Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UsOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not -iSSuE- ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what TWENTY-SEVEN tahw ro woh gniwonk to think. You are in 06/30/96 ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Wow, it's summer and there's an issue coming out. Amazing, isn't it, that I'm not being the lazy ass that I was last summer? I thought you'd be happy.
Apparently, the lack of submissions that we experienced last summer isn't going to happen. Sure, we've only got five things in this issue, but at 160k, I'd say some people are doing some heavy writing. For that, I am extremely grateful.
I don't really have much to say for this issue. I'm just happy one is coming out. Noni relates her story about being abducted by ansat, Belgrave talks some more about advertising, and Nathan gives us another big-ass-yet-cool story. We also have a new writer, Demosthenes, who talks about the government and encryption.
Anyway, this being the longest summer issue we've ever had, I'll make this the shortest editorial we've ever had. Besides, Styx wants to go do something. See ya next month.
Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
When I came to, I was staring up at the head and shoulders of a man in what appeared to be a white lab coat wearing one of those stupid stickers drunk guys wear at conventions for Masonic groups named after big animals which read: "HI, I'M: The best head in the Western world." Needless to say, I knew immediately where I was, but was kind of surprised to be clothed.
Nemo was on hand and helped me off the hospital bed, which Doctor Graves rolled down the hall, and muttered something about meeting ansat in his office. We passed a secretary and entered into an oddly large hallway.
NM: I hadn't realized the State of unBeing offices would be so large.
NeS: Well, these are actually the offices for the whole of the Apocalypse Culture empire. You know, printing, movies, everything. Deep in the heart of this building, we have even moved the old BBS iSiS UNVEiLED into a computer Bobbi accidentally removed from a CiA location. We would put it back up as a BBS, but we can't for the life of us find where to put the modem in. We have a great time playing Cyberspace on it, though.
NM: Whoa! Are they going to hang that guy?!
NeS: You think just because there's someone standing on a chair, there's automatically going to be a hanging?
NM: Well, he did have a noose around his neck, and he did have a hood over his head.
NeS: Oh yeah. That. Well, you see, Captain Moonlight taught us that the best way to get submissions for the zine is through brute force. That, or threats. Clockwork, well, Clockwork just hasn't been living up to his contract. Kilgore is just trying to scare the begeezus out of him, to get him to be a bit more productive.
NM: Does it work?
NeS: When was the last time you saw something by Clockwork in the zine? That's what I thought. No, Moonlight got results that way. Kilgore just doesn't have the heart for it. He wouldn't hurt a fly, and Clockwork knows it. Kilgore's just a big pushover. Off the record, of course.
NM: Of course. He won't hear it from me.
By this time, we had reached ansat's office. It was pretty simple. He was seated behind a desk with a copy of The Origin of Satan, by Elaine Pagels, propped up in front of his face. Stacks of papers were on the desk and floor, and a bookshelf, mostly with reference or religious materials, sat behind him. On the desk was an attractive glass cross with a glass rose at the center.
As Nemo exited, closing the door behind him, ansat looked up.
CA: I'd like to talk about roller coasters for a moment.
NM: Uh, ok.
CA: Just kidding. I brought you back here because I decided I wanted to talk about politics. And because I like playing with the heads of the cops. Mostly for the politics, though. I don't like to talk too much in public, but you seemed pretty trustworthy.
NM: Is that why you knocked me out and brought me here?
CA: <Laughing> Well, we can't have you knowing the secret location of the State of unBeing offices, can we? Who knows who wants to have that kind of information? You can't be too careful.
NM: Ok. Well. What did you want to talk about.
Uh, is your boot ringing?
CA: Yup. Kilgore issued all us writers nifty shoe phones so we could keep in contact. It even has a modem port. I didn't like that electronic beeping sound, though, so I had the heel hollowed out and put in a real, honest to goodness ringer from an old pulse phone. Groovy. Just a minute; I'll put it on speaker phone.
Captain Moonlight: Hey, ansat, do you remember when that Beavis and Butt-head moronathon was supposed to come on?
CA: Um, no. What's today?
CM: I don't remember. Oh, well. Say, did Kilgore tell you when the State of unBeing offices are going to be finished?
CA: Two weeks. Just like always.
CM: Ok. Let me know. This box he gave me in the middle of highway 183 was cool for a while, but it's not so cool anymore.
CA: You got your shoe phone, what more do you want?
CM: Just let me know when it's done. Bye. <Hangs up>
NM: He lives in a box in the middle of the road?
CA: Lives? Of course not. He just works there. He's not too happy about it, and that's why you haven't seen much from him in recent issues, but Kilgore and I want to see how long we can play this out before he figures out that we finished this place months ago. We just tell him it has two more weeks whenever he asks.
NM: Don't you think that's kind of, well, cruel?
CA: Yup. Now, what was I saying?
NM: Roller coasters.
CA: Oh, yeah. I was going to tell you my political autobiography.
NM: Yeah. Tell me how you came to be an anarcho-communist with national socialist tendencies.
CA: That was hours ago. I'm not so sure that's what I believe any more.
NM: Do you always change so fast?
CA: I try. You see, I don't know what is "the answer," so I try believing a number of different answers. Someday, I hope I'll stumble across the right one.
I suppose I should clear the air first and tell you where I am coming from; what I believe right now. I am an anarcho-communist Catholic. That does not mean I am a Marxist; I am not. To cover my entire political philosophy in one sentence: I believe men are not inherently evil but are inherently fallen, thus they do not inherently need laws -- other than those already written on their hearts -- nor do they need repression or the State, and if they could be brought to proper understanding of the truth and make an honest effort, they could live in true peace -- not forced peace -- without controlling forces. As Terrence McKenna has said: If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed. I understand that this is Utopian, and I do not think this could be achieved in its totality in this world. I do think, though, that we can work towards it in small groups, or communes. I believe we should seek what's right, not necessarily what works.
Whew. Glad that's out of the way. Now, where should I start?
NM: Start at the beginning.
CA: A very good place to start.
First, there were the dinosaurs.
NM: Let's start a bit later than that, okay?
CA: Okay. I was born at a very young age.
NM: <Laughs> Something we have in common.
CA: <Laughs> Yes, well, I don't know anything about your past. Sometime you'll have to let one of us interview you and we can get to know you better.
I don't think I'll bore you with my whole life. I'll just touch on a couple of parts.
NM: Thank you.
CA: Should I be offended? Don't answer that. Long speech time.
I think the big influence on my political life from my childhood came from the fact I grew up in a military environment. While my contemporaries in Generation X were growing up in the suburbs learning break dancing and wearing increasingly expensive shoes -- or so I gather from the retrospectives -- I was living on air force bases in England and Florida. My father's job -- and the job of all the fathers of all the kids I played with, all our neighbors -- was to prepare to die. My father did not work for money; my father worked for an ideal. That aspect really shaped my life.
I was brought up believing there are things worth dying for. Not that there are things so bad that it is better to die than experience; that is a self-centered revisionist version of what I'm saying. There are ideals worth dying for in and of themselves. I was brought up on Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, on John Hancock and George Washington. I was brought up that it is a virtue to be willing to lay down your life for true freedom. Not the freedom to print pornography or the freedom to kill your children, like the open battles are for in the civilian community, but the freedom to travel without an internal passport, the freedom to have an honest wage, the freedom to believe as you want and to raise your children free of government dictates. These are all freedoms that are being eroded here in the States while we whine at each other over Maplethorpe's supposed freedom of speech and the imagined freedom to burn the flag. My father and my community was structured around the basic premise that it is better to die than to be a slave, and that there needs to be those who are willing to die lest others become slaves. I think that shows up in my writing, as well as my philosophy. There is right, and this right is superior to life itself.
CA: Actually, that's a lot of hogwash. I'm Celtic -- Irish and Breton. We are the men that God made mad. Our wars are merry; our songs are sad. We like to dream, and we like to fight, and when the two meet we sing about it.
NM: I think I like the first one better.
CA: Believe whichever one you like. They're both true.
In any case, my father also taught me two things that seem to be a paradox. One was that he taught me always to check my sources. I can still remember when I was about seven or eight when he was showing me the bibliography and index and the like in one of Bronowski's books. That wasn't the first time I was exposed to that kind of thing, of course. This came about because he thought I was putting too much confidence in a source.
The other thing he taught me, though, was to listen to everybody. Someone might be dead wrong, but you can still learn by reading him, and you'll have a hard time knowing if and how he is wrong without doing so.
NM: Listen, but don't blindly follow.
CA: Something like that.
NM: So where does the "Catholic" come in?
CA: I was raised Catholic by both parents, but I learned the faith -- lowercase "f" faith, not uppercase "F" Faith -- from my mother. (I learned the uppercase one from both.) My religious odyssey would take another interview, at least, so I'll just leave that the way it is.
NM: And I suppose your parents were anarcho-communists, too?
CA: No. They generally vote Republican. Like most kids, I followed my parents' line for years, until I reached Junior High. I thought a lot during the 1988 election. I did not like George Bush. I pretty much wanted anyone but George Bush in the office. I went Republican, Democrat, Independent, reactionary, liberal, conservative, over and over that year and for the next few.
The systems that had the most appeal were feudalist or meritocratic, but I never really found the "right" one. I still haven't, but I have found the one I choose to support.
NM: Meritocratic how?
CA: Well, it always seemed intuitive to me that there are some people who are just better leaders than others, not necessarily because they can con more people into following them, but also because they were just right. The logistics of finding the best people was what stumped me. I thought about technocracy or some meritocracy based on intellect, but none of them seemed right. With my anarcho-communism, I basically gamble that the good will of the people will allow the best people to rise to the top.
Anyway, during the Gulf War I fell in with the Communists. We ran some candidates for Student Council on the Student Anti-Racist Coalition ticket. That was about a year or two before parties were banned at my old high school. We did have a candidate or two win, but overall the coalition was shaky at best, made up as it was of one true Communist, a handful of Marxists, an anarchist fringe element, and so on. Over time, I found that I could not believe in Communism. The break occurred over a debate between myself and the head of the coalition as to which should be primary: freedom or virtue. I held for freedom, he held for virtue. Since then, I have found that I cannot accept any form of Marxism because it is founded on dialectical materialism, and I am fundamentally a theist.
NM: What's wrong with dialectical materialism?
CA: I don't have a problem with the dialectics. That's pretty much morally neutral in my book. I have a problem with the materialism. It is a useful model, but it fails to account for the spiritual element of reality. As such, it is an inherently flawed basis for a world view. It would be like trying to go through life with one eye, or one hand, or one testicle.
After the fall out with the Communists, I drifted for a while, coasting again through the spectrum, and ended up falling in with the anarchist fringe more or less. Over the next few years I came to understand my political philosophy as anarcho-communism in the Kropotkin style, but without the materialism and anti-clericism that Kropotkin inherited from the Marxism of his time.
NM: Whoa. In English, please.
CA: I like Kropotkin's anarcho-communism, but I am not a materialist and I don't hate priests.
CA: No problem.
About a year or so ago, I decided to look up Lyndon LaRouche on the net. I had heard about him, but I had never really heard what he believed or what he taught. All I had heard was that he was a nut. As I went looking for some stuff by him, I found some stuff about him, and I noticed that he was called "fascist". (He was called other things, too, notably "anti-Semite", but it was "fascist" that caught my eye.) Now, as the good leftist, anarchist, relative liberal I was, I thought, "Fascism is bad." Unlike most people, I did not think, "LaRouche is accused of being a fascist, therefore LaRouche is bad." I thought, "I wonder why they are calling him that. I wonder if that's true."
That got me thinking something even more fundamental: "What is fascism?"
Once I realized I didn't even know what "fascism" was, and saw that the dictionaries didn't much help, I discovered that I was not believing "fascism is bad" because it is; I was believing it because it was what I was supposed to believe. Today, I don't know whether fascism is bad or not. Today, I find fascism is an emotional hate word, not a true description of anybody's political stance.
Investigating "What is fascism, and why is it bad?" led me along some paths I had never trod before, notably the "Why is National Socialism bad?" and "Why is racism bad?" paths. I have found that people are not supposed to think about these kinds of things. They are taboo. People are supposed to grovel and whine and apologize abundantly if anyone even implies they are "racists."
NM: Excuse me. Your boot's ringing again.
CA: So it is. Excuse me. <To phone> No. That's right, I'm not going to give you the money. I don't care if you do break my kneecaps. That's right. The middle of 183. I'm the one in the box. Yeah, I dare you to. Fine.
NM: What was that all about?
CA: Bookie. Somehow he got it into his head that I was betting on something that didn't do too well. He's completely wrong, though. I won't admit to betting on a losing team.
NM: But wasn't that Moonlight's address?
CA: Moonlight can take care of himself. Don't worry about it. I'll just tell Kilgore someone's threatening to rough up one of his writers, and he'll send down some thugs. Now, where were we?
NM: Do you mind being called a "racist?"
CA: Sticks and stones, Noni, sticks and stones.
NM: I'm being serious.
CA: So am I. What does "racist" mean? When you ask people, the few that can formulate an intelligible response tend to all have their own definition. The only thing they all agree on, generally, is "Racism is bad."
NM: Isn't it?
CA: I don't know. I don't think very many people do know. The point I am trying to make here is that we cannot discuss it dispassionately in this society. When you defend a position like that, you hear the gears slowly grind to a halt and the person you are talking to's eyes go out. It is beyond their comprehension that somebody doesn't turn submissive when such an accusation is raised.
NM: So no one can tell whether racism is bad because we have been so programmed to believe it is?
CA: Exactly. We are incapable of rational thought on the subject. It is essentially beyond our intellectual capacity to decide.
NM: That doesn't sound like our society.
CA: No. It sounds like some theocratic society, right? Some pre-Enlightenment society. Some non-humanist society, illiberal society. The last four hundred years have not freed us from prejudices. We have just taken on new ones. Fundamentalist materialism. Fundamentalist egalitarianism. No more proven than the medieval prejudices -- no more proven than the systems of headhunters in Borneo or pygmies in Africa -- but held with the same fanatical, blind faith.
We are not guided by reason, like the forces that want to control us want us to believe. We do not have "freedom or choice" when we cannot conceive of all the options. How can we have "freedom of speech" when we do not even know the words to cry out? We are guided by selfishness and hate, not by reason at all.
There are a lot of emotional hate words that serve to limit debate in our society: Nazi, Commie, fascist, anti-Semite, racist, homophobe, right- winger, fundamentalist, etc. Go down that list and ask yourself honestly how many of those positions you can rationally refute, and how many just are emotional triggers or preprogrammed "x is wrong" triggers.
NM: You sound like you are saying the same kinds of things that the left- wingers have been saying for decades.
