A favorite poem of Nelson Mandela
Dystopia 22: Gerry Revisted
Jack lay in the fetal position, rocking to his own rhythm. He was trying to coax himself to sleep. Blessed sleep. The only state where unrelenting pain could not reach him. No part of him felt whole. The smile that had charmed so many women, including Laissi, was now broken and ragged; when his cracked and swollen lips parted enough to show it. One of his eyes no longer admitted any light. He was afraid of how that eye looked. Was it a sick, milky color now? Jack had no way to know.
His hands were the worse. Where the nails had been, there were only scabs. His right arm terminated in an uneven swollen mass of broken fingers. They spared his left hand so he could still feed himself. His back was a mass of burned and infected flesh. The backs of his legs were purple and swollen as were the soles of his feet. And then there were the other wounds. Best to not think about those.
That was not the worst of it though. If it had just been for the wounds he could go back. They could still come and rescue him. He could heal. He could retrain the left hand to do what the right had. Paje could salve his back and his scars would match Laissi’s. But Paje could not salve all of his wounds. And so Jack lay there, whimpering in the fetal position and trying to escape into sleep.
That dripping sound. This new constant drip, drip. How could a man sleep with that going on? He closed his eyes tighter against the sound and his whimper increased to a groan. If they had invented something new to torment him, he did not want to know and he surely did not want to see.
No, even if they came for him he could not go back. He could not undo what he had become.
Drip, drip, drip…
He could not stand that noise. He opened his eyes to the glaring light that never ceased in his cell. He sighed to himself and with some effort lifted his head slightly toward the noise. Another man’s boot came into focus.
Hurriedly Jack rolled to his stomach and, cradled his right hand in his left, lifted his torso from the floor to one elbow. Panting with the effort he focused on the new occupant of the room. The man sat with his body braced against the far wall. He was soaking wet but still had his clothes on. This confused Jack because clothes were one of the first things to go, and water was one of the more recent things that had been done to him. This man seemed completely out of order to Jack.
“How did you get here?” Jack’s voice crackled.
“Well that’s not really important, is it Jack?”
The voice was so familiar. But that was impossible. There was no way it could be…
“Aye, Jack. Seems you’re in a bit of pickle ma’ boy. Christ, I leave ya for a minute and look what ya do.”
Jack struggled to lift himself to a sitting position so he could look Gerry in the face. Indeed it was his old companion from Fort Cheney. He looked exactly the way he had on their last day together. The dripping sound was from the puddle forming around the old man’s wet clothes.
“Why are ya so wet?”
“Ocean’s a wet place, and you and I got to swim for it if we want to get to Canada.”
“Canada?! We’re miles from Canada, Gerry.” Canada. That was far away in Jack’s mind. Not only in space but in time. It had been ages since he had even thought of Canada.
“Nah. I’ve come to take you to Canada, m’ boy. But if ya want to go with me, ya got to swim for it Jackee m’ boy.” Gerry grinned his toothless, old codger grin.
“I’m sorry Gerry. I’d love to go with ya but I can’t. There’s this woman. I’m going to be a father, Gerry. I can’t leave now.”
Gerry nodded at Jack and said, “Well Jack. You know the truth of that don’t ya, m’ boy? Ya can’t go back to them. But ya can go with me to Canada. Ya just have to swim for it m’boy.”
If Callum was to march into his cell right now Jack would kiss his feet and follow him out. He would go with Callum or anyone, anywhere away from here. Hell, Jack would follow him to the moon. But he had faced the truth of it long ago. Callum was not coming. Maybe he thought of himself as a Jaguar, but they had not come for him, like they had come for Laissi. Maybe he was not a Jaguar to them. Maybe they were only part of the long list of those who had used Jack for their own devices. It was only for Laissi and the baby that he still kept silent. Had she had the baby yet? Who could say?
It did not matter that they were not coming. Not now. That was for the best really. Because it would not be Jack that followed Callum out of the cell. Jack was dead. The man Jack had been was gone. The fort had truly stolen him away. He would never be the man he was supposed to be. Not the man, father, lover he would have been. His hand may very well heal and Laissi would get used to his broken smile but his broken soul would never heal. He would always cower at sharp noises or a raised hand. He would never be able to look another human in the eye. Not even Laissi. He would always look away, look down like dog.
