“Man tends to regard the order he lives in as natural. The houses he passes on the his way to work seem more like rocks rising out of the earth than like products of human hands. He considers the work he does in his office or factory as essential to the harmonious functioning of the world. … He respects and envies a minister of state or a bank director, and regards the possession of a considerable amount of money as the main guarantee of peace and security. He cannot believe that one day a rider may appear on a street he knows well, where cats sleep and children play… He is accustomed to satisfying those of his physiological needs which are considered private as discreetly as possible, without realizing that such a pattern of behavior is not common to all human societies. In a word, he behaves a little like Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, bustling about in a shack poised precariously on the edge of a cliff.
His first stroll along a street littered with glass from bomb-shattered windows shakes his fate in the ‘naturalness’ of his world. The wind scatters papers from hastily evacuated offices, papers labeled ‘Confidential’ or ‘Top Secret’ that evoke visions of safes, keys, conferences, couriers, and secretaries. Now the wind blows them through the street for anyone to read; yet no one does, for each man is more urgently concerned with finding a loaf of bread. Strangely enough, the world goes on even though the offices and secret files have lost all meaning. Further down the street, he stops before a house split in half by a bomb, the privacy of people’s homes—the family smells, the warmth of the beehive, life, the furniture preserving the memory of lies and hatreds—cut open to public view. … His walk takes him past a little boy poking a stick into a heap of smoking ruins and whistling a song about the great leader who will preserve the nation against all enemies. The song remains, but the leader of yesterday is already part of the extinct past.
He finds he acquires new habits quickly. Once, had he stumbled upon a corpse on the street, he would have called the police. A crowd would have gathered, and much talk and comment would have ensured. Now he must avoid the dark body lying in the gutter, and refrain from asking unnecessary questions. The man who fired the gun must have had his reasons…. ” ~C Milosz, The Captured Mind
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