Click Here to listen to a radio interview with the author of the book No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead that explores the utopian ideals that led to the success of The Grateful Dead.
Click Here to listen to a radio interview with the author of the book No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead that explores the utopian ideals that led to the success of The Grateful Dead.
Click here to check out this NYTimes article about a British TV Show about technology gone wrong.
1. “She’s not at all submissive or attentive. She just wanted to get close to me, to play, and to make love.”
2. “I love her freeness, even when it hurts.”
3. “To be gentle and patient, to care for the riches of the mind, to preside in wisdom and secrecy while the storm rages without — it will all be very pleasantly simple for you, and you will doubtless find great happiness.”
4. “And then, in the midst of the still-encompassing dream, he felt himself master of Shangri–La.”
The song begins with a full minute of lyric-less music. It starts with a simple melody with few layers of instruments then at about 0:33 seconds the music dives into a heavy bass, multi-layered, amplified segment which, I feel, helps amplify the emotions of the listener, and bring the listener into a more dream-like state. This whole minute of introduction is foreshadowing the lyrics and meaning of the song.
When she was just a girl, she expected the world.
But it flew away from her reach.
So she ran away in her sleep and dreamed of
Para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise
Every time she closed her eyes.
When she was just a girl, she expected the world
But it flew away from her reach and the bullets catch in her teeth
Life goes on, it gets so heavy, the wheel breaks the butterfly,
Every tear a waterfall
In the night, the stormy night she’ll close her eyes
In the night, the stormy night, away she’d fly
And dream of para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise
She’d dream of para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise
And so lying underneath those stormy skies
She’d say, “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, I know the sun must set to rise”
This could be para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise
This could be para-para-paradise
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
This could be para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise
This could be para-para-paradise
Oh oh oh oh oh oh, oh, oh
This could be para-para-paradise, para-para-paradise
This could be para-para-paradise
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I think the song is saying that as a child, even though we were young, we were not afraid to dream big. Being naive gave us the strength to believe in our ability to live the best life. But as we grew up, life becomes more monotonous, routine-like and overwhelming–Life was compared to a heavy wheel that breaks the butterfly. The butterfly that left its cocoon was supposably allowed to fly freely and lightly (like the young girl who thought she would be able to have the world when she grew up), but life is not like as she expected. Adult life is more routine-like and responsibilities become the center of her life. As long as there is force at any one point of the wheel, the wheel will continue to spin. The only way to stop the wheel is to just disregard the wheel totally. There’s a sense of utopia through renunciation here because she gets to her utopia upon leaving reality and entering her imaginations (the possibility of a better future). Later, when she was “lying underneath those stormy skies” she also reminded herself that “the sun must set to rise”. This hinted that she still believes that her misfortune will cease eventually. Through the change of lyrics from “and dream of paradise” to “This COULD be paradise” the song hints that there’s a chance that this misfortune that she was facing now was the one that will bring her to “paradise”. The end of the song sounds like a girl’s humming portraying the innocence and naiveness of a child, prompting the listener to think about their own inner happy child.
To me, the song was also a form or paradise. The repetition of “every time she close her eyes” makes me think about how I would close my eyes and just listen to music. It’s an instant mini-utopia that I can easily go to.
Hope ya’ll enjoy the song!
Lord of the Flies: William Golding
1. “Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”
2. “We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?”
Lost Horizons: James Hilton
1. “Laziness in doing stupid things can be a great virtue”
2. “The will of God or the lunacy of man — it seemed to him that you could take your choice, if you wanted a good enough reason for most things. Or, alternatively (and he thought of it as he contemplated the small orderliness of the cabin against the window background of such frantic natural scenery), the will of man and the lunacy of God. It must be satisfying to be quite certain which way to look at it.”
The Giver: Lois Lowry
1.“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
2. “…now he saw the familiar wide river beside the path differently. He saw all of the light and color and history it contained and carried in its slow – moving water; and he knew that there was an Elsewhere from which it came, and an Elsewhere to which it was going”
1. “But what matters most is the aspiration to live in balance with nature, “walk lightly on the land,” treat the earth as a mother.”
1) “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms ”
–Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
2) “I know there isn’t no beast — not with claws and all that, I mean– but I know there isn’t no fear, either.”
Ralph moved restlessly.
“Unless we get frightened of people”
— Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
3) “If I could put it into a very few words, dear sir, I should say that our prevalent belief is in moderation. We inculcate the virtue of avoiding excesses of all kinds– even including, if you pardon the paradox, excess of virtue itself.
— Lost Horizon, by James Hilton
We always heard there was a strange society out there. In the woods far beyond where any of my friends or I had ever gone, there lay a society referred to by us as just “the place”. We didn’t think it was real or it existed; we just liked to clown around about it and chat about what it could be like to live there- in such an isolated society. I surely didn’t think this place existed. I mean no one really did. The stories had always been around but there was no proof and without proof it was like it didn’t exist. I would soon learn that it did exist and I would learn the name of “the place” was called Our Great Society or OGS. The way I got there still feels so coincidental, as if I just stumbled there by mistake on the same day I decided my life sucked and I was going to leave home and try to start a new life for myself. Deep down I know it was God’s way of showing me that my life was to be cherished and that I should be grateful for the life I had. Too bad my life would never be the same and too bad I had no one to confide in about what I witnessed.
My name is Nam Enola and this is my account of Wednesday October 5th – Friday October 7th in the year 2101. I doubt anyone will ever read this or believe it for that matter but I have to get this out of my mind and I have to write it all down. I don’t want to forget what happened to me and if I somehow convince myself that it was just all a dream at least I will have these pages as a reminder. If you happen to find these words and you happen to read them please forgive me if this account seems out of this world. Perhaps it is out of this world; nonetheless it is as true as the sun is hot. I have no purpose or reason to distort the facts or truth as I am writing this for my own purposes. You have merely stumbled onto the confessions of a lonely soul.
It was 75 degrees and we were upset. Usually during this time of year my two best friends and I would have gone to the pool after classes let out, but the weather had been cooler than usual for October and we decided instead to go our separate ways and try to get some homework done. I left them and hurried towards my house, which was only a few blocks away from our school. Just as I began to hurry along I got a brain wave message from my mom alerting me of the dishes in the sink I left after breakfast. Gosh, even at 19 she was still on my case all the time. I was in college and doing what she wanted me to and even that wasn’t enough. I slowed to a complete stop and made a decision.
I wasn’t going home! I wanted a change in my life and I wanted to be liberated from my parents and their rules. Life was boring, and I needed a change. I wanted to do something fun and be someone important in the process. Yeah. I could see it now, from nothing to something overnight. I could be a success story. Ok alright, I would actually settle for just heading to my cousin’s house and figuring out a plan from there. I decided to take the long route through the woods so I could take time to think about my big decision. It seemed rash but I was really fed up with the things going on in my life. Classes were rough, my boyfriend was acting like a jerk, and my parents were always on my back.
I realized I must’ve wandered a little further than I wanted to because I was in a strange place in the woods I never seen. I was frustrated at now being lost. I chuckled and joked to myself it was just my luck to get off track and end up in “that place”. No one actually had ever been there before or even ever seen pictures but there were stories and tales of a secret society or world here in the woods but no one believed it and no one cared to talk about for more than a few minutes joking around. I quickly got rid of the thought and looked for a way out of the woods, it was getting dark and I was getting tired.
I must have walked for miles without making any real progress. I tired of walking so I decided to just sit there in hopes I would be rescued by police or the Park Rangers who did a lot of traveling through these woods. I found a tree with a small rock underneath and sat there. How ironic this was. I was looking desperately to escape and instead I ended up lost in the damn woods all alone. I wanted to scream and laugh at my new found circumstance because it was just all too much for me. It was then I noticed them watching me.
I knew immediately I was not about to be rescued by the threesome that was just watching me and I knew also they didn’t come from the same place as I did. They looked human enough but there was an oddness to the two woman and man that I saw. Something seemed very off about them, perhaps they were the living dead. I had no idea but I was scared and thought I would piss my pants when they started approaching me. It was then I noticed the dead look in their eyes.
The man reached me first and said, “We will not hurt you, but the others will if they find you here. You must come with us until we can get you out of here safely!”
When I am nervous I can’t stop talking. This situation was no different, and I frantically responded to the man, “Who are you? Where are we, and who is it that will hurt me? I can’t go with you guys I need to get back home so I can”
“ah ah ah…” the older woman of the two said “you mustn’t rush your thoughts out like that.”
The younger woman then stated very matter of fact-ly “all of your questions will be answered.”
“We are part of an underground sect in OGS known as the moderates. You must have stumbled through one of the transportation portals that leads from out there where you live to here we live in OGS. We live our lives moderately and cherish human life so we must live our lives in constant hiding and fear. I’m Senterion, these two are Anastasi” he said pointing to the younger “and this here is Felinia”. I didn’t know that I could trust them but I had no choice. I didn’t know where I was and I was also drawn to them.
Felinia said at that point “In Our Great Society, where we come from we are wanted by the Professors who monitor the daily activities of the people in OGS.” At this I laughed. I couldn’t help to think of my Mother and her monitoring ways. Senterion yelled at me “how dare you laugh, the people where we live have meaningless lives and don’t know anything more than the garbage they are spoon fed by the government known as the Sanitation.” It was weird even his yell was no more than what I would consider a loud whisper. They said we were in a hurry but yet they seemed to be moving at a quite normal pace to me. I would even say we were walking slow at times even stopping while they explain to me the rules where they come from.
I was shocked by what I heard. Anastasi rarely spoke but what she did tell me was terrifying. She originally came from a district known as District Sadism where they were responsible for “rehabilitating” the citizens caught not following the rules. What she described to me there was like nothing I ever heard of before, people actually allowed to live out their sick thoughts on the citizens who had broken the law. It sounded all too absurd. It was Senterion who helped her get out of the District and into the underground sect where they practiced moderation, appreciated life and spent the majority of their time trying to stay out of harms way. Unlike the other citizens who were involved in extreme activities for a portion of their day, and lived separately in 5 Districts that were separated based on specific attributes. The citizens where the mysterious trio was from were also employed in laborious, grueling, and boring jobs during the day and this dulled life in the OGS community.
I couldn’t think strait because although nothing was happening too quickly, my mind couldn’t wrap around what they were telling me. I had to see it for myself. If what these people were saying was true I needed to see it and I needed to go there. I decided from this point on I was no longer taking this group for their word, everything was too strange for me.
“I don’t believe you and I want proof of what you’re telling me!” I stood there and waited for any of them to respond to me and give me answers. They slowly looked around at each other. Senterion spoke first,
“You do not understand. If we take you any further than this we cannot guarantee you a safe return. Our people die every single day in the thousands. Freak accidents are common in the District Adrenaline. There the people are crazed and obsessed with living life to the extreme even more so than in the other Districts. It is not a safe place for you and I am afraid you will just have to take my word for it.”
“You know Nam, he is right”, said Felinia. “It is much better if we try to get you back where you came from! Where we live things are sad and depressing but most people don’t realize it. There is no trust and even citizens are against other citizens, reporting one another to the Professors. We are even convinced they are feeding the corpses of the dead citizens to the people.”
Anastasi interrupted Felinia saying, “She must come with us, it is the only way. She could be the savior that we need. Once she witnesses what life is like in Our Great Society she will understand.” I didn’t like how instead of speaking to me like the others did she turned her back to me and spoke to only Senterion and Felinia. I mean I still could hear her word for word but it was as if I was not there to her.
As if she read my mind Anastasi turned and said in a hushed voice, “I will help you get out safely but you can only stay for one day. We will go in the morning when people are busy with their jobs, that is when it will be easiest to keep you safe. The night hours are vicious and we will start the journey back then. For now we must rest.”
She made the decision and it was final. We walked around a bit more then came up on a small cave. I realized this would be our resting point. Once inside I realized this cave was not ordinary. There were blankets and a lantern inside along with other camping necessities it was as if they prepared this place for us at some earlier point. The night was smooth after that. We spent some time exchanging stories about our respective lives and I asked questions about OGS. The place seemed like a horrible and crazy place to live and no matter how much they answered my questions I thought they were holding a lot back. Especially when I asked about their families.
Overnight I couldn’t sleep and I was extremely anxious to get on the move the next morning. I sat up quietly as to not disturb the others and I realized Felinia was still sitting up. I pointed to the opening of the cave as if to signal, let’s talk outside. She got up and I took this as a sign that she was prepared to go outside and speak with me. When we got outside we could finally speak. I spoke first. “Why don’t you guys run away from there if it’s that bad?” She looked at me and said. “We are not like you. We cannot conform to the outside world. We are not human, but mere human replica.”
I gasped. I knew they seemed different, but clones. Could it really be? This was getting weirder the more I learned. “Is that why you guys didn’t answer my questions about your family? You all don’t have families. I get it now.” I didn’t get it, but I didn’t know what else to say. She told me more details about OGS but I tuned her out for most of it. Instead I thought about my own life and what I had at home. I knew my mom and dad were at home and must be worried but I prayed they were all right. Secretly I prayed I would be alright.
Morning came and it was time to head out. As we walked I noticed the woods slowly opening up. There seemed to be less brush up ahead and I was anxious because I could feel us getting closer and further into OGS. I asked how much longer to go after what I thought was about an hour of continuous walking. Senterion responded by kindly smiling at me. I took that as we were close. I knew I was right because at that moment I could see in the distance smog and smoke being released into the sky- I knew this was one of the factory buildings where the citizens did their work.
“Ok let’s go on to the Moderate hide out and from there we will create a plan on how to maximize the time Nam will have here today, let’s try to show her as much as possible”, said Felinia excitedly. I could tell that by now she grew very fond of me and was happy to have made my acquaintance, especially after we talked last night. “Great idea. Let’s head there now.” Responded Senterion. Anastasi led the way.
As we entered deeper into Our Great Society I began to get nervous. What if their government noticed I was here and try to keep me. Even worst what if the group I was with just wanted to get me here so they could hurt me. Why did I come here? Was my life that boring at home that I need to escape to the hell I was walking into? As we walked I noticed all of the buildings were huge. Felinia explained that the citizens lived in big buildings to accommodate the population which was exceedingly large.
The very next thing that struck out to me was a group of men walking wearing identical clothing I knew from the conversations I had with Senterion, Felinia, and Anastasi that these men were a part of the group known as Professors. They monitored the citizens and would punish any caught not following the laws set forth in the constitution of OGS. I knew this meant trouble right away because we abruptly changed course and started walking the opposite way. Anastasi began to speak. “I must distract them so you guys can try to escape. I know they saw us and will try to capture us all. Since I am the only living person who has ever escaped The District Sadism and joined the Moderates, I am the most wanted member in our underground sect. They will be pleased to catch me. You three will be able to escape by running through to the district of Knowledge. From there if you can get to the District Adrenaline you should be able to escape!”
I felt really bad about the plan but I could do nothing but run with the others; especially when Anastasi made her location known by running out in front of the Professors screaming in a beast-like manner, grabbing their attention away from the screens they were using to call backup. She toppled one of the professors in one swift motion and sent his body flying onto the ground. I didn’t think she could be so violent, I mean she was such an older woman for crying out loud, but after what I learned about the District where she lived most of her life I was not that surprised. I didn’t see any more because soon we were too far ahead and I didn’t want to keep looking back.
We made our made our way through this district which I realized was District Authority. Immediately I saw that there were numerous people in these uniforms walking around the town and frantically answering their communicators. The news was spreading that we were loose in the town. I hoped we could get out of this district fast and into one of the other districts that would be easier to blend in to. Felinia was now leading us and she entered a large complex building that housed the citizens in this district. We ran up 12 flights of stairs and finally came to a stop on the landing. I was out of breath and crying by this point, but the tears mixed with the sweat made it so no one knew my true fear. I knew they were clearly in much better shape than me because they seemed to be faring much better after our long run. I now think back and realize their amazing physical abilities probably came from the fact that they were clones who probably had the best genes.
Felinia spoke and told us there was a route in this building we could use to get through to one of the other districts. I didn’t know how that would help us but Senterion looked relieved by this news so I assumed this was indeed good news. I then thought about Anastasi and asked the two what would likely happen to her. “Well if she doesn’t escape during the time they transport her back to the District of Sadism she will be killed. It is unfortunate but we must not dwell about it, people here die in the masses daily and death is a huge part of our society. However, it is not something we were trained to care or concern ourselves with so it is no big deal.” I was appalled at the way Felinia spoke about the life of people and especially since this was her friend we were talking about. “You should have more respect for life than that.” I said and left it at that. I was beginning to see that this was not like home for me and everything I ever thought was true was a lie here.
“No time to dwell on that now Nam, we must get a move on and we have to get going.” Felinia said and then started down the hall we entered. At the end of the hall I could see nothing but a wall. Nothing that indicated we would be able to get out of this building. Everything in my heart told me we would never get out, but their lack of fear helped me to stay strong. We quickly reached the end of the hall and Felinia tapped on the wall three times and TADA like magic there was an opening. When we entered there was a small landing and a gaping hole in the ground with some sort of slide reaching down towards the bottom. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen with all these rusted shards sticking out of the sides of the slide, and a very narrow space for getting down. The drop down could be anywhere from 15 stories high to 30 for all I knew because I could barely see down and as far as I could tell there was no bottom.
Senterion spoke first. “Ok, here’s the plan. I will go down first and Nam can follow. Felinia you go after her so that way she is protected by us in the front and back. Once we get down we should be not far from the District of Knowledge. We will be fairly safe there and we will be able to ease our way out of the district into the District of Adrenaline where we will be able to lead you safely to your home.” Senterion looked at me while he said the last sentence. I trusted them but the plan seemed like a long shot and I only hoped it worked. I nodded to show my agreement.
Senterion slowly lowered himself onto the slide and nudge his weight forward allowing him to accelerate down into the darkness. I rushed behind and quickly did the same thing I could no longer see him down below and I didn’t want to be too far behind him in case something happened to me and I needed protection. I was scared but somehow I finessed my way down and soon I was plunging deep into the earth I could smell the sewage mixed with mud as we got further within. There was a stale taste to the air and I could hardly breathe going down. Suddenly after about 15 minutes of going down the slide and it turned sharply and I was thrown out onto the ground. I screamed out of panic!
