Thursday, January 26, 2012

prompt #1

Julia Carpey

Adam Johns

Narrative and Technology

26 January 2012

The parallels between Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man and Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? smack you in the face within the first four pages of Marcuse and the first three chapters of Dick. The most basic parallel of which being set with the statement that Marcuse makes is on page xli of the book, and the second paragraph of the introduction for anybody else. Marcuse states that “the political needs of society become individual needs and aspirations,” (p. xli, Marcuse). Whether or not I wholeheartedly agree with this is another question (which I will get to later on in this entry), but what we’re looking at in comparison to Dick’s novel lines up almost directly. The government on Earth and of the new colonies on Mars is trying to convince the citizens of Earth and the new citizens of the new colonies that Mars is the place to be. That if one does not inhabit Mars, then you are considered a “special” citizen, and not in the glittering way we typically associate with the word, “special.”

They invest in media outlets covering this in big, frontline articles and features on the news, in advertisements on every TV channel and billboard, and even in the manner in which they “allow” their citizens to manifest artificial animals. They do the latter since the real animals are dwindling with the toxins that now blanket Earth, but more subtly as a tactic to get the citizens to think and believe that they belong in the colonies. In doing this, they are forcing the citizens to live vicariously through the colonized citizens which, in theory, do have the real animals. In doing this, the government is in turn forcing the Earth citizens to recognize that they “belong” in a colony. Yet, they make these thoughts and notions seem as though they are purely conceived individually and altruistically while they are 100% intentionally planted, almost akin to the manner in which The Matrix lays things out for the viewer.

Another thing to look at here is the manner in which they label the Earth citizens as “special.” The government does so in a way that forbids the men and women from emigrating to a colony even if they wanted to. This is made obvious in chapter 2 of Dick’s novel as John Isadore describes his existence as a “special.” The forbidden emigration in turn only makes the emigration more desirable as the victim can no longer attain the hard-to-reach as it has now become the absolute unattainable. It is a tactic also done completely intentionally by the government to make the rest of the citizens on Earth desire the government’s band-aid for a mistake even further. And through the right amount and right mediums of advertising and propaganda, they can effectively get their message across that, in this situation, emigrating to the Mars colonies is naturally (I say that word, “naturally,” laced with sarcasm) every citizen’s wants, hopes, dreams, desires and more importantly, an absolute necessity to survive.

As stated above, whether or not I believe this notion of politics and society which Marcuse lays out to be absolute is another story. I think that many times the society makes their wants, needs and aspirations into what the government works for. Or maybe that’s what they want us to believe.


Adam said...

Your comparison to the Matrix is, at least in a way, a circular one, although you didn't intend it as such - Dick's work in general, and this novel in particular, is of enormous importance to the Matrix, and to similar works in that same vein.

This essay seems both somewhat short and somewhat slow moving - either one would be fine, but you want to either write at somewhat greater length, or get more done faster. What I mean in particular is that you are doing a good job of zeroing in on the parallel interest in advertising and the mass media in both books, and that we can understand Dick's portrayal of mass media and advertising through Marcuse. But this line of thinking develops somewhat slowly - it struggles to move into a particular argument (how do we read Dick differently with Marcuse before us? Why does it *matter* that we can bring the two authors together? Etc.

Your point that the categorization of specials enhances the desirability of emigration is really fantastic, and seems like it should be important - but how do you take it beyond being an isolated observation? How does it turn into a different, or simply enhanced, way of understanding the novel? There is potential there which isn't fully exploited/developed.

Short version: a series of good and great thoughts, which struggle to cohere into a single argument.

Dana Edmunds said...

Dear Julia,

You do a good job of taking Marcuse's quote and applying to the society in Dick's novel, but I think your argument would be stronger if you included a quote from Android's Dream that made you conclude that Mars was as just as bad as Earth. I was confused by the sentence "...even in the manner in which they 'allow' their citizens to manifest artificial animals." Perhaps a quote from the book that equates animals to products would be stronger. Your discussion of "specials" is spot on, but I think a direct quote would tell more in less space.