Does your email inbox (not to mention world news) make you feel we’re in a dress rehearsal for the zombifying apocalypse?
THERE I WAS, ONLINE, waist-deep in a joyless, turgid, futility-inducing explanation of current geopolitics and wishing I was watching some uplifting porn—remember, you promised to show me again how to get onto that free stuff you watch—when I heard a melodious and welcoming electronic trill announcing new email. An Inbox arrival, what a treat! Out of Google and into Entourage in a heartbeat, to find a note, nestled between “Alzheimer’s Dementia Health” and “Cute Ukrinian Grils” (what’s life without at least one cute Ukrinian gril?), sent by Ambassador Collen V. Kelapile, and titled “YOUR UNCLAIMED PAYMENT.”
Delightful! I haven’t had mail from the good Ambassador in, why, forever. And short of opening the email, I found myself wondering who I would find if I could trace the communication to its source—some masturbating little whiz kid back east mining sucker money, or a roomful of extortionists in Kenya or some Rio slum, regaling each other with crazy name ideas?
Wikipedia informs me: “email spam has steadily grown since the early 1990s, and by 2014” (eight long years ago, and before the enforced tedium of Covid) “was estimated to account for around 90 percent, or 54 billion a day, of total email traffic.” Continues Wikipedia: “The legal definition and status of spam varies from one jurisdiction to another, but nowhere have laws and lawsuits been particularly successful in stemming spam.”
You will, however, be pleased to learn that “governments, through various policies and agencies, are aggressively combating spam in all of its forms.” Here in Canada, we have invoked the Wave a Stern and Disapproving Finger At Them Act. Presumably, if caught, the little bastards will be sent to bed without their supper or recreational drugs.
My research also takes me to the related topic of Internet service theft, where I encounter the expression “zombifying malware.” Great name for a death metal band, huh?
Principal culprit countries? Brazil, India, Vietnam, Russia, China, Turkey. My guess is that the ambassador hails from Russia. Collen V. Kelapile—the V and the K are giveaways, don’t you think? Plus Russia is, like, so evil. Well, actually, maybe Turkey. That last name, Kelapile, sounds vaguely rug-ish. Or maybe…oh, I don’t know!
And what do you imagine I would have to do to claim my UNCLAIMED PAYMENT? Probably just slip some tidbit like a bank account number and a password. Seems reasonable: a give for a get.
I’m sure the daily 54 billion has doubled in the last eight years. “YOUR UNCLAIMED PAYMENT” is only one of a number of things bobbing along on my ever-rising personal crap river, joined, at the moment, by “Bio Boost,” “Men’s Miracle Male Enhancement,” “Big Diabetes Lie,” “Brain Fix;” or, by subject, financial and identity theft, big penis fantasies, and sickness and dementia.
Penis size versus Canada’s stern finger—do you even need a ruler?
All of which takes us to the larger subject of fraying social control. Given current misadventures with managing the pandemic, you have to hope that stop signs and traffic lights at intersections don’t turn into the next symbols of the state’s efforts to limit personal freedom. What a comfort it would be to hear someone dismissing current excesses as simply the latest short-lived fads, like propeller beanies or peace sign headbands in their day.
I’m posing such matters because I want to paint a picture that reveals the absolute fragility, the limits of capacity and resilience, of our systems of social response and, by extension, the skin-thin wall of social agreement that allows us to get along, that makes every day a nice adventure, happy-face stuff, instead of a horror show.
These days, I wouldn’t call this an armchair conversation. First, our friends to the south are in a dress rehearsal for chaos—one of their own making, but trust me: borderless. Second, you surely see COVID as the ecological metaphor it is. Next, the Russia/Ukraine catastrophe alerts us to geopolitical, economic, ideological shifts that will touch every human system, including food, energy, financial and other systems, everywhere. And last, we are stepping into a technological twilight zone and even right now, with the emergence of the surveillance planet, it feels like a dress rehearsal for the zombifying apocalypse.
If you were given to acknowledging catastrophe you might call this a time of emergency. And what’s the least useful thing you can do in an emergency?
“Emergency? What emergency?”
You can forgive people for clinging to animal comforts and to presumed normalcy. Anything you can do to make that tinnitus of worry stop ringing in your head….
Some recent geomorphic event in Tonga, or Pago-Pago, or Narnia has put earthquakes and earthquake preparedness back in the news—a good time to remind you of Gene’s 3 Rules of Earthquake Response:
1. Run to your closet to grab that outfit, you know, the one that makes your ass look like you’re still a teenager;
2. Clutch the houseplant, the one you named Dempsey and talk to when you think nobody’s around to hear;
3. Scream a lot and act paralyzed until someone carts you to safety in an ambulance.
Which, incongruously, brings me to a last point that’s more or less on point with this column’s stated—okay, ostensible and presumed—themes, architecture and urban design. You will have noticed—this instalment living proof—that such parameters seem rarely to contain the wanderings of this column.
What’s the architectural message of all the residential high-rises—I’m tempted to say “shitboxes” but I’ll settle for “filing cases”—sprung and now continuing to spring out of the ground around Downtown?
If you believe in the principle of the courtship of opposing forces, the hubris of all that concrete and rebar can invite only one outcome. In terms of social messaging, they exist to remind you that the rigidity, exclusion, non-negotiation and social inertia embodied in the city’s previous identity—a little bit of Olde England—made it a candidate for destruction. The only criterion for tomorrow’s buildings—that is, buildings that will serve any social purpose tomorrow—is their ability to foster community and connection—in other words, love, love, love (drag out that peace sign headband, you know it’s still in your closet). Today’s frozen towers will soon be abandoned by good citizens, the windowless shells taken over by the neo-tribal homeless: the Pandora Punishers, the View St Vikings.
Founder of Open Space, founding publisher of Monday Magazine, originator of the seven Gaining Ground urban sustainability conferences, Gene Miller is currently promoting ASH, an innovative affordable housing concept, writing “Futurecide,” a book that argues that catastrophe is ecological, writing “Houseplex—Density Without Damage,” presenting and editing the website “Shit Sandwich—the Best of the Bad News,” and initiating the Centre for the Design of the Future, a Victoria-based host for social innovation.