Friday, April 20, 2007
The back room at Moon Books in the Shuteye Mall.
PREDICTIONS. Back in the last century, InstaPunk contributor R.F. Laird wrote the first truly multimedia work of fiction. Shuteye Town 1999 was a graphical journey through an underground world built around a massive mall. The work is much too large to summarize here -- 3,300+ graphic files, 350,000+ words of text -- but the reason we're remembering it today is that one of its many themes was the catastrophe that's invisibly overtaking our children. The influences on their development are rendered in painful detail -- you can actually play the video game "Teacher Kill," for example, and you can surf the "UnderNet" until you go mad -- yet the most troubling part of Shuteye Town is not its cartoon imagery, but its prescience. It seems to know beforehand about the Virginia Tech Massacre, and it even presumes to know why it happened. We can't possibly show you all the ways this phenomenon is addressed in Shuteye Town 1999, but we can show you a few. So that's what we're going to do.
The Shuteye Mall has a bookstore featuring representative titles and parodies of bestsellers ranging from literary fiction to romance novels to comic books. But there's also a back room containing the works that can no longer be published in our free society. Our tour guide is the very same Daniel Pangloss ("All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds") highlighted in the last InstaPunk entry. He's pleased by the absence of any books by "Angry Young Men."
We'll get to some of the other books later, but first let's take a subway ride to Schoolz Station.
And here's our destination.
Seems they've had an "unfortunate incident" of their own.
It kind of makes you wonder how the college kids at Schoolz Station are reacting to the tragedy, doesn't it? Well, they're coping. In their own way.
And if the girls on campus don't cooperate, there's always the option of hooking up in some online chatroom.
But where were we? Oh yes. Why. Time to return to the back room at Moon Books. Here's something in the Unacceptable Viewpoints section.
The Functional Sociopath
Item. An 18-year-old girl in the company of adults sees a friend she has not spoken with for many weeks. As they talk, she is reminded of a ‘funny thing’ concerning one of her friends. The friend announced to several of her peers that she was leaving for a weekend jaunt somewhere. Subsequently the friend is not heard from again, although she had been a frequent caller by telephone. Curious, a trio of her intimates visited her apartment about two weeks after the ‘weekend jaunt’, found the door ajar, and entered. There was no sign anyone had been inhabiting the apartment in the previous two weeks. Nothing was missing, but a few things were strangely broken. The trio left the apartment and went their separate ways. None made any further inquiries. By the time the ‘funny thing’ was related as an anecdote, more than two months had elapsed since the ‘friend’ had been heard from.
This is just one of dozens of such items I have collected in recent years. Not as spectacular as school shootings, they nevertheless have in common with them an odd emotional discordancy. We regard it as striking when a teenage boy responds to teasing by murdering a dozen of his schoolmates, but isn’t it equally striking that ‘friends’ seem unable to summon enough concern to investigate or sound the alarm when an intimate simply disappears?
I believe that such discordancies are both striking and widespread. It may be rare, thus far, for them to result in violence, but if my theory about what is happening turns out to be correct, we will see far more apparently inexplicable violence in the years to come.
What is my theory? I am convinced that what amounts to a system-wide collapse in all our child-rearing institutions has created a virulent new strain of personality disorder—one I call the functional sociopath.
A sociopath is a person without conscience and without deep emotional connections to other human beings, individually and collectively. Science has long sought an organic basis for this kind of pathology, but it is also known that early environmental influences can play a major role in shaping the sociopathic personality.
I am persuaded that we have, as a culture, established an accidental combination of educational and child-rearing approaches which are practically ideal for generating sociopathic personalities in otherwise healthy children. To wit:
Self Esteem. The elevation of self esteem as a principal, if not the cardinal, goal of elementary education has dramatically reduced the opportunity for children to experience the necessary pain of perceiving that the world outside of themselves can and will make demands on them. This is a deprivation which stunts the prime mechanism by which children grow from infantile self absorption to fully individuated, ethical adult personalities. In other words, the permissiveness that accompanies the emphasis on self esteem aborts or sabotages the development of a real self of any kind.
Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit....
Sorry for the bit at the end. It's called greeked text, which printers (and some writers) use to represent the copy that's either not there or doesn't need to be because we all know what it will say. Now, here's a little something from the Invisible Problems section.
The End of Consciousness
In 1976, a Princeton psychologist named Julian Jaynes published a breathtakingly novel theory about human development. Titled The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Jaynes’s book addressed a subject—human consciousness—which had been virtually ignored by the formal discipline of psychology for most of the twentieth century. His theory of consciousness was that the kind of self-awareness we take for granted as an intrinsic attribute of humanity is so dependent on the metaphoric properties of language that it could not have existed prior to 1500 BC.
To clear the way for his most daring assertions, Jaynes laid down a series of startling hypotheses about the nature of both mental experience and human history. He argued persuasively that consciousness is not necessary for most of the mental functions we use in daily life, including memory, learning, and judgment. Consciousness is necessary for decision-making, specifically for the imagining of possible consequences of alternative courses of action.
Largely because of the very specialized role he inferred for consciousness, Jaynes contended that individual self-awareness is not a prerequisite for the development of highly structured civilizations. As long as such civilizations operate in rigidly hierarchical organi-zations, individual decision-making—and therefore consciousness—is not necessary. Indeed, Jaynes suggested, it was only the historical collapse of multiple civilizations in the millennium before Christ which resulted in the kind of consciousness associated with modern man. To put Jaynes’s point in the starkest possible terms, it was not conscious man which produced civilization, but civilization and its boom-and-bust cycles which produced conscious man.
The reasoning behind this apparent reversal of cause and effect is brilliant. Jaynes points out that consciousness is itself a highly sophisticated metaphor; that is, an internal, mental analogue of the external world. That analogue cannot be any more sophisticated than the mental vehicles which are used to represent real experience and real external phenomena. Since these consist primarily of words, the depth and complexity of consciousness is governed by the depth and complexity of the language that is employed to symbolize, character-ize, and differentiate experience. And language acquires abstract and subtle meanings only in response to the appearance in the external world of complications and complexities which require new words and connotations to express them.
Thus, there is—must be—a phase in the development of every language when its words are merely names for things—rock, leg, buffalo, baby, night, sun, rain. What concept of ‘self’ could be made out of such basic naming conventions? If a speaker of the language has a name, that name stands for the person who looks like him or her, not for a set of accomplishments that can’t be listed during a period of time that can’t be differentiated from ‘now’ by any man’s tongue.
It is not necessary here to replicate the entirety of Jaynes’s theory or the compelling evidence he cites in support of it. Those who are so disposed can find his work and explore it in depth. The bases which are critical to this work have been established—the hypothetical primacy of the relationship between language and consciousness, and between consciousness and the cycles of human civilization. Other relevant Jaynesian notions will be cited as appropriate in the context of this book’s thesis, which can now be articulated.
The End of Consciousness
Individual human consciousness has served an indispensable role in the creation of the highly advanced technological civilization we inhabit today. But all cycles repeat to some degree, and there is now a considerable body of evidence before us to suggest that individual self-awareness is no longer necessary to the culture as a whole and is, in fact, being ruthlessly exterminated by the behavior of the social system as a whole, which has itself achieved consciousness by the same process which produced it in Mankind.
The particular propositions entailed by this statement are as follows:
1. All organizations and systems of which human beings are components do acquire and maintain their own self-awareness—not figuratively but literally, in that they are in part biological entities, possessing physical brains of enormous size in the form of those portions of individual human brains which serve as repositories for their rules, their values, and their preferred models for decision-making.
2. In the course of its development, individual human consciousness has been of continuing service to organizational and system consciousnesses because none of these has had the authority or power to function with complete autonomy. Always, individual human awareness—with its highly flexible and adaptive decision-making skills—was needed to arbitrate conflicts between competing organizational and system consciousnesses.
3. Whatever human purpose has been served by individual human consciousness in the past is irrelevant to the question of whether it will be retained in an organization or system of sufficiently large scale and scope. Whatever values attach to organizational and systemic consciousness are oriented toward their own growth and survival, not to the well being of Mankind per se.
