Writing is a con

Any child can see that the map is not the ground. You cannot make a “reliable” map. A map, like a scientific theory, or consciousness itself, is no more than a dream of control. The conscious mind operates at forty or fifty bits a second, and disorder is infinitely deep. Better admit that. Better lie back and enjoy it—especially since, without the processes implied by it, no one could write (or read) books anyway. Writing is a con.

- M. John Harrison (what it might be to live in viriconium, 2001)

Quotes from "Upside down"

"Today, there are certain things one can't say in the face of public opinion:
* capitalism wears the stage name "market economy"
* imperialism is called "globalization"
* the victims of imperialism are called "developing countries," much as a dwarf might be called a "child"
* opportunism is called "pragmatism"
* treason is called "realism"
* poor people are called "low-income people"
* the expulsion of poor children from the school system is measured by the " dropout rate"
* the right of bosses to lay off workers with neither severance nor explanation is called "a flexible labor market"
* official rhetoric acknowledges women's rights among those of "minorities," as if the masculine half of humanity were the majority
* instead of military dictatorship, people say "process"
* torture is called "illegal compulsion" or "physical and psychological pressure"
* when thieves belong to a good family they're "kleptomaniacs"
* the looting of the public treasury by corrupt politicians answers to the name of "illicit enrichment"
* " accidents" are what they call crimes committed by cars
* for the blind, they say "the unseeing"
* a black man is "a man of color"
* where it says "long and difficult illness," it means cancer or AIDS
* "sudden illness" means heart attack
* people annihilated in military operations aren't dead: those killed in battle are "casualties," and civilians who get it are "collateral damage"
* in 1995, when France set off nuclear tests in the South Pacific, the French ambassador to New Zealand declared, "I don't like that word 'bomb.' They aren't bombs. They're exploding artifacts"
* "Getting Along" is what they call some of the death squads that operate under military protection in Colombia
* "Dignity" was what the Chilean dictatorship called one of its concentration camps, while "Liberty" was the largest jail of the Uruguayan dictatorship
* "Peace and Justice" is the name of the paramilitary group that in 1997 shot forty-five peasants, nearly all of them women and children, in the back as they prayed in the town church in Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico."

[Upside Down, a primer for the looking glass world, Eduardo Galeano (2000: 40)]

Utopia, toothache, and Orwell's diaries

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.
- George Orwell ['Why Socialists Don't Believe in Fun,' Dec, 1943]

I have recently come across a wonderful online project that blogs live entries from Orwell's diaries, seventy years removed in time.

The act of putting up Orwell's personal notes in a real time cyberspace blog creates a strange of contemporaneity, and simultaneously, makes us feel less solitary in an acutely amnesiac world. You see nesting storks, goats on a mountain climb, carcasses of dead donkeys, herons, ibises, and also meet interesting ordinary plain people in Morocco whom the world has forgotten, while the news of the fall of Barcelona comes in.

A few centuries back, this man would have been one of the most famous prophets, and probably crucified, burnt at the stakes, his limbs torn apart, etc. The greatest and wickedest discovery of the previous century, though, was that the integrity of a person can reduced to cinders if you're capable of desenstivising minds to make all words inane and unrecognisable. We lack the training and the circumstances to feel and caress words and feelings, and we've been trained to unlearn our social memories by our gods and masters. But journeying with Orwell is more than a pleasure. It's delight in the sense that words only can convey.

If anyone is interested, here's the link to the Orwell Project.