“What are you talking about. There’s no water here, Gerry. Not enough to swim in, even if I knew how.”
“Oh that’s why I came, Jack. To help ya to swim for it. To help ya get to Canada. To the open water.”
“I can’t leave Gerry. I can’t leave Laissi.”
“Laissi. Is that your woman’s name? I like it. Has a nice ring to it. Can’t wait to meet her. But she has her own swimming to do. I’m just here to teach you to swim.”
“Old man, you’re as crazy as ya always were.” Jack said shaking his head. He didn’t have the strength to sit up any more. He slid back down to the floor.
“Thaaats right. You sleep now Jack m’boy. Get up your strength. It’ll take all your strength to swim with me, Jack.”
Jack awoke the way he always did. The door to his cell was flung open and two men marched quickly in. They grabbed him by each shoulder to drag him from his cell. Invariably they bumped and shook his right hand. With no shame left, Jack screamed in response. His legs and feet were so badly treated that he could no longer walk, even if he had wanted to propel himself to further torment. He let them drag him.
The whole thing happened so fast that Jack nearly forgot his strange conversation before he had slept. He strained his protesting muscle to look over his shoulder to the corner where Gerry had been, but his friend was gone. Just as he thought. A disjointed hallucination from his tortured mind. There was no going back.
He turned his eyes forward again and gasp in breath. There stood Gerry in the hall.
“Told ya I was here for you, m’ boy. Time to learn to swim, Jack.”
Jack could think of nothing to answer Gerry and only watched as Gerry turned to walk slightly in front of the guards as they dragged Jack down the hall to the torment that had become his life. Gerry’s boots made a squishing sound and left small puddles on the floor with each foot fall, but the guards took no notice.
“I know ya got one last fight in ya boy. Ya been thinking there’s nothing left. Ya been thinking your going to crack and tell ’em all ya know despite that lassy ya got back there, but I know you got one last bit o’ fight left in ya.” Gerry continued undaunted by Jack’s silence. “Just that one last bit o’ defiance and then you can come to Canada with me, m’ boy.”
Jack had no idea what Gerry was talking about. What defiance did he have left to show? And even if he did, did Gerry think he was suddenly going to get up and walk out of here? Walk all the way to the ocean? Not to mention swim a million miles to Canada? Gerry was even crazier than Jack. Far crazier than when he had known him at Fort Cheney.
They brought him to the room Jack knew so well. The room of questions and pain. They tied his arms out at right angles to his body on two wooden planks that formed a cross and then tilted his head down. Jack knew form this preparation what today’s flavor of pain would be.
Mr. Teeth entered the room.
“Good evening DJ.”
“Damn, got it wrong again. I thought it was morning.”
Mr. Teeth chuckled, “Well you’re in a fine spirit today DJ. What do you say we dispense with this today?”
“Great idea.” Jack stated with resignation.
“Ya got it in you to give him one more fight m’ boy. Don’t give away your woman now.” Gerry had taken up a position by Jack’s outstretched left hand.
“Then tell us where the rebels are, DJ.”
“They’re in Canada.” Jack said for lack of a better idea.
“Pity. It was such a nice day.” He stepped back and nodded and one of the goons who had dragged Jack down here stepped forward. He thrust a flat stick into Jack’s mouth. Jack no longer had the teeth to fight against such an intrusion. Then the thug turned the stick on its edge propping Jack’s mouth open 2 inches. He stuffed Jack’s mouth with a wet rag and Jack immediately started to gag. The stick was removed and Gerry was right next to his head. He was crouched down by Jack’s one good eye. Jack’s eyes were wide with terror but Gerry spoke soothingly to Jack.
“This is it my boy. Now ya swim. Ya take a deep breath and swim for Canada.”
Jack’s eyes widened in horror at what this mad man and former friend was suggesting. He began to shake his head furiously.
“Now Jack, I know what you’re thinking. Do ya deny that if I had given ya a gun or a knife in the cell you would have hesitated to use it?”
The men strapped his head to the plank. Jack’s breath came in panicked gulps as Gerry kept talking to him calmly.