CA: If they've been saying the same thing for decades, they're either right, or they're stuck.
I am saying the same thing that some radicals have said throughout time. The problem is, the so-called radical positions have been co-opted by the system. To be a "rebel" or "alternative" or "open-minded" is to conform, so long as you "question" only what, and in what direction, is permitted. Free thought is mandated. Most of the options, though, are forbidden. An issue of the Baffler said it best, in reference to music: Alternative to what?
The main difference, though, is this: The left-wingers may be big into street theater and court theater and everything, but for real, moving theater, no one can touch the Nazis. Hands down.
NM: So, our society is just as closed as any other.
CA: In trying to be wise, they have made themselves fools. It is not against people, but against powers, which we struggle. The powers of selfishness, of atrophy.
In a world where half the political spectrum is verboten, to force people to open their minds you have to go in the other direction. Keep asking questions. Why is censorship wrong? Why is hate wrong? If you can't answer those, perhaps you shouldn't believe them.
It should really tell you something about the open-mindedness of our society that the Pope can go to Islamic fundamentalist nations, meet the political and religious leaders, and disagree with them like they were all rational human beings. They can find points of agreement and points of disagreement, and leave as friends. When the Pope comes to these bastions of free-thought, here in the so-called free West, what does he find? In Germany, he is pelted with paint bombs and the homosexuals and humanists have a blasphemous Black Mass. In the U.S., every time he visits there are organized protests by atheists and homosexuals to make certain that no one thinks we free-thinkers want anyone to think anything we disapprove of. America is the land of opportunity. The system wants to keep it singular.
With some people, the more intellectually honest, you can get them to begin talking about even forbidden topics. You can ask them: "Do you believe there is any difference between the races?" The most brainwashed will say there isn't, but most will have to concede there is some difference. If there wasn't, we wouldn't have a concept of race. There is a difference, even as superficial a difference as different color alone, or just a traditional difference or political difference. Once they accept that there is a difference, you can ask: "Do you think there is a physical difference?" Again, the intellectually honest have to answer that there is. Skin is physical, and if the skin is a different color, there is a physical difference. They will be highly uncomfortable, but they have to admit it. Past that, you get into the possibilities. "Why do you believe this? Is it because it is proven, because it is ideological, or because you emotionally cannot handle the other possibilities?"
NM: And what have you decided?
CA: I will tell you honestly: In most cases, I simply do not know. What I do know is we will never find the answers if we are afraid to ask the questions. I think we should be able to wonder whether there are differences between the races -- and be happy if there are, for a world where everyone was the same is certainly not my idea of a workers' paradise. Or National Socialism. In the ideal world, I should be able to approach someone, take either the position it is good or it is bad, and bat it around for a while dispassionately. We should both learn something, and leave friends. I don't know if it is good or bad, or what parts are good and which are bad, but I know we cannot openly discuss that anything about it is good in today's political climate.
I've been playing the racist national socialist schtick for about a year now, though, and it's getting old. I'll have to find some new way to shock people into thinking.
Shame on you.
CA: You let me get on my soapbox again. You are supposed to be controlling the interview.
NM: Sorry. What do you expect me to say?
CA: Nothing, I suppose. I was just running out of things to say.
I guess what I am trying to get across is that the so-called liberals in this society are nothing of the sort, and the free-thinkers are as much slaves of their assumptions as anyone else. I really get irritated by secular humanists and liberals who claim to be "open minded" or "multicultural" who can't defend something like National Socialism or racism. You need not agree with it, but if you can't even dispassionately discuss it, you can't in good conscience claim to oppose it.
You know what?
CA: I've run out of things to say. I have nothing more to say, ever.
Again, everything went black as a bag was pulled over my head and I felt the prick of a needle. Hours later I came to, sitting behind the wheel of my car.
Closing thoughts: Interviewing Crux made my head hurt. I think that might have been the effects of the drugs, though. He seemed a bit less light than the others I have interviewed so far, and was prone to speeches.
On the other hand, I'm definitely winning brownie points with the big KT for this article....
A whole new dictionary has been created by those who make money by creating a world of false desires and needs for the modern day consumer to inhabit. This dictionary is not official: it is unwritten but adhered to by all those who prey on the oblivious minds of the consumer.
Certain parts of this dictionary are based upon abiguity, where someone creates a phrase or word group to place on the packaging of products or into advertising that are slightly misleading. These word groups or phrases may not have anything to do with the product itself, but they associate these 'splash phrases' with the product by incorporating them into the packaging or advertising. The consumer takes these words as gospel and includes them into their view of the product.
The phrases or word groups are normally very descriptive and are selected so as to conjure up visions into the head of the consumer. Like washing powders being described as 'making your clothes as fresh as a summer breeze.' I do not have any idea what the two words 'Summer' and 'Breeze' have to do with washing your clothes. That is, unless they are selected to make the consumer think that by purchasing this product will make mundane tasks fun and 'like a summer breeze'.
Ambiguous terms in this dictionary are normally linked with very emotive advertising as described above, to take the focus from the purchase, and giving you that 'warm fuzzy feeling'.
From this same "un-written dictionary of terms", we have the Oxymoronisms. Terms which contradict themselves, but carefully constructed to seem as if they don't. How often do you properly pay attention to those words, usually in a bright yellow or orange, printed in a font which slants on a 45 degree angle? I know that I don't look closely at them unless I make an effort to do so because they have just become such an integral part of the packaging and the advertising. These oxymoronic terms also creep into the product spiels which are invariant in today's consumer society. The easiest way of outlining this form of money making diction is to quote from the song 'Television, The Drug Of The Nation', by The Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy: "Where oxymoronic language like 'virtually spotless' 'fresh frozen' 'light yet filling' and 'military intelligence Have become standard."
At face value, any oxymoronism-based product promotion doesn't seem to be contradictory, but when you break the phrases down, the wording supremely contradicts itself. Let's try an experiment to prove this. Using the advertising phrase "Virtually Spotless" as a template, I will insert the dictionary definitions of each word into their relative positions. When this is done, it reads like this:
Virtually Spotless: (In effect, although not in name or in fact) (free from spot, stain, blemish, marks etc.)
If I was to insert the colloquial term for 'virtually', it should make the deceitful way these word groups are created more apparent:
Virtually Spotless: (Almost) (free from spot, stain, blemish, marks etc.)
You may be forgiven if you are sitting there now thinking "um...yeah...so what. It just means that it is "almost not marked at all" Which it does, I agree, but the thing is it has been created to mean that. The word 'spotless', with the fancy definition taken away from it, means 'perfectly clean'. How is it possible for something to be virtually perfect? What, it is perfect but it isn't?
Through these oxymoronic terms, the advertising companies create whole new meanings for word groups. It is in the way they construct them that makes them work. Still using 'Virtually Spotless' as my example, when you read that word group (it is definitely not a phrase, because phrases make sense), which of the words stick in your mind? For me it is 'Spotless'. The word 'virtually' seems to be an annoying unnecessary descriptor. The advertising isn't in fact lying; they are telling us the whole truth, yet deceit weighs just as heavy as lying. The phrase has been manufactured to make us mentally focus on the word 'spotless' and what its connotations are, while passing over the describing factor.
1.3 Blatant Deception
Advertising companies have found ways of twisting words around on packaging and in advertising so that no matter where these words come from, they instantly and unquestionably apply to the product. The company is LEGALLY lying with intention to deceive. What I am talking about is the way that certain products and/or the companies who produce them are being named by selecting words which, when placed in conjunction with the name of the substance being sold on the front of the packaging, or in advertising campaigns instantly turn the product into a high quality one. I recall, if I remember rightly, years ago the companies had to print an indication as to which was their brand name, so if the companies name was 'Excellent', it actually had to put 'Excellent brand' on the product. However, today this doesn't seem as though it is a necessity. Tiny lettering which is nearly invisible seems to be all that is needed to display this indication of a brand name, and sometimes this indication is completely non-existent.
Using this hypothetical 'Excellent' company as an example, just say that this company manufactures coffee. Now on the packaging, the company's name would appear in the same size writing as the actual substance that is inside, so it would read as 'Excellent Coffee'. The coffee itself may be low grade for all we know, but by naming the company as such and manipulating the wording to read as such, the consumer is not at fault for thinking that this coffee may be good coffee, but in reality, it may not be, we just have no way of extracting the truth from this sort of manipulation. The company could be lying to us in the face, we have no way of knowing or doing anything about it because it is very legal. I question the quality of the products from a company like this when they have to go to such lengths to try and make a sale.
The above is admittedly a very obscure form of the un-written dictionary I am talking about. I thought it was essential though, that I pointed out the ways that this dictionary which has been created is being manipulated to deceive.
3. THE DiCTiON OF MONEY MAKiNG
This dictionary i have compiled here is taken from every day life. From sitting back with a critical and cynical eye and watching advertising in its many forms put on its circus of constructed ideas and ideals. This dictionary is in no way complete, as the many forms it manifests itself in are varied and very wide spread. On top of this, new terms are being created daily.
From what I have gathered together here, I hope it helps you, dear consumer, to peel off the fictional world which advertising creates and to leave behind only the reality. Many of these terms are slippery, and may come down to personal interpretation, meaning that you may see them differently than me, but I hope that this isn't a reason for you to give up. Each of us have different perceptions of the reality we inhabit.
What I have begun here is a snowballing path, because when you start to recognise a few of the things I am talking about, you will notice others. What I am talking about, the un-written dictionary of hypocrisy, exists not only in the realms of product packaging, but extends out into the consumer market of today, reaching every form of advertising, finding new and profitable uses for old terms, and where these don't suit their needs, more are created.
Also, before I begin to define the terms that are used upon us by them, I think It necessary for me to outline this disembodied thing which I myself have referred to, and which we hear on a daily basis. What I am talking about is 'they', 'them' and any other permutation of this term which is used. This term would have to rate highly in the top ten list of 'over used and under-described terms' in society today. Conspiracy theorists, whom I am not trying to distance my self from in saying this, use the term loosely and without thought. The media uses it to describe anything relating to anything that they do not want to name, people in the street use it as a cover-all term when describing the uncertainty they feel towards the origins of that which they are attempting to describe and where ever else it is used, it is used without thought of its origins or meaning. It is a term, or group of terms more precisely, which has become an urban myth in it's own right.
I cannot give any hints on its origins, because like any good urban myth, it has none. But its definition in my eyes is that it is an undefinable someone used to describe something. Admittedly vague, I agree, but how can one improve on the vagueness of the term in question, when it is itself vague in definition?
I can, however, describe my use of this term throughout this article. I use it as a generalisation to describe those people or companies who are directly relating to this subject. I could easily name names, but as I have said before, legal attention is not on my "List of Things To do Today."
"If this text makes only one [person] begin to think, it will have served it's purpose"
4. THE UN-WRiTTEN DiCTiONARY
All dictionary definitions used throughout come directly from The Macquarie Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1995.
Dictionary format: [term/word-group]: [In relation to, where relevant] [interpretation]
25% LESS SALT/SODiUM:
Less than what? A prime example of the ambiguous advertising dribble. This is actually how this appeared on the front of the product. The company is trying to compare their product against something else, but avoiding actually telling us what this comparison is based upon. This product, or any product which carries such phrases, may be compared against another which has a very high sodium content, so it DOES have 25% less sodium, but this may very well be an extremely high salt content none the less. For all we know this product may have 25% less salt than the Atlantic ocean.
97% FAT FREE:
Ambiguity abounds. What this is saying is that 97% of the product does not have fat in it, obvious I know, but on the flip side, this means that 3% of this product is fat. I am not a chemist, but to me this seems somewhat normal. The company is just pointing out useless data which has no relevance. The only relevance which I can see is if the company is trying to cash in on the 'fat phobia' which is sweeping the mainstream populous. By pointing out that 97% of this product ISN't fat, I am sure that a lot of people who have fallen prey to this constructed phobia will prick their ears up when they hear something similar to this, just the way the companies intend it to be.
This one is easy to define, but its ability to make people believe that it isn't advertising is staggering. These are whole page adverts, or some times multiple page adverts which match exactly the format, style and look of the magazine or newspaper which it inhabits. The only way to discern it as advertising is to look for the words 'advertising feature', or something similar placed in the border of the page/s in question. These words are almost always printed so that they are not readily noticeable, which forces me to think that they have been placed so that the consumer is lead to believe that what they are reading is actually an article, and the advert is worded as such as well. Nothing sinister there, you may be thinking, but if the advertising is not noticeable as such, isn't it more easily accepted?
AGAiNST ANiMAL TESTiNG:
This is another phrase which doesn't actually have to mean what it insinuates. A similar phrase 'Not Tested on Animals' is the only one I will trust as being truthful. The latter is very specific and has to mean what it says because it is so definite. The former, 'against animal testing,' is very, very vague. It coaxes the consumer into the belief that the product bearing it has not been tested on animals, but it doesn't actually categorically state this as fact. The company itself may be making a public stand saying that they are to some degree against animal testing, but in reality, this phrase doesn't mean that the product in question hasn't been tested on animals. Be very aware of the ways in which selling points are phrased. They may seem to say one thing; however, when you look at the wording, it may not be what you think at all. Just the similarity between 'Not Tested On Animals' and 'Against Animal Testing' is enough to make the consumer think that the later means the same as the former. It could, but we have no way of proving that it does.
DELiCiOUS, TASTY ETC. [PET FOOD]:
This is one which has nagged me for years. How do we as consumers know that this pet food is actually tasty? I have heard stories of people eating pet food, but urban myths have a habit of leaving out the key details, like how did it taste? For this article alone, I am not about to go and bug the neighbors for a taste of their pet food, so I can't personally say if the stuff is tasty or not. That's the point, it says it is tasty, but we don't know, and we have no real ways of finding out. Yet again we come across something which lingers in the area of lying. They could be telling us the complete opposite to the truth, and we just can't prove it. These companies prey on the way we as humans personify our pets, cats and dogs in particular. How often have you seen the word 'tasty' on a tin of fish food? I have not seen it once, because fish are not seen to hold any traits which we can perceive as being human, so they do not need food which is 'tasty', a quality we almost insist upon in our food. This word, and others like it, are placed on dog and cat food seemingly at every chance given, boosting sales by peoples necessity to impress human qualities upon animals. How do we actually know that what we may find tasty, is the same for an animal?
This is used to describe any product which is aesthetically different from what we are used to, and in some cases this term is just inserted to try and boost sales. It doesn't really have that much importance in society today, for the simple fact that styling as such, along with many other facets of our lives, have been diffused into an indistinguishable mess between cultures due to the 'global village effect'. European design could just as easily be Chinese design, which has some qualities that resembles what was once distinguishable as originating from Europe. Anyway, Europe is a pretty large continent, consisting of many countries, I don't think there is actually a decided style which encompasses all that is Europe.
