The Analysis that Became a Rant or The Little Article that Could
It might have been the pot, it might have been the acid, or it might have been the mushrooms, but I remember at some point in my nebulous collection of psychedelic adventures, zombies finally made sense. I figured them out.
I don’t like the word “zombie” though. “Living dead” is getting better—it’s a nice oxymoron. “Walking dead” though… they got it right with that name.
See, “Zombie” is too abstract—it’s not connected with anything tangible, it’s just a funny sounding name that we associate with mindless, autonomic bodies brought back to life.
“Living dead” is better because it hits closer to home. We have deeper associations with the words “living” and “dead”—they mean more to us than “zombie” ever will. But, there’s something wrong with the name.
“Walking dead” on the other hand hits it out of the park. It just nails it. Why?
It does the same thing that “living dead” does—it anchors the name and the idea of the creature into something more tangible than “zombie”—but then “living dead” goes wrong with the “living” part, because we instinctually know that part of the name is a cheap gimmick.
It’s clever, for sure, but we know the zombies aren’t “living”. “Living” for us as humans is something natural. We associate it with “the lights being on”, with a “soul” in the body, maybe even a ghost in the shell (wink, wink). And so, we look at the dead body moving on its own, and we know that it’s not “dead” in the normal sense, but we also know it’s definitely not “living” in any sense.
But, “walking dead”, that name works. You don’t have to think about walking at all in order to do it. You can literally walk in your sleep, it’s so easy and mindless to do. Walking is just your body moving in a pre-programmed way and it literally takes no effort at all—just try thinking about how you actually walk, I’ll bet you don’t even know how walking works.
“Walking dead” implies something that’s just robotic, mechanical, thoughtless or instinctual. It basically calls zombies objects capable of moving (and eating, of course). There’s nothing there. The body moves, but it moves like silt moves in a riverbed, or how snow falls from tree limbs or rocks fall down slopes—there is no thought: it’s purely mechanical.
That term, “walking dead”, removes any sense of agency, animacy, life or consciousness from the zombies: they’re corpses that move; they’re objects that walk.
But, what does this mean symbolically?
What are the walking dead?
They’re mindless people-shaped objects that incessantly consume anything and everything around them.
They’re the hungry, unthinking corpses that stalk the few conscious survivors of the undeath plague in herds.
They’re the masses of thoughtless, mechanical animals made of rotting flesh and decayed nerves.
They’re the shambling costumer, the bottomless, indebted consumer, the TV mind-slaves; they’re the drones, the sellouts, the zealous recruiters of self-dissolution; they’re the frenzied finger-pointers, the inquisitors refusing to look in the mirror, the self-anointed priests of popular opinions.
They’re the walking dead: they’re programmed, they lack self-reflection, they lack the ability to judge their own actions or beliefs, and they lack an understanding of where they’re beliefs and behaviors even stemmed from—more importantly, they even lack a desire to understand.
This idea—this symbol—reflects so succinctly the collective behavior of “the masses”. It’s the idea of herds of people who lack self-reflection or any deeper level of consciousness (perhaps the lack consciousness altogether) and who act on basic instinct and primordial, emotional drives.
So what is the point of the zombie or zombie survival flick?
I began this article with a quote from one of the greatest unknown lyricists, Mark Lenover. Here’s a quote from one of the greatest known lyricists:
“Run desire, run, sexual being Run him like a blade to and through the heart No conscience, one motive Cater to the hollow”
“Screaming feed me, here Fill me up, again And temporarily pacify this hungering”
Maynard James Keenan & Billy Howerdel, “The Hollow”
The zombie narrative reflects humanity’s social reality in that a vast majority of the population is turned “off”—the lights aren’t on, no one’s home, some thoughtless machine is pulling levers behind the scenes—while a small minority of people are survivors.
Perhaps the plague, virus, disease, etc. is society itself—the pressure of millions of people-shaped objects wanting to turn you into one of them—wanting to consume you and degrade you to their mindless level. Perhaps it’s culture, or a specific kind of culture which infects people, or maybe it’s a natural symptom of a society.
So, what about the survivors? Who are they?
What do they represent?
They’re the people fighting to survive the thrall of society or culture—the people who fall prey and become another walking dead are those who give in to apathy, lethargy or self-destruction; or they fall prey to some trauma—physical, social or psychological; or they are overwhelmed by the herd and succumb to the swarming mob of people-shaped meat-objects.
And why do the walking dead wish to feast on other humans? Specifically, the flesh of humans who are still alive? Why are they unable to or have no desire to sustain themselves off dead or undead human flesh?
Because people have no desire to kill and consume other people who are already a part of the herd: we have no desire to transform people who are already transformed, and nothing can be gained from consuming what we already are.
The people who survive the gauntlet of society and culture become targets for zealous conformists and mindless consumers. People don’t “consume” products created by people similar to them, people from the same socio-economic class as them, or people from that they’ve conformed to/with—the people who create the things we consume aren’t like the pepole consuming their goods.
The people who remain original, the people who remain conscious, the people who remain alive and passionate: these are the people the masses wish to feast on.
The herds of walking dead feast on Disney, Walmart, Amazon and others—and while the living may still use these companies, they do not “feast” on them, they are not consumers in the same sense.
The “herd-minded” consumer consumes to blindly satiate an instinctual hunger; the living, thinking individuals understand their actions, and they “consume” to fulfill a conscious, understood necessity, or to aid in assisting some goal.
So there are two elements to this: a hatred of life—an anti-life (an unlife)—driving people-shaped objects to destroy life; and then there is an absolute desire to consume that life. It is a hunger or desire to obtain something, which results in the destruction of the desired thing.
And the emotional kicker to this all is the endless nihilism and suffering of hope.
Those who survive remain conscious, remain thinking, calculating, rationalizing agents—they remain alive—and yet their life is infinitely more difficult because of this. They remain alive and conscious only to be conscious for their own unending peril, pain and hardship. So why continue? Why go on?
Why go on—why struggle so hard against the smothering night and the bitter cold—when one can just let go, become a part of the herd?
Why struggle against something that seems so inevitable? Why wage an impossible war? Why stand against the ocean of mindless walkers?
What is it that is so important about life that people are capable of weathering the most violent storms in order to maintain life—to keep the fire lit, and to carry and pass the torch into the lightless chaos of tomorrow?
The possibility of something better and the hope for a cure: the hope for an end to the infinite dark.
This is what ever zombie narrative inevitably teases us with, and this is what life teases us with: what if, one day, we could end all this pain?
What if, one day, we could cure the walking dead, restore humanity and restore a society into one that loves life and living? What if we could cure the disease of anti-life and mindless consumption?
That’s what keeps us watching, and that’s what keeps the fire lit.
“And these words changing nothing as your body remains And there’s no room in this Hell, there’s no room in the next And our memories defeat us, and I’ll end this duress But does anyone notice? But does anyone care? And if I had the guts to put this to your head But does anything matter if you’re already dead? And should I be shocked now, by the last thing you said? Before I pull this trigger, your eyes vacant and stained And in saying you loved me made things harder, at best And these words changing nothing as your body remains And there’s no room in this Hell, there’s no room in the next But does anyone notice there’s a corpse in this bed?”
My Chemical Romance, “Early Sunsets Over Monroeville”
Conclusion: Episode/Issue #1 of The Walking Dead
A good story reflects reality.
A good symbol reflects a deeper, more complex truth about reality that a literal description cannot.
Zombies, living dead, walking dead: a society moving in herds, which no longer cares for life nor its continuation, and seeks its annihilation and assimilation through mindless consumption.
The Survivors: the ones who rage against the herds of people-shaped objects.
A good narrative speaks in a language of symbols, characters, events and associations.
In the first issue of The Walking Dead comic series and in the first episode of the show, the protagonist, Rick Grimes—a protector and upholder of law, and thereby a protector and upholder of culture and society—is shot and put into a coma. He wakes up in a hospital to find the world in shambles.
He is weak and barely alive. The previously orderly, clean and sensible world he lived in has become a ruined hellscape, devoid of life. He finds that society has been overrun by the Walking Dead, and then finds that a small number of people are still alive.
He then begins protecting these people, these individuals, and upholding life itself.
Rick himself “dies” and returns to life—he goes to the abyss, the place of chaos and darkness, common mythological trope—and returns to the “overworld” or the “normal” world.
Here, we can take a literal interpretation of the story: he wakes up after an actual zombie apocalypse.
Or, we can take a symbolic interpretation of the story: he wakes up to see the world for what it really is.
He wakes up and realizes his own weakness and vulnerability; he wakes up and realizes how important life and consciousness really are; he wakes up and devotes his life to protecting and leading people, not dictates of society.
Perhaps Rick didn’t wake up and see a transformed reality; perhaps Rick woke up transformed and saw reality.
“And if they get me and the sun goes down into the ground
“And if they get me take this spike to my heart and
“And if they get me and the sun goes down
“And if they get me take this spike and
“You put the spike in my heart”
My Chemical Romance, “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”
As a quick forewarning, some of this analysis and the things I talk about are pretty rapid-fire and probably should be elaborated or explained more, but I wanted to shorten many of the points here. If you want to learn more about some of these things, you can check it out for yourself, or reach out to me with any questions and whatnot.
Vampires need very little introduction, but here we go.
Vampires have become something that borders on memey at this point, but vampires as a Dawkinsian meme (the immaterial, “idea-gene” or evolving idea) have a long evolutionary history—starting with folklore, developing into the classic Dracula-vampire, and then finally committing a slow suicide with a glittery stake in the 2000’s and 2010’s.
Concepts of vampires or of things similar to vampires have appeared across cultures throughout history, beginning with ancient stories such as the Indian Vetalas and Pisaca; the Babylonian/Assyrian and Hebrew Lilitu and Lilith, respectively; and a slew of Greek monsters: the Empusae, Lamia, Stirges and Gello.
Many of these creatures, as well as other similar tales throughout the world, are not strictly “vampires”, but they bear similarities to the modern concept of the vampire (nocturnal, blood-sucking/flesh-eating, demonic, undead/undying, odd rules around their behaviors). These ancient creatures in particular may have given rise to the modern “Draculian” (yes, I just made up a new word) or Gothic Vampire.
Accounts of this more modern concept of a vampire arose from the Medieval Period to the 18th Century (the century where a widespread fear of vampires began to crystallize and bloom across Europe). There were Hebrew, Norse and British accounts of undead or vampiric entities, such as revenants and draugrs, and then in the 18th century, when European populations began using the term “vampire”, vampires became the object of hysteria.
Similar in many ways to the witch-hunts that spread across Europe and North America, the notion of vampires became an object of fear, paranoia, hate and morbid scholarship. The “18th-Century Vampire Controversy” was a generation-long marathon of grave-desecration, hysteric accusations, and the tail-end of pre-modern superstitious-hysteria (though, I’d say the underlying psychological/psychic structure persists to this day).
One interesting note here is that this Vampire scare flared parallel to the Age of Enlightenment, a tangent that I probably won’t bring up much beyond this, or will simply forget to bring up, but an interesting corollary to the analysis.
Why was it that both witch-hunts and vampire-scares coincided with progressive philosophic movements?
Why is it that such ancient, superstitious cleansing-hysterias emerged in tandem to socio-cultural and cognitive leaps forward?
Why have we, at such dramatic cultural turning points such as the 60’s, 80’s and 00’s, faced similar witch-hunts and vampire-hysterias?
And why do we now, in such a strange and tumultuous politico-cultural shift of contemporary history, do we seem to be face similar superstitious hysterias?
This 18th century vampire evolved into the Bram Stoker Dracula of 1897—another curious example of society/culture/media that roughly coincided with Nietzsche’s famous proclamation, “God is Dead”.
From out of the dying light of Romanticism, Dracula—named after Vlad III, Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula (I may talk about him more, I haven’t decided yet)—evolved through the 19th century into suave villains and anti-heroes (excluding Nosferatu, who was less-than-suave). After Bella Lugosi and pulp fiction, there came waves of comic book and genre-fiction renditions of vampires who all played as variations of the Gothic/Dracula vampire, peaking with thee ’92 Bram Stoker’s Dracula film before its new, contemporary variations (one might say the Post-Modern vampire).
And with this relatively brief but relatively whole history of vampires, I will examine the core psycho-symbolic meaningfulness of vampires.
I want to use this to analyze the modern depictions of vampires in an almost historic study of its evolution and bring this all in to a contemporary analysis of culture and society using this initial analysis, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that without a hyper-extended article.
So, I may do this in the future.
For this analysis, there are three crucial “modes” of the ancient, classical and post-classical/early modern vampire narrative I wish to examine:
Vampire as Feminine Demon
Vampire as Indifferent Entity
Vampire as Masculine Aristocrat
And, for those already jumping on this “controversial analysis”, this has nothing to do with value claims about actual gender/sex, rather the mytho-narrative symbolism of these fragmented archetypes. This is all aimed at a symbolic mythological analysis, not a material, cultural or philosophical analysis of sex or gender.
Analysis of Vampires
I’ll first roughly define each of these sub-archetypes and give a mythological/historic relation/foundation to each of them, then delve into each. As a fun little note here, these three archetypes I think may still be present, at least partially, in modern culture, arts and narrative, but it’s safe to say they’ve both splintered and evolved into more sub-archetypes.
The actual “psychological archetypes” (since we’ve already entered the realm of Jung here) are most certainly still alive and well in our culture, sleeping in tombs or ruling from dark castles.
First, we have to examine vampirism at its foundation. Vampirism, roughly speaking, relates to an undead, undying or demonic/infernal force that parasitizes “normal” humanity. Vampirism relates to death, but it also relates to undeath (either something dead returning to life, or something immortal) which preys upon life.
Vampirism more particular relates to either consuming flesh or blood, and so can be seen as siphoning a life force or siphoning “what makes us ‘us’” as a source of sustenance. Vampirism also relates to the nocturnal, which is what we cannot see, what lurks in “the dark”, or what comes out in times or places of “dark”.
Vampirism is often treated in a disease-like manner. It can either kill others, or it can be spread to others who then become new nodes of Vampirism.
Vampirism also relates to immortality, but usually is more specific to the ability to consume the “life force” of others in order to maintain or continue its own life.
This can be seen in a number of ways:
– Something which we suppress, either in our own selves or in our conception of reality / Something parasitic or destructive in ourselves which we actively decide not to acknowledge, or something external to us that we do not acknowledge.
– Something we regress to, or something that the state of society, state of nature or state of being regresses to in moments or periods of weakness or “death” / Some state of behavior or being that emerges as we as individuals or we as a collective revert into a less humane state of being.
– Some eternal and recurrent force, or some “undying” force—or an aging force that maintains itself beyond death—which preys upon, parasitizes or infects the contemporary culture or youthful population.
Now, for the promised controversial analysis.
Vampire as Feminine Demon refers to the “Lilithian” vampire—the darker elements of Hecatean feminine-mythology. Really, this archetype goes down to one of the deepest roots of mythology: the feminine archetype of Mother Nature. More particularly, this relates the negative aspect of the Mother Nature archetype: Nature as cruel consumer and destroyer, as opposed to Nature as loving creator and nurturer.
Examples in Modern Culture: Antichrist (I would argue); Blair Witch Project (also arguable); Jennifer’s Body (there aren’t many great examples, guys); A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (but not really); Let the Right One In (kinda)
Vampire as Indifferent Entity is sort of an off-shoot of the Lilithian vampire. Where the Lilithian vampire may be seen as the more divine (divine meaning “of-higher-being”, not necessarily in a positive or negative sense) conscious progenitor, source or monarch of vampirism, the Indifferent Entity is more like an amoral child or creation of the source-being. This Indifferent Entity is like an animal, a more unconscious being driven by instinct, and closer to an unthinking, mechanical object than a conscious, moral agent.
Examples in Modern Culture: Stakeland, 30 Days of Night, I Am Legend
Vampire as Masculine Aristocrat is closer to the more traditional conception of vampire. This is the Draculian vampire, ranging from Nosferatu to Dracula to Edward Cullen (brace yourselves, Twilight fans, it’s only just begun). The Masculine Aristocrat vampire relates to the patriarchal sense of masculine—the twin brother of Mother Nature—as the archetype of “Father Society”. Just as the Lilithian vampire represents the negative aspect of Mother Nature, the Draculian vampire represents a negative aspect of society—the manipulative, bureaucratic, parasitic aspect of society.
Examples in Modern Culture: Bram Stokers Dracula, the Underworld series, the Twilight series (Edward’s a pedophile, accept this fact)
The first analysis will be of the “Vampire as Feminine Demon”. And here, with feminine, I will repeat:
I do not mean the modern contextual meaning of “feminine as effeminate” or “feminine as female biological sex”, or even “feminine as cultural gender”. I mean “feminine as mythological ‘Mother-archetype’” and it has nothing to do with actual sex/gender. Thank you for your time.
With this, we look at the concept of a vampire as the Hebrew Lilith, which arose from the Babylonian Lilitu. Lilith has often been associated with Satan, and in some traditions, Lilith couples with Samael, who, in some ways, can be considered as an initial conception of Satan (Samael being “Ha-Satan”, the accuser, seducer and destroyer).
However, focusing more on Lilitu, Lilitu was a Babylonian “female night demon” who consumed the blood of infants for sustenance. A similar Hebrew demon, the estries, were nocturnal predators who consumed the blood of their victims for sustenance. And then we have the Greek Lamia and Stirges, which feasted on the blood of children and adults (Lamia more particularly on children).
This historic “Lilitu” meme generalizes to a nocturnal, blood-feasting predator, which often preys on children or infants. Here, I think one concept becomes blindingly clear: the negative Mother archetype.
The Mother archetype, as previously stated, is the archetype of Mother Nature, which is both protective, nurturant and procreative, but also cruel, preying and destructive. Mother Nature is that which creates life, and mother nature is that which consumes life. These Lilitu and Lilitu-esque demons are female entities which consume the life-force of individuals, and often the life-force of children (one could say that all individuals, youthful or mature, are children).
So, this ancient proto-vampire, the Lilithian vampire, is an aspect of Mother Nature. The Lilithian vampire might have been a personification of the fear of child mortality/morbidity—the fear of predators, the fear of disease, the fear of fatal injury, the fear of one’s child suddenly going missing when they’re out of sight (in the dark).
This fear could also be seen as a Mother’s fear of her own part to play in the potential destruction of their child. This might be reflective or symbolic of two things. The first, the mother’s own incompetence or the mother’s own malevolence. Perhaps the fear manifested here is that it is the Mother’s fault through their inadequacies that their child either dies or matures into an unsuccessful or even malignant individual.
The second might be an aspect of another negative aspect of the Mother archetype: the Oedipal Mother. This is the archetypal maternal force which is overbearing, overprotective, smothering, and even manipulative and parasitic.
The Oedipal Mother (archetypically speaking, though perhaps literally speaking) keeps their children, particularly their sons, from going out into the world and exploring. They keep their sons at home, where they fulfill the role of their father (sometimes only superficially, sometimes behaviorally, sometimes to a Freudian/Oedipal extreme). This relationship is manipulative, as the mother must coerce, or at the very least be an enabler, the child/son into remaining at home and fulfilling the role of the father, in exchange for continued protection and “nurturing”. The relationship is parasitic, as the mother essentially ruins the child’s life by smothering them, keeping them from maturing and keeping them from living a fulfilled, satisfying life in order to satisfy her own needs.
These are a bit of a stretch. They fit the “vampiric mold”, though it may be difficult to prove that Lilith/Lilitu and their corollary mythological monsters are in fact symbolic of this (but it’s still fun to think about).
The next part of the analysis is the “Vampire as Indifferent Entity”. This one, I will be honest, interests me the least, so I will be quick with this one. However, these happen to be the types of vampires in three of the only good vampire flics in the last couple decades (30 Days of Night, I Am Legend, Stakeland).
These are the animalistic, zombie-like vampires—the mindless, raving, depraved animals. Now, these might be represented at times as semi-autonomous people, or at the very least may outwardly appear as being normal humans, but are far more animalistically autonomous than they are moral agents.
And I think that’s the key here: these are parasitic entities without moral agency.
But, at the same time, it could be argued that a vampire, especially the traditional Draculian concept of a vampire, is without moral agency, since they have a sort of addictive “ball-and-chain”. They cannot escape their necessity to consume blood.
And so, we might look at this Indifferent Entity as being the baseline for vampirism, or the core mode of vampirism—a revelatory vision of vampirism beneath the faux aesthetic put on vampires. At the core of both feminine and masculine modes of vampirism, there is this mindless hunger—this animal instinct to feed.
Perhaps this vision of the Indifferent Entity is the masculine/feminine modes stripped of all external pretense and power—the animal without the divine/demonic powers or omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of nature; and the animal without the structures and powers afforded by culture and society.
It is a parasitic animal, and perhaps all animals, humans included, are these indifferent, parasitic entities, stripped of all aesthetic and power and pretense.
Finally, there is the “Vampire as Masculine Aristocrat”. This relates to, as previously mentioned, the Patriarchal Father archetype, and the negative Patriarchal archetype: the Tyrannical King. With the Father archetype, there are the positive elements or aspects: protection, order, meaningfulness, a place in society, tradition and so forth. But, there are also the negative aspects: tyranny, conformity, stagnation, immobile and unfair hierarchies, inability to adapt.
However, one aspect of the negative Patriarchal archetype I think is often overlooked is it’s parasitic and manipulative nature. Now, this might be because the elements of tyranny are often regarded in terms of brute force and reigns of fear. However, this is not a nuanced perspective on Tyranny. Some of the most disturbing aspects of tyranny are the manipulative and parasitic aspects of it.
Take for example bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are monolithic hyper-complexes of rules and regulations, filled with a five-dimensional labyrinth of legalities, jargon, hierarchies, departments, divisions, forms, contracts, signatures, waiting lists and so forth. Bureaucracies are unquestionable and impenetrable. Unless you know the infinite in’s and out’s of a bureaucracy, you are at their mercy, and you cannot battle them except on their own terms.
In order to overcome the labyrinth, you must first enter the labyrinth, and we have all committed and signed ourselves over to a bureaucracy from the moment we enter a society. From the moment we enroll in school, from the moment we become an active agent in the legal system, a rational agent in the economy, or a consumer, employee, car-owner, etc., we have entered the labyrinth of a pre-constructed bureaucracy. And at that point, you are subject to a multitude of fines, legal requirements, insurances, non-disclosures, liability forms and so on.
Perhaps this is Dracula’s castle.
And then, you are subject to the sway of society (I would recommend Camus’ The Stranger, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and the dystopian diad, 1984 and Brave New World in order to get a fuller scope of this).
You are under the sway of conformity, and the lure of advertisements, and the pull of envy and resentment and ego and uncertainty and the schizophrenia of modernity.
You are gaslit by everyone around you, your conceptions of reality are constantly questioned and attacked (which may be good in some circumstances), and you’re either with us or against us—with a multiplicity of reasons why (with a multitude of sub-labyrinths and Kafka-traps that trigger your determined “otherness-hood”)—and you’re an enemy because you’re not a patriot, or you’re an enemy because you are, or an enemy because you’re neutral, or you’re an enemy because you’re not, or you’re an enemy because you’re as independent and individualistic as possible, or you’re an enemy because you’re part of the herd—and then, on top of it, everyone finds every way they can to make you all of these things at once, and then in the end, who are you anyway? so just follow the herd, but be your own person, but be the person we want you to be, until we’re done with you.
And this is the psychosis of modernity, and this this is the charm and trap of Dracula.
You need a job. Go get one, and now you’re trapped.
You need an education. Go get one, and now you’re trapped.
You need to buy a thing. Go get one, and now you’re trapped.
And powers on all sides are trying to convince you of five things at once, and you succumb, and now you’re a warm, comatose body they can siphon blood off of.
And then—THEN—there is Dracula as the aging noble who seduces, entraps and parasitizes the youth (Dracula seducing the virgin into being his bride and prey). This is the key element of understanding the Draculian vampire.
The Dracula-vampire is an entity which is immortal, but it can only continue its immortality by drinking the blood of the youth.
It is a parasite which exists only to manipulate new generations in order to siphon their life-force from them. These are the decade and even centuries-old institutions which have been created by prior generations for their benefit. While these in some ways may offer some benefit for those entrapped (just as Dracula offers a home, a purpose and pleasure for his brides), the vast majority of the benefits go to the Draculian institutions.
These are colleges and student loans. These are Big Pharma and Big Oil. These are monolithic retail stores. These will soon be the monolithic social media and online retail stores. These are all the institutions created with benefits for the many and the small, but with tremendous and corrupted benefits for the few and the big.
