Covidoverload: Thoughts On Coronaconspiracies

epidemic-4952933_1920

The world is a bizarre place, filled with unknowable oddities and questionable realities, and adding to this is some of the strange posts that pop up from friends on things like Facebook. I’ve seen anti-vax Bill Gates stuff, the 5G effect with a side order of microchipping coming to a brain near you, the establishment’s deliberate over-estimation of deaths from what is ostensibly nothing more than a “mild flu”.

Then there’s the alt-medicine soap boxers who say that we don’t know anything about the virus so “I’ll just jump in here and say that viruses aren’t a thing” while a ton of ill informed invocations of Orwell get dumped into my feed without recourse to how power hierarchies manufacture our consent on a daily basis.

The internet has, as James Bridle says, opened the door on a new dark age of superstitions.

But don’t get me wrong – I completely agree with the idea that we can’t trust those in power, but what worries me is the impervious nature of these theories to anything resembling reasoned argument, and the way in which they invert the reality of a situation.

These ideas are literally turning everything on its head, and I might question as to whose benefit?

For example, the narrative that their grandad pegged it from lung cancer but the bureaucrat wrote Covid19 on the death certificate. Are they really trying to amplify the death toll? Why would they lie? It’s just the flu, after all.

Well, first thing is that the system is most likely underestimating deaths at this point. Cases such as care homes aren’t going into the system, at least not yet. And this isn’t just a flu, it’s way more deadly, and way more contagious, and when introduced to a medical system that is run on a capitalism business model that has stripped everything down to the bare requirements, the system gets overloaded.

(This is the same mentality as the office I worked in. Reduce staff to save money. You run a skeleton crew, but when someone goes sick while someone else is on holiday, the system falls apart).

When the curve rises too quickly, the hospitals can’t cope – then someone has to decide who goes into one of the few ventilators and who doesn’t. That would also be the ventilators that the government asked Dyson (a billionaire Tory donor by the way) to build. Meanwhile it’s clear that the EU reached out many times to the UK over this issue, but our government didn’t even return the call.

Back to the death certificates then – we might ask then where did this death certificate narrative come from? The answer appears to be that it originated from a right wing doctor who’s worried that we’re being terrorised into giving up our freedoms. She’s also an anti-vaxxer and a pro-lifer.

Once these narratives enter social media, they replicate like a virus through people’s feeds and help trigger symptoms of social unrest such as the protests in America where you can play spot the Gadsden flag.

One report claimed that after a week of such protests in Kentucky, the figures of Coronavirus infected rose dramatically. No surprises there then. Perhaps this virus is here to finish off the losers of the civil war? Let’s follow the breadcrumbs some more to the anti-governmental groups like the Oath Keepers who are ready for a show down with the shadow government of satanic paedophiles who are backed by the Democrats and who want to undermine Trump.

These are folk who have pledged whole-heartedly to the QAnon and Pizzagate stories, and when such narratives become deeply rooted you can surely believe that they are willing to manufacture the evidence to support their claims. So when someone asks “what reason do these people have to lie?” I think we can bridge the gap and acknowledge that humans are really good at lying for a variety of reasons, especially to back up their opinions in face of facts they don’t like.

And here’s a big wave to those Google researchers who spend hours searching for the answers that prove that everything they claim is true, and a big hello to all the real paedophiles in positions of authority who had the support of high ranking bureaucrats (ahem, Jimmy Saville).

Anyhew, when it comes to providing evidence that’s cherry picked, David Icke is a real master of it. He can make a narrative and find whatever information backs him up, and it can be as random and wild as you like because the internet is filled with “evidence”. It reminds me of the book Foucault’s Pendulum where the book editors are working on manuscripts from alchemists and occultist and realise that their “sources” are literally each others books. 

(Counter to this farming and framing of whatever suits your purpose, I was taught that a good scientist should always work hard to disprove a theory, and if it holds up to the rigours of testing, then you know you’re on the right track).

So here we have the strange fractal elements of the right wing in the US – the rural right wing who are anti-government and their poster boy Trump, facing off against a satanic illuminati pro-Democrat element of government while within government the two main parties are essentially different sides of the capitalist coin.

It’s so painful to wrap your head around it that it makes your brain hurt sometimes. So what these right wing folk want is the right to be free to go shopping for capitalist goods while fighting the system that is filling their supermarket with cheap goods for consumption. It’s wanting the cake and eating it without getting fat.

Oh, and making sure that the baker isn’t Jewish.

I suppose that I can at least give them credit that they know if you fight the state you’ll end up like Koresh, flushed out with tear gas and flamethrowered by Bradley tanks.

But how about over here in Blighty?

Are we going to have our liberty taken away?

What amuses me most about the posting of a hostile take-over and the end of civil liberties is the irony of sitting on your phone/computer/iPad and doing nothing but recycling social media posts – if you’re sitting at home posting on social media, then you aren’t really fighting the state: the wage slavery, the consumerist mentality, the urbanisation and privatisation of public spaces, the austerity and bare bones services while tax dodgers and billionaires drain us dry like the parasites they are. 

So just try organising an anarchist revolution and you’ll see how quickly the state deploys its violence against you to protect itself.

A good example came from a few years ago when there were several court cases brought by female activists against the government because men that they entered relationships with were actually undercover agents. Some even had children with these men before the agent just disappeared. The core of the cases were that sexual relations had been had under false pretense – basically rape.

That is the reality of (at least sections of) MI5 – they are quite willing to work against the public if that public threatens the gravey train.

On top of secret police we also have other aspects of a police state: we have the deaths of Ian Tomlinson who was standing in the street when a police officer struck him, resulting in his death. That officer was suspended and never given prison time for murder, which is what it basically was.

And what about Jean Charles De Menezes who was executed on a train? Ahem, and I quote:

In July 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service said that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any named individual police officers in a personal capacity, although a criminal prosecution of the Commissioner in his official capacity on behalf of his police force was brought under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, on the failure of the duty of care due to Menezes. The Commissioner was found guilty and his office was fined.

