Give me liberty, or give me death, and can you make that with extra cheese?” – Patrick Henry at the Burger King
When I cast my beady, crow’s eyes over the long stretch of modernity – in these dog, dead days, I have little else to amuse me – I see nothing that so aptly fits Polanyi’s model of the disembedding of the economy as the rise of the menu – the course of which is, appropriately, a blank as far as I can tell. No opus to light the weary traveler on his way. Just the kind of trace that makes my juices flow. At the same time, of course, LI is a humble blogger, no maker of opuses but a poker of holes: we aren’t going to build Rome in a thousand words or less, or give you the foundations of menu-ology here.
In the two scenes we picked out from two movies in our last post, it would be easy to leave the menus behind. Like the King in Las Meninas, or – a better comparison – like the anamorphic skull in Holbein’s Ambassadors, gracing Lacan’s Seminaire, volume 11, they are where the gazes are gathered and the source that builds the space the gazes all span. So, what royal personage is doing the looking here? Well, it is LI’s humble contention, and the root of the insanity that has obviously driven him mad, that the gaze that stares out from the menu is the fly’s gaze, one in which two hundred flavors of ice cream, thirty brands of corn flakes, eggs with rye toast or steak cooked to your preference and ten combinations of milk (soy, whole, or one percent) and coffee can be held in balance, equally. The restaurant ain’t no panopticon, but it is one of the many entrances to the fly’s world, the kingdom of Capital. And we do know the name of the Lord of the Flies, don’t we?
Not that LI is particularly kicking against Belzebuub. We are humble servitors, more humble, because more miserably unsuccessful, than most - we simply have a causist’s quibble with the definition of freedom in the fly’s kingdom. That definition is spelled out in preferences, and he who says preferences says a pricing and market mechanism before you can say “still working on that, sir?” Or, “do you want onions and pickle on that?” What better text for preferences is there, what better object of the neo-classical school than the menu? Belzebuub’s poetic conceit is that all that exists, exists to be put on a menu. It functions not only to separate and classify choices, but to civilize and educate. Just as the child’s growth as a biological entity is measured by yardsticks and charts, the child’s entry into the fly’s kingdom comes by way of learning about, well, entrees.
All of which is LI creeping towards his object and around it again, instead of making the bold pounce. Maybe I can make the pounce in the next, or the next, post.