tisdag 5 maj 2009

The waiting-room mentality in Communist Eastern Europe

There would be an announcement: The train will arrive at 18.15 and depart at 18.20 – and it never did arrive at 18.15. Then came the next announcement: The train will arrive at 20.10. And so on. You went on sitting there in the waiting room, thinking, it’s bound to come at 20.15. That was the situation. Basically, a state of Messianic anticipation. There are constant announcements of the Messiah’s impending arrival, and you know perfectly well that he won’t be coming. And yet, somehow, it’s good to hear him announced all over again.

The point of this Messianic attitude, however, was not that hope was maintained, but since the Messiah did not arrive, people started to look around and take note of the inert materiality of their surroundings, in contrast to the West, where people engaged in frantic activity, do not even properly notice what is going on around them:

Because there was no acceleration in the culture, DDR citizens enjoyed more contact with the earth on which the waiting room was built; caught in this delay, they deeply experienced the idiosyncrasies of their world, all it’s topographical and historical details… while the delays in the East allowed people to accumulate experience, the imperative to travel forward destroyed any such potential in the West: if travel is a kind of death which renders the world banal, waiting engenders the accrual substance.
Ur "The Fragile Absolute (s 41-42) S. Zizek