Fined? Just fined. An innocent man was murdered.The mind boggles.

I actually remember this incident quite vividly because I saw one of the very first reports where an eye witness stated that de Menezes was put on the floor and executed by a shot to the head. She never once re-appeared on subsequent reports.

(Side note for conspiracy fans, our current Labour leader Keir Starmer approved a decision not to prosecute any police over the controversial shooting in February 2009).

And what about the Integrity Initiative? A group funded by the Institute for Statecraft and who appeared to be a charity. A little digging turned up there address was an empty office and that they were farming lists of journalists who worked for the billionaire mainstream press. Nothing shady there then. They also appear to have their fingers in the pie when it comes to the very odd case of the Skripal poisoning – an event that has a D notice on it from the government which prohibits journalists from investigating the case and reporting on it.

A D notice is a DSMA-Notice, or a Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice that “requests” something not be divulged in the name of national security. That would be the  same D notice, one might add, that got served to the Guardian after the Snowden incident in 2013 and where they had the hard drives smashed up. Apparently the state has been spying on us, but found that most of us are just sending each other porn. Remember that?

The Integrity Initiative might also have something to do with Philip Cross, a Wikipedia editor that never takes a day off – even for Christmas – and who specialises in editing prominent left wing/socialist pages like Jeremy Corbyn where he removes information, but who is apparently nice enough to make positive edits to friends like journalist Oliver Kamm who worked for The Times. 

It’s unclear whether this is one man, a bot or a profile used by multiple persons, and it’s unlikely you’ll find out because Jimmy Wales – Wikipedia’s owner and overt fan of war criminal Tony Blair – claims that there’s nothing fishy about it even after several people posted him the evidence.

So when people invoke 1984 they usually do so without realising that the dystopia wasn’t a prophecy but simply a reality. They even bought Amazon Echo for their house and let it listen to them, data mining your life. Data is the new crude oil, after all. 

But I digress. The reality is that you’re not supposed to see the reality of a police state, and most of the time we’re too busy posting on social media, watching porn and buying cheap Amazon commodities while the media diverts our attention to the “others”, those pernicious enemies who are a different race, ethnicity, ideology or whatever.

It sows divisions between us and I might make the claim that conspiracy theories are themselves another tool to do so – after all, the jews are importing muslims to destroy white people and western civilisation! 

So yeah, I think we might consider that these sorts of stories are worth quite a bit to institutional power – it turns away public attention to something else, and blames someone else. For example, it’s possible that the 5G conspiracy originated with Trump in opposition to Huawei’s involvement in US infrastructure – essentially another anti-Chinese conspiracy – but I think the strangest element has been how you can just let the bubbling cauldron spill over as the volatile admixture takes on new and strange cocktails cooked up by the internet. 

Let’s look at how you can get Covid19 from 5G emanations.

This notion appears to arise from alternative health that is grounded in books such as Bechamp or Pasteur?” by Ethel Hume (and others) which rejects Pasteur’s findings regarding viruses as something that is transmitted. Instead, according to Bechamp, the body generates illness when it moves out of homeostatic balance due to poor diet, poor health and even those negative waves from 5G. All illness originated from within.

(Side note: Bechamp may actually have been on to something close to the understanding of the microbiome, and also in our evolutionary past virus DNA played an important part in the development of life).

From that starting point there is, of course, a truck load of homegrown variations and explanations and oh my fucking god! It’s so tiring trying to unravel the knots these people will tie you in if you go down that rabbit hole.

It’s clear from history that viruses are a thing, and have been defeated through proven methods. The fact that capitalist interests have distorted aspects of medicine is also not in debate, but the idea that the whole establishment is in league to screw you over is absurd and again turns reality upside down because the experts and institutes are often in conflict with the government – and in academic circles it’s not just medicine that is in friction with government – all of academia is conflicted by the capitalist business model and the pursuit of knowledge.

Again, the real problem is the prevalent socio-economic model that wants medicine subservient to profit and which has caused all sorts of terrible knock on effects. One that I recall clearly is tuberculosis – remember that? It’s still around – and the way in which it spread in prisons in Eastern Europe and Russia. The treatment’s price meant that supplies was sporadic, and so prisoners got only half the doses before being released (many were only held for short periods because they were not guilty of anything than wrong place, wrong time) – the result was that TB had a chance to adapt and then spread to the families when the prisoner returned home.

Thus drug resistant TB came to be a real problem.

So, the question now is whether we should refuse the academic body of knowledge of decades of research in thousands of papers in favour of a few dissident voices? For some reason the thinking is that the few must be telling the truth because they are being side tracked. Or is it that they are actually wrong and they are encouraging dangerous behavior?

Let’s have a little look at my favourite kinds of crazy, and a somewhat ironic criticism that Chinese herbal medicine is somehow backward, superstitious or hokum. That’s right, if you think it’s crazy to gargle with a tiger’s testicle (making sure the tiger isn’t still attached) to cure Covid19 then how about the alternative US remedy? Try putting droplets of bleach up your nose and in your eyes! That’s right, you can buy MMS – miracle mineral solution – and gargle with it according to Jim Humble, a man who by his own account lived with aliens on another planet.

Sounds legit, right? Oh, did I mention I just made the tiger testicle thing up? It might, or might not, be true. I don’t know.

Or how about the story that the French government had to put out a statement saying that cocaine doesn’t cure Covid19.

Really? Sounds like a cure to me…..

Well, I’ve been rambling a while now and what I really just want to say is, I get it. I get the appeal of the narratives. I myself read Icke’s Biggest Secret when I was a fledgling, and I understand the feeling of revelation, the sense of knowing something that makes the world easier to understand.