And, no, I’m not a Marxist or a Socialist. No, no, no. But, fuck man. Some days.
A Sudden Stop and Conclusion
There’s so much more I wanted to discuss with this analysis, but the analysis is already long, and there’s so much more I have to say—so much more that I’m not sure I can comfortably articulate in a sane manner.
There may be a part 2 to this at some point, or another standalone article to discuss more of this article, but I do think that this is a good place to stop for now.
I want to say here that I think the analysis I’ve started has opened up a sort of psycho-symbolic-social-critique can of worms. These are complicated topics, and the three symbols I’ve dredged up from the concept of vampires are incredibly deep and complex symbols/ideas and parts of our society and widespread, cultural mythos.
Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of “begging the question” in this analysis, where I’ve mentioned a lot of things that want to be brought into a sort of practical moral conversation, but would be compounding cans of worms if I did right now.
So, I will say this here as well:
This isn’t intended necessarily to make any social or moral value claims, even though it kind of did make a few. It’s intended to analyze vampires as a symbol (and this was written somewhat manically over the course of a couple days, so cut me some slack). And it’s meant to be fun.
I think this is a strong though in parts somewhat shaky analysis of the core aspects of the vampire symbol:
The relationship of vampires or proto-vampiric-entities and the negative aspects of Nature
The animalistic vampirism present in life and nature as a mechanical, unconscious agent
The now-traditional aristocratic vampirism of social institutions
But these are each complex topics, and the implications to a broader moral and social conversation become even more complex [Xander is currently still realizing the deep end of the pool he dove into was actually the Ocean].
Do I think anything bad of Nature? No! Do I think anything bad of the occult? No! Do I think anything bad of women? Only a few.
Do I think anything bad about animals? No! Do I think anything bad about the masses? That’s a loaded question. Do I think anything bad about being an unconscious, mechanical agent in a moral system? Well, yes, I do, actually.
Do I think anything bad about older people/generations? Next question. Do I think anything bad about social institutions? That’s a complicated question. Do I want to burn down all institutions? No, but I do want change.
Do I think the world governments are secretly run by Alex-Jonesian psychic-pedophile-vampires? Maybe. The jury’s out.
But, this is all beside the point.
Here’s what vampires are. Here’s what I believe them to represent. Here’s a foundation for how we can begin discussing the symbolism of said vampires.
I didn’t get to drive a stake through Twilight’s heart, but goddamn, I wanted to.
Hopefully in the future I can work out these ideas a bit more, maybe give myself more time to organize my thoughts, but for now, I’ll have to put this bad boy back in its coffin. Next up, I will analyze Eraserhead, and I think this will be a much more sober analysis. Thank you for reading, and have a spooky October.
The Blair Witch Project, one of a number of the 90’s death throes, has become something of a meme. It’s a low-budget horror flic written by film students in the 90’s: it was filmed in 8 days, the entire script was improvised with almost no retakes, 80% of the movie is three people walking through the woods, and we never actually see the “villain” of the film (the mysterious Blair Witch). The Blair Witch Project has often been epitomized as the quintessential cheap, shitty, b-horror film. However, a less cynical and more appreciative mind might find this film to be quite enjoyable, and possibly even far more intelligent and intelligently created than it’s ever been given credit.
While I could spend this article exploring why The Blair Witch Project is an example of impressive cinematographic ingenuity on the part of its amateur cast and crew, and how it influenced countless films after its release, this has been discussed at length in the 21 years since Blair Witch’s release. What I’d rather talk about is the overlooked genius of the film that I doubt anyone has ever realized—possibly not even by the creators. The horror of The Blair Witch Project is being lost in the wilderness, stalked by unknown, unseen forces, with no map to help you return home—the genius of The Blair Witch Project is that this horror reflects one of the underlying horrors of modernity.
I was conceived and born smack-dab in the middle of the 90’s (~June 1995 – March 1996). The first birthday I remember was my third birthday, which would have been in 1999 (which would have been 3 months before The Blair Witch Project was released). I also remember my fourth birthday in March 2000, my fifth birthday in March 2001, and the collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001.
It would be over a decade before I realized the 9-11 attacks were precipitated in part by the military actions of the US during the decade I had been born. It would be almost another decade later before I would really appreciate that the events that had precipitated 9-11 were precipitated by a vast number of prior events, which had been precipitated by an even vaster number of prior events, which had been precipitated by a nearly infinite gulf of prior history, which all create a continuum of history that resulted in our current state of society and reality, along which 9-11 happened.
The 90’s were something like a pivot point, both culturally and historically. Long-held traditions were, for many, little more than a joke at this point. A sense of Nationalism had in large part been disintegrated in America and across the world—a phenomenon that seemed to have begun post-WW2 and, in America, after the death of JFK and the rise of Hippie, Punk and other underground movements.
By the time of the 90’s, so little was genuine anymore—if it ever had been. Everything was cartoons and sitcoms, everything was commercial breaks and advertisements, everything was playing pretend, ignoring foreign wars, ignoring drug epidemics, ignoring government and economic corruption. Or, conversely, everything was Rage Against the Machine, but there was only Rage and the Machine, and no Against: no action. Now, even Zach de la Rocha has sold out, with “the Machine” providing him a net worth of 30 million dollars, despite still “Raging” about the broken system to sold-out shows.
So few things by the 90’s were genuine—no genuine wars, no genuine political movements, no genuine arts—and the things that were “genuine”, like the Grunge movement, were, with some exception, hopelessly cynical. This was because the only things that could be genuine, other than, perhaps, science, were the cynical things that shed light on the disingenuous nature of contemporary humanity.
No one really knew who they were anymore. As individuals, and as a society—possibly even as a species. Then, in 2001, 9-11 happened. The world watched in quiet shock as the World Trade Center collapsed in the middle of New York City—the crown jewel of America—and we still don’t know what this event even means for us.
We’re still living in the post 9-11 era, still stumbling from the aftershocks of that massive quake. We can’t agree on whether or not the resulting war was justified or even worth the effort. We can’t agree on the motivations of the aggressors and their allies. We can’t even agree on whether or not our own government was involved in the attacks of 9-11.
And now, we live in a world that seems entirely disingenuous, beyond what it was before. With social media, with ideological tribalism, with all facets of information and sense-making from all angles coming into question and under attack, with the inability to agree on the facts and “facts” of reality, we can’t even agree on what reality is. Who among us even can tell what reality is anymore?
We can’t agree on a common narrative. We can’t agree on what our various narratives even mean or signify. We can’t agree on what is meaningful, what is moral, what is true—or even what it means for something to be true, or if it is even possible for something to be “true” (whatever “true” might mean).
We are living in a chaotic time, with existential threats standing all around us like specters at a deathbed, and we’ve lost all ability to even understand what is happening. We don’t know what is going on around us, we don’t know who we are, and we don’t know where we are.
And this brings us back to The Blair Witch Project.
Blair Witch was developed throughout the 90’s and released right at the end of the decade, in ’99.
The entire movie was filmed as if it was an amateur documentary—a mockumentary, or a pretend documentary. It depicts three individuals—Heather Donahue (Heather), Michael C. Williams (Mike), and Joshua Leonard (Josh)—going to the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland to investigate the legend of the Blair Witch. After interviewing a variety of townsfolk, the trio embarks into the woods north of the town, where the Blair Witch is said to live.
As a quick aside, the names of the three characters are actually the names of the real-life (“real-life”) actors who play these characters.
Intending to stay in the woods overnight and return to civilization the next day, the trio ends up getting lost in the woods. While lost in the woods, they find strange things, such as piles of stones in a small clearing and sculptures or perhaps totems made from branches and vines that are hanging in trees. At night, they hear strange sounds coming from the woods and are even attacked at one point while trying to sleep in their tent.
In the end, Josh goes missing, and then Heather and Mike find an abandoned house, where they presumably meet their demise (though their demise is not seen).
Throughout the movie, Heather relies on a map to guide them through the forest, though Mike does not trust Heather’s navigation skills, and Mike does not trust the map itself. However, Heather wakes up one morning to find that the map is missing. Josh blames Heather for losing the map, and Heather questions whether or not Josh or Mike took the map as a joke. We later find out that Mike actually took the map and essentially destroyed it, laughing as he tells Josh and Heather:
“…I kicked that fucking map into the creek yesterday. It was useless! I kicked that fucker into the creek!”
Heather and Josh are rightfully indignant, and the movie from this point on takes on a markedly nihilistic and dread-filled tone. At this point, they are lost in the forest, they are being stalked by unknown forces in an uncivilized pocket of nature, and they have no map to return home.
And this is both the central horror and the central theme of the story.
Blindly wandering through the wilderness, stalked by unknown, unknowable forces beyond our control, without any useful form of navigation.
Now, there is one more important aspect of the movie that must be brought to light here: the filming of the movie itself.
The entire film, as I mentioned earlier, is supposed to be shot as if it were a documentary, giving it a Gonzo style of film (meaning the one filming the movie is also an actor, and the fact that the film is being shot is an element of the film itself). The entire film is shot from cameras the characters/actors are holding, which is constantly made obvious or relevant by the character referencing or interacting with their film equipment.
While this is important, obviously, to the horror of the movie—giving the movie it’s “real” quality, where the horror is that the movie is supposed to a depiction of reality—it is even more important to the underlying themes of the movie.
The film we watch is not in fact reality, it is a representation of reality, and it is a filtered representation of reality. This is made explicit in the film when Josh tells Heather:
“I see why you like this video camera so much. […] It’s not quite reality. […] No, but it’s totally like a filtered reality, man. It’s like you can pretend everything’s not quite the way it is.”
Now, we can begin breaking down some of the major components of the film: the map, the wilderness, the camera and the witch.
The map that Heather uses is their symbolic representation of reality. The map is not reality, but it is a symbolic depiction of reality, signifying the geography of reality, that is used to navigate that reality.
That reality is the wilderness, and the wilderness is symbolic of the true nature of the world we exist in: the world in-and-of-itself, as it is outside of our representation. If you look at a cellphone, you see the cellphone as what your brain decides it is. The cellphone is an object—an incredibly complex object—designed, primarily (or at least initially) to communicate with other people who have an object that can communicate with your object. That is our “map” of the cellphone. However, a cellphone is also an object made out of plastic, metal, glass and other materials, arranged by humans in a specific pattern to achieve its desired outcome.
However, these components of a cellphone are things that are only signified by our words, which have an agreed upon definition. These material components are only known to us as they are (these materials as such) in an incomplete way through science, or through Empiricism. We can never completely understand, know, perceive, etc. these material components because we can only experience them as external stimuli that have been filtered through our knowledge structures and our personal, subjective experience (more complexly, through our neurological structures, but we won’t get into that).
The wilderness is this primary reality—the true, actual reality that we exist within, but that we can only partially experience and imperfectly represent.
And this brings us to the cameras used in the film. These cameras are our knowledge structures and our subjective experience. They are the lens, the filter, and the mechanism by which we perceive reality. The camera is both our neurological mechanism representing reality—our imperfect capabilities of perceiving the wilderness we live in—and it is the knowledge structure of our society—the camera literally being an invention of modern humans.
Finally, the Blair Witch her/itself. The Blair Witch is a bit more complicated. Mythologically, we can connect the Witch to the Occult, most commonly thought of as Pagan or Satanic practices (though “Satanic” is usually a reactionary description of witchcraft). More deeply, the Witch can be connected to Nature—a priestess of the wilderness. She is the invoker of Nature, of the Wild, of the ambivalence of reality—both one who can heal and one who can curse, one who invokes the growth and life of nature and the destruction and cruelty of nature, and one who lives outside the scope and structure of civilization.
If we combine these two—Nature, or the wilderness and the occult—we get a “clearer” picture of the Blair Witch. “Occult” actually means “hidden” or “secretive”—that which is esoteric, unknown or unknowable. “Occult” practices were not “Satanic” practices, as they are often represented, but in fact practices meant to invoke “hidden” forces or discover “secret” knowledge. But the Blair Witch is also an entity which lives in the depths of the wilderness, far removed from society, who exists within and as a part of the forces of the unknown that we fear and cannot understand.
She might in fact be a symbol of this wilderness—a personified representation or manifestation of the wilderness.
We never see the Blair Witch: she is in fact the Occult—the unseen, the elusive, the hidden, the unknown and unknowable. She cannot be represented by our cameras—our subjective experience and our cultural knowledge structures.
To summarize these:
The map is the representation of reality.
The wilderness is that reality (reality in and of itself).
The camera is the lens of knowledge structures and subjective experience we view reality through.
The Blair Witch is the personified embodiment of the wilderness, or the personified embodiment of that which cannot be truly seen or understood.
Now, to bring these together.
On the surface, The Blair Witch Project is about three film students attempting to investigate the Blair Witch, and end up getting lost in the wilderness after their map is destroyed. They are stalked and eventually killed (presumably, we don’t know actually know) by the very thing they are investigating, the Blair Witch.
However, if we take the deeper analysis of the various aspects of the film, The Blair Witch Project is about individuals attempting to understand and represent the wilderness of reality in and of itself. While exploring the depths of reality, they find that their representation of reality does not adequately describe the world they live in. Their representation of reality is destroyed, and the three try to escape the reality they no longer understand and return to a reality they do understand. However, they ultimately meet their demise by the forces of the unknown and unknowable.
This demise could represent a few things. The death of these three individuals might be the death of their knowledge structures. They perceived reality with their pre-created representation of it (their map), and this representation was destroyed. As they attempted to flee the wilderness of reality and the overwhelming horrors of existing in a reality they don’t understand, they inevitably were lost inside this wilderness and could not return to the society they once existed in. They themselves might not have died physically, but the framework they represented the world with collapsed, and so it was impossible now to escape the wilderness of reality.
Now, to bring this back to the actual state of society as it is now and as it was when this film was created, I’m going to tie in the postmodern philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, and his book, Simulacra and Simulation.
Now, postmodernism is a somewhat controversial collection of philosophies, and I myself have a few issues with some of the tenants of these philosophies, but they raise a number or important issues about humanity and the knowledge structures of humanity that are certainly worth discussing. These issues may even be at the core, or at least a portion of the core, of the current predicaments of society.
The central tensions of Postmodernism could be characterized as a criticism of our representation of reality—though there is admittedly quite a lot of nuance in the Postmodernist philosophies and one ought to simplify Postmodernism with caution. Since our beliefs and how we act within reality and society is determined by our representation of reality, Postmodernism is also a criticism of our beliefs and our actions.
Jean Baudrillard’s primary contention in Simulacra and Simulation follows this core concept of criticizing how we represent reality.
The first two paragraphs of Simulacra and Simulation go as follows:
“If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts – the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) – as the most beautiful allegory of simulation, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.
“Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – that engenders the territory, and if one must return to the fable, today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself.”
Now, in the text following this, Baudrillard immediately contradicts everything he just says, adding to the opacity of Baudrillard’s writing, and means that quoting Baudrillard and referencing his work can be a bit perilous, but this quote will do.
To simplify what Baudrillard is saying here, we have a socially/culturally “agreed-upon” representation of reality (the map), and the map represents what we believe to be reality (the territory). Now, as what we believe to be reality erodes (the territory), so too does our representation of reality (the map). What we are left with is the “The desert of the real itself”, which parallels the wilderness of Blair Witch.
Baudrillard goes on throughout his book to use his metaphor of the desert-territory-map to analyze and critique a number of things, including (put simply) the disingenuous state of “reality” as the map and territory—leaving the desert as a blank, ungraspable truth beneath the map and territory.
However, here I would say that the Blair Witch’s forest—the wilderness—is a better representation of “the real itself”. The “real” is not an empty, desolate void, but an incredibly complex and dense tangle of existence. The problem of contending with “the real” is not that it is an empty wasteland, but, quite the opposite, that it is an infinitely complex landscape of objects, information, perceptions, interpretations, morals and decisions.
While Baudrillard simplifies the reality that exists beneath, or perhaps outside, our representation of reality, Blair Witch shows us this reality for all of its infinite complexity.
Nonetheless, the parallel metaphors paired together give us, ironically, an accurate representation of our current state of being.
This is the state of reality we find ourselves in today—the state, you could say, that was in the process of either being created or destroyed by the time the 90’s rolled around.
Currently, we are all blindly stumbling through a wilderness. The territory we reside within is crumbling, and, with it, so too crumbles our map. We do not understand and cannot adequately represent reality, and so our actions are all either ignorant fumblings or self-destructive collapsings.
Blair Witch can be seen as a commentary on this state of reality.
There is a major ambiguity in Blair Witch that is important to explore here.
The trio seemed to be lost in the woods even before Mike “kicked that fucker into the creek”. Despite Heather reassuring Mike and Josh that she could read the map, and that she knew exactly where they were and where they were going, the three of them couldn’t find their way out of the woods, even while Heather possessed the map.
The three different characters each had their own beliefs as to why they were lost. Heather thought they were lost because they lost the map. Josh thought they were lost because he didn’t think Heather knew how to read the map. Mike thought they were lost because the map itself was inherently useless or flawed.
So, following the three different beliefs of the three different characters, we as a society might be in our current state of confusion for three different reasons:
– We’ve lost the map / Our representation of reality is accurate and decipherable, but it was destroyed
– We are incapable of deciphering the map / Our representation of reality is accurate, but it cannot be deciphered
– We never had an accurate map to begin with / Our representation of reality was never accurate to begin with, so, rather than attempt deciphering it, the map ought to be destroyed
Whose interpretation of the situation is correct?
These interpretations and the question of which one is correct can be transferred to our current state of society and our current relationship with reality.
Do we / Did we have an accurate map of reality, but our map is being destroyed, and this is how we arrived at where we now are?
This would be a nihilism aimed at the actions of fellow humans.
Is our map of reality accurate, but the map is impossible to decipher by us, and so we cannot agree on what the map depicts?
This would be a nihilism aimed at the ignorance of fellow humans.
Is our map actually inaccurate, and so any attempt at contending with reality using our representation is inevitably worthless?
This would be a nihilism aimed at the nature of humanity and the state of reality itself.
And lets look at how the characters of Blair Witch were “picked off” throughout the end of the movie, in the order that these events happened.
First, Josh went missing. His voice could still be heard in the wilderness, and Heather and Mike still tried to save him, but he couldn’t be found, and the search for Josh inevitably led to the demise of both Heather and Mike.
We didn’t lose faith in humanity’s ability to contend with reality, but we lost faith in our ability to comprehend reality.
Second, Heather finds Mike staring into the corner of the room. Mike went to the basement of reality, to the darkest pit of the witch’s lair (to the darkest pit of the unknown and unknowable), hoping that salvation was still possible even without a map, and succumbed to a motionless apathy.
We stopped believing that it was in fact possible to contend with reality.
Finally, Heather drops the camera she is holding (her entire subjective experience/knowledge structure falls) and the movie ends. Heather finds that she has lost both Josh and Mike to the Blair Witch, and, in her presumed demise, lets go of all attempts to perceive or even experience reality (self-destruction, possibly to the point of suicide).
We stopped believing in humanity itself.
2 years, 7 months and 20 days after The Blair Witch Project was released at the ’99 Sundance Film Festival, the whole world, my 5-year-old self included, watched the Twin Towers fall.
Almost 10 years after 9-11, we still can’t agree on why it happened, we still can’t agree what happened that day, we still can’t agree how we should have reacted to what happened, and we still can’t agree on the state of reality as it was and as it is now.
Who are our enemies? Who are our allies? Where are we? What is our civilization? Why are we where we are right now? What do we do? How do we do it? Why do we do it?
With our map destroyed, how do we move on?
With our faith in our knowledge, our perception, our structures and even our fellow humans crumbling in our hands, what do we do next?
The only thing I can say we do is salvage what we still have—which I would say is quite a lot more than what many people suspect—reinvigorate and reconstruct our knowledge structures and our social systems, and regain faith in humanity.
Perhaps it is good for portions of our structures and systems to be torn down, but, with them, there is much that ought not to be torn down, and in the wake of these structures’ collapse, there must be better, stronger, truer, more genuine structures that are erected.
We have to create better maps—maps that do accurately represent the reality we live in; we have to grow as people, as individuals—so that we can create these better maps, interpret these maps and act appropriately by these maps; and we have to maintain our faith in fellow humans—maintain faith that we can understand reality, that we can trust other people, and that there is a way out of the wilderness.
There is nothing else we can do, except stumble into our own self-destruction and be devoured by the wilderness manifested by our actions and our disintegrating humanity.
We can emerge from this wilderness alive.
The Blair Witch Project may go down as a b-movie horror flic that grossed an impressively large amount of money and inspired two decades of b-movie horror flics in its wake.
However, I think Blair Witch represents a deep aspect of the society it emerged from, and ought to be remembered as such.
Not only should it be remembered as a film that quite profoundly represents one of the many horrors of modernity, how it represents this ought to be remembered.
Someone who excels at their given craft can engineer beautiful, thought-provoking creations with that craft.
Someone who can take their craft to the next level can use the aspects of their creations, in-and-of-themselves, to communicate meaning.
With a writer like James Joyce, meaning is not only conveyed with the plot and characters, but meaning is also conveyed with sentence structure, paragraph placement and with language itself (rather than the meanings of specific words used in that language). With the abstract movements of modern art, the elements of art are broken down to their constituent elements (color, tone, form, shape, line, etc.), and these elements are the focus or the subject of the art, rather than the elements that create the focus or subject.
With film, David Lynch might be the most well-known example of someone who can make the elements of cinematography themselves to communicate meaning. It isn’t only that the camera angle helps the subject of the film communicate meaning, or that the words of the dialogue are all that is communicating meaning, or even that the events of the movie contribute only to the meaning derived from plot and character arc. All of these elements in a David Lynch film not only help the subjects of the film communicate meaning, but the elements themselves are meaningful and communicate meaning.
With The Blair Witch Project, while much of the meaning is communicated in what is being communicated through the subject of the film—three students lost in the woods, stalked by an unknown and unknowable force—meaning is also communicated in how the subject is depicted to us. It isn’t just the tribulations of three people trying to survive in and escape from the woods, it’s that we see these tribulations through the lenses of their perceptions and knowledge structures.
The documentary intended to investigate and depict the legend—the narrative or modern representation—of the Blair Witch devolves into the last record of three people’s lives. The representation of the film begins as an attempt at objectivity—investigative journalism or documentarianism—with this lens of modern society and civilization, but the documentary falls apart and gives way to fear, dread and hopelessness.
The lens of modernity gives way to the survival of humanity amidst the wilderness of reality.
Remember this movie not as a strange novelty that emerged at the tail end of the 20th century, but as a misunderstood representation of the historic pivoting we currently find ourselves stumbling through.
So many foreign worlds So relatively fucked So ready for us So ready for us The creature fear
This article takes off where I ended the last article on Neon Genesis Evangelion, beginning with an analysis of Episode 2. If you haven’t read the previous article, I recommend doing so, as much of the information—including a general description of my foundational framework for understanding NGE and an analysis of Episode 1—will pertain to what I discuss here.
This was previously intended to be the conclusion of the previous article, but ended up being ~4x as long as the first article, so I’ve split this article up into two parts (Part 2 and Part 3)
In this article, I will examine Episode 2 of NGE, then delve more deeply into the characters and their psychodynamic relationship to each other.
While these articles are not a comprehensive analysis of NGE, and it is not the only angle one can analyze the show from, they will provide a framework for understanding the show from a symbolic and psychodynamic perspective.
In addition, although the analysis in these articles are focused on the first two episodes of the series, there are some references to later episodes or information that isn’t revealed until later episodes (so, potential spoilers ahead…). I’ve tried to remove an major spoilers and as many references to later episodes as I could, this somewhat diminishes parts of the analysis, so I may publish a more comprehensive article in the future that includes these references.
Episode 2 begins right where Episode 1 left off, with Shinji piloting the Eva, about to confront the Angel, Sachiel.
Shinji is only able to take one step forward with the Eva before he falls forward and the Eva lands face down in the street. Shinji is unable to stand up as the Angel looms overhead.
The Angel picks up the limp Eva. After snapping the Eva’s forearm, a spear of light from the Angel’s hand begins thrusting into the Eva’s head. The spear finally penetrates the Eva’s skull, impaling the Eva through its right eye, and throws the Eva into a nearby building, profusely bleeding from its skull.
There is a brief moment of extreme panic, then we cut to a shot of Shinji waking up in a hospital bed, remarking that the ceiling above him is unfamiliar.
We will not see the conclusion of Shinji and Sachiel’s confrontation until the end of the episode.
