Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Just Weigh It

Deep amongst the footnotes of Dropout Boogie I asserted that everything in our society is being reduced to a single standard: money.  It is a trend, of course, rather than an established fact.  However, I hadn’t realised just how close we had come. Discussing the trial over the ownership of some unpublished Kafka manuscripts Judith Butler describes what the current holders want to do with them.[i]

Eva and Ruth would claim that no one needs to inventory the materials and that the value of the manuscripts should be determined by their weight – quite literally what they weigh.  As one of the attorneys representing Hoffe’s estate explained: ‘If we get agreement, the material will be offered to sale as a single entity, in one package.  It will be sold by weight…  They’ll say: “There’s a kilogram of papers here, the highest bidder will be able to approach and see what’s there.”  The National Library [of Israel] can get in line and make an offer, too.’

The scientist, the bureaucrat and the retailer have merged together – only what can be accurately measured can have value, determined solely in monetary terms.  This is the model for the 21st century citizen.  It is also an attractive model, for many.  Why?  You no longer have to think too hard; to scramble over all those uncertainties, on which no absolute judgement is possible.  Is Dickens better than T.S. Eliot?  Of course, he weighs 120 kilos more!

[i] They are the daughters of Esther Hoffe, the secretary of Max Brod, who was given the papers by Kafka.  Although he was told to destroy them he published some – The Trial, Castle etc. – but kept others, which have remained unpublished.  It is these papers that are on trial in Tel Aviv.

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