Hell on Earth

It’s been a while since the General has pronounced any orders. He’s going to come back to the stage with a literary-historical indictment upon his daily commute.

Led through hell by Virgil in The Inferno, Dante sees an endless procession of the damned being led into hell (Canto III, verses 55-57):

Such a long train of spirits
I should ne’er Have thought
that death so many had despoil’d

 

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Seven hundred years later, T.S. Eliot looked out his window in London and saw this same scene on the London bridge (The Wasteland):

        Unreal City,
                  Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
                  A crowd flowed over London bridge, so many,
                  I had not thought death had undone so many

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Rather than take the hint, mankind has commodified such damning pilgrimage. We’ve streamlined the process into freeways, a telling contemporary appropriation of free. Each person receives his or her own personal death-mobile that excretes “brown fog;” a sizable portion of our economy, energy, and time is put into maintaing, avoiding, and responding to the multifarious mechanics and combustion of the enterprise. Cars and their ephemera are one of the leading causes of literal death. But we call these ‘accidents’–as if, each time we rubberneck, we think, “wow, whoops, didn’t see that coming.’ But, at least my Prius is good for the environment (i.e., not as bad), and I do my best to not rubberneck, to keep my eyes trained on the road ahead rather than the steaming wreckage around me that so easily distracts from the paradise we’re headed to.

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