In having built an ideal society where the only motto is “have fun, have your picture taken and post yourself”, the experiences for which one pays a huge amount of money are just Dionysus’ deceptions to ensure his victory. Forasmuch as Dionysus does not ask for loyalty, he takes it. And whether you recognise it or not, the only currency Dionysus knows is madness.
The citizens of the United Arab Emirates might certainly be proud of the various results, albeit often of an economic-speculative nature, that their country has achieved in the last fifty years; proof of this are the tourists and “fortune seekers” who pour into their shopping centres from all over the world.
The local motto is “fail fast” whereby failure is considered a certain event and it is better that it happens before you have further invested in the order of energy, time, and needless to say, money.
Like any motto or saying, this one also provides, at a deeper level of interpretation, the keys to understanding the culture it comes from: a place where skyscrapers grow as fast as mushrooms after a rainstorm and disappear just as quickly if you experience difficulties of any nature.
However, when one decides to take a leap into the future, as Dubai has clearly done, some might suggest a brief but intense look at the past; for those who are habitual ‘look backers’, it is well known that history is circular and that Pluto, the chthonic god of Wealth, is by no means known to be a benign god.
We find ourselves, with a thousand-year leap, in mythical Greece, and it is here that Pluto is well-known and famous in Western culture. His nature comes so close to Hades’ underworld that he is considered his son (a debate that has never been settled) and it is for this reason that the purity of his first task is clouded: supervising the abundance of the harvest. He is a deity that we witness in the process of becoming, who possesses and supplies riches which are however, in this second stage, generic and no longer linked to the Earth. Pluto bears a curse imposed on him by Zeus, which makes him both thin and fat, young and old, and though he has wings, he is ultimately blind. He is blind because he can enrich the same person several times and forget others; so much so that without too much hesitation, we could claim the right to say he is an iniquitous god.
Therefore, voting for a god whose intervention is so dependent on fate and chance might seem ill-advised to say the least; but this is a kind of wisdom we have forgotten, in a world where the pursuit of economic conquest, even at its fiercest, is presented as the pivot around which our entire existence must revolve.
I will take Dubai as an example once more, not for personal aggrandisement but just to give the City in the Desert a fair record. Among the many objects one can buy in Dubai, I would like to consider the smallest, precisely because it is from simple things that the truth is manifested clearly: the magnets, souvenirs for tourists resembling the copies of golden bricks, are the very symbol of the omnipervasive presence of Pluto, of his victory over the city.
Among the other gods of Zeus, who reside in the underworld (Hades) and roam Dubai unknown to unsuspecting expats and locals alike, we surprisingly find Dionysus, a deity we all know from the ravages of his wanderings. Euphemisms aside, it is obvious that we know Dionysus as the deity of excess and of wine (and being Venetian, I know something about the matter) but it might be uncomfortable to imagine Bacchus, named so throughout the theological world of the Romans, where the pleasures of fermented grapes are considered sin.
Despite all this, he is there, lurking in the shadows and in the light, burning more than anywhere else, for nothing like a dissolute party can make us weak and insecure when it comes to the fundamental decisions of existence. In having built an ideal society where the only motto is “have fun, have your picture taken and post yourself”, the experiences for which one pays a huge amount of money are just Dionysus’ deceptions to ensure his victory. Forasmuch as Dionysus does not ask for loyalty, he takes it. In giving mankind his favourite drink, Dionysus carries within himself a deceptive duplicity that the Greek knew well. This duplicity, synchronised in the present, is the chance for some, as opposed to others, to live a Dionysian life and to promote it as a model to strive for, whether you intend to or not. And whether you recognise it or not, the only currency Dionysus knows is madness.
It is obvious that talking about places where democracy has just begun to emerge is difficult; there are many contradictions even where democracy is weary, but constantly struggling, and part of events. Understanding where one’s own role models stem from and the premise on which the societies we encounter are based, I hope this helps de-mythologise the pretence of modernity or futurism with which we are being indoctrinated; certainly, remaining generous in valuing what the desperation of many allows some – including all those who are reading and no doubt yours truly – the greatest possible comfort is to be all a little more careless.