Those who long to live in 1911 choose that year – really any year from 1890 to 1914 would be equally ok – just because it’s safely in the middle of that long lingering last “decade” of the long 19th Century – which was also the first heroic decade of true modern radicalism – e.g. – the Wandervogel, Stirnerite anarchism, the IWW and Jim Larkin, Ascona, Sex Radicals & Nudists – etc. And still far removed from the future of total war & totalitarianism to come – a time of utopian revolutionary hope.
Also of course it’s the Age of Decadence – final year of the Manchu Dynasty – opium ten cents a bottle at any country store – the Paris of J. K. Huysmans. Gaslight. Also: the last gasp of true agrarianism in the USA – age of Populism, the Grange, Farmers Alliance – the last rural decade.
But there’s another reason we choose 1911 (or thereabouts) for our little Golden Age. It has to do with technology. In 1911 almost all the actual conveniences of modern tech already existed: the car, the telephone, the electric bulb, the phonograph… Now we Luddites do not approve of cars or any of these inventions, which all subtract from the quanta of Imagination available to individuals & to the Social. But we have to admit – they’re convenient. In their primitive forms they’re almost likable. The only real convenience invented since then – the electric refrigerator – can be replaced by an Amish-built propane refrigerator – OR – we could re-invent the ice-box. We hope someday to learn to sing again, but till then we can accept a few hand-cranked shellac records (but no radio or TV). Computers are NOT in any way part of a revived 1911 however. It’s time to wake up & smell the rot of technopathology.
The telephone easily corrodes social presence & reduces selves to disembodies “voices of the Unseen,” as the Arabs called the invention. But again the primitive version, with its “party lines” & snoopy local Operators, had a social aspect now completely leached out of the medium. If we must be thus haunted let it be via one of these elegant sinister objects – a real murder weapon.
Full play of Imagination becomes possible only without modern technology, because tech has become the heartless operation of Capital, which hates all forms of sharing. Let’s work for a secular Anabaptism, bold enough finally to refuse everything back to the steam engine – at least. Whereupon we may resume human life.