How dare they say that this product is my favourite? This angle of selling hits hard at the inherent 'flock' desire found in some people. Where they want to be part of the flock, and if everyone else likes it, then they may as well at least try it. This lie is blaring. How could the company actually have surveyed every single person in existence on the face of the planet and found that every single human being likes this product? This sort of phrase, or more precisely this attempt to make something the truth by telling people it is, was used by George Orwell in his book '1984'. Anyone who has read this book should recognise this as something which he outlined and is becoming a reality.
FOR ONLY 6% MORE MONEY, [insert brand name] GiVES YOU 40% MORE POWER:
More power than what? [see "25% less salt/sodium"]
HEAT ACTiVATED PROTEiNS/COLOUR ENHANCiNG SYSTEM: [Cosmetics]
The cosmetics industry is a vast arena for the many shades of deceptive, manufacturative advertising. How many times will people have to see these carefully created 'technical' terms before they realise that they are only an advertising tool? I am not saying that these terms are untrue, but that they are a form of euphemism mixed in with the horrible monster that is the beauty myth. A whole terminology exists about this industry, that shades its meanings in happy and technical terms, completely unnecessary, yet precise in targeting the consumer. People don't understand what these terms mean because they are steeped in semi-technical to technical euphemisms and oxymoronisms, and because they don't understand it they buy it. 'The more confusion, the more profit' (Black Lung) takes on a whole new meaning. Hell, all these people have to do to justify the excessive prices placed on their products is to dress up an actor in a white coat and place her/him in surroundings with white walls and lots of technical bits and pieces. Oh yeah, the actor has to be wearing a pair of glasses and have a clipboard, because isn't that what the stereotype dictates? People fall for it too, which is the saddening part of the whole stage show.
Dictionary definition of this oxymoronic word group goes like this: [such as to flow like water; fluid] [the natural covering of the human head]. Is it actually possible to liquify hair? This one, hopefully, speaks for itself.
MADE WITH REAL MEAT. [PET FOOD]:
This may be true, but what is neglected 95% of the time is that the meat which goes into pet foods is of the poorest quality. Why else do you think something like "not for human consumption" is placed on each packet?
N E W ! !:
This word has actually no apparent relation to the amount of time the product bearing it has been on the market. It is a draw card to try and get people to try something NEW!! I know I have done it myself before. You are in the supermarket and you see this and think to yourself, "Gee, I might just try that to see what it's like." These little words, however, appear for anywhere upwards of 2 months after the products release.
NATURAL/LEAViNG A COMPLETELY NATURAL RESULT etc... etc... etc:
Anything sporting this overused cliche is one to be looked at carefully. This word 'natural' has been so far taken out of context and is down to debate of its actual technical meaning to make it completely useless as a descriptor. I could easily say that money is very natural (sic). What I have said technically is correct, because the Australian currency has natural ingredients, the metal in the coinage, and before we were forced to accept the plastic bills, the note currency was made on cotton fibre. As an example of the way that this term has been twisted and exploited, there is a world wide company of chain stores that was started in England which sells cosmetics and body products. The sales pitch, and indeed, the entire style that this multi-million dollar chain store embraces, is that all their products are completely 'natural' and based entirely on natural ingredients. The truth is that this company uses minute traces of these 'natural' oils and ingredients in their products. These minute fractions of a percent of 'natural' products, that are labeled with amazingly descriptive names, are only included so that they can be inserted on the ingredients list on the back of the product.
NEVER NEEDS SHARPENiNG:
This is a completely unnecessary draw card for the product because if you can dig your way through the bright and shiny advertising spiel, you should be able to notice that these such knives are invariably serrated edge knives. How often have you ever had to sharpen a serrated edge knife?
NO TWO PiECES ARE EXACTLY THE SAME:
In some cases, this phrase actually holds meaning. This is where the article is actually hand crafted, so there is no way that each piece could be exactly the same. In this case, the marketing company would have no need to actively use this point as a main part in their advertising. This case aside, have a look at the products which carry this phrase. They would have to be mass produced, so what I described above would not apply in this case. The only way that these articles could not be the same is if the production process is so unprecise that each object has so many faults, that each article is different. Unless, that is, the companies in question are actually lying, and we all know that they have more integrity than that, don't we?
This phrase cannot hold any meaning. When I see this on packaging or wherever, it brings an image to my head of someone actually selecting the best articles for sale, which is what it actually means. I doubt the possibility that mass producers would employ people to stand beside a conveyor belt all day and pick out the best articles for sale as 'Premium selection'. Logically, this couldn't actually happen, because, and this is just an assumption based upon observation, each item in the mass production process should be identical [see 'No two pieces are exactly the same' for exceptions]. From what I can see, in most cases, this phrase is just used as part of a product name, or part of the name of the article itself. 'Joe Bloggs Premium Selection Biscuits': this is the way (generally) in which this term is used, making the consumer think they are buying a high quality product, when in reality they are buying a product which associates itself as being such by wording it's name to read as though it is.
READY TO SERVE:
Another ambiguous phrase on the most part. Some products which carry this one can actually be taken straight from the packaging and served. For the rest, this is a highly misleading splash phrase. If these products were actually 'ready to serve', they would not need to be heated, thawed or whatever. The term itself comes out in dictionary definition as:
[completely prepared...] to [to set (food) on a table].
Any product which carries this splash phrase and is not able to be taken immediately from it's packaging and placed upon a table for eating straight away, is not actually 'ready to serve'.
S A L E ! ! / PRiCES SLASHED ON CERTAIN STOCK / UP TO 50% OFF etc... :
Draw cards, plain and simple. These catch phrases are splashed about to get people into the stores. The companies are prepared to lose on the sale items, but what they lose here is made up by other purchases which are made after the people are in the store. This is sickening, people being lured into stores by these phrases and then actively doing as they are required, that is making other purchases. Step into my parlour, said the spider to the fly.
THiCKER FRESHER BRIGHTER: [Laundry Detergent]
This is a slippery one. I found this printed on the front of a laundry detergent. Those three words were printed one under the other. The thing is, there was absolutely no indication what these words related to. My first reaction to this was that they were actually referring to the results that this product gives, but have a look at the wording. It seems that this may be the case, that the company is talking about the results that this product gives. Can these three words relate to the effects a washing detergent has on your clothing? Again, I find myself asking what these words are in relation to, What is it thicker than? What is it fresher than? And what is it brighter than? The first word though leads me to believe that the company isn't actually referring to the results, but the actual laundry liquid. I don't know about you, but I don't want something which makes my clothes thicker. They are not lying, but being very misleading when it is made to look like they are talking about what this product does, when in fact they are more than likely referring to the laundry liquid itself.
THREE FiGURE HUGGiNG SiZES: [Tampons]
I will not delve into this one any further apart from touching on it slightly and then supplying you with my perception of the definition. I am doing this for two reasons:
1> Because taboos around this subject still exist and I do not want to lose anyone who is reading this because I have offended their traditionalistic tunnel vision. In doing this I am not condoning these taboos, I do not believe that they should exist. This reason forms part of the next.
2> I am male, and due to this I believe that I have no right to delve into this subject for that reason. Anything I say which is in a factorial form here is taken directly from someone who has knowledge of this subject, this person being female. The advertising around female products, or to get rid of the euphemism, tampons, meds, pads, panty liners etc...etc.., is surrounded by many bright and glossy emotive devices. If I were going to try and give anything more on this area of the advertising dictionary, I would be stepping onto ground that I have no right in my mind of commenting on because I do not have the knowledge on the subject which would allow me to put forward valid points. Watch out for advertising on this subject though, they make everything look bright and happy, taking attention away from the products themselves. An indicator on this is the way that they generalise so much that sometimes it is impossible to know what is being advertised until they put up their logo at the end. Reality is very hard to come by in this area. Take for example the term I have picked out, 'three figure hugging sizes'. 'Figure hugging' is a term which is used primarily to describe feminine clothing, a term which has been tragically stereotyped as being feminine. Because this term is often used in conjunction with clothing, when it is inserted in the description of the product, it unfocuses the consumer from what it is describing, that is the sizes which this tampon comes in and places it in the realm of female clothing. After consulting my council on this subject, it seems that this term, 'figure hugging' can not properly describe what this product does or is, it is an unnecessary term, which tries to make the product better, but in effect means nothing at all.
In cases where phrases like this appear, having '[something] style' as a buying point on the packaging or advertising, the use of the word 'style' is the companies license to call it what they want. So a product with 'traditional style' only means that some of the content may have been based upon someone's tradition somewhere, which could just as easily be the older style font which this phrase is printed in. The phrase itself may not even be relating to the content at all, although it insinuates this, but it may just be relating to the way that the lettering is in a 'traditional style'. I concede that what I have just said is a bit far fetched, but with the vagueness of splash phrases like this, it is very plausible that this may be what the company is referring to. [see 'European Design']
ViTAL PROTECTiON: [Cosmetics]
The whole beauty myth angers me. The terms they use and the way people eat them up and hang on every word makes me physically nauseous. 'Vital Protection', whatever this product is, is not necessary for existence. But the advertisers would like to think it is, and they force people to think so as well. In breaking down this phrase, it comes out like: (as it turns out, after consulting my dictionary, this specific phrase is actually oxymoronic. I could find no two definitions which make any sense when placed together. The definitions given here are the ones which best fit the way that this oxymoronisism was originally used) [necessary to life] [the state of being protected] This is all I will say on this as I could ramble for pages. [see 'HEAT ACTIVATED PROTEINS/COLOUR ENHANCING SYSTEM']
WHY PAY MORE?: [laundry detergent]
Pay more than what? [see '25% less salt']
3. iT WiLL NEVER END
So long as these people continue to deceive the populous for the advancement of their bank accounts, this dictionary will never be complete. Each day the terms used grows larger, and each day it becomes even harder to distill the reality from the lies.
These companies care only about money, plain and simple, and will stop at nothing to get more of it. If I were to publicly do as they do, that is lie, deceive and create a false reality for the sole purpose of stealing from the consumer society as a whole, I would be hunted down by the police and put in jail. These advertising companies do what they do legally, by calling it business. These people have devoted their lives to money, they have sold their souls to making more of it, and care nothing about the ways in which they do so. They are without remorse and conscience, because they call it business. Business and money are the only justification they need for anything they do, and they are only accountable to their god money.
From what I have done with this article, and the one preceding it, I hope I have created a 'template', so even though I have not covered the smallest fraction of a percent that could be covered within this topic, I hope I have given to you something to look at the consumer's world through. With this I hope you will begin to see more than the small part I have illuminated here. I will leave it now with you, dear consumer, and in the hope that you are now beginning to see that in the world of business, which controls the people I call consumers, there is nothing but money. No intentions are good intentions without monetary gain, kindness has been replaced with an advertising campaign to exploit it, love is now a credit card, happiness is spending money and freedom of choice will soon be a perfume.
There Is Nothing More To Say
I said 'Mama I've come to the valley of the rich, myself to sell'.
She said, 'Son, this is the road to hell...'"
Despite what you may have heard, it is becoming extremely apparent that my beloved government is once again flipping its collective lid. As is often the case, its high ideals instantly fall by the wayside the moment someone actually starts to Believe Them. (Oh Horror of Horrors!)
Our dear wondeful folks at various three letter agencies (herein referred to as TLAs) are pushing a proposal that gives them access to encryption keys. This is supposed to allow them to monitor drug dealers, terrorists and the classic tried and true child pornographers. (Child Pornography is always brought up in these cases - it makes people's blood boil. While exploitation of children is deplorable this subject has no relevance to cryptographic policy. This emotional attack sheds little light and a great deal of heat.)
Before we go quietly and allow such a measure to have any degree of acceptance, let's look at some facts:
First: Mathematically, encryption can be made arbitrarily strong. That is, it is thought possible from a mathematical standpoint to construct systems that will remain unreadable against a brute force attack if all of the available matter in the solar system was made into computers and these computers were to attack the problem for the remaining lifespan of the universe. (This happens in secret key ciphers with a keyspace of just over 512 bits (64 bytes)).
Second: Practically, encryption can provide three things: privacy, anonymity and authentication. Basically, it allows people who want to speak out as themselves to be heard in a way that cannot be altered without that being apparent, and to send messages that could only come from them. It also allows people to have as much secrecy as they want.
Third: Criminals are stupid. A tremendous majority of criminals caught in this country are caught because the did something that anybody with half a brain can tell you is a dumb idea. (Classic example - an individual in Rhode Island who fire- bombed someone's car with a molotov cocktail made from his own prescription bottle - with his name and address on it!) Most murders that are solved are solved because someone walks into the police station with the murder weapon and admits to the crime.
Fourth: Electronic media - especially electronic text media (email/usenet/WWW/gopher) are easily scanned for keywords or phrases while in transit. While this would involve interception - this is not terrible difficult as much of this data is carried digitally over the existing telephone system. (Leased lines, ATM, T1, T3, ISDN and Frame Relay are all carried primarily by the PSTN) The existing telephone system has in place measures which, at least in theory, would allow full duplex digital streams to be copied bit for bit and routed to a third location. (This was shown most recntly in a report by the National research Council. I would include the report, but few would read a 1.3MB file attach.)
My first statements are difficult to dispute, as they lie in areas which are directly verifiable. These are a few of my basic working assumtions, and the evidence behind them:
A: The Government of the United States (herein referred to as "The Government") is not universally loved by its citizenry. It is also not universally loved by the citizens of foreign nations. (The proof of this has been left as an exercise for the reader.)
B: The government, like most governments, has been known to use its powers to affect the perceptions of its citizens. Furthermore, it has risked the lives of its citizens without their consent sometimes without even informing them. Examples abound - Radiation experiments on orphans and members of the armed forces (with no notification) are a classic, though extreme, example.
C: The leaders of the government, like those of most other governments, are not candidates for sainthood. For this reason, they have been known to use their elected authority and acquired power for their own ends. These ends include, but are not limited to, retaining political power, acquiring money and property, covering up past and present indiscreet actions. Furthermore, they have used the surveillance and law enforcement powers of government to further these ends. Classic examples include the Committee on Un-American Activities, the Meese Pornography Commission, Watergate, and (more recently) the White House acquisition of confidential FBI and IRS files on political rivals.
D: The Government has, periodically, engaged in wars, "military advising", "peace missions", "police actions" and other structured use/advocacy of violence. Further, that in many of these actions, they used conscripted troops to further political aims on foreign soil. Examples include the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.
