Walter Benjamin: from "Try to Ensure that Everything in Life Has a Consequence", fragment written c. 1932, unpublished in the author's lifetime; translated by Rodney Livingstone in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings: Volume 2 (1927-1934), 1992
Roadside signs, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: photo by Laura Hertzfeld, 18 March 2009
Older Chinese man, emerging almost invisibly from Saturday evening street crowd, snuck up behind X and, discreetly looking away as he passed as if careful to avoid humiliating the frail dreadlockt mendicant, slipt two rolled up Jacksons into his paper cup, before vanishing back into the busy pedestrian flow.
United States Post Office, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: photo by Laura Hertzfeld, 18 March 2009
6.422 When an ethical law of the form, 'Thou shalt...' is laid down, one's first thought is, 'And what if I do not do it?' It is clear, however, that ethics has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the usual sense of the terms. So our question about the consequences of an action must be unimportant. -- At least those consequences should not be events. For there must be something right about the question we posed. There must indeed be some kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but they must reside in the action itself. (And it is also clear that the reward must be something pleasant and the punishment something unpleasant.)
Ludwig Wittgenstein: from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921, translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. MGuinness, 1961
Ralph Edwards with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, 1956: photo by NBC Burbank; screen capture by Oaktree b, 18 March 2009
The show was the brainchild of Ralph Edwards, who said he got the idea from the popular parlour-game Forfeits. The first audience-participation gameshow program of its kind, Truth or Consequences became an instant hit with listeners. Later it morphed into an even more successful network TV show.
The show seemed to strike a deep chord in the secret soul of the American citizen, who, it seemed on this evidence, faced with the option, would prefer not to tell the truth -- even if that decision might bring embarrassing, even personally humiliating consequences.
Cover of Action Comics # 127 (December 1948): art by Al Plastino; image by J Greb, 23 May 2007
Approaching the tenth anniversary of the program, in 1950, Ralph Edwards announced that the gala anniversary show, certain to command the rapt attention of a mass audience across the nation, would be hosted in any town in America that would change its name to Truth or Consequences.
MGR-1B Improved Honest John Surface-to-Surface Missile being launched during testing at White Sands Missile Test Range, 30 miles east of Truth or Consquences, New Mexico: US Army photo via White Sands Missile Range Museum (US ARMY)
I visited Truth or Consequences shortly after the town changed its name. I recall very little from that visit, but, were I to be telling the truth here, this post would probably be one of its unintended consequences.
This is all a matter of little consequence in any case. The truth is it was wicked hot, some tainted barbecue had entered the picture somewhere along the way and the wee person in the metaphysical compartment of the brain was still cowering back there in the tremulous transit of White Sands, where the road signs in the Test Range Zone had said, Do not stop, do not under any circumstances get out of your car, Be advised that disregarding this warning may have serious consequences.
Lightning strike over White Sands, east of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: photo by South Central New Mexico Council of Governments, 2010
"The genuineness of an expression cannot be proved; one has to feel it." -- Very well, -- but what does one go on to do with this recognition of genuineness? If someone says, "Voila ce que peut dire un coeur vraiment épris" -- and if he also brings someone else to the same mind, -- what are the further consequences? Or are there none, and does the game end with one person's relishing what another does not?
There are certainly consequences, but of a diffuse kind. Experience, that is varied observation, can inform us of them, and they too are incapable of general formulation; only in scattered cases can one arrive at a correct and fruitful judgment, establish a fruitful connexion. And the most general remarks yield at best what looks like the fragments of a system.
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein: from Philosophical Investigations, Part II, c. 1949, translated by G E. M. Anscombe, 1953
Runway, Northrup Range, Space Harbor at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico: photo by Sterling Brooks, 1980; image by 4311D, 9 December 2008
Sunset over White Sands National Monument, New Mexico: photo by Franzinho, 22 August 2009