Some books feel perpetually IMPORTANT. Others are published almost spontaneously like bubbles rising in an oil spill—or sparks flying off the facade of a burning building that try to warm our hearts. But the ones that feel important to me are the books that were written in the past but speak precisely to the now with some sort of special clairvoyance. The Life of Galileo, written by Bertolt Brecht, is such a book.
Brecht initially wrote Galileo as a response to the scientifically-entangled horrors of World War 2. Like most dramas by Brecht, Galileo spans years that are meant to give the actions playing out a sense of epic distance. But unlike the other protagonists Brecht has fashioned, titular character of Galileo does not come off as some sort of impossibly smelly piece of shit that we as the audience are meant to consider and learn from. Instead, Galileo reads as a tragic hero that, in the wake of the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord and FAKE NEWS, elicits a different type of consideration.
One scene, in which Galileo tries to convince a mathematician and philosopher of his discoveries about Jupiter's moons (the moons shatter, by spinning around the planet, any idea about the crystal sphere that holds Jupiter in place) by having them look through his telescope. They refuse. At one point the mathematician evokes an argument that will feel eerily familiar to today's readers.
MATHEMATICIAN: One might be tempted to answer that, if your tube shows something which cannot be there, it cannot be an entirely reliable tube, wouldn't you say?
The double meaning of tube (telescope, television) is palpable. The future proclamation of FAKE NEWS bubbles in the static background of the mathematician's argument.
At it's best, Galileo reads as a metaphorical examination of the times we inhabit. It's a reminder that truth was never a function of repeatable measurement. Truth has always been, and always will be, a function of concurrence and ideological context. Truth is an ideological currency. It's much easier to trade in pre-formed ideas, like the way Galileo sells "his" telescope to the Venetian Republic. But, also like Galileo, the truth is prone to shift in ways that potentially disrupt dominant orders, even orders built on FAKE NEWS, when the people that constitute those systems "look through it and instantly see an ordinary streetseller at the nearest corner, magnified to the power of seven and hawking an identical tube for twice nothing."
Perhaps, if my reading of Galileo has foretold of anything, FAKE NEWS will be the genie in a bottle unleashed on forces that would rather control the media than let it have its way.
Just as in the time of Galileo, the power to construct meaningful truths ultimately lies with the people that power has attempted to suppress or discredit. People just need to point their telescopes in the right direction.
10/10 spinning moons.