TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2016
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: STAY THE COURSE, FROM THE WIRES, FULL SPEED AHEAD
TUCSON (A-P) — A slight retelling of a story by Theodore Kaczynski, 1999
Once upon a time, the captain and officers of the Cruise Ship Lollipop sought to outdo the competition by overselling a fabulous, never before offered CRUISE TO THE POLE where Bon-bons play on Peppermint Bay. The Director of Marketing was actually behind the cruise, but the captain and his mates knew enough to be enthusiastic play-alongs who, when told to tow the corporate line, would yell, "Heave-ho!” while looking grimly determined.
As the ship reached higher and higher latitudes, the passengers and crew became increasingly dissatisfied. They began quarreling among themselves and complaining of the conditions under which they lived. One able seaman declared, “This is the worst cruise I've ever been on,” and other crew members nodded in agreement. It was getting too cold, ice covered the deck, and a miserable $300 a day wasn't enough to brave the freezing wind that cut to the bones.
“You think you have it bad!” said a lady passenger. “I can't sleep cause I don't have enough blankets like them in first class have. It isn't fair I tell you!”
A Mexican sailor chimed in: "¡Ay que la chingada madre! I’m only getting half the wages of the Anglo seamen. We need plenty of food to keep us warm in this climate, and I’m not getting my fair share; the Anglos get more. And the worst of it is that the mates always give me orders in English instead of Spanish."
"I have more reason to complain than anybody," said an American Indian sailor. "If the yellow hides hadn’t robbed me of my ancestral lands, I wouldn’t even be on this ship, here among the icebergs and arctic winds. I would be paddling a canoe on a nice, placid lake. I deserve compensation. At the very least, the captain should let me run a crap game so that I can make some money."
The bosun spoke up: "Yesterday the first mate called me a ‘fruit’ just because I suck cocks. I have a right to suck cocks without being called names for it!"
"It’s not only humans who are mistreated on this ship," interjected a PETA activist among the passengers, her voice quivering with indignation. "Why, last week I saw the second mate kick the ship’s dog twice!"
"I demand that halāl foods be served and the offensive bacon be kept under cover if not banned," said a polite woman in a berka. "My deeply held family values must be respected."
One of the passengers was a liberal college professor. Wringing his hands he exclaimed, "All this is just awful! It’s immoral! It’s racism, sexism, speciesism, homophobia, Islamophobia, linguistic hegemony and exploitation of the working class! It’s discrimination! We must have social justice: Equal wages for the Mexican sailor, higher wages for all sailors, compensation for the Indian, equal blankets for the ladies in steerage, halāl foods for all, a guaranteed right to suck cocks, and no more kicking the dog!"
"Yes, yes!" shouted the passengers. "Aye-aye!" shouted the crew. "It’s discrimination! We have to demand our rights! Let's make signs and gather around the aftercastle to protest until our demands are met."
The cabin boy cleared his throat. "Ahem. You all have good reasons to complain. But it seems to me that what we really have to do is get this ship turned around and transition back to the sustainable south, because if we keep going north we’re sure to be wrecked sooner or later, and then even if all your demands for wages, blankets, halāl foods, and your right to suck cocks are fully realized, it won’t do you any good, because we’ll all be dead." But no one paid any attention to him, because he was only the cabin boy.
The captain and the mates, from their station on the poop deck, had been watching and listening. Now they smiled and winked at one another, and at a gesture from the captain the third mate came down from the poop deck, sauntered over to where the passengers and crew were gathered, and shouldered his way in amongst them.
He put a very serious expression on his face and spoke thusly: "We officers have to admit that some really inexcusable things have been happening on this ship. We hadn’t realized how bad the situation was until we heard your complaints. We are men of good will and want to do right by you. But – well – the captain is rather conservative and set in his ways, and may have to be prodded a bit before he’ll make any substantial changes. My personal opinion is that if you protest vigorously – but always peacefully and without violating any of the ship’s rules – you would shake the captain out of his inertia and force him to address the problems of which you so justly complain."