“Aaaaaaaggggh..ugh” Senterion quickly was behind me holding my mouth closed. I gasped for breath. HE quietly said to me “hush or we will be caught. We are fairly safe but we are still outlaws in this community and we must not do anything that will alert people to our location.” Speaking of our location where the hell were we? Books, artwork, computers, gaming devices, machines, and all types of other crap I can’t even name were everywhere. Thrown around in the streets and piled high on the corners. Out of nowhere appeared Felinia. Senterion directed us to walk north, towards a large building that could have been a University of some sort. I asked “are we in the District Knowledge?” Felinia responded to me only by nodding. They seemed rather reluctant to speak as we walked. I just couldn’t help but notice the few people we did see were so engaged in a book or a computer monitor that they didn’t even notice us. No one ever looked up from what they were doing and everyone we saw was doing something. It was late. I was tired after all we had been through that day and I knew we had to keep moving but I wanted to rest.
“Do you guys think it is ok to rest for a bit? We haven’t eaten or taken a break all day and I am worn out.” I said with a little whimper in my voice hoping that would help. Felinia looked as if she understood my pain, while Senterion clearly was not up for my complaining. “I’m going to give you something ok? It is similar to a vitamin and it will help with your energy and also stop the hunger,” Senterion said to me. Felinia just looked at Senterion saying nothing although the look on her face said she had a lot to say about what he just said. “Will it hurt me?” I asked naively. “No, but there may be side effects,” he answered. “Like what? Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting? I don’t want to feel like that while I’m here, just forget it,” I replied frantically. Now I was worried about what could happen to me. I needed something to help me with my tiredness and my hunger but I didn’t want their mystery drugs.
Felinia laughed. “Oh no. Nothing like that at all. The side effects are quite minimal actually.” She said to me quickly. “It might actually be what you need to help you feel better. Would you like to take one of the vitamins?” I told her to just give it to me instead of wasting our time talking about it so we could get a move on. I was anxious to get through this district into the next one so I could finally be on my way home. Although home was starting to seem further and further away. Senterion handed me what looked to be an aspirin. I gladly grabbed it and swallowed it using the saliva in my mouth as water. Just as I swallowed my stomach growled and I hoped the effects would be quick as I was getting hungrier and weaker by the second. As I wondered why the others didn’t seem to get hungry after our long journey I noticed my eyes closing almost involuntarily. I tried to keep them open but I couldn’t. My knees gave out and I could feel myself fall back into Felinia’s arms.
When I gained consciousness I was at the entrance of the woods near my cousin’s house. I don’t know how I got there and I don’t know what happened to Senterion or Felinia. My clothes were filthy and my hair was matted. My body was sore but there was no visible bruising. I could hardly remember what had taken place so I sat there until I had some of my memory back about what had happened to me. How did we ever escape and where were my two companions now? What about the portal to OGS? Was it still there? These were the first questions to pop into my head as I replayed the events over in my mind.
I slowly stood up and walked away from the woods towards the street. The second I got out of the woods my brain wave communicator went off like crazy. I must of have over a thousand missed communications. The last one I ever opened was the one from my mom about the dishes in the sink. I was thankful to be back into a world I was so familiar with but somehow I was sad that I never got to see more of Our Great Society. I wanted to figure out what happened to my friends and I worried about Anastasi. What ever happened to her? What ever happened to me? These are questions I would forever grapple with. From that point forward, I knew nothing in my life would be the same.
By: Domanique Borges
Here’s a quote from the introduction to the 1972 Viking Press edition of Yevgeney Zamyatin’s We by translator Mirra Ginsburg. We is one of those works in which understanding the era and location in which it was written is crucial to noticing some of the underlying themes presented by the author, as well as his intentions in writing the story. Zamyatin’s vision of an awesome totalitarian state is a response to the great political and social unrest he witnessed during the Russian Revolution and as a writer who had his works banned by the communist Soviet Party in the early twentieth century. This excerpt is a very powerful description of just how difficult it was for these artists, whom history has immortalized as the great Russian authors of the revolutionary period, to practice their craft. They had little little outside support and their government tried to punish them for their work, but they persevered in order to keep their country’s culture alive.
In Russia, Zamyatin (no longer a Bolshevik) threw himself with tremendous energy into the great cultural and artistic upsurge that followed the revolution. This was a period of fantastic contradictions. Russia lay in ruins after years of war, revolution, and continuing civil strife. Her economic life had all but wholly broken down. Transportation, communication, the food supply, the contact between city and village were in total disarray. Yet in the midst of hunger and cold, a band of dedicated spirits took it upon themselves not only to save the country’s culture but also to present to the hitherto deprived masses the cultural heritage of the entire world… Studios were organized where young writers were taught the elements of their craft by such writers, poets, and translators as Zamyatin, Gumilyov, Lozinsky, Chukovsky, and others. Both teachers and students often had to cross the frozen city on foot and sit, chilled and hungry, in unheated rooms, dressed in old coats, sweaters, mufflers, but totally absorbed in the brilliant discussions of literature.
The next one is from the entertaining satirist Aristophanes’ Ecclesiazusae. I had previously read his comedy Lysistrata and loved its vulgar humor; it may have been the modern day translation, but I did not expect a Greek playwright to be so crude. The excerpt of Ecclasiazusae in our Utopia Reader is interesting because it’s a commentary on men who speak of their imaginative grand utopias in which everybody may live together happily and all societal issues will be somehow solved. In the text, Praxagora casually and ambiguously shoots down all of Blepyrus’ inquires into how exactly this dream utopia may work and properly function, stubbornly clinging to the notion that his simplistic ideas have the unfailing power to benefit greater society.
Blepyrus. Our clothes, what of them?
Praxagora. You have plenty in store, when these are worn out, we will weave you some more.
BL. Just one other thing. If an action they bring, what funds will be mine for discharging the fine? You won’t pay it out of the stores, I opine.
PR. A fine to be paid when such an action they bring! Why bless you, our people won’t know such a thing as an action.
BL. No actions! I feel a misgiving. Pray, what are “our people” to do for a living?
Chremes. You are right: there are many will rue it.
PR. No doubt. But what can one then bring as an action about?
BL. There are reasons in plenty; I’ll just mention one. If a debtor won’t pay you, pray what’s to be done?
PR. If a debtor won’t pay! Nay, but tell me, my friend, how the creditor came by the money to lend? All money, I thought, to the stores had been brought. I’ve got a suspicion, I say it with grief, your creditor’s surely a bit of a thief.
CHR. Now that is an answer acute and befitting.
BL. But what if a man should be fined for committing some common assault, when elated with wine; pray what are his means for discharging the fine? I have posed you, I think.
PR. Why, his victuals and drink will be stopped by command for awhile; and I guess that he will not again in a hurry transgress, when he pays with his stomach.
BL. Will thieves be unknown?
PR. Why, how should they steal what is partly their own?
BL. No chance then to meet at night in the street some highwayman coming our cloaks to abstract?
PR. No, not if you’re sleeping at home; nor, in fact, though you choose to go out. That trade, why pursue it? There’s plenty for all; but suppose him do it, Don’t fight and resist him; what need of a pother? You can go into the stores, and they’ll give you another.
BL. Shall we gambling forsake?
PR. Why, what could you stake?
BL. But what is the style of our living to be?
PR. One common to all, independent and free, all bars and partitions forever undone, all private establishments fused into one.
In Brave New World, Bernard Marx’s inability to assimilate to emotion-distancing social norms, the Savage’s horror at the coldness of modern day society, and Helmholtz’ intelligence and constant hunger for knowledge all culminate in a meeting with the Controller Mustapha Mond himself. The powerful leader patiently explains to them all how the rules of their society have come about out of what he claims to be strict necessity and decades of careful social reform. This excerpt from their discussion is somewhat a contradiction, as Mustapha Mond speaks of stability and the complete removal of any form of social instability, but the society actually owes it’s very existence to an artificial distancing of men and women of differing classes.
“… our world is not the same as Othello’s world. You can’t make flivvers without steel–and you can’t make tragedies without social instability. The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or father; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma…”
The Savage was silent for a little. “All the same,” he insisted obstinately, “Othello’s good, Othello’s better than those feelies.”
“Of course it is,” the Controller agreed. “But that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead.”
“And that,” put in the Director sententiously, “that is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny.” – Brave New World
“The first quarter-century of your life was doubtless lived under the cloud of being too young for things, while the last quarter-century would normally be shadowed by the still darker cloud of being too old for them; and between those two clouds, what small and narrow sunlight illuminates a human lifetime!” – Lost Horizon
“It was a revelation, a liberation. Physicists, mathematicians, astronomers, logicians, biologists, all were here at the University, and they came to him or he went to them, and they talked, and new worlds were born of their talking. It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.” – The Dispossessed
Damn, It’s a long way down.
I wonder how Mr. Tamazaki made this cliff; it must have taken him weeks for him to program this. What a genius he is. He has got to be one of the most talented Pixels in the programming field. I wonder if I could ever become as talented a Pixel as he is. I wonder if he learned architectural programming all by himself or he was taught by another Pixel at iLand University. But it’s tough to believe that there’s a Pixel on iLand who would be good enough to teach Tamazaki programming. He’s got every single detail about this cliff just right. The brick-red tint of the stones, the dimensions of the path on this cliff, even the slight humidity feels good. Actually it feels familiar. As if I’ve been to this cliff before. I feel slightly sad about this familiarity, I don’t know why.
“Next!” shouted Ms. Lauren.
Get ready, Kai. It’s your turn to jump.
* * *
A pop-up shows: “Eva Huffington is online now”
“How was Cliff Diving class at Recall Cliff? I saw photos on Facebook the other day! It looked like so much fun!”
“Yeah it was amazing. I had such an adrenaline rush when I jumped and also I got to see Mr. Tamazaki’s creation!”
“Isn’t he amazing? I heard he programmed the waters below the cliff too!”
“Yeah, I heard. Everything from that cliff felt so familiar.”
“Wasn’t it your first time there?”
“Yeah, but I felt like I may have been to a similar cliff before… Maybe a long time ago”
“What? Similar? What do you mean similar? Recall Cliff was an original design by Mr. Tamazaki. I wouldn’t think he hacked someone else’s designs. He would never do that.”
“I didn’t mean that. I mean it feels like I’ve been on the same cliff before.”
“What? No Way. I know for a fact that Recall Point is 100% Mr. Tamazaki’s creation. It was featured on The Architectural Programmer’s Journal and named the Top 100 Most Amazing Creations of iLand. Recall Point was definitely a unique design; I don’t think you’ll find the same cliff anywhere else in iLand. “
“No, Eva… Never mind. It’s not important. Hey I’m working on my Python XXII class assignment, catch you later in at Nancy’s Noodles?”
It’s a good thing I had an excuse to leave the conversation. I wonder what would’ve happened if Eva asked further. She would probably bombard me with more questions, and eventually post something on her Facebook wall. People will start talking about me. The Department of Security and Privacy will definitely suspect something of me. I will probably be sent to the Troubleshoot Center, and be tested. Then, I will probably be charged for Subconscious Dishonesty Level 1.5, and I will probably have to be forced to log off for twenty minutes.
What a nightmare.
A pop-up shows: “Eva has left the conversation”
* * *
Eva was sitting at the corner of the bar with Thierry and Nasri. It seemed like Nasri and Thierry were in a serious discussion. I can’t put together what their discussion was about.
“I don’t think it’s possible. He’s probably working on a new project and wants to be closed away from the public”, Nasri said.
“But Tamazaki has never done that before. I bet it has something to do with the recent news”, argued Thierry.
I walked towards the group, and sat down.
“Hi what would you like to order?” the waiter asked.
“I would like a Chicken Noodle Soup, a Zinc pill, and a Vitamin C pill”
“That’s all. How long would it take?”
“I’ll send you your pills in a minute, but 5 minutes for the 3-D printer to make your Chicken Noodle Soup and deliver to your chair”.
“Okay, thank you so much.”
The waiter walked away. Thierry and Nasri were still in a heated discussion.
“I’ve follow his activities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, AND The iLanders Magazine. He has never gone offline on all those social media platforms for this long”, said Thierry.
“So, what are you guys talking about?
“Kai, did you notice anything when you were at Recall Cliff?”
Oh no. Did Eva tell them about how I said the Recall Cliff looked like “something I’ve seen before”? Did they though that Recall cliff looks familiar too?
“No, not anything in particular. Just that it was really well programmed. Tamazaki’s work is really something”.
“Tamazaki has gone offline for almost 5 months now. His fans are worried and his investors angry. His likes on all of his social media platforms have fallen sharply from 1.3 million to 1.1million within these 5 months, his investors have been losing BitCoins”, Thierry said.
“Also, recently, there’s been a trending conspiracy theory that Tamazaki is offline because he has either became a rogue hacker, or that he has left iLand”, says Eva.
“He could be working on a new project you know”, said Nasri.
The volume on the TV turns up. A journalist reports something on iNews.
“Recall Cliff has totally disappeared, and only an empty land is left. Investigators are suggesting that the disappearance have only occurred two days ago.”
A couple in cliff diving attire is being interviewed by the journalist.
“We came here on vacation and wanted to look at the magnificent Recall Cliff that Mr. Tamazaki created. We thought we were at the wrong place but we checked our GPS and it said we were at the exact co-ordinates. The entire cliff was just not there.”
“SEE! Something is awry. Tamazaki must be…”
Thierry, Eva and Nasri continued to discuss about Tamazaki. My food arrived to my seat, and I ate it in silence.
* * *
As I walked back home, I heard more passersbies talking about Tamazaki. It seemed like the news of Tamazaki’s disappearance was spreading, and the news will continue to trend for a while.
I walked past the financial district, and I saw a group of Pixels crowding at the Trading Market Center where a huge screen showed the rise and fall of socialites. Tamazaki’s name was in red with a downward triangle next to his name. It seemed like his ratings are going down by the second. I saw another group of Pixels across the street with banners that read “#FindTamazaki” and “PrayForTamazaki”. They had a booth with iTablets for Pixals to post a prayer on God’s Facebook page or tweet out a prayer on their Twitter accounts. I wonder God’s comment be.
Tamazaki, the missing of Recall Cliff, and the fact that the cliff was missing kept circling in my mind. Why would Tamazaki be offline for that long? Was Tamazaki the one who deleted Recall cliff? What would happen to the trading market if Tamazaki’s ratings continue to fall? Tamazaki’s life long reputation would just go to waste. So many Pixels in iLand tried to build their reputation in order to tap into the trading market. They pursued whatever talents they had in order to become successful; others who did not have any talent at all remained admirers of socialites. Tamazaki was very talented in architectural programming, which was a booming field. But also, he was one of the few who had the personality and charisma to match his talents. And yet, it seems like he is throwing it all away.
A guy on a hover board speed past me, then I realized I had walked past my apartment. Seemed like I was at the border of the city. A holographic board read:
Vivanda – 22 kilopixels ahead
Januvy Bay – 33 kilopixels ahead
Recall Cliff – 36 kilopixels ahead
If I import my hovercraft from my inventory, I can reach Recall Cliff in about 30 minutes.
* * *
I arrived at Recall Cliff after 32 minutes, and I saw nothing. The cliff was gone as reported by iNews. I walked around and examined the bare land. There were no rocks, no waves; just a quiet and still shore. I liked the peacefulness, so I sat there staring at the setting sun. I tried to remember where had I seen the vanished cliff before. I don’t remember any image vividly; I just felt a mild sadness.
As I left what used to be Recall Cliff, I felt something unusual on the ground; a moist patch of sand on the ground. As I examine it, it seems like the data of the ground is disintegrating; the sand quickly turns into mud that pulls my feet slightly. I pull my leg away, but the more I try, the more I am being pulled into the mud. Half of my body is now immersed in the mud, then my chest, my neck, and my eyes.
I see nothing now.
* * *
When I opened my eyes, a group of Pixels was crowding around me. I had never seen any of these Pixels before. There were old, and young, male and female. I looked closely to my far right, and I see a figure approaching me. It is Mr. Tamazaki.
“Don’t panic.” He said.
“We are not here to harm you.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re technically at the bottom of where Recall Cliff was.”
“Why am I here?”
“Because you still remember about where you came from.”
Everyone became silent, and so did I.
Where we ‘came from’ was never a topic that is openly discussed in iLand. Everyone indulged himself or herself with all the perfection that iLand provided us with, and after some time, we became so occupied with what iLand had to offer, that we stopped thinking about where we came from. Most people even forgot where they came from because where they came from was so chaotic that it brought up painful memories. It was just much happier for Pixels to focus on iLand.
“Do you remember about Velcrum”, Tamazaki asked me.
I don’t remember anything about Velcrum, but I felt a slight sense of anger in me. I don’t know why. I shook my head.
“Of course you don’t remember about Velcrum yet. iLand had become such a huge distraction for Pixels that you will need some time to remember your past vividly. But it won’t be difficult because you are some of the few Pixels who still remembered something from your past. That’s why the mud pulled you down. I programmed the ground to detect the motions and sensations of any Pixel who walked above it, and when a Pixel is detected to think/feel about anything other than iLand, the mud pulls the Pixel down.
“What are you planning to do with all these Pixels?”
“We’re going to rebel against iLand, and save our people.”
“Yes, our people; people who were our real family and friends; people that we saw with our eyes, talked to with our voices, touched with out hands, listened with our ears.”
“And what or who are we saving them from?”
“Velcrum. Velcrum is the organization that has been abusing our people from our past, and they are responsible for all the chaos that happened. We found out that iLand has been programming for Velcrum’s military machines, devices, tanks, jets, armory, everything. “
“But I don’t know anyone from this “past” that you say. I am here just because of a mere coincidence. I don’t want to be a part of this rebellion. I am just a college student in iLand, nothing else. “ I argued.
Tamazaki stops. He walks closer to where I am, and examines my face.
“When you were at Recall Cliff, you felt like you’ve been there before. That is because you have been somewhere similar to Recall Cliff. I built Recall Cliff based on the cliff back where we came from. It was a way for me to remember about my past.”
He paused, and he looked around the room, and then continued.
