When I think of Nero, the image of Peter Ustinov, lyre at the ready, while Rome burns, comes to mind. When I think of Elon Musk, too. His masked face makes a great impression on me, as much or more than that of Berlusconi trying to blink carefully so as not to ruin his lifting. It seems that, from one moment to another, this Musk is going to lose the rubber bands that support his face, and we are going to discover what is behind him: nobody. Gives for a horror story.
We see him on TV making funny faces and he’s even more juju. “He is the richest man in the world”, they tell us, “he has bought Twitter for a price greater than its value” (of course, the shares immediately rose), “but he does not have a house”, the poor thing, “massively lays off the employees”, and declares himself an absolutist of freedom. He takes oxymoron. It should not be forgotten that from the country of sacrosanct freedom of expression comes the fever of cancellation (which, since we are with the literary figures, I will remember that it is a euphemism of the term censorship). Elon Musk just asked for the vote for the Republicans.
There is among the figures with power that generate uneasiness in us another prototype, perhaps a little outdated, but no less disturbing. They don’t prance or raise their eyebrows; rather, they are characterized by their hieraticism, their beveled skin and the undaunted look
Like him, as if from the same mold, we can list a lot of powerful histrionics, tense, with exorbitant features, cartoons of themselves: Trump, the aforementioned Berlusconi, Bolsonaro, the hairless Boris Johnson… photos in a strident gesture –photographs say more about the editorial line and the honesty of a newspaper than its opinion forums-, is that they look like that all the time. I say more: this is the facade that these powerful want to offer to world public opinion. There is something extremely infantilized and narcissistic about them, which makes them even more fearsome, because they are capricious and arbitrary. So far, it is mainly about male figures, although some female figures ready to play the trick of screaming and masquerade are already beginning to appear in the landscape, back in the ultramontane part. I have also met powerful people who play the fool in the Spanish version, to walk around the house (Trumpist politicians, TV stars, pedantons on the cloth, commissioners, businessmen, department heads…). Valle-Inclán was a beast portraying them as grotesque, and Goya, let alone.
There is, among the figures with power that generate uneasiness in us, another prototype that may be a bit outdated, but no less disturbing. They don’t caper or raise their eyebrows; Rather, they are characterized by their hieratic, beveled skin and undaunted gaze. I think of Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos. Bill Gates was at least smiling. There is in these figures of great power – the economic one is no less powerful than the political one and it is less democratic – something mechanical and icy. Perhaps it is power itself that worries us when we do not find a clear counterweight nearby. And because “all sadness –I quote Deleuze- is the effect of a power over me”.
With this scenario, the feeling of having passed the screen is normal, even before the pandemic; to be already fully living an authentic dystopia
These are the bigwigs, or at least the visible ones, of the world in which we live. Meanwhile, the climate summit in Egypt is filled with empty chairs. The leaders of the most polluting countries look the other way and companies whiten green (greenwashing they call the facelift that is done to pretend that they are attending to the climatic emergency). The day before yesterday, the news program opened with Elon Musk making faces and firing staff, and then with the two activists glued to the frame of some goyas. Both images, confronted in their meaning and intention, and the very different impact that one and the other generate in public opinion, portray the most immediate contemporaneity. We did not exactly come out well in said portrait.
With this scenario, the feeling of having passed the screen is normal, even before the pandemic; of already living fully a true dystopia. It is not by chance that conspiracy and millenarian explanations, denial reactions, and even affirmationist postulates that assure that everything is as it seems (as dirty a lie as that of maintaining that nothing is what it is) are even emerging more than ever. Nor is it by chance that all this comes out caricatured in movies of the type Don’t look up one of the last –and not exactly the best- of the blockbuster apocalyptic genre. What does seem evident, in view of the interests of the histriones of power and the drift of the times, is that the world political and economic system and order, as we had conceived it since the Second World War , with its more or less stable democracies in strategic parts of the planet and its globalization looking eternal and sustainable, begins to crack while Nero – long live Peter Ustinov! – plays the lyre of his burning empire.