Critique of Cynical Reason: First impressions

“If science too has to earn its daily bread, then at least part of it discovers the coming war as employer.”(Critique of Cynical Reason p.334)

Norman Alcock (1918-2007) was one of those scientists who earned his daily bread working on the coming war. A recent obituary in The Globe and Mail (April 6, 2007) describes his mid-life switch to peace research. He said three years ago, “In 1945, with the atomic bomb, everything changed. You could no longer defend a country. Suddenly the world was turned upside down. It wasn’t possible to defend a country, a city, a region at all. It should have ended war.” He goes on to say rational people would have seen to the end of war, but politicians didn’t get it.

If he’d continued to work on the war machine he’d have continued to make money, but from 1958 the peace researcher slowly went broke. Today there appears to be a lucrative war on. But I’m jumping ahead… What’s interesting is not that war continues to be a hot commodity, but the changes in attitude toward peace-talkers. When Alcock began his vocation in 1961 he was regarded as a commie, the RCMP interviewed his neighbours, but during the protest of the Vietnam War, the perception changed. The recent Lennon biopic shows a glamourous subversiveness in the peace movement. But what? Since Lennon was shot, are we over war?

Reading the Critique of Cynical Reason, which was written in the ten years leading up to its publication in 1983, I’m struck by how we’ve collectively dropped the bomb culture. Remember Prince singing everyone’s got a bomb we could all die any day? Or Ronnie, talk to Russia? (He’s still at it.) Ok, maybe he is still at it. So is it just me? Was it simply because I was so young that I sensed a collective dread? Was it only personal dread? No, I had friends then and they knew what was a pushed button away.

Today things are no better. All those weapons still exist. The U.S. government is far from stable. The Russians are far from stable. And today there are a number of other unstable states with massively destructive weapons capability. But that isn’t our only fear. Anything becomes a weapon in our schools, subways, hospitals anywhere, anytime. Only our consciousness has changed. Our collective consciousness has shifted toward Britney’s pussy.

Watching Larry King Live without Larry King. Meet the man Jennifer Aniston sued and Cher’s boyfriend tried to run over. Do the paparazzi go too far? The hilarious Jimmy Kimmel makes sense of it all. Talking head after talking head says we’ve gone celebrity crazy. Is this what our time’s criers call decadence? In this time, with a war on? Sure it’s all American, but our rapidly Americanizing county is getting shot up in Afghanistan all the same.

Where’s our consciousness of at least the possibility of total global war? Are we too worried about Global warming to feel anything else? Did Gore touch the effects of war in his inconvenient truth? I’d bet an analysis of the effects of war on the environment would be damning. Justin Timberlake is singing about an affair with Scarlett Johansson. He’s upset about her sleeping around, while everyone’s got a bomb we could all die anyday…

My first impression of Critique of Cynical Reason is of a very recent time wiped from memory. The Berlin Wall was still up when Sloterdijk wrote this, and the USSR, propped up by the Cold War, commanded an impressive and frightening military. Sloterdijk was filled with the terror when he wrote about a tendency to will our own destruction.

Who’s your daddy?

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