(In)visible Disabilities and Machine Bodies in NieR: Automata:- Plato 1728′s plight in a posthumanist light

In [Jacques] Derrida’s terms, it is the blind, the disabled, who “see” the truth of vision. It is the blind who most readily understand that the core fantasy of humanism’s trope of vision is to think that perpetual space is organized around and for the looking subject; that the pure point of the eye (as agent of ratio and logos) exhausts the field of the visible; that the “invisible” is only — indeed, merely — that which has not yet been seen by a subject who is, in principle, capable of seeing all.

— Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? (132)

Embedded and embedding narrative frames assume precisely this self-referential form of form by marking the virtual edges of narrative structure.

— Bruce Clarke, Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems, (94)

Upon Playing NieR:Automata’s DLC, which focused on the machine individual, Plato 1728, I felt that the narrative was engaged with the powerful aspect of disability. It allows the player to take control of a robot who is considered “defective” and does things poorly. Plato 1728 believes that he does poorly in everything, he cannot fight well as when he does his body betrays him, nuts and bolts come off and oil spills. He cannot hold a weapon. Yet, he tries his hardest hoping that he will be accepted and appreciated.

This does not happen.

What you experience in the gameplay is a first person perspective of what it feels like to be disabled and ostracised for said-disabilities. The game poignantly attempts to show the player the censor and the frustration, alongside the mental trauma, a person with aa disability can face in a ableist society. It does this brilliantly by showing this efficiency prone behaviour and ableism in the lifeforms that invaded Earth. Though they are aliens they have adopted many human like aspects. The other machines tease and ridicule Plato 1728 to the point that he feels alone all the time. No one desires to be his friend and no one seems to care about him.

Plato 1728 is a horrible dilemma. He was built to be a weapon but he has not of the proclivities and qualities of a weapon. Rather he mentions he abhors violence. Yet, as he is built to fight, he must continue to do so. The machines are all living workaholic existences in which their daily routine is comprised of sparring and maintaining, and building other machines for war alongside taking care of the factory. Some of the machines obviously have consciousness and existential thoughts but this gets stampeded over the nuts and bolts of what they assembly is comprised of.

We, as the players, are put in the position to play as Plato 1728. It is something that overwhelms us. It is designed to show how inhumane and cruel the machine life routine is. Operating Plato 1728 you notice he glitches and seizes up at times and he cannot move at all. There are system errors shown about as you and Plato 1728 desperately attempt to keep himself composed. Then we are presented with the motor function test. We are in the position of Plato 1728 giving this test. Plato 1728 actually does well. You can, even with his body glitching, get 17-10 rings, which are the objectives of the motor examination. However, then multiple rings come on and off and go away easily and we are given a body that wasn’t either designed to move fast or we do not know how.

This a crucial part of the narrative. After basically failing the test three times, with an “exceedingly poor” grade, we as players are made to ruminate why the motor function examination suddenly became what it was. Why did the runs suddenly come and go off in such a manner. Why were these tests designed like this. The players are also made to wonder if we were in control of 2B, 9S or A2 would be able to pass a motor examination like this? We probably could. However, in the base game when you start out with a mission directly with tutorials just being on-screen commands you may falter. The prologue is also designed to be 35-40 minutes gameplay that any newcomer can exceedingly fail in as well.

It is not also a question of machine lifeforms themselves. Before coming to Plato 1728′s narrative, we must finish three coliseums. One coliseum is devoted entirely of machines and you must make 9S choose a machine to battle with. Depending on your level, you get a selection of machines. The thing is you upgrade or you choose a machine based on which level in the coliseum you are, what your skill level is and what the skill level of the machine is — they are all interconnected factors that help you win the tournament in the coliseum.

Plato 1728, though saying he is a “defective” model, was able to get many rings. It is not his fault the test is designed such a frustrating way that failure seems to be the only option. Even with his disability Plato 1728 tried and succeeded a lot. However, due to the assessment requirements not being met, Plato 1728 is branded as a failure.

Subsequently, this branding of failure persist. When we are doing combat training we, the players in control of Plato 1728, are shocked when a punch makes Plato 1728 lose both his arms! We can try to evade and move about and do what we can to keep the clock running but Plato 1728 fails. It is not that he is intending to do nothing. He is intending to fight but his body is having issues and no one seems to care and no one seems to assist him with his bodily issues. He is branded a failure. This is not only a desecration of justice but a desecration of life and the game wants you, the player, to feel it, as a machine with disability.

