Dread spells of freak wickedry boil and slither over in the corridors of power. There are enemies among us. Imaginations and endocrine systems of individuals, everywhere, are hijacked by a bitter chemistry of fear, sorrow, sickness, despair and addiction … yes friends, it’s wakey, wakey time again: and here is the News…
~ * ~
Whispers carry dread news these days. The good guys are bad guys, the bad guys are even worse then we dared imagine, and our heroes are courting villains, killing rivers, deleting all their emails, or Doing Bad Things to Children.
Yes, it very much does appear that Apocalypse is on the ride. Its fierce horses, fuelled by coal, and forest, are snorting a contagious flume of catastrophe and evil across the planes – a Very Grand Adventure is called for. But who among us is really fit to take it?
Citizens everywhere are shrinking from the task, nestling deeper into their hoodies, cellphones, porn sites, or interior design magazines. Others are faking Yogi, Guru, Life Coach or Shamanic status, milking a buck out of the crisis while blind to the fact that they have already been devoured by its propaganda.
Meanwhile, nauseating thunders wheel in from dark corners. There is an embarrassing reek of despair, even in the best kept homes.
The outliers have already seen what’s upon us. They race home with the word: a new Villain has revealed itself on our embattled planet, Earth.
A huge form, bat-winged, sleek and ancient, rips through our atmosphere, shrieks at hunt, and there is no use screaming out this time for an American Superhero, because it could be him, riding rodeo on the back of that Dark Bird.
~ * ~
Now York City, September 11, 2001: in those American moments that set in train events which are still changing the whole world, forever, sun-bitten sheep farmers of the New Zealand Nevernever knew more about what was happening in New York than those witnessing the splitting of those symbolic pillars.
As the sky turned grey and started to fall in New York, neighbours of the Twin Towers had no idea what had hit them. But the rest of the world – from Sydney to Soweto, was watching, on repeat, schizoid rotation, the spectacularly archetypal vision of those planes… plunging into those buildings within moments of the actual events.
Which was suspiciously efficient and malicious newscasting. If you think about it.
Billions of people, all over the Earth, got the message in a well-delivered piece of brilliant propaganda, equal to the Bat Signal, broadcast over Gotham – a new villain was circling among us. Its calling card was left in homes, everywhere, almost instantly.
Myself, I remember it exactly – and so do most people. If you ask almost anybody where they were when the planes hit, they will give you the precise story of getting the news, and the doom-cool, lymphatic certainty of dread cataclysm bound to unfold from that moment on.
Hell birds had torn through the fabric of whatever security we had left. A new predator was on the scene. Nobody knew who. And nobody will yet admit it.
Because perhaps that was exactly the point? To never to reveal an actual enemy?
Perhaps that’s what it really achieved?
Was 9/11 a superbly choreographed piece of real life symbolism designed to implant, with precision, in imaginations, bodies and stories across the globe the new News – an unnameable and terrifying shadow had announced itself across the world. Perhaps the territory it most wanted was that of the human psyche?
Could there have been a better stage, anywhere, for a PR opportunity to announce to the world that a new level of evil had come to roost?
From the shattered turrets of those Twin Towers something huge did spread its sleek dark wings, declaring in broad daylight its claim to international politics, the theatres of war, corporation, technology, the military industrial mechanics of empire, and the even more lucrative sector of power that lies within the human home, mind and body as well.
Those planes, and the stories of destruction and evil that have characterised world politics, the climate conversation, the Clinton administration, Trump, Brexit, and bitter distrust in psychology, medicine, government – everything – ever since, were perhaps the trumpeteers announcing that it was finally time for a secret force that has been well upon us for Centuries to show its shadow.
It is the shadow of a sophisticated predator that hunts from the back. That attacks from the side. That has neither the ethics of the eagle, nor the lion or the bear. And has made its nests among us everywhere.