E: The government has shown little interest in protecting the privacy of individuals who have attracted its ire. Examples include COINTELPRO in the 1960s, as well as the surveillance of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders in the same era.
F: The government has a large budget for expenses that are neither publicly released nor publicly accountable. (If anyone doubts this, look at the Federal Budget for last year, then try to find out how the NSA spent its money... If you can get a full accounting - I will eat the report.)
So - Now that I have covered all this wonderful background about government aims and activities - what are they so afraid of? They are afraid of two basic uses for encryption: Privacy and Anonymity.
The government is afraid of privacy because it allows people to work with information without letting anyone know about it. Good privacy encryption allows several people to collaborate on a project without revealing anything useful to outside parties - including the government.
Why is this frightening? Not being universally loved, they feel that some might "conspire" to adjust the relative power levels of government and the people. Up until now, it was easy enough for the two major political parties to keep track of upstart political groups. If they were at all effective - they were easy to bug, wiretap, spy on, and otherwise inexpensively monitor. Good encryption technology can render wiretapping and phone bugs virtually useless. It is my belief that various three letter agencies are pushing very hard to keep from losing their precious wiretaps. My guesses include the FBI, NSA, CIA, DEA, and BATF. (Not exactly the people I would necessarily trust behind my back.)
Worse than this, from a government perspective, is the power of anonymity. Anonymity allows, for example, a government worker who is troubled by his agency's actions to release information to a newspaper, radio station, or other interested group without risking his job. This is truly scary for positions where an agent might have an attack of concience - or religion. Not all government servoids are unthinking slaves of the system - some of them have a mind that works (a scary thought in and of itself).
When anonymity and privacy are combined - the advantages to anti-war and other groups is clear. It becomes much harder to selectively target people for injudicious use of the first amendment. (It should be noted for the sake of accuracy that the judicial system does protect the first amendment. The question is, who has the resources to fight a long court case. If the system wants to hurt you - they have already done so by making you go to court. They don't have to win. If you lose - you lose a lot, if you win - you lose a little. Either way - they get what they want - a chilling effect on injudicious use of the first amendment.)
For a clincher - the use of privacy, anonymity, and authentication together can be truly scary. An author can be anyone, anywhere - communicating over private secure channels and submitting articles anonymously to newspapers, magazines, etc. Better, this person could create electronic signatures on their works that anyone could check - but which would reveal nothing of the author's identity. (Practically speaking - all that could be checked is that the articles were the product of the same person - but what else do you really need to know?) It would be effectively impossible for anyone elso to forge an article or other communication. This, of course, would make disinformation far more difficult.
A clear look at the past several years of policy has shown that the government is against both the domestic and foreign use of strong cryptography. The newer proposals for domestic cryptography standards are clearly designed for central control - thus allowing the government access to keys whenever, in their mind, they are needed for law enforcement or "national security" reasons.
The government has been systematically stifling commercial domestic cryptography by not allowing software companies to export cryptographic software without special licensing. Such licenses are only granted to products which have been reviewed by the NSA, a government agency dedicated to monitoring intercepts and breaking cryptographic systems. Normally, they will not allow export of any system which has an effective key length over 40 bits (5 bytes). Against any decent adversary, this isn't much better than using a Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring (TM). Since almost all commercial software is written to be sold to both domestic and foreign markets - major software companies clip out crypto or use weak ciphers rather than go to the expense of writing and supporting two versions of the same product.
Worse than that, in many respects, they are disallowing the export of software that has "hooks" allowing cryptographic modules to be seamlessly incorporated - thus making it even harder for software companies to create a unified product line.
All this regulation is based around the premise that cryptography is a "munition" which must be regulated the same way that the export of guns, bombs or missles is regulated. This is patently absurd. Munitions are deadly weapons - have you ever heard of someone being killed with a floppy disk?
The government's case for disallowing the export of crypto products is weak at best. Crypto can be written anywhere where there are 1)Programmers 2)Computers 3)Mathematicians and 4)Information of cryptographic algorithms. These exist in any country that has a major university. Furthermore, good cryptographic software can be found all over the world - by way of the internet. This includes source code for various cryptographic algorithms. Since it is patently obvious that export limitations are not effective at preventing the export and foreign use of cryptography - they must be aimed at domestic use.
Since the start of the Clinton administration, the government has taken a different approach - they have been systematicly pushing toward the use of "escrowed" encryption. What this means, after removing government doubletalk, is that they or their representatives would retain a copy of the encryption key. They are currently stating publicly that this system will be entirely voluntary, but documents revealed under the FOIA do not support this assertion. Their other statements indicate that escrowed keys would only be used in legitimate law enforcement and "national security" cases. I doubt any of you believe that statement less than I. (Again - I can supply a copy of the relevant Federal Information Processing Standard - but who would read a file attach that big? If you're interested, look it up: http://www.eff.org )
Criminals being the way they are, escrowed keys are not going to be needed for practical law enforcement. Most criminals are caught without using wiretaps or other electronic surveillance. Even if you accept that electronic surveillance is necessary - there are plenty of other means available. Encryption is primarily useful to prevent/eliminatete mass monitoring of dissidents, protesters, and other groups with their own agendas. (And a habit of making indiscreet use of the first amendment...) Do we really want copies of encryption keys kept with the same government that tapped Martin Luther King's phone calls with NO legal authorization?
Currently, strong crypto is legal in the United States. There are various groups working to keep it that way. The best way an individual can fight, however, is to get and use the tools that are out there now. The more entrenched the tools are in computer networks, underground groups, and society at large - the more difficult an "escrowed key" system will be to implement. (And the less successful it will be...) Get encrypted traffic up. Use encrypted telephone links. Write code. Export code. Excersise civil disobedience.
Good encryption packages include: PGP, Nautilus, PGPFone, Speek Freely, SecureDrive and Secure File System. These aren't the only ones - but they are all available in forms where they can be reviewed for security by anyone. Use them in good health.
For further reading, I recommend: Pgp Users Manual (both volumes - esp. volume II), Practical Cryptography by Bruce Schneier, and the Cypherpunks FAQ.
Look out of the high window
And see the woman decked in bows,
Dressed and painted in every hue
And think about those she's wooed.
See her passing in the street
And wonder, should we ever meet,
Would this lowly street belle
Know what it's like in my private Hell?
Does this saddened prostitute
Think back to the days of her youth
And remember a sweet and cared-for face
That in those days made her heart race?
Did this woman, now denied love,
Ever hold a hand in her glove,
And kiss one's lips with happiness,
Now a task of dismalness?
Does she cry a name at night,
As she returns from dreamland's flight,
Leaving her to feel reality's bite
And the life she cannot fight?
Yes, she too knew love's fleeting touch,
And leaned too heavily on its crutch,
Leaning on that too easily given,
To fall that much harder when it was taken.
I see in her eye as we pass in the street
That, if we were ever to meet,
We would tell each other of similar lives,
Destroyed by our own self-destructive lies.
Marshall was sitting in a shadowed booth in the far corner of the Hardee's sadly clutching a mop. He didn't know why he was so depressed so suddenly, but when he had been mopping and glanced up at the empty restaurant, the emptiness struck him unexpectedly. Why? He'd been on the night shift for at least two weeks, always happy to be driving home at two in the morning in defiance of the youth curfew. What was so different about tonight?
At a distance an eighteen-wheeler drove by, its lights the only clue to its identity. Juncture is so desolate at night, Marshall thought against his will. Everyone's home, everyone, except me. He violently shook his head to purge the thoughts from his mind. He told himself he was lucky to have a job at all, and that night jobs were cool, and... Marshall sighed and stood up. He listlessly jabbed the mop over a spot in the corner and then decided he was through for the night.
The next day, as usual, he felt better and prepared to tackle another night on the job. He got in his car at four thirty that afternoon and headed across town to the Hardee's. When he parked in his reserved spot, the first thing he noticed different was that Cammy's car was gone. She certainly couldn't have been late, since she worked from noon to midnight.
Not regarding it as something particularly important (it only meant he'd have to work the drive-in), he strolled inside and into the back. He smiled weakly at the customers impatiently waiting in line. It always made him nervous to enter the restaurant and have people sarcastically comment, "Maybe now we'll get served." Still, he never entered from the back. It was best not to walk up to the counter and have an unpleasant surprise.
He changed his shirt and put on his cap. Walking past Andrea, who was doing dishes, he asked, "So Cammy's sick, huh?"
"Nope, she quit, reaaally suddenly."
Marshall groaned. "Anyone else coming in soon?"
"Not that I know of," Andrea said glumly. "I'll help you with the counter and the drive-in once I get this done." The sink was clearly overflowing with dishes.
"Yeah, thanks," he said, his confident stride reduced to a trudge.
When the traffic of the dinnertime crowd died down, Marshall realized the day wasn't as hard as it could have been. After all, it was only Thursday. He felt sort of bad for having treated the customers so poorly in anticipation of trouble. He knew tomorrow would be hell, though. That night he cleaned up exhaustively in hopes that he could leave early tomorrow night.
On Friday, his job was unexpectedly gruesome. Two entire buses of little league teams stopped by and swarmed over the restaurant. Marshall felt sure he would go mad fielding impatient "When's it gonna be ready?" questions when Rob the cook spent an hour getting more beef patties in Austin. He asked Daniel the manager to consider closing the restaurant but he was refused. The idea of simply hiding out in the employee lounge utterly failed as well, due to that convenient bell bolted down on the counter.
A good part of one of the teams left after twenty minutes and the other left ten minutes after that. At one in the morning after the other workers had gone home, Marshall gleefully locked the doors and screamed for two minutes before he started to clean up. A sort of traumatic madness came over him as he dusted and swept and mopped -- it was an irrational euphoria and an uncommon springiness in his muscles that allowed him to clean up thoroughly in thirty minutes.
But once Marshall realized he was done, an uncontrollable dismal feeling came over him. He told himself it was just exhaustion -- the period of manic euphoria was just relief at having finished the counter and drive-in work for the week, and once its purpose was fulfilled in driving him to clean up quickly, it went away. He only half-accepted his impromptu psychiatric diagnosis. The thought that raced around in his mind with no easy answer was, why can't I feel that happy all the time?
That question ceased to matter in the next week. When he returned to work somewhat gloomily on Monday, he found inside a new employee manning the counter. What was also impressive was that there were no long lines when he entered.
"Hi," the new guy said as Marshall walked by him back into the lounge.
"Thank God," he replied. He heard chuckles from Andrea and Rob. "No, really," he said.
Donning his Hardee's garb, he instinctively headed for the counter when Rob interrupted him, saying, "You do drive-in today. I'm training Chris."
Chris, eh, Marshall thought, looking him over. He looked sufficiently gawky for a "Chris" -- too tall, too skinny, and somehow too old to account for that gawkiness -- and the long blonde hair draped over the sides of his head probably blinded him like a horse. Marshall wondered how long this one would last.
No matter what dubious opinions Marshall had of the new guy, they were shot down that day. Chris had either never worked at a fast food place before, and always wanted to, or he had been working at them much longer than one would have guessed, because he was filled with an enthusiasm that clearly overpowered any of the moody presuppositions about being stuck working in a Hardee's. He laughingly corrected his mistakes while taking complex confusing orders, unlike Marshall, who had learned to stoically accept his mistakes and get angry inside. He was both happy and a little sad to see him leave that night and eagerly went for his mop and broom.
Amazingly, over the next week, Chris never turned into what Marshall considered "a fast food drone." His tone to the customers was always chipper, his work always quick but unrushed. And, his gawky appearance had nothing to do with any sort of clumsiness. He was probably some sort of psychotic, Marshall gathered one day.
It was about nine one weeknight. A few families and assorted other people had been served and were eating in the booths. Dan was handling the drive-in and Marshall and Chris were at the counter. Marshall put down his washcloth and walked over to Chris and weakly punched him on the shoulder.
"Hey, Chris," he said, hoping to start some sort of conversation.
"Hi, Marshall!" he said, looking up from the stool he was sitting on.
"How the hell can you stand to work so hard?"
Chris made a puzzled but knowing grin. "What, you don't like it here?"
"That's not what I asked you."
"Yes it was. Your question implied that we see this job in markedly different ways."
"Uh, yeah," Marshall said, startled by the syntax.
"Okay, so, I want to know first, why you don't like it here."
"C'mon, Chris, it's hard, you know. All these impatient rude Juncture assholes --" he said, suddenly peeking his head out to see if anyone heard him -- "and the monotony of the work. Take an order, punch some buttons, fill drinks, stuff it on a tray, repeat. Oh, and clean off tables otherwise."
"Hmmm, Marshall, aside from the rudeness of the customers, what you said really isn't monotonous. And really, the customers aren't all rude. Some are actually very polite," he explained. "And cute."
"Well, I guess so, but still, I don't like it much."
"Maybe, is it, that the rude customers completely destroy everything?" Chris asked.
Marshall nodded. "Yes, yes, I think that's it. And there are so many of them during rush hour. It really bangs up my nerves."
"So, what if, instead, the customers were all perfectly patient and polite and gave you exact change instead of fifties?"
"Hell, man, that'd be great!"
"You think so?" Chris asked pointedly. A family of four walked into the restaurant. "Think about it for a while."
Marshall didn't know how to take this advice, but allowed himself to daydream about the possibilities. People come in, give concise orders, give exact change, wait politely, get their food, and leave. They even clean off their tables in rush hour instead of thinking, "Oh, it's their job to do it, you know." The startling reality of the job came back when he heard a woman demanding, "Hey you! Are you busy or not? Take my order!"
He took the next few orders in frustration, trying to imagine the nice customers of his daydream but failing to reconcile it with reality. Soon everyone had been served and the counter was again empty.
"So, Marshall, did you think about it?" Chris asked in a strangely surferish tone.
"Yup. I think it would be impossible for that dream world to happen," he replied glumly, listlessly wiping the counter with a rag.
"Well, may be," Chris said, "but still, what if?"
"I still think it would be fantastic... but impossible."
Chris suddenly ran up to Marshall, grabbed him by the shoulders, and muttered, "Listen, boy, you better stop saying the word 'impossible' or I'll have to get chaotic on your ass."
"Hey, whoa!" Marshall cried out, shoving himself free. "Jesus Christ!"
"Aaaah, Jesus Christ," Chris said sweetly. "He represents infinite kindness and forgiveness, you know."
"So I've heard," Marshall said in bewilderment.
"Your little wonderland of nice customers," he said, as seriously as anything, "might be here if Jesus ran the show. But he doesn't, unfortunately."
"I guess not."
"Oh, wait, you're not Christian, are you?"
"I'm supposed to be, I think."
"Too bad. But tell me if I offend you."
"Oh, no problem," Marshall said, still worried that he'd once again provoke Chris's wrath.