But my second thought was to go away and check the data. It was this, along with my interest in shamanism, aliens and archaeology that lead me to study anthropology. So in a sense I can say thank you to conspiracy theories for giving me narratives that were different to the mainstream, but even these narratives are not enough because they themselves mystified power while providing an ego boost. Real academic work should demystify reality, not shroud it in ever greater layers smoke and mirrors.

That in itself should tell us something about the reason why governments like conspiracy theories – because they obscure genuine analysis of power structures in favour of shape shifting, interdimensional repitilians wearing humans like space suits…… although I can totally see the appeal that some of our leaders might be inhuman baby eaters.

The reality is that our governments have handle the situation with epic ineptitude and complacency, using the media to divert attention away from the systemic flaws of capitalism and their own social Darwinist, laissez faire attitudes towards a pandemic that the World Health Organisation warned them would be serious.

Oh, and that would be the WHO who is underfunded and who was routinely ignored, not the WHO who are a front for billionaire Bill Gates so he can get you all microchipped and turned into robots. As I said earlier, not sure why these Bond villains would bother enslaving us when were all sitting at home regurgitating endless memes on social media instead of a organising a revolution for fully automated gay space communism.

Finally, and most importantly, this is not a dig at everyone who indulges in these narratives – I have friends who do, and I know that they are well intentioned, caring and concerned. They are looking for answers that clarify the world because it is reassuring to be in the know, and they hold to ideals of liberty, peace and love.

Nor are they wrong that authoritarian power will seek to capitalise on a crisis even as the global system goes into shock (and just look at oil prices!).

So perhaps it’s for the best that people have been kicked out of a rut and many have found a sense of agency within their communities, or have found time to reflect on where we are at this point in history, and still others have had their true worth revealed as they work on the front lines.

Like many who might wait for the aliens to come down, or the revolution to rise up, or cosmogenesis and angels to appear, I hope that out of this mess there is a better future coming closer every day.

Peace.

DJC


Support Moon, Oak & Feather

If you enjoyed this and want to support me then consider leaving a LIKE down below – it really helps to keep me working! You can also:

#fantasy #sciencefiction #sci-fi #pulp #author #writer #writing

 

 

 

The Dark Crystal: Fantasy, Animism & Subversion

dark crystal promo 3What might one say of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance? Lovers of the original, like myself, appear to be blown away by it, and even those who didn’t like the original movie have nothing but good things to say about it. So if you haven’t watched it, don’t waste time reading this and go check it out by whatever means necessary….

I am naturally assuming that you’re a fantasy fan at this point, and that even if you haven’t actually watched any Dark Crystal, you’ll still know that there is a beloved place in people’s hearts for Henson’s movie. So much so, that when you see something that was beloved to your childhood being revived, there is a fear that maybe it wont live up to the desires you’re cradling in your heart, the desire to see the old magic you once felt revived.

Yet seeing what little I did of the painstaking attempts to accurately recreate the world of Thra, a little light of hope was kindled, and when the time was right I sat down to watch the whole thing over the course of a couple of evenings.

And once again I was totally enthralled by the world of Thra.

It wasn’t simply the beauty of its crafting, nor the spectacular settings, nor the fantastic puppetry that brought the characters to life, no, it was also the grotesquery of the villains, the horror and subtle implications that underpinned the nicely paced and plotted story. It spoke to me at a deeper level, igniting that little spark which lives deep down where my inner child dwells, just waiting to be amazed and terrified by the awe and mystery that wild flights of the imagination can induce.

And that is perhaps why the first episode caught me off guard, needling me when I had lowered the defences that we all learn as we grow older. It was the sudden shift to horror, to a spectacle that went beyond just straight up murder to something worse. When the Skeksis drained the essence from the Gelfling guard I was…. deeply disturbed.

Because Mira isn’t just slain by physical violence (one assumes that the lack of blood might be a good reason to give it a PG certificate), but rather her soul, her vital essence, her living connection to the world of Thra is drained out of her and consumed by the villains.

This prompted visceral disgust in my gut. If one’s soul is the essence of our being, if it is our connection to the universe, was this not a crime worse than just murder? Was this not a perversion of the natural cycle of birth, life and death because her energy could not return to cosmological substrate of creation? As her soul cannot return to Thra, one assumes that she became nothing, that whatever made her unique was assigned to oblivion.

Reflecting on why I felt this way became a thing of curiosity, and two days later I posted a reply to a Reddit thread regarding the series. I offered the notion that the original movie, and fantasy at large, had certainly informed my world view as a child, that it had contributed to my animistic view of life – that is, the sense that all living things are connected through some fabric, be it spiritual, quantum, or just as physical matter recycling through birth, death and decay.

Fantasy is filled with quests throuh natural worlds, through rolling forests with their myriads of strange, exuberant flora and fauna, and perhaps that’s why I came to love the woodland with its trees and fungus, it’s birds and insects. Out on the local heath in the tall Summer grasses with the crickets singing…..

And up on the hill, watching the clouds….

By the ocean, listening to the sound of the waves lapping the beach….

It all seems to have…. soul.

So I suppose it is no surprise that I find myself at odds with the very society that spawned me, that I would spend most of my adult life resisting it in some fashion or the other; from avoiding the exploitation of a corporate career to being given dirty looks when saving a worm from the pavement, from the dystopian unease that sometimes grips me when at the supermarket to the long term goal of getting off grid.

NB: I lived in a yurt for five years now….. and if you stick around I’ll tell that story another day.

So the question arose: if these natural, animistic representations had a profound infuence on me as a child, and if animism is a core component of the Dark Crystal’s cosmology, might such notions be considered subversive? After all, an animistic approach to life surely stands in stark contrast to what might be considered the society’s dominant ideology…..

THE WHAT? (A HISTORY LESSON OF SORTS…..)

industry-1752876_1920What I mean by this is the guiding outlook that has come to dominate the world, the attitudes and approaches of human superiority and the maintenance of authority’s wealth and power.

