global peril, remembered fondly

Reading Mearsheimer on “Why We Will Soon Miss the Cold War”, something in his thinking sounded familiar. It reminded me of an exchange from DeLillo’s Underworld (which comes nearly a decade after Mearsheimer wrote), a novel which looks back on America in the Cold War decades and contains a lot of absorbing passages on violence and nostalgia. A druggy echo of Mearshiemer’s calculated “hard peace” thesis:

“Now that power is in shatters or tatters and now that those Soviet borders don’t even exist in the same way, I think we understand, we look back, we see ourselves more clearly and them as well. Power meant something thirty, forty years ago. It was stable, it was focused, it was a tangible thing. It was greatness, danger, terror, all those things. And it held things together, the Soviets and us.  Maybe it held the world together. You could measure hope and you could measure destruction. Not that I want to bring it back. It’s gone, good riddance. But the fact is.”

And she seemed to lose her line of argument here. She paused, she realized the cigarette had burned down and the interviewer reached for it and Klara handed it over, delicately, butt-end first.

“Many things that were anchored to the balance of power and the balance of terror seems to be undone, unstuck. Things have no limits now. Money has no limits. I don’t understand money anymore. Money is undone. Violence is undone, violence is easier now, it’s uprooted, out of control, it has no measure anymore, it has no level of values.”

This was not actually the part of the novel I had in mind. There is another part, which I think concerns Marvin and his search for the baseball from the Polo Grounds, where something is said about all of the violence flowing out of the state. But Underworld is a long book and I cannot find it.

Later, I’d like to write something about music.


~ by staticandme on January 6, 2009.

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