“Ya know ya can’t go back to the Jaguars, son. Best ya come with me. It won’t matter what they done ta ya in Canada.”
The men placed a wet gauze material over Jack’s face and his sight of Gerry was lost but Gerry kept reasoning with Jack.
“Ya think it will hurt too much and you’re right. But its just like the tooth Jack. The sooner you’re rid of it the sooner ya can have peace. I’m here for ya, Jack. Ta help ya be rid of the pain.”
Jack’s breaths were still in panicked but he had to admit he saw the sense of it. They weren’t coming for him. Laissi had been one of their own. Maybe they had even come for Tendo. He had not seen her since the screams from the other room. But they were not coming for him and that was just as well. His mind was gone and he would never be the man he had been. He was in a sense already dead.
The cold water began to pour on his face and Jack began to cough and sputter.
“Now Jack! Ya learn to swim now! Swim for it and I’ll meet ya in Canada.!”
Jack steeled himself for the pain and fought against the urge to cough the water out and suck what air he could get in. He forced his lungs to drag against their will the water that was being poured on him.
Immediately, his lung overrode his order and rejected the fluid. They sought clean dry air but found none. The room did indeed swim and become echoey.
“You scum. You’re supposed to get him to talk. Not kill him. Get him up! Get hm up!”
Jack was vaguely aware of movement as his lungs and throat screamed at his own foolishness. They cried out for air and now he was aligned to their demand. Air. He needed air.
The gauze and the gag were removed from his mouth but the water was not in his mouth or his wind pipe, it was in his lungs. He tried to cough it up but he didn’t have the strength. He didn’t have enough air in his lungs to force the water out of the way so he could get to the air he needed. Panic flooded his brain as he gasped and choked.
“That’s it boy. Your almost there. We’re almost to Canada m’ boy.”
They were holding him up and slapping his back. Mr. Teeth was screaming that they would pay for letting DJ drown but Teeth was further and further away down a corridor and it was harder and harder to hear him. Gerry was clear as a bell.
“Ya made it my boy! Ya sure showed them, didn’t ya? Ya see the shoreline m’ boy? Just swim the last of it…You’re there…Right there!”
The Concepts Behind the Fiction:
1. My Karma Just Ran over your Dogma
The fossil-fuel-based energy path that the industrial nations have trod for so long isn’t the boon that its advocates–especially in the United States–currently claim. Even in purely financial terms, its cost to the economy outweighs its benefit when a full accounting is performed. Worse yet, in light of what we now know, the disease and death it causes can–without exaggeration–be called criminal.–Albert Huebner Bnet
If you make this transition to renewables and electricity, then you eliminate the need for 13,000 new or existing coal plants, Just by changing our infrastructure we have less power demand.–Mark Jacobson
So here we are; with oil spewing into the Gulf and the right wing leadership wanting to “double down” on oil exploration and drilling. We are burning 5 million years worth of ancient sunlight a year and still this is not enough. We all know the dogma. We are dominated by oil because it is the only energy source that can run our society as efficiently and cheaply as such a complex society requires.
But what if I told you that the dogma was wrong? Not only are there other sources of energy upon which to base our society, but there are sources that are MORE EFFICIENT and CHEAPER!
The dogma tells us that making energy out of renewable sources is just too inefficient. But only one side of this equation is considered. While generating electricity from renewable sources is frequently less efficient than burning oil, running things on electricity to do work is vastly more efficient than running combustion engines. For example:
2. Victims of the Resource Wars
“The military’s primary objective is to ensure adequate oil supplies for the national defense….” —EAW
So high is this cost that in 1999, when the price of gas was still just a little over $1 a gallon, estimates for the true economic cost of gas at that time was $15.14.-CTA, Bnet I think that was probably an underestimation then. Imagine what it must cost now! Would you fill your tank if it cost $20? $45? You are paying it, you just don’t realize it.