For example, how do the captains of industry, the CEO’s of global corporations, and the rulers of nations maintain what they have acquired under the civilisation project over the past 6000+ years? How do these institutions view the natural world?

So…… a brief history (or rather, “a hideously over simplified historical narrative of the rise of the dominant ideology”).

Let’s go back to the roots of the modern era with the start of farming and civilisation. These newly forming city states shifted society away from the traditional hunting and gathering societies who were low impact, more egalitarian (judging by extant tribes and communal burials) and had a deep knowledge of their world: they lived within the natural cycles of their local ecology, had a knowledge of game animals and gatherable plants, berries, nuts etc. They also worked to lunar cycles – I think the earliest known lunar calendar is 32,000BC – and they typically only took what they needed each season.

But with the first city states and the rise of farming the new urban cultures cleared the land and raised walls against the natural world, separating themselves by increasing developments in hierarchy, technical specialisation (such as priesthoods, architects and military), and urbanisation.

Key to maintaining this burgeoning hierarchy was an abundance of resources to feed the new administrations, their religious experts and the soldiers who expanded territories under state sanctioned conquest. However, over-reaching the boundaries of their local resource limits made these city state vulnerable to collapse, and in conjunction with warfare, climatic shifts and cultural factors many did indeed fall into ruin.

Meanwhile the rise of state religions helped build legitimacy for the ruling order through new myths and ever evolving pantheons of gods and goddesses that embraced a new solar logic, but which retained hidden lunar motiffs. Over time Pantheism would be eclipsed by Monotheism, but the essential purpose remained the same: to legitimise man’s stewardship over the earth, his “dominion”, thus placing man (and I mean man) above nature, in charge of it, to do with it as he would.

Integral in this shift was the creation of paradises and heavens for good behaviour. Heaven is not of the Earth, a far cry from hunter and gatherer religions that tied human life cycles to the land. Instead of the ancestors returning in cyclical rebirth via the earth they now resided in heavenly abodes and there they stayed.

If they didn’t go to some hellish underworld that is…..

Eventually these beliefs would form the underpinnings of capitalism in Europe where the hereditary land system (under feudalism peasants had rights to their own piece of land) was broken up by Enclosure and the work force was transformed into itinerant labourers for the benefit of land owners. The new Protestant work ethic held that the reward for a back breaking life of toil was a place in heaven. This formed the stage for the burgeoning of the industrial revolution.

At the same time the influence of the church on how society viewed the world was being challenged with new philosophies that mirrored the rise of industry. The likes of Descartes and his contemporaries began to refine the workings of creation into an image of the machine, thus rendering what was left of Nature as nothing more than a bio-mechanical object.

The nascent sciences embraced objectivity, the cold detachment that probed the working of nature via acts like live vivisection, and with it came incredibly high levels of technical specialisation – the progress of civilisation’s technical mastery until it had built the atomic bomb and iPhones more powerful than the computers that sent men to the moon. God as the prime motivator was moved aside and the beginnings of psychology took root, perhaps best summed up by Descartes’ motto, “I think, there I am.”

With the rise of science and industry, and the consolidation of the first world’s nation states into relatviely stable rival blocks (often at each others throats), the scene was set to fully make Nature into a soulless resource. The emergent global networks of civilised hierarchies began to extract resources at a much increased rate and shifted it out of sight by exporting all the problems to their colonies.

The final wave came with the rise of late stage capitalism that has now succeeded in taking control of most of the global centres, from Europe to the USA, to China and Russia (state capitalists masquerading in the costume of revolution). These massive blocks of world power have consistently degraded the world to build up their armies, their industries and placed an unprecedented amount of wealth into the hands of a minority who have waged a campaign to utterly disenfranchise the poor from any rights to their own lands via state bureaucracies, the rule of private property and corporate ownership of resources.

We now live in a world where mass resource exploitation is essential to capitalist production, from wood for furniture and paper, to the vast mines of ore and minerals for steel and microchips, to the trawling of the seas and the farming of the land. Nature has been effectively enslaved, devalued and striped of its right to exist as a living thing for itself. It is now something to be owned by private institutions.

This process of commodification sees its final expression in the opinion of neo-liberal capitalists who claim that if nature can be turned into a product, and someone owns that product, then they will care for it. For example, this has been proffered as a solution to air pollution: if someone owns the air (the air your breathing for free!) then they will clean it up. The same for other essentials such as water – companies such as Nestle are infamous for their claim that water IS NOT a human right. It is a product, and you should have to pay for it.

When social responsibilities to the air are only seen through a profit orientated lens, that is not progress, it is a form of insanity. It is the final act of Enclosure, barricading the natural world behind a wall of money.

That is what I mean when I say dominant ideology: a form of human supremacy over the living world, and not just of humans over plants and animals, but also the civilised human over the rural human, of the rich urban banker over the coffee shop worker.

It is a pyramid of importance with nature right at the bottom.

THE BAD GUYS…. (FANTASY REPRESENTATION)

darkcrystal-promo-4

Obviously the above is an attempt to squeeze 6000+ years of history into a partial narrative, a sort of story that eschews the usual back patting of the myth of progress and which would require a series of books to cover.

But it will suffice for the purposes of my argument as we now turn our attention to the portrayal of villainous traits in our pop culture.

I think we can safely say that many are the villains in fantasy (and sci-fi) who wield the power of authoritarian regimes and empires that can only survive through resource harvesting, although more often the depiction focuses on their use of force in the form of secret police and military, as well as the structural violence of impoverishing the populace.

They are warlords and sorcerers or galactic tyrants and ominous corporations. They are are demons, necromancers and other power hungry, anti-social characters.

The two genres have also often invoked images of environmental decline in relation to the machinations of these overlords, often in conjunction with a love of death and violence – these tyrannical overlords are anti-life. Look at Donaldson’s Lord Foul and his Sunbane which cycles nature through the seasons so rapidly it causes it to break down, or the Land of Mordor which is a wasteland. Or the dominion of Rakoth Maugrim of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy.