Pandemics of narcissistic abuse, domestic violence, industrial bullying, the disappointing claws flashed by toxic Feminists and Liberals, the cunning tactics of media, pharmacy, politicians, social media oligarchs, the military industrial complex, Tantric predators, sex gurus, the pornographising of children, human trafficking, gaming, porn, a predatory cult across the yoga scene and Silicon Valley, the legal drug scene and everywhere are reaching a whole new level of horror ~ all this thrives under the dark wing of this hunter, which made its theatrical debut in America this Century with what seems like occult genius.
And we are taking too long – critically long years, and making disastrously slow moves to metabolise the shock of its nature, its tactics, its ancient excellence, and prepare a defence ~ even though this beast has been feeding off the Earth and her creatures for Millenia, and has no choice but to carry on.
Yes, the End of the the Beginning dawned in America and everywhere on 9/11. Hell and fury of New Order were announced by that unholy breach between The Towers, and the dread ripples are still stampeding across our biographies, and our biologies as well.
It is well-argued that those sleepy in foetus on that day, but whose mothers watched the images received in-utero trauma both through the awful audio, and the chemical cascades The News induced in their mothers’ bodies.
This traumatising of the unborn by exposure through the terrorism fetish of the media has Orwellian implications and dire considerations for those who study or profit from the pandemic of mental health issues and anxiety undermining our Western children, as well as everybody else’s.
More than 50% of children in the USA are on prescriptions. That’s the end of normal.
And what about the generations of unborn babies of those now, every day, exposed to the violence of the Americans, the Allies, the Jews, Gaming, hate music, porn, corporate misconduct and in societies failing these same citizens, actually deliberately causing poverty, depression, sickness and misery among us? Are our children metabolising great sea monsters of trauma into their minds and bodies as they are being knitted in the womb!?
If this is so – and EVERY indicator seems to show it – then what will it mean to be human by the turn of this decade? What does it actually mean now?
And could this be deliberate?
~ * ~
In my home town in Australia, just in one region near Sydney, one prime adult man kills himself every week by rope or gun or jump. Across the nation one woman a week is killed by her partner. More than SIX MILLION children in the USA alone are being drugged on a behavioural spectrum. Autism is exploding, depression, violence, cancer..
is the human animal the subject of a social and breeding experiment that is destabilising our genetic and psychological stock?
Are we actually being bred for sickness, anxiety and violence?
A circuitous route of true story, and personal encounters with what seems an unlikely high frequency of ordinary evils in my own life, and maybe yours too, has left a spooky trail of breadcrumbs which, I realise now, may not be evidence of my own problem with patterns, trauma or poor judgement.
Perhaps all this trouble myself and others have been in is not simply that we’re trapped processing trauma, or failing to live our dream lives?
Could it be that millions of us, whether fighting demons at home, or demons in the mind, body, workplace, school or halls of power, are actually wrestling with this Dark Bird and its agents?
Could there be an assault on a humanity that hasn’t properly realised it? Are we are under attack? Could there be predators among us? What the hell is going on here? What’s next!
~ * ~
At exactly 9am on September 11, 2001, just two blocks away from where the explosions were unfolding, from the window of her fourth floor office at an elite American bank, my new Russian friend, Alex, could see cascades of grey ash, like avalanches, pouring in slow motion down the walls of the buildings and beginning to eat into the atmosphere, everywhere.
In close-up, she says, 9/11 was strangely beautiful. It was dark and gritty, loud and pungent. It was an operatic sort of violence, she says.
“The view was incomputable. It was like you didnt see it with your eyes, but with every cell in your body. It was only comprehensible on that sort of scale.
What I remember is the smell. The sound of it. Tiny details, like the exact wave shapes of the ash, and the upward curl of smoke. Later, the grit in my teeth.”
~ * ~
I met Alex 12 years later, aboard the lovely cruising yacht, Samba, where we would be week-long friends on ‘the cruise of a lifetime’ through the south-eastern quarter of another legendary place, also credited with changing the world; the Galapagos islands.
