In Interview With The Vampire, both the novel and the film, there is a moment in which the protagonist, Louis, has a meeting with a vampire who goes by the name of Armand. According to what Louis tells the interviewer, Armand tells him that after several hundred years, he (Armand) is the oldest vampire that he knows of.
Now, in subsequent novels of this series, author Anne Rice either adopts the narrative viewpoint of Lestat, Interview With The Vampire‘s antagonist, or whomever her publishers think will sell enough copies. Problem is, once you have read one or two Anne Rice novels, especially if their subject matter happens to be the same (vampires, witches, and so on), they all start to read alike. That is, once you have read enough to know who the main characters are, you will know exactly what they are going to do to themselves and one another for the next 400-900 or so pages. Somewhat like how it is possible to know exactly what will happen in every film that stars Tom Cruise, has Shia LeBouf’s name associated with it, or features the direction of people like Michael Bay. Even albums by Cradle Of Filth are less formulaic and predictable, if only marginally so. But I digress. All of this jabbering about what I consider to be the lowest rung of the entertainment industry and the people on it has been an extremely long lead-in to the point of this article. During this exhaustive dialogue between Louis and Armand, Armand lays out the exact worst thing about being immortal. Whereas the world around he and Louis is changing at a rate that is escalating dramatically with time, they do not. That, he informs Louis, is the irony that finally kills them. The novel and film are set in the 1800s or thereabouts, whereas Armand is from about four centuries prior to that date, so he has a good frame of reference.
It took me a while, I admit, to wake up to what an idiot Rice really is, but I should have smelled it during the introductory parts of The Vampire Lestat. In the initial phases, Rice writes how Lestat awakens in the 1980s. Lestat gets an eyeful and earful of the eMpTyV era and decides, arbitrarily, that the generation living in this time has “inherited the Earth in every sense”. Seriously, fukk you Lestat. Fukk you in both ears. Try actually living as one of the young, a generation that is being asked to make do with a lower standard of living than their parents, before you prattle on about what we have inherited, thanks very much.
But anyway, I am getting too concerned with something that makes me angry. My point here is that on a cognitive and emotional level, Armand is very right. The world changes, we do not. Whilst many scientists feel that Homo Sapien has backed itself into a corner in evolutionary terms, I believe, in a sort of poet-author manner, that the next phase in the evolution of our species will come on an emotional and psychological level. It is kind of going to have to, because unless we figure out a way to survive with no food or fuel at all, the current cries from significant portions of our current populace that every sperm is sacred and every conception must result in a child are completely and utterly incompatible with our species’ long-term survival. Even our short-term survival is being compromised now by these irrational cries for everyone in the world, even people who have no idea who the hell these people are, to abide by their standards and protocols. And such is the problem. You see, if the idiots who think that everyone in the world has to have fifty children hanging off their arms before menopause or exhaustion puts a stop to their breeding habits had their way, the amount of suffering experienced in our world would make that experienced during all of the major wars during the twentieth century (World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the first Gulf War) look like a party at Charlie Sheen‘s house by comparison.
You see, our problem with overpopulation, as bad and dramatic as it is today, did not even really start until about this time last century. The limits of Human food-gathering proved very effective at keeping the Human populace down. And in situations where there were more people than there was food to go around, war, famine, and disease corrected the problem quickly. Spain in the fifteenth century is a good example of this. But the industrial revolution only removed the limits we faced in terms of exploiting the resources that the Earth could provide. It did not remove the limits of the resources themselves. That is an important distinction. You see, a lot of people, when told that the entire world has more people on it than it can reasonably sustain, mistakenly put their hope in science to solve or reduce the problem. The only science that can accomplish that is birth control, and it needs a jump start of biblical proportions now to be able to solve the problem without any Human suffering involved. But all the science in the world cannot make this planet grow in order to meet the needs of an ever-increasing population.
If Christopher Columbus, a man whose birthdate could be somewhat guesstimated by the fact that living to be seventy in Spain during the era of his life is extremely unlikely, were to magically become part of modern times, it begs the question. How would he react and behave in this new world where even his native language has probably changed dramatically? (All languages, even ones as better-structured compared to English as Spanish, change with time.) Would he marvel at how he thinks the youngsters who are having to work more than twice as much as their parents just to meet their basic needs have somehow inherited the Earth in every sense? Or would he spend much of his time in a nervous breakdown from fear? I think the fact that parts of the lands he is credited with “discovering” (on the behalf of the Spanish, maybe… everyone else, falsely) are represented in the media as appearing little different from the Spain he left on his voyage would come like a knife in his heart. Worse yet, he might even find these images or representations comforting, something vaguely familiar with the world he left behind.