Or R. Scott Bakker who goes overboard with his No-god who employs a horde of psychotic rape monsters who have scoured the northern lands of Eärwa, or the draconic power in Priory of the Orange Tree that has burned the lands of Yscalin where the lavender grew. In Erikson’s aborted Kharkanas prequels there is also subtext of how the Tiste Andii people have depleted the land of resources.

Going further back, there is the aspect of kingship that can be found in Arthurian legend which ties the king to the land, and when his health fails the land declines, found as a theme in numerous books like Tim Power’s The Drawing of the Dark. If the Fisher King fails then the West will fall to the evil sorcerer Ahriman.

Science fiction has also represented the decline of modern society in regard to civilisation and the environment, from Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up and Philip K Dick’s dystopias to Wendig’s Wanderers (see last weeks review). Judge Dredd’s Cursed Earth immediately springs to mind as well, the human populace enclosed in mega cities and subject to the harsh, totalitarian rule of the Judges. Beyond the walls of the mega city is nothing but an inhospitable, radioactive wasteland filled with mutants.

And when tyrants get pissed in sci-fi, they can often deploy weapons that don’t just scour all the life from a planet but destroy the whole world à la death star levels of annihilation. They don’t bat an eyelid at the wanton destruction.

So it’s no surprise that when it comes to the Dark Crystal we are presented with the Skeksis. They are wonderfully grotesque, twisted and morally revolting. As the unelected heads of society they also employ the same tactics as modern day authoritarian systems of governance:

  1. They hide behind notions of tradition which infer that the status quo is a good thing, that it is stable and just.
  2. They are hierarchical, placing themselves as superior to the populace they govern.
  3. They will ultimately employ violence to get what they want.
  4. They disseminate false rumour about those that might reveal them (whistle-blowers will be persecuted).
  5. They demand tribute without actually doing anything – such as dismissing the farmer’s claim that his crop are blighted. Instead of being interested the take a family heirloom as tribute because….. well, tradition.
  6. They are abusing their position of trust for their own ends and….
  7. …. and are in fact draining the life from the ecological infrastructure of Thra.
  8. They appear to have committed genocide against the Gruenaks (“I thought we had wiped them out”) as well forcing the Arathim from their ancestral home.
  9. They then try to play the Arathim against the Gelfling to hasten the death of both groups.
  10. They are completely callous to the suffering they cause (and are in fact often seen revelling in it).

Moreover, they are the ones ultimately responsible for the Darkening: it was a Skeksis who chipped the Crystal, a secret that they have kept to themselves (much as, say, the fossil fuel companies kept their impact reports to themselves for decades). They do not care for the world, they stand beyond it, outside of the concerns of those that live in it.

Of particular note is the scientist. What does he do? He contrives to find an ever better way to drain the life from the Skeksis’ subjects, the Gelfling, and he also performs the unnatural splicing of two living creatures to manufacture an obedient super soldier. The science presented here is not the myth of wondrous advancement, but the ominous manipulation of matter and energy into ever greater use to the hierarchy – not so much an honest inquiry into the workings of the universe, but rather the exploitation and violation of spirit and life.

These villains mirror the worst aspects of our own real world authoritarian/hierarchical power structures and their questionable morality. It is their callousness that is ultimately responsible for the decline of both fictional and non-fictional worlds, a decline which will ultimately lead to the same result: Thra and the Earth will become barren, lifeless worlds.

BUT WHAT IF…..? (ANIMISM)

dark crystal promo 1But what if, instead of this callousness and separation we were to look at the world through a different ideological lens? What if, instead of pretending to be separate and in charge of the natural world, we were to embrace an alternative, contrasting way of being in the world? Of recognising our part of the whole natural, living web of life?

Animism is not a new concept. It has often been used in fantasy and spirituality to explain how a person is connected to everything, the most obvious example being Obi Wan when he gives Luke the explanation of the force as an energy field that binds everything in the universe together, be it a rock or a tree or an X-wing.

But animism in practice entails a slightly more complex appreciation of the world than simply asking if a rock is alive or hugging a tree, and has a physical quality that doesn’t deny the needs of the body (as opposed to Yoda’s “luminous beings need not this crude matter”).

As Tim Ingold highlights:

“Life is the temporal process of its ongoing creation. The world of this ‘animic’ understanding is home to innumerable beings whose presence is manifested in this form or that, each engaged in the project of forging a life in the way peculiar to its kind. But in order to live, every such being must constantly draw upon the vitality of others.

A complex network of reciprocal interdependence, based on the give and take of substance, care and vital force – the latter often envisaged as one or several kinds of spirit or soul – extends through the cosmos, linking human, animal and all other forms of life.

Within this network, the generation of animate form in any one region necessarily entails its dissolution in another. Vitality must be surrendered here so that it may be reconstituted there.

For this reason, no form is ever permanent; indeed the transience or ephemerality of form is necessary if the current of life is to keep on flowing. All of existence is suspended in this flow. Borne along in the current, beings meet, merge and split apart again, each taking with them something of the other.”

The Perception of the Environment by Tim Ingold (2000)

It should be clear that there is a foundation of animism to the cosmological order within the Dark Crystal: life as a flow, a balance of vital forces, and the merging or splitting of being. The world is alive with “innumerable beings”, a world in which we are specifically shown examples, such as Deet’s connection to the natural order when she feeds the Murlocs and where we are shown the sharing of being through the Gelfling’s dream fasting.

Indeed the Gelfling civilisation feels more in tune with nature than our own ancient civilisations – there is an almost organic feel to places like Stone-in-the-Wood with its woodland setting and mushroom-brewery-waterfall (I seriously don’t know what to call it) and houses made within the trunks of trees.