It was here that Darwin’s famous Survival of the Fittest theories were formulated. His notebooks, observations of wildlife, and personal anguish over God, power and Reason provided the soil for what became the whole truth about life on Earth, and on which Empire, Science and Morality have been based ever since.
In a sense, Galapagos is mecca for the Western notion of Creation, progress, and order, and millions take the pilgrimage to this harsh, volcanic archipelago because of Darwin, and his facts.
Our yachting party had come from all over for this adventure; two honeymooning couples, two pairs of retired executives, three passionate Scuba divers, a German recovering from heartbreak and that guy who invented the 3D Printer. We were nervous, and without our ships legs yet, awkward on deck, clumsy with the tight contours of steep ladders and rigging, but trying to appear as yachty as possible on that first bright morning.
The Samba is a beautiful vessel, elegantly composed of dark wood and midnight blue. She provides an elegant stage for a glamorous journey, and we did our best to live up to her as our dive rigs were checked and stowed, a surprisingly long squadron of bright, tubby wheeled suitcases rattled their way up the gangplank, and we felt into the yacht’s geographies, upper and lower, as we unpacked our hiking boots, underwater cameras, floaty dresses, and I love boobys T-shirts, smiling, sun tanned, not mentioning our quiet fears of sea sickness, or the deep. Or whether we had done the right thing, getting involved with this odd, expensive, Galapagos package tour malarkey.
Myself, it had been a nightmare of anguish and indecision about whether to join. I was in Galapagos for deep existential reasons (as usual) which even I was bored and sick of.
Instead of sweeping through on a 14-day cruising ticket with a designer wheely bag of chic cruise-wear, chunked up with the obligatory easydry camo-toned designer adventure garb required for a location as ‘intrepid’ as Galapagos, like almost every other tourist, I had come with no return ticket, and only a pair of flip flops and some scruffy old crap that would have to do as clothes for the duration.
On the surface of it, I had come on the trail of Darwin, in pursuit of some heinous flaw in his Survival of the Fittest theory, which might explain how the West had, by relying on this lore, evidently got itself into so much trouble. And which I had been tipped off about in a dingy bar in the remote wilds of the Ecuadorean Andes.
~ * ~
In hushed tones, at a darkly lit corner table, I had bent over a spluttering candle with a dashing young academic who had informed me, in earnest and careful detail, with illustrations, which he drew very precisely on a series of paper napkins, that not only was Darwin unreliable science, but that his ideas had been deliberately used to cook up a bitter myth which had possessed the Western mind and was part of a deep psychic virus undoing us all.
This Canadian Professor and I had stumbled into one another in the cobbled square of expat-infected Vilcabamba, a remote pueblo in the previously serene foothills of the Andes, where he had come to study the impact on indigenous communities of a tsunami of expatriating North Americans, and I was actually living that shitshow.
The Professor had been watching the unprecedented spike in the issue of passports to Americans since 9/11 and wanted to understand what was amounting to an Exodus.
That was relatively easy to study. American flight had mostly concentrated on cheap, easy ‘paradises’ ready for development including Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bali and Thailand. If you wanted to find clusters of American pilgrims, these places, lusting for development, had positively courted them.
He had got about town wearing clean chinos and ironed button down shirts in reassuring pastels, interviewing anybody who would entertain him about real life in Vilcabamba. This uniform had no doubt endeared him to the Ecuadorians, who value polite presentation, respect and good manners, and who had taken him into their earthen homes and ghetto slums, to speak earnestly and with eloquence, he said, about the horrors unfolding now the gringoes were here.
His research had left him certain that Ecuadorian locals were in dire throws of poverty, moral panic and displacement because of the arrival of the ‘new life makers’ and ‘spiritual questers’ who had first come to visit, and then saddled their ancestral lands for a headlong gallop at progress, leveraging their real estate, deforesting their landscape, turning their farmers and mothers into staff, and employing their sons as cheap labour, or as jigolos, or victims of their darker passions.
