THE POWER OF ANGER
Not many understood, that night, why we were all standing in the plaza by the giant bonfire, with stacks of holy books in our arms. The writings of GSM – the Great Spiritual Master, who centuries ago wrote beautiful poems on behalf of brotherhood and peace – came packaged in a thousand different ways: in simple, unpretentious paperback books easy to carry around; in sturdy hardbound editions, heirlooms as complete as altars, which were best left at home; in surprisingly thin folios which transmitted the essentials to an impatient age, and eased the busy mind with soothing tracts of white space in the place of words; in a wide assortment of data chips, CDs, DVDs, and diskettes designed for modern times. Tonight, all the differences of these diverse media had been put aside; they had come together to the edge of the leaping flames so that we might save the world by destroying them.
Not many understood. But I did. Those others simply listened to the government; I reasoned. What chance did the GSM stand against the NT – the Necessary Technology which had resurrected our human prospect on the earth? What chance did the True Understanding stand against the Great Discovery? The rest of them had come to the fire merely because the government asked them to. I came to the bonfire, whose ravenous flames climbed high into the night, because I understood.
Before our time, civilization as we know it had reached the verge of collapse. Fossil fuels were running out, our entire system of transport and supply and manufacture was breaking down. Solar, wind, and geothermal technologies which sought to pick up the slack, along with nuclear power plants, had not covered the ground we thought they would, and some alarming accidents had occurred which dimmed our enthusiasm for them: the Breeder Reactor explosion in Tennessee, and meltdown in Louisiana; the malfunction of the computers which directed the giant energy beam from the orbital solar-collection stations to the power-dissemination plants on the ground. The ancient myth of Phaethon’s runaway sun-chariot came to life in one prolonged scream of hope gone wrong; Carl Sandburg’s paean to the great, wind-swept city of iron and human muscle lost its frame of reference. A charred and lonely place was all that remained on the shores of Lake Michigan, whose puzzled waters searched in vain for laughter and ambition. Besides this, terrorists succeeded in dipping their hands into the proliferating network of uranium and plutonium shipments, which were streaming, uninhibited, over the rail lines and highways between our mines, ports and enrichment centers, and between our power plants and waste sites. Two suitcase bombs and three dirty bombs were fed by our lack of caution, and the suddenly empty spots on our map did not endear us to our new choices, our reluctant reply to the faithlessness of oil, gas and coal. Neither did the wars we fought to control the last sputtering oilfields of the world, which left thousands of families grieving beneath electric lights which only succeeded in illuminating their weary, heartbroken faces.
In these turbulent, anxious times, dangerous radicals emerged, eager to convince us that the only remedy was to change the nature of civilization itself. These unwanted critics told us that there was no new energy source that we could "simply plug into the gap left by the collapse of fossil fuels"; they told us that a complete re-envisioning of society was in order, that our material expectations must be drastically reduced, that the car must be abolished, that industry must be lightened and what was left of it returned to the city, and that the city must be expanded to incorporate agriculture. Government planning must replace the freewheeling dynamics of business. We must surrender our wealth.
The air was fierce in those days, filled with revolutionary ideas: wild, untested premises pitted against archaic dinosaurs that could barely take a step but which embodied everything we cherished and believed in. Strident, grating militants clashed with beloved, senile clingers-to-yesterday; raucous, irritating prophets who stuck out like a sore thumb, did battle with elders who were dear to us, but who we could see had nothing left to say. We listened to their arguments on our behalf, and knew we were alone. We were desperate, confused, attached to the ship that was sinking, but afraid of the water. What could we do?
That is when, thank God, the Great Discovery was made. How history loves to lead us to the edge, before it lifts us with gentle or angry arms, as it may be, out of one age and into the next. The foundations of the Great Discovery (GD) were laid by research done at MIT, brilliant place of minds that it is, where a machine capable of detecting and enhancing human brainwaves, and transforming them into "industrial-grade electric current", was devised. In this research, it was found that in the "spectrum" of human emotion, the band of mental energy corresponding to anger was the most intense and the most easily converted into electric power. A group of grad students was exposed to infuriating circumstances, and ten of them together were able to light a 100-watt light bulb. It was a modest beginning, but within a year, thanks to an improved energy-collector, anger-isolater and overlapping circuit loop, these same ten subjects were able to simultaneously power a television and an air conditioner. With the incorporation of advanced superconductor technology by the device (once it was adopted by corporate R & D departments and properly funded), and with further improvements in design, the anger-to-electricity conversion ability was vastly amplified, and for the first time in human history, the feasibility of using anger to create power was convincingly demonstrated.
The Great Discovery was at once followed by the Great Implementation (GI), which occurred within the context of the free market, which only a decade before had seemed to be gasping with emphysema, but which now rose robustly and with rosy cheeks from its deathbed to do what it did best. Enormous receptor antennae were placed throughout the major cities, capable of picking out the energy of anger from all the diverse brainwaves radiating from our human abode. Less effective energies were tuned out, while the energy of anger was collected, reinforced, converted in underground power stations to electricity, and then transmitted by wire to all the hungry homes of the nation, starving for the lifestyle we had almost lost. Like blood through the arteries, the beautiful, life-giving currents of electrons raced through power lines to TV screens, to stereo systems, to computers, to heating units and air conditioners, to lights and appliances, to factories and machines, to rail lines and to the electric tracks which guided the latest generation of automobiles. Civilization was saved! We who had stood on the precipice of a new Dark Age, such as ancient Rome had faced as it plunged into the abyss of barbarism and feudalism, were rescued from the very brink of catastrophe by the genius of the human mind with its back to the wall. Foresight was rendered unnecessary by desperation, austerity was dismissed by the cleverness of our will to prosper. We humans are magnificent in procrastination, our seemingly fatal delays always have a last card up their sleeve. We did not give in to the radicals who would have demeaned us by forcing us to live as our ancestors lived, we did not yield to the timid ones who would have turned the world upside down. We were saved by a brilliant panic. Realism did not cheat us.
As time went on, the amazing new system was improved still further. The government, quite intelligently, I think, became involved at the request of the utility companies, which is perfectly legitimate for a mixed economy. Deliberate provocations were engineered and worked into the fabric of society to keep the anger levels, which were the key to the success of our civilization, at their highest possible levels. Construction projects which knotted up our highways and created maddening traffic jams were used to elevate the rage which our infrastructure depended on; housing shortages were manipulated into being, in order to force large numbers of people to live together in cramped quarters, which laboratory studies had already proven drives rats to new heights of aggressiveness; a new professional organization, the League of Responsible Business Owners (AKA the League of Unfair Bosses) was formed to promote and support workplace abuse, which sociologists had determined was a major potential source of anger; while psychologists conferred with politicians on the usefulness of having foreign enemies, whose atrocious images could be cultivated to produce indignation for the benefit of the economy. As one notable philosopher wrote: "The incredible potential of the human heart for generating electricity seems nearly inexhaustible." What an astonishing change from only a few years before, when civilization seemed to have reached its limits and to have no choice but to grind to a halt and consider some other option: something self-deprecating and utterly beneath us. How blessed we were, in our moment of need, to have come upon a new source of energy which was endless and renewable!
But then, the teachings of the Great Spiritual Master got in the way. Persistent ancient writings: perniciously humane, tenacious in their impracticality, centuries-old, yet refusing to die! Once before, they had been tolerated for their ability to keep the masses in line, who were reared with the ideal of gentleness in order to deter the dangers of pride. But now, instead of preserving civilization, the teachings of the GSM threatened to destroy it. As often happens in times of tumult and confusion, there was a great revival and resurgence of the archaic morals, a desperate search for meaning, a grasping at spiritual straws in the midst of the material freefall. As the GD and GI struggled to lift us out of the pit of the earth’s ungenerous resistance to our invulnerability with the brilliant new gift of anger-technology, the teachings of the GSM countered the recovery, dampening the output of rage which was needed to keep the gears of civilization turning. Millions of people were kept outside of the energy-generating system by their rekindled commitment to the wisdom of the GSM, by their philosophical nature, by their calmness in the face of aggravation, by their disengagement from the boisterous ego which is the champion of strife, by their focus on beauty rather than frustration. Experts in the energy industry, working together with corporate sociologists, estimated that the nation was losing up to 1500 billion kilowatt hours per year on account of the GSM revival, and as the recovery of civilization seemed threatened by the obsolescence of their mindless faith, which suited pastoral times centuries removed from the present, but which was as arsenic to the present, pressure mounted to do something. Widespread brownouts were the final straw. At last the government, which was always wary of doing too much, had no choice but to intervene, lest the goodwill of fools who did not understand that we were no longer a simple tribal people running after sheep in the hills, derail a highly advanced and complex society which now required anger to maintain its standard of living. "Our lifestyle does not grow on a tree," one economist said, for the benefit of the ignorant. "It is a great economic achievement, a feat of social athleticism whose lifeblood is energy. Our most important duty as citizens and as patriots is to stand by our way of life, and to generate the energy which will preserve that way of life, the way of life for which our forefathers died; and to keep our nation strong." And thus, the government had, at last, reluctantly declared war upon the teachings of the GSM – reluctantly, for interference with the constructive anarchy of history is always the last option. As patriots of our country, we had no choice but to come to the edge of the fire with the holy books in our arms.
The people who stood beside me on the momentous night of the book-burning did not know why they were here except that the government had called upon them to come, and that everywhere there were flags waving. But I knew what was at stake: the future of civilization, itself, which depended on the power of anger. For men at liberty to express their rage, for men who are free to hate and despise others, there are cities. Men of peace would take us back to the days of the caves. We would live in forests like the animals. When the bonfire organizer cried out to us over the PA system, urging us to hurl our sacred books into the blaze, I did not hesitate. I loved my country and I believed in the promise of civilization.
As the giant yellow flames hissed and struck at the air like snakes, I watched the ashes of the sacred books climbing upwards from the inferno, like snow falling backwards: snow that was black and gray instead of white. Some fools cheered without knowing why; other fools wept. I said nothing, I merely complied, without misgivings or nostalgia; I, alone of all who stood there, understood the power of anger.
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