By John Stanton
wonderfully bizarre and philosophically fertile novel Insatiability,
written in 1927 by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, describes
a society in rancid decay faced with the external threat of
a "Sino-Mongolian" army with some very distinct Soviet and
Nazi characteristics. The armies of conformity are on the
border waiting to attack.
Meanwhile in Witkiewicz's society, religion, philosophy,
politics, art, literature and sex have become devoid of transcendent
qualities. They serve only to further the utilitarian interests
of racism, nationalism and patriotism. Sex is no longer surrounded
by love; instead, it is merely a means to produce more workers,
more soldiers, more taxpayers. Witkiewicz's nation is frenetically
engaged in an orgy of motion for motion's sake which means
that it is has extraordinarily high rates of productivity.
The people's days are full of activity whether it be producing
or manufacturing, reading the newspapers, visiting an art
museum, listening to music, or propagating the human species.
The masses, as Witkiewicz describes them, "all those dukes,
counts, farmers, peasants, workers, craftsmen, army" are vacuous
automatons who had long ago lost the ability to look beyond
the given image or word; that is, to think with depth.
The dying society that Witkiewicz portrays can only be saved
by the artists and the unblemished spiritualism of religion
freed from corporate structure. The writer, the philosopher,
the poet, the painter, the musician, and the religious leader
collectively hold the cure for a culture on its death bed.
Why? As they have throughout recording history, this merry
band of refuseniks are constantly exposing the brutality of
reality and are continually challenging institutions and the
propaganda they spew forth. It is their lot in life and their
duty to ask the tough questions. No open society can prosper
for long without them. In Witkiewicz's world, those with the
cure have relinquished their responsibilities. They no longer
refuse - they join, they are indoctrinated and they conform.
Indeed, it is far easier and more lucrative to praise and
promote the established order than it is to challenge it.
Such has been the choice of the Christopher Hitchens' of the
world. For others though, having taken that road, the sense
of guilt that going-along-to-get-along breeds haunts them.
They suffer no matter what they do.
Murti-Bing Pills to the Rescue
"A man who used these Murti-Bing pills changed completely.
The problems he had struggled with until then suddenly appeared
to be superficial and unimportant. Those once tormented by
philosophical insatiety now entered the service of the new
society [the new faith]. Instead of writing the dissonant
music of former days, they composed marches and odes. Instead
of painting abstractions as before, they turned out socially
useful pictures," according to Czeslaw Milosz, in his forward
to Insatiability. In the end, hooked on Murti-Bing,
Witkiewicz's characters have been, in essence, lobotomized.
"Sturfan wrote abominable things-novels without any 'heroes,'
whose role was now assumed by groups. Lilian continued to
perform in theater. He operated exclusively with the collective
psyche, dispensing entirely with dialogue. Art and literary
criticism were at last completely abolished."
Insatiability has many lessons in it for Americans.
As Milosz points out, Witkiewicz was describing a Western
society. One in which the quantity of material produced-be
it philosophy, art, literature, or even politicians-had no
relation to quality. The critics, whether literary or general
culture, knew very little about the subject matter they were
assessing. The critics were either employed by organizations
who circumscribed their views to preserve the bottom line,
or they held a particularly snobbish view of the changing
world around them. "Because of a spurious sense of social
duty and a desire to instruct petty people in petty virtues.whatever
appears uncomfortable is either glossed over in silence or
else deliberately misconstrued and misinterpreted.What can
be expected of the public if the critics themselves are below
the average reader?"
Here in 21st Century America, Witkiewicz's novel world has
become a tragicomic reality. Critics take the form of homophobic
Michael Savage, a savage intellect whose tirades appeal to
millions of predominantly white males who believe that American
history began with George Bush II. Another critic and hustler
like Rush Limbaugh, whose website urges boycotting France
and Germany - and encourages visitors to join The Presidential
Prayer Team - speaks volumes to the depth-free nature of the
American intellect. One wonders if the Savage and Limbaugh
audiences know that Baron de Montesquieu was the inspiration
for the "checks and balances" of the US government. Or that
the French have greatly influenced US military doctrine since
at least 1776 (not to mention salvaging the American revolution).
The vaunted shock and awe tactics used recently during the
War in Iraq were set in place long ago by Napoleon Bonaparte
who revamped the French army with doctrines that ensured speed,
maintaining the offensive, maneuverability and joint training.
That revolution in military affairs took place over 200 years
ago. Immediately after World War I, the US Army solicited
German gun designers recognizing the inferiority of US designs.
