Sonntag, 16. Oktober 2016

#MyDailyDylan (3): Why it is smart to buy a postcard of a hanging.

Before the birth of the - semiotically boring - prison system punishment was usually meant to mirror the crime: let's cut off the tongue of this liar, chop off the hands of the thieves, so everybody knows....(Well, everybody knows the dice are loaded..., L. Cohen).
Before the advent of mass media public capital punishment was staged in the capitals of the civilised (!)  world as a spectacular entertainment for the masses including school classes. Burning witches, heretics, etc. at a stake was meant to send a clear message to the people: "OBEY, or else...!"

Merchants were selling postcards of the hangings, the crucifixions, the quartering and the burnings and the spectators were supposed to watch in shock and awe and...buy these memorabilia. Not buying a postcard could be interpreted as a lèse majesty. A subject refusing to buy a postcard of the hanging could be the next suspect subject/object of torture: "You did't buy a postcard, you bastard, don't you love your government? Whose side are you on?" - or, to quote from Desolation Row 
"Praise be to Neros's Neptun, the Titanic sails at dawn, 
Everybody's shouting "Which side are you on?"

Dylan's confusing and fascinating poem Desolation Row starts with "They're selling postcards of the hanging" but - since Dylan is not a provocative scholar like Foucault but a provocative poet, - he continues: "They're painting passports brown".  Opposites attract and/or collide: while the authorities are selling postcards of the hanging, the anarchists are painting passports brown. What would you rather do?


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