As a small side note, this is brilliant storytelling on the part of Hideaki Anno. The rest of the episode, until this final conclusion, is a small marathon of exposition. This isn’t to say that it’s uninteresting, the middle of this episode provides a tremendous amount of relevant information, but we spend the entire episode at the edge of our seats, even though most of the events in between the beginning and end of the battle are filled with talking. This allows Hideaki to begin deeply informing the viewers on the peripheral information regarding the larger plot/story, lore and world of NGE.
First after this cliffhanger are a series of small scenes bouncing back and forth between Misato and Ritsuko at the aftermath of the battle and Gendo, Shinji’s father, attending a highly secretive meeting between members of an organization known as Seele.
While the shots with Misato and Ritsuko in the city provide only minor exposition, the shots of Gendo reveal far deeper information regarding the show. Primarily, we are shown that NERV is actually under the authority of this organization known as Seele, and the Instrumentality Project is first mentioned here.
The Instrumentality Project will remain a growing mystery for much of the show, but what is important about Instrumentality for the analysis is that it involves the themes of individualism vs. collectivism and of our difficulties in connecting with other humans—our fear of vulnerability and pain in social interaction.
Much of the rest of the episode is focused on Shinji being let out from the hospital, and Misato taking him home with her after he discovers Shinji will otherwise have to live alone.
Here, we are more thoroughly introduced to the dysfunctional, erratic and ambivalent Misato, but alongside this, we are shown the more compassionate, kind and hopeful aspects of Misato’s character.
First, Misato takes Shinji to a store to buy cheap microwavable food for them, claiming they are going to have a party. Then, Misato takes Shinji to a hill overlooking Tokyo-3, where Shinji watches the city buildings rise from the ground. Misato explains that the entire city was designed as a fortress guarding against the Angels, and tells Shinji that this was the city he saved.
Shinji is then brought to Misato’s apartment and is somewhat repulsed by the sight of empty beer cans and bottles of booze, trash littering the apartment, unopened boxes of Misato’s belongings and a refrigerator full of alcohol.
The two have dinner together, with Misato quickly becoming raucously drunk, berating Shinji for not eating the food right away, then quickly changing her mood, mentioning that it’s nice, the two of them being alone with each other. We are shown many shots in these scenes of Misato’s butt and bouncing boobies (the fanservice is real in NGE), with Shinji shrinking in fear and embarrassment with the small storm of mixed signals, including lines from Misato like, “take advantage of anything… except me…”
When Shinji continuously agrees to everything she says, Misato gets mad at him for constantly agreeing to everything, telling him to act more like a man. She reaches across the table, on all fours like an animal, and grabs him by the hair, shaking his head. Shinji agrees to her violent demand, and she happily relents, saying that that’s just the way he is.
Here, we are shown a short, semi-distant shot of Misato and Shinji at the dinner table that I found to be slightly genius. Misato is on the left, Shinji is on the right. Misato is obscured by a dark and blurry leafy plant in the foreground. The color of the plants roughly matches the color of Misato’s hair, and the posture of the leaves roughly matches the posture of Misato. I will discuss this more later.
Shinji goes to take a bath, which Misato tells him will cleanse his mind and soul. We are then shown Shinji, completely undressed, staring up at Misato’s bras and underwear hanging from the ceiling, as he is about to take a bath. He opens the door, and meets Pen-Pen, a warmwater penguin. Shinji freaks out and runs back to Misato, and Misato calmly tells Shinji about Pen-Pen, their other roommate.
I won’t discuss this much in the later analysis, but I think Pen-Pen here might be symbolic of Shinji’s own “Pen-Pen”. Shinji is naked, staring at Misato’s bras and panties, then opens the door to the bathroom to discover Pen-Pen. This might be Shinji getting aroused at the sight of Misato’s intimates and Shinji freaking out at the sight of his arousal. In the next shot, when Shinji goes to Misato, still completely naked, we are not shown Shinji’s “Pen-Pen”, but our attention is comically drawn to it by clever censorship.
Though this detail likely isn’t majorly relevant to the story or analysis, there is one other interesting detail here. Pen-Pen (the penguin Pen-Pen) has roughly the same eye color as Eva Unit 01
Shinji takes a bath, then we are taken to Gendo and Ritsuko in NERV headquarters, examining Unit 00 (Rei’s Eva). Here, we see Gendo’s coldness as discusses the pilots of the Eva’s. He seems to have little to no regard for them as anything but tools for his plans, except for Rei (for reasons). In addition, Ritsuko’s behavior seems different when alone with Gendo as opposed to when she is with others.
Then, we are taken back to Shinji, who is now laying in bed, listening to music, and staring at the ceiling. Shinji remarks that this is another unfamiliar ceiling, harkening back to when he first woke up in the hospital.
We hear the sound of footsteps approaching—the Angel’s footsteps—as Shinji continues staring at the ceiling.
Suddenly, we are back in the fight from the beginning of the episode. The Angel’s spear pierces and impales the Eva’s head. The Eva is thrown back against the building. Blood explodes from its head.
The Eva is unresponsive. They cannot eject the entry plug containing Shinji from the Eva. Shinji is losing his mind inside the Eva.
Then, the Eva reawakens and enters “Berserker Mode”. The Eva’s mouth opens. It roars and charges the Angel, leaping at it and attacking it. The Angel and the Eva begin battling, with Gendo’s second in-command commenting, “It looks like we’ve won.”
Unit 01 tears through the Angel’s Absolute Terror Field (or AT Field), using its hands to pry apart the energy field surrounding the Angel.
The Angel attacks the Eva back with a cross-shaped explosion, but this does almost nothing to the Eva. The Eva grabs the Angel’s arms and snaps them, then pins the Angel down and tears its chest open.
The Eva begins slamming its hands into the red sphere in the Angel’s chest, beginning to break the sphere, but the Angel wraps itself around the Eva and self-destructs, causing a massive explosion.
However, the Eva emerges from the explosion, unharmed.
The episode ends back with Shinji lying in bed, his eyes wide open and his back to the door. Misato opens the door, telling him how good Shinji did, and that he should be proud of himself. Shijni does not respond. Misato tells him to hang in there, then closes the door. Shinji is still wide awake, traumatized by what he just lived through.
Breakdown of Episode 2
The major event of Episode 2 is obviously the conclusion to Shinji’s first confrontation with the Angels. However, there are other details I’d like to cover first.
Gendo is symbolic of the Super-Ego—the Super-Ego being the forces of society acting on your psyche. Mythologically, the King or Father God is representative of society, social order and culture (though, of course, the Father Gods of various mythologies have their own individual complexities).
Someone’s parents are theorized to be the first source of the Super-Ego, though Freud put the Father Figure as the primary influence on the developing Super-Ego. Then the child is exposed to broader society where their idea of the Super-Ego is expanded.
The Seele Council can be seen as this broader Super-Ego. They are like a Meta-Super-Ego. Our first experiences with the rules, standards and norms of society come from our parents, other family members and any other family friends we may come in contact with in the beginnings of our development.
Then, we come in contact with teachers, coaches, other kids and their parents, and so forth. We meet more and more people out in public, then eventually we learn more about policing, government officials, politicians, the military, and then other countries and their forms of authority, leadership and cultural norms.
The more forms of authority, social expectations and laws we come in contact with or learn about, the more complex and nuanced our Super-Ego becomes. As this sense of the Super-Ego grows, we begin to understand broader patterns in authorities or in social norms that can be simplified into more universal patterns with different levels of variation.
This is what Seele is. They are the meta-authorities—distillations of patterns of authority and cultural norms—which bear down on us and must be appeased. They are the rulers of the rulers of the rulers. Seele can be seen as representing not the literal rulers of the rulers of the rulers, but as the ideas, which govern the world leaders, who govern our society, who govern our parents, who govern us (until we learn to govern ourselves).
To further cement this idea, we never physically see the members of Seele—we only see either holograms or the floating monoliths representing them.
Their hidden agenda is the Instrumentality project. In the finale of the original series, End of Evangelion, the Instrumentality project essentially poses a question to Shinji: Do I remain an individual consciousness, isolated, lonely, paranoid and afraid? Or do I tear down all the boundaries between myself and others (an insanely violent process in EoE), so that there is no individuality, but there is also no pain, suffering, loneliness or fear after these boundaries are torn down?
Next, Misato (translated to “beauty”, “beautiful home/village” or “beautiful knowledge”).
In this episode, Misato’s character and relationship to Shinji is particularly fleshed out. We see the more erratic, childish and hedonic side of her personality, and we see her compassion and care towards Shinji.
Why did Misato choose to take Shinji in? One theory is that Misato has no children of her own, and, as shown later in the show, has a complicated history with sex, romance and paternity. Perhaps these are her maternal instincts kicking in? On the other side of the relationship, Shinji’s mother has been dead for most of his life, so Misato may be filling the Maternal role Shinji never had.
Misato’s behavior is also highly familiar with Shinji, in the sense that she acts unprofessionally, at times rudely and definitely very bluntly with Shinji—much how we act with our own families. Misato doesn’t treat Shinji like someone else’s child, she treats Shinji like her own child, or at least like a little brother (her sexual remarks, however, make this a little creepy).
Ritsuko may be the flip side of being Shinji’s mother, as many mothers have jobs. When we see our mothers at their place of work, it’s a much different experience. They have to act more professionally, they still have to perform their duties, and they have to maintain workplace relationships, which are different from our personal relationships with parents.
Nonetheless, they are still our parents, even at their place of work, which in part may be why we see Misato and Ritsuko working together. The two of them are the distillation of the different “modes” of Shinji’s concept of his Mother—or different modes of the concept/symbol “Mother” and/or “Woman”.
To add onto this, Rei could be the distillation or compartmentalization of Shinji’s understanding of women as his source of sexual attraction. Connecting Rei to Shinji’s mother would be a 100% spoiler, and would incite the ever-controversial Freudian Oedipal Complex, but, nonetheless, an argument can be made that Rei is the ultimate personification of Shinji’s concept of “female”, “woman” or “sexual other” (which I will discuss later).
However, Misato seems to be more than this. The scene with the plants in the foreground indicates Misato as being another meta-symbol similar to Gendo and Seele.
Throughout mythology, Nature has typically been represented as feminine—Mother Nature. In the semi-distant shot of Misato and Shinji at the dinner table, mentioned previously, the blurry, dark plants in the foreground seem to almost blend into Misato or envelop her. At this same moment, Shinji is dealing with a series of mixed signals and conflicting emotions from Misato.
This can represent multiple things.
This can be showing the mystery of the opposite gender: the difficulty men and women have at understanding each other, the miscommunications that arise either from differences in our psychology, our mode of communication, or in the added sense vulnerability we feel around those we are sexually attracted to. This can also be showing the mystery of nature and reality; the infinite oceans of information that we will never fully grasp or correlate.
Mother Nature is just as ambivalent as Misato. In Erich Neumann and others’ analysis of the “Great Mother” (essentially synonymous to “Mother Nature”), the meta-archetype of Mother is simultaneously protective, nurturing and compassionate, and cruel, violent and indifferent.
Misato protected Shinji from the Angel, but then drove him to NERV so that he could risk his life fighting the Angel. Misato takes Shinji home to give him food, shelter and companionship, but then repeatedly berates and belittles him, as well as give him the majority of chores at the apartment. Misato is a source of comfort and love—telling Shinji how well he did piloting the Eva—but is also a source of pain and fear—being the one who makes Shinji pilot the Eva.
And now, the inevitable end.
At its simplest, the confrontation between Angel and Eva is the confrontation with the Ego—Shinji, the Protagonist—with one’s fears.
The Eva as a suit of armor is a projection of the inner Self, but it is also the combative persona we wear in order to confront that which threatens us. They are both our defense mechanisms and our weapons of attack. However, the Eva’s are also an armor and weapon constructed for the pilots by society and culture.
As I mentioned before, the Angels are what I would call “hyper-individuals”, that is, they are autonomous entities with enormous, self-contained power, which can overpower the combined forces of an entire city’s military defenses. They are many, many times stronger than the forces of society—the thousands of faceless soldiers in tanks and helicopters—attempting to stop them.
The fact the Angels are trying to penetrate into NERV means they represent psychodynamic manifestations of physical challenges, of our emotions, or of other people. They are the things we fear the most entering our most sacred and vulnerable parts of our psyche.
This is mirrored by the Absolute Terror Field, which is like a shield we put up in order to keep others out.
Just as the Angel’s attempt to penetrate NERV, the Eva’s must penetrate the Angel’s Absolute Terror Field.