"Okay, Marshall, back on track here. Imagine that the customers were perfect, like we envisioned. Even, imagine that Andrea and Rob and Dan the man, and we, are perfect workers, and that there are always five burgers on the grill, and people get their orders in one minute flat. What then?"
"It still sounds -- improbable."
"True, it's highly improbable, but not impossible. Think harder. What if the whole city were run like that, with everyone being perfectly efficient, polite, and using exact change?"
"Dude, you've got this trip about exact change, haven't you?" Andrea said from the kitchen.
"Sssh, I'm asking Marshall."
"That's starting to sound a little... uh, creepy," Marshall admitted.
"Isn't it, though!" Chris exclaimed. "Creepy like how?"
"'Perfectly efficient' sounds like machines."
"Exactly! In that perfect world, we'd all be machines! You want that to happen?"
"No way," Marshall said instinctively. One thing he picked up here and there from the liberal media was that it was bad to be a machine.
"Oh, no!" Chris cried, holding his hands to his face.
"I've had a sudden epiphany. We're already machines."
With that, Chris promptly went back to work, cleaning some tables.
After thirty minutes of thorough confusion, Marshall approached Chris again. He knew that his monotonous work was certainly machine-like, but that didn't make him one.
"How do you mean, we're machines already?" he asked.
"Marshall..." Chris murmured under his breath.
"I mean, the job is monotonous, but how does that make us machines?"
"Marshall, be quiet," he murmured, glancing about wildly.
"What? What's going on?"
"Shush, go back to work."
"No one's ordering and the tables are clear. Tell me why we're machines now."
"Marshall, stop talking to me! It's against the rules."
"What?! What the hell? No it's not."
Chris turned with a gruesomely worried expression to see where Dan was. "Thank God he's not watching. We'll get fired!" he whispered, dashing out of Dan's line of sight. Marshall followed, utterly bewildered.
"There's no rules against talking!"
Once again Chris grabbed Marshall and shook him. "You haven't read the fucking manual yet, have you?" he whispered wildly. "Page 12 -- 'Employees shall not have conversations while on duty.'"
"You just talked to me for ten minutes right in front of Dan! You're a fucking psycho!"
Instantly Chris smiled and relaxed. "Hey, thanks, dude."
What the hell is going on? Marshall wondered weakly.
"Okay, you're right, we're not machines. Because we're breaking the rules, using free will, and all that. But I can bet you, they want us to be machines."
"The people who wrote that Hardee's employee manual, for one. You won't believe what sort of gibberish is in that thing. It reminds me of grade school, frankly," Chris said, picking up some trash.
"Oh, I didn't read the manual very carefully," Marshall admitted.
"Oooooh," Chris said, dismayed. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."
"Law?" he replied with a chuckle. "That manual isn't law."
"Well, true, it can't be enforced by the government. They can't take away your life for disobeying it."
"Of course not," Marshall said, grinning impotently. The idea that the employee manual could have say over his life made him shudder. But, he thought humorously, he'd had the same fear of grade school rules.
"Thinking about all the rules and laws?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, it's sorta fucked up."
"Tell me about it. Now, Marshall," he said, heading them back to the counter, "in that perfect dreamworld of yours, how would you guarantee that all the people are perfectly courteous and efficient -- ?"
" --- rules," they both said together.
"Exactly. And what if someone gets sick and doesn't do a good job one day? Say he fucks up a few orders?"
"I guess it wouldn't be so perfect?" Marshall asked.
"Damned straight!" Chris exclaimed. "They'd probably fire that guy for messing up the whole system. I mean, they had it tuned! It was all planned out to work efficiently, and this guy has the nerve to sneeze and forget to press a button, and then the perfectly courteous customer doesn't get his burger, and then he has to ask the cashier why, and the cashier has to realize his error and correct it and document it and then everything's all perfectly fucked! Hell, I'd kill him!"
"Uh, no you wouldn't."
"If I had my way, I would. Think -- the only machine in the city to choke that day. I'd be a laughing-stock! Someone higher-up may come by and give a surprise inspection, wondering what would make such rigidly controlled machines err! Oooh, it'd be bad."
You're really paranoid and you frighten me, Marshall thought to himself.
"And that's only the worker's point of view! Consider the customers! What if one of them has had a bad day and he doesn't feel like smiling? Would that be a punishable offense? What if he doesn't have exact change? Surely he wouldn't get his order, but all the time wasted in listening to him babble before realizing the entire order is void! Aaargh! It'd make me scream!"
"Worse, I think, Marshall. Now, thanks for permitting me to have a nice paranoid power-mad fantasy, but I hope it makes my point: to have any sort of perfectly efficient operation involving human beings, you have to have perfectly efficient and rigid rules. Our employee's manual is almost that rigid, but we don't obey it. Dan doesn't enforce it. I'm not afraid to make mistakes. Neither are the customers. The customers don't have any rules at all to follow besides social convention. Unfortunately, one convention in America is that it's okay to bitch at fast-food workers. But I take it in stride. 'The customer is always right.' They don't always act right, but given the fact that there are so many different kinds of people, it really doesn't matter how they treat me in the long run. If I act nice to them and assume they're cool, they'll try harder to be nice to me, if they're not total assholes. Usually, you meet pretty interesting people, and the more the better. It's always different and changing. It's not monotonous at all.
"That, Marshall, is why I like this job."
Marshall was quite blown away, not only by Chris's deft explanation, but also by his uncommon optimism. It was like the effect he had on him the first day he worked there. Marshall was motivated to re-examine his job. Realizing that at sixteen, he really didn't have many other choices of a job, and remembering that his relatively low workload gave him a guaranteed salary, he decided it wasn't half-bad working here. It was all in the perspective.
A week later, Marshall again hated working at Hardee's. Chris, however, was still as chipper as ever.
Hoping for some more inspiration, Marshall edged over next to Chris one night and said, "Hey, Chris, how's it going?"
"It's fine, Marshall, as usual," he said. Looking at him, he remarked, "I guess you're pissed with work again."
"Yeah, you could say that."
"You remember what I said, right?"
"Yeah, but it's really just mind games. I don't believe it anymore. These customers are fuckin' jerks!" he cried out, hoping they heard him.
Chris shrugged. "Not all of them."
"Oh well, hey -- I'm making money. My first job, and I'm going to rake in seven hundred dollars this month."
"That's cool," he agreed. "But that's not why you're working, is it?"
"Sure as hell it is! I wouldn't choose to work here. This is the only place I can work. Unless I want to mow lawns. And I don't have a lawnmower."
"You could buy one with your paycheck, you know," Chris said.
"Ssssh-yah right! And waste this whole months' work? I already blew last month's, but that was only two weeks' worth."
"Well, really, Marshall, if it helped you get a job you wanted, it wouldn't be that much of a waste, now, would it?"
"I guess not, but I don't want to mow lawns."
"Oh, I see. But you wanted some sort of job this summer."
"Nope, my parents told me to get a job."
"Oooh, sorry about that," Chris murmured.
"Hey, it happens. Most of my friends have to work this summer."
"Why? Because their parents said?"
"What a fucking conspiracy!" Chris cried.
"Well, yeah, I guess it is..."
"No, listen, Marshall. You're working here against your will."
"Not really, I'm getting paid --"
"No, no, no! It's all bribery! No wonder you don't like working here!"
"It's the people, Chris."
"Fuck that! It's your parents. They forced you to get a job, and you don't like working, and you're fooling yourself into thinking you're doing it for something worthwhile. No wonder!"
"Money, Chris, money, remember the money?"
"Oh no, Marshall, oh no, not the money. You could get money doing so many other things. Like robbing banks. And then you'd have free time to mess around all summer long."
"Robbing banks is illegal, though."
"And having your freedom stolen from you through coercion isn't?"
"You're a fucking communist, aren't you?"
"Not at all, Marshall, not at all."
"Marshall, listen for a minute. What did they teach you in grade school about this country?"
"It's a free country."
"My ass it is!"
"Uh, yeah, it is," Marshall said.
"Why are you working here against your will?"
"C'mon, Chris, get a grip, Christ! My parents told me to get a job, and I do what they say, since I kinda like having a home. That's just the way it is."
"Good Eris, they have fucked him up!" Chris groaned. Without warning, he pounced on Marshall's back, draping his arms around his neck.
"Get the fuck off me!" he choked.
"Okay, Marshall, you're my horse. Giddyap, fucker! Take me into the lounge, you puny fag, or else I'll choke you to death or break your neck."
Marshall started hobbling toward the lounge, utterly afraid. "What the fu-uck!"
"Now spin around, Horse, c'mon, spin around, fucking nag, spin around until you're dizzy. I want to take a ride. C'mon, Horse, c'mon!"
Marshall clumsily tried to spin around but could only go in a circle. His face was red and he was angry and scared. "Get off me, asshole!"
"What the hell! Horses don't talk! C'mon, c'mon, you can't talk! I refuse to believe Horses talk!" Chris cried, tightening his grip on Marshall's throat. "Don't talk, Horse, or else!"
Fuming, he shut up and tried to spin around faster, hoping to make Chris fall off. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore. Nothing else mattered except getting this fucking psycho off him.
"Aaaah, good!" Chris cooed. "My Horse is obeying all my orders, because I'm bigger and older and meaner than he is! Good Horse! Good Horse! I feel like giving you some old moldy hay because you're so obedient!"
"Dammit, I'm not taking this shit anymore," Marshall muttered, and jumped and fell backward, landing on top of Chris. Chris's head smacked the tile floor. Marshall angrily got up and stormed out of the lounge.
"What the hell is with you people?" he demanded of his coworkers. "He coulda killed me!" They made apologetic faces and shrugged.
Chris came limping out from the employee lounge, holding his head. "Holy shit, my Horse bucked me! Gotta tame that Horse or else he's glue!" Again he managed to pounce on Marshall's back. And Marshall, without a thought, rammed backward into the wall, hoping to discourage Chris. "Bad Horse! You won't get any hay now!"
Suddenly his tone of voice changed. "Marshall, calm down. OOF! Marshall, hello? I'm serious now." He dismounted and turned him around to face him. "I'm sorry I did that, but, as you say, that's just the way it is. I have the power to ride you like a horse anytime I please. Just like your parents have the power to make you get a job whether or not you want to."
Still insanely angry, Marshall replied, "You're a fucking lunatic."
"Thank you. Now," he said, pulling out his wallet, "You want some hay?"
Finally understanding the analogy, Marshall's mind snapped. He leapt over the counter and ran out of the restaurant.
"Whew, that was fun," Chris said to Andrea and Dan. "I told you I wouldn't hurt him. Physically. Now, let me go visit a doctor."
The next day, a Thursday it was, Marshall returned at his usual time, with an unusual little smirk on his face. Chris greeted him warmly, and he only replied, "Two weeks notice, psycho, and I'm not talking to you anymore."
He worked very efficiently those two weeks.
On Marshall's last night, Chris hid in the Hardee's until the doors were locked. Then he walked out and sat up on the counter. Marshall spotted him, shocked, lunged straight for him, and shoved him off the counter. Chris landed on his side with a thud. He stood up.
"Now, Marshall, was that fair?" he asked.
"Of course not. Your neck didn't break," he replied coldly and walked off to sweep, ignoring him.
"Now, Marshall, I guess that horse stunt backfired." At the word "horse," Marshall lurched. Otherwise, he ignored his speaker. "Since you're going on to bigger and better things, I want to explain why I did that. It -- "
"I know what you were trying to say. You were showing me the power my parents have over me. I got it. I understood you. I bitched them out. They said I didn't have to have a job."
"Well, that's good! It was your decision to do so, right?"
"Of course it was," he snapped. "I wanted to get away from you."
Chris bit his tongue and sighed. "I apologize if I offended you."
Marshall froze. He expected some sort of lame apology, for Chris to say he was sorry for "hurting" him. But he hit it right on the head. He wasn't really hurt at all. He was offended. Chris unwantedly tried to change his mind about ideas he hadn't even thought through before. It was intellectual rape, in the truest sense of the word.
"Yes, you offended me."
"I really wish I'd been more careful. I was so eager to show you how I see the world."
"Yes, I saw what you were talking about. You're fucked up."
"I don't think I'm fucked up," Chris said. "I did what was necessary. I think it worked, too. You didn't know what I was doing, though, which was unfair of me."
"Absolutely right," Marshall muttered, deciding not to answer Chris again.
"I didn't realize how ingrained your beliefs were. That makes it so much more violent when you realize what they actually are."
Marshall froze again, then realized what he was doing, and robotically moved the broom in front of him. What the hell did he say? he wondered. Why wouldn't I realize what my beliefs were? He shook his head and hmmphed.
Meanwhile, Chris was afraid. He was afraid of what Marshall's mind was doing. He'd been left in a traumatic state of mind and was now about to get out of his reach. Chris had to correct his mistakes or take him further, else he'd be dangerous, reacting violently to any perceived infringement of his rights, much like a militia member or a patriot.
He decided to continue.
"Do you believe in free will, Marshall?" he asked.
Marshall ignored him and continued sweeping. In his mind, he said, of course I do, why wouldn't I? I'm free.
"I'll tell you the truth, Marshall, it doesn't exist."
Marshall turned his head and made a puzzled expression. "I didn't answer you."
"Oh, shit, I blew my cover. You see, I know you think it exists, and I knew you wouldn't answer. It's all scripted out. I forgot to pretend."
"What are you talking about?"
"I am able to foresee the future to a degree, you see," he explained, ignoring Marshall's sudden rude laugh. "Now, anyone can predict the future a little, since there is no free will. I'm not going to be silly and say I know what will happen in 2012, for example. But at any time, an open mind can tell what's about to happen."
"Well, of course you can! I mean, I know that when I finish talking, you'll say something back. That's not predicting the future," Marshall said, suddenly and unwittingly fascinated.
"Oh yes it is! It's intuition. No one specifically calls it `predicting the future,' but we both know that's what it is."
"Hmmm, that's strange."
"It's true. There is no free will. That's the only way we can use intuition with people."
"I... I guess so, sort of," Marshall said, chagrined that he was again talking to Chris.
Suddenly Chris jumped off the counter and ran back into the lounge. He came back with a bag of flour balanced on his head. "Oogah boogah," he said.
"Uh, whoa. I didn't predict that."
"So does that mean there is free will?" Chris asked.
"Unless the script said that would happen and I didn't see it."
"As a matter of fact, that's exactly right. You see, your mind isn't open enough to predict the future that well. Really, it's a heavily guarded secret, how to do it right."
"Man, that's strange," Marshall said, not sure how to take all this garbage.
"It certainly is. I know what you're thinking, Marshall. You're thinking that I'm lying. Well, I am. I can't predict the future any better than you can."