His interviews had revealed that the exodus of North American expats, settling in places like Vilcabamba, mostly came because of nice weather and cheap living. They had all told him that, he said. In interviews. The North American diaspora were just looking for a better life, and had accidentally undermined the cultures and landscapes they had settled on, was his professional conclusion.
But I knew, because word had spread, that almost every North American in town had lied to the Professor. Everyone was convinced that he was CIA or some other infiltrator of their exile outpost, sent by their own nation, because polite conduct and good manners add up to one thing among expats: suspicion.
These North American people, whatever their morals were, had one great thing in common – they had seen the shadow of the Dark Bird, and they had fled it.
They had one true, unifying fear – that of being hunted down by the devil they knew, and in that I could actually respect them.
The young Professor’s leisure wear, his sobriety and work ethic had given him away as some sort of badly undercovered agent of the American ‘administration’. An infiltrator. He was an ally of ‘normal society’, and therefore loyal to a grand hoax. What was really discussed, everywhere in Vilcabamba, was how ‘normal’ and those who administered it, was dooming humanity to a nightmare psychosis in which we would all eat ourselves alive with anxiety, or be eaten, by alien, Illuminati, Bilderberg, bank, pharma or military industrial overlords who have been farming ‘obedient society’ like vest herds of pigs for generations.
These people, thousands of them, had expatriated to escape what they could already see, way before Trump, was an inevitable horror show of vile badness exploding in the USA.
They had sniffed the looming poxes of evil technological and biological warfare being turned against the citizens by their own State and psychotic corporations. So they lied in their interviews and said that yes, it was a very good climate here for growing tomatoes, and yes, it was a lovely place for sitting on the porch knitting and whittling and suchlike.
And they also lied because, like their Little House on The Prairie ancestors, these people had had migrated for survival. They were on the make – in no uncertain terms.
Downward mobility, violence and insecurity was devouring their homelands. This was a modern-day Survival of The Fittest migration, just like Darwin sanctions, to find a place where they could be fittest, and conquer new land and resources in a habitat in which they could easily dominate.
Actually, and point blank, North Americans did not give a rats ass about the impact their arrival had on Vilcabamba, or anywhere else. They were involved in what modernism and Darwin have laid out as proper, and which has caused a feeding frenzy on the natural world and its unprepared cultures, and is driven not only by banks and oil and wicked elites, but by us.
Us, seeking the spoils of the win. Of smart land deals. Easy markets. Unregulated exploits. We have been willing to give up home for other places where we can win in the contest for power, mine resources, create dollar wealth, indulge in luxury goods and cheap medicine, food, booze, staff, and the wifi required to launch our wellness blogs and online empires fuelling more of that – not because we are a better animal than the ones we displace, but because we have the means.
These outcomes of my research, as I tried to explain to the professor, had left me facing death threats, home invasion, ostracism and the gruesome fact that I had very much chosen the wrong boyfriend for this adventure. He who had at first seemed like a beautiful, sensitive, clever companion who was loyal to my quest, equally appalled by what was going on, and who also only really wanted to build a farm (with my capital), and keep chickens, was actually a moral weakling with the ethics of a weasel and the fibre of a jellyfish.
As the heat turned up, and paradise turned out to be more afflicted with predators than nice peaceful hippy resisters, he was revealed to be the Brad Pitt character that turned my Lost Ark life myth into Thelma and Louise – leaving me not only philosophically overwhelmed, but personally betrayed, robbed and broken hearted too.
“Ah yes, well, that’s the trouble with American heroes.”, said the professor.
“The last of that species was mangled on Hamburger Hill, all over Vietnam, and still is, ritualistically, on the college sportsfield, or by mortgage and pharmaceuticals. He was designed to rise up, but only for pageants, after which his efforts are harvested and he is left to rot.
