Sunday, September 4, 2016

Prevention of the Lie

"Everybody's born to compete as he chooses
But how can someone win if winning means that someone loses?"

Scatman John - Scatman's World

How the hell did Death of a Salesman ever become popular in the first place? How did a narrative running so contrary to the central lies of capitalism, the surreal fables of upward mobility, ever make it past the censors, much less capture the minds of a population steeped in self-promotion and delusions of grandeur?

I mean, nowadays the populace at large, at least by my own admittedly limited everyday observations, will have no truck with the play. Along with the likes of Macbeth and The Raven, it burdens a few weary afternoons for high school students (who would much rather be Beyoncing at that moment) thereafter to be mentioned no more in polite company. Today's salesmen fear no death. But what influences rendered your grandparents' or great-grandparents' generation in 1949 so much more apt to admit the lies of their own social system?

Was it the lingering lessons of the Great Depression? The still festering wounds of the second war to end all wars? The fact that they could see their world improved by planning and not by competition, by the New Deal and not the glitzy machinations of Exxon Mobil's grand-pappy Standard Oil? The greater middle-class awareness of a hobo subculture prone more to destitute freedom than comfortable poverty? The memory of the term "wage slavery?"

Answer the riddle of forgotten Willy Loman's declining appeal as object lesson and you will likely also have answered a puzzling corollary of our time: Donald Trump's popularity.

You got to learn how to see in your fantasy.

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