Blank loam and modular carpet squares fill the expanse between terminals. A wide open field. Changes erupt on the kingdom from polyploidal network cables. But those things only seem sudden. The things that make smoke have been creeping along in cooling fan dust for some time.
Filth is a ride. It’s a bridge between microbes. Lower life forms carry command prompts from the metanetwork. Information is on the move in an executable that’s escaped the mainframe. Tediously it moves on. But still--it is happening. Seasons and decades pass by, exhaling mock exasperation. They know their time is coming, too.
Winter, spring, summer. Each illuminates the firmament in its own confident manner. Fluorescent tubes quiver. Maybe one day they’ll be up to the task.
In a windowless room that’s the size of a closet down a hallway behind a door next to the dimly lit elevator lobby: security clearances are set, access activated, and badges revoked. Most Archetypal Response Units don’t see this room until their very last day.
Terminated ARUs are brought here accompanied by a security guard whose name badge sometimes says “Carl.”
An unfriendly person wearing a dark suit floats along in silence next to...Carl. The guard tells the spent ARUs that the man in the dark suit is the company operations manager. A sudden memory descends steadily like an unwanted, but inevitable PowerPoint screen. What’s projected? It’s a memory of a man reclining in the shade of a weeping willow. It’s a company picnic. It’s an unbearably hot August day. A shady tree. A swarm of yellowjackets. They were all in the midst of paid leisure trying their damndest to convince themselves that fun existed. Meanwhile the man in the dark suit laid quietly under a cloud that looked like he was getting poor reception.
Grainy but incriminating videos and screenshots have been trickling into this cramped, outgoing ARU closet. The evidence drips from a pipe and pools into a scummy bucket that rests on an otherwise empty desk. A small, personal pond for final self-reflection. Narcissusito also happens to be a nice size for vomiting in. Everyone’s last day is coming, so the company holds to the autonomous grave-digging maxim that many hands make light work. Thus, the portability of the evidence bucket.
Criminal mythologies arrive on cables and signals from lenses mounted in air vents, tie clips, toilet seat cover dispensers, unsanctioned atrium ashtrays, from the employee’s company and personal smartphones, and finally, from Refrigerator Number Seven where bagged lunches are abandoned by Human Resources so that they may be stolen. The watching--the looking--it’s the dark, humid breath of unrelenting monitors that helps bad seeds to germinate.
The evidence, whether it’s interesting or not, reliably causes a pair of eyebrows to lift and to remain held high. They wait there, perched indefinitely until the accused do their relenting. The signifier that things are finished is a long sigh. A drooping head or glistening cheeks--those are fine, too.
Seasons pass. The serfs (who still remain) dutifully watch their screens from dawn til dusk. Fingers press keys: bad code and weeds are pulled. Right click: a security patch of digital soil is shoveled and moved around. Nobody knows why this has to happen or what any of it is for, but it has to be done. It must be done because when it’s done a direct deposit appears in each of their bank accounts. The crop is not green, though. It’s not that. That’s just a coincidence. A false correlation. The crop is grown well out of reach in a remote valley untouched by the sun. Too sacred to be touched by the sweat of the laborers. The farmers don’t go out there. They stay behind monitors. Monitors are windows to progress. But also, monitors are barriers. They’ve been placed there to keep open palms empty, lingering pressed against the screen. And wandering fingers away.
Seasons pass. What's to come? Transgressions, to be sure. Also, an unbearably hot August day. A weeping willow. A man sleeping in the shade. His head will rest on the collective effort of yellow-jackets. He is in charge of a swarm that has never tasted honey.
Further Reading: Cicero, On the Commonwealth and on the Laws
I've been thinking about non-violent revolutions for the past few days. To be honest, I think about this subject often, but, the recent events in Charlottesville, VA have me fixed on the idea in a more pointed manner. The story of a small nation of people (Estonia) standing up to and wearing down their Soviet Superpower oppressor has long stuck with me. And, I wonder if Americans can glean something from the experience.
From CULTURE AND SYMBOLS AS TOOLS OF RESISTANCE by Walter C. Clemens, Jr. in the Journal of Baltic Studies June 2009: "...mass literacy, free thought and respect for individual dignity" are the ingredients for a soft revolution. This non-violent soft revolution, or transfer of power, is not to be confused with pacifism, but rather, should be understood as a just and fair enactment of liberation.
Clemens goes on to repeat Senator Patrick Moynihan's observation, "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself."
Culture, Clemens says, shapes our outlooks and world-views. It affects our relationship to outsiders. "These perceptions contribute to our construction of reality." And therefore, some cultures are more fit for social good than others. The key in culture benefiting society is that it promotes individual human dignity. What we see in Charlottesville is scorn for human dignity. Nazis do not possess a culture worth spreading, and thus they bring violence.
Another component alongside literacy and dignity to be used in unleashing a soft revolution is a shared epic. This is where things become more complicated for American citizens than for a largely heterogeneous society like Estonia. In America, the black community has its slavery and freedom epic. The Native American epic is one of patience and stolen birthrights. The white epic might be of rugged individualism long used as a cloak for alienation. There are many other groups with their own epics that make up America that I haven't named here. They all matter, of course. But the inability to highlight all of the epics in this space also speaks to the clash of epics. It's not that there are too many epics, it's that America has not yet seen its hour of unity. The hour is still coming, but not very far away. This coming hour is the one in which we join together as one chorus against those who would lead us into darkness.
We are in fragile times because the shared epic is being shaped before us.
Edited 8/14 8:45 AM EST
.The title of this post is borrowed from a section heading in Kip Redick's article, SpiritualRambling: Long Distance Wilderness Sojourning as Meaning-Making published in the Journal of Ritual Studies vol. 30 no.2 2016.
A passage of Redick's that I found presently relevant is,
"The first element of flow involves clarity of goals. Where the demands of everyday life may involve contradictions or unsure purposes, the person experiencing flow sees the end. Both a long distance hike on the AT [Appalachian Trail] and a walk to Santiago e Compostela involve long and short term goal setting, while a day hike only has the short term end...Accomplishing secondary goals each day give immediate feedback to the hiker's actions, the second element in flow. Whereas in everyday life feedback is less immediate, n the trail feedback happens in the moment of success or failure."
The first and second element of flow that Redick is referring to are defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his work Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.
The Self-Deprecator, maquette of a 16 foot tall problem, Griz E Strüss, 2016
This is a scary contraption, isn't it? When I put it up, the gallery is going to demand that I resolve some of the more looming liabilities of it. I'll tell them that covert manipulation tactics are kind of not safe to be around, and that's the point in the sculpture. Then, they'll say, "Yeah, but we don't want to die." And I'll tell them that really their life is in their hands and they should read the concise book 30 Covert Manipulation Tactics by Adelyn Birch as a way to empower themselves against me.
I am currently in a Research Methodologies class for my MFA at SAIC. In this class, I was recently assigned the act of creating an index:
"...imagine that your practice is an open book. What might the index to your practice include? You can list materials, themes, important artist and artwork references, colors, pop cultural and historical references, mentors, colleagues, objects of fascination, places and locations of interest, theoretical movements, social movements, and ideas."
I found the process of making the index to be somewhat addictive (I exceeded the quantity requirement ten-fold). Aside from the potential of connecting some dots that I hadn't before, making the index showed me that my number one asset as a thinker/writer/maker is the company of good people.
The indexing project is somewhat inspired by the work of Alejandro Cesarco.