Having said this, the third mate headed back toward the poop deck. As he went, some of the more vociferous passengers and crew called after him, "Moderate! Reformer! Goody-liberal! Captain’s stooge!" But they nevertheless did as he said.
They gathered in a body before the poop deck, shouted insults at the officers, and demanded their rights: "I want higher wages and better working conditions," cried the able seaman. "Equal blankets for all women," insisted the lady passenger. "I want to receive my orders in Spanish," cried the Mexican sailor. "I want the right to run a crap game," asserted the Indian sailor. "Halāl foods now," demanded the berka. "I don’t want to be called a fruit," pleaded the bosun. "No more kicking the dog," screamed the animal lover. "Revolution now," cried the professor who was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
The captain and the mates huddled together and conferred for several minutes, winking, nodding and smiling at one another all the while. Then the captain stepped to the front of the poop deck and, with a great show of benevolence, announced that the able seaman’s wages would be raised to $400 a day; the Mexican sailor’s wages would be raised to two-thirds the wages of an Anglo seaman and his orders would be given in Spanish; all lady passengers in steerage would receive one more blanket; the Indian sailor would be allowed to run a crap game on Saturday nights; a lid would be put over the bacon tray; the bosun wouldn’t be called a fruit as long as he kept his cocksucking private; and the dog wouldn’t be kicked unless he did something really naughty, such as stealing food from the galley.
The passengers and crew celebrated these concessions to their revolutionary demands as a great victory, but the next morning, they were again feeling dissatisfied. “Four hundred a day is a pittance, and I still freeze me fingers when I walk the deck," grumbled the able seaman. "I’m still not getting the same wages as the Anglos, or enough food for this climate," said the Mexican sailor. "We women still don’t have enough blankets to keep us warm," said the lady passenger. The other crewmen and passengers voiced similar complaints, and the professor egged them on.
When they were done, the cabin boy spoke up – louder this time so that the others could not easily ignore him: "It’s really terrible that the dog gets kicked for stealing a bit of bread from the galley, and that all women don’t have equal blankets, and that the able seaman gets his fingers frozen; and I don’t see why the bosun shouldn’t suck cocks if he wants to. But look how thick the icebergs are now, and how the wind blows harder and harder! We’ve got to turn this ship back toward the south, because if we keep going north we’ll be wrecked and drowned."
"Oh yes," said the bosun, "It’s just so awful that we keep heading north. But why should I have to keep my cocksucking in the closet? Why should I be called a fruit? Ain’t I as good as everyone else?"
"Sailing north is terrible," said the lady passenger. "But don’t you see? That’s exactly why all women need more blankets to keep them warm. I demand equal blankets for all women now!"
"It’s quite true," said the professor, "that sailing to the north imposes great hardships on all of us. But changing course toward the south would be unrealistic. You can’t turn back the tide of progress. We must find a mature way of dealing with the situation."
"Look," said the cabin boy, "If we let those four madmen up on the poop deck who only serve elite and self-interests have their way, we’ll all be drowned. If we ever get the ship out of danger, then we can worry about working conditions, blankets for women, and the right to suck cocks. But first we’ve got to get this vessel turned around. If a few of us get together, make a plan, and show some courage, we can save ourselves. It wouldn’t take many of us – six or eight would do. We could charge the poop, chuck those lunatics overboard, and turn the ship to the south."
The professor elevated his nose and said sternly, "I don’t believe in violence. It’s immoral."
"It’s unethical ever to use violence," said the bosun.
"I’m terrified of violence," said the lady passenger.
“I'm also for the ethical treatment of people,” said the PETA activist.
"Islam is the religion of peace," said the two-eyed figure.