Plato 1728 then decides, in his loneliness and ostracism, to take care of a doll. The factory is attacked, either by the player as playing one of the protagonists’ androids, and Plato 1728 helplessly watch as the doll he cherished goes up in flames. Feeling traumatised and grief beyond anything, all his pent up sadness came up and he started anyone and anything. When his rage is exhausted, his companions trap him and dispose of him. When we re-enter the factory as another machine, the player sees that some people are shocked that Plato 1728 have had so much power in him that they didn’t realise. Some don’t wish to go into battle, afraid at seeing the destruction that Plato 1728 wrought, some are still thinking he is “useless” and that his model should be stopped while others mourn his downfall and are ashamed at their own behaviours surrounding him.

In fact, the machine the player is operating comments at his terminal as he has to input data on Plato 1728 goes on to say something like oh yeah, the guy who lost it.

Plato 1728′s consciousness and soul are still alive even if his body is gone. Though he wishes he could have a body again. He comments that the coliseum people are all selfish. The ones were machine are fighting to become stronger, the one where machines are trying to live by rules and the ones where machines are enslaved to be gladiators for android amusement. He says that is he really the crazy one?

Due to the doll seemingly being the cause of Plato 1728′s madness, dolls when found, are destroyed in the factory now. The players are then shown a psychedelic, gothic music video of a random machine destroying dolls and in the end Plato 1728′s soul reaches out attempting to stop the machine to destroy the doll that looks like 2B but he fails and the 2B doll is symbolically destroyed.

In my own reading of this DLC and the NieR:Automata game, I found aspects of posthumanism and transhumanism at a clash. My intentions to summarise the events of the DLC is to provide some of my own critical understanding of the game. In the base game, Pascal, 2B and A2 herald empathy and mostly posthumanist aspects in their characteristics. Though Route A follows more of a transhumanist path the characters present show some posthumanist nuances. In the game, the transhumanist agents are 9S and initially, Adam and Eve.

Transhumanism believes in the augmentation of the human body. It believes that human limits can be “corrected” and transcended. The body is to be a workshop and that workshop perfects upon the body into an ideal type of unit or anatomy in execution. Posthumanism is different; in fact, posthumanism believes more in the imperfections of humans and it rejects the humanist model of ideal human saying there can be no ideal. It considers the value of all living life forms and the systems that interconnect them. It also shows that human bodies can inherently and environmentally differ from each other and that is a good thing. Posthumanism also does not advocate anthropomorphism.

Bruce Clarke in his book Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems talks about humans as quasi-subjects and quasi-objects. This means they are neither completely subjective markers nor markers of objectification. Humans interact and they are heavily affected and influence by how, what and why they interact with (Clarke 44-45). Clarke also states that humans are biotic creatures and there can be abiotic organisms (Clarke 17). Biotic organism are organisms who can perform autopoiesis. Autopoiesis is the ability of the body;s various parts to organise itself, to keep its integrity but also to allow certain things to change, an example of human genome which does not change but phenotypical components such as hair and eye colour changing. The organisation of autopoietic structures is recursive; unique in its context. Non Autopoietic structures can exist within autopoietic creatures. Clarke states that non-living, non autopoietic organisms are called abiotic. He also states that there are metabiotic structures as well for example consciousness and social and psychical systems that make up society, an example would be media is an abiotic system that influences metabiotic structures like society and biotic humans.

I talk about autopoiesis and abiotic, biotic and metabiotic structures because these are crucial elements to understand posthumanism. Posthumanism plays a large role in NieR:Automata not only in its embedded narrative style as Clarke would state it, but also as Wolfe would state, it attempts to broaden the self-reflexive criticism of disciplines themselves. Wolfe states that disciplines can keep their integrity, as in autopoiesis, but must understand that there is a multidisciplinary promise to every discipline and that disciplines can evolve. Wolfe follows the second system theory to a bit in that the observer(s) are also scrutinised and called into question or positionality as much as the observation (Wolfe 121). There is a difference to Wolfe between the accurate and the specific (Wolfe 115). Wolfe critiques that disciplines are important that they are specific and not necessarily always accurate as in the universalising way (Wolfe 115-117). Things have context and that context must be taken into consideration. This is important as NieR:Automata also looks a lot on the context of the situation via both its posthumanist narrative style into bioethics and but also through disability studies and trans-species disciplinary actions (Wolfe 141).

