Our Disease 2

     Podcast 333

”I’m scared just like the rest of you,” said Harry, gulping from his highly caffeinated energy can, ”that one day nothing will make sense anymore…”
He was sitting comfortably in his soundstage. It was his most favorite place of the world. In here he would release everything. His daily agonizing dose of melancholy would simper away a bit. He would often nap after he was done.
If he would talk enough in this place things made more sense. A sense of purpose would return. In the world of information warfare, with billions of voices trying to reach a large audience, this soundstage filtered them all, leaving on his voice. The sane voice. To him, talking to the microphone was like talking to God.
Today’s topic was the mystery about the hacking organization known as Oblivion…
”We all fear being their target. Nobody knows whether they are good or bad. Like Wikileaks, its members are all over the world. Some have ideological reasons. Some are being paid. Some just like to raise some shit. We don’t know if the majority of their members are being paid by the government to propagate some perception, to dim the rising tide of leaks from the presidents office. It could very well be that the latter is the case. Over the years they’ve finally taking heed to Russia. Former president Vladimir Putin knew the kind of world we were heading towards. A true visionary, even if his vision was monstrous…” Harry crushed his empty energy can and threw it succesfully into a trashbin in the corner of the room.
”I guess for all my critiques about the president, it’s fair to say that he’s aware of this too. That doesn’t mean I like it though…”
Harry lights up a cigarette, takes a calm puff. In front of him, behind the soundproof glass, sits his sound-assistant Dale. Dale, with his long greasy hair and glazed eyes, had been puffing from vape-pen. He gives Harry the thumbs up. Harry nods back.
”…But it could also be ideological, perhaps even religious reasons of why Oblivion are doing what they are doing. It might be one of the many data-cults we’ve been getting over the years. Perhaps they want to really help people. There have been examples, such as the case of Jerry Greenwald, a drunk who was hounded by a Oblivion hacker who found himself in the end being reunited with his long lost daughter. There’s also the case of a rape victim, Jay from Pennsylvania, being led into the scenario of a Oblivion hacker and it ended with him avenging and eventually forgiving his abuser. There’s even a case of a abusive father targeted by an Oblivion hacker, just to oust him and save his daughter from his grip. One case involves an Oblivion hacker playing cupid. Two lonely people even thank Oblivion for meeting each other. There’s naturally been countless cases of secret files of government and corporate corruption and many of them involve our current president. Sadly, none of them seem to reach mainstream audiences…”
”But there have been plenty of examples of malice too. Such as the dentist from Alaska, an avid hunter of wild-life, who was found in the woods after having shot himself with his rifle. The police found examples of Oblivion bullying all over his apartment. His computer had been assaulted with a virus that would continually show him images of an animated dead deer screaming at him,” Harry paused to inhale his cigarette, ”and nobody will forget congressman Pence doing a chickendance in front of reporters after a Oblivion hacker threatened to release his humiliating choice of pornography into the public- which was released anyway. He would kill himself too…”
”There’s been support groups for men and women who have been the target of Oblivion. People would find themselves ostracized from their community. Social media conversations, filled with scathing details would be given to friends and family. Footage of people jacking off would be filmed on webcams and they would be pressured to pay to make sure it wouldn’t leak out- this is why I always tape my webcam. But it goes further than just the computer. Some of these people would find messages, in their house, in their car. The FBI has reported that they are not sure whether this is a definitive sign of a cult or whether these people have also been targeted by the Gonzo organization. We can’t be sure. Some people would say that the world they knew was gone after being targeted. They would find messages that would destroy everything they’ve believed in. Scientologists would find sources of information about who the real L. Ron Hubbard was. Mormons about Joseph Smith. Aspiring writers would find their work rewritten, its message being: ‘you don’t have it. Quit while you still can.’ Historians would find alternative history sources. One Muslims would constantly run into pictures of beheaded infidels. Sometimes the members of Oblivion want to expose the truth, other times they just want to destroy what’s left of it.
”Some find themselves hallucinating. Psychotropic substances would be found in their coke bottles. Some violent cases have been attributed to people being targeted by Oblivion. In some instances, some people think they are using this organization to orchestrate political assassinations….”
Harry presses his cigarette into his already crowded ashtray.
”So what does Oblivion want? The original founder, or what is apparantly the original founder cos even this is mired by contradictory stories, Max O’Blivion is missing. A son of a wealthy technocrat, he apparantly emobodied a living troll. Nobody knows where he is or why he disappeared. He just vanished. Some say he’s in hiding. Other say he’s long been murdered by a disgruntled target of Oblivion.
So if it was up to Max, Oblivion would be just be continously fucking with people. It all depends whose doing the targeting. They can be angels or demons. It’s a scary we live in people. The generation before the dawn of the Internet is dying off, but some can still remember how it was. All that privacy, all that freedom, gone forever…”
Harry lights up another cigarette and continues: ”we might have been supervised by an Oblivion hacker or two, to see if we are desirable candidates. I’m even taking a risk talking about them. I could surely give them a motivation to hack into my life and alter it in exciting or disturbing ways. But I don’t like to live in a world where we live in fear. America, for all the freedom its lost over the decades, still has this freedom. I refuse to give in people. I refuse to give up the truth…”
A deep puff, a sigh and then: ”everyone could be a target. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. You’re just a project to them. And the only thing you can hope for is that they want what’s best for you.
Cos if they don’t, it’s a long way down the rabbit hole. It’s the darkest place you will ever be. And there is no escape. There is no escape…”