Of course, without former Nazi Werner Von Braun, the USA would
have had far greater difficulty getting its machines and warheads
Bush Not the Problem but the Symptom
The US is populated with thousands of Savages and Limbaughs
in corporate board rooms, the government and military, universities,
media outlets, sports and entertainment, and the world of
arts. These are the petty people to whom Witkiewicz refers.
The very ones whose "spurious sense of social duty and petty
virtue" has somehow landed them in positions of power that
allows them to comment, or critique, an entire society and
its culture and government. Yet their commentary is as staged
and hollow as George Bush's comedic Top Gun stunt on the aircraft
carrier Abraham Lincoln. And it's killing America. But that
false imagery and the language that goes with it finds a paying
and voting audience in the tens of millions - Witkiewicz's
masses - who either truly believe in the simplistic and erroneous
notions of American mythology, or who have auctioned off their
transcendent souls for the safe havens of profitability and
These vacuous people-senators and congressmen, CEO's and
generals, preachers and rockers, white collar and blue collar
alike - when confronted with the factual record of George
Bush II's record of being AWOL from the Texas National Guard
and his many business failings, or informed that every political
rally held by this president is a lesson in Hollywood production
101, simply deny that reality and opt for the fantasy. But
Bush is not the problem. It is what he has come to represent.
And that is the antithesis of what US citizens are taught
to believe it means to be American. It takes years of labor
to purchase and maintain a home, to stay on the payroll, to
get an education, to believe there is more than crass profit
and loss, to tolerate tax cuts for the rich, to raise a family,
to worship ones god's, to be honest and trusting.
That quaint American philosophy of life has been beheaded.
Now the "leaders" aren't even coy about parsing the truth
with the country. It's in-your-face lying on a global scale.
Full spectrum perception management via the US government,
incorporated, ensures that what was false remains false, but
you'll believe it to be true, just like you still believe
the New York Times. Where else are you to turn? You are too
busy being productive to believe otherwise and, besides, you
don't have the time to fight the system.
The modern day Murti-Bing pills - Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and
prime time media - let you tolerate the madness that is fed
to you on a daily basis: Trillions in tax cuts for the rich
are good. $700 billion for defense and intelligence is good.
Outsourcing 850,000 government jobs is good. Cutting highway
funding to the states is good. Cutting social programs is
good. Eliminating pension plans and social security is good.
Don't criticize, we are at war. America: love it or leave
it. "Mission Accomplished". Ditching the United Nations and
international treaties is good. It's not about oil. We don't
need a commission on 911 - trust us. Hussein was a threat
to the United States. Your safer now with Tom Ridge in charge.
There is an opposition party. The president's speeches and
rallies are spontaneous. Without the US military there would
be no freedom. Freedom means the ability to buy and sell.
Media deregulation is good. Guantanamo Bay is not a death
camp. The War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism are successful.
The US Department of Homeland Security does not have former
KGB officers as consultants. Missile defense works.
In this national psycho ward, you want to do "something"
to contribute because there's an emptiness you just can't
seem to shake. You want to be a refuseniks. One day, you say
to yourself, I'll do "something" about it.
There's More to Life
"Perhaps sunlight, the smell of the earth, little everyday
pleasures and the forgetfulness that work brings can ease
somewhat the tensions created by this process. But beneath
the activity and bustle of daily life is the constant awareness
of an irrevocable choice to be made. One must either die -
physically or spiritually - or else one must be reborn according
to the prescribed method, namely, the taking of Murti-Bing
pills. People in the [USA] are often inclined to consider
the lot of converted countries in terms of might and coercion.
That is wrong. There is an internal longing for harmony and
happiness that lies deeper than the ordinary fear of the desire
to escape misery or physical destruction."
The people of America have difficult decisions ahead. Their
economy is awash in a sea of debt and the unemployed. It's
military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq are far from complete.
It's corporate board rooms and halls of government are indistinguishable.
The invisible hand of censorship is everywhere. Millions are
afraid to speak in fear of the state's security apparatus.
The state has become god-like in its ability to inculcate
fear through constant "terrorist" alerts.
American's can easily choose to be "reborn" and conform
to a system which delivers the goods, as Herbert Marcuse once
said. Do they have any art, philosophy or spirituality in
them? What will they do? Stand and fight, or stand and help
deliver the goods. Mr. Witkiewicz's choice, however, is not
recommended. In 1939, recognizing that the Soviets and Nazis
were on their way into Poland, he committed suicide.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in
national security matters. He the author (along with Wayne
Madsen) of America's Nightmare: The Presidency of George
Bush II available at www.booksurge.com.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.