There’s no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now.
What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? For heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light-years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that’s your own lookout.
Energize the demolition beams.
I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.” —The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom,
And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.
Give up kindness, renounce morality,
And men will rediscover filial piety and love.
Give up ingenuity, renounce profit,
And bandits and thieves will disappear.
These three are outward forms alone; they are not sufficient in themselves.
It is more important
To see the simplicity,
To realise one’s true nature,
To cast off selfishness
And temper desire
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven.” —Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9, translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English
The fields are full of weeds,
And the granaries are bare.
Some wear gorgeous clothes,
Carry sharp swords,
And indulge themselves with food and drink;
They have more possessions than they can use.
They are robber barons.
This is certainly not the way of Tao.” —
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 53, translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English
Property is theft?
America’s greatest national security threats aren’t terrorism or foreign armies—they are a crumbling infrastructure at home, the depletion of natural resources, climate change, and an overdependence on what they call “defense and protectionism.”
…America’s best hopes for world leadership lies in classical left-wing tropes of conservation, soft power, and aggressive humanitarian work abroad.” —from fastcompany, via and another thing …
The Dalai Lama, regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden, via Agent 3Z
Wow. This is from someone who won’t kill mosquitoes. Oh well. I wonder what OBL will be reincarnated as.
This particular post popped into my dashboard, and it’s interesting that that this ended up juxtaposed with a post from Tim Wise discussing racism from both the right and the left
But I’m not going to deconstruct the post. What caught my attention was the use of the idea of the city of Midgar from Final Fantasy VII.
I’m not even sure where to begin in order to describe Midgar or even Final Fantasy VII if you’ve never played or seen the game. But Midgar is where the action of the game begins, a massive sprawling city that at first glance gave me the impression of a giant space station floating in the void of space. The main character starts in a train station that evokes Victorian England and the Industrial Revolution, basically steampunk. But Midgar also has subways and slums and superhighways and Mako power plants that, because of the fact that Squaresoft (now Square Enix) is a Japanese software company and because the Mako has powerful teratogenic potential, make me think of it as a magical analog of nuclear power. Midgar is The Archetypal City, T.S. Eliot’s Unreal City at the height of the Industrial Revolution, embodying London and NYC and all the capitals of the developing world.
When I went to visit Manila in 1998, I thought of Midgar. Like every city, Manila is noisy, dirty, smog-filled, and crowded. Even though the Philippines is a developing country, it is possible to mostly ignore this fact if you stay in the City and pretend that you never left the industrialized world, sticking to tourist spots and hotels that cater to tourists, being driven around in a private car. But once you leave the city, the superhighways abruptly devolve into narrow winding two-laned roads, which eventually become dirt paths. The industrial, residential, and commercial sprawl gives way to wilderness, to places where there is no electricity except for what you can get from a diesel generator, where you can’t get a cell phone signal, where there often isn’t even running water, unless you count the rivers and the streams. The abrupt transition from Midgar to the surrounding countryside captures this exactly.
But as someone who has lived within sight of a city skyline for almost all my life, none of these images are particularly exotic. The industrial infrastructure of Midgar looks like it was completely lifted from the oil wells and refineries and storage tanks in Wilmington and Carson, a stone’s throw from where I lived for a few months as a child, in Harbor City, near neighborhoods that we now know are highly contaminated by the toxic byproducts of the petroleum industry, neighborhoods where the incidence of asthma and other respiratory problems is several times higher than other parts of the city. And even when I lived much farther away from the oil refineries, I still remember days where the smog was so thick it would burn your eyes, you could hardly breathe, and you couldn’t even see the skyscrapers from a distance of eight blocks. So the idea that Midgar was created as a completely mythical strawman dystopian fantasy world where leftists could play out their daydreams about rebelling against the system and overthrowing the corporations strikes me as odd. Any book written by Charles Dickens will show you the dark heart of this City, any book set in the Industrial Revolution for that matter will describe the dirt and the grime and the grinding poverty and the suffering, all of which Midgar alludes to. We—as a species—have been there, done that. Aside from the magical and spiritual elements in the game, Midgar is deeply embedded in the real world.
I also don’t think Square’s portrayal of corporations is particularly off-the-wall. The Shinra Corporation—the massive monopoly that controls the Mako plants, and which is also functions as the de facto state—in not the villain. While President Shinra, his son, his scientists, his paramilitary security forces, and his thugs are not pleasant people, they still have human motivations, namely greed, and a lust for power (which contrasts starkly from the completely deranged and ultimately nihilistic machinations of the game’s true antagonist.) Shinra is not evil in the way that Sephiroth is evil. Shinra is merely heartless, not truly malevolent. I don’t think this is much of a departure from how corporations really are. They’re only trying to make money. They just gotta get paid.
I’m also fascinated by the fact that the point of reference is not a book or a movie, but a video game. It does establish a temporal context. The game came out in 1997. By then, Clean Air Act provisions had successfully curtailed the infamous Los Angeles smog. While there are still days where the sky is brown-tinged, the only times it really gets bad now is during fire season. Ever since Lockheed pulled out of L.A. and the aerospace industry collapsed, the industrial infrastructure has receded significantly. The oil has apparently mostly dried up and I don’t really see the pumpjacks nodding in the oil fields like I did when I was a kid, although the oil refineries are still there. So maybe some of the imagery in Midgar would be less familiar by then, and seem more phantasmagoric. But to me, it’s an easily recognizable archetype drawn from the latter history of Western Civilization.
In the U.S., it’s only at most two generations since the most egregious structural racial inequalities were outlawed, and only about six generations since people could no longer be owned as property. I think it’s still too soon to be claiming that there are biological determiners of failure.
(A random thought in reaction to this post)
i don’t feel like these points haven’t already been made, but it never hurts to share.(via dopegirlfresh)
I find this quite fitting.
not Mark Twain
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” —
Martin Luther King, Jr.
not a fake quote