Our Future Will Be Fiction: Allergic Reactions In the All-American Fruit Market / "Apple is our Columbus; Clear Channel, our Cortes; Nike, our Pizzaro; and we are the powerless royalty supporting the explorations."

I am opposed to progress. Not according to me, but according to Apple. I hear about a new iPod they're releasing and I wonder how much more can they consolidate into one small machine. Can you set your house alarm and unlock your car with it now? Does the back of it have a brillo-pad- like brush that cleans pots and un-scuffs leather shoes? Is it better than the one that came out a few months ago?

Questions like these arise while I step onto the subway. I sit down in a mixed crowd -- the eternal train car bookworms, whom appear to never get off. They just ride back and forth staring at a copy of "The Kite Runner" or "Eat, Pray, Love." A few comatose bystanders stare at a fixed point on the floor or at each other. Between them, scattered like land mines, is the entire evolutionary chart of iPod lineage. The new and neat Homo iPod-erectus is hanging from one girl's neck like a locket, while the larger, antiquated, Cro-magnon-iPod is peering from inside a jacket pocket that's just the right size. It reminds me of an oil black blazer I saw in a store window a few months ago, wrapped around a neon green hanger that said "Made for iPod."

These machines have the momentum of the Pied Piper. Suddenly, me scoffing to myself at their next of kin feels to me like scoffing at the belly of a pregnant woman at a baby shower. Rails are screaming, metal hot and bending on other metal. Everyone is listening to noise differently. To themselves. Everything to themselves. The headphones stumble with the bobbing heads but never fall out of time. It's the All-American fruit branded into a nearly All-American attitude. Above ground, I notice the red safety lights on top of the tallest buildings that let airplanes know they're there. Strange to think that in the emptiness of the sky, we need to make sure that our achievements don't collide.

Which iPod are you?
I had an iPod for a few months last year. It was a Christmas present that I got because I couldn't think of anything I wanted just for the sake of satisfying my Mom's need to convince herself it was Christmas by buying her 21-year-old son gifts with money that we didn't have. I didn't want it, but she was happy because I made it look like I did.

I turned it on a handful of times while I had it but handled it most when I couldn't plug the headphones into my ears well enough for them to stay. I never noticed anyone else having the same trouble and began to wonder if my ears were misshapen by factory standards. I had no purpose for it, that is, no desire to make the public space private, to listen to music or watch movies wherever I go. Some people don't want to hear about bachelor party plans, or babysitters negotiating with whining infants or thickly accented Jewish grandmothers moaning the name of their stop four stops early, over and over. For some reason I do. Sometimes it's healthy to step out of the carriage and remember the use of my feet.

I sold my iPod to an actor who played both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a small production in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. He pulled up on a motorcycle. I gave him the machine. He liked it. I had 300 dollars cash in my hand. Sorry, Mom.

Hold on. The New iPod Classic.
When most things are being made more convenient for you, they become so easy to manipulate that you think you have control of them. Through pixels and batteries, you can rotate your entire world with your fingertip. It hints at a future and a blindingly exciting present simultaneously. The future is now. You can hold TV shows, movies, the Internet and a cell phone in one hand. You can organize your schedule and set alarms ... but I should stop selling this product for them.

The lines that form whenever a new iPod comes out always amaze me. People stand behind one another, often times offering each other money to get within a block and a half of the store before it opens. They stand mostly still. They engage in a few conversations. They are passed by staring pedestrians. It makes the news. The door opens and they sprint, some trample, others push, a few grab. Cameramen record. Hundreds of people devolving into a single doorway so they can touch the latest sketch of our evolution. The first few hundred people pay three, four, five, six hundred dollars. Then they have one. And they're all simultaneously in the front, together.

A little video for everyone. The new iPod nano.
I met another North American in Peru, who told me I was full of shit because I half-jokingly predicted a United States full of visually impaired cancer patients 20 years from now, based on the trend of screens shrinking under curiosity like nesting dolls. The experts, I said, will call it a phenomenon, attribute it to something ubiquitous that will make sense and then the prescription drugs will roll out and so on and so forth. People will use magnifying glasses for their iPod the way they used to for newspaper crossword puzzles. Eventually a scientific study or New York Times investigative piece will determine that it was actually just an epidemic of small font. Health departments will declare all fonts below size 8 hazardous. The second and third rows on eye charts will be blown up to the size of the letter "E" so as to avoid a literal Great Depression among the more sensitivity impaired citizens (but that would mean a better market for the prescription drugs, so maybe no one would care).

iLife. A guided tour.
I read a novel recently that was set in the future and wondered why non-corporate renderings of the future always seem so scary. Why is there a difference between the clean plastic diorama of Apple's future galaxy and the one in my book. Maybe, in part, it's because "science fiction" doesn't seem as far away as it should -- like it did when I was a younger kid in the 1990s. Everything set in the future then was in 2012 or 2050, and was always prefaced with the phrase "the year." But now, 2012 is almost here, without any other preface than what's happening right now. And so these stories seem equally close. Multiple hybrid human species, automated everything, and a reality so bad that lives are taken and lost out of desperation for a key to any different reality. Maybe Apple has already simply recognized the latter and has perfectly patented the business of creating Vurts for people to plug into at their own convenience.

