The Devil in New York

I like to think (it has to be!) Of a cybernetic ecology Where we are free of our labors And joined back to nature,

Returned to our mammal Brothers and sisters, And all watched over By machines of loving grace.  – Richard Brautigan

 

photo(3)As Bulgakov said in his opening line of Master and Margarita that Goethe said deep within Faust “…who are you then?”  The devil’s reply was not so much identified  himself – as by this time I think we all know it’d be Mr. Scratch himself since he’s supposed to smell like sulfur – but a declaration by the Mayor of Dis that he is master of many things, including contradictions to which he is comfortable living with these concurrent realities.  To Faust and Soviet readers of The Master and Margarita this was already well known that the world works – or doesn’t work – through contradictions.  Bulgakov’s world was one of certainty.  A huge structure was being built by the SOVIETS.  The world could be ordered, things named, night would follow day – if decreed by The Boss at Moscow.  Professor W. knew that there is no natural order created by humans, only a chaos where everything unintended and unexpected and supernatural may occur at any moment resulting in comedy (The “Shakespeare doesn’t kill off everybody”) or tragedy (the “Shakespeare kills off everybody”).   No single person, nor collective mind can really be in charge of this fantastic chaos.  We can use science to slice and dice yet at the end of both microscope and telescope we find the fantastic we can only explain as emitting from a “higher power.”  And those that sell the chimera of an irrefutable order, as the SOVIETS attempted, those are the real devils.

In those olden commie countries and days, people believed in the power of order in a way that seems hilarious to us more Enlightened folks.  The old Commies believed in rational systems replacing the weak minds of humans with a collective and orderly mind.  The Soviet system then worked hard to create rules, entire forests of procedures that would make the Park Slope Coop’s rule manifesto seem like a Seventh Day Adventist pamphlet managing every aspect of the unfree market.  To maintain this order, however, troops of workers, scores of specialists, a plentitude of presidiums snuck about the rules, falsified reports and studies, or just lied until they were blue in the face… either from lying, or being hung up from a lamp post with piano wire by one of Beria’s goons.    If ever you are feeling like you are emerging out of a great depressive state and wish for the comforts of oppressive lethargy, read Bitter Waters a memoir of a Soviet worker who reflected on a lifetime of pretending the system worked when all about them it was failing for various reasons.

photo(2)Today, we have a free market that shields us from having to create a parallel reality in which to live.  Our free market ™ is rational, untouched by petty human emotion, and the sum total of all human endeavor and intellect as not managed by any g/G/o/_/d/s/ess/es but by an ecosystem of the market itself.  It is a glorious revolution that has carried us here, and were Professor W. to come to Central Park and sit by Turtle Pond he would not be able to discuss Pilate with the poets nor challenge the guiding rational atheism of the chief of the writer’s union – as poets and union members cannot afford to sit next to Turtle Pond and those people who do stroll past know Professor W. by all his names, having sold their souls to him long ago to work as part of that power which eternally wills good and eternally works evil.  Unlike those old Soviets, we don’t care if the devil exists.  Or g/G/o/_/d/s/ess/es.  As long as s/h/e/it doesn’t raise taxes on corporations, our immortal demiG/g/od/s/ess/es of their own right, or alter our lifestyle, change our choices as a consumer, or impact facemoods ability to hijack our google.   Our machines will protect us and as Adam Curtis has said in his latest documentary, watch over us with loving grace.

Yet, there are contradictions about us.  We have 9 millions unemployed with benefits, and scores more under-employed (part time jobs no benefits or beneath the level of skill or training of the worker) or having given up on the job hunt altogether brining the number somewhere between 24 millions and 45 millions depending on what source you believe, how you count, if you make shit up, who paid for the study, or sundry other data modifiers or influencers.  Yet, the stock market has not collapsed.  “We have not seen the DOW hit 4000 nor roads littered with cars for lack of gas” one Doomer commented to which were added additional hand wringing at the lack of actual Cluster Fuck in our Cluster Fuck Nation as if our May 21, 2011 Rapture had somehow also bled into the Doomster crowd and now Trevor and Molly were really feeling the fool for buying so much silver and stocking up on MREs from survivalfoodtorotinyourstupidbombshelter.com.  TEOTWAWKI seems upon us with one tipping point after another from BP oil wells to Brand New Wars, yet another factory closes, and another company posts profit and we muddle along.  Floods and a loss of wheat and corn, no problem, huge fire burns half a state, ok, last flatware company in US closes for good, fine, I hated manual labor anyway.  Yet, like the non-rapture, the collapse doesn’t occur on time or is occurring on a time line so geologic or historic that it makes it a needless focus of conversation or concern for those of us over 30 who understand the maturity on the shitfuckstorm of peak everything is far beyond our expiration date.

