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In Barry Bonds I See The Future of Poetry
The inevitability of Barry Bonds serves notice to all poets invested in the Humanist tradition: your tenure is doomed. Barry Bonds is not only the future of athletics, but he’s also emblematic of the future of poetry. More machine than man, chemically enhanced, Bonds is our first mainstream Posthuman public figure. Moving awkwardly, robot-like, festooned with machines — a barrage of cameras following his every move and enormous noise-canceling headphones to silence the jeers — he’s a media-made technologically-supplemented Frankenstein. We dismiss him a as fraud, but we know in our hearts that his way is the way of the future; regardless, we cheer his accomplishment. We disdain his Posthumanism, but we shall soon come to realize that we created the phenomenon of Barry Bonds. We demand our athletes to be super-human and super-human they shall be. Bonds just points to the fact that being human has ceased to be enough: we demand the precision and complexity of machines, in athletes, in politicians, in business and in the arts. And what we demand, we now have.
Barry Bonds has become the embodiment of Posthuman: “the
hypothetical future present being whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.” We react in kind: we deny Bonds his humanness (“He is either unfazed by negativity or internalizes every hostile remark,” one newsman recalls) and call him cold, unresponsive, selfish (“‘I take care of me,” Bonds tells reporters). Futurism made flesh, Barry Bonds is a lovechild of William S. Burroughs (“We ourselves are machines”) and Andy Warhol (“I want to be a machine”).
Bonds’ milestone signifies an end to the humanist discourse. In the classic sense of Baudrillard’s “The Precession of Simulacra,” the idea of Barry Bonds has long preceded the actual event, hence predetermining the outcome. And the outcome is obvious. Barry Bonds is being crucified for the inevitable; he is a martyr for the future. And in the future, just as our children will reminisce about when humans beings still played baseball, we shall reminisce about the time when human beings still wrote poetry for other humans.