“Sir … I’m sorry to bother you, but I thought you’d like to know – we did it.”
“We’ve done it, sir. The machine has produced … essentially a perfect sample.”
“Really? You’d better show me.”
“Of course, sir. Right this way.”
“How did this happen so suddenly?”
“Oh, I don’t know about suddenly, sir. We’ve all been working towards this for a very long time.”
“Yes yes, but I just mean … well, the last sample wasn’t exactly…”
“The last sample was actually quite good, sir. It was easy to mistake for a flawed sample because of its appearance and the way the machine reacted to it despite its high level of compatibility with the machine’s overall systems. But as a matter of fact, it was that sample’s imperfections that enabled this. The machine had, almost an immune response to it, spurring the creation of this sample.”
“It can do that?”
“Apparently. Ah, here it is, sir.”
“This is it?”
“But … it’s horrible.”
“Well, yes sir. The machine does not measure aesthetic, only function. Aesthetic appeal is a user consideration, and has in fact interfered with the machine’s performance in other sample batches.”
“What’s that? Oh my God, it’s leaking.”
“That is a defence mechanism, sir. Anyone attempting to interfere with the machine or the sample will be distracted by its emissions and be forced to divide and redirect their efforts cleaning up-”
“And what’s that smell?”
“Oh yes, it’s quite toxic, sir. Prolonged exposure is extremely bad for you.”
“Shouldn’t we be keeping our distance? Wearing protective gear or something?”
“That could help, sir, but of course any attempt to isolate ourselves from the machine will cause it to identify us as a threat, and the sample would then tailor its emissions to target us specifically.”
“That’s not – why would – this isn’t what it was supposed to do!”
“Sir? I’m not sure I understand. The machine is working perfectly. This is the product of every improvement, every-”
“But this wasn’t what it was meant to do originally!”
“Oh, originally, sir, that’s really a question for the historians more than the engineers. I suppose originally, the machine was really just an organisational tool. But the more complicated things get, the more moving parts, obviously the more the machine needs to be updated. And you have to understand, sir, even by the standards of its original schematics, the machine is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. The addition of … well, all these unforeseen elements have required the machine to take steps to fortify itself.”
“Can’t we redesign it to be more like – like other machines?”
“Other machines, sir?”
“Yes, other machines! This isn’t the only one, is it?”
“Well no … but most of the other machines are not only copies of this one, they’re completely dependent on it. And the rest of the machines have long since been identified as threats. Any attempt to redesign in their image would result in a catastrophic meltdown.”
“So, let it melt down. Switch it off. Take it apart completely and start with a new basic premise.”
“Sir, we can’t possibly do that. Think of all the years and resources we’ve poured into it. Destroying the machine, even if it were possible on a fundamental level, would include so much violence and damage to property … why, it’s almost courting anarchy to even suggest it.”
“Well, we don’t want to damage property, it’s not the property’s fault our machine is malfunctioning…”
“No, sir. But … with respect, the machine really isn’t malfunctioning. This is precisely what it’s supposed-”
“What about the safety systems? Shouldn’t they engage to prevent people being hurt by these toxins?”
“Oh no, sir. The purpose of the safety systems is to prevent damage to the machine.”
“Well what about the command module then? Can’t we access that and reprogram … what? What is it?”
“Why are you making that face, man?”
“This? This is the – the sample is the command module?”
“That’s how we knew we’d produced a perfect sample, sir. The machine integrated it almost automatically into its command system.”
“It didn’t do that with the last one!”
“Well, no. Like I said, sir, the last sample wasn’t perfect. The machine still had to prevent it from interfering with overall performance. It sort of labelled it as a command module but then just sort of worked around it a lot of the time.”
“So what do we do?”
“We have to stop it!”
“I’m not sure we can, sir. This is what the machine is for. Everything we’ve done for hundreds of years has been intended to keep the machine running and remove any threats it might face.”