No smart American really wants to be a hero, he had scoffed. Nobody who’s had a look around. “Everybody saw what became of Luther King, John Lennon, Malcom X. We’ve seen OJ and Clinton and Lance Armstrong and Epstein. No, no. The American hero is fodder, we all know that.” What really works, for a smart American, he explained, from a sociological perspective, is anti-hero: cunning, camouflage, arms, ambition and the replacement of true Vision for ruthless pursuit of his own dreams.
“This is the great unarticulated secret about American identity,” he said. “All our heroes are fake. That’s why we vote for actors.”
In America, the swindle, show, strategy … these have finally become true currency of success. Treachery was sewn deep into the story, right from the start, when American Indians were deceived or humiliated into malicious treaties by those who thought their living nature gods were fantasy, and whose own, one, off-planet war deity was on the make.
The same arts of dark treaty are used now, by newspapers, politicians and advertisers, abusers, users and entrepreneurs who use persuasion, gaslighting, celebrity, glamour and abuse to sell you any thing at all… read Gatsby, read Steinbeck: it’s been razzle dazzle for a while.
“You could argue that we sold our soul for the Art of the Deal. And we’ve spread that virus far and wide.”
American might, in the American myth, was supported by God, who proclaimed their manifest destiny to go forth and compete for the spoils of land and nation, and of other territories as well, and this, when alloyed to Darwin later, to justify the bloodbaths implicit and the moral crisis it was causing in their own nation, this code became petrified into fact.
It became a scientific reality then, this business of conquering and devouring, deforesting and war, because it was ordained in Nature, that the strong should dominate and even exterminate whatever they could. It was Might, and not Morality which pleased the modern idea of the divine, and which science proved was actually necessary, to keep evolution on the go.
Nature became a meaningless backdrop to the human world, or a dumb, unintelligent wasteland to be turned into useful products, or littered with junk, nuclear waste or villas.
The American, on his way to power, was bitten by a very specific sort of serpent, said the Professor. It has been well named already.
“That spirit which speaks with forked tongue.”
It was a huge sweep of sociology, under the spell of a passionfruit margarita, but I knew he was probably right.
Aren’t we secretly living in a world where ‘industry’, and even ‘science’ is providing an artificial world that’s better than the real one?
Aren’t we being lured by porn, medicine, fashion, the News, alcohol, ‘influencers’ (cringe), experts, tobacco, sugar, Hollywood, money and even religion into a SPLIT REALITY where we deal with social reality one way, and our private ones another?
Isn’t that why there is epidemic addiction, loneliness, shame, sickness and secrets everywhere?
And doesn’t business thrive on and even engineer that? You can see my excellent friend and gym buddy, Casper, from the Meaningful Men project discussing all that here…
Darwin’s theory over-ruled all other philosophical enquiries at the time, and more subtle contentions about soul, for example, and mercy, and honour and reverence to the wild, instead of outright plunder of it. It was declared as the truth, and published everywhere, along with the Bible, at a critical junction where materialism, empire, slavery and industrialisation were birthing a new world order in 1859. Without it, History could never have justified itself in the West.
The reverse engineering of this can be almost impossible for ‘educated’ modern minds to compute – that’s the state that J.K Rowling describes as Muggle. Our culture has rigorously implanted neural and social obedience, and institutionalised reason, via schooling and all its propaganda devices. But the proof that twin gods; science and violence, have done us wrong, is blatantly and actually scientifically obvious – in the environmental, psychological, spiritual and moral catastrophes they have led us to.
I would have to go to Galapagos to explore it.
But in reality I had gone to save myself from despair.
Things had gone awry with my own South American adventures. It was as if the twin towers of my own self – outward enthusiasm and inward self belief – had been invaded by cataclysmic forces and left ragged as a bomb site, with no clear source of rhyme nor reason who did it, and why it should have come to this.
And I am not the only one. Billions of us are in serious trouble, while an ever-shrinking percentage, people we cannot actually admire or even trust, are thriving under the reality offered in the 21st Century.
My own British / Australian ideas of goodness, honour, trust and effort had come undone among the American expats in South America and also in Southeast Asia. I was more akin to the indigenous they had displaced than the entrepreneurial white skinned capitalists I was supposed to identify with. But the reasons for this were unclear to me. There were codes and subtleties that didn’t compute.
I had felt the terrible cut of the Dark Bird’s wing. In betrayal, ostracism, narcissistic abuse, theft and the shocking sweep of destructive attack that had come out of the invisible, and swept back there with every prize I’d had to offer.
There was a certain ‘suck it up‘ ness offered by those who watched it. It was as if they knew the mathematics of this sort of attack, and I was supposed to as well. But these sorts of violations, I had no map for them. I just couldn’t understand what sort of animals I had fallen prey to.
So, with a worthy journalistic quest as cover, and after consuming a few months’ worth of cheap beer, staring at walls and a very comforting eucalyptus, I had basically slunk out of the Andes and off to the Galapagos, bravely seeking evidence of the flaw in its myth, while even more bravely trying to repair the rupture in my own.
~ * ~
The sea heals. Yes it does. And the Galapagos Islands, I thought, would offer plenty of it. But that turned out to be untrue. Because this archipelago, scattered to the west of Ecuador’s coastline, are so meticulously regulated and heinously over-developed, that it’s a dire fact there that getting into the ocean takes a great deal of effort, especially on the main island, Santa Cruz.
Pioneer of Galapagos diving and tourism, a Mr Jack Nelson, who, thank god, I was introduced to, and spent a good deal of time with, puzzling over this, and other dark paradoxes beneath the lovely egg-shell coloured skeleton of a pelican that hung in his breezy quarters, called Galapagos, with some evident bitterness, the islands without sea. And I knew what he meant.
During a long career on the islands since washing in from the USA, Jack had participated in legislation, diplomacy and observance of two decades of development which were supposed to protect and cherish forever Darwin’s wilds, but had deliberately and brutally tamed them into a cashcow, at slaughter for its prizes. He had also earned some injuries of soul.
He knew the gaping difference, these days, between the brochures and the behind-the-scenes realities of ‘wilderness’. And also of Darwin. He knew too well, and I had also discovered, that Galapagos guides, who are compelled by law to teach Darwinian logic as they navigate their paying guests around the theme park, are cynical, drug-using nature lovers who seethe with resentment at the scientists and bureaucracies meddling with life in every way, applying their rules, antennae and uniforms, which they say mimic life, which for them is mechanical, hierarchical and rule-driven.
The many guides I met, in order to cope with the ever thickening web of life-crushing, instead of life-enhancing experiments and rules, spent a good deal of time drunk, or blasted on cocaine onshore. Between ‘adventures’ and natural history lectures at sea, they hid in their cabins, blowing marijuana smoke through the vents to recover from the painful fraud of dishing out Darwin, when what they had really come to know, living on Galapagos, was evidence of a marvellous creative intelligence that thrived more on passion and ecstasy, than on the whittling down of creativity and sensuality by blood battles for survival.
“What I know for sure, and what Galapagos, she has shown me”, yelled one, rum-drunk, huge-chested guide, reeling under the electrified nightsky, psychedelic with stars, where he and his guiding mates had gathered to blast off the frustration of three months at sea with tourists, “is that there is a God. And it is feminine! And if there is an order to anything, it is based on beauty, and not on anything these fucking rationalists have to offer.”
Everybody secretly knows this. The truth about the tourists, even if they say they come to see iguana, and get the golf shirt from where Darwin was inspired to form his theories, is that what they come for, most of all, is the magic out here.
What makes the Galapagos expedition worth it is the possibility of that one moment, arrested, in full, innocent view of a wild, efflorescent, life-redeeming marvel of nature.
Something to atone for the loss of this in our real lives back home.
