September 9th. We need something like World War I. Those types of revelations always happened at curbs. The light changed 10 seconds later. She crossed 39th and Hassalo, a normal juncture on her way home from the Hollywood MAX. An autopilot route charted incrementally by desires to A. walk by pretty things B. be left alone C. not get lost.
The streets weren't as bad as the concentric insanity of Ladd's Addition or Queen Anne, but they were misleading. Some seemed straight but were not, looping to deliver her to the past, crossing the same street over and over.
World War I. Not World War II, the most recent BIG WAR as noted by social studies books. The impetus for this thought: she'd been reading a book called Cigarette Wars, initially checking it out from the library because of its ample bibliography. Pictures. She was looking for ads with doctors touting the safety of cigarettes, specifically and sonorously announcing that animal research said they were safe. Supposedly running as late as the sixties, when doctors were surely already dying of cancer and believing their own advice.
Cigarette Wars turned out to be unusually compelling, well-documented and honest, providing the insight that, for all our ostensible commitment to "objectivity," it's so rare it's shocking. Neither for nor against cigarettes, and acknowledging freely their dangers, the author simply documented the social stigma that plagued the product until World War I. Not just for women. Cigarettes were considered an inferior product smoked by an inferior class.
It took World War I. Overnight rivers rerouted. Common causes cleaved and new confluences formed. Cigarettes reduced stress, staved off hunger, reduced the likelihood of imbibing spirits and fumbling around with locals in a foreign land. They were tidy, easy to transport and use. The Red Cross and temperance movements pivoted on a dime. Previously potent enemies of tobacco, they shipped cigarettes in care packages and swatted any lingering tobacco naysayers with the patriotism paddle, imbued with emotion and primal fear so acute there were no words that could cut through. After all that struggle, the market opened up with loving arms, embracing cigarettes so passionately we're still trying to get otherwise responsible parents to stop smoking in the house. The cigarette industry was in the right place at the right time.
And that was just a product. Eleven days away. The IMF protests were 11 days away. Massive mobilizations of unlikely alliances were going to be there, standing up to The Consolidation. The machine was speeding up. Common people were teaming up. Then it occured to her. They're not kidding. The people behind the New World Order, a concept planted and meaningless 13 years before by George the First, now revealing itself in a malevolent mechanical striptease ... they're not kidding. GW is installed. He serves no other function. This is their time, the fulcrum. They have no intention of allowing anything to get in the way of The Consolidation, especially not democracy. What will they do?
It has to be something like World War I. A question forms like the involuntary function questions are, "I wonder what it's going to be." Two days later she got her answer.
Emotion. Shock. Fear. Outrage. Commodities.
The War. A new product line.
Scenes from Die-Hard, but billed for belief. She sat in front of her tv wondering who else sees? That morning, she had awoke and got on Indymedia. There was a newswire post that said "Step away from your computer, and turn on your TV." Confusing. The command was so sure and so simple, so out of place, that she complied.
Response #1: Holy shit. Response #2: So that's it. The same images played over and over, production values glossy, buzzwords pieced together hypnotically, five to ten of them flanked by lesser words, meaningful to the process only as packing. The only new information from the steady stream were random symptoms of hysteria scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Did people really think, after supposedly taking out the two towers, the next thing on the Terrorist To-Do List would be to attack the Clackamas Towne Center Mall? The precautions were amplifiers, meant to say, "We're brown, and we'll get you where you live." Within 48 hours, when no jane or joe doe were able to fly yet, two of Osama Bin Laden's brothers were flown safely around the US on a government plane.
And she watched the bad reality show play out, sad that she already knew the script. Absolutely no surprises, except visceral ones. In the abstract, the equation was clear. Personally ... the math hurt. People who had always seemed intelligent, switched off, replaced by an automatic media feed. They yelled like innocents. Had no one ever died before? Personal loss, itself potent and meaningful, was posterized by insult and its repetition, pixels so bloated the picture disintegrated.
The time after
The map is changing. The synapse routes in the collective mind, rerouting. But all remains fundamentally the same, and Occam's answer is simpler than anyone will admit. Those with power will do anything to continue to amass power. They are insatiable. They will do anything.
She got out her survival kit. A copy of Ionesco's The Rhinoscerous. Brazil. Looked for news of The War from Jim Woodring. Did all she could to avoid the ozone-depleted glare of The Lies. Prayed for the sane god to please wake up.
One revelation of the method after another. The Bushes always loved irony. George I was the "education president." That still makes her giggle. They say all pResidents are masons, a compulsively superstitious bunch, especially about numbers. 911. At least they have a sense of humor.
Then there was the PATRIOT Act, "Homeland Security," sneek-n-peeks, military tribunals, detention camps, exportation for torture, TIA with an emblem that seemed designed by Robert Anton Wilson in a paranoid fugue, and, now, hysterically, the Help America Vote Act, complete with proprietary source code that makes verifying votes impossible. And, of course The War, with its interchangeable targets, lifesize action figures, falling statues, openly acknowledged lies, irony with butter on it, and non-existent weapons of mass destruction. She sits laughing silently. We're gonna die laughing.
Once she tried to really listen to George the First because she could never understand what the hell he was talking about, and chalked it up to her poor attention span. But one night she paid attention. It wasn't her imagination. He wasn't forming sentences, and his utterances approaching syntax were like Burroughs-Gysin cutups. It wasn't that he was just speaking BUZZWORD, but that the space in between the words was the language.
A low grade terror climbed into her abdomen, and she never listened again. She was lonely enough. What to do about nature-change inflicted on information, the systemic degradation of value wrought by sheer volume and the hoax campaigns. If nothing is knowable, how do we act?
The world starts lacking a dimension or two, as we become mere observers and consumers, both assent and dissent commodified, disemboweled, stuffed and set back on the shelf improved, bigger and on sale. Struggling with data overload and an obsolete retrieval program, she must think of Hitchcock. Vertigo. If we cannot know which way we're standing, we cannot do anything about it. And we are not responsible. Like Burroughs' One God Universe. "No friction by definition. All knowing and all powerful. Can't go anywhere because he's already everywhere."
So here we are running in place in some gelatinous suspension, an image from Stephen King's Tommyknockers, and the underlying idea blatantly ripped off for the Matrix's battery scene. [ What a shitty movie. Stealing good ideas should abide by the same rules as should apply to meat: if you're going to kill it, at least prepare it well. ] History has told us what happens when we don't pay attention, but the voices of the moment are piping in on frequencies that interfere and manipulate. The data dumps are so large and varied it's all becoming static. The future barking at our back, we move our feet as if we travel.
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