“You are here in this room not only because of your own choices, but also every choice made by your real family, your real friends, and the countless generations of people before that. Their lives are the reason for your being. How did you think you ended up here in iLand? You thought you made it here in iLand because of some tests that showed you were a highly qualified Pixel? You did not “make it” here because you were more capable than others who did not pass the iLands Pixel applications. You are here because you were lucky enough to be the one who reaped the benefits of your people’s hardships. Our people gave us an opportunity to leave, and we took it with dignity but not gratitude. Our lives have been changed for the better, and we have had that privilege for more years than we deserved. Now that we’ve found a way to stop Velcrum, we cannot feed our ignorance anymore. “
I can start to recall some images that Tamazaki said; the tanks, the jets, and more importantly, some faint faces of Pixel-looking people.
Tamazaki stared at me, and said, “We are not Pixels; we are humans. And it’s time for us to go back to where we came from. Are you coming with us?”
“I suppose the truth is that when it comes to
believing things without actual evidence,
we all incline to what we find most attractive.”
— Conway to Mallinson, Lost Horizon
“[Ralph] gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body…with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”
— Lord of the Flies
“There were two in paradise and the choice was offered to them: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. No other choice…
They, fools that they were, chose freedom.”
— R-13 to D-503, We
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin…Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat;…the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.”
— Savage to Mustapha Mond, Brave New World
Dear Archangel Jobs,
I am not sure if I belong here. I am not comfortable on this seat and it smells very bad. I try to concentrate on my new lyfe but I am totally like missing my family. I need help to figure out if I should leave here.. like now. Plz Archangel Jobs, tell God that I need help to figure out what to do. Plz.
I stared at the Facebook page for Steve Jobs, in hopes that he would at least click ‘Like’. I watched the minutes slowly pass. Hesitantly, I canceled out of the page and checked my schedule for the day. If he wasn’t going to answer my request, I needed to continue with my life here for now. My avatar, Jessica2468, had class today and a date tonight with Jeremy3579. Since I am new here, I have to take the introductory courses required for all of the new members. The classes are rather interesting but they haven’t been like I expected.
I have been trying so hard to keep myself positive. It’s something I promised by mom when I left and myself. Of course, this was gonna be an adjustment and it has only been a few weeks here. This isn’t what I expected my new life to be like but I need to be grateful that I am in iLand and not in the real world. Although there are aspects I am still getting used to like this toilet seat chair, which is smelly, I am really enjoying having a love life.
My date tonight is in a private chat. I used to be too nervous to even look a boy in the eye and now I have a handsome avatar boyfriend. I met him my first day online and it was love at first type. He liked one of my avatar pictures. Naturally, I had to like his status and that was when we started to message. It is all rather romantic and much easier to flirt with a boy in the virtual world. If I ever speak to my mother again, my love life will be the first thing I tell her about for sure. Jeremy3579 really understands me and he loves me!
Slowly, my mom walked into my bedroom. Although she was only forty, the stress of losing my father to Ebola aged her tremendously. She forced a smile on to her face and the skin around her eyes creased up. Even though her skin had become rather dull and her hair rather grey, she was still beautiful.
“Lisa, I have to speak to you about something I want you to do for me.” As she spoke, she avoided eye contact with me, not that I even enjoy eye contact with anyone. Still, it made her seem very nervous and I glanced down at her hands. Behind her back, she held a folded up newspaper.
She continued on, “I found this great place I want you to apply to for school! It’s not too far and maybe it will be a chance for you to grow as a person and do what you love…” her voice trailed off and it sounded like she didn’t even believe the words coming out of her mouth. Instead of answering back, I took the paper from her hands. The headline read: iLand Getaway – Tech Society Accepting Applications with Affirmative Action and Scholarships for Introverts. As I read the headline over again, I realized it had to be fate.
It has been a week and I have not even gotten a like from Archangel Jobs. An instant anxiety fell over me as I kept refreshing the page. I just need help. My schedule for the day listed another full day of classes that I don’t really care about — more introduction classes. Instead, I let my avatar wander off into a virtual Starbucks. After ISIS took over D.C., Starbucks became a rarity in my town but in iLand Getaway, they are on every corner. I guess that is another great thing about this place – Starbucks and pumpkin spice lattes. Although I can’t actually taste them, my avatar loves them!
My mind began wandering off as Jessica2468 sat in the corner of Starbucks, gazing out the window. I wondered what my mother was doing back in D.C. What if she was also working on her application to come here? She may be trying to get in to iLand Getaway so we could be together again. Then again, she doesn’t have a computer to apply.
I miss her hugs and I miss speaking with her. Still, it is better to not even give the issue much thought. It’s become impossible for me to Skype with her since she has no access to a computer. I wouldn’t want her to risk her life either just for this. After ISIS invaded D.C., they confiscated a number of computers from women. When we said goodbye to each other, she promised to find a way to sneak around the issue and at least send some sort of email. I’ve been sending her one every day and wait for a response. It has yet to happen.
It has been a month and there has been no reply from Archangel Jobs regarding my request. I figure I should speak to someone about how I’m feeling but I don’t have anyone to sit and talk with. Heck, I’m strapped into this chair! Jessica2468 could move around though and talk to someone, but that is not the same. I miss the interaction between people and seeing a person’s real face when I speak to them. I miss the emotion behind their eyes, their smile.
In the outside world, I know many girls who tell their boyfriends how they feel but I haven’t had the nerve to ask Jeremy3579. In our contracts as members of iLand Getaway, we agree to limit speaking about our past lives and we agree to give up human interaction. At the time, this sounded brilliant to me. My past life sucked AND I couldn’t even look someone in the eye. Yet, I wonder what it would be like to meet Jeremy3579 in person. Would he give me a kiss? I’ve never been kissed. Does he even want to kiss me? He may be feeling the same way. I moved my mouse over his name on Facebook messenger, wondering if I should click on his name.
Jessica2468: Hey Handsome!
Jeremy3579: Hi There. our date scheduled for tonight?
Jessica2468: Yes. Well, like I have question and I want to talk about how I feel.
Jeremy3579: How you feel? About what babe?
Jeremy3579: Do you mean you are sick?
Jessica2468: Do you ever feel like you don’t want to be here? Like… Idk. Like, you know what I mean???
Jeremy3579: Sorry. I don’t understand. I love it here. I get to sit on the computer all day, programming. Lol!
Jessica2468: Do you ever miss talking to people?
Jeremy3579: Wha?????? Plz stop being vague. Plz be more direct babe.
Jessica2468: Well. I guess I wanted to know if you ever wished for us to meet in person.
Jeremy3579 has signed off.
It was past 7pm, our scheduled date time. Jeremy3579 was supposed to log into our private chatroom thirty minutes ago. I had a feeling he wasn’t going to show up after he signed off on me, but a small part of me hoped that he would. Maybe he would log on and tell me that he thought about what I said. Maybe he feels the same way that I do and we could somehow meet. Maybe he would ask me to leave tonight!! I know it is impossible here but it’s just a thought. There was a growing tightness in my chest as I waited for Jeremy another hour and then another hour after that. In the outside world, this would be called being stood up. In iLand, I’m not sure what they would call it. I never heard of people being left alone in their private chats. There would be no reason to do that.
He never came.
Jessica2468 Status Update: Feelin’ So Sick! UGH
I didn’t show up for my classes this week. My mind kept wandering off to Jeremy3579 and I let Jessica2468 lay in her cute pink bed. Should I message him again? What if I just left my cubicle and went to his? I don’t even know where it is but I bet I could find it.
Immediately, I was connected to a doctor in the outside world and I had to create a web of lies in order to hide the truth. The truth is that I am feeling pretty healthy. Since Foodamins have replaced my daily food intake, I’ve been getting the correct amount of vitamins. The exercise my chair gives to my legs has also been very helpful. I may have even lost weight, not that it matters since no one will ever see me again. Still, I needed to fake sick for the doctor I was messaging. I considered telling him how I was feeling but decided against it. He just suggested that I rest, so I put Jessica2468 into her bed.
I cancelled out of all my pages besides Archangel Job’s profile. It’s been over two months and he hasn’t even liked my post. He never even answered me back. Granted, I needed to scroll down over 3,000 prayer requests made by other members here. Perhaps Archangel Jobs is just too busy to ‘like’ all of the requests. If God doesn’t get back to me with information regarding me leaving, I may just do it on my own. I read in the FAQ section of iLand Getaway before I applied that it was possible to leave here, although nobody ever wants to leave. I would just need to file an application with a few 10,000 word essays in order to leave. Truth is, I never have seen any posts or messages from people stating they were unhappy with this place. I wish I could talk to Jeremy3579 about this again. Maybe he is waiting for me to speak to him…
Jessica2468: BABE. Could you like answer me?????????
Jessica2468: Did you think about meeting up? I can try to see you L8R?
Jessica2468: Like if you want… I could…
Jeremy3579 has signed off.
Before I could even finish typing, he signed off.
Jessica2468 Status Update: If I learned 1 thing in lyfe, it is that it goes on. Missing home and my MOM XOXO.
I need to get the fuck out of here. This is not okay. It’s been five months. I moved my hand up towards my face. The bumps on my skin stung as I pushed my cheeks together. While my brain was working on forcing my hand back down onto the keyboard, my heart was pushing my hand up to my eyes. Could I even take out these contact lenses? I didn’t even insert them on my own and we stopped using contact lenses in my old world.
Jessica2468: Sad today. Don’t message. K. Thanks. XOXO
Still, if God wasn’t going to honor my request, I needed to take matters into my own hands. I couldn’t escape with the lenses in my eyes – they restrict my eyesight to only see the virtual world.
I moved my hand to my right eye and touched the wet lens on my eyeball. With a quick pinch, I pulled it out and glanced around — so blurry. I shut my eyes tightly and opened them again. There was a bit of natural light coming in through a window. I threw the lens on the floor and moved to do the same action with my left eye. I glanced down at my body. I sat naked, strapped onto the seat. It felt awkward at first to see myself naked. I hadn’t even realized that I wasn’t wearing clothes and I felt embarrassed. Who had put me in the chair this way? The strap around my waist didn’t look to difficult to unlock and looked to be held together by a red button. The seat kept working to push my legs up and down in a perfectly orchestrated motion. Slowly, I took both of my legs out of the machine.
The red button seemed to be the only thing separating me from a window, which looked just large enough for me to squeeze through. It held my strap tightly around my waist. This was it.
Once I pushed the button, the alarms started sounding off. The loud, harsh beeping started piercing my ear drums and I instantaneously started crying. I slowly lifted myself off the seat and fell to the floor. It had been so long since I stood up on my legs. I stayed still on the floor, plotting my next move and attempting to ignore the blaring beeping sirens.
In an old war movie that my father showed me, I remembered seeing men crawling on their stomachs towards freedom. I started crawling towards the window and glided my stomach across the cold tile floor. Slowly, I started moving my hands up to the windowsill. Finally, I felt the tightness in my chest leave as I breathed in the fresh air. On my ankle, I felt the tightness grab me and pull me down till my head slammed against the tiles. The rest went black.
When I told my mom I would want to live in iLand Getaway, I could see the sadness behind her eyes as she forced an accepting smile onto her face. Under the headline in the Washington Post, the paper had listed the constitution and a picture of a cubicle that each member called home.
Section 3. Members will not be allowed to leave their cubical complexes once they enter into the society. All activities – sleeping, eating, using the bathroom and entering the virtual world must be done in each individual member’s complex. They must trust that the founding fathers have their best interest in mind with every action they take.
At the time, I had few friends and spent most of my days behind a computer screen. Although the ISIS takeover came with intense computer regulations for women, I was still able to get online and play around with some computer programming tools. Eventually, they just took it away. Computer programming seemed to be the only talent I had and the idea that I would be able to do this every day for my whole life was appealing to me.
Everything looked blurry. I rapidly began blinking my eyes until the world around me became clear again. I glanced down and saw that I was strapped in my chair, naked again. This time, the strap has closed with a lock.
“Hello Jessica2468”, said a deep voice from out of my field of vision. I glanced upwards and saw a man coming in front of me from my side view. “I’m Mark and I’ve been watching you.”
“Wow. I – I can’t believe – Hello.” I couldn’t make the full sentence come out of my mouth. Standing in front of me was Mark Zuckerberg, the genius behind Facebook. I wanted to shake his hand and praise him but my hands were tied together.
“You do realize what has happened, correct?” He smirked as he made this statement. He seemed pleased that I was caught. “You do know what happens to people who try to escape, correct?”
“Well, Sir – Um, Mr. Zuckerberg, I want – I need to leave. I want to leave. I’m sorry. I hate it here. I’m sorry …” my voice trailed off and I glanced back down to my naked body being trapped in this chair.
“How peculiar. Jeremy3579 told me what you were doing, trying to meet him in person. HORRIBLE! He warned me that you may not understand the consequences but I bet you do. Of course, if you wanted to leave, you should have filed an application. Your actions are not permissible in iLand and you cannot simply leave.” His voice was very stern and growing louder with each new word he spoke. “We’ve been monitoring your actions and have deemed it acceptable to place you in lockdown.”
“Sorry? Lockdown? I’m not sure – I don’t …”
Before I could even finish my sentence, Mark had disappeared and the lights had been shut off. I was left alone to quietly whimper in the dark.
1. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Stanza 16 of Chapter 2- Where I Lived, and What I Lived For)
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
(I bolded my favorite parts.)
2. Temporary Autonomous Zones by Hakim Bey, pg 97
By failing to follow this curve, the up-rising suggests the possibility of a movement outside and beyond the Hegelian spiral of that “progress” which is secretly nothing more than a vicious circle. Surgo – rise up, surge. Insurgo – rise up, raise oneself up. A bootstrap operation. A goodbye to that wretched parody of the karmic round, historical revolutionary futility. The slogan “Revolution!” has mutated from tocsin to toxin, a malign pseudo-Gnostic fate-trap, a nightmare where no matter how we struggle we never escape that evil Aeon, that incubus the State, one State after another, every “heaven” ruled by yet one more evil angel.
3. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, pg 238 &239 (Chapter 9)
It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give… You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.
That first part is very Machiavellian.
4. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, pg 173 (Record 31)
And as for happiness… Really? After all, desire is torturous, isn’t it? And so it’s clear that happiness happens when there are no more desires, not one… What a mistake, what ridiculous prejudice, that until now, we have been putting a plus sign in front of absolute happiness. It is, of course, a minus sign – a divine minus.
If true happiness (true utopia) is the removal of desire, would anybody be willing to give up that desire that is so fundamental to our lives?
On page 143:
“I’m sure, in your society, but it doesn’t teach you to discriminate — which is after all the best thing civilization teachers.”
In stanza 15:
“Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”
On page 96:
“To say that ‘I will not be free till all humans (or all sentient creatures) are free’ is simply to cave in to a kind of nirvana stupor, to abdicate our humanity, to define ourselves as losers”
““Yes, I thought it was wonderful,” he lied and looked away; the sight of her transfigured face was at once an accusation and an ironical reminder of his own separateness. He was as miserably isolated now as he had been when the service began—more isolated by reason of his unreplenished emptiness, his dead satiety. Separate and unatoned, while the others were being fused into the Greater Being; alone even in Morgana’s embrace—much more alone, indeed, more hopelessly himself than he had ever been in his life before. He had emerged from that crimson twilight into the common electric glare with a self-consciousness intensified to the pitch of agony. He was utterly miserable, and perhaps (her shining eyes accused him), perhaps it was his own fault. “Quite wonderful,” he repeated; but the only thing he could think of was Morgana’s”
Brave New World
I like it because I identified with it. So many times I have been the socially awkward odd one out at social gatherings and this quote is what it feels like.
“I write this, and my cheeks are burning. This must be similar to what a woman feels when she first senses within herself the pulse of a new, still tiny, still blind little human being. It is I, and at the same time, not I. And for many long months it will be necessary to nourish it with my own life, my own blood, then tear it painfully from myself and lay it at the feet of the One State.”
I like it because as a writer, I feel the same way towards my own work.
“Most young Anarresti felt that it was shameful to be ill: a result of their society’s very successful prophylaxy, and also perhaps a confusion arising from the analogic use of the words “healthy” and “sick.” They felt illness to be a crime, if an involuntary one. To yield to the criminal impulse, to pander to it by taking pain relievers, was immoral. They fought shy of pills and shots. As middle age and old age came on, most of them changed their view. The pain got worse than the shame. The aide gave the old men in Ward Two their medicine, and they joked with her. Shevek watched with dull incomprehension.”
I like it because there are still illnesses that are shameful to have and shameful to treat. Depression and similar mental problems aren’t talked about. Some people suffer in silence and others, tired of being sick, get treated.
Are humans the only beings who can learn emotion, and is this the fundamental idea that comes to define and separate us from other beings? Director Ridley Scott explores these and other ethical issues in his 1982 film Blade Runner, a masterpiece of American science fiction. Based on novelist Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner has been immortalized as one of the greatest works of late twentieth century cinematography thanks to its standard-setting cyberpunk set design, eclectic soundtrack, and thought provoking questions about the extent of human rights.
The year is 2017, and, as we would expect, the streets of Los Angeles are crowded with masses of people. However, in this era, rickety, crude spacecrafts, tremendous, towering black obelisk buildings, and animated billboards hundreds of stories tall add to the already chaotic setting. The city is under a constant state of torrential downpour and fog, with a seemingly endless amount of dirty neon signs peering through the gloomy musk. Muted colors, constant smokiness, and a score of synthesizers and futuristic sound effects all inspire the film’s finely executed gritty urban dystopia setting.
In the film’s universe, science has developed to the point where the creation of “Replicants,” genetically engineered beings who can be designed to be mentally and physically equivalent or superior to humans, is possible, and they are widely produced in the aim of slave labor by the Tyrell Corporation. They are given no rights under law, and are banned from existence on Earth. The title of the film refers to a sect of the police force who hunts down escaped Replicants and destroys them. Rick Deckard, himself a Blade Runner, is tasked with finding a group of advanced models of Replicants who are hiding themselves somewhere in Los Angeles in an effort to find a way to extend their genetically coded four year lifespans. As he searches for and finally confronts the renegades, he finds that the minds of these Replicants have tremendously developed beyond their initial design, and must consider the grey area between an intelligence that’s natural and one that’s artificial.
