The BBC mini-series called “The Last Enemy” purports to be about the future, but is actually now. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0966151/ It’s about compiled government info and how willing some are to use that info to control and eliminate us -- without any tiresome courts to review drone strikes on American citizens. I’m just paranoid enough that it doesn’t leave my mind.
The series didn’t get the best reviews, but I’m still reflecting. A wiggle of a pen and “sequestration” or some other strategy removes help for a lot of people, throws them out of the safety net. I’m partly protected by living very low to the ground: I can’t fall far. My best protection is that over the years, esp. the last decade, I’ve learned a new language I can best describe as “image jazz.” Or maybe “affinity jazz.” That is, there is a melody in there but it is almost florally elaborated by riffs and quotes and overlays and small fish-like leaps into the air. Bureaucrats with databases sitting behind screens wearing headphones can’t interpret, even if they realize it’s interpretable. Not even Edge or TED can explain how, though they give it a shot now and then. It is experience-based -- not learned from books. The kids know. This is their first language.
If you (or a spy drone the size of a bird) looked in my back bedroom window just now, it would seem I’m sitting here at a screen with headphones, but I ain’t doin’ no stinkin’ databases. I’ve done them enough already in my life. I helped design the little formula (not big enough to be an algorithm) that identified slum landlords in Portland and typed the list. But the difference is that I also lived in an apartment being squeezed for profit by one of those guys. He failed to pay the security light bill for the walkways. Someone was fencing stolen TV’s out of the basement under the apartments. My bedroom window was directly over the outside stairs. One night I sat up in bed to have an interesting conversation with a PPD officer, gun drawn, trying to figure out who in the hell I was. He was about two feet away from me, but couldn’t see me through the curtains which was a good thing. (No pj’s.) The next day I nailed up metal mesh over all my windows and paid the light bill which I then deducted from my rent. I hand-delivered my reduced rent check to Mr. Slumlord in his three-story colonnaded family house. He was merely sheepish. I’ve walked both sides all along, mostly by happenstance. So I connect with images. To me they’re not abstract. Words are.
That’s what the database people can never capture. The New York Times has been running revisionist stories about guns, showing that the answers you get depend upon on the questions you ask and that the questions asked are rarely relevant. So it appears that U.S. gun ownership has actually been declining. It appears that crime has been declining. It appears that 60% of gun deaths are due to suicide. (It appears that the next Pope may be a man of color.) All counter-intuitive. People are beginning to say openly that the people who are governing us, who are designing our laws and controlling our lives, are nothing like us and do not understand us and do not WANT to understand us. They only want what will give THEM power and control.
Tim, who works with boys who have HIV, said a striking thing today. “We are not at risk for HIV. He already HAVE HIV. We are at risk of Death.” That changes everything. This applies to ALL of us. We know about the ordinary precautions for “safe” sex. What are the ordinary precautions for “safe” life?
There aren’t any. There is no safety from death. A flaming piano could fall on you out of the sky at any moment. The task is no longer prevention: it is to survive. The scientists were saying, “Oh, there’s very little chance of an asteroid hitting us.” Tell that to the folks in the Ural Mountains. And stand back from the windows.
At least 280 thousand US women and girls are known to have HIV right now. They are past the risk of catching it. Some are pregnant. Some of them are not aware they have it. Some of them know but are not doing anything about it. Most of the general public is not aware that these women exist, because they still think HIV is a gay, depraved, stigmatized virus. A virus cannot be any of those things. A virus is a molecular code that lives in bodies and transfers in body fluids. Some people think it is now curable. They’re not quite right. Only under certain circumstances. (And only two so far, one on purpose and one by accident.)
There are things that will postpone death: enough money for consistent access to the right kinds of meds and enough personal discipline in conforming to the protocols of taking them. Even so, people carrying HIV are different only in that they are more vulnerable than the rest of us to what might kill anyone: pneumonia, malnutrition, bacteria, cancer, flu, heart attacks, trauma. Money for the right kinds of meds and the motivation to manage behavior are what will help ALL of us postpone death. But life is a chronic dis - ease, always ending in death. The trick is what comes before that.
If the government tries to eliminate categories of nonconforming people by exploiting their need for money, they will kill a lot of other people they didn’t expect to, because you can’t tell everything about a person either by looking at them or by inventorying questionnaires. A percentage is not a human being. Once a person has gotten past the fear of death, they are full of wealth that’s quite different from money. People who were mute become eloquent; people who were passive become tigers. Power mongers tend not to see mute, passive people sitting at computers with earphones on. Until they start revolutions.
I wonder about our hunger for extreme this and that, our demand for ultimate experiences, our appetite for prying into the lives of people we don’t know. It seems to me that the flip side of the power and safety the landlords think they can buy is the willingness to go straight to human experience through the image jazz we can access on computers. Not in books. Not by numbers but by actual faces, moving.
Maybe there are two kinds of “extremophiles”: those who are armored in their protocols and dogmas and those who have had it with all that fear-mongering. (Extreme can be on either end of the continuum, right?) Now these latter are committed to adrenaline surfing, daring the odds. You want testing! I’ll show you testing! Can you survive this? If it kills me, it will be worth it! Life is a parcours, vaulting over the abyss. For some people, that’s not a metaphor.