It Has to Be The Dolphin Future

Remember a hallucination.

We saw dolphins in the canals of Venice. I didn’t see them. I didn’t even see a picture of them. I never looked at them and I never looked for them. I don’t know how the hallucination reached me but it reached me. I just overheard it on some screen. Glanced right past it. But, overhearing the hallucination, I smiled. Glimpsing them, I could see their oily bodies. The fins breaking water. The tooth-filled snouts, blow holes, and beady black eyes. The frisky parabolas of glistening backs. When I imagined them, I saw them colored pepto-bismal pink. I don’t know why.

Maybe so they’d look less like body bags.

We don’t know where these dolphins came from. We only know that they were with us for a moment and then we knew they were never there. That they were a hallucination. A gossamer torn loose from dreams and blown away with one solid gust of facts. The dolphins were fake. How about the dream? Was it fake too? This dream its with dolphin ambassadors? Was the dream real, at least?

Snopes had no answers.

Every crisis contains its phantasmagoria. Alligators crawl out of hurricane aftermath. Sharks swam our streets. Piranhas swarmed in a drowned parking lots. These too have been our illusions. Menacing beasts. Creatures belonging to nightmares and water. Animals of eating and drowning. Appetite and suffocation. Terror. These have been our dreams in crisis and these hungry beasts have long been their ambassadors.

But these dolphins?

Was it a lie?

Does it matter?

The dolphins swam out from different liquid than these other beasts. They came from a world that is both better than ours is and also exactly how our world should be. Unlike a submerged parking lot or a flooded highway, the canals of Venice are supposed to have water. Water should have dolphins. The dolphins were not an invasion, they were a return. The dolphins corrected a lack. An idea and a potential instead of a nightmare bred these dolphins. An idea that humanity could live in nature and nature could live in us. In The Hermitage of The Worm God Zero, we might commune with the animal and the dead. A better world might be possible. A world where tame water has wild dolphins.

It was very easy to believe in these dolphins. And, then, it was very easy to surrender this belief. Someone simply had to tell us that the evidence was fake. There were no dolphins in the canals. We nodded. Made sense. Why would there be life in water? Dolphins need evidence to exist. Everyone knows this. It must be true.

But it’s a pathetic sort of truth that excludes dreams. Facts do not mean that there can never be dolphins in the canals. It does not make us realistic to pretend we never saw the dolphins. It does not make us honest to dismiss ambassadors from dreams as imaginary. It makes us vulgar and it makes us morons. And this is one of the curses of our age — to confuse vulgarity with authenticity and both with intelligence. We saw dolphins. They did not even have to be there for us to see them. These dolphins meant something important and this hallucination is worth fighting for. The Dolphins are a message of hope from One Possible Future. Think about the future that could produce and sustain these dolphins. This is the future we need. This is the future to believe in. This is the future to want and the future to work for. The Dolphin Future. Our future has to be The Dolphin Future.

It’s hard to believe in dolphins. Not because they’re impossible. We believe in impossible things every day.

We believed that a society that excludes, oppresses, and turns huge parts of its population invisible can survive. We believed that some lives are more important than other lives. We believed that this could be measured in time and that time was dollars. We believed that it was possible to believe all this without consequence – that these beliefs would not murder us or the people we loved. And we all believed it all. We just measured it differently.

How much effort do these beliefs take? Even before this crisis, the strain and stress was there. We required stronger doses of proof and evidence to make us believe in anything better. We grew obsessed with the possible even as this obsession shrank our possibilities. We went to work and our work was maintaining these old beliefs. The belief that toilet paper would always be on the shelves, that beer would flow, and baseball would be back in spring. We worked hard to make the hard work invisible. We worked hard to hide the work. But the work was there. Bodies don’t burn themselves.

We worked and we believed and we believed in our work and worked at our beliefs until our beliefs seemed real. Our belief was normal. Our belief was natural. The world created by the poverty of our imaginations was the only possible world. Our measurements made in football fields and our calendars made of sports seasons. We tied time and space to institutions instead of nature. The belief was concrete. Possible, The work was solid. Pragmatic. Solid as our society. Hard as our hearts. Suffocating as smoke. And we learned to believe in smoke. How could we not? We saw smoke all around us. The smoke told us not to worry. It’s just smoke. It doesn’t mean there’s fire. Everything would and could carry on as it was and as it should without consequence. Things would be better next year. We bought Time with other people’s blood and swearing. We didn’t even believe that the blood and swearing was owed to us, we just didn’t look at it at all. We averted our eyes from the crematoriums. We thought our Time was as common and clean as air. And then we saw the smoke come close. We started to cough. And then the cough got worse. And then we needed ventilators.

Now, we are being asked to believe other things.

We are being asked to work to make these beliefs true.

We are being asked to ignore the people dying in prisons and camps. Ignore the dying of the people we now call essential labor. We are asked to believe that one on hand, some of these people deserve it and, on the other, that some of these people are heroes. And what is our hero’s duty? To die for us. To die happily for us. To die for Our Time. To die for free.

We are asked to believe that this is “dying” and not murder. Even though we know that the worst of this could have been prevented and we know exactly how it could have been prevented, we are asked to believe that nothing could have been done. Even though we knew what to do for years and just refused to do it because we had other beliefs to serve, we are now asked to believe NOTHING COULD HAVE BEEN DONE and that WE TRIED OUR BEST. We know that this isn’t true. We know we wasted Time. But it’s easy to believe these things. We have grown accustomed to believing them.

While we try to believe these things, we are being asked to sacrifice our elders and our young on the altar of capitalism even as they are being asked to sacrifice us and we are all asked to believe that this holocaust will save us. As the body count and uncounted bodies mount, we are being asked to believe that 100,000 needlessly dead Americans is “a great outcome.” We are told that the cheque is in the mail and to believe money will help. We must believe that a bit of money will ease this thing. That pandemics and landlords can be bribed. Believe that the crisis can be negotiated with. Believe that violence is not the solution to billionaires. Believe that death is a democracy. Believe.

Believe in Time bought with blood.

And it’s still easier to believe in Time than it is to believe in dolphins. Under a regime of nightmares, it’s easier to believe the things we know how to believe in. We’re used to believing in murder. We’re not used to believing in dolphins. Seeing is believing and we’ve never seen dolphins before. Only alligators, sharks, and piranhas. Smoke.

But the dolphins were there.

And they can be again.

Is it really easier to believe in alligators? Is is easier to believe that killing the most vulnerable among us will save us than it is to believe that the American healthcare system must be now be nationalized and medical treatment made free and universal. Not tomorrow but right now. Is it easier to believe in sharks? To believe that a billionaire or a business will come to the rescue? This belief costs us every single day. It wounds us. Is it easier to believe in piranhas than it is to believe in dolphins? Easier to murder than to build? To believe that taxes are worse than death? That mass death is inevitable and medicine impractical? Is it so easy to believe these things?

Is it easy, for you, right now?

And, if you double down on these old beliefs, do you think it will get easier?

You know another crisis is coming. Do you think the next one will be any easier than this? For how many years, in December, have you looked at the changing date and believed that next year will be better? Has to be. When was the last time you were right? Can you remember that? Can you remember that year you thought was bad because some celebrities died of old age and natural causes? Can you remember that year and what you said about the next year? It will be better. Has to be. And can you know you were wrong? Can you learn from memory? If not now, then in December, you will want to believe all this again. That next year will be better. Has to be. You will work to believe this.

Who are you working for?

But it can be better.

You have to work for the dolphins.

Just as much as work requires belief, belief requires works. We need to make serious changes. If construction is an essential service then it must be treated as such. Housing, public transit, and hospitals need to be built. Condos, highways, and stadiums do not. These places need to be built with green technologies. They need to afford the opportunity to create public spaces. The era of paranoid target hardening has to be replaced with one of shared vulnerability and trust. The locks have to come off the doors and gated communities must be made illegal. No more walls. The rich cannot be allowed to hide anymore. They must come out of their bunkers. One way or another. And, yes, this needs to be publicly financed and the workers must be paid food wages, treated with dignity, and have a voice in their workplaces. Slavery cannot be the method and target-hardened isolation cannot be the endpoint. Togetherness must be our goal. And togetherness requires sharing danger.

Death is not democratic. Only violence can make it so.

What happens to any of us can happen to us all. That has to be made a grim fact of life.

The managers who are, right now, forcing their workers to work sick, the managers and CEOs who ignored every warning so that they could turn a quick buck off panic, break unions, and create a massive, desperate, and easily exploited underclass of labor, must pay a price. We watched Eichmann play with his pencils in black and white while talking so softly about only doing his job. How many little full color Eichmanns are now playing fast and loose with people’s lives while shouting orders? Some of these people must be ended. They are the regime of terror. They are terror’s bland smile and it studious lies. Its competence. The cannibal creatures of calculators. They are its hands and its teeth. Tap, tap, chew, chew.

A new variable –a variable of violence– must be now be entered into their equations. Their own blood has to get punched into their bloodless mathematics. Maybe some of their kin will get the message. Maybe it will change their equations. Maybe it will make these fucking accountants of death think instead of compute. Maybe, if their calculations change, their answers will too. If not, at least some of them will be gone.

Before they risk your life, they have to ask if doing so is worth theirs.

And we must not believe that any of this was natural. True, the virus was a virus. A pandemic is a pandemic. It was never going to be a picnic. But South Korea had its first case on the same day as America. Just compare the figures. Try to find nature in these numbers. South Korea is not a richer country than America. It enjoys no special biological advantage. It simply has better systems. It simply listened to the science. It listened to the warnings and it acted early and acted hard. We are on alternate timelines but all of these timelines have things in common – they are the past having its way with the present and they all collapse much more easily than they are built. They all warn us to listen to science and warnings. We were all warned about this. We are all being warned about the next pandemic – the one worse than this one. We are being warned. Global Warming. Listen.

Is that the splash of a dolphin or a shark?

America received the same warnings. It received them for years. It ignored them and, in a sense, it was incapable of hearing them. Why? There’s a lot of reasons. It decided that elections were games and that ‘electibility’ was more important than policy, that game-show hosts should be presidents, and that every social system should be a security system. America only knows how to build security. That’s it. Make war, build fortresses. Razor wire, cops and prisons and grocery stores that work like prisons and prisons that produce products instead of justice and never mind rehabilitation. America knows how to make war but not welfare and it always gets the two things mixed up. Builds a gulag and calls it peace.

America could have acted differently. It could have built itself a lot of ways. Instead, America built a society that rewards and cultivates psychopathy. It built a society where people who experience a simple feeling for a fellow human often believe they have special magical powers and call themselves “empaths” in order to explain the sensation. It’s a society that describes everything as a war except for war, which it describes as a football game. A society that hallucinates alligators and sharks but cannot see the dolphins right in front of them. Paranoid, death cult America. Armed up, America. Peeking through curtains at the monsters in the street. Thinking it can shoot a virus. Wishing it could. America.

And the deaths rise. The news channel keeps score. Who is winning?

How much death is enough?

It did not have to be like this. None of it had to be like this. But this is how it is. We could have had dolphins in canals instead of body bags in the streets. Right now, we have the body bags. We can still have dolphins. The dolphins are there. The dolphins are real. You just need to make them possible. By any means necessary.

Demand the impossible. Demand dolphins.

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