There is a gentleness to their society, and although they acknowledge the existence of violence, it is something not to be revelled but is seen as an act that diminishes society – we are shown the Crucible in the centre of Stone-in-the-Wood, “a tall cylindrical forge…. where The Stonewood Soldiers placed their weapons after each battle to be melted down believing that once a battle was over they should discard aggression to help those that were injured.”

pachamama1And then there’s Aughra….

She appears to me as an earth mother figure, a sort of Pachamama. She errs when she is beguiled by the orrery the Skeksis gift her, and swaps her duty of care to the crystal for the wonders of the universe. This might be regarded as an allegory for the neglecting of the natural world around us, either by setting our sights on a heavenly reward, or perhaps the stars as destinations, or even as simply the distraction of entertainment.

Yet the plight of Thra as it tips out of balance brings her back and she is distressed that she can no longer “hear the song of Thra”, the song that emanates from the network of living beings in both substance and time. Aughra sees the imbalance of forces, the detriment to life and the threat that this entails.

Once she reawakens her connection to Thra, her third eye is once more able to observe the flow of time, and so she attempts to guide the flow of events towards a restoration of harmony. She does not force them. She advises, she gives warning but she never makes anyone do anything, such as when Seladon is going to the castle and Aughra warns her to no avail (and which results in another disturbing scene suggestive of a gang rape – PG, really?).

Lastly, Aughra is attuned to the rise of the resistance and, during the convergence of characters via a spiritual networking, she intervenes as Thra’s avatar. It is like a natural reaction where the cosmological forces of Thra have acted like an immune system, the Gelflings becoming a counterforce to the effects caused by the Skeksis.

Speaking of which, what is one to make of such beings as the Skeksis? Firstly, they are intricately involved in the animistic principle as beings whose essence has been divided, yet their life force is entwined with their other halves (the Mystics) so that one cannot exist without the other. They are essentially linked through a spiritual bond.

But…..

The Skeksis also act in defiance of the animistic principle. They wish to live forever and so they thwart the “surrender of vitality” that would be teturned to the natural cycle of time and instead only take living force, both from the land (via the crystal) and then from Gelflings directly (extracting their essence). There is no reciprocity, there is no respect.

The effect of this is to render the Chamberlains appeal to Rian during their carriage ride hollow. When the Chamberlain says that life must feed on life, he is being disingenuous because the Skeksis do so outside of the natural order and in fact subvert it for selfish purposes.

Moreover, they do not wish to be recombined with their split selves. Their whole existence stands in opposition to the animistic principles of life force as ever changing, as mutable. But they are not only placing themselves outside of Nature, they are also placing themselves outside of time as well through their desire to live forever. To attain immortality they will sacrifice all life to their aim and deny the transformative process within the cycle of birth, life, death, and decay.

Yet ultimately the Skeksis cannot exist outside of the system of life indefinitely. Once they have killed and drained all the Gelfling, once they have drained all the life from the planet, they must eventually succumb to death. But this fact does nothing to change their behaviour as they are completely hostile to the acceptance of mortality.

They are in a state of total denial.

This couldn’t be more like our current political and economic rulers. The fear of losing their authority, the fear of change within a closed system that will eventually lead to the complete demise of the very system they are so invested in. In this respect, the Skeksis and our leaders are self defeating. Only by acknowledging our need for balance and harmony can we hope to resolve the dilemma.

Nature is the very foundation of the pyramid I mentioned earlier. Without its life supporting systems everything, society, knowledge, imagination will perish.

Such are the dangers of placing oneself outside of Nature, where as animism as a natural philosophy embraces our position within the cycles of life, makes us part of the whole world without recourse to pseudo-spiritual guff.

THE POWER OF IMAGINATION

dark-crystal-promo5

When I think of where fantasy really shines, it isn’t in the depiction of another patriarchal, medieval feud between royalty that’s like old Europe but with a dragon. Rather it is where flights of the imagination can really take us off to explore brave new worlds.

So for me Age of Resistance really excels as a work of the imagination. Great care and thought has gone into crafting something wonderful, something that asks you to witness both the wonderful and the terrible, and as it draws you into its reality you are awed by its power.

Of course, there is no conscious need to watch it as a mirror to our own struggles, no need to try and see analogy when we are simply invested in its wonder. I certainly didn’t sit down and watch it with the idea that I would write this article. I was enveloped in the narrative and it was only as I talked about the experience of viewing it that these ideas bubbled to the surface.

But that is what prompted me to ask how much had I been influenced by the original movie, and by extension the fantasy that subsequently appealed to my burgeoning imagination. I suspect that it fed a sense of wonder that inversely brought about confusion and unease with the world around me, and through those chaotic years the need for answer which ultimately lead me on my own quest that took me into anthropology.

Anthropology (the study of humanity) has a maxim, that it serves to “make the exotic familiar and the familiar exotic”. It too requires a stretching of the imagination to understand different cultures and their world views, and through doing so see the strangitude of our own culture. It is, in essence, much like fantasy, the stranger in the strange land travelling amongst new worlds.

And as they say, travel broadens the mind.

In the broadening we awake our imagination to greater possibilities, and as we travel in world’s such as Thra we are absorbed into its cosmological reality, a reality that gives us the power to compare our own world with that of another, letting us see that maybe some of our attitudes, some of the things that we take for granted, might be strange or maladjusted when viewed from without.

Given that, the question might be asked how The Age of Resistance isn’t subversive to the dominant ideology of our civilisation?

At this point the cynic might point a finger and say that fantasy is a pretty niche genre, and that, amongst the deluge of media we are fed, the message of one or two alternatives might be lost. That is likely true, just as true as the fact that fantasy might be nothing more than escapist entertainment – the orrery that distracts us from the reality around us.

I could go further and say the media requires subversive ideas to not only refresh its creative palette, but because the system at large needs to cater to a diverse audience, and if a media system wishes to claim that it is “free” then it must include counter narratives, just as long as those counter narratives never actually threaten the structures of power.

But…..

