Do you ever feel that the things you used to believe in are disintegrating before your very eyes? That belief systems turn out to be fake, or flawed? Do you ever feel as if you are living in a world where people put blind faith into ideas that are bound to disappoint them?
Of course you do. That’s why this issue of Transmissions investigates belief systems that deserve to come under scrutiny: white feminism, for example, and charismatic religion, or our supposed eternal victories over fascism.
Whenever I think of blind faith I think of two things: early Christianity and late-stage fascism. Both combined an absence of reliable information with an absolute belief in a system (a system that usually revolved around a single man), and the refusal to accept other sources of truth. It is tempting to see us return to that space, a space ruled by overpowering belief systems. It can hard not to be overwhelmed, not to retreat into apathy. But then I think of how, in late antiquity, some would-be-saints chose to retreat from the world in order to cultivate their intellectual and spiritual purity. I think of Paulinus of Nola, a 4th century poet-politician-bishop, who, having retreated from the world, wrote to a friend, ‘your wilderness is not a desert, but a place set apart, untouched by the world’s darkness and avoided by the waiting demons.’ And I think of how tempting that is, how privileged, and how wrong. Turns out that you can only avoid the world’s darkness if you’re a rich man with a massive Roman estate.
In the absence of that, we’ll keep our eyes open. As Olja Savičević writes in her brilliant piece on Croatia, ‘The world is self-satisfied, turns its head, sees with one eye closed and the other half-open. But when we close that half-open eye, too, it will be the end, the beginning of darkness.’
Elsewhere, Isha Karki reflects on how difficult it is not to sink into apathy when confronted with the ongoing catastrophe of UK politics – from milkshake discourse to May’s tears.
Claudia Durastanti elegantly dispatches with the idea of the ‘ghost of fascism’ that supposedly haunts Italy, and suggest that we call them zombies instead, zombies that have overtaken our lives: ‘a zombie is not dead, but it’s not exactly alive either. Unless we feed it morsels of our skin and conscience.’
And finally, we spoke to Argentinian author Selva Almada about religion, charisma, and power, all topics at the heart of her novel The Wind that Lays Waste.
This issue of Transmissions reports to you live from Italy, the UK, Argentina and Croatia. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
– Theodora Danek, editor, PEN Transmissions