Blindness and Seeing

In Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago’s novel Seeing there are two political parties. Both have a set rhetoric. Rhetoric that makes vacuous promises within the parameters defined by the ideology of their respective parties; parties similar to the conservatives and liberals of every democratic nation in the world.

On election day, in Seeing, no one shows up to vote, election officials at first believe it had something to do with the incessant rain. People are encouraged to come in and exercise their franchise and finally toward the end of the day they start trickling in and casting their ballots.

One assumes all is well at this point and the reader of the novel could never imagine what the author would have in store for them next. When the votes are counted, however, it turns out that about 83% of the ballots are blank. Everyone, with the exception of 17% of the people, cast a blank ballot!

There are no winners, no losers. It is rejection en masse of all politicians, a deep disenchantment with either side, an unprecedented case of extreme electoral disillusionment.

This transpires in the first few pages of the book and for those who haven’t read it yet, or intend to read it (something I highly recommend) I am not about to insert spoilers.

Seeing is the sequel to his novel Blindness which has been made into a movie, set to release in a few weeks. In Blindness we see a contagion of blindness. One after another, people start succumbing to a strange form of white blindness apparently spreading through contact.

The government responds with classic inaction, reacting by forcing an evacuation and setting up a quarantine facility somewhere at the outskirts of the city and then forgetting about those afflicted.

In the sequel, Seeing, sight has been restored, clearer than it had ever been before.

I read these novels a few years ago. Our wonderful rainbow colored economic bubble, in the United States, was inflating at a nice pace. it was even sprouting little bubbles that were drifting and swirling all around us in the forms of innovative derivations from traditional financial instruments.

The ideas presented in these novels didn’t appear oracular then. Even the associations between the first novel and the sequel seemed distant.

Now the bubbles have burst.

Two words crossed my line of vision today, “virally connected”. They brought forth an immediate association with Saramago’s two novels.

The contagion here is spreading and it isn’t restricted to the boundaries of the United States of America. Tainted milk isn’t just a Chinese problem and leveraged futures not just an American one.

The solution? Once again, hopelessly deadlocked politicians with a nebulous solution loosely termed a “bailout”. Who or what exactly is being bailed out is quite the mystery. We know there is a document that has grown from two pages to a whopping one hundred pages. No one knows what’s in the document. They aren’t familiar with the “letter of the document”. The POTUS himself is sending panic through the system, suggesting that if the “document” isn’t signed then it would cause widespread panic!

Strangely enough, it is an election year in the US. We have our conservatives suggesting they would conserve something no one cares about anymore and liberals promising to liberate us from the shackles of conservatism while the voters wonder what they’re doing in the middle with clowns to the left of them and jokers to the right. The candidates have admitted to being unfamiliar with what lurks within the “document”.

Blank ballots anyone?

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