Tuesday, September 6, 2005

panopticon: a fictional journey from mayhem to mobocracy

the extreme

The riots drag on for days. Chaos with boundless energy. Ceaseless bedlam. "How do they do it?" one spectator asks, aghast. "Do they not need to sleep?" They must be rioting in shifts, with one group sleeping while the other continues the process of looting, murder, and rape. "Well, someone needs to tell them that they are behaving very badly!" No-one needs to be told that. "Look at that - they've begun turning on each other!" How quickly things change in the cold winds of lawlessness. When there are no rules, the extreme rules; either extreme goodwill - or extreme violence.

the innate

The talking heads tell us that the looting has become necessary. "The people are desperate,” they say, "and will do whatever it takes to feed themselves." We can only imagine how hard it must be to eat a television. And surely those DVDs will be more than a little tough to chew. “Would it not be more civil to develop an organised system for the recovery of edibles, and the dispersal of said provisions?” asks another. But is civility natural? Is civility innately human?

the desperation

And the word 'desperate' is thrown out at us again to explain the murder. When the going gets tough, the tough loot department stores, steal firearms, form tribes, and stalk through the streets facing off against other equally desperate tribes. The rape becomes little more than a footnote, almost never mentioned. Desperation can not justify that. Nothing can, so it is swept away.

the trans-for-mation

The spectators sit glued to their televisions, one hand clutching a cold beer, the other immersed in a bowl of Doritos, their teeth crunching away, their eyes wide. "Can you believe this? They've formed little safe areas where violence is not permitted!" Yes, even the most destructive needs a break from destruction. Pillaging is a most taxing sport. "Tribes are laying claim to whole neighbourhoods! Protecting them!" And no doubt, crafting rules, laws. Paranoia is a heavy load to bear; mutual fear, a powerful thing. From chaos comes order, and with order, the inevitable reversion of violent thug to average citizen. A seamless transformation. The victims? What victims? Nothing happened. When there are no laws, laws can not be broken. All are expected to move on. Make a full recovery.

the sigh

The riots drag on for days. Then the clouds break up a little, and the sun shines down, the light chasing away the dark. And all is quiet. The spectators sit back, exhausted, in their La-Z-Boy recliners, issuing a collective sigh. But wait, is that a sigh of relief? Of wonder? Of disappointment, surely. But is it disappointment in the actions of their fellow man, or is it disappointment in the anticlimactic ending of the spectacle just witnessed. Few spectators will ask this question of themselves.

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