10 Nov 2016 5:13pm
‘The sky over Tenochtitlan darkens; flashes of lighting; then rain sweeping off the lake.
Down by the docks, Cortes and Montezuma take shelter in a doorway. “Dona Marina translated it; I have a copy,” says Cortes.
“When you smashed Blue Hummingbird with the crowbar-”
“I was rash. I admit it.”
“You may take the gold with you. All of it. My gift.”
“Your Highness is most kind.”
“Your ships are ready. My messengers say their sails are as many as the clouds over the water.”
“I cannot leave until all of the gold in Mexico, past, present and future, is stacked in the holds.”
“Impossible on the face of it.”
“I agree. Let us talk of something else.”’
-Donald Barthelme, Cortes and Montezuma
“One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation.”
J. M. Coetzee, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, 1979
The end of empire is always dreamlike, feverish (think Hitler in his bunker, Cortes and Montezuma), and this has been such a dreamlike year. I suppose it’s our empire that’s ending and by empire I mean - not exactly the middle class or enlightenment values, or civic society, or respect for other cultures, or truth, or morals, or neoliberalism, or people being paid for their work, or western privilege or entitlement or any one thing really—- but all of these and also something I can’t put my finger on, something falling away. Something we can no longer argue for convincingly, but have no alternative to to present. So the dreamlike months continue and we are trapped inside our feelings of unreality.