On Narrative Listening, Part 7 – The World is Diktat

At the beginning of the nineteen nineties the television show ‘The Life and Times of Adolf Hitler’ was in his fortieth year. By that time I was almost emotionally resistant to the atrocities that were shown. I started to develop another interest, which was mainly caused by the signs of beautiful weather. Scenes of rural life, close-ups of young women, their hair moved by the wind, a country side in full bloom; it all made me wonder how time would have continued without the intervention of Adolf and his likes. A logical conclusion would have been that the Nazis had stolen the time that belonged to my parents and so many other persons, and in the end also to me. I didn’t concentrate on blaming Adolf, continued to watch his television show, and concentrated on wandering around in and consequently describing a landscape that didn’t exist.

Recently I encountered the expression ‘stolen time’ again. I cannot remember the name of the article anymore. Written by an Englishman, and with a lot of mention of Marxist thinkers and the internet, the writer stated that the neo-liberals had stolen our time, that we should get it back. People who had to work night and day, without ever having a day off, the eighties and the explosion of the DIY-creativity amongst arty youth around 1980 and an excessive use of internet were the key topics. Topics, from which a biographical notion could be detected: “I spend way too much time on the internet and working with my computer doesn’t give the same satisfaction as in the old DIY-days of Xerox and scissors.”

To avoid neo-liberals steal your time is a bit easier then trying to imagine what time could have looked like over the last seventy years if it hadn’t been so rudely interrupted by the Nazis. “What would the world have looked like, if they had won the war,” I was asked recently while watching an episode of ‘The Life and Times of Adolf Hitler’ now in its sixtieth year, on German Television. “Probably the same,” I answered, “ a bit more blond, I guess,” After a short pause, I said: “Probably they would have invented the internet first.”

In that particular episode I heard an eye-witness talk about something I had intuited for some time already. This intuition was probably inspired by the way politicians and other television guests behaved in front of a camera. They all behave in the same way. They all behave in the same way, because they have coaches, who tell them how to talk, what to say, how to pose. They practice, study their gestures on a screen. It is a kind of Potemkin village-ish move, this creation of a cosmetic/idiomatic façade.

Whenever Adolf was cheered by the masses (while I looked in awe at his beautiful shiny black Mercedes Cabrio), I thought there was something funny about it. Funny, not in the sense of hahaha, but funny as in fraudulent. The eye-witness confirmed my suspicion as she told how, on the occasion of Mussolini’s visit to Berlin, members of SA and SS and Adolf’s party were recruited to line the streets, stretch their arms and shout ‘pizza for our time!’. A few blocks away life was ordinary as ever.

I encountered the expression ‘stolen time’ again in an article which story was set in another part of the world. Also the context was a different one. But it was ‘internet’ she referred to. Which makes me think. Both the Englishman and the lady belonged to a generation who, like me, blew their noses in cotton handkerchiefs when they grew up. Once we were adults with minds of our own, one of the books that descended from the heavens of literature was Proust’s ‘À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.’ (I will not spoil this title with the English translation of it.) Having read it or not, the notion of ‘Temps Perdu’ and its quest for it must have set the fantasy on fire of someone who was surrounded by the aftermaths of a devastating war. To me it did. To me the title was the seal of a book I never read. It was also a portal to a late-ninetieth century world which I only knew from paintings and photographs. This (imagined) crystal hazy world disappeared in the trenches of the first world war. Proust made us leap over Adolf’s war into a time where we could shelter from it. No wonder hallucinatory drugs became so popular.

The cotton handkerchief hasn’t disappeared, but hardly anyone uses it. Though blowing your nose on the street in a big handkerchief with ***fill in your favourite face or logo*** on it, could become the next hip thing, it is the throwawaybility of things that has added a certain lightness and playfulness to these times. The things we buy seem to have an increased futility quality about them. Here today, gone tomorrow. The sense of lost or stolen time doesn’t relate to time spend on the internet, because we all remember well how much time we have spend hidden behind a news paper, a magazine or a book. It relates to the notion of time spent waiting. The sense of futility is directly connected to the sense of change. The persuasion of the internet and the computer lies in its quality to make every decision, product, application, new generation look as if they build up to a decisive step towards a near future. We, ancestral nose-blowers are surrounded by utopians of a different kind, who dream and wait simultaneously while working or hanging around on their computer, and thus leap over a threatening world crises into a future just as hazy and crystal as our late-nineteenth century.