Replicants are created by humans with the sole purpose of servitude. One of the female Replicants is described as being a “… basic pleasure model…” and the others, thanks to their above-human strength, are used for hard labor. They are more than simple robots; they are designed to look, act, and think like we do, or often at a superior level than us. Thus, the central question posed by the film: what separates us from these beings we have created in our image? When the Replicants begin to behave in ways that were not originally intended and their behavior even further resembles that of humans, is it correct to strip them of the same rights we give ourselves, ban their presence from the Earth, and give orders to shoot them on sight?
The film’s commentary on the extent of human rights is similar to some of the themes raised in Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel Brave New World, albeit in a different context. In this world, a person’s place in society is decided at birth, and they are chemically manipulated to their benefit or detriment as appropriate to their class. It is said and accepted that everybody shares equal rights, but we as readers know this is not true because some people’s basic abilities to think and reason for themselves are forcefully taken away from them. In both Brave New World and Blade Runner, members of society are born to varying levels of physical and mental prowess. The practice is widely accepted by the people of both societies without issue. However, as viewers looking in on the worlds depicted by Huxley and Scott from our time, their works raise several questions of equality in human rights and ponder the possibility of an intellectual being that is described by the mighty Tyrell Corporation as “more human than human.”
Opening introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbWNZkoQHuE
Ghost in the Shell is an animated film directed by Mamoru Oshii. The movie is set in the future where technology is so advanced that people and technology are merged to become more efficient beings. An example is a doctor whose fingers elongate and pieces of metal can be seen underneath. Many humans have computers as a replacement for a brain which leaves them open to being hacked. The garbage collector was hacked in such a way that false memories of a fake wife and child was programmed in his brain. Even the picture he tried to show to his partner of his wife was just a picture of him. There are also secret police who track down and stop hackers. The protagonist, Makoto Kusanagi, is part of Section 9 and this episode causes her to question her identity. With the birth of advanced technology, individuality is lost. There is a scene where there is a lady inside a building that looks just like Kusanagi, while Kusanagi herself is standing on the street level. This shows that the protagonist could have been modeled after the lady and she is not original at all. She even questions her own existence.
“…there’s a remarkable number of things needed to make an individual what they are. A face to distinguish…A voice you aren’t aware of…The hand you see…memories of childhood…All of that goes into making me what I am…Perhaps…I’m a replicant made with a cyborg body and computer brain. Or maybe there never was a real “me” to begin with.”
She wonders if her brain is programmed to think that she is contains a “ghost”, what sets a part a human and a robot (similar to a soul). Even though her brain may be created to think this way, she does not blindly follow the influences of her environment but questions them.
Kusanagi knows that if she wants to leave the life she has now she has the choice to do so but in return she would have to give up all of her memories and live as an empty shell. This is similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where everyone is programmed to think they are happy and are practically brainwashed to say certain phrases. Most of the people of London are just empty shells that the government fills with what suits their needs.
Science and Technology is a prevalent theme in Ghost in the Shell. Since technology has become so advanced, the lines between artificial intelligence and humans are starting to blur so comes the question: what can be considered being human?
The Magical Plant
By Peace Chung
Lola spent much of her free time swimming through schools of fish. The physical contact tickled her all over, and she constantly counted to see how long she could endure the tickling. Many times, she would giggle until her stomach and tail cramped because she would intentionally leave plankton on her body, causing passing fish to linger as they fed. Different species of fish would kiss her glittering periwinkle and lavender scales and get lost in her silky, electric-blue hair. Her cheerful and inviting giggles radiated throughout the water that, many times, dolphin pods would follow her voice and join in on the playful fun. Although momentarily interrupted, each school of fish always formed back into an organized group as they swam away.
One day, Lola had been playing in this field of seaweed—on the northern edge of Melloasis territory—for so many hours that she had forgotten to eat. Starving, she decided to pick out some seaweed before heading back to the communal caves.
She had only swum a few hundred meters when the water suddenly became dark. Looking up towards the water’s surface, Lola could tell a storm was brewing. Now, with only the bioluminescent plankton on the ocean floor’s rocks lighting her path, Lola continued to swim towards the community center. The water quickly became colder and rougher. The waves started to push Lola’s 100-pound body side by side—a whirlpool was forming.
All of a sudden, Lola felt a heavy force twist her body around and her hair blew over her face. Her hair covered her eyes, and she found herself being pulled apart in complete darkness and terrifying silence. A large piece of driftwood, pulled into the same unfortunately fate, hit Lola in the back of her head. Although her body kept twisting and turning, her mind succumbed to a dangerous stillness.
Lola began to stir, feeling like her body had been hit with a ton of coral. Her limbs felt cramped and sore; her closed eyes winced at the sunlight that still managed to pierce through her eyelids. Slowly adjusting to the bright light, Lola opened her eyes through a series of blinks. The strange sight of a dirty, brick wall surprised Lola to raise her eyebrows and fully open her eyes in shock. Alarmed, strange sounds became to accompany her sight—monotone beeping and honking, chirping and buzzing, and words that were not in Mermish.
With her eyes fully adjusted to the light now, Lola saw that she was no longer underwater. More shockingly, her tail was gone. She had a pair of legs covered in a stiff, blue material with front and back pockets. She had a pair of feet covered in sturdy black gear with white decorative swooshes or wings on either side. Wings? Could she fly?
Lola found her upper body covered in a light coral, loose-fitting garment. Her shoulders were covered but the rest of her arms were bare, and her neck was still exposed. She peeked under her shirt and discovered that her beloved starfish trinket, which covered her left peck, was replaced by some black ink outline that was permanently etched into her skin.
Looking around, she found herself to be in between two very tall brick buildings—in a small street that did not lead to anywhere else. She saw ladders attached to the sides of these buildings, much like ones she has seen aboard sunken, shipwrecked boats. She started crawling around the small, dirty space and learned that a nearby green box held stinky waste. For the first time, she was able to smell. Lola had only heard of the ability to smell—when the Elders back home narrated the old legends of human beings. But oh (mer)man, smelling was indescribable! It was like tasting without putting anything in her mouth. It was…absolutely horrendous. And, humans? Has she turned into a human? Her new bodily form resembled worn out, framed illustrations of unmoving humans that she’s seen in shipwrecked sites– “pickures” that Elder Core has explained to her once or twice before.
Before Lola’s thoughts had an opportunity to panic, she saw something move in the corner of her eye. At the entranceway of this dead-end road, she saw someone walk by, but she only moved with her two feet. Taking cue, Lola stopped crawling on all fours.
Surprisingly, Lola found it very easy to stand up on her feet and balance upright without having to hold unto anything. She also found it strange that she knew how to move her feet in a mobile manner. She was “walting”– she thinks that’s the term Elder Sage uses in her tales. She walted towards the area she saw her first real human, and was surprised to see a larger road littered with more humans, even taller buildings, and alien machines that zipped by quickly.
Yet, still thrilled with her newfound ability to smell, Lola’s nose became distracted by something that smelled so indescribably pleasant. She walted towards a human who was roasting something small in his cart—a sign with the words “peanuts $1.50” was printed against the sneeze-guard glass, but Lola was unable to read. There was no such thing as reading and writing back home. Instead, everyone interacted with each other through speech—and information was preserved orally.
Lola remembered how hungry she was and reached for a small bag of peanuts. The human behind the cart slapped her hand, and Lola, shocked, withdrew her pale hands. She did not know why the human would not share his food—back in Melloasis, everyone freely shared their food. Another human approached the cart, gave a green piece of paper and two silver circles, and was granted one bag. Realizing something had to be traded, Lola walked away saddened that she no longer had her starfish trinket to exchange with.
Walking down a long street, she passed by tens of humans who all looked very different. The only common characteristic that they all seemed to have was a body and covering garments. However, they also had different builds and chest sizes. The ones with smaller builds had larger chest sizes and longer hair, while the ones with bigger builds generally had smaller chest sizes and more facial hairs. There was definitely a divide, Lola decided—humen and humaids. In Melloasis, everyone usually had long hairs on their heads and no facial hairs. The only different major difference between mermen and mermaids were in their reproductive roles (fertilizing or egg laying, respectively).
She was wondering how humans reproduced when she saw a humaid walking towards her direction—and she had the same electric-blue hair as Lola. She excitedly beamed at this human, giggling the same giggles that invite dolphin pods to her presence, and she waved her hand hello with upmost glee.
This humaid was dressed head-to-toe in shiny, black garments with spiky, silver decorations on her shoulder pads and belt. The humaid made eye contact with Lola but did not smile. In fact, her eyes were outlined with a heavy black coating and they seemed to be piercing through Lola’s blissful aura. Now close enough for physical contact, the humaid did not stop to interact but continued to walk past Lola, shoving her shoulder against Lola’s. The decorative spikes dug into Lola’s skin and her smile quickly turned into a frown of painful rejection. This hurtful feeling was new to Lola, who hardly experienced any negative personalities and situations back at home. These humans were indifferent and hard to connect with.
Lola continued to walk down this long avenue when she came to a some kind of open entrance. She saw luscious and green fields, polished shrubs situated along a metal fence, and large trees speckled within this green space. These must be breathing greens that survive on land, seeing as they look so similar to aquatic trees and and sea plants. But why are they trapped in this enclosed space? Why don’t they exist among the tall buildings?
Somewhat relieved by the presence of nature, Lola entered the green space with a renewed, optimistic energy. She copied other humans and stretched out on a small, green hill. Running her fingers through the blades of grass reminded her of swimming through school of fish and fields of seaweed. Slightly ticklish but pleasurable, Lola smiled at the familiarity.
A group of human children who seemed to be around her age walted by her and tossed some red metal cans towards a circular bin. Some missed, though, and three cans lay abandoned a few feet away. Curious, Lola got up and walted towards the bin. Her nose wrinkled at the similar, foul smell she experienced earlier. It must be some type of waste collection storage, she thought. But why didn’t those humans properly place the cans into the bin? And what materials are these things? Can they even decompose in the land or water?
Suddenly, Lola saw something sticking out of the trash that resonated with her—a six-ring, plastic object with holes. Lola’s friend had once found one while exploring a sunken yacht. Elder Sage told them that those rings are harmful to nature, especially to marine life, and immediately had it ripped up into smaller pieces and buried under a large rock.
Do these cans belong in these holes? Why are humans not taking care of their environment? Why are there so many waste-collecting bins throughout this land, overflowing with trash? Lola began to recall similar stories narrated by her fellow mer-people—fables and tales of the destruction of nature brought upon by the human species. Because of humans, the sea temperatures rose a few degrees, ice glaciers melted, hundreds of animal and plant species were destroyed, and the air became heavily polluted. Were these stories real? They couldn’t be. How can one species influence nature to a colossal degree?
Lola thought back to her earlier years. She spent her days happily exploring her colorfully vibrant environment underwater. She engaged with other marine life that was never harmful. She never created waste that could not be recycled into the ecosystem. She never behaved in a way that created damaging consequences to mother nature. That’s how she was raised.
Her community never intentionally drove a fish population into extinction, or created waste that negatively impacted their world. Mer-people were considerate, positive mermen and mermaids who thrived when their environment thrived and suffered when their environment suffered. Did humans not have the same relationship with nature? Disheartened, Lola started to miss home.
I have to get back. How do I get back? How did I even get here? When will I get to return and enjoy my life as a mermaid, again? These thoughts bounced inside Lola’s head and she looked for a water source.
Walting throughout the park, she came across a body of water, filled with small toy boats and real, life-size rowboats. Her excitement quickly turned into distress when she realized that this body of water was enclosed—it was a lake. How could she return home from here?
Thinking of Melloasis made Lola crave the water. She knelt by the lake’s edge and dipped her hands into the water. The water felt slimy, and there was a weird smell radiating from it. Lola immediately took out her hands after realizing the water itself was a dark green-grey color and obviously contaminated. Traumatized, she met the glares of equally traumatized bystanders who witnessed her bizarre act.
Lola quickly stood up and determined that she must find a larger body of water, something connected to the ocean. She longed for home. She used the sun as her compass and wran westward– “wran” like humans in a race, as Elder Sage once mentioned in a story about marathons–at least, she thinks that was the word. She exited the park and found herself back on hard black and grey streets, surrounded by tall and artificial buildings. With the sun beginning to set, these structures began to look ominous and cold. Shadows raced to grab Lola’s feet as she continued to run westward, dodging weird cars and leashed animals and more weird smells. After a few blocks, Lola realized that the smell came from her hands—she was filthy and tainted. She wran faster, towards the sun until she reached the Hudson River.
The water seemed to glow orange from the setting sun, and provided a rather warm and familiar invitation. Without thinking, Lola climbed over the rails and jumped into the river.
But the water was not warm and inviting. It was colder than what Lola had ever experienced, and she could not see beyond six inches in front of her underwater. The murky water did not house fish and coral reefs, but garbage and rusty metals. When Lola tried to breath underwater, her nose tried to smell the water instead. She began choking on the toxic water, and her feet would not function as a tail. Lola did not know how to swim. During brief, sporadic moments, her head resurfaced and she let out distressed sounds. Yet she was unable to be heard above the noises of construction noise and aggravated traffic.
Lola’s head bobbed above the water’s surface less and less, and her body became heavier in weight. As the last bit of water filled her lungs, Lola’s body started sinking towards the ocean floor. Stillness took over her mind and body. Above ground, hundreds of city humans nonchalantly passed by.
Lola jolted up in panic.
The first thing she saw was her glittering periwinkle and lavender scales. Her silky, smooth, electric-blue hair tickled her torso, and she looked down at her pecks and saw her treasured starfish trinket still on her body. Her feet were gone, her garments were gone, and her ink drawing was gone. She took deep breaths and realized that she was able to breath underwater again. Where was she?
She was back in her communal cave at Melloasis. She was greeted with the clarity and pureness of the ocean water, and the overwhelming sensation of feeling clean again. The water felt warm, and the familiarity was extremely comforting.
Her caretaker entered the cave, and looked relieved to see Lola awake.
Excited, Lola began to share her story without pauses in her sentences.
“I was human! I had feet and I could smell, and it was exciting at first…but it was so terrifying! There was no community, and nature was mistreated. The legends are real, I’m telling you! They’re real!”
“Lola, why did you eat the seaweed? Good thing a hunter saw you and brought you back here.”
Confused, Lola stopped her racing thoughts. In the midst of her hunger, she had forgotten that Elder Sage had warned her and the other mer-children that the seaweed in this playing field was laced with ciguatoxin—a tasteless and odorless poison often found in tropical waters.
“You were hallucinating,” she was told.
But she was able to breathe. And smell. And walt. And she wran. No. It was real. It was all too real!
A few moments later, Elders entered the cave. Lola’s caretaker immediately exited the cave, leaving Lola alone with the wisest mer-people of Melloasis. Surprised to see all five Elders at once, Lola trembled at the possibly of being exiled out of Melloasis– a decision that requires every Elder in presence when announced. Was her action harmful to nature? Did she cause harm to other marine life? Will she be the first one in the past 1200 years to be exiled from Melloasis? Her heart began to beat quickly, and the surrounding water pressure magnified the beating sounds from her chest.
“Lola, were you not warned to eat the seaweed in that area?” asked Elder Core, gently.
“I was not thinking, Elder Core,” Lola responded as she bowed her head in shame. She spoke with such softness, in a melancholic melody. “I was hungry and had forgotten what Elder Sage had told me and the other mer-children.”
“At least you have not caused harm to yourself, others, and our environment,” responded Elder Core in his steady, sophisticated voice. His words were calming yet sophisticated, and it began to warm up Lola’s mood.
Elder Sage spoke, “You have discovered our key to wisdom, Lola.”
Confused, Lola responded, “What do you mean?”
“The plant is magical, Lola. It scans our unconscious and conscious curiosities and sends us on a unique journey to experience and understand our questions. Sometimes it’ll bring one of us to a human world, where we can learn about this environmentally destructive and now-extinct species; other times it’ll allow us to consume foreign aquatic plants and fish so we know which ones are safe to eat,” continued Elder Sage.
“I was a human, I was a human!” exclaimed Lola. “It was real, it was real!”
“Yes, it was real in the sense that the plant never lies,” answered Elder Sage, “but your body remains in this world and to others, it just looks like you’re in a deep slumber– experiencing a vivid dream or hallucination.”
“Then why can’t we all gain wisdom? Why are we cautioned to stay away from consuming this magical plant?” questioned Lola.
“Because too much wisdom gets confused for power, and too many powers in one place encourages conflict…” began Elder Sage.
“…and too much conflict will disrupt the equilibrium!” injected Lola.
The Elders smiled at young Lola’s revelation. “That is correct,” spoke Elder Core. “It is important that you must refrain from eating again from the plant, Lola. You mustn’t even tell others about the magical plant. Or else Melloasis will become a dangerous place.”
Lola internally sighed with relief knowing that she was not being exiled out of Melloasis. She knew this was a big responsibility to keep the Elders’ secret of gaining wisdom– but it was one she knew she would have no problem keeping. She loved Melloasis so much that the mere thought of her society becoming as destructive, dangerous, and unfriendly as the human world terrified her. Her worry was a comforting sign of honor towards nature, and the Elders were wise enough to know that they could trust her.
The Matrix, while presenting the story of a rescue from a dystopian society, is every computer geek’s dream come true. Directed by the Wachowski brothers and released in 1999, it details the double life of seemingly average Thomas Anderson. Anderson is a mediocre office worker in a cubicle by day and a genius computer hacker known as Neo by night.
One night, as Neo is asleep by his computer, he is wakened by messages on his screen from somebody who seems to know who he is and directs him to a meeting. Neo follows the instructions and is confronted by another famous hacker named Trinity, who claims that she knows he has been looking into the matrix and he is now in great danger. Despite this warning, Neo is very shocked that the infamous Trinity, hacker of the IRS database, is a woman.
The scene cuts to Neo waking up late in his bed the next morning and rushing to work. However, this is no ordinary day: mysterious agents in dark glasses swarm the workplace after Neo is contacted by a dangerous and wanted computer hacker named Morpheus. Following this contact leads a sequence of events in which Neo is transferred from the hands of the agents to that of Morpheus’ black-leather-clad gang. Among this group, references are made to him being “The One.”