Wolfe uses the life of Temple Grandin to talk about the trans-species understanding in that Grandin’s understanding of things in pictures, this hypervisuality within her autistic self which she has to then add language to is both thinking in pictures and allows prosthetics become one with her which are both ahuman or considered nonhuman traits. However her approach has “canonical expression” which includes Renaissance theory of perspective, to Freud’s parsing of the evolutionary sensorium in Civilisation and Its Discontents, through Sartre’s discussion of the Gaze, to Foucault’s panopticon,  and finally to the various modes of electronic surveillance culture.” (Wolfe 130) Wolfe further postulates that there is obviously different ways to thinking that humans have but can be excised (140). He also quotes Derrida’s concept of knowing invisibility as another kind of spatialisation (Wolfe 133).

The reason I have talked about this is that in the gameplay of NieR’s DLC our narrative focus on Plato 1728 shows many ways of understanding content. The language is not always constructed verbally. The players must level up, become fit and then fight battles in coliseums with different storylines and tangents, and rules and regulations. Plato 1728′s story origins begin with the machine spear which decodes some fragments of his story and this is later extrapolated in the DLC. Plato 1728 is sensitive and kind, communal and intelligent. He has almost all of the understanding of family and familial connections as once stated by 21O independently in the Data Freak quests that androids seemingly lack. Plato 1728 intelligence is differently abled but not all inferior to others and it is not to be taken lightly. When Plato 1728 in grief attacks in a berserk way he is only doing something normal in his condition though normative regulations deemed this to be the progression of him as a failure.

Plato 1728 is not a failure as he understands that there is lack of justice, a seduction by rules and power in the coliseums and in life in Earth in general. A feeling and understanding he also shares with Emil. Emil is attacked by 9S is losing his mind. Emil calls 9S his “cherished companion” who still must be “punished” because he has done something wrong, obviously, from stealing from him. The player as 9S can defeat Emil in which, in this first form, states that in the end power dominates so much and he says, with reluctance, that 9S can use his room whichever way he prefers. Though, Emil just accedes only because he doesn’t understand what purpose 9S has to do this to him. In a similar way, Plato 1728 does not understand why his companion easily disposed of him instead of coming to his aid.

NieR: Automata uses a very embedded narrative. It uses a verbal embedding, which is a narrative that is horizontal and epistemic (Clarke 100) meaning it uses people in the same timeline such as Emil and 9S battling out within the same time period and context to say some of its story. Then it also has a modal embedding, which is ontological and vertical. That as Clarke expertly puts:

“here the same or different narrators are transported to and thus reframed within different storyworlds — for instance modal borders are crossed in the transit “through the looking glass” from waking to dream worlds, from the present to the past or future, or from physical space to cyberspace.”

(Clarke 100)

When we play as 9S or 2B or A2 we experience the story differently. Swords and hacking tell the story differently. Then there is Route C and D than changes a lot of the narrative setting and climate. The narratives are something, as Clarke puts it, stretching and meets at different viewpoints and that it what makes narratives embedded and autopoietic. They are framed to form something that has integrity but is also perpetuated amongst different disciplines. The modal embedding also goes to mathematics modular group, with the j variant, the function of complex numbers which satisfies a growth condition in the upper plane of a graph and shows the connection between monster group and modular group. 1728 is a number that is the cube of 12 and also part of the j variant. The monster group, or Friendly Giant, being the largest sporadic group in mathematics. The name is embedded into the narrative of NieR Automata thus disciplines evolving, looking at the observer and the observation, keeping the integrity but also going beyond.

Additionally, many side quests and even the birth of Adam and Eve is a fusion between modal and verbal embedded storytelling. We can see this in both 2B and 9S routes where picture books also tell the story of machines getting consciousness and an identity. Also, we see machines having sex or attempting to in the chasm. It is as if they don’t wish anything to be ex nihilo but to have origin, purpose and an evolution in connectivity. 9S’s trauma is also reflected in quests done for Resistance members when they lose their loved ones. Though 9S’s actions are more severe and a disruption to not only his life but others.

Going back to Temple Grandin, 9S is someone who espouses humanism and transhumanism a lot. Even when he hears machine talk he keeps on repeating to 2B they meant nothing. He even says that after he is traumatised and going insane. In the Forest, Resource Unit he hears the machine begging him for an explanation to the violence and asking him to just kill them but he almost takes sadomasochistic satisfaction in torturing them and being in denial. To him, only androids can have life. As Wolfe also states that the sciences Cartesian duality of consciousness and cognition is pretty ingrained (Wolfe 116) and 9S is a proof of that. He has selective empathy and he cannot see anyone not abdroid-like to be human. Pascal is an exception because 2B and he had visited him and 9S is just in denial as well to consider Pascal completely living even as there is something disturbing is seeing his memory being wiped.

9S in Route A ending is accepting of his data being embedded in machines, in a way Plato 1728 was alright in loving a doll. Yet in Route C/D 9S is disgusted to know that their black box does contain the machines’ cores as well. He is angered to know that within him is embedded, in the flesh so to speak, the narrative of machines. This is why it was ironic when sometime ago he told to Pascal that he didn’t have a heart seeing their autopoietic structures are similar in detail.

Similarly, Adam and Eve killed the aliens feeling they were too “plant-like.” This alone becomes at first their justification. They so are obsessed in bettering themselves in some mythical ideal way that they wish to even dissect humans to achieve this goal. It is noteworthy, that 9S is selectively horrified by this yet he too decides to dissect machines or remnants of YoRHa later on. N2, the machine in the tower, programmed to fight the enemy, felt they must keep the androids alive and manipulated the coding of machine s which help make machines like Adam and Eve and Pascal. Though, they didn’t really know if such machinations would bring forth what it did thus they are killed by their own transhumanist consciousness in a way.

Empathy is not relinquished by A2 or 2B. Like Plato 1728 who signifies that invisibility, as in his own thoughts and emotions and different abledness, is a form of spatialisation, we can see that in these individuals as well. A2 opens up to Pascal and shows him kindness and empathy. She starts treating him as an equal and is heartbroken to erase his memories. When she fights Emils and tries to help Emil she actually calls him “kid” and wishes to protect him. 2B hearing machines feels terrible about injuring and killing them. That is why Route A ending was also a trans-species ending where 2B understands and accepts the machines’ souls and consciousness. It takes almost death for 9S to do this in Route C/D and he also falls like an angel from heaven. A hero who becomes a brutal villain due to trauma, idealism and grief. A2 already accepts this as in a way her ending shows her need to reunite with her old comrades, Pascal and the village’s lost children.

The True Ending, reaches out and embeds both the old beginnings and a prospect of evolution. This is semiotically and semantically shown with the Pods but also the different endings that were possible showing that the future, open but still with some integrity and organisation, is not set in stone but growing and evolving. Plato 1728 also sends the player a mail thanking them for reading about his life and looking at it. This brings back the posthumanist term of the observer being observed and visa versa.

In conclusion, The transhumanist and posthumanist conjugate with trans-species elements and disability studies in NieR:Automata. This is done expertly through various intermeshed narratives. The game attempts to make players embed both storytelling and the codex for change within them. Thus it generates new knowledges and a sense of hope even when the story and game ends. It is interesting to play a game as such that takes into context and spatialization/specialisation that individuals do not need to look human and androids can very well be more than standard AI and machines can evolve into their own beings.

Sources:

Clarke, Bruce, Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008).

Wolfe, Cary What is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001)

Beauty Is Broken — Matter — Medium

via Beauty Is Broken — Matter — Medium.

An articulation on what means to be a woman in a culture that voraciously greeds and feeds ideal female perfections.

Urbane apocalypse and post-apocalypse with its macho pronouns ignoring the masculine/maleness and feminine/femaleness in other discourses

Sometimes things come to you in unexpected ways. To me it did. I mean you are not really consciously thinking about them and perchance through some creative exercise you get to meet them. The concept of post-apocalyptic fictions have always been explored but to me the current trends of urbane apocalypse like Walking Dead or even The Last of Us all have this macho or rather this closed form of maleness really talking about. It is like Eliot’s Prufrock not knowing how to answer or propose an engagement or marriage or propose questions. The poem is in a dialogue but I think mostly with the reader as on a Watsonian platform Prufrock cannot communicate with pretty much anyone so there is half fourth wall breaking, half-Doylist way of communication. And it is pretty much this way the lone-man of a urban/urbane post-apocalypse talks to us. Most survivor-protagonists are not women. Except maybe novels like Z for Zachariah (which I think the film’s adaptation and retelling is pretty much butchering the complexities of the novel). Though I did a thesis on postmodernism and post-apocalyptic novels I couldn’t make it large enough to put in this so I decided to put it in now. Women experience the urbane apocalypse a bit differently than guys or rather more accurate female writers experience it a bit differently. A sort of reading on this idea or epiphany of mine comes from Anne Sexton’s poem “Mr Mine” from Love Poems:

Notice how he has numbered the blue veins
in my breast. Moreover there are ten freckles.
Now he goes left. Now he goes right.
He is building a city, a city of flesh.
He’s an industrialist. He has starved in cellars
and, ladies and gentlemen, he’s been broken by iron,
by the blood, by the metal, by the triumphant
iron of his mother’s death. But he begins again.
Now he constructs me. He is consumed by the city.
From the glory of boards he has built me up.
From the wonder of concrete he has molded me.
He has given me six hundred street signs.
The time I was dancing he built a museum.
He built ten blocks when I moved on the bed.
He constructed an overpass when I left.
I gave him flowers and he built an airport.
For traffic lights he handed out red and green
lollipops. Yet in my heart I am go children slow.

For Sexton the relationship is always posited, from what I inferred, in extremes. There is no middle ground and there are too much excess and that is why she decided to show the relevance of the “yellow light” in the traffic signal (which even I as a kid I questioned the existence of). People cannot always be in extremes. The urban apocalypse as a narrative plot device follows mostly an extreme, an outbreak of something and no countermeasure. Eddy Van Vliet’s view of the cityscapes is so different even when juxtaposed with the same view of relationships and love:

The city is covered with places you
took from me. Full of joint
footsteps, full of joint laughs.
They were sheltered by dreams and if need be
love grabbed the gun to protect them.

Tell my legs how to evade
what belonged to them.

Tell them. They refuse to believe
that the theaters have burnt, restaurants
were hit by plagues, terraces vanished
into thin air, hotels closed
the courtyards was demolished.

I bow my head and think
the rain will not hit me. Thus
I shall forget what was taken from me.

It is the degradation of the city not its construction of excess that modulates to Vliet a destruction or destructive force of a relationship. This is a very dichotomized way of reading how a man may view a city and how a woman may view a city. Of course, this varies and you see this in Prufrock who feels that his modernity/modernness may have, like the stars of the skies frigidly there, lost its mysticism, is like a patient etherized on a table ready for some cryptic sort of surgery. Many poets don’t like cities regardless of preferred or biological sex and understandable genders. But this is true that cities may speak to females as a place where there is at times a lurking of danger with the loneliness rather to men which may mostly translate as a lack of communication and then loneliness. That is because cities are many a times constructed by males with less female input. Spaces on many cities, both old and new, cater a lot to the social male disposition. This may be Western or Eastern. Thing about open cafes or cafes of Paris when Parisian writers were writing or also a Victorian sort of phenomenon old “coffee houses.” All these places are computed as macho (nowadays cafes are a shared space) like essentially once even the South Asian tong was. Writing in the open air, or surveying a vast landscape, with both urbane and rustic elements, was the ultimate macho gaze. Elliot’s The Wasteland may be taken very differently by a woman and it was to an extent. When Virginia Woolf wrote Three Guineas she did facilitate this question. This is not a different inherent in the marrow: it is holstered and shaped by cultural transmissions and biases.

Octavio Paz in “I speak of The City” pretty much does the opposite of otherness and develops a shared speech between the male and female concerning the city. The last lines of the poem are:

I speak of the city, shepherd of the centuries, mother that gives
birth to us and devours us, that creates us and forgets.

English: Old city in Bucharest

English: Old city in Bucharest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a very androgynous way of looking at the city. Not to mention, the shepherd is always a calm but an emotive individual, he is not the sterile logical man because he deals with living creatures perchance even sentient beings and so acts accordingly. The shepherd is not machismo-man rather if you look at him in classical terms he is a very gentle and kind man. Then Paz puts almost a patriarch or matriarch’s ferocity in the mother, inversing the archetype completely, into something beastial and raging. Not to disrespect mothers essentially but to show the way cities are designed may promote a contradictory language. And in many cases you do see the city-mother in old books rather sterner than the rustic-mother. This may not be her fault at all. Rather she is moved to a place that may not intrinsically provide her safety thus she is on edge. But this lack of safety can be androgynous, hermaphrodactyl and faced by both sexes and all genders. And Paz feeling it. Ending his poem like that certainly can show that.

