“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nemesis and the Zona

- When Pompey was finally defeated, his head was cut off and sent to Julius Caesar in Egypt. Caesar buried the head in a spot of ground especially dedicated to Nemesis.

- Events keep fucking with LI’s general strategy. I should be writing about the varieties of eighteenth century hedonism. But I am watching the money culture blow up before my eyes, like a dream. Things I have written on this blog long ago about inequality and its effects, or the meltdown in pensions, etc., have leaped into the coldblooded half reality of the headline world.

- My brother Doug likes to say that I think I know all the answers. This is true. The prophetic vocation is in my bones. However, so far in my life, none of the answers have matched any of the questions anybody is asking. The answers were all torn from literature, a thing that has long been laid aside in that place where the dead bury the dead. These are tv washed days in the land of Cockagne, the artificial Paradise, and he not busy doing crack is busy lining his footsteps to the grave with asset based securities. I have watched the best minds of my generation discover that the mind is a ludicrous entity that the system could synthesize for itself, just as it could manufacture its own imagination from zeros and ones, its own virtual emotions (better than any felt by DNA based creatures), and its own cyber others to hate. Fuck off and die is written on my forehead, and yes, I’ve been looking forward to the latter part of that admonition. But I suddenly feel all relevant.

- All of which means that my bittersweet topic, the Human Limit, is now all the more pressing. It is just the time for sowing doubts about the entire direction of this here civilization.

- What are the roots that clutch?

- So: Herder’s essay on Nemesis, written in the 1780s, has been on my list of references for a while. Now that the Zona is blowing, it is time to address Nemesis – that limit to happiness itself. To start with, here is a quote about Nemesis from Mathew Grumpert’s book, Grafting Helen:

Aristotle asks at 5.5.17-20: what is it that holds the city together? and answers: the equitable exchange of disparate goods. That means, in essence, setting up equivalences between them: “all things that are exchanged must be somehow comparable. It is for this end that money had been introduced and... becomes... an intermediate[meson]; for it meaures all things. ... money “has become by convention a sort of representative of demand; and this is why it has the name money [nomisma] – because it exists not bey nature but by law [nomos]” E. Laroche, in “Histoire de la racine nem- en grec ancien” notes that in the earlest instances of nemesis, conventionally defined as blame, the term is always used to make a “value judgment” (1949:93), in both an ethical and economic sense. Both are central to the act of assessment at the walls of Troy, as the elders gaze upon the face of Helen (3.156) ou nemesis Troas (surely there is no blame if Trojans...). Helen is, indeed, a form of nomos, a powerful generator of equivalences, but ruthlessly pursued – like money – as a possession in her own right.

Helen as nemesis suggests the financial abuses described by Aristotle in the Politics: she provokes an economy fueled entirely by desire, as opposed to demand. And the face of Helen is, to use Aristotle’s definition of nomos, a “representative’ of desire, as opposed to demand.” (2001:61)

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