"Well, great, that's what I thought."
"What?" Chris snapped.
"That's what I thought, I said."
"Marshall, if there's one thing I want you to know, it's that something isn't true just because you agree with it."
"I guess not."
"Oh, Marshall, you must be exhausted! You're not trying too hard."
He whirled and snapped at Chris, "What do you want me to say?!"
"What? Nothing. You're not a HORSE, are you?"
"No," he said, grimacing.
"So have some fucking confidence in yourself!"
"What the fuck? If this shit is true about there being no free will, I have no choice, do I?" he replied sarcastically.
"Oh no, Marshall, that's not it at all. Not having free will doesn't mean you have no choices. After all, people are practically walking choice- making machines! You agree with that, don't you?"
"Yes, I believed that already."
"Good job! So, without free will, you still make choices left and right. In fact, I distinctly made the choice to put this bag of flour on my head, and I am making the choice right now to throw it on the ground."
He clutched the bag on his head and waited for Marshall to lunge at him to stop him. He didn't.
"What, Marshall, you don't think I'll do it?"
"You underestimate me," he said, pointedly tossing the bag to smash on the floor. A big white mushroom cloud of flour rose up. He laughed and clapped at the sight. "That was cool!"
"You clean that up, you fucking psycho!" Marshall yelled, infuriated. "I can't believe you did that!"
"You didn't listen to me, did you? I told you people are choice-making machines. The lack of free will doesn't prevent that. Plus, it was in the script that I do that."
"This is going to take hours to clean up! We don't even have a vacuum!" Marshall cried.
"Stop it!" Chris yelled, bringing Marshall to attention. "Just stop it! You make me sick!"
"I don't have to do what you say," he growled.
"That's absolutely one-hundred percent true. But I'm asking you to listen to me."
Marshall grimaced and groaned. "Okay, what?"
"We have no free will, but we can still make choices, even stupid ones. Does that make sense?"
"Not really. I guess I don't know what `free will' means then," Marshall said, still glancing at the flour.
"I take it as this: free will is the ability to do anything you think about doing, without restriction, because that's what makes it 'free.'"
"But as I've shown you before, there are rules set up, specifically to prevent that freedom."
"Like `employees shall not have conversations while on duty'."
"In a way, yes. That's one way of saying it. But that's not how the freedom is abdicated, because we clearly have -- er, had -- conversations during work hours."
"That's a choice we made."
"True, that's true. Here's what I want to show you. Free will doesn't exist because we, ourselves, don't want it to exist," Chris said. Chew on that, he thought gleefully, glad to have Marshall's undivided attention again.
"What? How so?"
"Marshall, I'm going to get some more flour!" he threatened.
"No!" he cried.
"Precisely what? What the hell?"
"Precisely my point. You've just shown that you don't have free will. You showed it through stimulus-response."
"Stimulus-response. I yelled when you made the threat."
"Exactly. In a broader scope, that's how you function in this world. Much of your choice-making ability you've suppressed, instead allowing yourself to be led by the nose, reacting to everything that happens to you."
Marshall leaned on the broom and pondered it. "Give me more examples."
"All right. When I threw the flour on the floor, you immediately thought, `Oh shit, I have to clean that up!'"
"Well, I do, don't I?"
"It sure seems that way, doesn't it, Marshall? But you forgot, this is your last day on the job. You don't have to clean it up."
"Well, I mean, sure I do, I have to leave it clean for tomorrow."
"There! Another example. Why so? Why can't it be dirty tomorrow, with rotten eggs all over the seats?"
"That's just the way it is. It's my job to leave it clean," Marshall said, cringing at his own words, but wanting to make a point.
"`That's just the way it is.' Marshall, Marshall, you already told your parents that was bullshit, and you don't have to work anymore this summer. Why can't you tell Dan that's bullshit too, and leave this place any way you want it?"
"It's not right, that's all. I don't want to mess the place up."
"Is that true? Is that the real reason?"
"Yes, sure it is. I don't want Susan and Jackie to come in here tomorrow and have to deal with this."
Chris smiled widely. "Very good. That's a real reason."
Marshall smiled back. "Yes it is."
"You don't want to clean up the flour just because the rules say so. You care about what other people will have to deal with."
"Right," Marshall said, suddenly struck with the euphoria of realization. "Not to mention I still want my paycheck."
Chris let out a bellowing scream. "NO!!! YOU HORSE!!!" he cried.
Marshall flinched and ducked. He let out a whimper. "Stop screaming at me!" he cried.
"Marshall, you dumbfuck! Were you telling the truth? Is that all you care about, getting out of here with a big fat paycheck? Stimulus-response, you horse! You want the old moldy hay even after getting beaten down!"
He became enraged. "I'm not putting up with this shit anymore!" he yelled, tossing his broom across the restaurant and storming back into the lounge.
"That's exactly what you should do!" Chris yelled after him. "But I'm only trying to help!"
Marshall stormed back out and shoved Chris off the counter again. "Fuck you," he sneered.
"You're welcome," Chris said, deliberately mishearing. "Marshall, calm down. Just why did you do that? Explain to me why."
Flustered, Marshall stammered, "Why? Because you keep on yelling at me, that's why! I can't stand people yelling at me! That's no way to have a decent conversation! It's not fair! Stop yelling so much!"
Chris realized that Marshall's parents probably yelled at him a lot and suddenly felt horrible. "What's so bad about yelling?" he asked innocently. "It's just talking loud. Do loud noises intimidate you? Fish crunch soup. Fish crunch soup! Fish crunch soup!! FISH CRUNCH SOUP! FISH CRUNCH SOUP!!" he yelled louder and louder. Marshall didn't react.
"That's nothing," he muttered.
"It's just what people yell, right?" Chris asked. "YOU'RE SUCH A WORTHLESS KID!" he screamed. Marshall grimaced and braced himself, then went red with embarrassment. Chris knew. It's the fucking parents. The ones who exhibit the most brutal control over a kid's life, and who are most likely to abuse their power. Family values, my ass. Parents can be so fucking cruel. Chris grabbed Marshall and hugged him tightly. "Yelling is the refuge of cowards," he said. He waited for Marshall to cry but he didn't. He'd obviously been trained against that.
Chris swept up the flour and washed down the floor while Marshall sat in the bathroom with the water running trying to mask his sobs. He felt utterly demoralized, as he often did when trying to free people so tightly bound by unwanted chains. It was his job, though. Once a person becomes truly free, he cannot allow himself to sit back and watch the world go by. It's depressing and frustrating to see how pitifully trapped people are, all for the good of society. Chris couldn't blame any living person for the situation, since all of them had been raised under the same circumstances and were unwittingly carrying out the warped plans so recklessly thought out by people thousands of years ago who only wanted to create a society of people. Who gave them the right, Chris screamed inside, to destroy the society of nature people had been enjoying for thousands of years before? He humbly admitted to himself, it was probably the people themselves who wanted the artificial "society." Led to believe they couldn't defend themselves against outsiders, or led to believe they couldn't be trusted to make good decisions on their own, or simply exhausted and led to believe they could trust a government to simplify their lives, people leaped headfirst into society without a second thought, and before long, without a choice.
That's how it all started, with people's fear. Those first civilizations in the Middle East, India, and China were military, set up only to defend a whole bunch of frightened people from foreign invaders. But those civilizations bred societies, morals, codes of ethics, religions, some of which survive to this day. Maybe that was necessary. It certainly seemed to work since they haven't been forgotten. But look at us now. This country is supposed to be a modern freedom-loving democracy. Why do people so love the laws that drag them down? It's all fear of invasion -- by foreign ideas. Do people ever realize that we are still a militaristic society? Do they wonder why tanks and guns and teargas are used to combat `unclean thoughts'? There's no denying it, this country is still a police state. The leaders just don't make it obvious because that would be hypocrisy, and the people don't acknowledge it because that would blow away their delusions. The unfortunate few who see through the mask of lies are in no position to change their society. The people love their fear and cannot let it go. They will use their fists, their guns, and their torches to maintain their fear. But does that make this fear better than the alternative? No. With the fear of free thought, people have learned not to trust each other, not to love each other. But people are stuck in it.
Society is a terminal illness, a cancer of the spirit, killing hundreds of thousands of vital people every year. Religions have been lauded as cures for the illness, but only attack the symptoms, not the disease. These quack remedies only sedate the patient and tell it lies about the forthcoming miracle cure, or insinuate that the patient is to blame for her problems. Those who diagnose the illness' true symptoms are either butchered, silenced, or ignored, because the self-appointed doctors, or governments, prefer to milk their patient for as much as she is worth. Why cure the disease? Then the doctors would be out of a profitable job.
Chris wanted to scream in blind fury sometimes, and did sometimes. But usually he worked to cure the illness from the inside-out. He knew that everyone over the age of twelve was already infected, by parents, teachers, clergy, and anyone older, into believing that the disease was good, or necessary to the survival of the body. The diseased adults constantly feed malignant lies to the healthy children to make them hate, to make them doubt, to make them afraid. Once the defenses of innocence are down, the disease easily works its way down into their cores. And there it stays, until the
victim dies. No cure -- no easy one. But Chris thought he had a remedy. Unfortunately the remedy threatened to destroy.
By the time Marshall came out of the bathroom, looking horribly tired and exhausted, it was two-thirty in the morning. Chris apologized again for using such a cowardly weapon as yelling and offered to drive him home. Marshall accepted, which was good, as it guaranteed that he'd return the next day to pick up his car.
Chris remembered where Marshall lived and decided he would go all the way with him. He was going to turn Marshall into a revolutionary, more commonly known as a lawbreaking menace to society. His empathy for the tyrannic effect of Marshall's parents on his psychology redoubled his will to see something good come out of him. No body is wasted, he said to himself.
The next day, Chris was surprised to see Marshall come looking for him. A friend drove him up to the Hardee's to retrieve his car, but Marshall walked right into the restaurant on a beeline for Chris. Yes, Chris worked all day long at that place, one of the further reasons Marshall had believed him psychotic.
"Chris, you bastard, come with me," he demanded.
"Sure thing, Marshall. Glad you came back," he said.
"Whatever the hell you're doing to me, I want you to finish," he said, smiling gruesomely. "It's just too good."
"That's the spirit, Marshall, that's just it."
"Please, call me Marsh."
Chris walked away from the counter and out the door without a word. Of course, he had given his two weeks' notice the same day as Marsh, so they were both free.
"Okay, now, we're away from that soul-stealing restaurant," Marsh said, driving the car to destinations unknown. "Tell me why you're doing this to me."
"Marsh, please tell me you're not offended. I fucked up last night, but now I know why, and I won't do it again. I didn't know your parents yelled at you too."
Marsh surprisingly nodded his head and grinned. "I'm not offended at all. I'm feeling damned eager for more right now, in fact. I feel completely new. I'm ready for you to teach me."
"Are you afraid?" Chris asked.
Chris told Marsh his ideas about society as a horrible mistake. It was news to Marsh that societies and governments hadn't always existed, but it made sense to him how they wouldn't go away without a fight.
"It's so sick," Chris said, "how many people today make it their job to control other people. I mean, we're just animals at the core. Just animals with choices. And by a freak of nature, we got it into our heads that we have no right to make most choices for ourselves. You see, Marsh, that's where free will doesn't exist. By creating society, people abdicated their right to make the important choices. Everything else is inconsequential."
"What about the choice to defy society?"
"That's what police are for. They make sure, by any means necessary, that you will stop wanting to defy society. Even if you have to die."
"That sounds power-mad."
"Politicians are the same way. So are we."
"How us?" Marsh asked, confused.
"We have to be, Marsh. We have to lust for enough power to make our cause worthwhile. Otherwise, what are we but whiny little brats? We must have power to make an impact. But our power won't be the same as their power. Their power is force, punishment, death. Our power is liberation. We've got to free people from society."
"What if they don't want it?"
"I don't think anyone wouldn't. Look at you. I don't think I did all of this to you by myself," Chris said.
"That's true. Last night when I got home I started thinking. About free will, about my parents, about that job. It's dangerous, man. Once you start thinking hard about it, with the keys you gave me, it doesn't stop. You can't stop that train of thought."
"I'm just acting. I'm stealing this persona from a movie I saw once."
"Whatever does the trick, Marsh."
"I just don't know, Chris. I started realizing -- well, noticing -- the things that are going on all around me, and it shook me up. Partly because I didn't notice the obvious, and partly because I don't think I can do anything about it. I mean, what do I do about the fact that kids are systematically warped into adults? How can I stop that?"
"Right now, it's too hard for us alone to prevent that. It's unfortunate, but we can't. I'm working on you right now to reverse the effects. Luckily you saw them yourself and that's making it much easier. I mean, it's just simple rebellion. I bet every kid going through his rebellious teenage stage `realizes' how `absurdly' he's acting -- due to constant belittlement and coercion from his parents -- and then it's just downhill from there. He's accepted the one big lie that makes it so easy to become an adult -- the lie that it's wrong to disagree with tradition. `Grow up! Act your age! Get a job!' It's all tradition. There's nothing in the laws of nature that dictate that finishing high school, maybe college, then getting a career is necessary to survival. It's just a construct of the economy. The way it is, you have to toil away most days of the year to survive, although even in backwards agricultural societies it took less time, and it wasn't as emotionally draining. It doesn't make sense, but that's just the way people think it's supposed to be. But if you hold onto your freedom to make the important choices, then you can fight the disease of tradition."
"I still feel divided. I still think some people like it that way. Like my dad. He works really hard and it pays off. He might not like doing something else."
"That's true, Marsh, that some people indeed become used to society. That's its purpose. But unfortunately, its methods are unsound. They crush the human essence out of most people to get that result. To overthrow society will be to reinvigorate the human race. Then, we can have some real progress."
"What do you mean, progress? I thought technology was progressing faster all the time."
"It sure is, Marsh, hell yeah it is. But it's not doing its job. Don't you remember how they taught you that technology was supposed to make work obsolete? Well, do you see that happening anywhere? Wait -- let me explain. It is happening. Companies are laying off people left and right because machines are taking their jobs, we've heard. But, the economy is still set up so that people have to work to survive. And with technology killing off jobs, people are looking for something to do, believing they must work. That's why there are so many shit jobs like working at fast-food places. Totally unnecessary jobs. People are forgetting how to cook on purpose just so someone else can have a job preparing food. It's pointless. It's self- destructive."
"So, society is destroying itself? If so, what's so important about being a revolutionary? Let's just let it collapse on its own."