You see, for all of that blather that people put on about wanting to go and see the future and learn from the people they find within, most people are bound to the time and place that they are born in. Douglas Adams expressed a theory relating to this during the real Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. In this segment of his radio play, Adams wrote that one theory by one group is that every living thing is attached to the place of their origin by tiny, invisible quantum-packets of guilt that stretch and distort, and do so more with how much further the subject travels from that place of origin. Another theory from the same segment of the radio play holds that irrespective of how fast the physical body moves, the soul moves at a speed… I forget the simile, but it is sufficient to say very, very slow. Hence, this theory holds that as the peoples of the universe invent new and interesting ways to propel themselves at other planets at completely crazy speeds, souls wander about the universe, trying to follow, and in a state of incredible confusion. But the thing is, these are all just creative ways to express what is expressed in a poetic fashion about people behaving in a manner that seems discordant with where they are at the time. To use me as an example, “You can take the man out of Parramatta, but you cannot take the Parramatta out of the man”.
Probably the best examination of this fact is in Robert A. Heinlein‘s “lost” novel, For Us, The Living. In it, the protagonist crashes his car in relatively modern times, and wakes up unchanged “far” in the future. Of course, it is not a coincidence that the protagonist was an engineer living in the year that World War II began. But the time that he wakes up in is Heinlein‘s construct of 2086. Whatever else you make of the story, and I agree with Nancy Green‘s theory that it gives the impression of a draft that Heinlein intended to do further work on but never got around to, it clearly derives its point from the difference in how an educated man from 1939 would see the world compared to the general populace of 2086.
You see, there are two relevant facts about the Human thought process that need to be understood here. One, our intellect serves our emotions, not the other way around. That is why, even when we know that the pastime or hobby we are indulging in is coming at great cost to our health and long-term emotions, we pursue it for that short-term boost anyway. Secondly, our perception of and thought about the world around us either changes slowly, or only in response to exterior stimuli at a pace that matches the strength of said stimuli. That is why there are psychological ailments like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our world has to literally have its face rocked off in order to impart the kind of lasting fear and sadness that psychiatrists had to coin a whole new diagnostic label for. It is why we grieve for years, even a lifetime, when a best friend or one of our children (or the children of our friends) dies. Because unlike our parents or grandparents, we expect our best friends, and especially our children, to be with us for the rest of our lives or a substantial portion thereof. The horrors of combat and the severe fukking with our expectations that the death of a child or major friend represent, they smack our view of our world upside the head so hard that we never have the same view of our world ever again. Bari Walsh, the editor of Bostonia Magazine, has written an excellent article entitled When Mommy Comes Marching Home that touches on a very interesting difference in how men and women process things on a psychological level. Whether this difference is the result of generations of conditioning from exterior sources or of a real physiological and neurological difference between men and women is a subject that needs so much examination that the answer is unlikely to be known within my lifetime. Or the lifetimes of my nephew and nieces, for that matter.
And yet, that remains an excellent example of how the world changes, but the people in it do not. To the left of this paragraph, I have placed a scan of a poster using what was then a fairly reasonable argument in favour of allowing women to vote in political decisions. This poster is, of course, extremely unfair to the mentally ill, the disabled, or alcoholics. In fact, it shows just how far the world has come in terms of perceptions of people who are not completely within the frame of what the mainstream society considers acceptable. But on the same token, it is very sad to see how a movement concerned with equalising the status quo in favour of one group of second-class citizens manages to hit at least two others with the same kind of treatment. I bet that males who had been told they were 4-F had plenty to say about this poster, but the point is that if the people who designed this poster and began planting it in 1912 saw the world today, it would leave them with their mouths hanging open. This is to say nothing of how they would react if I told them exactly what I felt about the examples of the teaching profession, both male and female (with a significant slant towards the latter), that I encountered during my childhood. And just for the record, denying a convict the right to vote is not on. If a decision to be made affects you, and you are considered an adult by the law, you deserve to be allowed to vote in it. Simple as that.
In a hundred years’ time, I hope and plead with Odin that I will not be here for it, our world will puzzle, scare, and even repel people who were part of this one. Even if said people were only infants in this one, like my nephew and nieces. Even the most positive changes, such as the ability to secure information from sources around the world using a machine inside one’s home, confound and frighten today’s equivalent. Do I believe that there is a possibility that this phenomenon might change? Absolutely. Do I believe this will change unless the manner in which cognitive processes develop changes? Absolutely not.
Many times, I have touched upon the inability of disadvantaged groups to elevate their status in spite of decades of fighting to improve their social conditions. And just like is said in other articles I have linked on the subject, they way we think about and perceive ourselves has a lot to do with that.