Thursday, 9 August 2007

part 2: freedom (for people and bears)

I just finished reading (listening to) The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. Having spent the last several years of my life in academia subsumed by dystopian studies, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the ideas at the centre of Hawks's fiction.

I can't do the novel justice in the few sentences I'm going to give it here so if you're looking for a summary or review look elsewhere. I'd prefer to draw your attention to a few points of interest:
  • John Twelve Hawks lives "off the grid," as do some of his central characters.
  • The digital panopticon he describes is scary but I doubt it's far off the mark: it seems pretty likely that we're being coerced (and frightened) into sacrificing our privacy in the name of "security".
  • His (fictional) vision is not without hope. Hawks offers a suggestion of how we might (should) live in a [critical] utopian enclave, where community members take advantage of the benefits of high technology without becoming slaves to it, working toward and cherishing a sustainable and enjoyable way of life.
I intend to read the sequel.

Behind the controlling forces of digital surveillance in Hawks's novel lies a secret organization known as the Tabula or The Brethren, which makes The Traveler akin to conspiracy theory as much as science fiction, dystopia or thriller. Of course, I can't read anything about conspiracy theories without thinking of Ewigkeit, or now, James Fogarty's new project The Bombs of Enduring Freedom. Fogarty's work delves into many of the ideas that Hawks's writing raises, so if you're interested in one, you might want to check out the other.

The debut CD from The Bombs of Enduring Freedom is available for pre-order now from the artist's own independent production facility, Death to Music.

By now you might be wondering where bears come into all this. In The Traveler, one of Hawks's characters compares the average human to an animal in a cage. Only, unlike the non-human animal, the human entertains the illusion of freedom and privacy and doesn't see the bars of his/her cage. Thus, unlike the Syrian brown bear that recently escaped from a roadside zoo in Fort Erie, the average human isn't making a bid for freedom.

I completely respect the bear's attempt to run away but loose, s/he presented a significant danger to the surrounding communities. Of course, if the bear hadn't been kept in the little zoo in the first place, this problem would never have arisen. And what most people fail to realize is that roadsize zoos are dangerous even when the animals are confined. The animal enclosures at roadside zoos tend to be inadequate (thus the escape), placing visitors at risk. Poor cleaning and maintenance and improper enclosures present a health hazard as well.

Niagara Action for Animals sent out a request today asking for some letter-writing action in their ongoing efforts to ban (or at least better regulate) roadside zoos. Here are some suggested targets for your letters:

Editorial Page Editor
The Standard
17 Queen St.
St. Catharines, Ont L2R 5G5
905-684-7251 ext. 258
fax: 905-684-6032

Niagara This Week
3550 Schmon Parkway, Unit 1
Thorold, ON L2V 4Y6

Fort Erie Times

450 Garrison Rd. Unit 1
Fort Erie, Ontario
L2A 1N2
Telephone: 905-871-3100
Fax: 905-871-5243

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