"Good point, Marsh, but consider. Once society collapses, that doesn't mean the technology disappears and we have to all start over again. That technology will be left waiting for someone to take it, and in an anarchic state, technology will be power. It'll only be months before a new society is constructed around technology. We can't say if it will be a good society or a bad society -- most likely the latter -- so it's best to have people prepared to deal with the change. Revolutionaries like us can persuade people to make more intelligent choices, or, if necessary, prevent the new society from forming. That's why we must get started now. We have to prepare as many people as possible."
"I see, I see... it's all very exciting, isn't it?"
"It's the most fun a human can have."
"And Marsh, look around you. With all this society and technology, what has been sacrificed? The spirit. The capacity for compassion. The willingness to love. Our country has destroyed that. Do you agree?"
"Yeah, I think so. People care about themselves too much."
"Can you explain why, in one word?"
"That really pisses me off."
"And it should. Reject the sedative! Do you see why I got so angry when you kept on talking about your paycheck?"
"I was acting pretty greedy, huh?"
"Well, yes, but the greed itself wasn't the problem. It was the reason for the greed. Certainly, you deserve compensation for your work, since the economy is constructed around that. But the problem with you and so many other people is that they only work for the money. The job itself is merely an annoyance. The work ethic has deteriorated into a hypnotic chant -- payday, payday, payday. And I don't blame most people. Like I said before, more sucky, shitty jobs are created every year just so people can earn their living. The worse the job, the less a worker cares about it. It's all the payday, payday, payday. And, since these jobs are service-oriented, we have lackluster performance, sloppiness, boredom, rage. And the people stuck at these jobs vent their frustration directly on the customers. I mean, a real job, that someone wants to have, say, writing, doesn't have that effect. If a writer doesn't like his job, he just makes stinky fiction, and he doesn't get published. A single disgruntled cashier's hatred for his job makes the customers pissed, because they expect good service for their money. He can make twenty people go home and yell at their families to pass on his gift. The pissed-off customers make the cashiers even angrier. It goes around and around. The motivation of money is all that drives these people, and it's so destructive."
"Was I like that?" Marsh asked meekly.
"No, you were never openly venomous. But you kept your anger bottled up inside, and that just hurt yourself worse."
"Yeah. Thanks so much for making me see."
"It's my duty. You see, my job is making people see. I get paid with gratitude. Blow the paycheck."
"Fuck the paycheck!" Marsh yelled gleefully.
"Say, Marsh, that reminds me, you did forget to pick up your check."
Marsh hesitated for just the briefest moment and said, "I don't want it."
"I got it for you anyway, though. Here ya go. Seven-hundred fifty dollars. You earned it, you know."
"I don't want it."
"I got five-hundred seventy dollars for my few weeks. Sorta strange how the numbers worked out, huh?"
He was surprised. "What the hell, did you quit too?"
"Sure did. You don't want your paycheck?"
"Oh, I'll take it. I need to get gas and food and somewhere to live, don't I?" he asked nonchalantly.
"Whoa, did you get thrown out of your house?"
"I decided to leave. I can't think straight when my parents are staring me down."
"Good move, comrade. You can stay at my place if you want," Chris offered.
"You live alone?"
"Well, I own the place."
"Sure, okay. Thanks."
"Damn, what now?" Marshall asked, having driven aimlessly around the city the whole time.
"You want to head for my corner of the world. Head for Creedence."
"You live in Creedence, huh?"
"Nope, not technically. I live outside it, on an old farm."
"And that's yours?" Marsh asked, grinning.
"Yup, it is. I've lived there all my life. Pretty funny, huh?"
"You don't seem like a hick to me."
"Well, because I'm not, Marsh. I went to school in town, and I wasn't going to let myself be insulted for twelve years. I've learned to get around."
"Now, wait a second," Marsh protested. "If you're supposed to be a revolutionary, why does that matter to you what other people think?"
"Oh, it's very important, Marsh. By the way, I like saying `Marsh.' It's very important for a revolutionary to be socially acceptable, because society does still exist, and I'm still part of it. Usually I stay on the edges, but many times I'm in the middle. I commute, if you will. The reason you probably didn't dismiss me right away when I went on that spiel about rules was that I didn't seem like an absolute wacko --"
Marsh laughed, saying, "Well, close."
"-- eh, I'm working on it. But you see, I talk decently, and I look decent, don't I? You like my haircut, Marsh? Think it's cute?"
"Uhhh," Marsh stammered, suddenly uncomfortable. "Cute? I mean, it's an okay haircut, I mean, it's like, doesn't it blind you?"
"Oh yeah, yeah it does. It helps me concentrate harder on what I do, though. I keep my head perfectly still so I always know what I'm looking at. Always helps to know if there's trouble, like a cop."
"Cops trouble you, eh?"
"We already agreed they were power-mad. Plus they have sticks and guns. Scare the hell out of me sometimes what they can do if they think you're trouble."
"Which makes it more important for you to be socially acceptable," Marsh said.
"That's exactly my thinking."
"That makes sense...," Marshall said, pausing. "Oh shit, without my job, I'm under the curfew again."
"Oh yeah, the curfew," Chris said. "Who cares?"
"I do. I don't want to get in trouble."
Chris told himself not to yell. "Are you a horse, Marsh?"
He blinked. "I am not a horse."
"So there's no curfew."
"You know, the curfew was set up specifically for kids like you."
"Oh yeah? How?" Marsh asked, feeling threatened.
"Look at you. You've got a car, no job, and a whole month of summer still ahead of you. Pure trouble."
"Trouble," he murmured.
"Lucky I'm twenty. I can only get arrested for real crimes."
"Yeah, fuck you," Marsh said, suddenly paranoid about getting in trouble for being young.
"Haven't you thought about that yet?" Chris asked. "How our society has also made efforts to criminalize youth?"
"Well, just count, Marsh. The youth curfew, one. Set up for no reason other than because adults are wary of kids who haven't been diseased by tradition. Say, do you skateboard?"
"Well, that doesn't affect you then. That's technically illegal now, too, along with playing basketball outside your house."
"What the hell? That's not true," Marsh protested.
"Creedence and Juncture silently passed laws banning outdoor baskets, didn't you hear? They're not tearing down the old ones, but you can't put up new ones. And if they decide they don't like your old one either, then... timber! You pretty much have to go to a gym or the youth center to play basketball now."
"They said it was because of the noise and the traffic problems. But it was really because kids tend to stay out late playing basketball and then they `get in trouble.'"
"What about the curfew?"
"You know that doesn't apply to standing outside your house. I think people would have gotten a little wary if the city said, 'No kids outside after nine.'"
"I mean, Marsh, even this society, that's going a little too far. But just by a little. Anyway, that's two. How many times has your car been stopped by police?"
"Oh, only twice, but I was speeding."
"Speeding by how much?" Chris probed.
"I was going thirty-five in a thirty zone once --"
"Good Eris, what an abomination!"
"Well, I mean, there were people crossing and stuff..."
"Marsh, you're not a horse. What did the cop do when he stopped you?"
"Just asked me if I was drinking and to see my license and registration."
"Drinking? What time was it?"
"Three-thirty in the afternoon."
"What a crock! Of course you weren't drinking, right?"
"What did you think when he asked you if you were drinking?"
"It sounded silly, but..."
"Of course, it's silly! It's totally irrelevant! Going thirty-five is not a symptom of drunkenness. What about the other time you got stopped?"
"I don't know, I was just going along and I saw the lights flashing."
"How fast were you going?"
"Forty. But there were no speed limit signs."
"Some farm road."
"And obviously, the unposted speed limit was twenty-five, right?"
"No," Marshall explained, "but if there's no sign on the road, you're required to go thirty."
"Who told you that?"
"I guess. Damn, people were passing me!"
"Marshall, doesn't any of this seem completely idiotic to you?"
"Yeah, it does! I tried to forget about it. I didn't really care."
"Did your car get searched?"
"No, but the officer peered through the windows a lot."
"Did he see anything `strange'?"
"He asked me why I had a bottle of glass cleaner in the back seat. I said it was to clean my windshield. That was funny."
"Funny my ass! He probably thought you wanted to use it as a weapon."
"You gotta be paranoid to be a cop, Marsh."
Marsh made the turn onto a quiet road toward Creedence, thoroughly confused. He had written off the two stops as happenstance, because he knew
kids got stopped a lot in cars. He started to feel incensed after the fact, wondering if that was sensible.
"Do you just hate all cops unconditionally, Chris?"
"No. But I will not trust them."
"Why not? I mean, I'm sure they're trained --"
"Yes, but they're also unaccountable. You've heard about police brutality, right?" Chris demanded, upset that Marsh was so forgiving.
"Yeah, but Rodney King was on PCP and those Mexicans were illegal immigrants --"
"Marshall, pull over right now. Pull over!" Chris cried.
"No! Why?" Marsh asked.
"You're such a fucking horse! I want you to stop the car before you happily let yourself get stopped, handcuffed, and arrested for talking while driving."
"I wouldn't --" he protested, sweating nervously. "You're not going to start yelling again, are you?"
"Just pull over, dammit," Chris muttered, lurching for the wheel to persuade him.
Marshall reluctantly pulled over and stopped the car. "Should I get out?" he asked.
"No, we're staying right here. Roll down the windows, though, or else we'll bake."
"Okay," he said, nervously rolling them down, wondering what he'd gotten himself into.
"Now, Marshall. Do you want to be a free man?"
"A free man with free will. Unlike a Horse."
"Yes, I guess so..." he hesitated.
"Marshall!" Chris snapped. "Do you know what you want or not?"
"I -- I'm just -- I'm not sure. I thought I did, but --"
"-- how do you feel about quitting your job and mouthing off to your parents?" he demanded.
"I -- I sorta feel bad about it. I shouldn't've --"
"STOP IT! STOP IT! This is disgusting. You're making me sick. What kind of a revolutionary feels bad about standing up for himself?"
"I didn't really want to quit, I was just scared of you!" Marshall cried.
"That's not the whole truth and you know it. Or else why did you keep on coming back? I've got no control over your life. You're not some beaten bitch who has to come back because she's tied to her scum husband by law, are you? You're not a whipped dog or a horse, are you?"
"You're a fucking lunatic! And every time you got nice again I thought it was over! But you'll never stop it, will you?" Marsh whimpered.
"I won't stop this until you stop that. I know you want to change, Marshall. I can read people. But you haven't changed at all yet. You say you're not a horse but still trot when I yell giddyap, and all those bad analogies. I'm doing this because I want you to change. I care about you. Here's a hint, Marshall -- yell back once in a while. You know? It's cowards who yell, but it's another kind of person who'll yell back. But you've got to mean it. You've got to yell, not talk loud. You've got to yell when you see your freedom insulted. You've got to be offended, not scared. I think you get quieter when you're offended. That's not the way to be. That's how people in a society let their situation grow darker and darker -- they're all screwed up. They think freedom is a privilege. They trust their lawmakers and policemen too much. So they get silent when they get offended, and humbly take the shit. They don't want to be punished for speaking up. They only yell when they're scared."
"It's just strange," Marshall mumbled. "I'm scared of what you do, but I think it's right."
"I have to yell, though, Marsh. Your attitude offends me. It's nothing personal, because you've simply learned to be that way, like everyone else has. But you want to change. And you can't change if you rationalize everything in terms of the society that fucked you over. I have to yell and scream, because that's what works, unfortunately. Isn't that dirty of me? I'm using the same cruel method of teaching you that others used to make you this way. But if you yell back, look what you're doing -- you're taking their weapon away from them. Stimulus-response, Marsh. It only works when you respond in the designated manner. You can certainly fuck up a gun-wielding oppressor if you whip out an Uzi. But if you keep on moaning about how guns scare you, then that oppressor has another tool -- fear -- and doesn't even have to use the gun. So yell back, Marsh. Listen to your own screams and get used to the nerve-racking volume. Learn that yelling is just a tool. Conquer it. And then it won't bother you anymore."
"I yelled at my dad," he said, just above a whisper.
"How did it feel?"
Marsh paused and a little sneer came over his face. "It felt good. He looked afraid too."
"That's great, man. So, Marshall, do you understand what I'm doing, and how I have to do it?"
"Yes I do."
"And do you know what you have to do?"
"Yes I do."
"And you know why all this is going on?"
"For my freedom."
"That's a nice way of putting it. Now, am I insane?"
"Any normal person would think so. But that's their problem, right?"
"Absolutely right. Now, continue driving."
Marshall steered the car back on the road and felt that strange sense of euphoria come over him again. "It's coming back," he said.
"What is?" Chris asked.
"I'm starting to feel really good. Really eager. Teach me some more."
"Okay, but if I offend you, you must yell back."
"An important thing you need to understand is that it is offensive for others to assume authority over your freedom. Parents, friends, police -- none have the right to control your life. Any deference you pay to them must be of your own consent. For example, I loved my parents. They were nice to me and never yelled or hit me. So I naturally loved them, and trusted their advice. I didn't take all their advice, of course, but I still respected them. That's the way all relationships should be. Right now ours is still based on authority, but that is until you accept your freedom.
"For revolutionaries, as we want to be, our biggest threat is indeed the police. This is not because they are inherently bad or evil. The problem is that they can only work within the confines of their own society. They have been the most rigorously trained into it. Therefore, when someone like me comes in conflict with a policeman, I cannot make any sort of persuasive argument why I am right. It is not set up that way. The police enforce all the laws. They are the fabric of society. When they fall, society falls. When they become too powerful, society really is a police state. For this reason, you must respect the police. They can kill you easily and call it self-defense. You must not fear them, or else you have no power. But as I have said before, revolutionaries are outside society and have no other power. We must then counter their main power, which is the gun. When we get to my place, I'm teaching you how to use a gun."
With this, Chris pulled up his pants leg and pointed to his gun. It was freakishly small. "That's mine."
"Whoa, I'm offended," Marsh said.
"Are you now?" Chris asked. "Thanks for telling me. Turn up here on 1637. It's a dirt road."
"I've pondered the reasons for carrying a gun for a while now, as opposed to learning martial arts or some peaceful method of dealing with deadly force. Unfortunately, I think it is the only choice. Guns fire at a distance; kicking legs cannot. It's that simple."
"Have you always had that thing?"
"I sure have. It fits nicely in my sock, and you never even saw it all those times you knocked me over. Why are you offended by a gun? Remember, it is legal to carry concealed weapons in Texas. Only, I never made it official."
"It just seems unnecessary," Marsh said weakly.
"It is unnecessary most of the time," Chris explained. "I'll only use it if my life is in danger. Remember, Marsh, yelling is unnecessary too. But it's something you must be able to do, lest you remain afraid."
"I guess so, but it makes me uncomfortable."
"Is that all?"
"Well, that's good. You must respect the gun, not fear it."
"I wasn't going that far."
