In the middle of my life, I wake up to find myself in a techno-dystopia, with no idea where my own path has gone. I have a muse, but no mentor to guide me through all the circles of this labyrinth, this global metropolis that I have managed to avoid so far. My domestication settles on me like a nylon shirt, like rolls of fat around my belly; like a cybernetic key to the doors of places I don’t want to go but I have to if I want my family to eat and be safe – a key that cuts my mind off the world and keeps it locked in my brain.
I can no longer feel knowledge, neither from my womb nor through my feet of the living earth. So instead, I try to make sense of things. But it doesn’t work, so I flip it over and try to make sense of it. But I don’t know what it is, so I type it into the device that’s my key to this information (war) world and make friends through that door.
They are stoic and I love their sense of humor. I haven’t read Marcus Aurelius, so I don’t know if they practice kindness; I just think they’re nice. Daniel has a brain like a planet and he says to me, “First principles, Tyson. What is each thing in itself? What is its nature ? What is this civilization doing that you despise?
Maybe I found my Virgil to guide me through this.
“It kills people. He kills the earth.
“No! It’s incidental. What is the first and foremost thing he does, what good is he in killing?
“Matricidal rage. Fear of death. Small cocks … “
“No, he covets. It is its nature. And how do we start to covet, Tyson? Are we looking for things to covet? No. We start by coveting what we see every day.
Bulb! I can see it, I can see it; they never felt superior at all, they never believed it for a second. They didn’t take pity on us or feel disgust, they were just jelly. Bah. If that’s what your enlightenment gives you, then I don’t want it.
But my new friends seem to have a few pieces of their Age of Reason that they want to keep, it might be really worth keeping them. I think some of their algorithms are off, due to bad Paleolithic background data. I work to correct this in their games and on their commons, and find the skeleton of an arch emerging. Did we make this one or did we dig it up on a mountain? I don’t remember very well.
And don’t worry, they say, we’re going to give a damn about this imperialism right now. Jordan and Jim and Jamie and Brett and Eric all in, full tactical gear. I just have to finish some interviews and some details.
But damn it, they went to the wrong house and I went to the right one, and it’s there and it’s hideous and everything, “He gives up his thoughts and lands or we take his kids back.” And it’s Cook and Darwin and Deakin and his eyes are red and he can see in the dark. But not me: I can only see these shining orbs so I shoot between them—boom, boom, boom, boom, boom– and briefly there is enlightenment, but only briefly, and I don’t like what I see. So I take my heart out of a dry well in the cellar, give it a puppy and tell it to go fuck itself at the house and wait for me there. I haven’t come back yet, so I hope the puppy is doing well.
I’m off to work, building this ark and plundering the lost, and at one point I’m stuck on the wrong side of a crevice and the tunnel is shaking and shouting, “Throw the whip at me so I can get over it. swing. ! ”But Dr. Octopus said to me,“ No, throw me your knowledge and then I’ll throw the whip at you. ”He says there is no time, so I am regrouping my items, my stories and my heritage. and I throw him in the void and guess you know what happens next. I manage to cross later without a whip, then I pull my knowledge out of his cold dead hands, only to lose them again to a nasty boss . But it’s okay, I’ll get it back.
And I ask if feminism will find a place on the Ark, and then all the things that are the fruits of this struggle (for equality?) Are listed and included, except for the word itself. I plead to keep it, and everyone is nice and they “steel man” my position and I feel good with all this support, that in the end all things are reducible to an essence, all things can be. revealed by Occam’s razor. Things are a little more complicated, a little more nuanced when it comes to certain issues around masculinity. I guess every man loves Occam’s razor until it’s time to shave his balls.
I am sometimes afraid of being extradited to Wokestan and publicly executed. I still have friends and family there, and I hope they are doing well. And I would like to know if this puppy is okay. Maybe she grew up and had her own puppies. It’s been a long time since I started working on this transhumanist ark. There are spaces for Enlightenment, Founding Fathers, Crypto Wallets, VR Glasses, Breathwork, Meditation, Leadership Workshops, and DMT Micro Doses. It smells great and every surface is finished with an evolving physical form. There’s a security guard out front, but that’s only to stop Jeffrey Epstein from sneaking aboard with his egg-shaped cock. We all know this bastard never died in prison, so we need to be vigilant because there are children on the Ark as well and we need to protect them. If anything happened to them, who would we practice our Vygotsky on?
