Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
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Posted by Alexander Jerri

Don’t believe anything? Why would you? You’re a cyborg. Donna Haraway, described at times as a feminist primatologist, now Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness program at UC Santa Cruz, wrote a famous article about how our identities need no longer be slaves to history or past myth, rendering us freer than the old human species: cyborgs.


Although the idea offered a great deal of empowerment in the early-to-middle decades of postmodernity, she was obviously a premature ahistorian, as was the sloppy Francis Fukuyama. The difference with FF was that his declaration was triumphalist rather than empowering. It was meant to disempower the collapsed communist bloc through gloating, so that their betters might dictate the terms of their next incarnation. The gloating was unwarranted at best, at worst willfully ignorant.


There’s a lyric from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, from a track about a scientist who is victimized by a serial killer: “Joan was quizzical, studied ‘pataphysical science in the home.” ‘Pataphysics, for those unaware, is the science of imaginary solutions. It was created by a unique artist, writer, and cycling enthusiast working in the late 19th Century, Alfred Jarry. The aesthetic descendant of Russian absurdists and pre-cursor to the DADAists and Surrealists, his most famous character is Pere Ubu, which inspired the name of the David Thomas post-punk band. His most famous play, Ubu Roi (King Ubu), sets the Ubu character’s grotesquely omnivorous id to navigating the palace intrigue and battlefield horror of a chaotic history play ending with Pere and Mere Ubu escaping in a ship that happens to pass near the kingdom where Prince Hamlet met his fate.


If any character from literature embodies the myriad flaws of the United States 45th and most impeached and indicted President, it is Pere Ubu. DADA and MAGA were sired by the same type of father: a bloviating, voluminous, avaricious, and rapacious thing never meant by the Heavens to reproduce, let alone breathe life into a movement.


If ‘pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions, MAGAphysics is the cult of imaginary problems. This raises an obvious question. If DADA, operating according to ‘pataphysical laws, and MAGA, slobbering and spasming under the force of MAGAphysics, were to have a fight, who would win?


The first round begins as a traditional boxing match. DADA, in this corner, is clad in traditional boxing trunks and gloves, and wears the traditional mouth guard. She intends to subvert these traditions as the fight progresses, but one cannot thus subvert without illustrating the staid conventions one intends to deconstruct, thus giving both the fighter and the crowd stable ground from which to launch themselves into space, or anti-space, as circumstances develop. The difference is that all her boxing gear is made of cheese. That fromage of Alsace: Munster cheese.


In that corner, MAGA. She wears no mouth guard, as she believes they cause one’s saliva to build up in the mouth to toxic levels, weakening one’s punches and maneuverability and causing tooth decay. Big toothpaste has pushed the mouthguard on athletes, she says. She wears no hightop boxing boots nor padded gloves, nor any foot nor hand covering. She has decided unilaterally to invent the sport of mixed martial arts, although she lacks training in even one martial art. And in the octagon, which this square boxing ring is emphatically not, fighters wear no gear on their hands and feet. Not even of the fromaginary genus.


A bell signals the beginning of the bout. Bouncing on the balls of their feet to indicate readiness to evade blows, the fighters dance toward each other. MAGA makes two low-effort feints with her right. DADA answers with similar motions. Now MAGA lunges with a roundhouse left to DADA’s face! DADA’s face comes off, spring loaded, smacking MAGA in her own surprised mug. DADA’s gloves launch themselves on cartoon springs into the surprised MAGA’s face and chest. Other parts of DADA’s grotesque form – her breasts, her knees, her belly – all launch themselves on springs at their opponent, pummeling her torso and physiognomy.


MAGA staggers on rubber-band legs, the first creative effort at metaphorical movement she’s attempted so far. But it may be too late. She falls against the ropes, keeping herself from sinking to the mat with her arms hooked over the top rope as if supported by a cut man on one side and a coach, Burgess Meredith, on the other. Very evocative and bathetic.


Now four-and-twenty crows fly out from inside DADA’s open body, pecking MAGA’s eyes and mouth and pulling at her hair. The crowd goes wild. MAGA’s blood spurts out of her eye sockets like fountain jets. The blood turns to little MAGA corpses in the air, falling to the mat like hail. The little corpses rain down, their pitter-pats as they hit the mat so numerous they can be heard above the cheering crowd. For a solid minute the transformation of blood into corpses that could fit in your hand continues to shower the ring with tiny deaths.


The cheering of the crowd fades as the grim vision before them starts to evoke less sportsmanlike scenes. MAGA falls to the mat, utterly defeated and dead. All is silent now except for the celebratory howling of jackals.

DADA’s hand is taken by the referee, who is a great blue flamingo. The announcer’s microphone descends from the ceiling. The announcer, a steampunk robot made of mechanical parts from century-old farm equipment, declares DADA the winner of the fight by almost instantaneous murder. “How does it feel, DADA, to have won this historic fight so easily?”

DADA speaks, “All is despair and decay. I’m going to Disneyland. Syphilis returns to bite us in the balloons. Whom do we blame and whom praise? What truth is there when all stories, true and false, must compete for clicks and coins on the Golgotha of ever-present high-resolution mushrooms and donkeys kong? If the Passion be considered as an uphill bicycle race, cannot the cross be borne and reborn as a tale told by an idiot, or even as a science video narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson? And who shall lay the pipes? And once laid, who shall pay the piper? And once paid, who shall lay the plumber? And once plumbed, who shall pay the abyss? The abyss looks into your accounts and finds you double-cooking the books. And we all shall pay. So why not make it worth the paper we no longer need print on? All is nothing; nothing, all.”

By now the entire arena, walls fallen, is one vast landscape of corpses, from horizon to horizon, picked at by crows and hyenas, who have massacred the jackals. Above the ground, the arms and legs of many of the dead dangle over high-tension wires and sway in the hollow wind. The walrus and the carpenter face the setting sun from the shore of the dying Earth. They are the last to breathe. The soup is done. But there is no one left to dunk the bread.