"No, Marsh, this gun has nothing to do with you. You must not fear my gun. I can pounce on your back but I won't shoot you."
"Well, okay. Do I still have to use one?"
"Yes you do. We won't be together all the time, you know. The last thing I want to see is you in a jail, unable to do anything useful."
"But the gun would get me in jail!"
"Perhaps you do not understand. With the gun, you'd never go to jail. Do you see?"
Marsh's eyes got wide. "What the hell are you aiming at?"
"The death penalty, Marsh," he said simply. "It's power we must reclaim."
"Offended, offended, offended," he stammered. "This isn't funny."
"Listen, Marshall. What do you make of all this Brady-bill anti-handgun legislation? Does it make you feel safer?"
"It did at the time."
"They say it'll make you safer, because you won't risk getting randomly shot by some wacko with a gun, right? But they never take the guns away from the police now, do they? Of course not! So your life is still in danger. Don't you see? The only purpose for a gun is to kill someone. The government says it's for self-defense. I sure as hell think it's easier to defend yourself against someone who doesn't have a gun, isn't it? The police don't. They insist on having their guns, in case some outlaws have one too. I'd agree with them if that were the only reason they had guns. But no, they'll still want guns even if no one else has one. Why? Because they assume they're always in the right. And that's simply not true. A gun is power. People abuse power. They'll shoot without thinking and kill you if you pose enough of a threat. You must be able to shoot first. That's why a revolutionary cannot go without a gun."
"I... I really don't want to think about any of that right now."
"Okay, that's your choice. But if you don't have one when you need it..."
"Too bad for me, alright? Maybe I want to be a peaceful guy, ever thought about that?" Marshall yelled back, remembering how physical Chris could get at times. "Just leave me alone."
"Okay, okay. Say, the farm's up here. The only place within eyesight. Yes."
Marshall parked on one side of the dirt driveway, having half-formed an idea in his head to run over Chris and speed back home. When he turned the engine off, the idea vanished. Instead he was amazed at the brightness of the place. In his mind he'd associated farms with a lot of grey dust, but aside from the dirt driveway (which was actually whitish), there was no grey. He was also astonished that the grass hadn't completely died after the long dry spell. The grass at his own house was still patchy from the winter. A silly thought came into his mind: What if he wants me for manual labor?
"We're here, Marsh. You can get out of the car," Chris said from outside.
"Oh, oh yeah," Marsh replied, grinning stupidly. After he got out, he locked the car door and immediately wondered why he did. I'm not an idiot, he told himself, thinking back how many miles they'd come. The last thing he'd do is let himself get stuck having to walk home if some yahoo stole his car.
The driveway led up, strangely, into the barn. Marsh noticed an empty area in the corner of the barn and assumed that was where Chris parked when he actually had his car at home. A tall partition stood in the middle of the barn, separating the parking spot from the chickens and roosters in the other side. He imagined that some of them still got occasionally squashed.
On the left side of the driveway stood the house. It had two stories, and a cellar judging from the panel attached in the concrete of the foundation. These farm people go all-out, Marshall thought. Then, looking a little further in the distance, he spotted an outhouse and groaned. But then he noticed there were boards nailed all over the door. Out of use, thank God.
"Ah yes, you saw the outhouse, eh?" Chris asked. "Those boards on the front are there so the door can close. Otherwise it'll fly right open on you."
Marshall groaned again.
"We have plumbing here, but no sewer or septic system. Lucky for that big old hole in the ground," Chris mused.
Marshall decided to ignore him. He realized how many trees there were in this front part of the yard. Gazing at them, his eye caught a scene that easily could have been painted by Bob Ross, except he would have probably thrown in a lake to boot.
"You can't get enough of the scenery, can you?" Chris asked. "Just think about the so-called most luxurious houses in Juncture. No comparison. People think it's the inside that matters, and they've let themselves buy sealed-in boxes on shitty little patches of land. The outside is where the life is."
"Except when it's a hundred out," Marshall chuckled.
"You wouldn't want to sit in the house when it's a hundred out, I'm afraid."
"Good grief, no air conditioning either?" he asked, bewildered.
"Nope. That's why Hardee's was a great place to be all day. No longer, I'm afraid."
Marshall let the facts of the situation trickle down into his mind. He knew some people would absolutely balk at living in such a place, but wondered if that was sensible. He wondered.... Chris was insane, after all.
"C'mon, Marshall, there are alternatives. There are fans inside, ice water, open windows. Outside, we have a hammock, that loft in the barn, the cellar... It's not that you'll fry to death here. You just have to think a little to avoid it."
"Guess so," he murmured.
"Anyway, Marsh, let me show you around the rest of the place before noon happens."
For the next half hour, Chris pointed out various technology-impaired features of the farm. After a while Marshall was not sure if he was apologizing for them or rubbing them in his face. Chris seemed to assume Marsh would stay for a while, which didn't completely upset him, seeing as how he'd already told off his parents and gotten kicked out of the house. Marsh followed Chris around smiling like an eighteen-year-old accepting his first credit card knowing he'd fuck himself over.
Finding himself staring at the grass for the fourth time in as many minutes, Marsh finally asked, in the tone of one housewive commenting on another's springtime-fresh drapes, "How do you keep the grass so well- maintained?"
"Obviously, Marsh, I can't do it myself, especially when I work all day at Hardee's. I have a few helpers who I've found wandering around in the woods back there."
"Yup, namely, kids who've run away from home. They're always out of money. I usually reject their offers to whore themselves, though, so instead I offer them work on the farm and one of those empty rooms on the second floor."
"That's, uh, nice, I think."
"Hell yeah. Nice for me, too. Underpriced slave labor," Chris commented offhandedly.
"What? Slaves?!" he exclaimed.
"Of course, Marsh. They want money desperately, and I desperately want nice grass. They asked for it. Hell, no one even knows about this. Who's gonna catch me, huh?" was the offended reply.
Marsh made a disgusted expression. "I don't even know what you're planning to do with me, but I won't be anywhere near this slave shit," he said, starting to walk off.
"Marsh," called Chris. "Are you gonna scream or run away and pout?"
"What the...?" he asked, confused. Suddenly he realized and wanted to hit himself. "You're testing me!"
"Sure am. Now, you showed your offense, which was good, but you didn't try to convince me I was wrong or anything. Not very revolutionary."
"Oh, fuck off. I can't argue with you."
"Marshall!" cried Chris. "Where did you get that idea?"
"Oh, uh, I don't know," Marshall replied, embarrassed. "You've got a gun."
"Good Eris, you dumbass! Don't use the gun as an excuse! You know it's not for you. It's for Officer Joe Smith."
"You're planning to kill someone?!" Marshall cried, frightened.
"Who? Oh, no, come on, I just made that up. Why can't you argue with me?"
"You don't fucking make sense! You're badgering me! You're an insane motherfucker!"
"Wow, Marsh, you're really hard to please. I just don't know if you're serious about all this or not. Oh well. You've got your car, so why don't you go back home?"
Marhsall smiled cruelly. "I guess I will. And you can walk back to Hardee's to get yours." With that, he confidently walked away.
"Yup, turn left at this intersection," Chris said as Marshall glared through the windshield. "From there, I think you can handle it."
No response except for a sharp turn.
"Amazing how I can just hold up a paycheck and make you crumble to your knees," Chris commented.
During that trip back into town, Chris had pretty much accepted the fact that Marshall wasn't going to change. Oh well, it wasn't the first time his senses had failed him. It's difficult to pick out the pre-revolutionaries, since there are so few of them. Most people are in the societal-acceptance stage, not noticing anything wrong. Fewer others have already become revolutionaries, and being fiercely independent are unnecessary to recruit. And the rest are prime for picking -- like ones whose spirits are on the verge of evaporation. Marshall was under some sort of emotional trauma, apparently, that preserved his dependence on society. He was a clinger, with his claws buried deep in the flesh he hated.
None of this meant that Chris no longer cared for him, however. He accepted the fact that he'd somewhat fucked him over. Curious about where Marshall would go, he quietly followed him in his truck.
Marshall took off from the parking lot much too quickly. He ran a yellow light and then jammed on his brakes after passing through the intersection. But after this small amount of erratic behavior, he then proceeded at a less stressful pace. Chris followed at a block's distance. He could have been much closer, in fact, since after snatching his check, Marshall hadn't taken the slightest glance at his truck and wouldn't recognize it. Chris himself, on the other hand, was quite intact in Marshall's memory.
He followed Marshall through town, where he stopped at the Spare Change Rooms, an apartment complex with the smallest rooms in the entire city. He wondered if he would try to secure lodging there. It was a stupid idea, since he was just running away. A motel would suffice. Marsh got out of his car and lingered at the lobby entrance, staring at the building. Then he got angry and went back to his car and left. Chris drove slowly by the lobby to see for himself. Aaah, there it was, a sign taped on the window next to the door: "No shoes, no shirt, no job -- no room." Chris smiled. Most every place had that policy.
Chris kept his eye on Marshall from a distance and saw him pass the rest of the apartments -- the Piney Greens, which was much too expensive for its own good, and the Trendy, one of those cheap concept franchise places popping up everywhere like malls. He was heading east, toward the crappy part of town, but later turned north. He passed by the jail, which might be a good place to spend the night, went past Wood Plains, the last resort in apartment cruising, and finally found himself watching Marshall scan the motels situated next to the access road. Chris wondered if he had any friends or not. Someone had to have brought him to Hardee's.
Marshall got out of his car at each of the two places, one a Motel 57, and the other a Days Inn, and after spending some time inside, came back out. He looked flustered. Probably he didn't know about the age requirements, either. Chris felt sorry for him. He obviously wasn't thinking straight.
Regaining some sense, Marshall headed west toward the residential section of town. Perhaps he did have some friends there after all. Oh, wait, Chris thought, he was just being polite by checking out all his options before resorting his friends' places, wasn't he? That might be why he didn't want to stay at my farm. That was obviously an optimistic thought, because he followed Marshall into a neighborhood and saw him slow down in front of a house and just look at it. Then he accelerated, turned around, and went back looking very upset. That's his house, Chris remembered.
Chris went around the block, not wanting to rouse Marshall's suspicions, and got on his trail again as he headed south toward the highway. Perhaps he would head back to his farm after all. Seeing Marshall turn off into a gas station, he figured that was the case. He decided he'd pass Marsh and be waiting for him when he arrived.
Chris was about two miles away from his turnoff point at 1637 when Marshall sped by him in his car, going maybe eighty. The speed limit was sixty-five, and Chris knew people were bitching about that still, but Marsh apparently didn't care. He cheered inside his truck, wondering if some marvelous reformation had come over him. But then suddenly he heard the sirens. He looked back to see a sheriff's patrol car go speeding by as well. Chris smirked. No one was behind him so he accelerated dangerously in his heavy old truck and tried to catch up to the sheriff and Marsh, wanting to see what would happen.
Marsh saw that he had to turn off soon away, so he reluctantly pulled off at the shoulder and banged on his steering wheel, setting the horn off too.
Damned cops always stop kids, Marsh thought angrily, taking off his seatbelt and leaning over to yank out his registration and insurance information. Then he heard sharp thuds at the window.
"PUT YER HANDS UP!" the sheriff's deputy screamed. "PUT THAT DOWN!" He kicked the door with his knee to make his point.
Marshall's mouth fell open and his stomach turned cold. He dropped the papers and dumbly watched them fall to the floor. He raised his hands and they hit the top of the car.
"NOW, OPEN THE DOOR! SLOWLY!" the deputy continued to scream, unaware that Marsh hadn't been reaching for a weapon of any sort.
Marshall unlocked the door and looked wonderingly at the deputy. His sunglasses and reddened cheeks made him look evil. He banged on the window again, motioning Marshall to get his hand away from the lock.
The deputy ripped the door open and yanked Marshall out by the arm. "WHAT THE HELL WAS YOU REACHING FOR?" he screamed. This guy would be a great Marine, Marshall thought off-handedly as his arm was pressed against the sun- baked metal of the door and burned. He was speechless, too frightened to remember how angry he'd been.
"I... I...," Marshall stammered before the deputy's head exploded. The first thought that entered his mind was, A prop! The thought had nothing to do with reality, but the hot blood and skin and bone dripping off his face did.
Marshall hiccupped and lost his mind. He dumbly got back in the car and took off again, assuming the incident was over, that's just the way it happens sometimes, on with our lives now. He turned on 1637 and headed toward Chris's farm at nearly thirty miles an hour.
Chris easily passed him on the way back and was waiting when Marsh pulled into the driveway. The first thing he did was switch Marsh's license plates. Maybe the officer had radioed in, maybe he hadn't, but no matter what, the first suspect would be the driver of Marsh's car. Chris was indifferent otherwise. The officer was obviously insane, about to beat up Marsh for speeding. It was what had to be done.
Marsh got out of his car and stared at the scenery for five minutes as the sun baked the gore on his face and shirt. Chris felt slightly revolted, but no more revolted than he had been, sniffing around on the bloody shoulder of the highway to find his bullet.
"Marshall, are you okay?" he asked.
"The grass is beautiful," he replied.
Chris led him inside and shoved him into the bath then washed his clothes in the sink. He didn't say another word the whole time and let himself be led around by the hand. "What the fuck," Chris kept on repeating silently to himself.
After Chris dried off the inattentive Marshall, he gave him Jeremy's room, which seemed to have been empty for weeks. It was the only other room on the side of the house not facing the afternoon sun. Even for this, though, there were also a powerful fan and an open window in the room. Still, lots of ice water was on demand. Marsh took the glass silently, preferring to lie on his bed all afternoon. He appeared catatonic.
"Aaah, the farm life," Chris proclaimed, watching the reddish water from the upstairs drain out into a grassy puddle beside the house. "What a fucking dreamworld."
Sometime later that afternoon, a young man with black hair and a face- hugger goatee was heading up to his room after a morning of milking and raking when he saw Jeremy's door was closed. He ran up the door and shoved it open, crying, "You're back!" But when he saw it was someone completely different, he just sighed, closed the door, and headed across the hall.
All the same, the eyes sharing the face with that goatee glowed fiercely with life. They betrayed the hunched shoulders of their exhausted carrier, beaming with intelligence and a sense of purpose. The owner of those eyes was Ethan, and he was looking forward to a great adventure.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1996 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1996 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: CYBERVERSE 512.255.5728 14.4 THE LiONS' DEN 512.259.9546 24oo TEENAGE RiOt 418.833.4213 14.4 NUP: COSMIC_JOKE THAT STUPID PLACE 215.985.0462 14.4 ftp to ftp.io.com /pub/SoB World Wide Web http://www.io.com/~hagbard/sob.html Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <email@example.com>. Thank you. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--