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania ralph steadman 1984
Art by Ralph Steadman

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Anna’s Sacrifice

Recently, I did a presentation about Putin’s Russia. It was split in two parts: the first one was about the rise of Vladimir Putin, the second was about his regime. It starts with hope, it ends in tyranny. That’s how it always starts. We always wake up too late.
My main thesis was nothing extraordinary: he’s an autocratic undermining democratic values and we must recognize him for what he is, not be swayed by his increasingly popular propaganda. I made references to the monsters and heroes of the past. The monsters we willingly voted into office. The heroes who were murdered telling us the truth about who they really were.
Examples were made. How do we recognize the autocrat? When they try to undermine the free press is a good example. Soon enough they’ll start to suppress it. In the free World they call the free press ‘fake news’ and sometimes, they dare call the free press dangerous. But the government, as far as we know, doesn’t hunt them down. And if they are hunted down, they better hope no other journalist finds out.

In Putin’s Russia, journalists are hunted down and if other proves it, Putin’s regime will say that it was the ‘Anti-Russian activists’ who sacrificed this journalist to stoke anti-Russian sentiment. There is the continues fear of disorder, memories a young spy who saw the world turn against his empire.
Watch out for talks about ‘extremism.’ The humanization of groups of people is easy to spot. The Jews have always been the target, even now. But Muslims are the more popular target now. The debate about adaptation to the Western culture or the reformation are ones we should have, but the autocrat doesn’t want an honest debate. They tell us they should adapt or get the fuck out. Soon enough they will tell us that the culture simply does not fit here and that something drastic, has to be done about it.
I told people about my own journalistic ambitions, about the moving and bittersweet sacrifice of Anna Povlitkovskaya. She knew that most of her reports would be not read by the necessary majority of the Russian people. Most minds will continually be hooked on state propaganda. You can’t blame them. They grew up in a world full of loud noises and pretty lights. It takes a keen eye and per haps life experience beyond one’s borders, to see past the facade. The face is beautifully simple. All complications nullified. The enemy is clear. The mission is to protect our culture from liberal invasion. Who doesn’t want to live in a world like that? It’s comfortable, the truth ruins everything. Nobody wants to wake up and realize everything they’ve believed in is a lie. Nobody wants to wake up and realize their God was the devil all along.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania putin protest
I live in an imperfect, yet relatively free world. I can doubt our leaders openly. I can cast dispersions about their character, the nature of their patriotism. If I was an infamous rapper, I can go on stage and rhyme about how the government is an evil entity, bend on destroying the foundations of our culture. A large mass will follow me and think my delusions to be wisdom. This is the free world I live in. In the free world we can share our delusions without being arrested. In Putin’s Russia, a rapper like MC Noize will be hounded by the government, suffer threats, have his career derailed by government agencies. It doesn’t matter if what he says is true or not, he’s talking about the great leader. He’s talking about the idol they indoctrinate to their kids. The kids who admire Putin, like modern-day Hitler Jugend.
In Putin’s Russia, reality is a subjective thing. The pretty lights are there to confuse the people. Some are turned mad. They wander the streets seeking for gay Ukrainians with Obama T-Shirts who are seeking to destroy Russia from within. If they hear about this reporter with a big mouth about their glorious leader, they will shit on his car. Men dress like dead patriots and sing songs about the Soviet Union. Less than Twenty-years ago, Stalin was perceived as the mass-murdering lunatic he was, no suddenly, he’s become misunderstood. In Russia, if you want to tell the truth, you better be prepared to die for it.

