Monday, May 31, 2010

Spanner Cyberpunk Gothic Part 2: Corporations as Gods, Robbery as Vampirism

There's just 31 days remaining till JulNoWriMo begins, and the Spanner story ideas are getting wilder by the minute. In this post, I explained the Corporates' paranoia as the logical result of fanatical belief in an "occult physiology" that would strike anybody who knows anything about how the human body works as completely ludicrous, if not insane. Basically, the "bindu" cult claims that blood, semen, brains, money, gold, and oil are the same substance, not materially but spiritually. This belief, once widespread throughout America and imperial Europe, had some nasty political consequences, up to and including the Holocaust. Well, if blood, semen, and brains are (magically) the same in rich white men, then it follows logically that corporations are actually true posthuman beings whose blood consists (physically) of money and oil. Now, if money is the blood of an actual lifeform called a corporation, then to rob a corporation (such as a bank) is then by definition an act of vampirism. The "political horror" of Bad Company is based on such a notion, that the corporation is a parasitic alien lifeform; in Spanner, this becomes what I've come to call "cyberpunk gothic".

Here's how Shira's psychologist aunt, Dr. Willa Richter-Thomas, explains the situation during the dark years of the Corporate Empire:
  1. The human mind and human society have evolved to the point where what Julian Jaynes called the "bicameral mind", the preconscious stage of human evolution in which people unquestioningly obeyed the voices of gods, which is still found today in schizophrenics and religious fanatics.
  2. Somehow fearing extinction, these gods have extruded themselves from human consciousness, taking the form of corporate institutions: business corporations, governments, criminal gangs, and religious cults. These institutions possess the same absolute power of coercion that the ancient gods once did. Institutions have, quite literally, replaced the gods.
  3. Thus, institutions have evolved from humanity's disappearing bicameral consciousness into alien lifeforms characterized by distribution in multiple bodies. These bodies include humans whose minds have been hijacked through their right-brain Wernicke's and Broca's areas (i.e., their superegos), machines that act as "exobodies", and giant computer brains (either distributed or consolidated) that are increasingly replacing the collective minds of managerial bureaucracies.
  4. These beings intend to either enslave or replace humanity, and then conquer the universe. They are the Elder Gods in new material form.
  5. The most dangerous of these are the "assimilants", corporate entities whose purpose is to assimilate everything to themselves, from human minds to the entire universe. Fundamentalist religious cults are the most primitive assimilants; the state of the art consists of "bodyjackers" which obliterate their hosts' minds and turn the unfortunate victims' bodies into exobodies of the corporate mind.
Now let's assume that this new species of material god, at least those assembled into the all-powerful United Corporations cartel (the hated Corporate Empire), believe the same ideology as the Corporates who make up their priesthood. As everyone knows, most of the handwork that hasn't been outsourced to low-wage countries has been automated and is done by robots. The same process is making middle management obsolete by replacing brain workers with artificial intelligences known as "expert systems". The time will come when even upper management is automated, so that a corporation will no longer need human employees at all. That's when a corporation emerges as an independent entity. Human blood, brains, and semen are replaced by the silicon, gold, oil, and electricity of the new silicon-based lifeforms. As in The Matrix, humans become useful mainly as batteries and as "zombie" data processors in these entities' botnets. Money, of course, is the true blood of corporations. The "bindu" cultists are erroneously extrapolating conclusions about human physiology from the nature of corporations.

From this notion of corporate nature, you get startling conclusions. One important plotline in Spanner revolves around a series of heists. Our heroes are robbing mafias, cults, corporations, and the Corporate dictatorship. Remember what I said: money is the blood of these corporate entities. There are literal vampires in Spanner, the result of either heredity or infection. Vampires, of course, drink blood — or at least that's what the "sanguines" do. So what is a heist, then, but an act of vampirism against a corporate entity? The thief who steals money from corporations is the equivalent of the vampire who steals blood. That would also make the data thief comparable to the psychic vampire. The corporations themselves exist in a vampiric relationship toward their human hosts, as The Matrix illustrates most graphically. The rules of the Vampire: The Masquerade role-playing game define vampires who prey on other vampires as "diabolists"; thus hereditary vampires who rob corporations would be as much diabolists as Major Will Becket when he drinks the blood of evil vampires — and so would corporate raiders, which are also like serial killers who hunt other serial killers.

That leaves one final point about Spanner and the Corporate Empire. Spanner herself refuses to assassinate public figures, no matter how noxious. She would rather do whatever it takes to ruin their reputations so that their destruction cannot be deified as martyrdom. She knows that the new gods use these martyrs as power pills which strengthen their power over their human victims. Her own intended victims are corporations. She is a corporate assassin, a slayer of gods. We no longer need to pit valiant warriors against imaginary dragons and sea monsters, because real giant monsters exist. Forget those giant flying reptiles; for all we know, they went extinct with their cousins the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The new dragons are the corporations (in the broader sense of the original Latin word), giant monsters that actually exist and really are feeding on us, just like the fire-breathing reptiles of fairy tales and The Ring of the Nibelungs. And this new pantheon has an uncanny resemblance to the Elder Gods who terrified H.P. Lovecraft, one of which pops up later in the movie X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, Roger Corman's 1963 sci-fi horror take on Nietzsche's warning about staring into the abyss lest it stare back. Look for the true nature of these corporate entities, and you'll find they more resemble malevolent gods. What my idea of "political horror" means is that the gods have come back in the form of corporations in order to get revenge against humanity for rebelling against them.

Similarly, the Corporates' hysterical drive toward total class warfare is driven by the reborn gods' lust for revenge against humanity. Thus the importance of the deicidal corporate assassins. Even more important is that concept I took from Ayn Rand, the sanction of the victim, which in its most primal form means that when the last believer in a god dies or loses faith, that god ceases to exist. That, above all, is why Spanner is a catalyst hero, the hero as herald. She's trying to break the control of mind viruses and authoritarian institutions over people's minds. The fundamental revolutionary act is to stop following outside authorities, take back one's own power, and follow reason. The old gods and new mind viruses are willing to destroy the planet to keep this from happening on a mass scale. Spanner is a tale of revolution.

Now that you know the theory the corporations live by, how then does it apply to current affairs? Take the BP oil spill, for instance. The US government is powerless to stop it because it is totally dependent on Big Oil. That's because the American war machine is the world's largest consumer of oil. For the same reason, the US is compelled to wage war to control the Middle East's oil supply. Today's nation-states, to keep from getting dominated or, even worse, swallowed up by bigger states, must seek supremacy in oil. Since the theocratic absolute monarchies of the Middle East control the world's largest oil supply, the great powers have no choice but to wage war against Islam in order to steal all the Middle Eastern oil from the Islamic kingdoms. Oil is the blood of government, and therefore governments must wage war to control oil and keep it away from all the other governments. If today's Corporates don't believe in the "bindu" cult on the human level anymore, they certainly believe in it on the corporate and political level. It's exactly as insane as it sounds. For someone not embedded in the system, radicalism therefore becomes the rational response.

I hope this post and its predecessor suffice to explain the "gothic" element of my cyberpunk manga. Tomorrow, the index cards finally come out, and I'll finally start work on the definitive Spanner plot — one thing that's eluded me for almost 20 years...

Back to Spanner’s World...

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