How do we get such an inflated price. First we pay huge tax subsidies to the oil companies. Companies that have made record profits over the last few years, apparently need tax payer money so they can explore for oil and drill new wells. In 1996:
Federal tax breaks that directly benefit oil companies include: the Percentage Depletion Allowance (a subsidy of $784 million to $1 billion per year), the Nonconventional Fuel Production Credit ($769 to $900 million), immediate expensing of exploration and development costs ($200 to $255 million), the Enhanced Oil Recovery Credit ($26.3 to 100 million), foreign tax credits ($1.11 to $3.4 billion), foreign income deferrals ($183 to $318 million), and accelerated depreciation allowances ($1.0 to $4.5 billion).–CTA
The high seas must be patrolled to protect oil tankers delivering the oil. We must invade and colonize oil rich nations. We capture real estate for oil pipelines to Europe. We need to maintain a presence in the unstable Middle East. This means building military bases and maintaining them. In so doing we fail to “win the hearts and minds” of the people there, and you can add the cost of terrorism to the oil bill.
Oil, itself, is subject the the whims of both politics and the market. Rapid fluctuations in price cause our entire market to fluctuate, costing Americans jobs and the American dollar inflation.
…occasional supply disruptions, price hikes, and loss of wealth, which, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, have cost us more than $7 trillion present value dollars over the last 30 years. That is more than the cumulative cost of all of the wars fought by the U.S. since the Revolutionary War. The transfer of wealth to oil-producing countries – $1.16 trillion over the past thirty years – significantly increased our trade deficit. The Department of Energy estimates that each $1 billion of trade deficit costs America 27,000 jobs. Oil imports account for almost one-third of the total U.S. deficit and, hence, are a major contributor to unemployment.–IAGS
Then there is the immediate damage to our environment. With the BP rig disaster, this has been at the top of the news cycle for a change. Prince William Sound has never recovered from the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. That disaster will pale in comparison to this current one. Loss of fishing, tourism and wildlife. Loss of jobs and tax base for the state. Loss of livelihood and way of life. All of which is hard to measure in any quantifiable way. Yet only 5 cents per barrel of oil goes to the Oil Pollution Liability and Compensation Fund (The Fund) which is kept as a resource for assessing the oil industry, and paying for the clean up costs of oil spills.–CRS Gov Report
The FUND is maintained at $1 billion and is available to cover a wide range of costs including administrative, preventative, research, response, and mitigation It addresses an extensive list of damages, including natural resource restoration and replacement, real or personal property losses, loss of subsistence use, loss of revenues, loss of profits or earning capacity, and loss of public services.—CRS Gov Report
Even when the oil gets to us, the cost of burning it is not assessed as part of the “oil is cheap” dogma. Loss of agricultural yields due to pollution. Damage to buildings due to the fumes. Water pollution, noise pollution, the cost of parking lots, improper disposal of batteries, tires, engine fluids, and junked cars.
Then there is the toll oil takes in life each year. The soldiers who defend the oil rich areas and the transport of oil. Those that die of pollution or contamination or just out right murder in areas where oil extraction is taking place. The victims of terrorist attacks.
The rig workers and coal miners who die every year. The asthmatics, cardiac patients, new borns and others who die earlier than they should because of air pollution. Other people who die early due to mercury contamination.
Leading investigators of these fine-particle effects launched a comprehensive study published in the March 6, 2002, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study monitored about 500,000 adults in more than 100 cities across the United States for sixteen years. The results of this report state: combustion-related small particles from cars, trucks, and coal-fired power plants and factories increase the risk of individuals dying from lung cancer, heart attack, and respiratory failure; and the death rate increases in proportion to the density of particles. A study published in the Daily News on March 6, 2002, focusing specifically in Los Angeles County in California, estimates that 3,500 deaths each year relate to the inhalation of fine particles, which also trigger over 200,000 asthma attacks annually in the county and deprive its economy of nearly two million work days lost to sickness.–Bnet
It is estimated that 0.3 million people die annually world-wide from societally-imposed, fossil fuel-based electricity generation pollutants (carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, volatile organics and heavy metals, notably mercury) and 170,000 people die annually world-wide from coal burning-based electricity generation. Green Blog [emphasis added]
Finally, there is the long term cost of Global Climate Catastrophe due to the burning of oil and other hydrocarbons. A cost that is adding up to Earth’s sixth major extinction, 90% loss of fish in the ocean, desertification of Asia and the central portion of the US, melting polar ice caps, storms, flooding, etc.
