COMPETITION


One last word on the country I have now departed from, retaining its bits sufficiently for it to not seem foreign and yet detached enough to remain almost indifferent to the details which have caused me such tremors of acute distress before÷ The lexicon is a diary, a travesty, a travel guide, and a travelogue, as my one-time almost-wife might or might not have written in another transitory stage, though not in Germany, on neutral grounds, in the mirror version of this same transcript (just turn it over, idiot, or hold it up to a mirror), so once again I fall into personal narration. You simply have to know that I am in Germany, don't you, that I feel as though I've completed a great task, a part of which, I am ashamed to admit, had to do with suffering a plane ride from New York to Dusseldorf. But the thin reality, whose limits I hope I am breaking at this very moment, demands also a mirror reflection of yourself as you wrote whatever blurb or inarticulate articulation you meant to confine (and thus possess) your subject in: I promised I would write these most personal and most subjective lines about what I thought happened to me in America on neutral soil. Or in the air. Another diary. But we have already discussed, or attempted to discuss, the implications of that post-modernist merging of the novel and the diary, each word, meanwhile, losing weight and meaning at geometric speeds through Microsoft.

The acute sense of despair I was referring to and now can only point out with a bit of shameful irony can best be summed up by a remark that was not even my own: "living in a merica does not make a better person out of you, in the moral sense." If we suspend temporarily the usually necessary relativist assumption that there is no moral progress ever, we can say, returning back to that same Marxist materialism with which we were tearing to bits other aspects of that poor country (a merica? what merica? a word derived, perhaps, from merit? Hold that thought÷) that the impulse necessary in order to make a consumer out of the person (and that is what that swelling meric organism demands in order to survive and flourish) is a primary drive of competition. The individual, no matter how artistically or morally detached he may think himself to be, will find himself in a constant state of anxiety concerning his very merit. His whole Nietzschian "will to truth", his whole Marxist supposed "freedom of production" will ultimately be centered around a few banal concerns that replace all ends: am I better than someone else? Do people see that I have achieved something in life? That I am better than a lot of people? He will admit them to himself, if he is intelligent, not without regret. If he is not, he will happily ignore them and take them for granted, just like the unnoticeably "normal" life process of "setting and achieving goals."


The prospect of making a lot of money disorganizes your soul. Your eyes flare. You picture yourself in context with others of lesser achievement for their age or formal qualification. You acceleratingly begin to feel that you are mastering the material world, making calculations that begin to replace your sexual fantasies. (Note I am again referring to my old awful allegory- of the economy not as a digestive system, but as a reproductive one.) The results of those calculations make you as giddy as if you had fallen in love. Any slight similarity in income or especially in occupation among your peers sets you off in bouts of insecurity. You post your own paintings on the wall not so much because you remember actually creating the work, but because you wish to show others that you are perhaps more talented than they, but most of all, a serious being. You find spontaneous idleness in some other people annoying and yet feel your ego swell in their presence. You cannot even picture or understand or fathom that a life can be fulfilling, interesting or even morally acceptable without a planned career in its center. A loser, after all, is everything, and so is a winner.

There, there! As I recovered out of another overwhelming and unavoidable stupor I was even more stupefied to perceive that those could not have been my words, as if my writing were slowly being taken over by another mind, another writer÷ Surely I knew first hand of those things which were described, I went to work each day, felt a wave of self-respect when, sitting dressed for travel at an airport, I encountered an elegantly polished and designed escalator, but its smoothness calling me by letting me know that it was entitled to me also, that I had actually earned÷ Knowing also that by my status and occupation I commanded and demanded respect, a respect which I would unavoidably begin to panic over the moment I encountered a potential rival (that was also part of the game, the stimulant, the oral reflex, as described by Pelevin, to strive to earn even more money, although you would never, of course, perceive it as such).


But to go as far as questioning that and admitting that out of context those ambitious anxieties could have possibly ceased seeming so universal, it never occurred to me, especially from such a mercilessly anthropological perspective. A work written by two persons. I was beginning to recognize a different style from that of my own: a pretentiously linguistic approach, and at the same time a cynically wry detachment that with its arrogance could not help testifying to the probable writer's excessive familiarity with Nabokov.


I was not one person. I could not have been.