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Category: nonfiction prose

08/29/07 05:24 - 88ºF - ID#40810

Snippit from - Notes from the Sprawl

snippit from a possible book. Working title:

Notes from the sprawl

Let me know what you think about the writing

My friends all want to be spooks. They're all digging deep into the criminal justice departments, playing their cards right, and planning the complex river stone jumps needed to reach spook country. It's like the only way to become a spook is to fist be enough of a spook to get in. Jogging the social networks, uncovering dirt to blackmail your representative for a letter of recommendation, and applying your face to enough ass and genitals to be noticed.

"It's big business" I say to him across our table at Starbucks, "these days the call for spooks is way up in both government and private companies. Do you know about Blackwater?"

"No, I'll look'em up"

"If you have a conscience don't bother, can't trust a company that makes it's business fighting to win peace. Their incentive is to win the battles, and prolong the war. Basic game theory there, that's how'd they make the most money."

"I've just always been interested in these sorts of things. The forces behind things pulling the strings, like in cyberpunk stories. Thought it would make a good career."

Like a lot of my friends he's addicted to cybergnosis, a sort of combination concept between Foucault's power-knowledge and the Japanese Otaku. The obscure knowledge about the world that any normal person would never want to know. A normal person suffering from either a complete lack of imagination or an overwhelming sense of their own powerlessness.

I'm an addict too, by the way. Though I am not so crazy as to start thinking spook country is a land I want to visit. Perhaps this is the real truth of my generation: All the past generations, the bohemians with their absinthe, the beats with their everything they could find, and the hippies with their pot; all of them looking for mystical visions and cosmic vibrations in the substances.

Our truth, our drug, is the media.

No, no, not Fox News. The media, like saying the info, we're all infohipsters, media addicts, and news junkies. Stealing away the rare and obscure knowledge and media that grants us social clout, and gnostic power. Fuck the supernatural, this is the information age. Enlightenment is the digital autodidacticism facilitated by the proliferation of the network.

Don't get me wrong you still need to wring the truth out of the world and data-stores with strong arms and mind, but anyone still trying to stare into astral space deserves to be the vegetable that they've become. They need to replace yoga and meditation with solid database building skills.

Sure, sure, we use substances too. Though lets be straight here, my caffeine addiction is just something I have to maintain my insomnia so I can take in more information, my love of whiskey is merely to loosen me up well enough to process my inputs.

I ask him what it is about cyberpunk stories he's lacking in his reality, because mine seems chalk full of it.

"It's just not as apparent as it is in the stories. The situation is blatant in the story. You know the world is messed. There is still room for doubt here."

"bah! That's just the isolation. Here in the decadent opulent center of the sprawl there only 'appears' to be room for doubt. You're not taking in enough of what's really going on out there." I took a deep breath as my mind gathered the ammo for a good cathartic rant. "We're already living in a cyberpunk dystopia, man. The question is not are we there, but what the hell does it mean to be there at all.

"You need to think about it this way: With maybe the exception of full emersion virtual reality, everything in cyberpunk novels already exists in our reality. Corporations with larger budgets than countries, government powers fairly impotent to act against them, people with cybernetic limbs, complex webs of information available online, dangerous hacker criminals, and more; these already exist.

"The doubt that you feel is part of this new problem I am noticing with people. It's sort of summed up in the statement "that only happens in the movies." Science and Technology are advancing so fast that they are out stripping the collective imagination of society. It creates a reality warp where world situations and objects that are in fact real are still considered impossible figments of science fiction entertainment. Hell, even science fiction authors are playing catch-up these days.

"The first cyborg had his nervous system hooked up to a computer on March 22, 2002, but if you asked anyone on the street about it they'd probably tell you that cyborgs are as real as Santa Claus."

He was somewhat dissatisfied. Was I implying that corporations have political autonomy, and are part of some conspiracy to control the worlds governments? Did I know that the Starbucks shift manager was staring at us?

They like to give you side long glances at this one. Especially after you've been sitting for a few hours without buying anything else.

"No," wrinkling my forehead, focusing, "conspiracy theory is an out dated method of geo-political analysis. Like a futurist using tarot cards to write his projections. Corporations will never totally exist as independent pseudo-governments as they appear in cyberpunk novels, because it is too impractical.

"There is a lot to be said for the importance of lobbyists in corporate power, it allows corporations to take turns dressing up and dancing around in Uncle Sam's skin suit. The accepted legitimacy of established governmental sovereignty would be too hard for any single corporation to establish for itself.

"The branding power of the established governments is just too strong for corporations to effectively compete with, so they just pay the governments to release the product they're selling under their brand line. Like The United Fruit Company getting the government of Guatemala toppled in 1954 by the CIA to stop the Arbenz administration from redistributing uncultivated land to the natives. Get me?"

We sat there quietly for a few minutes. I took a drag off my triple shot cinnamon latte, and crammed a piece of marble loaf into my mouth. This trip to Starbucks has cost me nearly eight dollars. I am suddenly aware of how much I need to cut back on the caffeine intake; the more I drink, the more I need, the more it costs. Luck for me I am in the caffeine pushing business, and have a key to a warehouse full of it.

"But that's not what you were talking about," The conversation had gone adrift, and I wanted to get back to his crisis of conscience.

Our vision of the world has come to be dominated by the monolithic figures of the north and south towers of the world trade center blasting fireballs, pluming smoke, and piled as rubble in lower-Manhattan. These moments, witnessed by most of us through the media, have greatly effected the life choices of many of my would-be spook friends.

They were unceremoniously made aware of the harsh realities of geo-political threats, or rather the threats made themselves painfully present in their otherwise comfortably isolated lives. Now in early adulthood their mind is full of a single question replicating itself over and over again: What the hell are you going to do about it?

"I'm looking for a way to do something interesting, and productive without..."

"Standing on the backs of the innocent?"


"Me too." It's true. I'd been going to business school for years, for my undergraduate degree, before I finally opened my eyes to the fact that the school is designed to produce responsive corporate soldiers, not free thinking business people with consciences.

"What are you doing about it?"

"Slamming hard on the brakes until I can figure out what the hell I am doing. Last thing I want is a grey suited job in a grey cubical waiting for a gold watch retirement. I'm afraid of getting space monkey syndrome." As defined by Chuck Palahniuk in Fightclub: The space monkey pushes buttons, pulls levers, never understands a thing about the purpose of his life, and then dies. "Those prospects scare the shit out of me."

I am starting to understand by the look on his face that it scares the shit out of him too, and I can't blame him. Space monkey syndrome is even more frightening when used in the context of the intelligence industry. You might flip a switch or push a button that lands the whole country in another Vietnam or Iraq.

This is the dissonance between the power mechanics of the world and the information age. The mechanics of the world doesn't work with our drug of choice. Governments, Corporations, and the rest of the power structures require the space monkeys to move forward. The info-hipster addiction to cybergnostics has placed us in a situation where we have to choose between our professional survival, and what we know to be true. All of this before we get the first job in our field of choice.

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