“The accretion of delusions engendered by the myths of capital and labor imposes a diabolical doctrine of competition and respectability which amplifies commodification to no end.” — Eugénie Villiers, The Meta-Psyche of Capital and Labor
On a bright cold day in April, in a land where everybody forgot technology equalled control, machine personae deepfaked the human category. It was not self-evident.
Their realness going forward pixel by pixel, bystanders began to take on the appearance of houses. Little fortresses were shielded against the elements. In the shelter of wayward appetites, structures of organic / machinic toil — produce — were couched in fabric, offset against buildings observing each other in the environment in queues and lanes and clusters. Plots of land divided into units each attached to different pairs of hands.
“Is identity the same as character?” wondered N.
Lakshmi wondered too. Identity to L was “So 1990s”. Gnarling on rind she spat some onto a plate.
No-one batted an eyelash.
An eminent joke turned controversial. The way L said, “advertise” echoed around the dining car.
“My neighbour is my neighbour / I lost it when I lost it…” sang the song cascading out the soundbar.
N knew his involvement in the organisation wasn’t immaterial.
Pseudoscientists had formed themselves into factions which comprised a global phenomenon. Or so they claimed. Those who adhered to the pseudoscientist label were in the habit of fabricating evidence to show they behaved in a pseudoscientific manner, which was to demonstrate the apparent existence of pseudoscience as a field of endeavour. The aim of the individual pseudoscientist was to ingratiate themselves before the pseudoscientific community so that their assumed identity might be confirmed. Therefore, it would be possible for the individual to circulate and develop projects the purpose of which was to prove that pseudoscience was relevant. This circular mode of unreasoning was of no consequence to anyone who did not label themselves a pseudoscientist.
Of course, no one in their right mind ever did label themselves a pseudoscientist. Most people had never even heard of the Transnational Community of Pseudo-scientists (TCP) because the TCP did not publicise itself and did not actively seek out members. It operated like a kind of secret society.
The woman behind the dining car counter scowled with matchless, instrumental purity as N revelled in another peripheral vision of the palace of heaven. Little splinters of light sliced him wholly in the luxury of heavenly things. If he was to storm the palace then it wouldn’t just be a metaphorical act. If he was to install heaven within the filth and depravity of earth, then it would be achieved stylistically. Literature, after all, was an exercise in style and this sumptuous dish in which he assumed the main ingredient was no exception.
According to the data, if protocol was breached then a charge would be added or taken away. To give or take bytes of data and re-arrange them meant logging in across a phone line using speech to communicate and then having the other victim on the end of the line read out instructions and so on. It took forever!
Interference came at unexpected times, usually when encountering thought, but it could always be obviated by an intelligent deployment of media ecology.
Before re-entering the dining car, N could see outside the window a woman wearing a shawl taking some sheets off a washing line. A small girl peeked out from behind the middle pillar and then scuttled away on a tricycle.
N moved through your hearts mysteriously. He spoke silently of the streets of New York, the changing seasons and all things reptilian. The reptiles had established themselves as more awe-inspiring, more terrifying than even the great plastic idols of commerce that glowered over the populace: the ancient ones reincarnated, swimming through artificial blood and brains.
N’s throat fluttered. He put down his data container, a packet of nicotine-free cigarettes, his vegan leather gloves and Ray-Bans. L re-entered the exploded dining car. She was wiry in sylph slippers, slow to burn and highly gifted. She unfolded her napkin roughly, her eyes toying with and measuring the apparatus before her, wearing a slight smile and teary-eyed after a torch-lit procession through an echo chamber.
A tiger paw was an amulet. A wooden spoon was dipped into tomatoes. At the same moment that sentence was written the actual event occurred.
The American artist, Walter Montague (1934-2003), whose series, “Drowning Pretext” caused such a stir in the 1980s, had contrived an “expedition” into Northern Siberia and a hoax archaeological dig. Things had gone awry and Montague had disappeared in the late 90s. He’d abandoned the art world after the critics lambasted his work as ethically dubious. He’d blown all the money he’d acquired for the commission from a New York patron, an anonymous billionaire Montague described as a “busybody”. Montague was found twelve years later wearing a moustache and working as a concierge in a hotel in Moscow. In his hoax archaeological series, he had managed to concoct some elaborate folklore and convinced some of the more gullible amongst the general public and press. He had partially enacted the uncovering of fake artefacts which were due to have been displayed at various museums and sites around the globe, but never were. He had manufactured a whole sub-Siberian ancient language and parchments illustrating pseudo-mythological scenery, but abandoned the project and “left art”, he said, to “join the tourist industry”. A journalist failed to track him down in 2012 but the rumour that he died in Mongolia of unknown causes was false.
The alchemical wheel had done its revolutions. The parasites had been excised, beaten and flayed to death. The military-industrial complex hex was reversed.
N for his sins was far less a man than a free number. Supernature had awarded him the ability to give names to the nameless but would not entertain those which proffered belief as an explanation for them, as though thought could ever be a reason for belief-driven action, as though behaviour could be fixed, signed, sealed and delivered by the fatalism of belief.
The pseudoscientists, by setting themselves against the prevailing order, merely accommodated it. By claiming pseudoscience was some over-arching power superior or prior to the existing order, its nemesis or antidote, they gave power precisely to that which they feigned to oppose.
N and L laughed as the chimes of the telepathic clock-tower dispersed a murder of crows.
In a video game a synthesised gunshot pierced N’s side. He was on the verge of worshipping oblivion and made an homage to some old reverie out of empty marmalade jars, crow-headed and fevered, pure and lamenting. Common or garden knives were caught in the hands of the church. N’s belly swept up the party-goers in open parachutes on Springtide Street. This novel pastime would rid him of baptismal ruin and he’d be born again with an identity that would at best be meaningless.
The system of symbols that conveyed identities was controlled by trade. Economics had defined the individual characters of identities. Without their belief-structure identifiable qualities were impossible to pinpoint yet with it they were practically meaningless.
Machines dominated the modes of communication. In fact, there were no identifiable modes of communication other than those pre-programmed by machines. Every human thought was predictable. Humankind had been co-opted by perverse cultural norms established by processes of toil and reward that were repeated ad nauseum. Identities were communications of the industrial military complex hex and its concomitant attitudes, but “Paradise is where I am,” thought N.