Yes, everything is starting to make sense. Chaos and complexity. Institutions and decentralization. Generator functions. Perverse incentives. Speech in bad and good faith. Destruction or survival. Survival. Survival. I wonder, when this Man of Steel inhabits my appetizing and ambiguous non-white form, does he see it as survival? What does this survival look like? Is this Bear Grylls shit, or is it a blonde girl living with cognitively diverse cavemen until she gets kicked out for being too good with a slingshot? It is certainly a fight or flight nightmare, my species coming into the night with spears, or my eternally hyper vigilant species in the savannah, constantly hunted by super predators and you never know where they are, and the life is brutal and horrible and that’s how our brains and our social systems have evolved, isn’t it?
The Man of Steel leaves my body and I am myself again. I went somewhere while he was walking around in my skin, inhabiting my position. I went home. I flew over the rivers and followed them like arteries to get my heart back and it was a pity the puppy didn’t survive but I was home! The mangroves breathed like a fat man into a microphone. I could never hear them before but they have this name, the same name as the lungs, these roots that breathe. I know my old folks must have heard them too, the same way to understand, not through a microscope but through language.
All the old maids are there at the beach looking for mudshell and longshell and crab, but I can’t stop because I’m going to look for stingrays with daddy over there by the oyster reef, the body of this ancestral brolga hiding her egg from the narcissistic emu who stole her children. I miss my children. But daddy shows me the trail of the crocodile monster that lives there, and we have to go into that water where he’s waiting for us. It doesn’t bother us. We don’t fight or steal or something like that.
We know this predator and where it is. We know the trick to making it invisible – the discipline of holding it in your consciousness right now while not thinking of it at all. This is one hell of a meditation, and it beats TM shit. Because we are linked to our predators, and we always know where they are. A tiger shark arrives and dad turns it over with his spear. I throw stingrays. Dad shakes them up and sends them crashing into my legs to make sure I know the lesson about the fight or flight lie. If I jump, run or attack, they will sting me. If I stand among them, everything will be fine and they will share their bodies for our meat. So I stay there and I know that we are more than what we have become. We are more than a story of survival. We were always more (we humans, I mean).
I throw way too many stingrays, more than we can ever eat there. It does not matter. There is plenty in this season and they are fat. This fat is what my brain is made of, and that’s how I evolved this brain. I cook stingrays and it’s my two hour job to support our lives that day. Survival Hours, I guess you’d call them. The rest of the day is spent walking, meeting, rituals and ceremonies, arts and crafts, sex and love, feasting and sport, combat and reconciliation, governance and collective trade. The remaining stingrays will not be wasted – they all go into the earth, nourishing the plants and local spirits that have evolved to depend on these things. I could, however, remove the livers, because I really like this liver. It pops my abs.
But the earth is moving and you have to move with it. Altered states tend to evolve in the same way and I find myself in my big domesticated body when the Man of Steel is done with it. I am losing weight and feeling a little happier. I now have friends who practice their kindness to me no matter what kind of horrible things I say, and I make so much sense now that people have started buying my book which means I can afford a diet. Keto and some weights and a punching bag. Sixteen is a lot of work, between work and concerts and the kids and cleaning and cooking and so on, but it’s worth it, they say. It’s better than primitive subsistence and being raped and eaten by tigers all day long, fighting for their survival. Did you know that a third of all cave man deaths were homicides? That’s right, we checked the records of the Neanderthal church. Your ancestors were mean, stupid, and unhappy. Forget them.
It’s time to grow beyond that meaty costume, that clumsy primate in clothes that stinks and shits and dies. It’s time to survive survival, download consciousness and fly to the stars and be the demigods we all deserve to be, damn it!
That’s what they tell me anyway. We all have to keep working a little longer, extracting the last of the stuff. Tech brothers say they’re too tired and sad to just to survive now, and this world is probably just a simulation anyway. They want to embody the etymology of this bizarre verb, and live above. They say they’ll look at the rest of us left in the biosphere like we’re squirrels or something. I will not go. Someone needs to clean up.
I guess that’s what the future is for me. It is a janitor’s post, a thousand years of making our land liveable again and patiently bringing the former settlers back to the law of the land. It’s not quite survival, and it’s not quite deliverance, although there may be banjos and bow hunting involved. It’s survival.
Survival is a collaboration between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and e-flux Architecture.
Tyson Yunkaporta is an academic, art critic and researcher from the Apalech clan in far north Queensland. He carves traditional tools and weapons and also works as a senior lecturer in indigenous knowledge at Deakin University in Melbourne.