'Plenty of Hope, An Infinite Amount of Hope--But Not for Us'. Cultural Studies in the Shadow of Catastrophe (Critical Essay) by Arena Journal

'Plenty of Hope, An Infinite Amount of Hope--But Not for Us'. Cultural Studies in the Shadow of Catastrophe (Critical Essay)

By Arena Journal

  • Release Date: 2002-09-22
  • Category: Religion & Spirituality

Brief Description

My title refers to one of those wonderful witty faux-naif moments in Kafka. Walter Benjamin tells the story, in his essay on Kafka in Illuminations. In conversation with a contemporary, Kafka said that human beings are nihilistic thoughts, suicidal thoughts, that come into God's head; yet perhaps, Kafka goes on, our world is only a bad mood of God's, a bad day of his. Then, said his interlocutor, 'There is hope outside this manifestation of the world as we know it?' Kafka apparently enigmatically smiled: 'Oh, plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope--but not for us'. (1) I think I am perversely obsessed by this Kafka anecdote. I tell it in the mosaic of fragments with which I close my book 1492: The Poetics of Diaspora. I also found myself referring to it in 'Untimely Meditations', a series of fragments published in Arena Magazine in 2001 reflecting on both the Tampa refugee crisis and the crisis in world history posed by the shocking events of September 11, the attack on New York, the collapse of the twin towers: the ultimate aestheticization of politics. (2) And now Afghanistan has been bombed, and Australia's Prime Minister, loyally supported by the Labor opposition leader, enjoys vertiginous levels of popular support for sending troops there as well as turning away refugee ships, creating new voyages of the damned, including hundreds of deaths on one ship near Indonesia. We seem to be living in a society of intensifying hatred, hatred of those designated internal enemies, hatred of the stranger. Fascism is a possibility, a threatening shadow. One thinks of all those critiques of democracy in the nineteenth century warning of the tyranny of the majority that will enforce conformity and mediocrity and attempt to destroy independent thought, destroy, that is, intellectual life and intellectuals.

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