FIRST PART. Something must happen

FIRST BLOCK. Tendencies

1. The extra-terrestrial relief

The era of gods belonged to the past, the heroes had strutted the stage and disappeared into the wings. For the time being a third player was in charge of the performance, he could be labelled the consumed and consuming mass. Such being the case it was natural to speculate on the possible relief. There was no reason for history to get stuck at the magical three, in all likelihood history should be about a long, not to say eternal series of bifurcations.
Now, should the nation happen to bend over its coastline and peek into its territorial water, it would stand face to face with a reflection of its present state: one single species in command of the Millenial Empire of Sprat. All remaining pretenders and competitors were tumbling over the precipice. (It is a well-known fact that these small consumers are capable of fortifying and perpetuating their own systemic position; where cousin Roach established himself, he created single-handedly his own preferred eutrophic and turbid gruel).
Researchers, having worn themselves out attempting to manage ruthless fisheries, flung their hands up: Nothing to be done about it. It takes an invasive alien, an immigrant from foreign waters, that enters the system and tips it over by competing for food and space. In addition, (voice lowered): Not through our agency, no, we had enough of that kind of experiment a hundred years ago.
Maybe the whole idea had been born there, from a great disillusion.

Elaborating from this point of departure: the notion of some kind of external relief hadn't been born at one single point, on one single occasion, no, it wasn't like that. On the contrary it had a wide circulation, even if all aspects were not fully and simultaneously present in any single mind. If anything, it was a weighted mean of an idea, a myth in labour pains, pounded and soaked with varying outcomes in thousands of minds. One important constituent should be mentioned first: the hypothesis of the Galactic Host Signal, transporting galactic agents in all directions. Of course this was nonsensical, copied from some television serial; in any case it had no scientific foundation. At the same time it was a highly serious and well-founded concept: the modern form of sideric reference.
Visitors from distant planets accordingly, and the number of the Galactic Agents was three, until further notice. The first arrival, Polter, haunted a ramshackle on the outskirts of the town, his reactions to human disturbance were recorded as a poltergeist, and one of the commercial tv channels had established his presence, even making his outline visible to human eyes, in a highly appreciated documentary. Polter was restless, energetic, always seemed to be on the move. Number two was a light- and heat-loving creature, no doubt, appearing only during daytime and in sunny weather, hence his public designation: 1030 Millibar. He was generally considered a sort of tropical sunshine lover, a somewhat lethargic individual, originating from some very hot environment. It was generally assumed that he (or she, or it) had taken up residence at the municipal district heating works, tapping some of the production for his own needs. Number three was a newcomer, revealing his presence by certain systematic disturbances to the telecommunications of the municipal office, he was provisionally registered with this domicile. This agent wasn't very material or massive, more a kind of wave packet, nor did he yet have a generally accepted name.
This could be called a second, more thrilling reflection across the shoreline: the glance into the Millenial Empire of Sprat had induced members of the consumed and consuming mass to start elaborating the myth of the Galactic Agents; a leap from the depth underneath to the galactic depth. In the water body the sprats grazed on their green algae, on the surface gloomy humans wore out their golf course turf, a cold and rainy summer was tantamount to crisis and collapse, and the following summer it all began over again. This was more than could be put up with: to have one's bondage under the consumption cycles mirrored in such an obvious way. There had to be relief, and this couldn't grow from inside the own grazing population (eyes turned to the sky), relief must come from some rare extra-terrestrial, self-contained source.
Net result so far: three galactic agents. The specific task that had sent them to this remote corner of the galaxy was open to speculation. Was there any sort of communication between them, did they even belong to the same species? It could be a case of three different species, whose only quality in common was an alien provenance. At any rate; they had shown no inclinations to reproduce, neither by cross-fertilisation nor by cloning. For the time being it was assumed that they were on a scouting mission, collecting information for some obscure purpose.

