Some time ago, some fifty years ago, something strange happened in a small village in the Mid West of England. It is not very well documented. It appears that eleven women found themselves pregnant at the very same time. There was gossip, strong words, the occasional blow as the men in he village could not understand. However as one of the pregnant women was fifteen and one over sixty, the village descended in a kind of enforced dreamy sleep. The women stuck together.
The children were born and did they come shining though! They looked the essence of a boy, the essence of a girl. The people rejoiced in prayers, silently thanked their Gods and got on with their lives.
It is documented that one of the villagers, a retired philosopher, did keep a journal.
Every friday from when they were very young he’d play movies for them to draw them into discussions. There was something about them, he knew not quite what. They learned so very quickly, it was as if only one boy had to read a book , and in a debate suddenly any of the girls would have the same arguments. They kept to themselves, yet always seemed to know where the others were. When they were about fourteen one of the boys was hit by a car. It may have been quite unintentional. The driver drove straight into a brick wall of a farmhouse a few days later, no note.
The philosopher began to play back in his mind some other incidents and although he could forestall the thought for a long time, he had to conclude that the children were telepathic, able to communicate in some way without words, sounds or signs one could notice. If one girl knew fact a on Tuesday 10: 12 then the entire tribe would know it at 10:12 too.
He began to consider the implications. Looking back he realized he had know all along that it must have been something like this. The pregnancies, so improbable, so timed- their similar appearance, their way of communication silently and swift. What else could they be but alien? Not unlike the villagers as maybe city folk, or a different kind of human, but deeply and truly alien to their parents, their families, their villages, counties and countries.
I have been paraphrasing The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by the author John Wyndham – this is the document I’m referring to. In his novel the philosopher packs his truck one day with film equipment and explosives. A loud bang. He has taken them out and himself with it. In his goodbye letter we read that he has come to the conclusion that the children are in the possession of such superior tools that they cannot but either enslave or disrupt their host civilization to breaking point. He sees no other way but to blow them to pieces, counting as he is on the deep friendship grown over the years between him and them that will blur their readings of his thoughts.
We now set to scene to 2010.
(say it out loud four times, then turn to your right smiling from ear to ear
Always when I’m in the middle of this story, my students (whether in Eindhoven, Yerevan or Timis) intuitively get the story immediately. They do not understand their parents. They do not understand the way the world works. They cannot understand the insincerity and clumsiness of the procedures needed to check and check if everything is ok. They are intrinsically motivated, they can not believe the state the world is in. They see through the lies of the adult world so easily. They have grown up in the network and when one of them knows something, the rest of the tribe knows it too, in a second flat.
Hey, I’m not going to blow you up, is how I end my tale, but you got to promise me something: take that attitude to the streets and better be quick about it. You are very nice, you collaborate and share out of sheer inevitability. You are able to hold lots of data handy for when you need it. You have all the qualities that we need to build a more balanced world and crack all the formats of the old hierarchical systems that put either money, ego or enforced collectivity on top. But this is only a moment in time, a brief hippie moment, and if it is not articulated it simply does not exist.
Not even in writing I guess for that would be like falling back into as ifs and once upon a times.
We have lived in an age of time as chronology, time as empty space or place on an imaginary stretch of occurrences behind us and an unknown beyond which we believe we are walking in or up to. We can call this Renaissance time. This notion of time has build our Western culture, our notions of progress and has formed the basis for vindicating unethical actions in the name of equality, peace and universal truth. Pre Renaissance time was quite different: “For the Hebrew, to know the time was not a matter of knowing the date, it was a matter of knowing what kind of time it might be. Was it a time for tears or a time for laughter, a time for war or a time for peace? To misjudge the time in which one lived might rove to be disastrous. To continue to mourn and fast during a time of blessing would be like sowing during a time of blessing would be like sowing during harvest time (compare Zach 7:1-3). Time was the quality or mood of events.” (Albert Nolan in Jesus before Christianity, The Gospel of Liberation, p.141) This shift is an ontological break, a move towards, or rather a rude awakening in another world with other rules and rewards. It is not so much a notion of time that has changed but the very prerequisites for a human consciousness to feel at home, to belong, to da-sein. Our current shift towards a ‘smart’ world, ‘ambient intelligence’, an Internet of Things could be felt in the past decades, was noted by science fiction authors and is engulfing itself towards the more ‘normal’ notions of the ‘real’. As more people are ‘getting it’ this eschaton “a real future event which will be qualitatively different from all previous events and which is the only event that can give ultimate meaning to one’s present situation.” (p.76), is beginning to work its way into finding interfaces to make the transition from Renaissance time to Realtime possible as a foundation of a new kind of order, in the plain sense of the word; ordering space, body, movement and action. In this light we can understand the notions of endtime, end of times, or the 2012 ideas on radical change; we are moving to, or will awake in a world with a qualitatively different notion of time as experiencing multiple and consecutive events become the default of ordinary experience, a kind of experience that in Renaissance time was the stage of the visionary, the tools of the creative painters, the psychotic trance of self salvation of the manic mind.
The exception becomes the rule in Realtime.
The question is who can live there? And what kind of solidarities will be forged in a world where multiplicity of experience and identity is the default? This is the space after all where everything lies painfully shining in light and transparency is radical. It took Nietzsche a lifetime to painstakingly conquer it, and in conquering ‘it’ losing himself as self.