The centre cannot hold, the perfect crime

Yeats, in the aftermath of WWI, famously wrote: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;  /Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. 70 years later Elias Canetti, reflecting on postmodern world, came with a rather grim thought:

As of a certain point, history was no longer real. Without noticing it, all mankind suddenly left reality: everything happening since then was supposedly not true; but we supposedly didn’t notice. Our task would now be to find that point, and as long as we didn’t have it, we would be forced to abide in our present destruction.”

Jean Baudrillard put it as follows:

“We live as if inside Borges’s fable of the map and the territory; in this story, nothing is left but pieces of the map scattered throughout the empty space of the territory. Except that we must turn the tale upside down: today there is nothing left but a map (the virtual abstraction of the territory), and on this map, some fragments of the real are still floating and drifting. The human species could be dedicating itself to a sort of automatic writing of the world, to an automated and operationalized virtual reality, where human beings as such have no reason for existing anymore. Human subjectivity becomes a set of useless functions, as useless as sexuality is to clones. More generally, all traditional functions—the critical, the political, the sexual, the social functions—become useless in a virtual world. Or they survive only in simulation, like body-building in a disincarnated culture, as mock functions or alibis.

Let us be clear about this: if the Real is disappearing, it is not because of a lack of it—on the contrary, there is too much of it. It is the excess of reality that puts an end to reality, just as the excess of information puts an end to information, or the excess of communication puts an end to communication.

By shifting to a virtual world, we go beyond alienation, into a state of radical deprivation of the Other, or indeed of any otherness, alterity, or negativity. We move into a world where everything that exists only as idea, dream, fantasy, utopia will be eradicated because it will immediately be realized, operationalized. Nothing will survive as an idea or a concept. You will not even have time enough to imagine. Events, real events, will not even have time to take place. Everything will be preceded by its virtual realization. We are dealing with an attempt to construct an entirely positive world, a perfect world, expurgated of every illusion, of every sort of evil and negativity, exempt from death itself. This pure, absolute reality, this unconditional realization of the world—this is what I call the Perfect Crime.”