3. Is Alternative Energy a real Alternative?
The idea of reducing the use of fossil fuels to improve health is “twisted science,” said Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.–Common Dreams
At later congressional hearings the two principal authors of the SERI study testified that they were subjected to maneuvers designed to keep the study from being published. They encountered protracted in-house reviews by the Department of Energy, direct instructions to withhold information from the public, and threats to their jobs if these instructions weren’t followed. Consistent with the shift back, the director of SERI was asked to leave while transfers, extensive layoffs, and sharp reductions in SERFs budgets gutted efficiency and renewable energy programs.–Bnet
And again in 1988 a team of experts in energy analysed energy policy with the objective of creating a sustainable energy policy for the globe. Again rejected by the powers that run the planet.
About a decade later in 1988 a team of expert energy analysts from varied regions investigated the formulation of an energy policy that could lead to a “sustainable world.” By this the investigators meant a world in which the entire population enjoyed the material well-being taken for granted in the industrial nations. They sought an energy system that would minimize environmental degradation and reduce tensions between nations. Not surprisingly, the energy scenario reached these goals (as did the SERI study) by resting on available efficiency-improving technologies and expanding the use of renewables. The blueprint that resulted from this study achieved these goals with less than a 10 percent increase in global use of fuels and electricity above 1980 levels. One commentator described this investigation as possibly “the most important single contribution thus far to the global energy debate.” The strategy and its goals were widely praised, then ignored in favor of business–and energy use–as usual.
In 2001 an expanded version of the “sustainable world” team released a report entitled World Energy Assessment that has been characterized as the “most comprehensive and far-reaching single volume on energy policy ever published.” This assessment, initiated jointly by the United Nations Development Programme, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the World Energy Council, was incorporated into the 2002 Sustainable Development Summit. Although the investigators acknowledged that overcoming the economic and political problems will take time–which they warn is running out–they demonstrated that a change in energy systems can transform the disastrous failure of current development policy and its impending instability into a safer future. When the powerful nations that dominated the agenda of the summit ruled out consideration of energy, they squandered time that most people in the world don’t have and condemned many of those people to disease and premature death.–Bnet
Despite his rhetoric about oil addiction, President Bush showed no real signs of putting America through a 12 step program:
Back in the United States the suppression of information about a more benign energy path continues. Just before Bush took office, scientists from five of the national laboratories completed studies that could have had immediate applicability. These analysts showed that aggressive steps to promote energy efficiency could reduce hundreds of new power plants required under the administration’s energy plan. Not surprisingly, as reporter Joseph Kahn disclosed in the New York Times, the administration “has not publicized these findings.”–Bnet
And still we fair no better with “change you can believe in”.
Last year Mark Jacobson (Stanford) and Mark Delucchi (U. of CA, Davis) did a study published in Scientific America, showing that the world could indeed convert to renewable energy. In fact it would save energy and money. They even went further and showed that the entire world could be run on wind energy or solar energy alone! The US could convert to this system for as little as $420 billion. Less than the current projected cost of new coal plants, and nuclear power plants. Despite this incredible work the two researchers have faced the same fate as their predecessors.
Finally, they conclude that the most significant barrier to the implementing a renewable energy plan is the strangle hold the current energy industries have on Congress. The technologies being promoted by the dominant energy industries are not renewable and even the cleanest of them emit significantly more carbon and air pollution than wind, water and sun energy generation.
If the world allows carbon- and air pollution-emitting energy sources to play a substantial role in the future energy mix, Jacobson said, global temperatures and health problems will only continue to increase.–Stanford
Still the answer seems to be “no we can’t”. The real reason we can’t has less to do with the innate properties of oil and everything to do with the innate properties of money and power. Solar panels and wind mills can be built and owned by anyone. They can not be monopolized by BP and Exxon. Tidal energy occurs anywhere there is an ocean. Again, too diffuse to be controlled. There is no easy way to get the tax payer to bear the brunt of the burden for manufacture while some companies take all the profit either. Therefore, despite the well researched and documented benefits of switching to renewable energy, despite the multitude of plans for getting off the oil, we remain addicts to the last.