ONE EARTH, FOUR OR FIVE WORLDS: Reflections on Contemporary History by Octavio Paz
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ONE EARTH, FOUR OR FIVE WORLDS: Reflections on Contemporary History

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Even since Paz published a number of these political essays in Mexican newspapers in 1980, he's become a traitor (even been hung in effigy) to most of the Latin-American left. What he's dared to state, though, won't come as much of a shock to US readers, more conversant with neo-liberal thinking. From a Latin intellectual and artist of Paz's stature, however, the work is iconoclastic. The shibboleth Paz finds most disturbing is contemporary ""nihilism"": "". . . a nihilism poles apart from that of Neitzche: we are not confronted with a critical negation of established values but with their dissolution in a passive indifference. We would be closer to the mark to call it hedonism: the temper of the nihilist is tragic; that of the hedonist, resigned."" Capitalist societies suffer from this (terrorism is an example), while Marxist ideology (which Paz calls Moloch to the West's Mammon) further petrifies into its degraded tyranny. The Third World is given, then, an unappetizing choice--and responds with yet a third bad manifestation--""the historical vengeance of particularism""--by which pre-modern states assert a basic Manicheanism, the line between politics and state religion very thin indeed. ""I know that revolt petrifies into revolutions or is transfigured into resurrections."" Thus Castro and Khomeni--birds of a feather. A gradualist, a democrat, an anti-ideologue, Paz declares himself forthrightly all three: ""We are children of time and time is hope."" In the context of their audience especially, the unpopularity and sanity of the messages here are singular.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1985
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich