The River

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Joe Bageant:

A while back it was announced that a Japanese inventor had successfully created an invisibility cloak using a material made of thousands of tiny beads called "retro-reflectum." I found this so amazing that I told six friends, three men and three women, about it over the next two days. Not a one of them found it even interesting, much less amazing. Two of the men subsequently showed mild interest when I pointed out that it could be used to mask tanks and soldiers in combat, and one speculated on its terrorist implications. Our techno hyper-reality has so gutted and rewired the brains of Americans that ordinary intelligent people are not even capable of amazement at such a thing as invisibility! To me, this is an indication of a near-total death of the individual mind and imagination caused by our over-technologized, effects glutted sensory environment.

The pure miracle of invisibility is uninteresting unless it can be linked to, say the rumbling terror of an armored tank -- made perhaps even more attention-grabbing by squashing the bloody guts out of an Iraq under its tracks? It’s the sensory effect that matters, the simulacrum, not the reality. It’s the kind of thing about America that drives me to thoughts of emigration daily.

It drives me to thoughts on ...

What is America?

(Interior, office building, fluorescent ceiling lights, gray cubicles. Geo sits in cubicle in front of computer, lost in thought. On the blank Word document on the computer monitor in front of him appears the word “ring.” A second later, his cell phone rings.)


I’ve been looking for you Geo. Do you know who this is?



The South African blogger?


But….you were taken away during the Apartheid wars.

That is the official story, yes. But nevermind, Geo. You’re in trouble. I’ve been watching you Geo. I’ve been down this road before. I know exactly where it ends, and I know that’s not where you want to be.

But…what do I do?

Right now, dive into the empty cubicle across from you.


Do it. Now!

(Overhead shot: Geo lunges across the hallway between cubes. Crouching, phone jammed against side of head.)

What is this all about, Golby?

To save you, Geo, to save you from dull conversation with the coworker who is doubtless approaching your cube this very minute, cup of coffee in hand.

(Geo peeks out to see coworker, cup of coffee in hand, looking quizzically into his empty cube.)

How do you know all this?

Intuition, predictability of it all, lots of reading progressive sites, because I care.

That allows you to see my world?

Oh, the cowoker…lucky guess, Geo.

That is some intuition, especially from all the way over in South Africa. You are in South Africa, aren’t you?

I don’t know, Geo, am I? Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m both here and there. It’s this ability to imagine that connects me to you, Geo. It’s why I’ve called. There’s a question, Geo. It’s been haunting you. It jumps out at you in the lyrics of pop songs, in random signs on the roadway. You feel it like a splinter in your mind.

What is America?

Yes, Geo. The construct. I’m in it with you, you are in it with me. Everything is being narrowed to one bland product. Greg Brown nailed it: “there'll be one corporation selling one little box/it'll do what you want and tell you what you want and cost whatever you got.” It’s the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. America is the land that pumps it out, produces it like a 24/7 Superbowl halftime show, watches over it like a security camera in the sky.

The truth is, Golby, that I’m proud to be American.

Yass, you’re proud to be American, Geo, as I am to be South African. It’s what we are. It’s good and it’s natural. But there is a wider culture, Geo. There is a world to which you belong and for which you stand -- when you do finally, really stand -- as a representative. But the construct, Geo…are you sure you want me to continue?

What? Is this like the red pill question?

Exactly. The construct has you, Geo. You loosen its grip when you see a true blues artist perform at the Northside Tavern, you feel it drawing you in when you join the morning commute on the highway. You knock it down when you pen a strong post, you feel it rise when you express fear and helplessness.

But….why? How?

Ignorance, Geo. Acquiescence. But you’re different, Geo. A seeker. Are you sure you want me to continue? Do you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes?


Imagine Geo, just imagine it. Front page news. Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, all telling the American people that it was never Islamic fundamentalists, that their own government murdered 3,000 people on September 11 so that they could launch a global war – with you as one of the enemy. What, then, would happen? Mayhem, Geo. The control program would be irreparably broken.

Except it won’t happen. TV will never tell them. The revolution, Geo, will never be televised.

Ask yourself why the Patriot Act was conveniently ready and hustled into place while normal people were in shock. Why your leaders were so ready with the story line, immediately identifying hijackers (who are still alive) and masterminds who are on their payroll, uttering their “us and them” messages, wasting no time shoring up your shaky ground with a war footing. Is this a democracy, Geo? Were you consulted? I think not.

In a sense, Geo, you are already a prisoner of war, held in captivity through terror. As much as you can stand. Applied judiciously, continuously.


I’m sorry, Geo.

But…the mall, the happy music, the ads, TV, the pundits, magazines, Parade, The New York Times, big business, small business, the congress, The Constitution, laws, God, god….

No product will save you, Geo. But there is a way…

The blog?

Yes, Geo. The blog, for now. It all comes back to the blog, many a post does, anyway. And this one is no different. In one life, you’re a writer for a respectable telecommunications firm. In another you’re a blogger who goes by the alias “Geo” and who has broken every law they truly care about. Only one of these has a future.

But, the pay…there isn’t any.

I didn’t say this was going to be easy, Geo.

And this will save humanity from America?

Yours, Geo. Yours. But we are connected. I’m counting on you, Geo.

No pressure or anything…

I’m sorry, Geo. I know this is a lot to handle. Stay strong. Eat well, sleep well, love well. It’s the only way. Now that coworker should be coming back by in a minute. Get on with your day. Enjoy her presence. She may be unaware, but that’s not her fault. Keep it simple. Don’t judge. Share what you know in your heart. We’ll talk more later.


[reposted from May 13, 2004, and slightly revised]

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