The system beyond the water-edge, the house ruled by sprats, was both resilient and robust, built with ample safety margins, the way houses are built in earthquake zones. The algae bloomed in late summer, as sure as eggs is eggs, the fish were there and elbowed all competitors aside, the stability and survival of the system was secured for another cycle. The same admirable robustness distinguished the human system of consumption, although the human house had a broader foundation, including more components. For this reason both households deserve to be approached cap in hand, observers paying due respect. Still, it could be cautiously hinted that the human being was a wee bit overqualified for acting as a mere consuming system builder, for example it could whistle, and the sprat couldn't.
When it came to it, adaptability asserted itself here, too; dry land showing a wholehearted preparedness to reduce itself to the level of the deep. There were many indications that the historical journey had been somewhat overambitious, carrying things too far and equipping man with redundant faculties, which didn't benefit him in his role as top consumer in a narrow-gauge consumption system. Luckily some of these faculties weren't hereditary, but rather socially determined, in certain cases even: conquered in social struggle. That could come to the same thing: many of these faculties could be thrown over the precipice if they turned out to be a drag on consumption.
This makes for an important observation: the degree of personal freedom of the sprat individual in the large, manoeuvring shoal is limited, to say the least. Crucial to any shoal member's chances for survival is his ability to keep twenty proximate neighbours in his mental field of vision and as it were empathically anticipate their dynamic behaviour. The propagation from eye by way of brain and nerve to muscle contraction is too slow, it will inevitably collapse the drill. Instead, the empathic level serves as a command centre of its own, closer to muscles, creating in an external observer the impression that individuals are directed by some collective will of the shoal. This faculty is mirrored across the water-edge, too, recurring on land; inner man reads his closest co-consumers and moves synchronously to them in the fashions and turnabouts of consumption. It does not follow that differing opinions, deviations from the main course of the shoal don't exist. Deviation has always been there, as a sort of noise, a disturbance of the practical communication. Lower rated than the central shoal signals, always leaving the overall course of the shoal unaffected.

The universal smiley, the signal by which members of a shoal acknowledge that a minor deviation from the shoal line isn't intended to disturb its smooth function, comes into play here. In spite of its ability to shut an eye on deviation, the shoal also has an undeniable tendency to nudge deviators towards its outskirts, where sharks lurk.
It is immediately clear why this device wasn't in demand in the era of gods, the god threw his thunderbolt without a lot of fuss, grunting: I am who I am. And the idea that heroes should defer to shoal opinions is equally disturbing and offensive, heroes go their own way. The universal smiley had developed as an invocation by the consumed and consuming mass, it was here that one felt the need to weaken even the most innocent aberration with a "hehe" and a smiling face.
At this point some may think that the universal smiley was introduced somewhat prematurely, without pre-history and development. In that case let it be said: the smiley isn't the central object here and now. Instead a cousin of the smiley comes into focus: the utopian traveller, newly arrived from some extremely distant island with other cloths, other habits. Still at stake was the problem pertaining to the expression of a deviant opinion, this time it could be put: How give vent to a deviant opinion about the organisation of the shoal, so to say en passant? The shoal is the member and the member is the shoal, any criticism of the shoal switches into a sort of self-denial. Well, necessity knows no law, the deviant opinion presses on, searching for an outlet: from some distant island arrives a traveller, an alien, with passport, invitation and working permit - how it was done I would not like to say. My mouth is sealed, I do my utmost to follow the shoal in its turnabouts, less than half a minute has expired when my double exclaims: The wastefulness and inefficiency of it could make your hair stand on end! Back home we do things in a different way!
Good Lord: hear the innocent child.
A great stir through the shoal, and far away the remark: Where did I see that ugly face before?
-Oh, it's just my cousin, arrived from an extremely distant island this morning, ignore him, he is still suffering from time-lag.
-Ah, that accounts for it: an "extremely distant island". The ugly face is suffering from time-lag, ignore him.

That was a good, transparent joke, and nobody was taken in by it. It was a well-known fact that the extremely distant islands had moved into close proximity in recent years, and the shoals hung out there all the time. In addition the local labour force of these distant places was extremely well-integrated, deviant opinion was a rarity. Nor had even parents tended to look upon their own young as "innocents" in recent years; children were consumed and consuming, too. In other words: no one expected a utopian traveller to arrive from that quarter with a fresh perspective on existence, all of a sudden. As matters stood, the utopian smiley was ripe for an overhaul. There was nothing more to be said on the matter, not for the time being.

Published 27.1.09, language corrections 13.4.09.

  • Black Hole, Tendencies, chapter 2, still under construction
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