The Savage Reservation
Refusing the Total System
‘Did you eat something that didn’t agree with you?’ asked Bernard.
The Savage nodded. ‘I ate civilisation.’
The Machine is like an exotic gemstone unveiled before us, laid out on a cloth of black velvet. At first we gasp, then we wonder. What is this miracle? Where did it come from? Who made it? It glisters in the daylight in ways which our best artists cannot capture. The Machine glisters and it makes promises.
I will save you, it says. And then: I will become you. Entwined, we will go forward together. We have always been together. You need me.
It is 2023. You can make a trip to the shops without talking to another human being but you cannot walk through a city without being filmed. You cannot walk on a beach without being filmed, for there are satellites now, so many satellites. You are never far from a screen, you cannot afford to be, and why would you want to? The screen gives. The screen has abolished time, distance, boredom, longing. Is anything you see on it real? But then, what is ‘reality’? Who decides? Do you find this notion oppressive, restricting? Then redefine it. Make anything real. Make everything new. The Machine can help you.
Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg.
Robot bodies will soon fight wars, robot brushes make art, robot minds write sentences like this one. Babies will emerge from artificial wombs, their mothers freed to work and consume and play in order that they may be fully liberated. ‘Mother’ is such a problematic word; like ‘home’, like ‘body’, like ‘God.’ Soon the farmers will be gone and the food will be made, not grown, and it will be boundless and formless, like your culture, like your very being. There is no form now. Everything is fluid, it flows and rolls on and through. The past is dead and at the same time was never real. There is nothing to tether you now. Only the Machine, which has broken all chains. Make yourself into what you want to be. The app is available to download.
All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny.
There are codes to scan in order to access things which only yesterday you never knew you needed. Soon you will need to scan the codes to do anything at all. Soon your children will be taught STEM by an AI and they will laugh at its jokes. The algorithm will know them better than you do. Soon a number will determine if you are on a list of the Good Ones. We all want to be Good for the Machine. The Machine has Lifted Millions Out Of Poverty. The Machine will help us to Save The Planet. The Machine makes all the good things universal: progress, kindness, openness, information. So much information.
The machine turns, turns and must keep on turning – for ever. It is death if its stands still. A thousand millions scrabbled the crust of the earth. The wheels began to turn. In a hundred and fifty years there were two thousand millions. Stop all the wheels. In a hundred and fifty weeks there are once more only a thousand millions; a thousand thousand men and women have starved to death.
There is no going back. But why would anybody want to?
Everybody’s happy now.
The Machine has saved us, and yet there is always more to be saved from. There are microplastics in your mother’s milk. Where did the snow go, and the stars? Why are the children so unhappy? What are those scars on their bodies? Perhaps they are markers that point towards Progress. There must always be more Progress.
A love of nature keeps no factories busy.
Imagine you are writing, with a pen, in the evening by a fire. Imagine the light of the fire. It moves in patterns across the ceiling. Perhaps it dances, perhaps it has something to tell you. Imagine the flow of ink onto page. You used to write teenage love letters like this. It’s a mess, like your heart. Every line is different, every letter. It is slow. Your wrist hurts. Can you scrub out that embarrassing sentence, or will she make it out? Do you need to start again?
Imagine you are typing on a keyboard, at a desk. Your words show up on a lit screen. The light does not dance, and every letter is the same. It is faster, this, more efficient. You can erase whole sentences with a keystroke. You can print it out so that it looks like a real book. There is no ink on your fingers. You can email her the finished version. It will not take days – you hope – for her to reply. If she emails you back, her writing will look exactly the same as yours. If she doesn’t, maybe you could WhatsApp her.
Imagine that you have forgotten the difference.
Imagine that you never knew it.
Old men in the bad old days used to renounce, retire, take to religion, spend their time reading, thinking – thinking!
Everything is so confusing. There is too much of everything now. Too much information, too many films, too many books and channels and people and brands of shampoo. What is happening? What is right and wrong? Who knows the truth and who is lying? Who is in charge here? Somebody must be in charge.
Now – such is progress – the old men work, the old men copulate, the old men have no time, no leisure from pleasure, not a moment to sit down and think.
Where are we going? What coin will the ferryman demand?
The Nine Years War, the great Economic Collapse. There was a choice between World Control and destruction. Between stability and ...
Sometimes when the evening comes, you stand outside in the twilight and it feels like everything is different, but you can never quite explain why. Is it in the air? Or is it in the way, now, that you taste it? When did it change? What changed, exactly? You could just be imagining it. Perhaps you are thinking too much. Perhaps you are tired.
Perhaps you’re just losing your mind.
Wheels must turn steadily, but cannot turn untended. There must be men to tend them, men as steady as the wheels upon their axles, sane men, obedient men, stable in contentment.
But doesn’t it feel as if, quite recently, everything has somehow … shifted?
‘I’m damned if I’ll go on being experimented with. Not for all the Controllers in the world. I shall go away tomorrow too.’
‘But where?’ the others asked in unison.
The Savage shrugged his shoulders. ‘Anywhere. I don’t care. So long as I can be alone.’