Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dr Dawson a FIFTH COLUMN of low postmodernity , inside the Citadel of High Modernity?

The term "FIFTH COLUMN" is now more than 75 years old.

 It was first used in a radio address in 1936, by a right wing (Nationalist) general named Emilio Mola , during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, to describe his efforts to take left wing (Republican) Madrid .

 He unwisely claimed he had four visible columns of troops and tanks and planes advancing upon the capital but a secret hidden fifth column of sympathizers inside the city, awaiting to sow mayhem.

 Thousands of the semi-innocent were quickly murdered in Madrid, out of fear that Mola had been telling the truth (and not merely trying to evoke panic).

But already by the mid 1940s, 70 years ago, the phrase had lost it literal, real world, meaning because the people claiming to see fifth columnists had "cried wolf" once too often.

 It had been reduced to a metaphor, in fact a pejorative word, in the Cold War to semi-seriously describe others as hidden, secret communists or fascists.

Today, few are alive and active that can recall it's use as a word conveying real terror.

Maybe, then I can use it to describe the activities of Martin Henry Dawson's tiny team of DIY cum PUNK scientists inventing "GP" penicillin in that Citadel of High Modernity and Big Science, the Columbia University of the Manhattan Project.

He didn't see himself as a postmodernist because the term hadn't yet been invented : that was happening , about the same time as GP penicillin and the A-Bomb, in yet another part of Columbia University housing the social scientists Adorno and Horkheimer !

Dawson was a modest man (with much to be modest about) but he was also in his quietly defiant way, a true "Inside Agitator" (to mis-adapt that phrase much used by the Jesse Helms & Strom Thurmond generation of southern racists.

His small science , DIY Punk approach to inventing GP penicillin was in its way, as typical of what we today call low postmodernity as the Manhattan Project's bigness in creating the A-bomb was of High Modernity......

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