4. The scope and scale of the worldwide socio-economic system which is being continuously created by the proliferation of computer technology and global business-nation organizations has reached the point at which autonomy can be achieved without further human assistance. Indeed, it will proceed more efficiently without human interference. This does not imply the elimination of Mankind, but rather its conversion to an operator population of relatively affluent and healthy automatons.
5. The self-awareness of the worldwide system is already a fait accompli, developed beyond the power of any individual to fully comprehend or anticipate it. A corollary of this state of affairs is that if any human being can even detect the existence of this supra-consciousness, then its program of exterminating individual human consciousness must already be far advanced; that is, advanced beyond hope of our preventing or stopping it.
6. The evidence that individual human awareness is, in fact, being progressively exterminated has become so obvious and pervasive and incontrovertible that the universal human ignorance of the accelerating process is the surest proof of its existence.
The remainder of this book is devoted to elaborating and elucidating these six propositions and the central thesis they support. Arma virumque cano...
Your patience is much appreciated. Here's your reward. It has nothing to do with school shootings, but it is a bestseller in Shuteye Town.
by Evelyn Ivy
Arma virumque her long skirts and voluptuous yet maidenly form cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque the candles which her younger sister had lit hours before venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec the lush scent of the wisteria outside olim meminisse iuvabit.
Arma virumque still not married and contemplating the prospect of being a spinster cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto since her virtuous but dull suitor Thomas had fallen off his horse. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit sighed heavily, causing her firm young bosom to heave.
Arma virumque cano handsome stranger, dirty, disheveled, smelling strongly of maleness and travel. Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto ever since the war had begun. Dux femina facta troops and bandits and mysterious things in the night. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Aunt Prunella looked on disapprovingly as arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque the stranger looked directly at her and a strange heat grew in her belly venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
“How dare you speak to me in that way, sir?” she protested.
Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille his arms went round her but she pushed him away and ran back to the house through the rose garden, her breath coming in quick short gasps. terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta and nothing happening for quite a while. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Arma virumque cano and nothing continues to happen for a while Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et some cooking and sewing haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Arma virumque more candle lighting cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris difficulty sleeping iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec rumors of historical events and name dropping in some nearby town olim meminisse iuvabit.
“Wake up!” It was his voice and she came bolt awake, still half in a dream she realized had involved him. Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Arma his arms around her but she pushed him away and virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa more nothing going on but some name dropping and more historical events ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec a famous person shows up and thinks she’s smart and fascinating for a woman olim meminisse iuvabit. Arma virumque cano Troiae more trouble sleeping qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris disturbing rumors about the handsome stranger iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Arma virumque candles and sewing and cooking and bosom heavings, trouble sleeping, name dropping, horse hooves et cetera Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Arma around her and this time she did not, could not have resisted because it was page sixty, and she knew it was impossible to hold out past page sixty. She wanted him, had wanted him ever since the moment she first laid eyes on his handsome face and the virile shape of his lean, male body inside those leathern breeches.
“Oh my darling dear,” he breathed, “I’ve wanted you ever since I first saw your beautiful face and the womanly heaving shape of your, er, maidenly form in that dress that’s cut down to here, if you know what I mean.”
And then they didn’t speak. There was only the questing of their hands, their lips, their hundreds of other nonsexual body parts, and finally their things that stiffened or peaked or protuberated or moistened, and they were joined together, as man to woman, and they rose and fell together, as deeply and naturally as the ocean or as two dogs in the street, except that the smell of tallow candles and leathern breeches made it somehow sweeter, more refined, less dirty and disgusting than it is in real life, and they sighed the words of love in the proper dialect in each other’s ear, and kept on joining and rejoining and rejoining some more until dawn, when both of them were exhausted with love, but still not speaking because of the plot complication.
Virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniamque venit. Multa ille terris iactatis et alto. Dux femina facta. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
And from there on, it gets really hot. Have a nice day.