Right now a lot of television time is devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of JFK. Pundits and historians discuss its meaning and consequences for our way of life. Along with 9/11 it is one of two public events in my lifetime which have altered our national culture.
One writer of fiction, Don DeLillo, made remarks in a 2005 French interview which struck me:
November 22nd 1963 marked the real beginning of the 1960s. It was the beginning of a series of catastrophes: political assassinations, the war in Vietnam, the denial of Civil Rights and the revolts that occasioned, youth revolt in American cities, right up to Watergate. When I was starting out as a writer it seemed to me that a large part of the material you could find in my novels – this sense of fatality, of widespread suspicion, of mistrust – came from the assassination of JFK.
DeLillo's concept of his mission as a writer of novels is quite different from most. In the same interview he said:
Be that as it may, I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us. You know, in America and in western Europe we live in very wealthy democracies, we can do virtually anything we want, I'm able to write whatever I want to write. But I can't be part of this culture of simulation, in the sense of the culture's absorbing of everything. In doing that it neutralises anything dangerous, anything that might threaten the consumer society. In Cosmopolis Kinski says, "What a culture does is absorb and neutralise its adversaries". If you're a writer who, one way or another, comes to be seen as dangerous, you'll wake up one morning and discover your face on a coffee mug or a t-shirt and you'll have been neutralised. [my emphasis]
To my way of thinking this is quite a profound comment on recent history. Certainly it seems to be description of what religious culture does—absorb and neutralize its adversaries—and in a real sense that places atheists in the front ranks of the avant-garde.
One of the best things that has happened in my lifetime has been the National Archives creating an open and transparent presentation of Warren Commission reports and other documents related to the JFK-assassination. I also applaud the development of WikiLeaks for the sharing of information not otherwise available publicly, but perhaps of public or National interest. If used by writers and journalists carefully, WikiLeaks is a powerful tool that can inform and support change. It is a counterbalance to the "neutralization" Kinski speaks of, which is largely driven by special interests.
A recent example - more people before than ever before understand the powerful and corporate self-serving nature of the TransPacific Partnership, particularly after a portion of it was leaked to WikiLeaks.