The following poem by Jon Swan caught our ear the first time we heard it (read by Mr. Swan), as it so perfectly captures one of the most bewildering dilemmas of our present moment. A gnawing sense of being an “accessory” bleeds into a second sense that we have no idea what is going on:
“God alone knows” to what we are an accessory, after the fact — and that fact remains ill-defined, ciphered, beyond empirical verification.
We live in a perpetual “haze of transmitted signals” that resonate and radiate through us, and within us, even if we might find their meaning and destination repellent. When the actions of the state are obscured or willfully misrepresented, the question of personal responsibility – difficult even in the best of times – becomes literally inconceivable. If the true nature of the polis lurks somewhere beyond perception, how can we speak of personal ethics?
A world in which humans struggle to retain some degree of autonomy while stumbling as best they can through a deadly empire of signs sounds like it might have been scripted by Philip K. Dick. Indeed, in a talk dated way back in 1978, How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later, PKD elaborates upon how the question of “the real” knots up with what it means to be an authentic human.
The entire talk is worth close reading; for DP we offer a slightly edited and re-formatted montage of excerpts:
That last bit bears repeating, an idea that resides at the very heart of desperado philosophy: