The dystopian future

If you’re gamer (with certain proclivities) or an RPG nerd, the game you’re really jonesing for is Cyberpunk 2077. It’s based on on a pen and paper Roleplaying game called Cyberpunk which was released in the late eighties and early nineties and was one of the RPGs I regularly played (along with Dungeons and Dragons and Call of Cthulhu) back when I was knee high to a hobbit. (Which feels like a really long time ago now) Without getting into the nuts and bolts of it, Cyberpunk is… eh was, set in a dystopian future ruled by mega-corporations, it was loosely based on Williams Gibsons seminal work, Neuromancer, from which… I guess all things of this genre trace their lineage. (and to a degree also Ridley Scotts, Bladerunner)

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I realize those without a gaming bend are yawning right now. BUT… stay with me for a second. The second edition rulebook which was released in 1990, titled Cyberpunk 2020 was filled (as these books often were) with fluff to give you a feel for the grim future and small bits of thematic source material to help you run your game. This was a little throw away blurb about diversity found in that rule book…

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1990! I find this a little eerie and I guess a little prophetic. I was 10 years old in 1990 and my whole life was XT computers and Greyhawk boxsets, stuff like cultural identity was complete nonstarter for me.  I always thought this was all quite a recent phenomena, but I guess maybe it’s always been on the boil. But I find interesting that a roleplaying geek called it out like this…

Burn, burn

Disclaimer. Contains a picture that some people might find disturbing. Forewarned is forearmed!

One of my workers comes into the sales office this morning. I’m sitting with my feet up staring into space waiting for the caffeine to start infusing itself into my system and halfheartedly stuffing a second ‘Vetkoek*’ into my mouth. He has this dirty bandage on his wrist. It briefly reminds me of a dressing one might find in a zombie apocalypse movie. I give him an arched eyebrow. ‘Bra Jo’ he says in greeting. He seems quite cheerful. ‘I wanted to ask you, do you think I need to go to the hospital?’

*a Vetkoek… is a South Africa institution. Its… well… its basically a big lump of dough that has been fried in oil (of questionable hygienic quality with a carcinogenic factor of 10x) in our case bought from a vendor at the side of the road. These are probably twice the size of a krispy kreme doughnut…  and cost a whopping R2 each. Which at the current exchange rate is about $0.13 per serving of happiness. Friday is usually Vetkoek-friday and I sponsor breakfast for everyone…

I take another sip of coffee. ‘Why whats wrong with you I say?’ He unfurls the bandage and I suck air through clenched teeth. Ahhhh…

Continue reading “Burn, burn”

Thrillin’ heroics

Thrillin’ heroics. Firefly-ism. Sardonic humor. Usually uttered by someone heavily armed and wearing a funny hat. Unlikely to be either particularly thrilling or heroic. 

Throw back Thursday. May 2008 was a tough time to be a foreigner in South Africa. Some might argue it’s still tough. But May 2008 was when things got really out of hand….

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Not my picture. My pictures were likely shot with a blackberry and aren’t the greatest. But this is quite typical of the mobs from that time period.

My memories of these events are full of gaps now, since I have been the recipient of quite a lot of blunt force trauma in my life and my aptitude for retention resembles a rusted out Buick in a scrapyard more than anything grey and spongey.

I do remember driving into work in the morning (probably around 6am) and… thinking how misty is was (it was actually from all the fires) and I remember seeing two groups of people one on each side of the dual carriage way throwing rocks at each other. They paused so that I could drive through unhindered and then started pelting each other with rocks and bottles again. (this must have been quite early on in the troubles because the foreigners were still resisting and fighting back, as opposed to fleeing for their lives)

In any event, things got really bad over the next couple of days especially in the area where I had my warehouse because it was an industrial area with lots of… what is the right word for this… informal housing opportunities in the general area that were well populated with people from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

I’m not sure exactly what set the whole thing off it off, but once it got going it really got going. Wikipedia article here. People got chased out of their homes which were then torched. If you resisted, or seemed somehow particularly odious to the mob, your life was likely in real jeopardy and you may have been ended by the sharp end of a machete, pick-ax or hatchet.

In total I think 60-something people were killed. And hundreds (if not thousands) of people were injured and/or displaced.

One of my workers (who was born in Malawi but was naturalized) phoned me to tell me there was a crowd coming down his street, house by house looking for foreigners. While he could easily pass off as a local, his neighbors knew his ancestry… and when you want to protect yourself from the mob… you’ll offer up any scapegoat to save yourself.

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Me, in my body armor, ready to rumble. Took a selfie before heading out… as one does. Look how young I am!!! 

I distinctly remember sitting in my office (listening to Rain from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack* on my headphones) and loading shells into my shotgun.

*I mean if you’re going to go out in a blaze of glory… THAT’s the song you want to have playing during your preparation montage. Preferably shot in a tight Noir style.

Anyways, the first two were rock-salt rounds… which… I am led to believe would hurt like hell, but be non-lethal. Everything else after that was 00 buck, with a sling full of slugs for good measure, plus my Glock .40S&W. But I figured if I needed to resort to that it would likely be game over anyway by then. But you know… go down swinging.

Took my Company’s most busted up truck, in case we lost it and headed out to go rescue Ronny.

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This is Ronny. Post event. With all his worldly possessions stuffed into two bags. They burnt his house to the ground probably an hour after I got to him. I don’t know if you can tell but he’s smiling for the camera. Maybe because his boss is a douche bag and made him pose with his all possessions for posterity. 

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This was typical of the aftermath once the mob had come for your shack. After evicting you they would burn it down or disassemble it and sell your corrugated walls and roof for scrap metal.

The nights were the most scary for these guys because the police would melt away, and under the cover of darkness you can really get your evil on.

