My colleague Doug Lasken reports on the 2017 California High School Championship:
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
"I hate magical realism," she said, and it was clear she was spitting me out, since to me magical realism is realism.
"It's for weak minds," she continued.
"Pepper," as she liked to be called (though she was more like pepper spray) was my latest attempt to reach out to "the other," for the human nourishment that's become increasingly scarce since the Babel of Trump Tower (see below).
Pepper had taught physics at CSU Irvine, retiring and dropping out after an undisclosed misadventure with a fellow professor. We met at the Family Dollar Store, her basket full of canned goods, mine carrying five boxes of microwave popcorn.
"I should try variety," I ventured, when our eyes met. We hit it off quickly, ending up that afternoon at the Littlerock McDonald's, speculating over coffee whether quantum physics ventures into "magic." I should have known that her acceptance of an overlap between magic and science had no bearing on her antipathy to the term, "magic."
For the record, I define "magic" as "Any workings of the universe that humans don't understand and can't control." Magic, by this definition, would encompass most, maybe all of the universe.
Less than two weeks after we'd met, Pepper pronounced her judgment on my worldview, and I fled in a sad rage into the desert behind her small house, looking to the void for the usual solace, for a clue what had gone wrong, and for what, if anything, I could do about it.
Shuffling over the rocky sand, I sent random telepathic signals to wildlife in the vicinity. I had not seen my onetime companion Robert the Telepathic Gila monster in weeks, not since a Communication Death Ray was fired at the world by the perpetrators of the Trump coup. The Communication Death Ray was of such force, and its timing so well chosen, that the effects spread beyond humanity, throwing, for instance, gila monsters, including my friend Robert, into nightmarish alienation.
Suddenly I heard him. A faint, Harry...help me...., echoing in the back of my head. After following the signal for some minutes, I found Robert lying near a large rock, breathing slowly and staring at the sky.
Robert, how can I help you?
I'm so alone...they are gone...I'm so alone....
Robert sounded delirious. I suspected he was dehydrated as well as lonely. I picked him up gently in two arms and carried him the twenty minutes to my shack, where I wrapped him in a towel and placed him in the sink. He licked some wet spots on the stainless steel surface.
I let him rest for a while, then asked,
Robert, are we defeated? Has the Communication Death Ray wiped us out?
Fortunately telepathy requires less energy than talking, so Robert was able to respond.
Thanks for rescuing me, Harry. It's hard to know if this battle is lost. I guess you and I are still alive and sentient, for what that's worth.
I thought briefly of Pepper. Would this scene be magic realism enough for her?
Robert, there are people in government, all around Trump, who are trying to counteract the effects of the Communication Death Ray. It looks like the FBI in particular is anxious to find leverage to stop the coup, or at least somewhat control it.
Robert shook his head ruefully.
Harry, it's no use. The people trying to stop Trump had their own Tower of Babel in place. They oppose Trump because he supplanted their model. It's only a matter of time before the wings of the old Non-Magical Realism parties- the Democrats and Republicans (sorry to read your mind)- catch up with Trump.
Then what will happen?
Trump's conspiracy- an assault on the nation-state system of governance whose purpose is to replace it with corporate world management- will proceed. Billions of dollars will be generated for insiders, and wider issues will be addressed: the looming end of employment due to automation, the need to focus the masses of unemployed people on global conflict, the parallel development of machine intelligence and manipulation of human biology. Harry, I know you want me to tell you we can stop this juggernaut, but we can't.
Because it's a juggernaut....
Circular logic, but true.
I pondered that for a while. Certainly you can't stop this juggernaut. The American mind has been formed for generations by a consumer economy that does not require intelligence from consumers- at least not a questioning intelligence. In fact our system prefers unknowing consumers, as one gathers from watching TV commercials, where human stupidity is celebrated and promoted. Multiple American generations have been encouraged to turn their cognitive functions off, or muffle them with drugs, or disguise them as something else, so that instead of waking up and asking, Are there different ways to live?, we do our duty, so to speak, buying the toilet paper that cute blue bears use to wipe their ass, thereby helping ensure that the sacred Dow points forever upward.
Despair was settling in the room when Betty, the Coyote Creator God poked her head in the kitchen window.
Hi all! How are you, Robert?
How is any of us?
As everyone knows, coyotes can smile. Betty smiled at me.
Harry, forgive me for following your conversation with Robert. When I picked it up I thought I'd better come over.
I'm glad you did, Betty. We've already agreed we can't stop this juggernaut. What else is there to talk about?
You can't stop any juggernaut, as noted, but you don't have to stop it. You just have to be somewhere else.
You need a place, a territory- physical or intellectual- where the manipulative narratives of the overriding culture are not adhered to. A place where you and others have your own narratives.
Robert's mind squeaked in irritation.
Betty, for god's sake, another utopia, another saintly "ism"?
No, Robert, no "isms." Just a tacit agreement between humans that their narratives would be of a certain kind.
Pepper would have loved my getting ideas how to handle the Trump coup from a coyote and a gila monster. I was a bit impatient with Betty myself.
Betty, I have to agree somewhat with Robert. Utopias always fail. You can create a distinct community, like maybe a breakaway nation on the West Coast, and forbid advertising and demagogic politics, and whatever else you don't like, and, well, the thing will fall to hell anyway.
Again Betty smiled, showing her beautiful, sharp teeth.
Yes, Harry, that's the usual course. But that's the way things go outside magical realism (sorry to pick your brain!). I'm talking magic, you guys.
I was afraid of that.