Do you like the fog? Damp, grey vapours that make you feel like you’re groping around in the insides of a cloud? Probably not. Yet people crave internal fogginess, which a range of smoking devices are more than happy to help with.
In the Upper Austrian lake region where I grew up, it is both beautiful and creepy and foggy. It spends the whole year in a smoky grey soup. In addition to the natural fog, there’s also industrial fog and smoke from household fires. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s even fog from cooking sauerkraut. The Upper Austrians eat sauerkraut with everything – well, they do draw the line at putting it in their coffee or sprinkling it on cake. The world is also covered in a smoke screen.
Capitalism is marching onwards and is expanding just like the universe, and no one knows when it came into being.
God has been explained to death and modern physics has taken away all certainty – we can’t even rely on space and time anymore. Global public debt amounts to €66 billion, meaning that every person is born already €8,250 in the red. But that doesn’t matter because the money will never be paid back anyway. We fiends of consumerism take on credit at the expense of tomorrow. Capitalism is marching onwards and is expanding just like the universe, and no one knows when it came into being. The same applies to the internet: in theory, all knowledge is available, but even that’s uncertain. So anyone looking for a path through the fog will be in desperate need of clear explanations.
Conspiracy theories are celebrating a comeback, it’s cool for adolescents to change gender, and all the others are woke, vegan or feel like they’re morally above everyone else in the world.
Anything that blurs clarity and makes it uncertain is instantly condemned. Since the pandemic, no matter whether it’s about war or a paedophile actor, any balancing argument is shouted down as whataboutism or trivialisation. Currently, however, people’s purpose is to live, and their main obligation is to respect life rather than directing it. As a writer, I have always tried to understand people, to make life stories understandable in order to comprehend how someone became the way they are. That’s not how it works anymore. Anyone that expresses even the slightest doubt about the measures implemented against coronavirus is an anti-vaxxer, someone spreading misinformation, a parasite to society, and anyone quietly singing the praises of pacifism is defamed as a Putin supporter. And you’ll regret it if you sympathise with the perpetrators. Then it’s all over.
The world wants clarity, certainty, and anything that blurs that is condemned. The result is an opinions dictatorship where any nuance falls by the wayside.
People like getting intoxicated because when our insides are all foggy, everything appears clear. There’s a lot of talk about work-life balance, but there should also be such a thing as stoned-clear head balance. Everything comes down to balance. Sometimes the fog is beautiful, often it’s not worth being able to see clearly. Now and then, it’s necessary to not allow yourself to be unsettled, then at other times it’s beneficial to differentiate. But no matter whether it’s clarity or diffusity, the magic word is tolerance. I also like fog, and not just because I grew up in it.
FRANZOBEL is an Austrian author. He has published numerous plays, prose and poetry. His plays have been shown in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Denmark, France, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Italy, Russia and the USA, among others.
His great historical adventure novel “Das Floß der Medusa” (Zsolnay-Verlag) was awarded the Bavarian Book Prize 2017 and was shortlisted for the German Book Prize 2017.