A Splurge on Melancholy and Politics (Heart of Darkness)

Children and teens can be annoying yes but there is also the sense that they are too unformed, or too easy. There is a lot that is too easy, too intricate, too networked … and there are, I think, whole theories on all this, on how impermanent our judgments are. But I have certain thoughts now that border on sentimentalism, or on nostalgia, dedication — things that I’m honestly not quite comfortable with. I am not an altruistic person, and I don’t believe that children are magic creatuers that should be raised in a bubble. In fact, my general attitude towards that whole attitude is generally accusatory and full of bitterness. But nontheless I find myself drawn to a new understanding of power that may seem sentimental at first — and which I would like to move beyond: power as a kind of collective lying.

The insight, which is perhaps incomplete, hinges on the fact that there are no manipulators and manipulatees, but rather, only manipulaters, who manipulate themselves, or rather, who are manipulated by the logic of manipulating, if that makes sense. Who are manipulated by the logic of hope, but not, therefore, desperate in a direct sense. Kafka had a phrase, “There is hope, but not for us”, which sees at first to be a kind of blank cynicism but I believe that this is what he is referring to.

Let’s consider the final passage of Heart of Darkness. Well, throughout the book Marlow somehow finds himself compelled to life for Kurtz, for some reason. But I think the end is sort of the climax. What fasinates me about this sort of model is just how conscious it is, how consciously this sort of manipulation takes place. It is a very interesting series of lines, very mysterious but also very specific. He lies to her in the end but the whole feeling is, oddly enough, that the was somehow forced, by her, or perhaps other things, into manipulating her.

There is the issue of Kurtz’s memory. It is certainly not as vivd as hers — but that is what is intersting here, as we talk about memories that fade. Here, we are not merely talking about desperation or conviction in the face of a fading memory but rather a kind of indirect memory — she made me see. A memory, while being my own, is somehow … for her — can we even say, brought to life by her? Not quite, I don’t think — there is just the hint of insincerity here which reeks, to me, of nihilism or sentimentalism. Marlow has addressed this sort of discomfort, something to the effect of, “you know, I really hate lying, not because I’m better than all of you but because there is the feeling of death there, like biting into a rotten fruit” — and yet the story contains many instances of him lying on various levels. Yet it is not quite insincere, I don’t think — but what Marlow vividly recalls is not that time — and perhaps not even his own experience, but rather her experienceher understanding of Kurtz. And who knows if even her understanding is original.

Now of course we should address the fact that Marlow heard the leaves whisper, “the horror, the horror”, and saw, in the glass pane of the door, Kurtz staring back at him. There are two possibilites — there is, first of all, the notion that Kurtz himself was able to obtain power, not via manipulation, but rather, indeed, as we have been saying, manipulating the manipulator. Is it that he himself espouses, I mean, with his … exuberance, or with his shock and awe — prelapsarian times? (Indeed, the world of Heart of Darkenss is one of disarray, a postlapsarian one.) Or is it that he refers to those times, somehow, without really espousing it, or maybe both? The second possibility, oddly enough, is this notion that the voice of Kurtz is actually a genuine memory of that time and place — the way in which even that past, perhaps, seems to transform to a time somehow worth saving. But the origins are nowhere.

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