The captain and the mates had been watching and listening all the while. At a signal from the captain, the third mate stepped down to the main deck. He went about among the passengers and crew, telling them that there were still many problems on the ship. "We have made much progress," he said, "But much remains to be done. Working conditions for the able seaman are still hard, the Mexican still isn’t getting the same wages as the Anglos, the women in steerage still don’t have quite as many blankets as those in first class, the Indian’s Saturday-night crap game is a paltry compensation for his lost lands, it’s unfair to the bosun that he has to keep his cocksucking in the closet, and the dog still gets kicked at times. "I think the captain needs to be prodded again. It would help if you all would put on another protest with bigger signs – as long as it remains nonviolent."
As the third mate walked back toward the stern, the passengers and the crew shouted insults after him, but they nevertheless did what he said and gathered in front of the poop deck for another protest. They ranted and raved and brandished their fists, and they even threw a rotten egg at the captain (which he skillfully dodged).
After hearing their complaints, the captain and the mates huddled for a conference, during which they winked and grinned broadly at one another. Then the captain stepped to the front of the poop deck and announced that the able seaman would be given gloves to keep his fingers warm, the Mexican sailor would receive wages equal to three-fourths the wages of an Anglo seaman, the women in steerage would receive yet another blanket, the Indian sailor could run a crap game on Saturday and Sunday nights, the bosun would be allowed to suck cocks publicly after dark, and no one could kick the dog without special permission from the captain.
The passengers and crew were ecstatic over this great revolutionary victory and celebrated late into the night, but by the next morning they were again feeling dissatisfied and began grumbling about the same old hardships.
The cabin boy this time was getting angry. "You damn fools!" he shouted. "Don’t you see what the captain and the mates are doing? They’re keeping you occupied with your trivial grievances about blankets and wages and the dog being kicked so that you won’t think about what is really wrong with this ship – that it’s getting farther and farther to the north, that we are overshooting limits, and we’re all going to be drowned. If just a few of you would come to your senses, get together, and charge the poop deck, we could turn this ship around and save ourselves. But all you do is whine about petty little issues like working conditions and crap games and the right to suck cocks."
The passengers and the crew were incensed. "Racist!!" cried the Mexican, "Do you think it’s reasonable that I get only three-fourths the wages of an Anglo sailor? Is that fair?"
"How can you call my grievance trivial? shouted the bosun. "Don’t you know how humiliating it is to be called a fruit?"
"Kicking the dog is not a ‘petty little issue!’" screamed the animal-lover. "It’s heartless, cruel, and brutal!"
"Alright then," answered the cabin boy. "These issues are not petty and trivial. Kicking the dog is cruel and brutal and it is humiliating to be called a fruit. But in comparison to our real problem – in comparison to the fact that the ship is still heading north into overshoot – your grievances are petty and trivial, because if we don’t get this ship turned around soon, we’re all going to drown.
"Fascist counter-revolutionary!" snarled the professor.
"Antifeminist!" said the lady passenger.
"Puppy hater!" intoned the PETA activist.
And all of the passengers and crew chimed in one after another, calling the cabin boy an ignorant know-nothing and a counter-revolutionary. They pushed him away and went back to grumbling about wages, and about blankets for women...and about the right to suck cocks...and about how the dog was treated. The ship kept sailing north, and after a while it was crushed between two icebergs and everyone, including the dog, drowned.
Alternate ending: The Cruise Ship Lollipop continued to go north driven by a deeply held belief that they were actually going somewhere, that being able to play with Bon-bons on Peppermint Bay would make it all worth while and give meaning to life. The cabin boy continued to think the unthinkable and spread doubts about the corporate narrative. The ship was also driven by diesel which ran out.
When the corporate business-as-usual oversold claims could no longer be believed in, with the ship adrift, orders from the captain and officers were ignored. The passengers and crew self-organized to drift into such prosperity as they could manage (the cabin boy suggested a plan). No one talked of wanting anything, but thought only of needs and how best to meet them. The captain and officers were irrelevant and nobody had time to kill them. They were put in the reeducation brig with water but no food to think of something they could do to help. The able seaman worked without pay as did the Mexican seaman, equal at last. The animal lover took care of the dog, sharing a portion of such food as she got. No one had time for crap games. The bosun kept sucking cock, no one cared, and he stopped talking about "rights." The professor was put in the brig to reeducate the officers (or so he thought) and they did what they could to reeducate him, but he ended up dead in a corner of the brig as he had no useful skills to willingly offer. Most adapted to life aboard ship and were too busy to be dissatisfied.
