Wednesday, March 24, 2010


It was the verdict of a two-day battery of psychological tests given him to judge his fitness to work for the earth moving machinery manufacturer known as Caterpillar. In his last semester, with nothing but liberal arts electives on his class schedule, Russ indulged himself in the perks being showered upon graduating electromechanical engineers in the age of the punch card Fortran computer industry’s embryonic stirrings before Silicon Valley was a sparkle in Douglas Englebart’s eye. Trip to Pratt & Whitney in Florida, to Boeing in Seattle, ah yes, this was what it was all about.

He had snorted at the verdict with the understanding that his four-year stint in the Marines before college were experiential evidence that he could work well with others under the direst of circumstances. He’d hated the whole enlistment for the blatant bullying psychology boot camp employed in shaping the minds of killing machines and so spent the rest of his stint observing the culture maintained within the indoctrinated mindset of such unquestioning patriotism. He took the best offer from the best company and entered the private sector as an acquisitive yuppie apolitically against the Viet Nam War.

Several years later, when his eldest entered school he began to recognize a parallel indoctrination in public education as he watched her, and recalled himself, dumbing down her beautiful natural curiosity to satisfy the demands of obedience to the certitude of authority in their idea of what constitutes correct answers to twelve years of probationary examination. The difference between the purpose of the simple military, “my country right or wrong” ethic and the “my truth right or wrong” being pushed by the public education system was one of magnitude not only in scope, but in inscrutability.

The military shouldn’t question orders or they might hesitate fatally and become wasted fodder — at least that’s the modern justification for the withdrawal of direct human participation in the slaughter of humans by the use of drones as we, the “legal combatants,” methodically rub out beings we deem “illegal combatants,” along with the smudge of acceptable collateral annihilation of the civilian population amongst whom they live cravenly hide.

Citizens shouldn’t question authority or they might — what — think for themselves — become an enemy of the state — become unexploitable — invulnerable to usery? The National Security Agency protects the authority of the government by hiding its ways, means and purposes from the very people being manipulated into sycophantic obedience while claiming the secrets are kept from the always potentially envious enemy jealous of our superior standard of living. He could only conclude that they consider citizens to be a likely enemy; if they knew. He never liked secrets.

The correlation of these two parallel Pavlovian processes piqued his curiosity about the human vulnerability to considering information transmitted by words as more valid in describing experience than one’s own information transmitted by bodily sensations. To vanquish all foes was the purpose of the military’s mindless obedience, but what was the purpose the military enforces and protects so mindlessly — against what?

Such ponderings lead him to a conversation with a gorilla named Ishmael who asked him to find the myth of his culture. How had man felt justified in departing from the relatively symbiotic ways of the hunter-gatherer to begin disrespectfully wiping out all local lifeforms to establish agriculture and the ensuing urban aggregation around the food getting places?

He felt like a cicada molting in the spring as he slowly detected the cicatrix of a shell within which he’d lived his entire life. The discovery reawakened observations of the natural world he’d long denied for their stark contrast to the cultural norm of going along to get along. The expansion of his vision formed cracks in the wall of the invisible prison the myth of western civilization is. The husk hangs clinging to his memory of civilization while he carefully extracts his natural genetic memory from the muffled existence it had survived.

He found that, ultimately, he did not work well with others and Caterpillar’s psychological testing was spot on; he would have eventually ceased cooperating with the purpose of an earth moving equipment manufacturer, just as he has the purpose of the earth owning corporation known as western civilization, US branch office.


Brian Miller said...

so is there a ring of truth in this one?

Yodood said...

More like a bong on the gong of reality draped in the fiction of a third person named Russ.

She Writes said...

"He found that, ultimately, he did not work well with others and Caterpillar’s psychological testing was spot on;"

I like how you did this!

I read the book, Ishmael, BTW. Disliked it, but enjoyed seeing what you did here with your character and that story.

Like Brian, I wondered if any of this was based in reality.

Yodood said...

Sheesh, whats all this search for truth and reality now that this blog is rededicated to fiction. There's nothing here that requires truth to make sense. And yeah, he is me. ;•p

Pisces Iscariot said...

He probably ended up opting out as far as he could - semi-self-sufficient and fully conscious ;D

troutsky said...

Exactly Iscariot, opting out. SELF sufficient, the privilege of distance, so that one may critique free from risk or consequence.

Unless the very radiance of ones enlightenment somehow enters the universal stream and bestows a bit of glow on everyone?

Yodood said...

Ah, Troutsky, why so disparaging of enlightenment as an agent of the change you'd prefer fighting in the trenches to gain? Oh, yeah, you call it brave activism as compared to my risk free idyll communing with nature here outside the safety net of the antagonistic exploitation of the support system you insist on running.

JeffScape said...

I remember, after boot camp, having this weird buzzing sensation in my head every time I tried to honestly think about something. Very alarming... took a few months to get rid of.

Oddly enough, I usually wound up in duty slots that required "independent action."

Not sure I agree with some of the "charater's" musings, but I totally know where they come from.