As the character Kowaru explained in one of the last episodes of the show (very mild spoilers):
“This is the light of my soul. A sacred territory in which no one may intrude. Aren’t you Lilin even aware that your AT field is merely that wall that encloses every mind that exists?”
This battle is essentially over once Unit 01 enters Berserk Mode. Berserk Mode would be akin to getting pushed to the absolute edge of your emotional tolerance or wherewithal. There is no control. There is no holding back. There is no mercy.
The Eva then tears open the Angel’s AT Field with is hands, using its own AT Field to “corrode” the Angel’s.
Perhaps Berserk Mode is a manifestation of the Will to Life, or the Will to Power. Perhaps this is the Eva’s desire to survive overwhelming the Angel’s desire to survive. In the end, once the Eva has thoroughly overpowered the Angel, the Angel self-destructs. Its self-preservation goes out the window, and it decides to attempt annihilating the Eva at the cost of its own life.
Perhaps this is a contemplation of suicide? Or the destruction of a part of our psyche? The attempt at killing the Angel is nonetheless an attempt at annihilating our fears or the projection of our fears.
While the Angels are Hyper-Individuals capable of laying waste to thousands if not millions of individual humans, the Eva’s also are these Hyper-Individuals, which are in many ways just like Angels, except that they are created by humans.
This final confrontation is about an Individual nested within Society—Shinji as our Ego’s stand-in—becoming a Hyper-Individual in order to confront their greatest fears and overcome humanity’s greatest obstacles. Shinji dons the living armor, weapon and tool that is the Eva, and, for fleeting moments, we witness the power of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch before Shinji returns to normal.
This is the potential within us all, the potential of being so much more than ourselves—of becoming like Gods. Humans must become like Monsters to defeat Monsters, but Humans must become like God to defeat Gods.
Gendo acts as the Super-Ego—the Father or God the Father, symbolic of society, law, authority and culture.
However, it is how Gendo (the Super-Ego) treats Shinji that expresses Hideaki’s ideas on the Super-Ego or on Society/Culture.
Gendo is callous and cold. Gendo doesn’t seem to care about Shinji whatsoever. For Gendo, the only reason to keep Shinji around is so he can pilot the Eva, and Gendo is ready to discard anyone not performing their “function” at the drop of a hat.
Society seems ready to discard anyone at the drop of a hat. Anyone who doesn’t play their part in society might as well be a non-entity. In today’s society, fortunately, there are many roles one can play, many professions or occupations one can have, that allow one to remain a part of and flourish within society. Nonetheless, there is little to no compassion or care for someone who cannot uphold their duties.
Is this fair?
Yes and no.
To a certain degree, this dehumanizes us. We become cogs, we become stats, we become numbers and functions. We are barely human amidst the grand mechanisms of economy, geo-politics, species survival, innovation and technology, and so forth.
However, what are we anyway if we are not fulfilling our duty to society? What are we if we do nothing and expect everything? What are we if we give nothing to the world around us, and yet expect the world to accept us, to love us, to need us?
We’re alone. We’re unnecessary. We’re useless.
Unless we live in the woods, own a self-sustaining farm or live some other self-contained, isolated lifestyle, why should anyone care about us if we don’t give them a reason to care about us?
This is Shinji’s emotional turmoil when Gendo, Ritsuko and Misato ask Shinji to pilot the Eva. It doesn’t seem fair that the only reason his Father should want him is to pilot Unit 01. It doesn’t seem fair that everyone should turn their backs on us simply because we’re not the person they want us to be. It doesn’t seem fair that we should be discarded because we don’t play our part.
This leads to one of Shinji’s most insufferable but relatable moments.
He is given the potential to perform the most important, honorable and prestigious task in all of humanity—piloting Eva Unit 01 in order to confront the Angels. However, he turns this down because it isn’t fair that he should only be loved if he attempts this horrifying, impossible task. Shouldn’t one be needed simply for the sake of their existence and nothing else?
So, when Shinji refuses, everyone turns their back on Shinji, and Shinji affirms, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, that no one actually needed him after all.
What a bratty, selfish and disingenuous thing to say. Shinji was given every opportunity to pilot the Eva—to be the person everyone on the planet needed him to be. And when he refused this, he bitterly affirms that no one actually needed him. But why should anyone expect to be needed if they don’t do the things society needs them to do?
This of course is completely understandable. Though many argue that our Capitalist, Free-Market, Democratic society dehumanizes us, the dehumanization by society has likely been prevalent since the first community of humans that exceeded Dunbar’s Number (the maximum number of stable social relationships one can maintain).
As painful as this can be, and as harsh as this reality is, why should anyone need you simply for the sake of your existence? What is your existence anyway if you can’t benefit yourself, your family, your friends, your community and so forth? What is your existence if you can’t make the world a better place for those around you?
Gendo is the manifestation—the idea made flesh—of this. Gendo (law, culture, society) provides protection, provides productive roles in society and provides identities for those under him, but Gendo is also tyrannical, harsh and dehumanizing.
Ritsuko’s character is not fleshed out for a while in this show, or, at least, is fleshed out rather slowly.
However, Ritsuko should be seen as both a manifestation of Shinji’s psyche and anima, and a manifestation of Shinji’s conception of “woman”.
Ritsuko is the left-brainism to Misato’s right-brainism. She is analytical, she is poised and professional, and she is socially disconnected.
Ritsuko is not sexualized to the degree Misato is, and she is at times more threatening and imposing than Misato is. Where Misato is Shinji’s conception of “Woman” on a sexual, outgoing, extroverted level, Ritsuko may be the more threatening and superior conception of “Woman”.
Where Misato is mysterious to Shinji simply because of who she is and her erratic behavior, Ritsuko is mysterious because we don’t see much of her behavior. We don’t see many outbursts of emotion from Ritsuko, we don’t get to hear much of Ritsuko’s personal thoughts or ideas, we don’t get to see Ritsuko act as anything but professional.
Where Misato is veiled simply by who she is and the disconnect between her personality and Shinji’s, Ritsuko is veiled because she veils her self. She is veiled because she is cold, she is affectless, she stands above us as a calm, unwavering, always-rational pillar of reason.
Ritsuko’s Apollonian gaze in the first two episodes occasionally parallels the cold, harsh, self-superiorizing gaze of the Nefertiti bust—which also softly parallels the much colder, harsher gaze of Gendo
An interesting note here is in the difference between Misato and Ritsuko’s relationship to Gendo.
Misato doesn’t seem to have any great attachment to Gendo except as her boss and as Shinji’s Father. Misato is only loyal to Gendo because of a sort of social contract, and because of the higher ideals her and Gendo share.
One could say that Misato is not devoted to the material Father, she is devoted to the transcendent Father, the Father living in heaven, represented by the cross she wears.
Ritsuko, on the other hand, is not attached to Gendo’s ambitions and ideals, but is attached to Gendo as a material being. She is loyal to Gendo physically rather than loyal to him morally.
Ritsuko might not have morals the same way Misato has. She might truly be cold and amoral, and follow Gendo only because of his power, his authority, his material property (NERV), and because of sexual attraction.
Misato is loyal to Gendo as Idea.
Ritsuko is loyal to Gendo as Flesh.
Misato is another mode of Shinji’s anima and conception of “woman”.
Misato is the right-brain aspect of Shinji’s psyche, and is both more emotional and idealistic than Ritsuko. Where Ritsuko is more focused on the material, the physical and the tangible, Misato is more focused on the idealistic, the moral and the transcendent. This is shown partially with the cross she wears, an icon representing a divine or transcendent Father—a divine or transcendent source of morality.
Where the left hemisphere of the brain operates with more bottom-up processing (detail-oriented but lacking in certain higher-order functions), the right hemisphere operates with top-down processing (starting with the “bigger picture”, or higher-order concerns, and conceptualizing details from this higher-order “big picture”).
Misato similarly seems to operate in this way. She sees the world through the lens of the “bigger picture”, or from seeing what is important first and processing information from those first principles.
Misato is also more impulsive and emotional than Ritsuko. Though she operates from seeing the bigger picture, she is less capable of dealing with the small details. Why sweat the small things? Why constantly discipline yourself and punish yourself when larger things are at stake?
This of course leads to Misato’s hedonic lifestyle and more open sexuality. While Misato may lead a (somewhat) more emotionally healthy life than Ritsuko, Ritsuko leads a far more productive and physically healthy life than Misato.
However, because Misato is more focused on the bigger picture, this makes her a stronger, more prevalent character in the story, as well as a stronger moral compass for Shinji. Her voice in Shinji’s ear urges him towards doing what is important, what is right and what is morally good. Ritsuko has little to no voice in Shinji’s actions.
Rei is complicated, she isn’t deeply explored in the first two episodes, and it’s difficult to delve into Rei’s character without spoiling much of the show. However, an analysis can still be done without major spoilers.
Until Asuka is introduced, and even somewhat afterwards, Rei is Shinji’s primary romantic interest. However, she has very little outward personality, she considers herself to be replaceable, and she barely communicates with others.
Because of this, I believe Rei represents something like a basic or fundamental understanding of women for Shinji, almost like an empty canvas.
She is the baseline of Shinji’s conception of “woman”, or the “sexual other”.
An interesting line of thought is looking at Neon Genesis as if Rei is the only actual woman in the show, and all the other women are actually Shinji’s projections of other personalities onto Rei. (For those of you who have watched End of Evangelion, this may ring especially true).
If Rei is like an empty canvas for Shinji’s conceptualization of “woman”, then as Shinji tries to understand Rei, he sees many different versions or modalities of Rei (Misato, Ritsuko, Asuka and so forth).
The nearly unbridgeable gap between Shinji and others is represented through the unbridgeable gap between Shinji and Rei. Deep communication and emotional connection between the two seems nearly impossible, and the projections Shinji has of other women are both personas presented by outward personality and glimpses of a deeper personality.
With Rei as the core of Shinji’s conceptualization of his source of romantic companionship and sexual attraction, the other major female characters may act as fragmented personalities of one unifiable personality.
Rei is also the primary mode of Shinji’s Anima. She is Shinji’s reason for even getting into the Eva in the first place. She is the reason Shinji confronts the horrors he is faced with, and his reason for conforming to the needs and demands of society.
And, without spoilers to really examine this, Rei is also the physical manifestation of Shinji’s deepest conflicts—remaining an individual perpetually isolated from others, but nonetheless maintaining one’s personal identity, or dissolving one’s identity and the identity of others, so as to intimately connect with others around you.
Shinji is the Ego.
Shinji is the conscious perception of oneself. Shinji is the conceptualization of oneself. Shinji is the active, perceiving force of the psyche contending with both internal forces (Id) and external forces (Super-Ego), while also contending with the horrors of reality.
Shinji is alone as an Individual in Society and the natural world, as we all essentially are, and Shinji is alone in his own mind with the landscape of his psyche.
Shinji is a stand-in for us as individuals. Shinji is the point of consciousness upon which our brains project reality, and the point of consciousness we declare as “ourselves”. Shinji is the double mirror, an infinite feedback loop of our perceptions of self and not-self, continuously reflecting and reconceptualizing.
So much of Shinji’s character has already been reflected in the other characters or in the other characters’ relationship to Shinji, so there is much that doesn’t need to be said about him again, but it is important to hammer in this simple statement:
Shinji is symbolic of our sense of selfness.
And, as I will discuss further into the analysis, this entire show may in fact be a Psychodynamic representation of Shinji’s psyche.
Unfortunately, writers’ guilt is all too common. When we are
working on a project, we feel guilty that we aren’t doing something more
practical or useful – even if that task is nothing more than basic domestic
chores. Ironically, as soon as we leave our desk to carry out said useful task,
we feel guilty for abandoning our project. “I should be writing!” is the
familiar, tedious mantra that plays in every writer’s mind.
Lately, though, I’ve been struck by the other type of guilt
creatives suffer from. Perhaps you are familiar with it? The “Is my art doing
Part of me believes in art for art’s sake. With so much
ugliness and helplessness in the world, I believe there is a place for
aesthetically pleasing art. What harm can come from admiring something that is
beautiful? What’s wrong with reading fun, frivolous fiction and indulging in
the escapism it offers? Then there is the other part of me. The part of me that
scorns this irresponsible reader. This placid person who chooses to read the
latest bestseller while soaking in a tub of Epson salt as the world burns
outside their window.
A vision that spurs the question: how can reading and
writing contribute to solutions?