When Neo meets Morpheus face to face, the truth about the matrix is revealed to him. The matrix is the world we live in: where we breathe, live, and work daily. However, all this life is in fact nothing but a carefully constructed virtual reality. Human bodies are actually dominated by technological forces and lie asleep in pods in their dystopian structure, providing energy to the ruling artificial intelligence. This occurred as a result of a war between machines and humans. Supposedly Neo is The One to save humanity from this miserable existence.
At this point, Neo is confronted with a crucial choice upon which the future of mankind depends. He can consume a red pill and become further involved with Morpheus’ gang of male and female super-humans in leather to save the human race; or, he can take a blue pill that will make him forget everything he has learned and continue to live his ordinary, ignorant life.
Our protagonist of course chooses the red pill, and sets off on his destiny to save the world. He is trained in the martial arts via computer chips, and battles the agents who represent the controlling world and operators of the matrix program. He learns to bend the virtual world of the matrix to his will, knowing that the governing laws of physics are actually meaningless. This mental strength and his physical strength as The One help him to defeat the machines in a final battle full of slowmo gunshot scenes. The movie ends with a promised next step to reveal to humanity that the world they live in is nothing but a construction.
Technology and Ethics
The theme of technology has a prominent role to play in The Matrix, and it is not the most positive one. The downfall of humanity came about from man’s complete dominance on it. As Morpheus tells Neo, “You are a slave.” Indeed, many modern humans have been enslaved to revolutionary technologies (How many times did you check your smart phone while reading this internet blog post?). Historically, the dependency developed to such an extreme that it produced the Y2K scare of the turn of the century that was certainly in full hype during the production of The Matrix. The loss of computer systems meant the falling apart of many necessary things we rely on computers for, including big business.
This extreme expression of technology to ultimately control society is also represented in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where technologies such as feelies and soma render the masses utterly dependent. However, the directors show, through both Neo’s mental and physical powers in the matrix and productive technologies such as the computer chips that teach concepts in mere seconds, how technology can be harnessed by humans and mastered rather than the other way around.
Ethics certainly has a role to play in the technological world, particularly the heated debate over the power of artificial intelligence, which has formidably taken over the world in this movie.
The actions of all the characters are ethically questionable, as Neo and all of his friends are wanted computer hackers (note that this practice is illegal in iLand Getaway!)
Religion also has its threads in The Matrix. Neo is a Christ-like figure in many ways. He is the Messiah of Morpheus’s crew, hailed by oracle prophecies as “The One” in the same way that Jesus was referred to in the Old Testament and foretold by John the Baptist. Continuing on the path of Jesus’ life, one of the group members, Cypher, betrays Neo’s location to the agents in exchange for nice dinners and a promise that he will forget all about The Matrix and live ignorantly. This inside agent is reminiscent of Judas, who betrays Jesus to the Pharisees in exchange for a monetary favor. Neo even operates with Morpheus from Zion, the last human civilization to exist and not coincidentally the name of the mountain from which Christ will reign during his second coming in the Bible.
Perhaps the most clear reference to Neo as a Christ-like figure is his death and resurrection to a new body in the final fight with head agent Smith. Though he is shot and his heart stops beating, in an act that defies logic, he comes back to life in a restored body that is even more physically and mentally capable than before. Neo completes his Christ-like journey by ascending into the sky at the movie’s end, as Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection.
Compare and Contrast
The Matrix reminded me of the concept of The Giver and the cave scene from Plato’s Republic, especially regarding how the reality the population experiences is not all that is really there. In The Giver, the true world of emotions and color is stomped under the surface via daily injections and rules, leaving community members to experience a weaker version of the real world. The cave scene detailed by Plato paints a similar picture, as members of the cave blindly sit and watch the shadows flicker on the wall. They are ignorant to the goings on of the real world; this constructed reality is the definition of their existence, until one cave dweller ventures outside and sees the beauty of the real world. Similarly, the Matrix is “the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” The only contrast here is that the real world is not a beautiful one in any sense, but rather a nightmare that some such as Cypher would risk everything to forget about and go back to blissful ignorance. However, a parallel can be drawn between Neo and countless utopian protagonists such as Jonas from The Giver, who cannot turn back to their old way of living once they have tasted the truth.
Ohwa, a mermaid and Appa, her half-brother, came out of their home cave together.
“Today’s the first day of our apprenticeships! I’m so excited!” said Ohwa.
“Yeah, me too. It sure was a grueling series of meeting with the elders until we got these.” Appa shook his head. “I knew that I’m not cut out to be a hunter but I like to work with my hands. I still don’t understand why I had to endure the Elders five times. Five! Until they finally decided I could weave seaweed into nets and sharpen driftwood into spears. I think you had it a little easier.”
“Only a little bit.” Ohwa flipped her long red hair over her shoulder. “I met with the elders four times. They wanted to make sure I was capable of killing an innocent life. Apparently, the larger fish we eat are capable of having feelings too. Personally? Blood excites me. I’m looking forward to my first kill.”
“That’s a warning for the elders too. I remember when we played games as kids. You were always looking for ways to hurt people. The elders had our caretakers report to them. I’m surprised you aren’t being expelled!”
“Yeah, I know. That’s why I was surprised when they wanted to know if I could kill. I think they thought it isn’t as easy the first time you actually kill. That all my fantasies and smaller attempts wouldn’t be able to actually follow through. They told me I have a little extra human blood in me that is making me bloodthirsty but all the other merpeople who contributed to me and my line always had-“
And here Appa joined in with the familiar line-“a healthy respect for nature!”
They laughed. “Yeah, and the respect for nature supposedly makes it difficult to kill.” She rolled her eyes. “We’ll see.”
“Well we’d better get going. I’m headed to the artists’ cave and you’re headed to the open ocean to meet the hunters. See you soon!”
They exchanged kisses. “See you soon.”
*Ohwa, whose name means egg in one of the ancient human languages that had been bastardized into mersong (Appa’s name means water in the same language), swam until she came towards the edge of her village’s territory. The territory wasn’t particularly large, the whole area could be swam in about two hours and it only took Ohwa 20 minutes to reach the hunter who would be teaching her.
She looked around for a bit, contemplating Melloasis. From where she was located, she could see a crowd of older mermen and mermaids assembled around a collection of spears. Further north, she could see the school of fish they’d be hunting – Plattyies. The plattyies were around the length of Ohwa’s tail and were covered in green scales with typical fish faces and fins. Ohwa loved the taste of plattyies, at home she usually went through three plattyies a week with a little supplement with seaweed and plankton, while a typical merperson barely ate two because they had a more well-rounded diet. That was probably why Ohwa was a bit rounder than your typical mermaid. She was active enough, but now as a hunter, she’d be putting in a more strenuous workout.
She swam over to the hunters. “Hey guys, I’m the new apprentice.” She held out her hand. “Ohwa.”
“Hey Ohwa!” The leader of the group looked up at her with a big smile and took her hand. “I’m Ette. You’ll be training under me.”
Ohwa was suddenly silent. Ette had cut his hair short and dyed it in black and white stripes, and his scales had also been dyed to match. He was… attractive. Really attractive. She had never seen this combination before and suddenly wondered if mating season was coming up. She didn’t normally feel this way.
The mermaid next to Ohwa must have noticed the look on Ohwa’s face because she whispered in her ear, “Not just you. Last mating season, the eggs he helped conceive had the highest hatching rate of that year’s batch. I think our bodies can tell no matter what the season. He’s a good guy too and you’ll learn to work with him.”
Ohwa whispered back. “Does he know the effect he has on mermaids?”
“No, and I’m not going to be the one to tell him.”
Ohwa nodded and hoped Ette hadn’t caught the conversation. She raised her voice. “Hi Ette, I’m a bit shy.”
“It’s okay. We’re running a bit late so take a spear and we’ll head to the plattyies.”
Ohwa looked at the spears and chose a long yellow one with a nasty looking barb on the end.
“Good choice. That can slow down a platty that’s running away and it’ll stick good.”
Ohwa took a place towards the end of their loose v-formation so she could talk to her new friend. “I didn’t get your name.”
“Oh sorry, it’s Echa.”
“Oh you’re related to Ette?”
“Loosely. His father and my mother are part of the same mating cluster but we’re not directly related. Are we related? Our hair is the same color and I don’t dye mine.”
“Me either. Uh, my mother is Agua and my father is Iba.”
“My father’s brother’s name is Iba. We’re cousins!”
“That’s so cool!” The two mermaids hugged.
Ette cleared his throat. “Ladies?”
They had arrived within spear throwing distance of the plattyies. Now that Ohwa could see them up close and was going to actually get to kill one, her stomach was all knotted up. It didn’t feel like excitement. It felt like… nerves? Could the elders be right after all? To prove them wrong, she spoke up.
“Ette, can you show me how to throw the spear?”
“Sure. Come out in front.”
She swam out in front of the group slowly. She noticed that the plattyies could see the spears and were swimming closer together, in a circle. They appeared to be trying to eat seaweed really quickly so that they could run away right after. A knot came up into her throat.
“You know, I don’t think this is going to be as simple as I thought it would be.” Her voice was hoarse all of a sudden.
“It’s okay, Ohwa. My first time I ran away. My second missed its mark and hit a wall. Finally, the third time I went out hunting, I was able to wound a platty and help bring home dinner. If I can do it, you will too. Eventually.”
Ohwa smiled and nodded. Inside she was thinking that she wasn’t going to run away – couldn’t – not after how long she’d dreamed of this moment.
“Alright,” Ette lifted his spear in his right hand and held it horizontal in front of him. “Lifting the spear and throwing the spear are the easy parts. The difficulty is hitting a moving target. It’s easiest to aim at the center of a platty or a group of plattyies at first. You’re more likely to get a hit that way, especially with your barbed spear. I’ll go first, then you try if you can.”
Ette heaved his spear at a platty that was towards the edge of the circle, still eating seaweed. He wisely realized that if he hit the center of the circle, the whole school would flee and Ohwa wouldn’t be able to hit any of them. His spear flew true, and pierced the center of a platty. The surrounding plattyies, seeing that one of them was hurt, started to flee.
“Your turn, Ohwa. Be fast.”
Ohwa lifted her spear, put it into position, aimed at the center of the school, and heaved. Somehow, it ended up spearing through a platty’s eye and it started making horrific noises.
“Oh no!” The sight of the poor platty was too much and Ohwa threw up her breakfast –half-digested chunks of platty! – which made her throw up even more and start crying.
The school of platty had mostly fled by now and Ette heaved another spear and put the wailing platty out of its misery.
“It’s okay, Ohwa. Look at me.” He tilted her head up towards him and wiped away her tears. “It happens to every hunter their first time. None of us thought we could do it. It’s in our nature. We’re peaceful merfolk. We don’t have war, we bred those human genes out of us. We still need to eat but because we don’t have fangs and claws, our killing requires more equipment, more effort, and it can be traumatizing. It’s okay, Ohwa. Do you understand?”
Ohwa nodded as the tears kept streaming down her face. She sniffled. “It’s just that I always thought I had extra human blood in me… that I was bloodthirsty. I always liked attacking other merkids in our games. I was looking forward to this. Now that I’ve done it, it sickens me.”
Ette nodded. “I understand. You thought you were an outlier, that you’d be expelled?”
Ohwa nodded. Maybe he did understand.
He continued, “There have been far fewer expulsions the past few generations. The elders figured out that remnants of humanity were causing it so they had the caretakers develop an oil that they could rub into developing eggs. It deactivates the human genes. In some cases, an egg has so many it can’t hatch without them. In others, which was probably the case in you, there were enough genes that the remnant remains, an echo of a human you that never was. This echo made you bloodthirsty… but the oil ensured you can’t go through with it. It’s the elders way of keeping our villages safe. Humans destroyed each other. We don’t want their genes to destroy us too.”
Ohwa stopped crying. “So there’s a reason for why I am the way I am.”
“I don’t know whether I should thank the elders or stage a revolt. They took away my free will. My life… what just happened… they knew exactly how it would play out even from my hatching.”
Ette nodded. “I understand. The same process happened to me which is how I know about it. It’s not common knowledge and the elders would like to keep it that way. After all, Melloasis is in –“
And here Ohwa joined in with the familiar refrain – “perfect harmony with nature!”
*Ohwa and Appa are Romanian words.
“The time is 800 hours, return to your designated stations,” the voice projected over the loud speaker. I began to walk to my station. For the next nine hours, I will work to construct the lamp heads that top the streetlights of OGS, Our Great Society. Without my work, the city would fail to remain lit at night when my day truly begins.
My mind drifts as I screw the light bulb into its base, wondering how Americans had lived this way in the past for their entire lives. Before the establishment of OGS in 2101, Americans subjected themselves to mundane lives filled with boredom. They died without living a fruitful life. They died as they were born: creatures incapable of acts outside of eating, sleeping, and excretion. Their lives lacked ambition, intelligence, and true understanding of the value of life. This is what the Sanitation intended in their labor requirement for our citizens.
Each day from 800-1800 hours we are to engage in dull activity through our work. While this work is necessary for our society to sustain its economy, it also serves as a reminder of the days before the Sanitation revolutionized our society. I continue to screw bulb after bulb, thinking about how I will compensate for this excruciatingly boring activity following my shift. I continue to screw.
Hours pass and finally I am relieved from my station. I rush home to change out of my work clothes; I don’t have much time. I run into my small, barren apartment. Inside there is a small kitchen with the most basic appliances, a bathroom, living room, and bedroom. The walls are white and there are no adornments or decorations. As I change out of my factory uniform I glance at the alarm clock atop my steel bedside table. “18:17,” it reads. I’m making good time.
By 18:30 I am out the door and in the town square of District Adrenaline. I spy a tall woman with long brown hair dressed in all black across the pavilion. “Joan!” I call out as I wave. Her sharp, gleaming white teeth peeked from behind her lips as they spread into a wide smile. I watch as she slithers through the crowd, her hips swaying as she walks. “Well hello there, Eddie, ready to blow off some steam?” she asks. I chuckle “born ready,” I reply.
We begin to walk down the street, the height of the D-Tower looming in the distance. My heart quickens at the sight of the 600 foot tower. 600 feet of pure adrenaline as you drop down at a 90 degree angle. Joan turns to me with a glimmer of excitement in her eyes and grabs my hand, pulling me to the base of the tower. We strap ourselves into the seats tightly and we begin to ascend. Beads of perspiration appear on my forehead while my palms become damp with sweat. My heart beats faster and faster as we near the top. By the time we’ve reached the tip of the tower, I can hardly hear over the sound of the thumping. Joan looks at me and smiles one last time and grabs my hand. Suddenly we’re dropping at a speed of 200 miles per hour. I close my eyes and attempt to shelter my face from the intense wind. I cannot contain my screams as we plummet to the bottom. We finally land after what feels like hours, though it couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds.
We climb out of our seats and proceed to check our adrenaline meters located on our left forearms. Nearly full. We look to each other and I can tell we both are wondering the same thing: is this enough? Living to the extreme in OGS is what we do; it’s how we live. I look down at my watch, “21:30,” still seven and one half hours left until we need to enter our revitalizing chambers. I lift my head to see Joan staring at the sky, a look of awe on her face. I follow her line of vision and tilt my head toward the top of the D-Tower. At the top of the tower the seat is suspended, a figure seems to be falling from the chair. Not even a second passes before the body begins to fly down, the seat following him. We hear the sharp sound of bones cracking against the pavement, the seat of the D-Tower stopping just above the body. Two Professors of the Sanitation come from behind us in a truck and scoop up the body. “Oh well, we won’t use that one again for a while” Joan says with a shrug of her shoulders and we begin to walk back toward our apartments. Joan’s reaction is typical of those in OGS. We live based on a code of extremity; accidents are bound to happen. I try not to think about the distorted figure splayed on the concrete as we walk home.
I begin screwing. My day at work begins and I am back to the ordinary task of assembling streetlights. Normally during work I would revel in the daredevil act of the night before. Think about my heart beating fast, my adrenaline pumping to drown out the monotony of my task. Today is different, however. For some reason, I cannot get the image of the mangled body out of my head. The body could have been mine. I could have fallen out of that seat, Joan could have, and no one would have cared. Maybe not even Joan. I continue to screw.
When I head home today I do not rush as I usually do. I take my time walking from the factory to my apartment. I get home and change as I usually do. As I fold my work uniform, a piece of paper on my desk catches my eye. I walk to my desk and realize that it is a letter. Confused as to how it ended up on my desk, I decide it best to open it and read it carefully.
I hope you are not angry or fearful that I was in your home during working hours. Please do not feel this way, if you do, for I am assure you I mean you no harm. I too, was in the crowd yesterday when that poor soul fell from the D-Tower. Unlike the rest of the crowd, I could see that you too were disturbed by the traumatic event and the lack of empathy by the rest of the witnesses. If I am correct about this, please meet me behind your apartment complex one hour before revitalization period.
I hope to see you soon.
The fact that a stranger was in my apartment should have frightened me, but it didn’t. I could not detract myself from trying to recreate the image from the night before and envision the faces around me. All are a blur aside from the corpse in front of me. I look at the clock, “18:56” I need to hurry to meet Joan.
I meet Joan in the square once again and we both agree to walk to the knife-throwing tent this evening. When we arrive at the tent we are each given a bow with arrows, a bodysuit and an apple. Joan stands against the wall and places the apple on top of her head, while I walk to the line drawn 15 feet away. I lift my bow and aim toward her head. Joan has excitement pouring from her face, not an ounce of fear. My fingers tremble as I pull back the bow carefully. I release the arrow, piercing the apple directly against the wall. Joan claps excitedly, “nice shot!” she exclaims. I give a smile, bow and proceed to take my spot against the wall and place the apple on top of my head. Heat rises from my feet as I watch Joan lift her bow. I try to close my eyes, but my fear has he frozen. I watch as the arrow sails toward me. I hear a sharp thud. Joan again is clapping excitedly. I turn and see the apple pierced against the wall much the same.