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Soon enough some guy in the classroom held up his hand. He had a notebook with him- so he could ”watch my lies”,  he told me. He told me that my facts were biased, concocted by the West. He told me we couldn’t trust Human Rights watch or Amnesty International. He was confused why I would support NATO. This is a person that lives in a free world and he is basking himself in information which tells him that the Free World isn’t free at all. The democratic institution is doubted upon. Perhaps we need a bold new leader. Perhaps we need a guy like Putin.
There are heroes like Anna Politkovskaya, heard across the world, years after her untimely death. Her death on 7
th October 2006 was a birthday present to his glorious leader. On this day I honor her, while her culprit still roams free. Perhaps he’s even running the country she gave her life for.
Political theatrics aside: Putin is an old monster dressed in modern clothing. He’s nothing special, old tricks but written in computer code. A reboot, a remake. The new playing field of information-warfare in a globalized world, where its adherents are addicted to tiny screens and get a jolt of dopamine whenever someone liked their comment. We are in it together but we pretend we are all alone. We have all the means of connecting with each other, yet we decide to isolate ourselves.
All Putin is a series of managed photo-shoots. A good enough photo-shoot can make you the leader of your own religion. Some are highly susceptible to the cult of personality, the nationalistic parasite. Perhaps they’ve always been waiting for that one person that tells them who to hate and who to kill. Perhaps there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for that true believer. Maybe if you give him everything, you just might reach it.
At the end of the presentation, I asked my audience: ”how do we destroy the monsters we have cultivated for so long?”
And I didn’t really have the answer. So I either made one up or stole it from someone smarter than me: ”try to remember the heroes and the monsters. Try to remember the ones who reminded us about the heroes and the monsters. Live the story of the hero.”
I knew one of them wouldn’t listen. To be honest this drives me crazy: the story seems so obvious to me. Why can’t he see it? Why can’t he see the difference between the Free world and Putin’s Russia?
I don’t have an answer to that now. Several come to mind but I want that answer that will convince him. I don’t think I can think of one. And this worries me.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania anna politkovskaya

***

Silbertanne

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania resistance fighters hollandThere was a sense, an awareness, that all of them could die. It had been forbidden to admit this. There was a life after this war. There was no sense to contemplate death. He was twenty-five at the time. So much life ahead of him. He would come back. They all would come back.
He was there again, at the 4th of may, the remembrance of the dead. At 19:40 they would meet at the Roman catholic church. They would all walk to the memorial site by the park. An orchestra would be waiting. A trumpet will play the tap-toe signal, indicating the commencement of the two minute silence for the men who have perished in the war.
People began walking. There was a calm rain, it poured respectfully on all those who were honoring the great war that gave them freedom. They heard talks from their grandfathers and grandmothers about the times back then. Many of them had been part of the resistance. Holland in itself is historically notorious for its resistance movement during World War 2. For such a small country, a country that quickly backed down when the Germans invaded, their liberty and those of their minority peers, were dearly valued by the previous generation.