The “civilized” world has never been perfect. For better or
for worse, technology’s omnipresence means we can no longer remain ignorant of
our imperfection. In the face of these serious and urgent global issues, how
can writers contribute to the crafting of solutions? Do their storytelling and
communication skills offer anything of value?
Some argue that the publication of books reflecting current
global issues is vital. Of course, these people tend to be authors. Ann
Patchett (author) recently stated that she has moved away from reading classic
literature in favour of contemporary texts. She believes that the
accountability and challenging themes presented in recent works have once again
made reading a political act.
To contradict Patchett’s point, I recently started reading
Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ and I have been shocked by the timeliness of the
commentary. Many of Esther’s existential concerns remain relevant today.
“I felt now that all the uncomfortable suspicions I had
about myself were coming true, and I couldn’t hide the truth much longer.” (31)
“A million years of evolution […] and what are we? Animals?”
This modern classic was published in 1971. A fact that
saddens me slightly, as it illustrated how little we have evolved in the last
47 years. As an aside, I bought my copy of ‘The Bell Jar’ from a second-hand
bookstore. The previous owner had unlined the above passages (and others) in
I wondered why someone who loved a book enough to read it
with a pencil in hand would ever part with said book. This question was
immediately followed by the thought, “Maybe they died?” Given the sombre tenor
of these passages/the whole book, and the former reader’s obvious
identification with them, I hope their ending was happier than Esther/Sylvia’s
… That being said, I was constantly impressed by Plath’s ability to clearly
articulate what depression felt like. I’ve never experienced depression (though
the evening news does test me…) but Plath’s considered descriptions of
Esther’s mental state bridged that divide. I got it.
If nothing else, this is what writers can do. They can
communicate ideas. They can shape messy and complex emotions into tidy
sentences. They can shatter binaries and expose hidden nuance. They can
repackage complex problems into comprehensible forms. But. Is this the only
irrefutable claim that writers can make? That they can present readers with
As the saying goes, if information was the solution, we’d
all be happy millionaires with ripped abs.
You can write about the issues that trouble you, but you
can’t make people read your work and you definitely can’t make them do
something. While the publication of cli-fi and other challenging literary works
are appearing more and more, the market isn’t exactly flooded. (No pun
In a recent episode of The Garrett Podcast, Jennifer Mills,
author and literary editor of Overland said that while the magazine has been
successful in the publishing of marginal voices, few submissions address our
present-day issues like the Anthropocene (humans impact on non-humans).
Instead, most of the submissions received are concerned with relationship
Is this because readers want escapism or because writers do?
Mills, who has published her own Anthropogenic work,
Dyschronia, says that she intentionally constructed a plot that offered little
in the way of solutions or action because that is what she sees in society:
passivity. An observation that is no doubt reinforced by the submissions she
Information is key. Without it, people may not understand
the depth of a problem or how to fix it. Historically, the publication of good writing
has played a vital role in the mobilizing of populations and the igniting of
revolutions. Within our current culture, the problem is not a lack of
information but our passivity and denial in the face of it.
Perhaps this is where our writerly self-consciousness stems
from. Words are the tools wielded by skillful writers, but are we simply hiding
behind our profession? Perhaps we should accept the fact that the gap between
information and action is too wide? That our culture is passive. That a challenging
book is likely to achieve little more than a 3.5 star rating on Good Reads.
That it is time to close our laptops, start a biodynamic farm, become vegan and
trade our cars for bicycles…I’m not being facetious; sincerity rests in this
It is true that the grandiosity of the world’s problems is
overwhelming, but none of these issues occurred in isolation. We are all
driving cars, drinking takeaway coffees, shutting our mouths instead of
speaking up, lying to our kids about where the steak on their plate came from
and buying caged eggs because they’re a dollar cheaper.
We need to do better. We need to do something.
Writers can offer solutions in their weekly columns and
fiction. They can encourage readers to re-evaluate their opinions and behaviours
by holding up a mirror. While a single blog post cannot change the world, our
combined voices do have the power to shift culture.
Together, we can aspire to create a new culture. A culture
that carries re-useable cups, that walks to work and eats ethical, sustainable
food. A culture that votes. A culture that allows minorities to have space
without slipping into fear that they are ‘taking over.’ A culture that
questions why education hasn’t changed in 150 years. A culture that swivels its
gaze away from the individual to focus on the collective. A world that is less
about stuff and more about substance.
That, my friends, is a world worth writing for.
Produce Art when the World is Falling apart
Sir Philip Sidney stated that poetry was “the first
light-giver to ignorance, and first nurse, whose milk little by little enabled
them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledges.” Ezra Pound believed that
“The arts, literature, posesy are a science, just as chemistry is a
science. Their subject is man, mankind, and the individual.” And yet,
still, sometimes, we struggle to justify our creative practice.
If you’re in the middle of a personal crisis, it’s unlikely
that you will have the energy or the mental bandwidth to produce art.
If you stop to consider big problems like climate change,
terrorism, refugees, our shrinking job marketing, rising house prices, the privatization
of health care and a multitude of other issues, sitting down to work on a short
story or novel can seem self-indulgent and pointless.
What good is a novel when the world is falling apart?
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings of inadequacy
because simply ignoring them won’t do anyone any favours. However, it’s equally
important that artists continue to produce work despite this feeling of
inadequacy. Art itself may not be able to solve our complex, incomprehensible
social, economic, political and educational problems, but artists must continue
to use their skills and ability because we need art, even if the world is
At their most basic, novels provide a space for escapism and
entertainment. At their best, a novel can inspire us into action by forcing us
to confront our own behaviours and beliefs. We may ask ourselves why we do the
things that we do, whether our behaviour is contributing to the solution or to
the problem, and how can we change for the better both individually and as a
Stories don’t have to change the world. If you want to write
stories for the sole purpose of escapism, both for yourself and your reader,
then that is an honourable use of time. We need a little escapism. We need
books that we can read at the end of a long day; books that offer comfort
instead of further confrontation. It’s okay to read funny books or adventure
stories or mysteries. Not only is it nice to escape into a different world with
different people and different problems, it is also nice to see those problems
Here’s the thing though, even nice books have value beyond
mere entertainment. Whether consciously constructed or not, narratives contain
the observations and reflections of their author. They are stories about people
living with other people. They contain insight and knowledge about human
behviour, our relationships with ourselves and others, our desires, strengths,
and weaknesses. A novel is a response to the experiences an author has had and
the observations they have made. They contain magic, and though this magic is
unlikely to reverse climate change, novels can still teach us something about
ourselves and the world we live in.
Novels have purpose.
A well-crafted and thoughtful novel that asks hard questions
may not alter the general public opinion, but it can cause a shift within a
reader. You may choose to write a dystopian novel based on scientific fact
about where we’re heading environmentally, or you may write a speculative
fiction novel about what the world would look like if women became infertile
(The Handmaids Tale – Margarett Attwood), or if we intentionally used clones as
a means for organ harvesting (Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro). Stories such
as these act as a type of role play. They allow us to ponder and explore
potential future spaces. If we continue to remain passive about particular issues,
what will happen? Additionally, they provide a container for our personal and
social fears. Not only is the writer able to unburden themselves, but it also
allows the reader to experience their innermost fears while remaining within
the safe, imaginary confines of a story.
The world may have a lot of problems, but when has it not.
If you’re still struggling to justify your need to create
art, perhaps my final point will convince you. When we look back on the type of
art that was produced at any given moment in history, we can see the prominent
concerns of that time through the themes, structures, and styles that are
repeated across different works by different artists. We need to write stories
that capture this moment in time. That explore our societal concerns. That
showcase our collective psyche. Artists need to make their contribution to the
historical record because we have skills that scientists and politicians don’t
have. We can take incompressible problems and present them in a consumable
format that will make you feel something, and that is a very special skill
Writers are so Obsessed with Process
Whenever two or more writers find themselves in a room
together, there are a handful of topics that inevitably bubble to the surface:
money, publishing, current projects, favourite authors, latest reads, and most
If you are new to creative writing and developing your
craft, an interest in other writers’ habits is understandable. We’ve all been a
beginner at some point in our lives and we all know that the best way to
develop our own skills is to learn off someone who can do the thing that we
want to do. Of course, it’s also advisable that you actually practice the craft
you intend to become good at.
If you want to learn the piano, you go to a piano teacher. If you want to learn another language, you take classes or buy an audiobook. Whenever a known author is interviewed, questions regarding their process inevitably arise. You could say that ‘Tell us about your writing routine’ is the literary equivalent of talking about the weather, but this frivolous question serves as more than a mere icebreaker because within this small request lies a myriad of even smaller questions:
Do you write in the morning or at night?
Do you write longhand or use a computer?
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Where do you prefer to write?
Do you aim for a specific word count, page count or a set number of hours each day/week/month?
Do you research before, during or after the first draft?
Writers have a lot of questions when it comes to process,
but this fascination is not limited to newbies.
Two years ago, Charlotte Wood, a successful and established
author herself, released her book The Writer’s Room. Here, Wood has curated a
myriad of insightful interviews between herself and some of Australia’s
best-known authors. Though the content of each conversation varies, Wood always
encourages her interviewee to talk about their writing process. Though some
authors respond to such probing questions vaguely (perhaps because their
process is loose or frequently changing), others describe their rigid or
elaborate routines in fine detail.
These conversations were initially only available online.
However, the interviews were so popular that the publication of a print edition
became viable, which proves just how hungry writers are for this conversation.
We don’t want to read these insightful interviews on our laptops and forget
about them, we want a physical copy that we can highlight, dog-ear, and return
to again and again whenever we need a touch of guidance or inspiration. Writers
not only love talking about process, they love reading about it too.
Despite the almost cliché nature of the topic, writers
continue to ask each other questions about process. Fortunately, we’re also
happy to answer them. Sometimes these answers are dull and predictable, but
sometimes they are surprising, ingenious, and entertaining. By exposing
ourselves to other writer’s approaches, we may gain insight into our own
creative routine or learn new techniques that can be adopted into our own
Our continuing obsession with creative practice is driven by
our need to understand how writing works. We’re all looking for a way to
articulate what can sometimes feel like a very mysterious and fickle practice.
All artists struggle to explain how they transformed an idea into a creative
artefact. This discussion of process helps give shape to what can otherwise be
perceived as an almost mystical unfolding.
That being said, the question of process also contains a
subtle and self-conscious subtext: “Is your process better than mine? If I
adopt your habits, will I become a better writer?” Deep down, we all hold the
same subconscious belief: there is a secret to writing, we just need to find
However, discovering this secret is impossible as every
author has a different answer. Lee Child writes his Jack Reacher novels without
an outline and without revision (jerk). Stephen King is a panster too, but he
typically produces three drafts of each novel and prefers to write at home.
J.K. Rowling using outlines and writes where and whenever she can.
In terms of hours clocked, Maile Meloy, Kate Morton and
Steven Pressfield stick with two to four hours a day (typically in the morning).
Others like Chuck Wendig, Dani Shapiro, and Margaret Atwood keep standard
working hours, starting at nine in the morning and finishing at five in the
Despite advances in technology, we are still weighing the
pros/cons of longhand vs typing. Jackie Collins writes all her books by hand,
as does Quentin Tarantino; two names I never thought I’d see in the same
sentence! Joe Hill writes his first draft by hand, but then edits the work
while typing the second draft, and J.K. Rowling has experimented with both
longhand and typing.
Every writer’s process is different, and yet we keep asking
the same question. We keep searching for some kind of hack in the hope that
there is a hack. We want to hear a clever sound bite that promises an easier
way to get inside our own story. One simple tool or word of advice that will
guarantee our success.
No one wants to hear, “just write.” No one wants
to hear, “if you do the work, the work gets done.” No one wants to
hear, “finish writing the novel, edit it, email it out and maybe you’ll
When asked about her own process, Elizabeth Strout recounted
a conversation with her neighbour who had just finished painting his apartment.
When she’d finished gushing over this domestic accomplishment and complimenting
him on the tremendous achievement of painting an entire apartment by himself,
he replied: “There’s no magic to it.”
The same can be said of writing: there is no magic, you just
Humanity has entered a new era, the Age of Information. With
this new age, many believe we are facing new kind of war. Some say we’ve
entered a Culture War, or a War of Ideologies. Others say we’ve entered a War
of Information. I’m inclined to believe we’ve entered both wars, and that these
wars are actually interwoven with each other.