Which is why I'm worried that our future will not only be fiction, but erotic fiction -- where you submit your senses to the same white man who licks the tips of your most basic needs and desires one page at a time, one sentence at a time, one buzz word, one slogan, one catchphrase at a time. Eventually you're complicit in the fantasy because it feels fine, and never really guilty because of the trust between an author of perception and his customer. And he'll be even more convincing and will know exactly how to do it, because he'll already know what you like.

Without knowing, we'll live through an apocalyptic moment that goes as unnoticed as control in this man's advertisements. It'll be the moment when "human" will officially begin to think of itself as something more than a frail evolution that can only live within a 100 degree scale -- something more than breath that can be created, organs that can be manufactured, entire people that can be copied like keys. The outer layer of the sun is burning at 11,000 degrees. The winds of Jupiter reach 450 mph. There's also a giant red storm there that's been spinning for the last 400 years. None of them know you. We named Pisces and Orion and cataloged comets-- but what are their names for us? In this apocalyptic moment, as ordinary as every peach coming out of the laboratory, no one will think about how insignificant we will still be.

Make Your Next Discovery on a Mac.
Apple is our Columbus; Clear Channel, our Cortes; Nike, our Pizzaro; and we are the powerless royalty supporting the explorations. We commission their services and their ambitions, and we trust that they will guide us toward a future of their own fantastic conception. Good intentions. Progress. The New World. The Newer World. It was hip then and even more hip now. But feeling hesitant about what any of these explorers will do with these concepts puts me at odds with them, and by default, makes me seem against human nature for not wanting to participate. Yet every update, every "new generation," every other facet of everyday life that gets sucked into a single machine makes the world flatter and I can't help but worry that we're going to surf our way right off the edge of it just because we figured out how to get that far.

What great Cyrus, what great Darius, what great general-kings who chased the greed of empire until the mirage revealed itself as such
Soldiers, what soldiers, who followed them
And always, always, some lone voice, a counselor, a slave, a peasant, warning —
Do not follow your greed Cyrus, do not chase it Darius
Do not take the round world for granted
Do not eat a ring around the globe,
You will cut it in half
The Scythians await

The last time Columbus returned to Spain from the Caribbean, he was in chains, held as a criminal who had mismanaged the hopes of the crown and let his experiments in conquest grow beyond his control. He meant well.

A Spanish royal official named Bobadilla took his place as the authority figure on an island named Hispaniola.

Shop Now at the Apple Store for Education.
I don't want to. I am scared. I am scared. I am scared. Say it if you are. Say that you want out of this focus group that you did not sign up for. Please. We do not make this planet move but some people think we do, and I'm not sure that my 74.9 years in this body is enough to change their minds. Giving up on causes at 22 years old? Because people who talk like this and do it right now aren't as important to the important people, as the children who won't be raised to talk like this by the time I'm old. They don't teach revolution at summer camp, soccer camp, band camp, camp camp, nursing homes, or any other depository for responsibility that exists for parents who would rather go on a cruise than do their jobs.

Which leaves me with the other people like myself right now, maybe you, this generation, the "Me" generation. What are our means? I can't trust clipboards and signatures anymore because someone who matters to the important people (neither of which actually matter at all) needs to realize what the signatures mean. I'd hesitate to go to a protest with you because we'd be the only ones who hear us. A reminder that the public space exists as more than a routine obstacle course would be too crude for the businessman; too time consuming for the busy student; too real for headphones. Yet, no one can be called guilty of anything either. The businessman has to work, the student has to build a resume, and the headphones are simply doing their job of entertaining. There can't be anything wrong with just listening to music, right? But how can we be so individually busy that protest is taken for granted? That people who want to say there's something wrong are just conspiracy theorists, or crazy, until Anderson Cooper does a two hour CNN special report about whatever it is. Then it's true.

Some people tell me that this is all exaggeration, that I'm too pessimistic. Unrealistic. Unorganized. Wrong. But if I'm wrong, then I'm wrong like Huxley was wrong. Wrong like Jules Verne and "science fiction" are wrong. I don't like holding something and not being able to feel the life in it. Right now I can touch my face, my chest, my arms, and I know I'm alive. I can walk outside and breathe the air in, then back out, and feel the exchange taking place with the space around me. It moves through me. This is music. Where is this life in the future that I fear? Can life come from a lab or a factory? An outlet? All I can do to find answers is wait. Wait to see what happens to you, to me, to words like these, or more accurately, what we make of them.

If nothing else, save this story and not for my sake. Save it so that in the future, whomever's future it is, you will have something you can hold, something you can show your grandchildren or great-grandchildren to prove to them that there were others like you. -END-

{liberatormagazine.com exclusive feature}
by Khristopher Flack {The Liberator Magazine 8.1 #23, 2009}
{artwork by Colleen MacIsaac, The Liberator Magazine}

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