The internetteers live, or should I say trans-live in a world that is in constant movement, a world where decisions, innovations or inventions are accepted or rejected. It brings to mind the philosophy of ‘The New Frontier,’ and the years immediately after the Russian Revolution as can be read in the books by Konstantin Paustovski. The dynamics of acceptance and rejection are at the core of an article my fellow diktat-orian Harold Schellinx referred to when he wrote ‘Diktat in/outside the Manufactured Normalcy Field.’

The writer who coined the term, spend some thoughts not on the future, but on the process that makes the future turn into the present. Basically he says that inventions are turned into a commodity, so that we, who use it, or have to move in it, experience it without any friction with or fear of the new. As an example he mentions ‘flying in an airplane.’ Flying is not normal to us normals. At this point I disagree, because we, as human species must have started a process of desire and identification from the moment that we threw our first stone, bone or piece of wood. Flying has always been on our mind. If the discourse on what is normal and what is not normal in our life is brought to the very essentials of all our commodities, then I can only think of fire, house and something to wear in winter time as really normal. Everything else is a dream or a wish come true. To say it in big neon: “Our Civilisation is The Biggest Dream on Earth.”

Another thing the writer says is that we experience nausea when we are confronted with something (from the future) that has not yet entered our manufactured normalcy field. On this point I agree and disagree, by referring to the dream come true world we live in. It is hard to leave this world. People get anxious (or get a panic attack) when they have to travel; some people even get sick when travelling. They have to move from a known normality into an unknown normality. This movement is in fact time travelling, brings an almost physical sensation of moving into the future. But this future is someone else’s every day business as usual present.

The notion of the Manufactured Normalcy Field is a highly attractive one, because it defines so well a position outside of it. It is also a very inspiring moment when the outside gets noticed and recognised for motives yet unknown. And hell yes, isn’t that a reaction that everyone would like to provoke when making his art. It is quite normal that Harold is excited by this idea, or rather by this particular moment. Turmoil and the shock of the new, the excitement of things being accepted or rejected are important themes in his book ‘Ultra.’ Here he describes how the post punk world in the Netherlands was one hyperactive laboratory.

He recognized it as a way to define the indefinable of Diktat’s ongoing performance where the borders of music and non-music are continuously blurred, where waves upon waves of fragmentisised cassette recordings confuse or defuse the listener, and the melodic or a-melodic lines of the double bass player interrupt any possible interpretation or commodisation. There is no story without sound, there is no sound without a story. You can read this line also as: there is no second without a sound, there is no second without a story.

Harold’s piece on Diktat originally ended with four orders: Buy! Learn! Follow! Read! These orders define social behaviour. Three of them can be applied to the moment when the individual is confronted with something new. The orders also define political systems. Buy: a society built on free market and consumerism. Learn: A society built on the Enlightenment. Follow: a society built on ideals or ideology. All these three orders, or possible ways of moulding your own existence, will lead you to a status quo where you will have found a balance between your own ideas and emotions and the impulses from society. At that moment you will have found the peace of mind and Read!

Diktat will continuously stir up and destabilise that moment. But we won’t keep you from buying, learning, following or reading Diktat. In fact with your help we, and consequently you could continue to visit those outside regions and tell everything about it.


4 responses to “On Narrative Listening, Part 7 – The World is Diktat

  1. Just some random remarks springing to mind while reading (you can see the kanguru in my head, jumping)
    Stolen time or time lost, there is no difference, it is a feeling that occurs or is experienced within oneself, you can’t blame it on anyone or anything, you can let it pass, you can dwell in the moment of your own thoughts and that can be relaxing if you let go of the outer world (don’t need no drugs there)
    Why do television presenters all behave in the same way, not because all their teachers train them in the same way, they have minds of their own, remember, so it’s a common factor that makes them decide or choose, herd-like behavior … can give one a false sense of security, why do I feel that I have to fight it (people who never read a book but go see the musical that’s made from it …)
    ‘Once we were adults with minds of our own’ … just because we are not capable of understanding the way in which they express themselves, doesn’t mean babies have no minds of their own.
    Meanwhile, all I’m thinking is ‘what great kissing lips’ (l.o.l.) greetz and c u again sometime, bye !


  2. Nice one, Rinus.


  3. 1. that’s one of the hottest ideas i’ve heard in a long time (good for my cheek bones)
    2. don’t tell me you’re a freeking management advisor as well and that you read “the hospitality jungle” (not good for my cheek bones)
    love !