (for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”). When it comes to the shiniest wonders of the modern world—as the supercomputers in our pockets communicate with satellites—science and technology are indeed hand in glove. For much of human history, though, technology had nothing to do with science. Many of our most significant inventions are pure tools, with no scientific method behind them. Wheels and wells, cranks and mills and gears and ships’ masts, clocks and rudders and crop rotation: all have been crucial to human and economic development, and none historically had any connection with what we think of today as science. Some of the most important things we use every day were invented long before the adoption of the scientific method. I love my laptop and my iPhone and my Echo and my G.P.S., but the piece of technology I would be most reluctant to give up, the one that changed my life from the first day I used it, and that I’m still reliant on every waking hour—am reliant on right now, as I sit typing—dates from the thirteenth century: my glasses. Soap prevented more deaths than penicillin. That’s technology, not science.

In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

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Time capsule found on the dead planet

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by Margaret Atwood

1. In the first age, we created gods. We carved them out of wood; there was still such a thing as wood, then. We forged them from shining metals and painted them on temple walls. They were gods of many kinds, and goddesses as well. Sometimes they were cruel and drank our blood, but also they gave us rain and sunshine, favourable winds, good harvests, fertile animals, many children. A million birds flew over us then, a million fish swam in our seas.

Our gods had horns on their heads, or moons, or sealy fins, or the beaks of eagles. We called them All-Knowing, we called them Shining One. We knew we were not orphans. We smelled the earth and rolled in it; its juices ran down our chins.

2. In the second age we created money. This money was also made of shining metals. It had two faces: on one side was a severed head, that of a king or some other noteworthy person, on the other face was something else, something that would give us comfort: a bird, a fish, a fur-bearing animal. This was all that remained of our former gods. The money was small in size, and each of us would carry some of it with him every day, as close to the skin as possible. We could not eat this money, wear it or burn it for warmth; but as if by magic it could be changed into such things. The money was mysterious, and we were in awe of it. If you had enough of it, it was said, you would be able to fly.

3. In the third age, money became a god. It was all-powerful, and out of control. It began to talk. It began to create on its own. It created feasts and famines, songs of joy, lamentations. It created greed and hunger, which were its two faces. Towers of glass rose at its name, were destroyed and rose again. It began to eat things. It ate whole forests, croplands and the lives of children. It ate armies, ships and cities. No one could stop it. To have it was a sign of grace.

4. In the fourth age we created deserts. Our deserts were of several kinds, but they had one thing in common: nothing grew there. Some were made of cement, some were made of various poisons, some of baked earth. We made these deserts from the desire for more money and from despair at the lack of it. Wars, plagues and famines visited us, but we did not stop in our industrious creation of deserts. At last all wells were poisoned, all rivers ran with filth, all seas were dead; there was no land left to grow food.

Some of our wise men turned to the contemplation of deserts. A stone in the sand in the setting sun could be very beautiful, they said. Deserts were tidy, because there were no weeds in them, nothing that crawled. Stay in the desert long enough, and you could apprehend the absolute. The number zero was holy.

5. You who have come here from some distant world, to this dry lakeshore and this cairn, and to this cylinder of brass, in which on the last day of all our recorded days I place our final words:

Pray for us, who once, too, thought we could fly.


source: The Guardian, 2009