The Great Unease
Global consumer optimism surveys routinely show anxiety, unease, dread in Europe and USA. This sense of unease should be absent considering the prosperity levels, the best health-care systems, a welfare state, guaranteed unemployment benefits, their technology, their currency and their democracy.
The Indians and Chinese routinely are more optimistic - which should not happen considering the low income levels. Fancy theory apart, to my mind, it is the ’sword fatigue’ in response to constant exposure by Western Governments (to which they are exposed) which causes this low optimism.
Between 1800-1950, Western powers killed (directly or otherwise) more than 50 million people in America (the Red Indians), Africa (the Blacks), Asia (Indians, Chinese, Arabs). This led to a situation that every other person in the West had participated in murder or massacre. Soviet Russia on one side, Hitler on the other and to that add Gandhiji’s resolute opposition to colonialism - and you have a inflammable situation.
The deluge of blood and murder caused moral anxiety and was a matter of ethical dilemma amongst common folks. The pressure valve for this was popular fiction. Identifying murderers became a form of proxy, vicarious entertainment for ordinary folks. Enter the super detectives, who pick out the murderer from a room full of ordinary people.
Murder in Popular Image
A trend started by Edgar Allan Poe, whose first detective novel, Murders In Rue Morgue (1841) soon became an avalanche. Writers like Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple solving murders happening by the second), Georges Simenon (and his Inspector Maigret investigating brutal crimes), Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn), GK Chesterton (Father Brown), Raymond Chandler (Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe) dealt with murder. Alfred Hitchcock made horror thrillers in similar themes.
Agatha Christie’s book filmed as Ten Little Indians, based on the book, initially released (the book) in Britian as Ten Little Niggers (later renamed as Then There None) gives the game away. Agatha Christie probably presaged the White desire to ensure that there should be none of the Red Indians left to tell the tale.
The Mystery of the Dying Detective
After de-colonisation, as mass murder went underground, the detective-murder mystery books genre faded. This category was replaced by a new theme - the axis of corporation-government international conspiracies.
Conspiracy Theory - Full Steam Ahead
The new category of popular fiction are represented by Ian Fleming, Arthur Hailey, Frederick Forsyth, Irving Wallace, Robert Ludlum, Graham Greene, John Le Carre, et al. More and more contrived, each conspiracy theory writer has been ‘inspired’ by real life incidents.
While Ludlum’s international-conspiracy-plot-CIA-FBI-KGB series have worn thin, the spookiness of Le Carre’s Absolute Friends and Constant Gardner still work as novel representing the West.
Western Twins - Anxiety and Paranoia
To develop this understanding further, there are two classes of films that I wish to draw attention to.
Jaws (the shark that eats humans), Jurassic Park (mad scientists, conspiring technicians let loose man eating dinos) Gremlins and Poltergiest (things that go bump in the night). This paranoid fear of nature (and natural laws) seems to be a result of the subterranean knowledge of the way in which ecological damage and pollution is happening. These films produced /directed by Steven Spielberg (who is incomparable because as Time Magazine says, “No one else has put together a more popular body of work”)
The other is the thinly disguised hate and prejudice films against the poor and the victimised. ‘Aliens’ needs just one small change for the films idea to become clear. Instead of LV-426, Nostromo the space ship, receives a distress call from some country in South America or Africa (or India, if you prefer). The meaning is clear when you see the movie while conscious of the fact that alien is is the word the US Government uses for people from other countries.
What Does This Mean
A US commentator Robert Putnam says that “… We don’t trust each other as much as we used to. Trust in other people has fallen from 58 percent in 1960 to 35 percent in the mid-1990s. Our less trusting atmosphere has led us to recoil from civic life and social ties. We belong to fewer voluntary organizations, vote less often, volunteer less, and give a smaller share of our gross national product to charity (Putnam, 1995a, 1995b; Knack, 1992; 1986; Uslaner, 1993, 96-97). People who trust others are more likely to participate in almost all of these activities, so the decline in trust is strongly linked to the fall in civic engagement (Putnam, 1995a; Brehm and Rahn, 1997; Uslaner, 1997) …“
After This Blog
I tried searching the internet for some related data - supporting, contradictory, supplemental or complementary. One writer, Franco Moretti did half the job in book Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms By Franco Moretti. In his entire book he does not use the words like slavery, racism, genocide, bigotry even once. The 19th century, which was based on Western bigotry, White racism, Black slavery, and Assorted genocides is unrecognised in Moretti’s books.
Feeling squeamish, Franco?