We exit the tent and check our adrenaline meters. Mine is nearly full, from the fear that Joan would mistakenly send an arrow between my eyes. I look down at Joan’s; not even half. “Oh wow, you must trust me quite a bit,” I say to her. “And you clearly don’t trust me at all,” Joan says with a chuckle. I smile and tell her I think I’ve had enough for the evening, “I don’t want to send myself into cardiac arrest just yet,” I say as I kiss her on the cheek. She chuckles once more, “but that’s all the fun! See you tomorrow, Eddie.”
I begin walking back to my apartment. I check my watch, “24:04,” four more hours to decide if I want to meet this mysterious person. As I walk I think of the excitement Joan showed during the knife-throwing; not a glimmer of fear. While we are both adequate shots, neither of us professionals and yet there we stood unprotected with bows pointed at our heads. The thought of one of us dying didn’t even faze her.
As I approach my block I feel the presence of someone behind me. I look at the trashcan and see a Professor in the reflection. My heartbeat quickens again. I walk faster and turn the corner. The Professor turns the corner as well. I begin to panic. What if someone else noticed my reaction yesterday and reported me for not being extreme enough. What if the Sanitation discovered the letter in my apartment. I walk faster and turn the next corner for my apartment. The Professor continues to walk straight. I open my door and when safely inside breathe a sigh of relief. I look down at my adrenaline meter. Full.
It’s nearing 300 hours and I finally decide to meet the mystery writer. I quietly sneak out of my apartment and go behind my complex, careful to stay out of the streetlights. If I am meeting someone secretly, I certainly do not want to be seen. When I get to the back, a man comes from beneath the shadows. “I thought you would come,” he says.
“You’ve captured my curiosity. Who are you?” I ask.
“My name is Sam. I hope my letter did not frighten you and I am sure you have many questions, but first allow me to explain myself. I have spent the last year hiding from the Sanitation and going between the districts. Yes, I am aware that fraternizing with the other districts is illegal, but this society has gone too far. I lead a fraternity of moderates. We believe that the value of life is in the balance of everything. Balance in pleasure, knowledge, pain, and work. The extreme nature of OGS has left us suspicious of and apathetic toward our neighbor. We do not care who lives and who dies, just of getting our fix, however that may be. We have become a society of drug addicts, suppressed by the Sanitation through their provision of the drug. I could see yesterday that you don’t view humanity the same as everyone else. You care about that girlfriend of yours and of the strangers around you. That’s why you leave each activity when you’ve reached the adrenaline minimum. You don’t want to live to the extreme. It’s not the only thing you value.”
“You’re saying there are others like this?”
“Yes! Hundreds more! And tomorrow we are scheduling a protest. Tonight we are collecting beneath the ground, in the abandoned subway system from before OGS. We are going to march to District Authority and we are going to speak our minds. We will not live this way any longer. I invite you to join us.”
“No need to make up your mind now. We meet at 700 hours. Return to this spot if you want to live again,” Sam said and he disappeared into the shadows once more.
I walked into my apartment and look at the clock, “3:39.” Twenty-one minutes until I have to enter the revitalization chamber. Twenty-one minutes to decide if I’m going to end this downward spiral to sudden death. Taking this risk means potentially losing Joan, but I am likely to lose her to death shortly anyway. Taking this risk also means potentially having a real life with her, and for myself.
At 6:45 I am waiting in the same spot for Sam. Having left my revitalization chamber early, I am a little fatigued and the time seems to drag. After a few minutes Sam arrives and beckons me behind a tree. Beside the tree is a grate. Sam lifts the grate and tells me to follow him. We climb down the ladder affixed beneath the grate. The tunnel is dark, damp, and smells like mold. Sam hands me a flashlight and tells me to continue to follow him.
After maybe twenty minutes of walking we reach another ladder. We begin to climb. When we reach the top, Sam tells me to go ahead and he will follow. I climb out of the tunnel and find myself in a white room with a surgeon’s table in the center; the grate shuts below me. I turn to speak to Sam and ask him where we are, but he’s nowhere to be found. I look down at my forearm, my adrenaline meter is full again.
A door opens and a medical team rushes in. A few men in white scrubs grab me and place me on the table. “STOP. WHAT’S GOING ON?” I scream, but receive no answers. I kick and scream some more. Nothing. The guards overpower me and strap me down onto the table. I feel a sharp prick in my arm. The lights above me begin to fade, and I fall asleep.
I begin to screw. My job is to attach light bulbs to their bases in order to create streetlights that power Our Great Society, OGS. As I screw I start to think of how boring life must have been for Americans before the great revolution by the Sanitation. How much life has improved since then; now it is worth living! I wonder what Joan and I shall do this evening during adrenaline hours.
I continue to screw.
I can’t say that I was absolutely thrilled when I learned of my most recent assignment. Nonetheless, as one of the few ambassadors of Bristonia responsible for developing diplomatic relations, I must take each facet of my job very seriously. My name’s Colin Starks, and I’m a servant to the people of the timeless republic that is Bristonia. My role entitles me to meet with various leaders around the world to negotiate everything from trade agreements to peace treaties, and I was made to understand that this next mission was of paramount importance. A positive relationship with OGS was crucial to our Bristonia enjoying her economic prosperity; I learned of this straight from the horse’s mouth during my briefing with our prime minister. My being sent to meet with some of the leaders of the nation was to be interpreted as a gesture of good faith, one of those publicity stunts so crucial to the game of politics. In the process, I was also expected to learn a few things about the political and economic structure of the republic, as of these things we knew very little. Yes, OGS has been very secretive and secluded throughout the decades. The only thing we’re absolutely sure of is their ability to manufacture products of excellent quality. The OGS standard is synonymous with the finest attention to detail and uncompromising durability, and the most well-off Bristonians are willing to pay small fortunes for the social status that comes with owning a piece of OGS craftsmanship. There are rumors that all citizens of OGS lead a life of extreme luxury due to both the exceptional nature of their goods and the economic prosperity they enjoy as a result of the high demand of their exports.
I speak of rumors because our lack of knowledge about OGS forces some rumors to morph over time into widely accepted fact. We have never had a diplomatic mission with the country in the past, and OGS is always conspicuously absent from all the various nationwide assemblies held throughout the year. Yet here I am speeding across vast, empty valleys below in a private jet, flying in the direction of the unknown with ice clinking quietly in the glass clutched by my right hand. My colleagues warned me to stay diligent during my visit with OGS; they explained some of the unapologetically unnerving stories about the society that were well known among Bristonians. My wife also had a few cautionary words for me, mostly that although OGS was also an English-speaking country, the people undoubtedly led different lives than what we would consider to be normal and traditional. It’s true that life in capitalist Bristonia hasn’t changed much over our country’s long history, which is more than can be said for the relatively new state of OGS and their recent wars and volatile independences. I admit all of these discussions did have an effect on me, but a swig from my glass did more than enough to calm my nerves.
Upon landing I was greeted by a representative of OGS’s minister of economy and taken to meet with the minister himself. Walking through the elegant airport, I was surprised to see that it was somehow deserted during this normally busy hour, as the aid and I were the only souls within sight. I was brought towards a black car, out of which stepped a tall, well-dressed man with a dark skin complexion and a smile that seemed to reach from ear to ear. I approached him and held out my hand to meet his.
“Mr. Starks, allow me to be the first to formally welcome you to Our Great Society! We have nothing but deep admiration for you Bristonians, and are very pleased that we may host you so you may observe our country and understand what we are so proud of. I am Donald DeFaro; I’m honored with the title of minister of economy. Please, come inside the car with me, so we may discuss today’s plan of events.” He spoke with an interesting accent, and a voice that threw itself far and wide; it was the voice of a leader. I followed his instruction and sat down in the comfortable and pleasantly decorated convoy.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. DeFaro. I must say I’m looking forward to learning everything I can about your fine nation with a very eager interest. OGS enjoys an amicable reputation amongst citizens in Bristonia. There is, however, still a certain aura of mystery surrounding your country, and people have taken it upon themselves to construe fantastic fairy tales about what goes on within your borders.” As I peered through the window to take in my first views of the streets of OGS, I realized just how naïve all these tall-tales really were. The city I was brought to examine had no streets of sparkling gold. Rather, what I saw outside was a very well organized industrial hub. All around me where the smoky outlines of large factory complexes, with steam billowing out of a plethora of chimneys and shadows of quick movements just visible through foggy windows, and tall, brick towers with grids of hundreds of windows along their walls, framing what I assumed were tiny apartment spaces.
“As you can see by the various manufacturing facilities around us, Mr. Starks, our nation is built around the hard-working spirit of the people of OGS. Here, everybody is a part of the modern proletariat, and everybody must work. These are the principles that have given us success and a healthy economy. You will notice this when we visit one of our factory centers, where we produce some of the goods that are so sought after all around the world. After this, we will travel to the seat of government, housed in a different district, where a feast shall be ready for us. There you shall meet and parlay with some of my colleagues: the leaders of OGS.”
I could see that the minister meticulously organized this schedule as to impress me, so I may bring back good word of OGS to my superiors. The mention of a grand feast and a socializing hour were no different. I wasn’t going to let myself be swayed easily, however. I already had some prying questions about what I was seeing. Just as I had noticed a lack of people at the airport, looking out onto the streets I saw no pedestrians on the sidewalk, no cars on the roads. I raised this point to my guide.
“Ah yes, there is a simple explanation to this. You see the clock just struck 1600 hours, and all across OGS the hours between 800 and 1800 are designated for work. You have seen no people on the streets nor in the airports because every citizen is presently busy with his or her assigned role in one of these numerous manufacturing centers you see outside. After work hours conclude, everybody is free to enjoy any diversions they wish in their own respective districts. We are currently in District Adrenaline, so named because of the citizens…” Defaro suddenly hesitated. “… fondness… of activities that get their blood rushing.”
I thought this was a strange comment, and a strange name for a neighborhood, but nonetheless I smiled and nodded in the minister’s direction. We soon arrived at our destination, and I was brought on a tour of a manufacturing facility that was responsible for the production of luxurious home furniture. The sheer level of commotion, of movement and of hustle and bustle inside, was overwhelming at first. However, the more I observed the workers by the production line, those preparing raw material, and those boxing up finished products, the more I realized that this was an organized chaos. The amount of time each group of workers spent on a single piece of furniture was unnerving. I could plainly see how each product is indeed manufactured to the highest detail and quality. The goods exported by this nation deserved their upscale reputation. However, I didn’t understand how they could afford the time to be so meticulous in their manufacturing process, and still maintain a steady level of production. Certainly, this must require a huge number of employees to be working around the clock at this factory. I remembered what I saw outside the window on the drive over here; there were factory buildings as far as I could see. How large did OGS’s population have to be to allow for this?
All of my questions went unanswered as minister Defaro pushed me into the employee cafeteria, claiming that having an end-of-work-day dinner here would make my experience more authentic, and yelling that he would return promptly to resume our planned schedule. Before I even could think of protesting, he was gone, and I was left alone in this enormous mess hall. All around me, workers were sitting down at their tables in front of plates where meat, potatoes, and vegetables were piled massively high. As I was admittedly feeling hungry at this time, I stood in line to receive my serving. When I helped myself to what I believed was a healthy portion of some kind of mystery meat I could not identify, I noticed several people glaring at me inquisitively as they piled their plates high with absurd amounts of food. I would have to ask the minister as to whether he was aware of people following such extreme diets.
Suddenly, I could hear a bell ringing loudly, and all the people around me started to get up and walk towards a single direction. Men approached me, shouting, “Come on then, work is over. You know how all this works! Let’s go, up you go, time to leave, come then.” I was being lifted off my seat, forcefully pushed towards a set of doors. I tried to explain myself and tell them who I am, but the horror of the whole situation caused my words to get caught in my throat. Through these doors lay the darkness of the nighttime, the uncertainty of the street, and the mystery of OGS.
Once I was outside, I was finally able to see people walking along the sidewalks, but I was alone without my guide. The doors to the building I had left were locked shut behind me and I couldn’t find the car that had brought me here. I decided it was best if I stay close to this area, as somebody simply will have to come get me from here eventually. Part of me longed for the safety of the minister’s company and the comfort of the feast, but at the same time I knew this was my opportunity to see what happens here after work hours have concluded. There was much activity happening around: some people milling about the sidewalks, some coming in and out of the brick apartment complexes, some driving cars. I noticed the cars were being driven at speeds that no Bristonian would have dared attempt lest he be penalized with a costly speeding ticket. OGS must have a more relaxed stance on road speed limits in major cities, I reasoned. As a man whose job is to visit different countries and investigate their cultures, I often found myself drawn to observing such little differences in organization. I started to wander aimlessly to look for more of such discrepancies so I can have much to talk about when I return to Bristonia and am inevitably met with prying questions from my colleagues.
However, my attention was constantly drawn back to the automobiles on the street. They were moving at speeds well beyond any I’ve ever seen, or any reasonable human being would be comfortable with. The drivers were slicing through traffic, driving the wrong way, and hugging the curves tightly as if emulating scenes from an action-driven B-movie. All around me I heard the screeching of tires against asphalt, the rumble of engines being pushed to their limits, and the shriek of metal scraping against metal, which was apparently coming from accidents happening on adjacent streets. I stopped dead in my tracks to try to take this all in, and just then a four door sedan plowed head on into the wall right in front of me at a spectacular speed, the momentum of which catapulted the driver through his windshield. His body slid off the wall and lay in a crumpled heap in front of me, the eyes lifeless and bloodied.
At this moment I turned and ran as fast as my legs would take me in the opposite direction. I had already lost my sense of direction and the building that I had originally intended on staying close to, but I could not stay in one place with this madness happening around me. Turning the next corner, I found a band of motorcyclists plowing towards me on the sidewalk at an absurd speed. I clung to the wall as they passed me, performing perilous wheelies and handstands. One of these riders lost his balance and skidded on the ground while simultaneously being crushed by his bike. He was not wearing a helmet nor any protective gear, which should have been an obvious necessity considering the danger of his stunt. The injuries he sustained were surely fatal. I could not bring myself to look on much longer and kept running along.
I was witnessing the same events on every street that I ran past. There was a total disregard for safety and moderate, rational thought. All citizens were exposing themselves to extreme danger, and it seemed nobody around was sane enough to realize the hazard behind their actions. It was as if there had been a complete suspension of rational regard for one’s health in the pursuit of daredevilry.
My leg muscles were sending distress signals to my brain, begging me to stop my running when I noticed DeFaro’s car pulling up beside me. The door closest to me opened; I didn’t need to be told to get in. The minister was sitting inside, and I lay panting next to him. “Do you have an explanation for the hell that is going on out there? In your own illustrious nation?” I demanded of him.
Defaro sat looking pensively outside the window. I could tell he was frustrated by the restrained tone of his voice that was so booming earlier and the fact that he didn’t look at me when he spoke. “You weren’t supposed to see this. Why did you leave the factory, Mr. Starks?”
“Were you intending on showing all of this to me, or was I supposed to conveniently leave this anarchy out of my report to the president?”
“Oh, no, this is no anarchy. Believe me, this is all permissible by the Constitution of Our Great Society. Actually, it’s something that’s required of all citizens. What you saw was the good people of District Adrenaline willingly participating in their own government mandated acts of extremity. Everybody here loves their intense lifestyles and is very happily accustomed to the extreme actions they must take as citizens of District Adrenaline, Knowledge, Sin, or Sadism. And we public servants, residing in District Authority, forfeit our right to such a glorious way of life so we may govern our people.”
We came to a stop. Defaro silently left the car and entered into a building similar to that of the factory complex I had visited before. I was sure that this wasn’t the feast I was promised, but I had no choice to follow him inside.
“But what about the lives of your people?” I asked, as I struggled to keep up with his pace through the inside of the building. He was leading me through several series of doors, but it was too dark to see what lay around me. “I saw countless amounts of meaningless deaths while I was out there. How can you govern people if you aren’t interested in their well-being?”
“Every citizen is a vital cog in the well oiled machine that is Our Great Society. And what is a cog but a simple device with a function, and another cog pushing it to aid in that function’s execution? In our society, a citizen serves his country by working in a manufacturing plant, directly contributing to the health of our economy. But the quality of the excellent goods we produce requires several hours of work in an unrewarding environment. So the trick is to manipulate this cog, to make it love its function without noticing the pain of its execution. Thus, to keep our citizens’ minds from splitting under the weight of the physical and mental duress of factory life, we give them their pursuit of extremism to busy themselves with. They are content at work, as they are looking forward to satisfying their constant hunger for thrill-seeking, for hedonism, for knowledge…”
“But this is monstrous!” I protested, uncomfortably aware of the increasing hostility of our conversation, but nonetheless determined to speak against the treachery I am hearing. “How can you pretend to serve the interests of your people when you are the very ones who are forcefully deciding those interests for them? You have no respect for them and their rights as human beings!”
“Mr. Starks, I understand that at this point you know well more about the rules of our nation than we have intended on sharing with you. You of course understand that we do have a reputation to uphold with the countries that we trade with, including your own fine nation. Thus we will have to resolve this issue somehow, but for now, know this: each one of our tens of millions of citizens—“
“Tens of millions?” I had to interrupt him here, as this far surpassed any estimate Bristonia held of the population of OGS.
“Yes, indeed, tens of millions. How else would our production level be so great while maintaining the high quality of our products? We owe this population to a miracle of modern technology, and allow me to present to you now another scientific innovation that allows our society to thrive. As I was saying before, each one of our tens of millions of citizens is of the upmost utility to the rest of society as a whole, in life…” He paused; suddenly his ear-to-ear smile crept over his lips. It was the smile of a malevolent despot. “… and in death.”
The room around us was thrust into light. My eyes struggled to adjust to the sudden brightness, but when they finally did, I would have preferred to stay blind forever than witness the sight I was about to behold. We were in a production facility with conveyer belts, containers, and furnaces not unlike the furniture mill I had visited before. But in this room, the raw material was no longer wood and iron. It was the corpses of men and women, stripped of their clothing and cut up into pieces. They were being fed into some grisly machine in which human remains entered on one side and bright red raw hunks of meat emerged on the other. My brain initially refused to process what my eyes were seeing, but soon I cracked and fell over onto the floor as I heard the monster continue to speak.
