Thursday, August 18, 2011

"That which we call progress is this storm."

--Walter Benjamin.

I'd like to promise that I'm done quoting Walter Benjamin, but I'd hate to start this relationship with a lie.

I've stolen the subtitle of this blog--"Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe..."--from Walter Benjamin's essay "Theses on the Philosophy of History," from the short ninth section concerning Paul Klee's Angelus Novus.

For Benjamin, the Angel can see only the past while moving inexorably towards the future. The Angel can't stop as he's being propelled by a storm (not pictured); and though the Angel wishes to stay and fix the world (which is also not pictured in this drawing), he can only watch the slowly unfolding car crash that we call history.

But the Angel has one advantage over most of us folk: whereas we not only move into the future without looking, but mostly keep our eyes firmly shut on the past as well, the Angel can at least see the connective thread of the past.

I'm no angel--I'm not even particularly sure that I'm on the side of the angels. But I'm starting this blog to try to narrate to myself some issues about history, about politics, and about the stories we tell ourselves about history and politics.

Or to be less grandiose, I'm starting this to keep myself looking for answers in a world that seems continually and/or increasingly catastrophic.

Boy, that still sounds grandiose. Well, let's see what we've got after a week of posts every day.

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