My friend Dave has just offered be a writing challenge. It’s wonderful! Than you so much Dave: I feel like I haven’t used this part of my brain in years and years. I’ve missed it.
The challenge, to quote Dave’s email, is this:
At the moment I’m trying to write a letter to The Invisibles letter column (of 1995) as if I’d just read or was just reading Arcadia (as I did in late 2001). What would you write?
This seems like it is best addressed in blog form…
If I had read Arcadia in late 2001, I would have seen it very differently than I did in 2004.
I can see where you worry about holism and not doing justice to the work, but I also know that I’m an incurable reductionist: I would have approached it the same way I always would have, and always will: take the strongest, clearest single thread and analyse the f*ck out of it, to the exclusion of all else.
In late 2001, in the wake of the WTC disaster, with the USA knee-jerking Afghanistan into tiny pieces (nothing to do with oil, oh nonono!) I was completely immersed in a magnificent, terrible, fascinating process: The Bursting of the Dot Com Bubble. I was watching in horrified fascination as the unspeakable wealth which had very nearly been mine became pitiful, worthless, eventually laughable.
In late 2001, I would have read Arcadia as a treatise on economics. The political/economic bent of the work is very simple and clear: it’s all about Anarchy versus Control.
Dane is the unenlightened man who is given a guided tour of the real underlying stupidity of the world so that he might be able to see through it and be freed of it. He might be learning the deeper secrets of the world and thus attaining immense power, but he might just be getting a crash-course in self-sustaining hype. Either way, he winds up powerfully freed from his old life. I could have identified with that in 2001, very much.
The team though, especially King Mob, are clearly Terrorists in the light of late 2001, whatever you understood that label to mean. They are the righteous butt-kicking that The Establishment has needed so badly for so long, but they’re also brutal, merciless killers.
I remember very clearly from Arcadia the reprisal of the life of the anonymous security guard, as he is gunned down by King Mob. Morrison plays on this quite heavily and deliberately: Are the Invisibles noble freedom fighters or pointless derganged killers? Is their cause just? Are their actions justifiable, let alone justified?
Since September 11, 2001, much of the western world has been helplessly viewing the past through the pinhole lens of a single event, but this was even more the case at the time, so I would have had to ask Mr Morrison:
It’s an ambiguous, double-edged question, in knowing anticipation of Morrison’s inevitably ambiguous, double-edged reply.