Most took up fishing over the sides and trapping seabirds. A device was improvised to scrape growth off the bottom of the hull, and fresh water was made by reflecting such sunlight as there was on ice to melt it. The sailors, some of whom would have made their namesakes proud, rigged many small sails across the deck to ever so slowly maneuver the ship towards the south.
It took several years to leave the icebergs behind. It would have been possible to reach land, but as frozen land held little attraction, they kept sailing south. More years passed. A derelict sailboat with one survivor aboard was encountered who told of the rise in sea level those on the Lollipop had not noticed, and of the pandemic. The unfueled industrial society had collapsed and those on the Lollipop were among the lucky few. The cabin boy, whose credibility had risen, was made the honorary captain who, by universal decree, occupied the captain's quarters. The old captain turned out to be a fair fisherman who, without any expectation of reward, also did the celestial navigation because he was happy to be of service.
More importantly the cabin boy had kept on thinking. He had a plan that made sense, that seemed better than chaos. There had been other plans proposed, but the cabin boy, using his newfound credibility, had patiently explained why each would end up with passengers and crew eating each other. As his plan did work, as basic human needs (though not wants) were met, he never had to yell again. He was sort of the ship's supreme leader, de facto el capitan, the sole inheritor of "elite" status, but aside from the former captain's quarters, he did his share of work and so far as he knew, got the same grub as everyone else (Ayaan Hirsi Alla, however, who no longer wore a berka, had taken over the galley and no one ever complained. She sometimes slipped a choice bit of seagull liver in the cabin boy's porridge, the extent of his elite privilege). He now went by the title of "Boy" or "Hey Boy." Lao Tzu had been called, "Old Boy." If the temptation to elevate someone above others should arise, do the opposite.
It took another three years to reach the shores of what had once been called, "Virginia." Most of the "eating each other" days had passed, and Boy suggested that as the environment slowly restored itself, with such help as the settlers could provide, that moderate growth could once again be possible. But this time, for the first time in years, he yelled, "We should consider the possibility of doing so in such a way that we don't end up eating each other!"
He suggested a Federation of Watersheds, of limited size, each with a standing, mobile militia pledged to go to the aid of any other member who may be attacked by any of the remnant hordes. Each watershed would also accept Federation limits to growth. Members of the Federation survived the remnant hordes, who became ever fewer, and the Federation expanded as some of the remnant hordes who couldn't beat'm, joined them.
The Federation became global, but this time globalization meant something different. Technology was used, but the dominate memes had changed, what was considered natural and normal had changed, and though human biology was the same, humans had memetically developed into a most promising species by freeing themselves from all beliefs, both political and religious, so as to no longer be had (possessed) by beliefs. They considered limited use of technology and were not used by the technology.
While technology had been like a vat of wine given to an alcoholic to enable slow, feel-good suicide, the Federation humans could sip some once a day or not at all. They valued what was needed and not what was wanted, and so knew a prosperity of "enough" the consumers of the growth culture, the consumerbots programmed to believed in "MORE!," could not imagine. Technology evolved such that when Zefram Cochrane invented warp drive, those who went forth to explore the universe were Federation and not Borg intent on assimilating/consuming all. Earth, with humans living within self-imposed Federation determined limits, became a paradise of rare device as humans had become Earth Agents instead of drones.
Like everyone else, I too want to believe. That is why I have come to take a supreme disinterest in what I want. It doesn't f-ing matter what I or other upright primates want. The quest for MORE, to get what we want, may be why we have a 9.5% chance of species extinction within the next hundred years. In the Cruise Ship of Fools allegory it was all about everyone, elites and commoners, getting what they want. Species extinction may not be what we want, but it may be what we deserve. Freeing ourselves from political and religious ideology, as a starting point, would be alternative.