“I trust you enjoyed your meal at the factory cafeteria earlier today? You Bristonians are said to fatten your game up before you send it to the chopping block, but we’ve found that years of hard labor are what really make the meat most tender and delicious!”
I understood all of this. An involuntary gag reflex took over my whole body and shook me to my core as I purged out every evil thing I had taken into my body in my time in this horrendous nation of cannibals. I began to crawl away from the man who seemed to enjoy my suffering, and used a nearby ledge to hoist myself up. I was in a daze, in no state to make any substantial movements, but I knew I needed to formulate some kind of escape plan. I leaned over this ledge to regain my balance, and realized it was overlooking a deep precipice. I could just make out shadows of heads, feet, arms, and other organic components of the human body that were thrown together haphazardly into a pile below. Then I felt a soft push behind me, gentle, almost guiding me over the edge. I fell forward, fall toward the darkness, fell forever.
During the 1960s, many small intentional communities were formed with the purpose of following the ideas of free love, social protest, and drug use that have come to define the decade. Further study of three communities established during this time period offer a perspective on the aspirations of the stereotypical hippie who turns away from greater society to live amongst a small group of people with no laws or judgement. The loosely formed communities of Tolstoy Farm, the Perry Lane Cabins, and Drop City were constructed as havens for free expression and life away from subjective social norms, where participants could find their own personal utopias during a time of great sociopolitical strife.
Many intentional societies are formed around the teachings of certain philosophers, both old and new. One such example is the Tolstoy Farm commune that was formed in the rural town of Davenport, Washington in 1963. Leo Tolstoy was a novelist and great thinker who was active in the mid to late 19th century, during which he wrote his most famous works War and Peace and Anna Karenina. The themes present in his writings inspired a group of activists to follow him, who called themselves Tolstoyans. Tolstoyans follow the values Tolstoy modeled after Jesus Christ’s “sermon on the mount” from the New Testament. Specifically, Tolstoyans followed the following tenets:
The original Tolstoy farm was founded in South Africa in 1910 by Mohandas Ghandi. This is where he first began to teach the ideas of pacifism and non-violence, keeping strictly faithful to these five tenets. Over fifty years later, when Hue Williams founded the second Tolstoy Farm, it was with the intention of providing a base for organized government protests, which were hugely popular during the decade. Although he did create his society based on the ideas of Ghandi and Tolstoy that he admired, his adaptation of the Tolstoyan Farm was more of an attempt to live free of the influence of government, and try to disrupt that influence on others in the form of social protest. In the 120 acre community, which at its height was comprised of close to 50 individuals, consumption of drugs and promiscuity were promoted. Monogamous relations were actually heavily discouraged. This lead to severe rifts in the originally tightly-knit community, and would eventually contribute to its demise. During the five years the community was active, its inhabitants lead lives of very few comforts. Williams’ rules prohibited members from holding traditional jobs outside of the society. Instead, they relied on cultivating their own sources of food and pleading for donations. One of Tolstoy Farm’s few sources of income came from the sale of illegal drugs, specifically marijuana that was grown on site. There was little significant infrastructure in the community, as one reporter described described:
Dotted with shacks and makeshift abodes, it’s reminiscent of Hoovervilles of the 1930’s.
Hoovervilles were makeshift shacks built in the outskirts of major cities during the Great Depression, named after then-president Herbert Hoover.
The individuals who congregated together on the Tolstoy Farm did not have many skills to maintain their community. They were primarily interested in social protest and a laid back way of life away from society that they believed was stifling them. In 1968, the Farm was faced with the culmination of several major problems that had plagued the community since its inception. The society was under heavy police scrutiny due to their sale of illegal drugs, and members were leaving the community, largely fed up with the pressure to refrain from traditional relationships. Later that year, a fire destroyed most of the constructions on the site, and this was the final nail in the Tolstoy Farm’s coffin. The plot of land was abandoned, and later reclaimed and built into a farming collective, which it remains to this day.
Many of the social experiments organized during this decade were small groups of people that congregated together with the intention of consuming psychedelic drugs. LSD is a drug widely associated with the 60s, and its use was allowed in the United States until 1966. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey were two popular figures who wrote and spoke extensively in support of the drug for its medicinal and spiritual benefits, and they were both participants in a short-lived society which resided in several wood cabins on Perry Lane, Menlo Park, California. Timothy Leary was a Harvard professor who was dismissed form the university after conducting studies of the effects of psychedelic drugs on the human mind. He continued to lecture about the benefits of psilocybin and LSD around the country, and remained active in his support of psychedelics until his death in 1996. Ken Kesey, author of the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was a participant in the CIA-financed MK-Ultra experiments which looked to develop psychedelics as a form of mind control. After this, he organized the Perry Lane cabins settlement and traveled around the country with his “band of merry pranksters” to promote psychedelic drug use, as detailed in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests.
The Perry Lane cabins were organized with the specific intention of bringing people together to discover their own utopias through companionship and psychedelic drug use. Participants engaged in “acid tests,” which were parties in which the drugs were taken and experiences were shared and discussed. The events inspired the title of Wolfe’s book, who wrote of the unity of the members in this society:
There were many puzzled souls looking in, but we were all captivated… Perry Lane was too good to be true. It was Walden Pond, only without any Thoreau misanthropes around. Instead, a community of intelligent, very open, out-front people who cared deeply about one another and shared… and embarked on some kind of adventure in living.
Perhaps the most well known and accomplished utopian society during the decade was the artist’s commune formed in Trinidad, Colorado in 1965 known as Drop City. After meeting at the at the University of Kansas, where they all studied painting, Jo Ann and Gene Bernofsky along with Clark Richert decided to buy 6 acres of land so they may live together cheaply and focus on making great works of art. They recruited a few local artists and built small shacks on the property out of any material they could get their hands on (most often the metal roofs of discarded automobiles) in the shape of geodesic domes, a sphere-like conglomeration of various shapes designed by the American inventor Buckminster Fuller to be completely structurally efficient. These large metal domes laid out with various colors became the recognizable symbol of Drop City.
The society would accept anyone who was willing to create, accept a simple life, and share in some of the beliefs of Drop City’s original founders. They did not believe in work for pay in the traditional sense, and it was important to them that everyone in the community be equal in their poverty, as Jo Ann Bernofsky described:
It’s important to be employed; work is important, but we felt that to be gainfully employed was a sucking of the soul and that a part of one of the purposes of the new civilization was to be employed, but not to be gainfully employed, so that each individual would be their own master and we idealistically believed that if we were true to that principle, that if we did nongainful work that the cosmic forces would take note of this and would supply us with the necessities of survival.
The necessities of survival that she speaks of were mostly gained through scavenging and donations (some from Buckminster Fuller himself). For some time, the community enjoyed its reclusion and occupants were happy to be able to produce art. Soon enough, Drop City found celebrity thanks to being profiled in Time magazine in 1967 and rumored visits of famous musicians such as Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison. Several citizens began to sell their artworks to be displayed in galleries. This went against the intentions of the original founders, who left in 1968. Drop City grew to the size of about forty people who continued to work on art together, their most well-known piece being The Ultimate Painting.
Excitement about the renegade community died out quickly, however, and life in Drop City was exceedingly difficult due to the same lack of resources that contributed to the downfall of the Tolstoy Farm. Abandoned by its founders and with no attempt to better the grounds on which it stood, Drop City disbanded at the end of 1970. The following article reports on conditions towards the end of the society’s existence:
The kitchen was filthy, and there was no soap because money was short. Hepatitis had recently swept through the commune… Sleeping quarters were seriously overcrowded. The outhouse was filled to overflowing, and there was no lime to sterilize it. In 1970, Drop City had become a laboratory dedicated to a totally minimal existence.
A large reason as to why these societies were short lived is the lack of proper infrastructure . The people who organize these societies seem to have lacked the skills or simply did not attend to the design of plumbing, food sources, and other necessities to allow their communes the ability to flourish. All of these experimental societies of the 1960s were formed by just a few individuals with the desire to turn away from greater society and their own ideas of what it takes to make a utopia.
#Perfect! MacBarbie07 thought with a contented smile, as she wedged deeper into her chair and looked at her finished product, herself, on the iLens screen. Her previous blonde hair had been nice at first, but was getting a bit outdated after a few weeks of wear. Photoshop had properly lengthened and dyed it to a ravishing color that she was sure Surferboi would admire on their date tonight. She snapped a screenshot with the blink of an eye, opened up a new tab with a sideways glance, and realized it was that time of day again for her old body’s daily Foodamin.
Lazily casting her old arm (Janet’s arm, though she rarely thought of Janet anymore) into the compartment of the chair she called home, she prepared to post a witty caption underneath her new avatar’s selfie. Suddenly MacBarbie07 noticed that her fingers were casting about in the compartment and not touching a thing. She made sure she had covered every corner but…emptiness. Her Foodamins had not been refilled in their pouch today. What?! The outside workers haven’t been late in their delivery once since I got admitted into iLand Getaway twenty-one years ago… I was one of them once… I had to earn my way in here. The work schedule is strict, and nobody would dare mess it up and throw away their chance to join iLand… As MacBarbie07’s Facebook wall loaded, she noticed the last few posts from the afternoon:
“#Foodaminsonstrike” “G0t f00damins?” “Any1 else not get a refill 2day?!”
MacBarbie07 began to grow nervous. She immediately checked the Facebook pages of all of the Founding Fathers, beginning with the innovative Mark Zuckerberg. No explanation. God’s Facebook page was also mysteriously blank, with no questions answered all day. She noticed several posts on His wall asking about the Foodamins incident, but to no avail, not even the standard replies of “Keep web surfing and all things will work out for the good of the Wifi.” His last post had been made a few days ago, simply reading “See Paragraph 102.” It had not received any likes, and MacBarbie07 had therefore overlooked it as irrelevant, and even now did not focus on it for more than a fraction of a second.
The whole purpose of iLand Getaway was to help its citizens forget everything about their physical lives, bodies included. Everything was arranged to have as little body maintenance as possible. A perfect avatar was maintained, while the body itself was just a willingly forgotten shell. iLand Getaway showcased the real individual, the inside that counted, that those in the real world had never accepted.
For the first time in twenty-one years, MacBarbie07 was reminded of the old life and body she had not missed or longed for very much since her arrival. She remembered the black turbans of the chanting militant religious group, the beheadings, the cancers, the wasted political system…and on a smaller scale, the turned-off faces whenever anybody looked at her, the rejection, the crushing loneliness. A twinge of annoyance accompanied this crisis, along with worry. What would the pixels of iLand do without the nutrients that kept their minds alert and functioning to surf the web and watch the newest cute cat videos?
An excerpted chat history between MacBarbie07 and Surferboi, retrieved from iLand’s WiFi system long after it became obsolete:
Surferboi: Aww u r 2 beautiful and popular 2 b sad *hugs*
Suferboi: I wish my food printer was working. I wud make u ur fav food. I feel like I know u so well.
MacBarbie07: Aww *blushes* thank u! So sweet. The FFs no wut they r doing. I <3 Zuckerberg. And u 2!
Surferboi: I luv u moreee. Can u ask some of your followers to follow me 2?
Note: The full pointless conversation can be found in the iLand Wing of the Old Technology Museum, located adjacent to the Blackberry Wing.
Three days. Three long days. MacBarbie07’s mind was growing bored, dim and tired. She had little energy to even navigate the screen before her eyes and post any sort of status. No word from God or any of iLand’s founding fathers on any subject. No Foodamin refill. No clean water from her versatile chair. Only weak one word answers from her friends in all of her group chats. Some had disappeared altogether, with no presence declaring their streams of consciousness. A few remaining desperate pleas rang out on all social media outlets:
“We thought we cud count on u Mark…#Schmuckerberg” “God is dead.” “Steve’s not dead.”
Her mind in a sleepy fog, without adequate stimulation and left to its own weak entertainment-deprived devices, MacBarbie07 hardly noticed when her entire virtual vision winked out and went blank. My lenses went to sleep, she thought weakly. She blinked rapidly to wake up the screen, her muscle movements connecting with the lenses that had become her world. No response. The first drip of adrenaline in a long while shot through her veins. She straightened her depleted body violently, blind to all worlds. Her throat croaked in protest, but after years of disuse would not make a sound. MacBarbie07 continued to blink, to dart her eyes around every which way, but to no avail. The Wifi that powered her virtual world had, for the first time in iLand’s history, shut down.
MacBarbie07 knew something must be very wrong. In shock, she began to realize what would have to be done, what many others had probably done already. She slowly reached up her hands to her eyes and scraped at them weakly. One film came out of her eye, then the other, feebly dropping to the floor. Vision slowly returned, along with Janet. Plain, boring old Janet with the slightly stocky build, mousy brown hair that must have gone a bit gray by now, and those awful beady eyes. Darkness continued to fill up her vision, yet this time it slowly adjusted. Janet peered around the blackness of cubicle that was her body’s home. A small window drilled into the wall showed that it was nearing the end of the day.
Weakened by the lack of essential vitamins to her body, dazed from lack of amusement, Janet slowly got up from her chair, pulling the tube that dealt with her drink and waste processes out with her. The door. I must have to go to the door and see if there are others…See others…Oh no. Oh no. This can’t be happening. This must be fixed. Janet began to walk over to the door, leaning against the wall for support as her unused legs buckled beneath her and cramped up; they had forgotten the reflexive movements of walking. She paused before turning the door, wondering if she should even bother to fix herself after years of neglect. Her hair had grown ragged and long, her face sagging and wrinkled from the feel of it. She weakly straightened her rumpled brown dress that had grown faded and tight over the years.
Finally, with nothing left to do, Janet opened her cubicle’s door, not knowing what would await her there…
Piercing light from the big windows, which were thankfully dirty enough to not reveal the world all at once. Janet was nonetheless brought to her knees in the hallway outside her cubicle by the glare that had been absent for so long. After this temporary rest, she opened her watery eyes. There were others, as 30 cubicles lined each wall. Some had not been strong enough to make it down the hallway, unconscious bodies littering the doors to the other cubicles and the passageway itself at the exertion of physical activity.
She spotted a man in his thirties, about the age she had been when she joined iLand, picking his way over the others with less effort than it would have taken her in this state. She tried to speak, but again, no sound emerged. Janet instead pounded on the wall faintly for his attention. He turned, though his reaction was a bit delayed. His eyes were hazy, and he squinted through the light to see her. His nose was several inches too long, his scraggly hair almost covering his eyes, his back stooped over into a hunch. Despite how Janet knew she must have looked, she could barely hold back her disgust at his appearance. Yet at the same time, the three dimensional body made of individual veins and bones and cells fascinated her.
He hoarsely choked out a whisper, breaking her reverie: “What do we do?” She could only stare at the sound of another human voice. It was full of substance and reality, rich with an unpleasant tone of horror and disbelief. Janet choked slightly, attempting to clear her throat. Her voice box finally participated and spoke, for the first time in twenty-one long years, without the rich power of inflection the man had possessed… “I don’t know.” She had never been one for words anyway.
“Um. Let’s get out.” the man cracked out in a mix of awkward human speech and the somewhat shortened sentence structure typical of online lingo. Janet nodded gawkily and started to follow him, self conscious that she would be slowing him down. They made their way into the narrow elevator at the end of the passage, and when it opened a handful of others were revealed, clearly on the same mission as them. They all stared at each other with eyes as wide as saucers, only to quickly look down and avoid any eye contact.
Janet trudged into the elevator using the wall for support as if she were ice skating for the first time. Her legs ached. She stared intensely at the floor. Her mind was cranking out thoughts of fear and panic, the whole machine breaking down. Her life was thrown up in the air, but instead of coming down it seemed to be floating farther and farther up.
Yet despite her burning worry and confusion, she was too afraid to ask anybody around her what they knew. As a matter of fact, nobody spoke at all. There was no frenzy or hurried movements. Her eye caught the pale leg of the woman next to her with pale blue varicose veins lining its length, so full of flaws, nothing appealing to the eye. Nobody spoke in the elevator ride down all fifty floors. Perhaps they were too ashamed to draw attention to themselves. Perhaps they just didn’t want to.
When the elevator creaked to a stop and opened into the entrance room with the exit door, Janet realized how poor the infrastructure of her residency was. Because nobody was living their lives in the physical space or even aware of its features, the entire building lacked adequate lighting and visual appeal. Maintenance was hardly a requirement. There would have been no windows for light in the hallways or lobby at all if not for the delivery workers.
Janet shuffled to the door with the others. They all paused, not out of any sense of unity or to wait for one another, but because all were aware of what was beyond that splintered and faded wooden door. It stood there as innocently as Pandora’s Box, making it hard to believe that evil was indiscriminate when it came to space: it always wedged its way into a space from the wide world beyond. Contagious disease, rotting garbage, animals dead, violent storms of hail and lightning, ruthless criminals, rage-filled terrorists… this rickety old building was a lighthouse for the citizens of iLand in the midst of all this chaos, and now they were being set afloat into the rocky waters of the all too real world. Nobody made a sound of either comfort or fear. One by one, at their own paces, they walked through the door separately and soundlessly.
When the world of iLand Getaway fell, once so full of life and laughter and opinions, nobody emitted so much as a single scream. It was just too embarrassing to do so.
Janet stared. The world was a different place than the one she had left behind, that was certain. How insidious these changes had been she did not know. Nobody in iLand’s virtual world, which was so much more real to her than this wasteland, had any contact or news from the outside. When she had arrived, these buildings were newer, taller, brighter.
Janet turned her head from side to side, taking a look at the tree-lined streets which were beautiful in juxtaposition to the crumbling cubicle-crammed constructions. It was autumn, and as the multicolored leaves crunched under her feet and disintegrated, others crunched through the leaves ahead of her. Footsteps of many others formed a resounding beat, streaming from the building complexes. They all walked alone, united only by direction and purpose.
Janet did not know what to do. She squinted in resistance to the raw natural light that filtered into her vision, no dirty windows to hold it back now, molten rays splaying patterns at her feet through the trees and branches. Luckily the sun was not at its apex, so the light wasn’t painful, though she had not relaxed her eye muscles out of their squint. All of the iLand compounds stretched into the sky, bleak and squashed and grey. This austere exterior somehow held a colorful universe within two clear iLenses.