You wont find that on the seaboard at Santa Cruz, the main island, though. Because here, glamour, convenience and status – the triumph of evolution – have eaten it. The land offers souvenirs, ice creams, bbq squid, cocktails and lattes instead. The only place to find God or wonder is at sea.
In other words, the only real way to access the big blue on Santa Cruz is to pay for it. Which is evidence, now I know better, that Galapagos has long been under the rule of the Dark Bird, for evidence of its passing is the commodification of wonder, impoverishment of nature, the claw marks of progress, a clandestine agenda, dressed up as something benevolent or useful, which causes the crouch of poverty, and the match-flare of bewilderment or cynicism among those who watched it all unfold.
Massive, large scale resorts, endless hotels, bars, villas, chicken shops, laundries, dive shops, clinics, hardware and souvenir booths on Santa Cruz have resulted in entire ecosystems being doused in tar and concrete, so conditions on land are searingly hot, ruthlessly dry – basically, nuclear.
The only relief is the sea. Or AC. Which whirs and whooshes everywhere, all day, and all night, and is ratcheting up as the delicate island ecosystem disappears under a profitable designer one, while local temperatures soar and sear. Which makes you wonder about ecotourism… etc….
Dive trips and thousands of cruises that chug meticulously restricted routes around the islands, promise tourists intimate encounters with pristine wilds, and are carefully choreographed by military and national park to steer them well clear of signs of progress and poverty, as well as the drug, fish, shark fin and other well-organised smuggling operations rife everywhere.
I had earned my Scuba ticket already. Under the private tutelage of Alvaro, a patient ex-army diver, Amazon guide and owner of Eagleray Tours. Under his watch I had been about on zodiacs and clapped out metal day boats to see the wonders and to cry underwater with giant turtles, seals, iguana and once, a school of hundreds of massive hammerheads which didn’t eat me, even though I was leaking into the water streams of distress chemicals, and other misery pheromones which should have indicated to them that I was easy prey.
This experience left me with a lasting mathematical problem. If top order predators are actually wired to hunt, if they are basically mindless killing specialists, thirsty for prey and programmed to take it – for survival – then why didn’t those massive, toothy, extremely fit hammerheads eat me? I was the easiest meal they’d ever see.
~ * ~
Crying underwater is deeply therapeutic. You can cry with satisfying gusto underwater, letting out long, fat bubbles of wail and sob and aching groans and whimpers, while also looking at lots of lovely fish and sparkling colours and being held and rocked gently by a force that is constant and ancient and non verbal. Everything you can give up, the ocean takes, even unspeakable grief. These things, the sea knows how to take into herself. She is afterall, the Great Mother of saltwater. Everything within her is eloquent in tears.
My dive teacher, being Latino, was unphased by my underwater grieving, and my topside demeanour as well, which was, in a word, he said, ‘untouristy’.
If you are Latino, and at the genetic end of the conquistatorial rampage of those lands and bloodlines, it is more than likely that you know grief, and also how to make it into character, instead of trying to bash it out of existence with artificial glee and enthusiasm.
Thank God I had chosen Alvaro as guide and mentor for my underworld studies, and not an American, or an Australian, whose measure of a good time is aways that it should be ‘Awesome’ or ‘Wow ish’, and that holiday outings in paradise locations should begin and end with high fives and other cheery stuff.
I was not that kind of customer.
My Galapagos outings usually began in the sticky grey island fug of 8am, with me, limping into the Scuba-scented office at EagleRay with face puffy from nighttime despairs of various sorts, clutching a double latte that I would regret later.
They middled out with me, flopping myself over the side of a boat into grey, chilly waters full of sharks, then fogging up my mask from crying underwater, doing various divey type things in the luxurious rocking cradle of the deep, and then dripping my way home again, in a sort of melancholy contentment, while Alvaro sorted out pictures of me, looking gloomy next to various ocean creatures and put them on Facebook.
The Dive Master was stoic. It was exactly what was needed. He said I was a very good student, maybe the best he had ever had, he said, because I understood how to be still underwater, and just let it flow.