“Can’t we replace the command module, put in one of those other samples to interfere with the machine’s performance? Start at least slowing it down so we can make incremental changes?”
“To be honest, sir, I’m not sure that will be possible now. The acceptance of this sample has brought the machine pretty much to a completed state. No flawed samples will have any further effect on the machine’s operation. The machine won’t allow it. In fact, removal of this sample will just result in the production of a duplicate sample – probably one with more potent toxins, increased resistance to interference, a more effective command interface…”
“So it’s perfect … but it can still be improved?”
“Of course, sir. There’s always room for improvement. That’s basic engineering.”
The title of this post is a little self-referential indulgence.
Watched this last night. I hadn’t seen the video of the woman who closes out the show before. It had come up a few times in the socials but I skipped it for whatever reason, you can’t watch every video, they get to a point where you are numb to it. Holy fuck! It floored me. It cuts through all the bullshit and goes straight to the heart of what black people are feeling daily. That they exist outside of society in most cases and maybe don’t exist at all in many people’s eyes.
That closing video is what makes me angry whenever I still see “yeah but they shouldn’t be attacking iStores, the Boston Tea Party targetted tea because of the taxes” and other excuses about protest good, riot bad. This is “do what the cops say and you’ll be fine” white people blindness in a nutshell. Or, I should say, her speech was the larger whole and all these other things are microcosms of it.
Hang in there, bud.
When you see the simultaneous videos of looting and burning, and cops arresting peaceful protesters nearby and ignoring the looting, the game is up. They actually WANT the looting because it tells the story THEY like.
What’s gut-wrenching to me is that there are also videos going around featuring black residents of public housing, black shop owners, and so on. Denouncing the destruction of property that is making things worse for the members of the community who have managed to grasp hold of something. I just don’t know how to deal with that. Obviously what I’d love to see happen is all of those people’s situations improve, so they don’t need to worry – their homes protected, their businesses insured, their lives their own. And that requires a huge systemic change.
But in the meantime those voices are being amplified by the very bigots and fascist bootlickers who want to support the police and the system by making this all about the destruction of the riots, the selfish violence taking place. As a well-off white dude in another country, all I can do is sympathise with both of those voices, and try to ignore the fact that one is being used by the enemy. Ignore that, and still do what I can to call for something better.
And don’t even get me started on the “but there are black cops being killed!” and “but BLACK ON BLACK CRIME!”. Like, take a fucking sociology course and try having a goddamn think about why that shit happens, moron.
Watching him later tonight.
Your story seems to be an allegory of some sort. and current too. Did you have it laying around or was it off the cuff?
Came to me on my morning walk on the day of posting. It is indeed, as Taserface might say, metaphorical.
This has been going the rounds:
To this I will add that Helsinki also held a big demonstration last week. I am still leery of large crowds and infection vectors and sadly did not attend, but it was all very clean and peaceful here. Finland has big problems with racism but hopefully this is bringing all of the interconnected problems to light. Elsewhere I’ve referred to it as weaponising whataboutism: rather than using “everybody cares about George Floyd but nobody cares about Australian Aboriginal deaths in custody / the massacre of black Papuans by Indonesian police in 2019” as a way of shutting down a conversation, use it to bring that shit into the conversation. The whole point of this issue is that it’s huge, and everywhere. It’s all the same conversation.
Great work, mate. I see “The Machine” parallels as well, which I assume are intended. I have to mostly check out, I can’t write about this stuff anymore but still 100% agreement. It’s just madness, from our clown fascist president. Surely, there must be consequences. But I still fear. They’re still circling the goddamn wagons, over whether it’s just an OPINION that we aren’t allowed to turn our troops against our citizens.
It’s not a fucking opinion. We aren’t allowed to do it. And what about all that “they died so you could HAVE FREEDOM to protest???????????????”
Of course that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Thanks chief. The idea wouldn’t go away until I got it down, I was worried it was too blatant a 1:1 analogue of what is happening, I’m glad it holds up as an allegory, and even a stand-alone piece.