We are living at a time of greater uncertainty, a time when the new generation is increasingly aware of what a difficult future they face, and these young minds are not necessarily completely submerged in the dominant ideological narrative. They have embraced modern media, yes, but that has allowed them access to levels of information and perspective that older generations didn’t have. No longer are we just watching “the news” but are able to find alternatives, new ideas and possibilities, new ways of doing things.

And it is the effect on the developing imaginations of this generation that is the key point, because Age of Resistance is categorised as child/young adult viewing, and if it works the muscle of the imagination that in itself is subversive to the institutions as they stand.

The powers that be require thoughtless, unimaginative people to fill their ranks of power, and without resistance they will simply continue to satisfy their own selfish needs at the expense of the whole world. The old institutions will themselves resist the change required, just as they are doing now.

In reply, let us not dismiss fantasy as foolish, or silly, for it grants us a chance to think differently, to envision different realities where alternative ideas might prove to be more beneficial than banging our heads against the same old brick wall.

As Ursula Le Guin said of sci-fi but which I think equally well applies to fantasy:

Science fiction lends itself readily to imaginative subversion of any status quo. Bureaucrats and politicians, who can’t afford to cultivate their imaginations, tend to assume it’s all ray guns and nonsense, good for children.

Good for children.

Need I say more?

DJC


Support Root, Star & Feather

Hi, if you like what I’m doing and want to support the site:

  • Give it a thumbs up down below – it really helps.
  • Follow or sign up for email notifications.
  • Join me on FACEBOOK.
  • Sign up to the MAILING LIST.
  • Help pay the bills by becoming a PATRON and receive future rewards.
  • Buy a poor writer a coffee to keep this blog running WITH A ONE TIME DONATION via Paypal.

#fantasy #sciencefiction #pulp #author #writer #writing

The Cosmic Highway (Early Writer’s Circle Work 2002)

charger

During my years at college I was introduced by a friend to Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett, and now looking back I can see how Pratchett was a big influence on my style, particularly the way in which his dialogue was structured to provide comic effect, as well as the way in which his storytelling was separated into small, interweaving sections (for example, check out Irrevenant Pt.1). During college this first manifest itself as some rather tawdry, comedic attacks on people who I didn’t like as everything within the narratives got destroyed, even the protagonist by part 3.

But spin on a couple of years and I was beginning to build up a style and a focus. This was the interim of years between college and university – although I actually had no interest in further education at the time – and through another friend I began to attend a writer’s circle in Woking.

With the structure of regularly having a deadline I began to write some shorts that would form the basis of my later writings.

One of the very first was the Cosmic Highway…..

Vanishing Point (1971) And The ‘Other’

I must have watched Vanishing Point dozens of times, and let’s say that back then more than a few of these were under certain herbal influence. During these somewhat psychedelic sessions movies became something almost shamanistic – I use what is a loaded term loosely here to denote movement from one reality to another – and there is a certain narrative structure to this movement that relates to Joseph Campbell et al.

While I certainly can ramble on at length about shamanism, and mythic structure in movies, that’s a post for another day. What is important here is that while watching a movie one becomes immersed in the experience – one transitions into the reality of the movie – and at the same time there is a movement within the movie where the hero goes from real to unreal (the ‘other’) and back to real.

In Vanishing Point the hero is blocked from his goal on the road and heads out into the desert where he meets a mad old man who is collecting snakes. Out of this sequence the hero then gets back on the road, armed with his mystical truth and ready to face the forces of oppression.

Whilst this was certainly one of the things that drove me (aha, pun) to the study of anthropology, it was more immediately tangible in stories such as The Cosmic Highway, not just because it had a Dodge Charger in it, but because it contained the fundamental element of movement between worlds, from the real to the ‘other’. Within this frame-work there is also the mysterious figure (the “shaman” or trickster) who is able to convey one back and forth between realities. In this respect the driver is just a reflection of later characters such as Crow (see Crumbs For Crow).

What I present here is the original short about a muscle car driving, inter-dimensional taxi driver. While I have edited it to smooth out the reading, I have otherwise refrained from altering it so as to give an example of the little stepping stones that make up a writer’s journey.

Eventually the character and the idea would be reworked and incorporated into a wider thematic of a privatised afterlife: the car is actually Chiron’s ferry in a different form, and the driver’s powers were gift to him by the ferryman after he was laid off by the new corporate management of the Underworld™.

The Cosmic Highway (story)

It’s early, or maybe late, depending on who you are in the cosmos.

For me it’s well into Limbo, that liminal time between realities, and my foot’s all the way down to the floor because right this moment I got troubles weighing heavy like a ten tonne weight across my shoulders. Call it a scoop I’m giving you now, so stick around and I’ll fill you in on the sequence of events, introductions first.

Most folk just call me Driver, plain and simple. But names aside, you can call me anything you like. All you gotta know is that I’m no ordinary joe, and this ain’t no ordinary taxi that I pilot. Sure, outside it looks normal enough, an Earthworld Dodge Charger from nineteen hundred and seventy, one of America’s gifts to the environmental lobby, from the era when they made ’em cool and fast for the sake of it. She’s mean and sleek with curves to die for, four wheels of supercharged lean-burn muscle dressed in the purest velvet midnight that blazes on through the stop signs of the imagination. Under the hood there’s more than horsepower too, but it isn’t the personal modifications alone that makes the difference.

No, what’s special is on the inside, or in other words me. I’m the one who’ll get either you or your package to the destination of choice. Anywhere you want in space or time, you name it; I’ll drive it there, and boy I’m telling you some have named stranger than the boggling mind can conceive. I don’t cruise the usual highways see? And I make handbrake turns around reality. You dig? Maybe not eh? Sometimes I ask questions, but I don’t remember no truths. If I decide to take the gig you pay my price and unlike the rest, I’m not into cash, cheques or credits cards. That kinda credit doesn’t cut any mustard in these parts.

