Sunday, April 02, 2006

Roland Barthes: Operation Margarine?

Since myth is a type of speech, everything can be a myth provided it is conveyed by a discourse. Everything can be a myth? Yes, I believe this, for the universe is infinitely fertile in suggestions.

Einstein's brain is a mythical object. Paradoxically, the more the genius of the man was materialized under the guise of his brain, the more the product of his inventiveness came to acquire a magical dimension, and gave a new incarnation to the old esoteric image of a science entirely contained in a few letters: E=mc2. There is a single secret to the world, and this secret is held in one word; the universe is a safe of which humanity seeks the combination: Einstein almost found it, this is the myth of Einstein. In it, we find all the Gnostic themes: the unity of nature, the ideal possibility of a fundamental reduction of the world, the unfastening power of the word, the age-old struggle between a secret and an utterance, the idea that total knowledge can only be discovered all at once, like a lock which suddenly opens after a thousand unsuccessful attempts.

Actually, like all resilient totems, wine supports a varied mythology which does not trouble about contradictions. This galvanic substance is always considered, for instance as the most efficient of thirst-quenchers, or at least this serves as the major alibi for its consumption ('It's thirsty weather'). In its red form, it has blood, the dense and vital fluid, as a very old hypo-stasis. This is because in fact its humoral form matters little; it is above all a converting substance, capable of reversing situations and states, and of extracting from objects their opposites - for instance, making a weak man strong or a silent one talkative. Hence its old alchemical heredity, its philosophical power to transmute and create ex nihilo.

Myth is a language that does not want to die: it wrests from the meanings which give it its sustenance an insidious, degraded survival, it provokes in them an artificial reprieve in which it settles comfortably, it turns them into speaking corpses.

Modern poetry always asserts itself as a murder of language, a kind of spatial, tangible analogue of silence. Poetry occupies a position which is the reverse of that of myth: myth is a semiological system which has the pretension of transcending itself into a factual system.

Statistically, myth is on the right … The oppressed is nothing, he has only one language, that of his emancipation; the oppressor is everything, his language is rich, multiform, supple, with all the possible degrees of dignity at its disposal: he has an exclusive right to meta-language.

Also, one very cool Barthes-ism:
“Operation Magarine” - the mystifying device by which political systems inoculate the public with “a touch of evil.” The people are relieved of the system’s greater evils by distraction via the admittance of a lesser evil. For example, perhaps the contemporary debate over stem cell research is a type of ‘operation margarine’: it distracts the public from the real evils of the medical establishment - the all consuming money-bureaucracy that robs control from doctors as well as patients, who are now considered “health consumers” rather than real human beings.


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