Real strenuous business

“For fantasy is also a harsh mistress and includes its own ironclad reality principle. You cannot satisfactorily daydream about living forever without first settling the practical matter of how those who do not live forever are going to be handled: fantasy demands a certain realism in order to gain even provisional or ephemeral libidinal an aesthetic credit, and this is indeed the deeper truth-mechanism of narrative itself (and the source of the adage about trusting the tale rather than the teller and his own personal ideology). However a story may originate in private wish fulfillment, it must end up disguising its private subjectivity and repairing all the non-functioning machinery, building a village behind the Potemkin facade, dealing with the sheerly logical contradictions the unconscious has left behind it in its haste — in short, shifting the attention of the aesthetic spectator from the gratification of the wish to its far less appealing preconditions in the Real, and thereby becoming in the process transformed from the expression of an ideology to its implicit critique.

In the case of longevity or immortality, I would not want this critique to be taken in any moralizing sense. I am indeed astonished and appalled at the degree of residual moralism still inherent in this topic. It surely has some relationship to the traditional anti-Utopian motif of ultimate boredom I referred to, although the scarcely veiled motivation of this is political and thereby a little less complicated than the insistence of so many writers on the subject that it would be evil to live forever, that true human existence requires a consent to mortality, if only to make room for our children’s children; that hubris and egotism are to be denounced as prime elements in this particular fantasy about the supreme private property, not merely of having a self but of having it live forever. All that may be so, but I would be very embarrassed to argue it this way, and there is certainly an aroma of ressentiment or sour grapes to be detected in this extraordinary puritanism, which may simply reflect the greater facility accorded to writers by simple religious and ethical paradigms, as opposed to the more strenuous business of imagining the social itself.” — Fredric Jameson, “Longevity as Class Struggle” from Archaeologies of the Future

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