Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chekhov's Gun

Athos here:

My brother-in-arms, Aramis, asked me to provide a guided tour of The Dionysus Mandate, a novel I was driven to publish after being hounded ruthlessly by its insistence that I do so for about three years. The excerpts I share are from it and, I fear, won't make too much sense out of context. But feel free to get out your credit card and purchase a copy from Amazon and/or Barnes& in order to accrue a truer picture of what the novel is about.
They walked the length of the building. The smell of machinist oil pleasantly filled the facility, a well-equipped tool and die shop and high tech laboratory. At the end of the deserted building, they walked between two ceiling-high baffles. The ambiance became surprisingly dark and dim in this partitioned area. The three men stood still, adjusting to the lower light.

Before them stood a device of great size and solemn craftsmanship. Its engineered superstructure, air-table, hydraulics, threaded tracks, and blades glinted. Studio-quality camera equipment, infrared sensors, and medical monitors were also incorporated onto the apparatus.

“So, what do you think, Lucent, my friend? Will the directors be pleased with the Dionysus Mechanism?” Helmut Praetorius asked ... The mechanism lay beside them like some slumbering beast of prey in a sacred grove.
Anton Chekhov is purported to have said, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." In this excerpt, we are introduced to the Dionysus Mechanism. It is an instrument designed by the World Consortium for World Peace for one purpose: to execute the world's most heinous criminal before a world-wide television audience in the most painful, clinical, and economical method possible. It is a violence reduction mechanism.

Anyone at all familiar with the work of René Girard in the area of cultural anthropology knows that at the heart of his complex and multifaceted opus is the idea that the human race universally utilized violence, paradoxically, to bring about peace, harmony, culture, and religion through the "single victim mechanism." This was not planned, of course, but came about when people found themselves prior to the origin of culture in what Thomas Hobbs coined as the "war of all against all." Unlike other social animals up to and including the higher primates, humans weren't imbued with a dominance/submission instinct. So, when one hand reached for an object of desire, be it a luscious potential mate or a luscious piece of fruit, that gesture was mimicked contagiously. And, in Girard's way of thinking, the multiplication of this acquisitive gesture soon brought what little social cohesion there was to the brink of disaster.

Something not only saved the day, but something did much, much more. This acquisitive gesture mimetically (contagiously) and unconsciously "caught" was replaced by a gesture of even greater mimetic power: the accusatory gesture. Looking around at the madness of desire run amok for the object of desire, someone arbitrarily chose another and pointed his or her finger at that person. "This is all his fault!" was the message of the pointing finger. The accusation was replicated with lightning speed. In Girard's words, the scene became "unanimity minus one."

The designated one became either expelled and exiled or, more likely, the victim of deadly force. And where once there was disorder, madness, and chaos there now lay a dead culprit and an aroused populace happy that he is gone and we can be about our businesses unmolested by such a heinous monster.

The Church and her Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium have worked a long time on the mind of westerners teaching that the old woman at the edge of town is not really a witch, the Jew didn't really poison the well or eat Christian babies, and the demoniac living among the tombs needs rescuing not stoning.

So, in the words of the technician who showed Helmut Praetorius and Lucent Neesam around the Dionysus Mechanism, “Who the hell needs a technologically advanced guillotine anyway?”

Perhaps those who think the human race needs to return to the origin of human culture(s) to quell the rampaging violence we see in our world today. It would do us well to remember to whom mere cultures and kingdoms belong.
"...the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me" [Mtt 4,8-9]

1 comment:

Porthos said...

Skillfully done novel intro and Girard nutshell, Ath. Keep 'um coming.