Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Thirteen is a science fiction novel by Richard Morgan, published perhaps two or three years ago, and set about a century in the future. The United States has splintered into three entities -- the high-tech Pacific Rim, the North Atlantic Union (the northern and northwestern states + Canada), and the Republic (aka "Jesusland"). Thirteens are genetically engineered alpha males developed in the last decades of the 21st century, genetically programmed for combat. Certain qualities -- e.g., paranoia, reflexes, combat readiness -- that have been genetically bred out of modern humans by the Neolithic revolution are to be found in these males. The story involves one Thirteen methodically hunting down another such and takes us through all three of the US splinters. A review of the book better than I could possibly write can be found here:


I wanted to focus on something else Morgan brings up explicitly in the course of his story. Just as the poodle is descended from the wild wolf, the pig from the wild boar, the sheep from the mountain goat, so, too, are modern humans descended from much more formidable ancestors. Just as the wolf, the boar, and the goat have been domesticated by deliberately selecting for certain qualities generation after generation, so also have modern humans been deliberately selected for docility, herd behavior, compliance with rules, and so on. Modern humans are the equivalent of factory-farm animals, and serve a roughly similar function. That's what being civilised means. In modern societies the true dissidents and revolutionaries have mostly been bred out, ostracised, denied a living, killed outright. I can't arrive at any other tenable hypothesis as to why humans remain so docile (leaving aside some ineffectual bleating) at transparent and brutal exploitation. The exploitation isn't even surreptitious -- it's out in the open. But nothing changes. The silence and docility of the lambs.

And nope, I didn't buy my copy of Thirteen from Mayday: not the kind of book the store stocks.

1 comment:

AA said...

I see a recent post by Joe Bageant along similar lines:


QUOTE Money, violence and politics, the three jackals that hunt together, and feast on society's craving for prohibited commodities, alcohol in the thirties and cocaine today. The politicians run the perimeter of the human herd, guiding it this way and that through speeches and legislation, providing distraction, the killers enforce the code of the pack, assuring that the money always flows in the direction of the jackal pack. The jackals are a permanent fixture of global life now, whether the commodity is crude oil under indigenous people's soil, or soil itself upon which to grow palm oil trees in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the corporations drive the politicians who manage America's political consciousness, steering it around a thousand truths toward extraction of maximum profit from the American herd. The herd, honestly speaking, regards politics mostly as spectacle -- some emotionally, others as entertainment, if they think about it at all. Let's not mistake the Tea Party noise or yammer about sham healthcare "reform," both of which are theater state productions, for political involvement by "the people."

Our attention spans are briefer than a rabbit fuck. Anything in depth is anathema. Only slogans and brands survive. We do not understand much of anything in depth except the football rating system.UNQUOTE