Letters to the Editor

Modern times evoke ideas from ‘Lord of the Flies’

“The American writer today faces a cultural totalitarianism analogous to the political totalitarianism with which two generations of Eastern bloc writers had to contend” – from Jonathan Franzen, 1996. I would remove reference to “writers” and let his idea stand for most Americans.

Carrie Brownstein in a contemporary talk in Seattle on her career in general and “Portlandi” in particular observed that in past decades being a yuppie was considered a bad thing and we had a critique. Today everyone either is a yuppie or is aspiring to be one. If you hadn’t noticed or don’t find these ideas as worrisome as they are cogent, then you may be fully integrated.

Hannah Arendt discovered “the banality of evil” during her coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial, and our ordinary practice of trying, convicting, and sentencing the occasional extraordinary monster continues today. Decades before Arendt, Franz Kafka wrote books on the evil of banality, or complacency at least. Those who may have never read Kafka and never turned the spotlight on themselves without the soft filters of social acceptance might consider the reputation of his books as fictional horrors of social isolation. Another way to see them is as fictional horrors of social cohesion, and by no means far-fetched.

My favorite and most telling line from “The Lord of the Flies” is, what if the monster is us?

Ron Comer

Olympia

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