photo(4) So, with certanty, we are told that our economy is coming back.  That the signs of growth in industry abound this great nation.  This was internet week in NYC as again again again we attempt a Silicon Alley (get it,haw haw) or Siliconsomethingorother.   This week was a celebration of the tubes that like us, are primarily full of shit.  As part of this week long homage to the interwebs, I obtained a ticket to a fundraiser gathering for what I thought was bloggers and online designer types.  A black tie even deep in the folds of Chelsea of whatever they’re calling Chelsea these days in one of those nightclubs from back in the late 90s that are now mostly abandoned by New Yorkers and smelled a little like B&T people in the corners.  The event was for a good cause and was well organized.  It was a fun night out.  Everyone dressed up.  There was free vodka.  I was told there’d be some of the crowd from Gawker and Salon and so forth.  There were balloons and cameras and both fake and real media and it oozed New York everything people hate us for.  There was also sense that I had stepped into a time warp, perhaps sent back in time by the Professor, the Master Woland in order to set something right or just to spite me.  In the crowd, each pressing throng even more Best Dressed than the last one, I found refuge by the bar and attempted to chat… that is, Network…. I soon discovered the entire event had been taken over by dotcom start up people.  What?!  What the fuck?!  Didn’t we do this shit just ten fucking years ago?  One after another were not just starting up with capital, but vast capital in a dotcom environment, dusting off Nerf guns and Rogaine® for Men bottles.   As our nation dips back into recession, or stagflation, or whatever your brand of study tells your brand of Spokesmodel, here I was again at the Center of the Universe as I had stood at countless vodka soaked launches, promos, and IPOs of so many dotcoms that had dotcome and dotgone.  Our system of contradictions has created a system where we still see the fads and quixotic adventures of capital shifting large sums of money as we see people experiencing not a total EOTWAWKI, but a personal and private one as their job at the flatware factory become a footnote on a blue plaque in front of what is now a Superfund site.

photoI turned to a gentleman in a silvery collared shirt who had fantastic hair and an attractive date or model or random girl trying to get her 11th free drink and asked him who he worked for.  “I don’t work for anyone,” he replied.  “Oh,” I said perhaps spilling my drink on the buxom girl trying to insert herself into my back and pass through me on her way to the Openbar.  “I founded an internet e- commerce portal. [laughs] I get paid to bull shit. I am a professional bull shit artist!”  As he laughed I pressed further, bloggers being more than underwear photo journalists I hoped.  Perhaps I’d make some content for my stupid blog and increase the hits….. “What kind of e-commerce?” I inquired.  “Ah… blah blah blah, vague reference, vague statement, unsupported statistic, unrealistic expectations.” He replied.  “Who are you then?” I asked.  “Do you have a card,” expecting a Helvetica raised font on chalk parchment to read “Professor W.” he replied that he had them in his brief case.  Wow.  The same bull shit idea for a product, the same “I get paid to bull shit” joke (heard 05/98, 07/98, 10/98,02/99 and 04/99) and the same reference to a briefcase that exists only because it is on the shelf at Staples and has not been bought yet to hold said imaginary cards.  This is the Dotcombubble ™ again with not even a new script.  Not even a new angle.  Cut and paste bubble economy.  Is this the most the rational free market can bring with all our Wonderkinder and Wondercomputerand?  “And do you have a card,” he challenged (the above words perhaps already being written across my forehead like the Times Square Zipper).

“Well….”  I took a sip and glanced at the ceiling, “I find that when you reach a certain age and income level you don’t need a business card.  If you want people or need them, they find you.”  I could see my Behemoth and the Quire master had arrived to save me from this conversation with this dotcom party Chairman of the Board.  “And you have my permission to use that line in the future,” I offered free of all copyrights, even Creative Commons constraints, and returned to enjoy the remainder of my contractions as well as my fifth Vodka and Tonic since, like the market, it was free.

‘Well now, that is interesting,’ said the professor, quaking with laughter. “Whatever I ask about – you haven’t got any!”

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