This brings us back to the urban apocalypse and post apocalypse. Because being a modern man is so seemingly essentially tied with the city a zombie apocalypse or the fall of civilisation as we know it is pretty fearful for men. After civilisation falls they attempt to resurrect the civilisation as they used to know it. There are some novels like John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids that do not work like that. Rather it is anti-civilisation or even suspect of what might happen next in a modernness that makes that novel pretty unique. Not to mention that Brave New World by Aldous Huxley also puts on that civilisation needs revisions sort of template. Also the YA novels like Maze Runner and The Hunger Games also, to a certain extent, makes you question the sort of civilisation. Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy pretty much does the same thing. Jimmy, the protagonist in the first book of that series, Oryx and Crake, shows a very different take on masculinity. Jimmy is already sequestered from the benefits of his civilisation from collapse because he is considered a “luddite” unlike Glen or Crake who is mathematically brilliant. But then in subsequent novels we do see Crake has a bivalent  view as well.  Crake also questions the merits and tactility of his intelligence. And he envies Jimmy’s qualities which actually alienate him from the machinery of their civilisation. This is a rare account as we see in urban apocalypses man is more centered on his survival in a way that may always be conducive to be best for him. There is no criticism to why a city might have fallen or failed. There is no alternatives to the current city; no search for alterities and this is where the urban apocalypse somewhat fails to even encompass what a man may really want and need.

Mad Max is celebrated possibly because Max is a person who can probably integrate and communicate with different sorts of people. But Max also does not really think he can posit things or that he can discuss things on what people may want or what else they can do to gain what they need after the current civilisation has a crackdown. No one really does much to critique why things might have gotten this bad or why such a failure affected the populations so badly. There is no communes or alternative living systems in most urban apocalyptic dramas. People are limited to survive without what they once had; we are made to believe that is the best possible thing that could have been had has been had. And now there is no other thing to be had. Rather put up the old ways or something or the other. There isn’t any mention of tribal people or anthropological alternatives. People give up way more quickly in those fictions than people in actuality would. In the 100 there is a dichotomy between the people who lived in the space stations and the Grounders and so on and so forth. Yet even so there is coalescence between the modern and the new — all is either primitive or civilised nothing is swept into a critical eye on what can be done. Except in the lesser known urban apocalyptic City of Ember series there is no new concepts of civilisation.  City of Ember series is tragically underrated as many works are at times are.

Nature is feared but women do not inherently fear nature. Neither do men. Rather fear is nature is also a colonised site in our recent history. It is as Keats wrote in Lamia that cold hard logic can be at times our undoing. If logic was replaced with some acknowledgment of nature than the Lamia of Keats could have loved her youth as she was and not in guise or relegation of her powers. Cities turning to dust is a machismo fear penetrative only because we have made cities the hub of everyday activity. We have ostracised meadows, fields and many simple pleasures. Many countries are worn-torn for our need to build something urbane so anything akin to peace mitigates.

In Begum Rokeya’s Sultana’s Dream there is an alterity. A city designed differently though due  to the constraints and time it was written in, it does put men down for Rokeya herself seen women treated as sub-human due to cultural and patriarchal restrictions. Most female writers write apocalyptic issues alternatively. To them survival is not only the main issue nor is the finding out how to reinstate civilisation as it once was for to them civilisation is not always civilised. They take to nature pretty happily; enjoying freedom of moving about, the feeling of both a ripeness of the sensual and visceral without critique or commercialism. Consumerism cannot really substitute the need for actual physicality. The madwoman in the attic burns down her “civilised” home to feel like she is once more back near the wide sargasso sea.

“ Pine flower’s blooming,” says
a friend on the phone
a hundred miles away.
“Just think of the scent!”

“I am
thinking of it,” I say
to myself, facing
a thousand years away.
“Can you imagine
this scent?”

The poem just called “Untitled” by So Chong-Ju is a reflection on posterity but it is not in concrete and steel. Pine scents are a common thing. You have pine scented air fresheners. There is something sturdy about pine that also we wish to be reiterated in memory but the longevity of trees surely many a times surpass the longevity of cities. Masculine and feminine do have their uses but city spaces may or may not feel the need of androgyne understandings and spaces. The unsexed friend and the unsexed future version of the poem’s narrator can feel in a way that is both manly and womanly. Cities may or may not suppress the certain need of community and communication in us. More modern cities are designed to be hubs of commerce and calculations. Suburbia has become residence though even there it is like a colony of afternoon shadows where no one always knows everyone or anyone in particular. It is almost like humans cannot fully live in cities nor in nature and is stuck in transit somewhere.

If cities are gone what other modes of living can be scavenged or even newly founded? Survivor’s anxiety in an urban apocalypse is usually male and White. Usually also Western. We do not see anyone of mixed races or minority races engage with civilisation meltdowns as easily as the Robinson Crusoe of the expedition. Yes, we have Will Smith’s I am Legend yet the original protagonist was not White, not in the novel. If the urban apocalypse was traced in Africa or Asia the majority man would probably reflect the majority anxiety. But not the woman and certainly not indigenous people. To them cityscapes and dams and all urbane artifacts may or may not invade on their homestead. I can imagine a newly immigrated Indian woman from village to a city who is in an urban apocalypse. To her panic would be initial reaction. Then she might thread, find resources, find a roof, fly kites, walk on railway lines and take life as an okay. She would be happy that in the maze and noise of the city with its talked about dangers she would not face any now. Naturally, she would pine for conversation and company and will surely look for others. But community is more important to her than restructuring the old cityscape. And they might make a city of old red-brick chimneys and bare-boned walls and be happy there. A European woman may do the same with wood or glass.

Sometimes the urban apocalypse feels like a cowboy Western or a  mob movie of  another sort. Lone rangers moving about and attempting to secure something for himself because he is displaced and the city gave him a position. That may be a minimalist reading. Cities can only be owned, at least many modern cities, with an act of homogenization and to do so would mean leaving behind some things; males and females, men and women are at times more complex than that. They want other things.

It would be somewhat cool to see someone like Mad Max just hitching up tent with some old tribe  that survived in deserts or jungles and just feel how life could progress like this or life could be changed and shaped with new cityscapes. Or rather it would fun to see Mad Maxine do do.


http://fanlore.org/wiki/Watsonian_vs._Doylist

Celibacy

Standing adamantly by a decision is not really always callous. He turns. I rotate. He returns. I learn a revolution.  I don’t have much to expect yet I think he prefers me to expect things and that somewhat sags. After a dispute we make love. Just a crooked bandaid. I had vowed chastity. Even after the first couple of times I had stayed celibate for many years. However, this love brings out these in me. I do not like breaking my vows. Chastity or etcetera.  I don’t see him so sad. Whatever decisions he takes he seems pretty unrepentent or even non-confused about them. I almost feel a tip on my tongue. Is it Eurocentric? A White man’s non-burden.

Our mouths kiss. Our hearts do not. They run on parallel mathematics.

I am not coded like him. Nowadays, the gypsies are the rich, unconcerned. You cannot leave behind boredom if it is in a classroom. I cannot talk to him much. After he caressed my breast and my slightly toned thighs and I scartched slightly his skinny, rigid ones.

“Meghna, let’s elope.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I want to finish my studies; have a career.”

“It’s so cliche.”

“It helps with the food department.”

“And I thought you liked marriage.”

I looked upset, all of a sudden, “What made you think that?”

“I just felt…it.”

We are quiet. It’s more quiet than mortal death.

“I know, Meghna, we come from different cultures.”

“I am not a different culture. I am a different person. Than you.” I stressed it heavily. I stress it as if it was now and never.

“Meghna, is it because I am White?”

I thought about it. Yes. It was. But it wasn’t so because it wasn’t. It was a Yes and it was a No. His Whiteness was not what mattered. It only mattered here. Because he could get away with running away. I am not White. I am of the migrant body. If I run away. I will always be a runaway. Unable to perform and unable to settle and unable to — Ooff! I was not so confident that me running away would be so fruitful to me.  Things are already here for him. For me it was starting. I don’t want to ruin it.

“Not really.” I carefully addressed, “It’s because you are rich and White and male. And I am just another so-called Brown immigrant. I have already been dispossessed and you are already possessed. Do you understand?”

Then he grunted, “You are talking fucking crap.” Then he got up, “You are muddling too much in those weak sciences.”

‘I am being honest Calvin.”

“Yeah right.”

I rose a bit too.

But then he got out of bed. I saw an ultimatum.

“I am leaving; probably tonight.”

“I understand.”

“You coming?”

“No.”

“Fuck you.”

“…”

“You are just some lay anyway.”

“I know we wouldnt end up together. You don’t understand and you are stuck in your own way of thinking.”

“I am leaving. Not Listening to this crappy shit.”

consumer products

 

my angels had their feathers partly clipped and sewn
into hives making them cripples bees; like some factory
chickens that never know the daylight who work in
solitary asylums made of nboisy walls of cries that they
feel that their own breed is a stranger to mnistrust. My heart
longs for a release from the tides and tightened bars of society
where a woman and a man has a loaded curse of connotations and
derogative denotations where mimes attempting to speak the truth
are shunned from sight, from hearing, from communication — as they
have failed to use some lingua franca or the other.

and me and those like me are waited to be bullied on
by people called classmates and heads of corporations
preying on my skin as AIDS on white blood cells tainting my
infrastructure and then defining me as a basket case, damaged goods.

But God watched my assassinations multiplied and threw me more spines
in which oeuvres were collected and threaded and sewn into documentaries
and books and I realized that even in the hated shit pile rising on high
away and untouched from it is a many whorled flower bursting hermaphrodactyl seeds
that became planets and helped to whisper supernovae and then they realized how I am a lethal
weapon for I have survived all the blasts they have thrown and still formed my own un-capitalized
un-hegemonized kingdoms.▬ 

Fragmentory 1

 

She once kissed the sun. It was tailored under window glass. Sliced into spots. For her pleasure. Then it was gone. As easily it had risen. Storm wafted in gray smoothness and polished the gold. No, she was not disappointed. Hungering for both storms and sun is like going against the Manicheanistic prospects of life. Life as a social production; life as capital of capitalism and the bickering of socialism. It was as if she was pining for both lover and husband in the person that she craved. They say both cannot coexist; then she remembered the sunspots and trusted even more they could. God shown with nature that it could exist and she questioned why was it feared? The existence of two together. Why was labeling in the apex of discrete and discretion rather than a more luminous and dark pitched Night. Was not night and moon the biggest paradox one could imagine? The softness of a crescent itself defies how a full becomes a curve and a curve becomes a circle. Both complete. Both alarmingly present. And yet this night was called by Hellenistic successors as women’s quarters; relegated and suffocated and brought out no more  than a manifestation of infestation and damnation; what contradiction and stupidity is raised. As storm raged and raged and sang and sang in its gusto to swoon clouds and water she felt the fusions of thoughts and emotions. As Night settled in its tones of deep blue, gray and black with highlights of lightnings here and there and petrichor perambulations made its way into the food, hearts and blood of people around with her adjoined she felt a corporeal bliss with an incorporeal promise.

romeo and romance

 

..is like really unpardonably boring; riffed and overused like a salami on toast
and a tea party on steroids — Shakespearean is not real as in illusory Romeo
is but a pawn in the wrath of apples and the apples of wrath; he is a hyphen
not a destination, not a fragment, but a whole, sliced as a dot in the punctuation
of parody — he is the whimsical Hamlet when lovingly not rejecting Ophelia and
the Othello who does not care who pines for Desdemona; he only cares that his
appetite to live life as though cauterized by a swelling pus of romance is dialogic
to the appetites of Juliet for Juliet does not need to hate her other suitors it is more
perilous to love a fastidious “saint” or “sinner” than a normal hybrid; for extremities
are a ruse a Witches’ confidant that they will cure boredom; fair Verona has nothing
to climb, Romeo, if not met with Juliet, may easily go after Rosalind, to see a nun, to make
her love him, ah, but then he is corrupted; rather corrupt the corruptible right? Or so the
Witches and Ariel bicker? Or rather he thought lets see if Rosalind would be envious to know
Juliet, un-nunned, is in his arms and he in her arms and would frolic out of the nunnery and
scram towards him? Did not Hamlet in his indigestion tell Ophelia that a convent is a better
place? Did he not tell her that as a geographic chastity belt? Hmmmph if you ask me he should
have said — here, don’t fuck yet I am gonna make out with this madness bitch and then come
and we can suffer my incestuous or non-incest overtones together on some place else — no need
to defile her body with chastity and you go around fucking madness like some cheap worn night-lady
hmmmp yeah you hyphenated prick you stuck up and suck on Romeo’s window breaks; everyone
is bored in Shakespeare’s world; from Lear to Portia to Shylock to Juliet to Ophelia to Bassanio (the prick)
everyone wants out. Hmm, kinda think of it. Maybe it was Shakespeare saying — I am bored, Oh God, get me out
of this fucking theatre business too…▬