Volume 1, Number 2 (July 2004)
Author: Dr. Gerry Coulter
Review of: Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories IV:1995-2000. New York: Verso, 2003. Translated by Chris Turner.
Cool Memories IV begins with the back-ground noise to the universe: the silent laughter of flowers, forest, sky, and stars as a distant echo of the real world. It ends with the world as a work of evil, and a site of scandal. Here victims are urged to not let vengeance erase the horror of massacres and the perfect couple are told that what disappears in one reappears in the other. Modernity recedes as an anachronistic disaster in which we are all hostages to the global network, and news coverage is a speculation on credulity and stupidity sponsored by deterrent advertising. It is a book that speaks very well for itself, so I will let it in the main.
For Baudrillard the destructive grasp of the human species, judged by our most recent centuries, and an image strategy that leaves us disgusted with images, is the worst judgement we could face. The globe resists globalization and the universe resists the universal: humanity survives as a species only because it has no final purpose. Baudrillard describes our culture as one of self inflicted technical servitude unto extermination. The West, ruthless murderer of language and culture also perpetrates a suicide: before the west attempted to destroy the world, it destroyed itself first. Absolute discrimination where five-thousand dead Chinese are not worth ten western lives. But if birds come from dinosaurs, Baudrillard asks: what similar fabulous transformation might follow us?
Still forgetting Foucault, Baudrillard finds confinement in the mobility of the network. The network is virtual enemy number one and it is imposed on everyone by Amobile-phone-man@. Having just returned from a year in France where every street corner scene now includes someone yelling into a cell phone, I applauded when Baudrillard described mobile-phone-man as the one who assumes a social role previously reserved for alcoholics and madmen. Remembering Foucault, Baudrillard ponders gays demanding legal bourgeois married status. For Baudrillard, current events are an incurable illness and virtual reality has opened up a fourth dimension as foreign to us as language is to animals.
In Cool Memories IV football (the World Cup) now bears the harsh burden for mystifying the masses, stealing this power of national cohesion from the political sphere. School is finished, awaiting transformation into a giant web cafe. Baudrillard says a shroud of asphalt and concrete are poured over the earth by the creature who buried mutual human closeness in shrouds of information and communication. The masses are up to their old strategy in Cool Memories IV – a world where the mediocre have turned the tables, electing politicians to govern us badly. The movie True Crime: execution by lethal injection… an interactive peepshow. Baudrillard says that good rages with impunity, never called upon to explain itself. He wonders if clones will no more want to be reminded they came from us, than we wanted Darwin to tell us we descended from apes. Islam is powerless against the zero deaths strategy of the west and they make up for this simply with the sacrifice of their lives.
Returning to an old theme we find women in Cool Memories IV sacrificing seduction as men once did on the alter of power. Baudrillard replies to earlier critics saying that to present women as innocent victims of seduction is an insult to femininity itself. Cool Memories IV is sublime: the death of a friend makes the world less liveable but the death is a stroke of cleverness that makes the world more enigmatic. It is also prescient: the fourth world war, the only truly global war, rages on with globalization the primary stake. A world of such corporate uncertainty that we need insurance on our life insurance, as parents will soon need protection from children who will surely sue for our having brought them into this world. Baudrillard asks that in our perversity and propensity for evil, let us be equal to our tragic imbecility. Reality exists, but we need not believe in it, the view of the ultimate agnostic. Truth is born of illusion and the real is born of lack of imagination.
Cool Memories IV is the intellectual diary of the man who told us in the first Cool Memories that Aone must be simultaneously bursting with life and totally unreal”.1 This book does not lack imagination and like the previous three collections of such memories, it is an essential read for those wishing to experience the full force of the absolute singularity that is Baudrillard. In his books Baudrillard disappears enigmatically, but nowhere else with the poetic beauty of his Cool Memories. The cover photo by Richard Misrach could be one of Baudrillard’s and it appears like a quotation. So it should: we quote because we admire those who managed to say what we wanted to say better than we could.
About the Author:
Dr. Gerry Coulter is the founder and editor of IJBS.
1 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories (1980-1985). New York: Verso, 1990:193.