One guy was necklaced outside my warehouse during the night. Necklacing is a South African… hmm… colloquialism, which I think gained popularity in the 80’s[?] and was used for executing (perceived) traitors within the ANC during apartheid. A gasoline filled rubber tire would be placed around the neck/and or body of the recipient and set on fire.

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This isn’t my picture. But same time period… about three miles from where I was. 

Anyway, the guys fat melted into the tar and for days afterward the crows risked vehicular death to try and pick the bits of meat out of the road.

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This is one of the other Zimbabwean guys I rescued. 

I can’t remember his name. Or even how he managed to come to live in the back of my warehouse. But he lost everything… all his possessions, money and travel documents. His accent would give him away immediately as a Johnny-foreigner so he couldn’t go outside. He’s wearing my green hoodie that I bequeathed to him, it already gets quite chilly here in May. How did I ever think green was my color? Also smiling. Doubt I would be, if I were in his situation. But anyway…

In true Anne Frank style, he lived behind my warehouse for about two months in one of the store rooms, sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag and subsisting off canned food I bought for him. It’s a very weird feeling having a grownup completely dependent on you for survival. I don’t remember it being a particular pleasant experience, I’ll give it two stars on the life experience scale.

I also can’t remember what happened to him. I think, after things eventually calmed down I probably gave him money for a bus ticket back to the border. But… I’m assuming this is what happened. ‘Good luck. Don’t die’. Never heard from him again.

Like I said, not particularly thrillin’ or heroic. But I wanted to document it for my  progeny as something I experienced.

Avast ye scurvy migrant dogs…

Or… (since she’s German)… it would probably be ‘Halt, ihr Migranten Hunde’. I have no idea what scurvy is in German. Not really part of my daily lexicon used to ask my old man to pass the marmalade. The fact that our family eats marmalade is also very un-Teutonic. And likely cause for the deduction of several German points.

Pia Klemp, a German Marine Biologist,  faces 20 years in prison. She is currently on trial in Italy for ‘aiding illegal immigration’, for, over the course of several years now, using her vessel the ‘Seawatch’ (which I originally read as the Seawitch, which would, imo, would have been a MUCH cooler name), to rescue over 5000 migrants from the Mediterranean.

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I made the mistake of reading the comments section of this article (when does that ever work out well?)… ‘Lock her up and throw away the key’ etc… actually, I’m not going to list them all, because really, I can’t be bothered.

Personally, Pia seems pretty cool to me. Mostly because she looks salty AF and has got a little bit of Anne Bonny/Mary Read thing going on. Also because rescuing people from potentially drowning is likely the right thing to do. Personal responsibility arguments aside about migrants choosing to get onto tiny rafts and endanger themselves and their progeny with dangerous sea voyages. When faced with indifference and action, I am more inclined towards action and not residing peeps to a briny end. Even the poor, dirty uneducated ones.

Let me also say that (at the moment) I am against illegal migration from one realm or principality to another. Mostly because I wouldn’t like a boat load of migrants dumped onto my doorstep and have to be suddenly forced to deal with the consequences thereof… I imagine this would likely impact my comfortable existence in a manner I would find vexing. Experience has shown that the vast majority of people are suddenly a lot less liberal when experiencing something (like migrants) up close and viscerally.

But! On the flip-side I like freedom of movement. As a concept. And I think that supply and demand would likely (eventually) even things like this out ‘naturally’ as opposed to regulation and policing. Probably. Since this is basically impossible to prove, since no country in the world would risk seeing how this would play out, I am, in a Realpolitik sense forced to be more intractable about illegal migration. Totally happy with the concept of legal migration (because I might at some point be one of those people). Also… I think I need to differentiate between migrants that are fleeing because of economic circumstances and those that are fleeing because of… well, I suppose living in a warzone is also kinda an economic circumstance… Then I suppose there is the desirable migrant… versus the one that is less desirable and suffers from bad cultural PR. We are inclined to typecast and profile people from certain parts of the world as having certain traits. Ergh. Which forces us to confront our own darkness…

So really, my two views are in opposition to each other. Like everything else in my life. Some days I am more pro. Other days more con. Are you loyal to your community or to humanity?

Also, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe she rescuing migrants and dumping them in Italy because she thinks its funny. This actually makes me like her more. Ha ha (har har)

In closing I am probably pro-migration as long as it doesn’t affect me personally. And I don’t have to pay for it. This is actually my operating logic for nearly everything. Probably means I’m a libertarian.

A real libertarian I mean. Not like those other ‘libertarians’.

Agony Joey

Hi Jo. My best-friend keeps retweeting and sharing articles from Vox and the Daily Beast. I don’t know what to do…

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Well… you should probably stop being friends with them. I know this is difficult to hear… but your friend is likely too far gone.

Really, the only acceptable news organization that you can share on any of your social media accounts is Fox news…

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And that’s only because they are hilarious.

Anomalous objects

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According to the article is probably an asteroid (five times the size of Hawaii)… made of metal… buried beneath the surface of the moon. But I’m inclined to put my faith in Hank Moody (to me David Duchovny’s seminal character… because… well, Californication had more boobs in it. And boobs per episode is an important metric when deciding the worth of a series)

Anyways, we can probably be glad it hit the moon and not the earth, waaaaaaaay back when… because you know, none of us would be here now. Guided by the hand of the almighty… or something along those lines. This predates that time (s)he decided that humans and not dinosaurs should be the eminent species on the planet (and sent another asteroid along to make sure that happened)

Deities. Terraforming planets with asteroids. Seems a little heavy handed? I mean, when you could potentially just snap your fingers… subtly changing the direction of interstellar objects to collide with other rotating objects all while avoiding the gravity of gas giants… well… its a lot of math.

But all this is beside the point because theres a frikken alien spaceship buried beneath the regolith on the frikken moon….