“Us vs. Them”
mentality of war is becoming less and less about regional or national sets of
individuals—the French vs. the Spanish, or British vs. Americans—and more about
conflicts between Ideologies throughout the world. Instead of our “tribes”
being determined by region or nationality, they are determined by shared personal
beliefs, moral foundations, and social norms.
The current culture “battles” are being fought over what a
person should think, how a person should think, and how we should behave.
Orwell and Huxley may not have gotten the precise details of our present
struggles right (though some details are alarmingly pre-cognizant), but the
core conflict of 1984 and Brave New World are almost spot-on:
Psycho-Social Conflict, and Control of Ideas and Behaviors.
These battles are being waged all over the place, in a
variety of social, institutional and industrial sectors. However, the
frontlines of these wars appear to form on the Internet.
The Internet is where the majority of people receive most of
their news, entertainment, and other media. The Internet also acts as a
cultural and political hub for millions of people on social media platforms such
as YouTube, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Online, we are exposed to more
information, more personal beliefs, and more cultures than any human ever has
Many thought that with this sort of cultural diffusion, we
would see less global tribalism. This has been true in some ways. Musicians
from Japan can connect with musicians from France. Sports fans in Brazil can
talk shit with sports fans from Spain. Bloggers from America can converse with
artists from Serbia. In many ways, the Internet has brought people together.
However, the Internet has also fractionated into innumerable
echo chambers. Democrats typically socialize with other Democrats online, and Republicans
with other Republicans—both camps are usually disparaging the other. Anarcho-Communists
and Neo-Marxists join the same chat groups, where they discuss how terrible
Capitalism is. Open-border and closed-border supporters only interact with each
other when they’re looking to trade blows.
While this has remained relatively innocuous for quite some
time, there have been growing tensions between these Internet tribes (yes, I
think “tribes” is the best word for this). These ideological tensions have been growing in
the time leading up to the 2016 presidential elections, and has been growing
While much of the conflict has been right vs. left, there’s
also been conflicts between:
Religion vs. Atheism/Agnosticism
Western Values vs. Radical/Fundamentalist
Classical Liberals and Progressives vs.
Neo-Liberals and Neo-Progressives
In addition, over the last couple decades we’ve seen the
emergence or re-emergence of politico-cultural groups such as:
The Alt-Right (strictly referring to
groups such as Neo-Nazis and White Nationalists)
LGBT Rights Movements
The New Atheists
Black Lives Matter
Neo or Lite Conservatism
The Muslim Brotherhood
The Intellectual Dark Web
Some of these groups have pretty reputable motivations and
members. Some of these groups are a mixed or neutral batch. Some of these
groups flirt with dangerous Ideologies and motivations.
And many of these groups, including the traditional
political and cultural groups, are at odds with each other. Some of them have
already physically harassed people, committed acts of vandalism, or have committed
violent assaults on others. Some politico-cultural groups across the world,
such as ISIS, have committed horrific acts of violence against fellow humans.
And, to further complicate the matter, this has all also
become wrapped up in government regulations and Social Media policies. To
further complicate the matter, this has all become wrapped up in a conversation
about Freedom of Speech, Public Goods vs. Private Companies, and government intervention
or the lack thereof. To further complicate this, we have to deal with bad
actors, fake accounts, bots, and biased (left and right) news outlets.
This is what forms the War of Information—the censorship, demonetization
and regulation of speech, expression, and personal belief.
The War of Ideologies, or the Culture War, and the War of
Information are two sides of the same coin. One is the tension between various
political or cultural factions, and the other is the censorship or promotion of
different political or cultural beliefs.
To explain this all better, I want to explain these two
“Wars”—these two social battlegrounds—separately.
The War of Ideologies
There are many types of Ideologies, many spectrums across
each Ideology, and many intersections of Ideologies:
Social Free Market
And then, everyone has their own, personal ideology, which
is an intersection of various Ideologies, mixed with their own personal beliefs
Part of what has happened in the Age of Information is a
Crisis of Identity. People are struggling to be an individual in this strange
new world, and, at the same time, are
struggling to feel as though they’re part of a group.
When people come in contact with each other, and they
identify with different and conflicting Ideological groups—or different
Ideological Tribes—they attack each
other. This can be as innocuous as members of one Facebook group going after
another, but it can escalate to protests and riots between two Ideological
While I could write pages and pages about the debates and
social wars happening online, the point is that there are large numbers of
different Ideologies that are currently conflicting with each other online, in
college campuses, and in mainstream media.
I’ve compiled a short list of various debates and
commentaries on these social tensions here. So as not to be politically biased,
I listed individuals with beliefs that range from hard left, to centrist, to
hard right. The point is not to highlight any particular political views, but
illustrate that a wide variety of political voices are concerned with
While most of these conflicts occur in debates, commentary
and online discourse, the conflict extends outside online media into
legislation. This is where the War of Ideologies connects back to the War of
Because Ideologies are how we process and express information. Ideologies are a set of beliefs, morals and perspectives we use to get by in life and make decisions, and many fear that politically-based censorship can silence people with dissenting beliefs.
With platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Patreon or
Paypal having the ability to demonetize, suspend or ban accounts for expressing
certain views, many people have begun to worry that political lobbying could
result in people being censored from public discourse because of their personal
This is only made worse by the sheer amount of content that
is put out on the internet, the sheer amount of different opinions and beliefs
on the internet, and the sheer amount of misinformation and bad actors.
At the same time that companies and political groups might
be censoring and suppressing speech, it is becoming more and more difficult to
trust information from media outlets—even large, mainstream outlets. The result
is a frantic, chaotic marsh of clashing beliefs and muddied facts.
The foundation of this “War” comes down to:
Freedom of Speech vs. Censorship
The Deterioration of Society’s “Sense-Making
Freedom of Speech vs. Censorship
This debate comes down to a conversation about what can and
cannot be said on Social Media and on Mass/Mainstream Media. It’s a
conversation over political correctness and free, open discourse. It’s also a
conversation over who is allowed to talk.
For example, who is allowed to have a voice on Twitter?
Should someone be banned for life if they have a political opinion that isn’t
PC? Should Neo-Nazi’s be allowed on Twitter? Should ISIS and other Muslim
Fundamentalists be allowed on Twitter? How about this, should someone who questions the motivations of Muslim
Fundamentalists be allowed on Twitter? Or, should someone who questions the actions and motivations of
Black Lives Matters be allowed a Social Media platform?
A current controversy on Twitter revolves around people
being banned for “dead-naming” and “mis-gendering” trans individuals.
One example of this controversy is a woman named Megan
Murphy, a lesbian and a Feminist activist, was banned for saying, “men aren’t
women” on Twitter.
Personal beliefs aside, this shouldn’t be such a controversial statement that
someone could be permanently banned from Twitter, a massively popular platform
for public discourse.
Who is allowed to speak?
Who is allowed to voice their opinion?
And what opinions should be allowed on Social Media, versus
what opinions should be censored on Social Media?
In addition, online mobs (left and right) have called for
the de-platforming or de-monetization of individuals, and online mobs (left and
right) have also harassed individuals through emails, through social media, or
through published content.
Many liberals and conservatives alike—from Progressive college
to Independent/Neutral investigative journalists,
to Fox News Reporters—have
pushed back against this. Not only have they pushed back against the Social
Media companies, but they‘ve pushed back against the media outlets who support
this censorial action, as well as political figures and activist movements who
call for censorship.
And this doesn’t even go into things like Russian Troll
or Wiki-Leaks and the recent arrest of Julian Assange,
or the fact that Facebook is selling its users’ meta-data to large
While these things are all a part of the problem, the
biggest problem is that it’s hard to know what the hell is going on right now.
The biggest problem is that we can’t agree on our problems, we can’t agree on facts, and we can’t agree on where to
even begin solving our problems.
Amidst all this online chaos—amidst this strange new world
we’ve entered—we’re in a period of time where so much is happening across the
world that it’s difficult to know what we should do about anything.
We’ve become a disassociated people, with widely varying
personal narratives that help us get through our days, and we’ve entered one of
the most chaotic points in human history.
No one can even seem to agree on basic facts regarding
global and national events. We hardly trust our governments. We hardly agree on
who is an enemy and who is not. We hardly agree on what our problems are, or
how we can solve these problems.
If no one can agree on what is happening, then that means no
one can agree on what we should do to fix our problems. This is the dissolution
of our Sense-Making Apparatus.
Our collective Sense-Making no longer works. We have too
much going on, we have too many competing narratives, and we have too many
competing sources of information.
There is a spectrum of people in the 9-11 conversation,
ranging from people who outright dismiss the idea, to people convinced the
government staged 9-11.
We can’t seem to decide what should be done about the
violence and instability in the Middle-East, or what the true cause of the
violence and instability even is.
Half the nation is split on the legitimacy of our current president.
Some people absolutely love Trump (like, love
the guy). Some people are neutral. Others hate Trump (really, really hate
And, to top it all off, there are people right now who think
the Earth is flat.
People are going crazy.
People cannot agree on a common narrative, on common problems, or on common
goals. People can’t even agree on basic facts.
And it’s not just the United States. This is happening
throughout the world. There’s social and national instability in North and
South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East. Practically everywhere,
we’re destabilizing everywhere, and so much of it has to do with our
Sense-Making Apparatus—our common agreement on facts, on problems and on goals.
And this failure of our collective Sense-Making Apparatus only
makes the War of Ideologies, or the Culture War, worse, because it’s a war of
competing ideas, competing goals and competing perceptions.
So, what is the result of this?
There is a huge divide now between the left and the right, but
there are also divides within the left and the right, and there are fringe,
radical groups who have begun to rise in power.
We see movements and organizations such as Antifa, or the
Anti-Fascism group, which took violent action against Free-Speech activists at
UC Berkley. Antifa, categorized as a far-left activism group, has also clashed
with the Proud Boys, categorized as a far-right activism group.
In Charlottesville, we saw a clash between white-supremacy advocates
and civil rights protestors, which escalated into a car being rammed into the
Identitarian-Leftist movements across school campuses have led
to massive protests, campus violence, and the targeted harassment of professors
Ben Shapiro, a moderate Conservative journalist, faced
massive and relatively violent protests when he spoke at UC Berkley.
Despite being Jewish, Shapiro has been called a Nazi and White Supremacist by
his left-wing adversaries.
Evergreen State professor, Bret Weinstein (pronounced like
Einstein) was protested, harassed and forced to leave the University after
questioning Identitarian policies on his campus.
Jordan Peterson, a professor from the University of Toronto,
has been widely criticized and harassed for protesting similar Identitarian
policies at his campus, arguing that they infringed on Free Speech.
Jordan Peterson, despite being a highly knowledgeable and outspoken critic of
fascism and communism in the 20th Century, has been labelled an
“Alt-Right Fascist” by far-left radical groups.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are
fragmenting societies and governments throughout Europe, and certainly
throughout the Middle-East. There are escalating political movements on the
right and on the left throughout the world, much like the ones we’re seeing in
America. There’s still corruption in our governments, dictatorships oppressing
their people, and wars being fought. We still don’t know what to do about the
Middle-East. We still don’t know what to do about North Korea. We still don’t
know what to do about Russia, or China, or AI, or Global Warming, or poverty,
It’s all insanity right now, and I’m not sure where any of
this is going.
There’s talk about Civil Wars in the US right now—and there’s
actual Civil Wars going on in other
parts of the world—and people have been talking about World War 3 since 9-11
happened. If things continue spiraling out of control, something will eventually
If we want to avoid that, we have to come to some sort of
understanding with each other, and we have to fix our Sense-Making Apparatus.
We have to shift into rational discussions about our
We have to find common ground, isolate our most prevalent
problems, and search for common goals.
And we have to end this War of Information. We have to
create institutions we can trust. We have to find sources of news and
information we can rely upon, and safeguard them from misinformation. We have to
form a government that has the nation’s interests in mind.
If we can’t trust our institutions, then we’ll have to start
taking our own lives into our hands. If there aren’t any reliable media
outlets, then we’ll have to start searching for the truth ourselves. If we
can’t elect officials who have our best interests in mind, then we have to
elect ourselves, as citizens of our cities, states and nations, to help bring
changes we need to society.
We have to step out of this frenzy of opinions, information,
and misinformation we’ve become accustomed to, and figure out what actually matters. We have to see
eye-to-eye with people we might not agree with, so we can work to solve our
biggest problems. And we have to put everything back into a more common,
rational perspective, so we can work towards a better future.