And I know you’re still dyin’ to get a good look at my face right? Well, see I’m kinda edgy about that, and in all fairness these features could be one amongst hundreds that you see in your day. Easily vague, shadowy perhaps, wrapped in the blackest shades and instantly forgettable.

So, introductions aside, you must be getting hungry for the scoop right? You wouldn’t be here otherwise. Well, it all started a few hours back and I’m settling down in this cozy back-street place I know, the sort of one in any million ,low light joints where the barkeep flaps a beer sodden bar-towel with vague ineffectiveness at some fly that only he really sees and hears. In the corner some a shady blues three piece are taking the denizens down into twilight with a seedy rhythm.

I’m blowin’ a smoke ring, contemplating this and that, when all of a sudden there’s this guy stooping over me, and I’m tellin’ you he’s got the mysterious robed stranger thing down to perfection, the whole deal with the weird eyes, deep hood and menacing voice. He’s laying out the gig, whisperin’ the details in these hushed tones, what and where and when. No problem, but I’m tellin’ him to beat it. I’m really not in the mood for a weird one tonight. Naturally he’s got it covered, knows just the thing to make the fish bite the bait. An original, very rare and served with a garnish of assurances. My instincts are spelling danger in big red letters, but I turn a blind eye.

I deal and hit the road as soon as soon as I’ve taken another swift drink, my fare on the seat beside me riding shotgun. He fits nicely in his box and I feel sort of honoured, although secretly I’m glad to say that he’s seen better days. There ain’t a soul around these ways who hasn’t heard about this dude and the heavy baggage he’d been swinging. A real unsavoury, into the sort of thing that you don’t ask too many questions over. See, you never know who’s listening at the door, so most folk here nod in silent agreement that they’d all rather be keeping their eyeballs. Still, judging by the sneak peek I took of him I’d say that those days are well and truly over. I’m doubting that he’ll be taking part in any more clandestine ceremonies, other than perhaps as a candle holder.

So, everything’s cool for about the first hour, the deserted highway scenario mixing with the heavy fog shroud while the radios playing some smooth road tunes as we eat up the miles. We’re making with the good time between Limbo and the There and Then and I’m making the mistake of thinking that this gig isn’t gonna be such a weird one and how I’m gonna get a nice Mogadorian breakfast when all of a sudden it’s the fright of the night and the guy next to me is awake and really rowdy, asking in shades of a blue tongue where in the Hell he is and what in the Hell’s going on.

“I thought you were dead!” I intone with exasperation. It’s an understatement to say that I’m less than impressed by this revelation.

“Dead? Ha!” his voice is heavy with the contemptuous tones as he starts down the whole beyond Death routine like all these cultist nut jobs do. “I am He that Death cannot bind, He who is beyond the Veil of Mortality, the eternal servant of Lashu Froom!”

I cut in before he gets further into the powertrip about how everyone’s gonna be bowing before him.

“Yeah yeah yeah, that’s why you’re here and some other guys wearin’ your fancy robes and getting it on in the inner sanctums with the sacrificial virgins right?”

That strikes a nerve I can tell you and the tense silence that follows can only be described as ominous. I take to considering how risky it might be to mock this particularly afflicted individual, but then I say to myself no one gets shirty with me, not when I’m behind the wheel. His next sentence has the leaden effects of doom down to a tee that breaks the atmosphere like a walnut under a hammer.

“Your impertinence is noted foolish one. Know that soon I shall reclaim my rightful place as the Right Hand of Lashu Froom and upon my return you shall be the second voice raised in the exultations of agony, singing my eternal praises from the torture chambers of Eleria!”

“Uh-huh. Same old same old then? You probably don’t even let me die right?” Man, I really could have done without this tonight.

“You’re getting the idea I see. Prolonged suffering, endless torment and merciless torture awaits!”

I yawn, putting as much indifference into it as I can. This riles him even more and he’d be spitting if he had any saliva.

“Maybe you didn’t notice,” I say cooly, “but you’re not exactly in the best position to be dealing out threats. Your box fits you real good doesn’t it?” Now that’s got him seething.

“They shall flail the skin from your body! They shall draw the marrow from your bones! They shall…….”

It goes on like this for some time. When he’s quite finished his frenzied little routine I respond with the usual calmness. “Don’t you think this hideous torture bit is getting a little dated now? I mean, have you ever been to Earth? Man, it’s quite literally been done to death. You should keep up with the times.” An eruption of static punctuates the moment and I’m twirling the dial. Ther’s a burst of Reggie Dixon and I shudder before continuing, “There are worse things in Heaven and Earth Horatio……”

“And you shall know them! You shall be hunted down to the ends of time itself if need be!”

I don’t reply and that’s when I glance in the rear view mirror. A sight most unwanted grabs my attention. Curses.

“Something awry?” he inquires after a painful pause and I feel the smugness radiating from the box beside me as I imagine the expression on his desiccated face.

“Nope,” the word comes out wrong and he’s just loving the fact that my cool is well and truly blown! Thoughts of the eternal torments spring up fresh in my mind with a new, urgent vigour I find most unpalatable. Oh man, what a night. I’m wishing that I’d taken note of what my instincts had to say. Like I said, I could have done without a weird one. In response I make my foot more intimate with the accelerator.

“Ha ha, do you know who follows us foolish one?” he says, laying on the mocking tones like sickly thick syrup.

“I could probably take a wild guess. Something along the lines of the dread servants of the almighty Lashu Froom?”

“Yes! he cried, the box actually jolting with the ferocity of his exclamation.. “They are my eternal hordes! The decreed sent none other than Lashu Froom himself to retrieve me and return me to my rightful position!”

“Eternal servants huh?” I muse aloud, scratching the rough stubble at the end of my chin as I ponder whether it’s not too late make some sort of apology…..

The end…..?

Last Word: Over To You Super Soul

Well, that’s all for today folks. Feel free to leave me a comment or ask me a question.

And hit that like button to let me know you care – it makes all the difference!

DJC

©2019