Saturday, June 25, 2016

Chapter 5: Independence Day

It was exciting to share my knowledge of their futures with Gregory and Anthony (in 28 years they will be, respectively, the dominant political theorist of the century and a presidential candidate) and even more exciting to decide that we would band together to change history by influencing the war that is unfolding in Iraq and Syria, a war that we know is a precursor to World War III.  As recounted in Chapter 4, after first doubting the wisdom of messing with the past to affect the future, we agreed that I would not have been privy to my visions unless the mechanism that controls time "wanted" me to be, unless the universe wanted me (us) to act, meaning that the universe itself, or one faction of it, is not happy with the slavish, non-thinking direction of our species.

Late Thursday we sat at the kitchen table in Gregory's commune, going over the ways we might begin our project.  Exhaustion set in and we agreed to meet again Saturday morning to form a plan of action.

As you read this post on Saturday I will be in that meeting with Gregory and Anthony- you'll see our decisions in Chapter 6 on Tuesday.  Today's chapter recounts my use of time to prepare myself for today's meeting.  This hasn't differed much from my "normal" life, but with partners and a purpose there seems more point to it.

Friday morning I woke at Gregory's commune, northwest of Lancaster, where I have permanent guest status.  I had breakfast with my co-conspirators and Gregory drove me back to my place off Pearblossom in Littlerock.  I took my morning nap, always key to clear thinking, then walked into the kitchen, spread the L.A. Times on the linoleum table, sipped my coffee, and stared.  There was lots of news.  Brexit passed. There was a gun control Congressional sit-in and Supreme Court rulings on immigration and affirmative action. However, there were no stories on the Iraq/Syria war, in which the U.S. and its coalition are battling every day.  This was one of those news days when so many things were happening that the war went away- a minor story compared to all the breaking news, but in an honest media the lead headline throughout the world, every day, would be, "Your Government is Leading You into World War III and there's nothing you can do about it."  (Aside: besides the arguable benefit to humankind such honesty would bring, if traditional newspapers did this their readership would soar and they would regain their previous influence).

Nothing jumped out at me from the news that suggested an obvious direction for a first step in changing history.  I spent the afternoon in growing frustration and increasing doubt as to the point or sanity of our undertaking.  I've found in the past that mental logjams like this can be loosened by dips into popular culture, so in the early evening I rode my bike to the Cinemark at the Antelope Valley Mall and saw Independence Day: Resurgence.  I picked this movie because I recalled not being too annoyed by the original and because Wikipedia described the genre as "science fiction disaster," which, for obvious reasons, resonated.

It was Friday night at the theater, lots of teenagers- mostly there to see Independence Day: Resurgence- jostling and rowdy.  I picked a seat in the back so I could watch both the film and audience reactions.  The point of Independence Day: Resurgence is the destruction conveyed in a series of CGI segments of vast alien spaceships wiping out familiar world cities like London and L.A.   I say those scenes are the point of the film because there's no way the teenagers packed into that theater would have been there for the formulaic love sub-plots or sci-fi concepts.  I verified this by dipping into the young minds in the theater.  During the previews and the movie's non-violent sections the kids were distracted, but during the movie's CGI images of skyscrapers twisting and rush-hour traffic hurtling into the air the audience became silent, almost reverent, completely focused on the screen.  I inspected the teenage neurology during the destructive scenes and found that a strong peace of mind prevailed.  The adults in the room showed the same. I checked myself and, yes, the laying waste of gigantic swaths of human civilization was utterly soothing.  No wonder the industry spends so much money churning out end-of-the-world movies, and no wonder governments have so little difficulty maneuvering their populations into war: everyone is itching for disaster. You will not find this aspect of war in a typical history book.  Only fiction, like what you're reading now, tells the truth.  Thus, while Aldous Huxley's novel Point Counterpoint describes how the years leading up to World War I featured emotional turmoil and craving for havoc in the English middle-class, high school history books only tell you about an ageing empire and an assassinated archduke.  Someday textbooks will say that World War III, the one we're itching for now, started over oil, water, religion, food- but if we somehow become wise we'll write that World War III started because people everywhere were unhinged by peace itself. Humankind's most pressing challenge is to make peacetime more enjoyable.

How can Gregory, Anthony and I interest anyone in avoiding war, given our species' taste for periodic destruction?  If we pontificate we'll sound like bleeding hearts or impractical losers.  I think our only hope is to find some piece of evidence proving that we are being manipulated into the war.  People want their mayhem, but they don't like feeling tricked.   My friend Doug has found significant circumstantial evidence that we are indeed being tricked (, but circumstantial evidence is not enough to change history.  We need a "smoking gun."   Read Chapter 6 on Tuesday, June 28 to see what we come up with.

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