Every year he wondered the same: did nobody contemplate their mortality because of sheer superstition? To say it would be akin to tempting fate? Was all just necessary sense of machismo? Men who talk about death, fear death- hence you don’t talk about it. A sense of defeatism perhaps. So many had already been murdered. What’s the point? You either fight or die inside. The great war was the war for our souls. The price of their victory would be our humanity. History would be rewritten. Our children won’t be free to explore themselves. They would become subjects of the regime. A new religion would dominate the ages. The new God would have a ridiculous mustache. His disciples would wear long leather jackets. Demons would wear yamaka’s.
If they would die, they would die fighting for something. A purpose. Most people don’t die for a purpose. Most people just die. Perhaps this was just something he told himself. They were so young and brave. And stupid. Gloriously stupid.
How long has it been? 72 years. It goes so fast. It goes so goddamn fast. Most of the soldiers who have witnessed the carnage firsthand have perished. This is why there were no chairs anymore at the remembrance site anymore. These chairs were reserved for veterans. There were no more veterans. The stories must now go on through the next generation, by historians, by filmmakers, by teachers, by this yearly ritual.
He thought of his friends. The friends who didn’t make it. Every year there faces become more blurry, but every now and then, they would look clearer again. Their voices might long have been gone, but they were there still. Somewhere.
For a moment he forgot how he got here. Thinking back, it seemed like he couldn’t remember anything but his time during the war. Who was he after the war? Or was there a better question? Maybe the question should be: does it really matter who we were outside the war?
Truth was, his existence was defined by the time. Defined by the men around him. His brothers. So long gone.
They were there now. Every year there had been less people. No more than perhaps fifty now. Hopefully this is just a trend.
The tap-toe signal. Silence. Everybody is silent. He looked around, even the faces of children have a dignified sense of solemnity about them. A baby started crying. The baby was attached to young man’s chest by a strap. He quickly shook the baby who eventually calmed down, long enough for the last minute to pass soundlessly. The whole country was doing this now. You could feel it. We were all in this together. Only for a few minutes.
The tap-toe signal, the orchestra starts playing. An old man from the Remembrance committee came on the memorial site, to the microphone that was waiting for him. The committee man began naming the names of the brave resistance fighters.
He heard his name and then he began to understand again. Sometimes it feels like he’s here for real. Then he remembers: he’s only here for the short moment when the country remembers then and then he will disappear, only to come back and be reminded of his great sacrifice.
We were supposed to come back, but not all of us did. We might have died for a great cause, but this should have been understood by everyone, nobody needed to die, but we did. This is the way of the human animal. This is our kind of savagery. Every year people are shocked when people, even nations, enact atrocities that reminds us of our world wars. But there’s nothing shocking about us, or outdated. We are still the same. The same sounds are made. Nature evolves but doesn’t change. It’s all very fragile. And every now and then, the blood of patriots will have to be spilled so that we are reminded of this. This is why this is valuable. This is why we must remember. We always forget but we must remember as long as we can.
The committee man spoke the names of his fallen brothers.
And suddenly they were there. Everyone. His whole cadre of freedom fighters. They were as young as they were before their execution. They used to live here, back when these streets looked so different. They were surrounded by people who enjoyed their freedoms because of them but nobody could see them. None of them will ever be able to know the faces of these men. Not clearly enough anyhow. Whatever pictures are left are black and white, made brown as times went by. A historian somewhere in the world has a picture of all of them, armed, dirty, smiling, all together. He would not know it was them, the picture was not clear enough, there had not been enough evidence to support any definitive claims of who these people were. But they were there and they are here now, only for a while until they will have to leave again.
Jokes are made. They spoke as if they never went away.
”It’s good to be back,” one of them said, ”if only for a while.”
”They know our names.”, he said, ”That’s more than can we say about all those before us, so many of their names were erased from history. Least we have this. Least we can come back.”
”You think this will stay like that?”
”I hope so.”
None of them spoke about the possibility but it was there. It’s always there. But you can’t speak about or else you might jinx it. It’s not something that men do. Men must fight or die inside. It happens to so many. Sometimes it feels meaningless but it never is.
”Today we mourn the dead,” the committee man said, ”tomorrow we celebrate our liberty.”
”Wish I could stay for that,” one of the fallen said.
Children from a school in the neighborhood were asked to come on the memorial site to recite a poem. It was about freedom. One of the children was from Turkish descent. It made them smile, knowing this was possible now.
They left bouquets on the memorial site. An old man from the Remembrance of the Dead committee said that this is the end. Many of the people were given white flowers to put on the memorial site, he told them he could do this now. The orchestra began playing. The music they knew from their time in the academy. The music that seemed at first, so dull turned into one of the most beautiful music in the world. It brought tears to their eyes.

”Just to come back and hear this, makes it all worth it.”
People in the single-file dropped flowers on the remembrance site. Music kept playing. People hung around but eventually, the most painful fact of all comes haunting us all: life must go on. The living went back home.
Perhaps most of us will never fully appreciate their sacrifice. Perhaps this is the way of things. We are used to this. We don’t live with the kind of evil that reigned their country then.
The men stood there alone now, looking at the memorial site. They looked at each other. The same knowing glance they made before the bullets pierced their bodies. Their faces already began to fade.
I wish it didn’t, I really wish it didn’t…
They all said the same thing: ”it had been an honor.”
And then they were gone.
Will you come back next year?


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