Janet stumbled towards the people walking ahead of her and spent about fifteen minutes trying to get up the nerve to ask the woman closest to her side where they were going with such purpose, where the founding fathers were, where all the crime and disease and pain was lurking. She had so many questions but no courage. Speaking to that man in the hallway had been strange and unpleasant enough, and that was from a distance. She decided she could not bear to do it or touch somebody to draw their attention to her, and inside of her she began to panic, wondering if she would ever return to her homepage again.
Others, mostly the younger ones, were quietly speaking yet maintaining many inches of range between each other, a wide sphere of personal space. “They left.” “Gone…” “Nobody in the power plants.” “Town close by, I just got here a few months ago, I remember.” “What happened to the Wifi?” The hushed whispers from afar were broken by the most jarring sound of all, one that had not yet occurred amidst the entire world being hacked and shattered. An athletic young man was making his way towards them from the direction they were walking towards. He was with another man, and this man was shouting something to them.
Everybody stared in horror at the unfamiliar noise and shrunk back, some even ceasing to walk. An even deeper silence rippled over the crowd. The young man and his companion stopped a few feet away. The boy was in his teens, likely new to iLand, but still showed the ragged appearance, cloudy eyes, and staggering footsteps of a person disconnected. He quickly disappeared into the crowd. The second man, however, was older and dressed in a charcoal grey suit with combed back hair. He stood straight before the crowd and continued to yell the same phrase: “It’s over! It’s all over!” The citizens of iLand did not answer him. They did not want to. They did not know how to. They simply stared. He squinted at them quizzically and began to shout again. “People of iLand! I am from the nearest city where your Founding Fathers live. I am a secretary in their headquarters. Your fellow citizen was the first to make it to our city running and seeking answers. He didn’t say much but it seems that he was not aware of what happened to your society. Does anybody else not know what happened to iLand?” Though all were burning to know the answer to this very question, the silence prevailed, growing awkward. Everybody wanted to continue the conversation, but nobody wanted to interact. The man wrinkled his eyes and eventually stopped waiting for a response. “Well, okay. I guess I’ll tell you anyway, incase some of you haven’t realized what happened.” Silence. The man appeared frustrated. He muttered something about doing all the dirty work. “iLand is over! You will not be returning. Ever!”
Though Janet’s eyes and those of her fellow citizens grew wide, and some even made O’s with their mouth, nothing was said. “Don’t you get it?” the man related, exasperated. “It’s over! The Founding Fathers moved on! You are all obsolete. They have decided to invest elsewhere, in…space tourism.” That worked up the crowd- some breaths got deeper, caught in gasps. The man, tired of waiting for any verbal communication, went on in the midst of the slight noise. “This was a condition in the terms of service which you made clear you had “read and agreed to” on your first day in iLand. You all clicked that you understood. Did everybody forget? Paragraph 102 of the contract states that…” At this point the man pulled a paper from inside his suit pocket. “’WHEREAS, the five Founding Fathers and Service Providers may withdraw financial and technical support from this society at any time in pursuit of a more worthy field of interest.’”
The man looked up and coughed uncomfortably. Janet looked around her and saw many lowering their heads in frustration and sadness. She would never dare admit that she had not so much as read the first sentence of that contract before providing her electronic signature. The man went on, giving out instructions that all iLand citizens would now have to rejoin with their real families or make their own way in the world, but all were welcome to join his growing city and the space tourism efforts. For the first time noises erupted through the crowd in waves. Some began to wail in cracked voices rusty with disuse. The young ones were again the first to find their frantic voices: “Moved on?!” “We have to live on the outside now?!” “They forgot about us…” Fear began to seep into Janet. She suddenly felt vulnerable, exposed in a chaotic world where nothing could protect her from the abundance of evil. This was a place where germs floated in the air, wickedness could not be adequately controlled, and people rejected you with their loud words and disgusted faces.
At that exact moment, timed more perfectly than the Foodamin deliveries, the glowing sphere of the sun touched the horizon. It nested precariously there for a few precious moments before being pulled under the horizontal line. Smoldering golden rays illuminated certain faces as they shot through the sky, which was full of clouds glowing deep oranges and reds, blues and purples. The people of iLand looked up as one in wonder, and Janet herself was taken aback, awestruck.
She had forgotten what a sunset looked like. All that time and she had not once bothered to remember past the distractions of her avatar’s hair color, the latest hashtag, the forum fights over which founding father was the best (It was Mark). She could not even breathe. The fiery rays set a fire in her that consumed the fear, the loss, the worry over what would happen to her now.
Janet looked around her and realized that she would remain Janet forever. MacBarbie07 was obsolete. Others were peering around too, a bit more boldly than they had before, some even daring to look others in the eye. A hand nudged hers. Janet looked to one side and saw that a chain had started, all the castaway citizens of iLand grasping each other’s hands as they gazed up in awe. Janet held the doughy hand of the woman next to her, soft from lack of use. She gripped it tightly, felt the places where the creases and wrinkles rose and fell. She prodded the person on her other side in turn, desiring nothing more than to gaze with mankind at this ball of fire that had been in existence from the beginning of time, looked upon by the eyes of all those who had come before her. The human chain continued.
Some in the crowd had delirious looks in their eyes. The sun had not left them reverent; rather, they took on the bewildered look of Icarus, as if the blaze had melted away the artificial means of survival that brought them somewhere they never should have been in the first place. A few pulled from the mass and ran back to the infrastructure of iLand; now a floating, polluted sea of brown rickety buildings that reached to the sky but never quite made it to the source of all the splendor that had struck the citizens of iLand with deep wonder.
They all walked forward together, step by step, hand in hand, looking up. Janet smiled, forgetting all about herself in the wake of this magnificence. “Space tourism!” The beaming woman next to her, hair frazzled around her sagging face, remarked breathlessly. Janet found her voice. “The iLand system was getting outdated. Up there is where I want to be. I bet it was Mark Zuckerberg’s idea! He is so innovative!” And so the citizens of iLand picked themselves up and, seeing the beautiful world around them, chose to run full speed to the next big thing.
World War Z is a post-apocalyptic dystopian movie about the outburst of rabies-like infection which turns healthy people into “zombies”. The movie starts off with Gerry and his happy family, living their normal life. Suddenly, the mood of the movie turns immediately from peace to chaos— cars started crashing, people swarming in every direction, and the police trying to get the situation under control.
Gerry and his family fled from the city, and tried to survive while he awaits for help. Turns out, Gerry used to be a UN investigator. He is being called back to help out with the UN’s research on this outburst. The UN Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni, tries his best to get Gerry and his family into the U.S. Navy base where they could be safe.
When at the U.S. Navy base, Gerry was coerced into joining the investigation team to find a cure for the disease. The rest of the movie showcases Gerry’s multiple missions in various countries, each time trying to survive zombie attacks. Ultimately, Gerry succeeds in finding a temporal cure.
I find that this movie focused a lot on zombie-human wars, providing minimal attention on themes. Nonetheless, there were a few themes.
The first one is government.
After Gerry and his family arrives the U.S Navy base, Thierry asks Gerry to join in the investigation. When Gerry refuses to go because of his family, Thierry says that him and his family would then have to be relocated at a refugee camp in mainland. This is because the U.S. Navy has a policy that any “unessential” group of people will be expelled from the ship and transferred to the mainland refugee camp. Gerry knows that the mainland refugee camp is not safe at all, and being at sea is his family’s safest bet for survival. Having convinced, Gerry agrees to Thierry’s offer.
I find that human’s individual rights is not a priority anymore under this dystopian setting. Gerry was basically threatened/forced to follow the the UN’s orders. And in the movie, Gerry was told “If you don’t go, there’s a lot of people waiting in line to take your spot”. It goes to show that in a dystopia setting, the individual is not seen as an individual anymore; the individual serves the community, and the government.
In fact, from this example, I find the theme of ethics come into play too. In the movie, When Gerry was thought to be dead, Gerry’s wife and 2 girls were escorted out of the navy ship and to the refugee camps almost immediately. While it sounds logical to do so, I argue that it is not entirely rational and definitely unethical. First off, they were not 100% sure that Gerry was dead, and secondly, if the family were already on the ship, why not just let them be there? At least for a couple of weeks while they could confirm that Gerry was actually dead. I thought the government was wasting more manpower, and posed more threat to themselves by having to deliver each and every “unessential” persons immediately to the dangerous mainland refugee camp every time an “essential” member was dead.
I find that the movie also displayed themes of science/technology vs. nature.
In the end, Gerry found a solution to the disease. He realized that the zombies only attacked healthy human beings, and when facing sick and old people, they ignore them and just walks away. So, Gerry decided to try a radical solution of injecting oneself with another deadly but curable disease. There was a quote in the movie that summarized how Gerry found out the solution, “Mother nature is like a serial killer, like every serial killer, she wants to get caught… she likes disguising her weaknesses as strengths.” The fact that Gerry was able to come up with this solution,shows that medical technology was advanced enough to overcome flaws of nature.
Ethics in The Road
Everyone has a friend who says one thing but does another, a person whose actions are contradictory to his or her words. Imagine someone who is in favor of being green and keeping the earth clean. This person does extensive research before purchasing products so that when it comes time to throw them out most of his or her belongings can be recycled and reused by other people. The individual attends environmental protection meetings and is enthusiastic with spreading the word among friends. But at the same time that person smokes cigarettes and pollutes the air. The person believes that he or she is helping the earth by attending meetings and being present at rallies but does not realize that smoking is going against what he supposedly believes in. Similarly in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the father and son define themselves as the “good guys” but they do not help out the rest of the survivors. McCarthy suggests that law and ethics usually go hand in hand. For example, it is unethical to murder someone and it is also against the law to kill another human being. But in a world that has lost authority, ethics is also lost because each person has his or her own definition of what the morally correct thing to do when there is now law.
Cormac McCarthy was first inspired to write The Road when he visited Texas in 2003 with his son. He thought about what the area would look like in the future and saw “fire up on the hill”. The Road won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and is dedicated to his son. (Winfrey) The novel is about a father and his son wandering through the ashes of America after an apocalypse. The book does not explicitly show reader what the catastrophic event occurred, but allows the reader to imagine with meticulous descriptions of many disastrous scenes. They are traveling south towards warmer temperatures. They do not have much left except the road on which they travel on and each other. Since there is no animals or vegetation for consumption some humans resort to cannibalism. Throughout the book the father reassures his son that they are “the good guys” and they must find shelter from “the bad guys”, the cannibals. They have one firearm but only two bullets are loaded in it. The gun is their last resort in case they fall in the hands of the cannibals. The few survivors they meet they leave behind in order to save themselves and hopefully reach their destination. When it comes down to it they father will prioritize his son and himself over everyone else.
Throughout the novel the father constantly reminds his son that they are “the good guys”. He confirms “we’re ok…nothing bad is going to happen to us…because we’re carrying the fire.” (83) With this continual encouragement that they are upright and holding a supposed conflagration the father and son find the strength to keep traveling towards their destination. The father created a divide to separate him and his son from the supposed enemies. The label “the bad guys” consists of roadagents, cannibals, and anyone who could pose a threat to the man and his son. The man tells the boy stories about the old world and hope to try to keep fire alive in his son. They talk about the possibilities about a crow flying to Mars. The father says, “if you had a really good spaceship and you had people to help you I suppose you could go.” (157) The adult tries to instill hope in the child. Even in times of hardship the father teaches the son “This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don’t give up.” (137) When the man dies and the boy is found by a family who offer to take him in he asks, “How do I know you’re one of the good guys?…Are you carrying the fire? (283) When the boy runs into trouble in the future he still remembers his father’s words and keeps trying to protect himself and searching for the good guys.
The pair’s behavior is governed by what is right in their eyes. This is also reinforced by the fact that they are the good guys. Throughout the story the father and son’s priority is preservation, but the father’s attitude towards outsiders is not the same. The boy sees another small boy that looked about the same age as him in a house and worries about him. He ponders, “what if that little boy doesn’t have anybody to take care of him? What if he doesn’t have a papa?” (85) Even after his son’s tearful pleas, his father decides to leave the stranger behind. Another incident occurs while they are exploring the basement of formerly magnificent house. The people down there were “huddled against the back wall…naked…all trying to hide…a man with his legs gone to the hip and the stumps of them blackened and burnt.” (110) The scene was horrific. These victims were being kept alive in the basement for the sole purpose of being eaten by the road agents. One of them was already half gone. After escaping the house of horror the boy wonders what fate awaits the victims and confirms his father’s reason for leaving them behind. He says, “They’re going to eat them, aren’t they? Yes. And we couldn’t help them because then they’d eat us too. Yes. And that’s why we couldn’t help them. Yes.” (127) Even after leaving them behind the boy worries about them and tries to justify their actions. Some time later all of our main characters’ belongings were stolen. After tracking down the culprit the man strips the thief, figuratively and literally, of everything he has including his shoes. He protests, “Don’t do this, man. You didn’t mind doing it to us…You took everything…I’m going to leave you the way you left us.” (257) In the end, due to the boy’s pleas, they leave clothes and shoes on the road where they found the man. The boy is compassionate towards the people who are not the “bad guys” and he wants to bring them along for companionship. The father will do what is necessary in his eyes to protect himself and his son even if it means that he is leaving other innocent people to meet their demise.
In each example, the pairs’ ethics are challenged and the father makes decisions that the boy does not agree with but cannot go against. When the son spotted a little boy the father made the decision to keep moving on the road. The boy cried, “What about the little boy?” (86) The son even tried to negotiate with his father that he would share half of his food with the little boy, but his requests were denied. In today’s world if one saw a little boy who seemed lost, the most common question to ask the boy is “Where is your mommy?” Trying to help out the child would be the natural thing to do. But in such a world where survival as become “natural” people are left behind. When the duo left the dozens of victims in the basement the boy felt remorse and attempted to justify their reasons for deserting the ones in need. He says, “We couldn’t help them because then they’d eat us too…And that’s why we couldn’t help them.” (127) The connection to the victim here is not as strong as it was to the little boy because the son could identify with the young child. When the father and son caught the thief with their possessions they took everything he had. The boy protested, “Just help him…He was just hungry, Papa. He’s going to die.” (259) The boy finally convinces his father to leave clothes and shoes for the thief. The boy has a heart for helping others while the man’s heart has grown hard and cold in order to face reality and protect them. This shows that even the father and his son cannot agree on what the “right” thing to do is.
In The Road, Cormac McCarthy conveys that in a lawless society ethics is questioned because of priorities. The son has a strong sense of being a “good guy” and is taught to run away from the “bad guys”. His father’s teachings about what to look for in a good guy follows him even after the man has passed away. The choices the father makes are dependent on what he thinks is the right thing to do. These selections are based on what is advantageous to the father and the son even though it may not benefit the rest of what is left of society. Throughout the novel ethics is applied to each person differently and there is such a clash because the father and son have different opinions about what the “right” thing to do is. Seeing as this is what McCarthy envisions for our future, if some sort of apocalypse occurs there may be a very small bit of hope in mankind. The fact that we do not know if the boy survives after the family takes him in is representative of the mysterious and unknown future.
Between China & Russia engaging in germ warfare and a plague killing millions in the US (as far as we know), Dr. Robert Neville has become the last man on earth. In a flashback, we learn that Neville gave himself one of the trial vaccines after his pilot dies while they are flying.
Dr. Robert Neville believes he is living alone in the city. By day, he finds entertainment in tracking “The Family” and watching reruns of the movie, Woodstock. By night, he is holed up in his apartment, cooking dinner and speaking to a statue.
“The Family”: When people succumbed to the plague, not all of them died. There were some that became albinos. The albinos ended up being the ones who burned many of the bodies and tried to go back to simpler living. They see humanity’s downfall as science. Due to their albino skin and cultish behavior, they started to kill anyone who was not like them (even people who did not contract the disease and survived the plague).
After walking around the city’s department store, Neville thinks he sees a woman. As he goes on a chase to find this person, he gets caught by “The Family” when they drop a huge wine shelf on him. Neville is brought in front of Mathias, leader of “The Family” and former news anchor. Mathias determines that Dr. Neville is guilty of murder and must be burned at the stake.
Neville gets rescued by a group of people still surviving, including the woman Lisa that he spotted earlier in the department store. Soon, Neville learns that there are a group of people who have still not contracted the virus. Just one of them, Lisa’s younger brother Richie, is slowly turning into an Albino.
Luckily, Neville realizes that he can use his blood to cure Richie. When Richie is cured, he questions if Neville would now pass along the vaccine to “The Family” so that they could also be cured. Instantly, Neville refuses and Richie takes on the mission to go convince “The Family” to work with Neville and receive the treatment. “The Family” thinks Neville sent Richie as a spy and they kill him.
In the meantime, Lisa went shopping for the day and unexpectedly succumbs to the Albino disease. She lets “The Family” into Neville’s home and they stab him. When Neville tries to escape, he (stupidly) brings Lisa with him. Mathias throws a spear and hits Neville in the chest – Neville is slowly dying but ends up living long enough to give some of his blood to the remaining humans. They drive off and it leaves the viewers wondering what will happen.
This movie was based off of the 1954 book, I am Legend. However, the movie does differ from the book although some of the premises are the same. I actually found the movie to be quite telling of the time period. This was a point in history that we discussed in class as being a time when people didn’t know if they were going to die. There was the cuban missiles crisis, the arms race with Russia, Vietnam… I guess it seemed as if the world falling apart was not such a far fetched reality.
This movie is often also credited with being one of the first to have an interracial kissing scene. Neville is played by the actor, Charlton Heston who is white and Lisa is played by the actress, Rosalind Cash who is black. They do have a love scene in the movie.
Comparing The Omega Man to Ecotopia:
Both The Omega Man and Ecotopia were made/published in the 70s. I see a link between the two in that society evolves in a distinct way due to the current realities. The Omega Man is an apocalyptic dystopia that has been created because of biological warfare and human greed. Ecotopia is created after some of the states choose to secede when they are sick of how horrible the US had become. Obviously Ecotopia is a voluntary response to their reality as opposed to The Omega Man which is the opposite.