Yes, that was all true. I am good in dangerous environments. I’m used to them.
One very dark and windy day deep at sea, in huge vomity swells, two women from a neighbouring dive boat got washed away at what looked like about a thousand clicks a minute in wild, deep currents off Wolf Rock, a dangerous and technical site. All hell broke loose at whatever depth we were at, which means there was a brief explosion of bubbles, and a silent torpedo-like orientation of all the other divers into a jet formation toward the edge of visibility where their fin tips disappeared in a flurry of glittery water.
Dive Masters from three teams initiated the rescue, including Alvaro who eye-balled me invasively underwater to tell me to STAY PUT before he too dashed off into the void. So there I was, under one of the world’s most treacherous dive sites, known habitat for the largest of deep water sharks, all alone. I was clinging to a stump of deteriorated rock, quietly adding to rising sea levels in a perfect state of conscientious grieving, as several megatonnes of top order predator laden water, peppered with hysterical divers, roared by me in a vertical avalanche.
It remains one of my fondest memories of that Galapagos trip. A holy experience, really, of perfect, unbroken miserable bliss, in absolute underwater indigo, with nothing to distract from the ancient, eternal, motherly work of sorrowing.
I didn’t mind being left in the dark, underwater, by myself. It was actually useful. It provided the exact external conditions to reflect my internal ones, and to find oneself in a world outside that reflects the one inside, without being bothered to ‘cheer up’ or ‘chin up’, or ‘see the bright side’, well, that is unbelievably healing in itself.
There is nothing worse than blue sky and cheery sunshine for those who are miserable to the marrow. Ask any Australian. I think the over-abundance of happy bright days in that country could be a central cause for the nation’s atrocious suicide rates. Agony does better in the rain.
~ * ~
It was during these excursions with Alvaro on various craft, here and there, in all sorts of spectacularly golden, optimistic or chundering, gnawing seas that I did though, develop a deep, even vicious hatred of frigates.
Loud, dominant, abundant on the cliffs and escarpments we visited on dive trips, frigates rule Galapagos skies with their large, dark bodies, forked tails and crooked wings, like those of vampire bats, and their vivid red pouches which bloat up like injured testicles when they’re doing frigate social business.
The bird itself, with its long hooked beak, it’s sinister, glossy dark cloak and stunt kite aerials, is not actually ugly, but the soul of the bird, to my mind, at that time, was the epitome of everything I could not accept about the world.
Frigates rule the cliffs. They rule the nurseries. They rule the air. Vast, screeching swarms of them, like marauding pterodactyls, prey on life in Galapagos. They launch constant, terrifying brute attacks on other birds, newborns, eggs and fledglings. They never hunt their own catch, but thrive by stealing that of others, or forcing them to regurgitate it, or by devouring their vulnerable.
You can see them, everywhere, ripping apart newly laid eggs. But mostly, you can see them above you, dark, primal forms tearing apart the sky as they zero in on other species, or squabble among each other to steal the silvery fish plucked by other birds from the sea.
It’s a vile sight. The littler birds, heavy with water, heavy with catch of fingerlings or creole, wing back to land, only to be ambushed, bullied in flight, knocked sideways and screeched at by teams of thug frigates, easily pirating the fruits of their earnest labours.
I watched it day in. I watched it day out. And even though I had first delighted in the frigates marvellous blood-red gullet, I had come to wonder what kind of God had allowed the frigate bird. What sort of miserable order provided not just a place, but a dominant rule among its myriad of beings, for an orkish bird like this?
Oh, how I hated the frigate bird.
It reminded me of everything that’s wrong in the world. Of everything that’s evil. And seeing all this, it reminded me of my ex, and of war, commerce, and the rise of the Scum, all across the Earth, instead of the conscientious, the fair, the law-abiding, hard working and compassionate.
I hate frigates, I told my ethnobotanist, philosopher, nature loving mentor, Dale Millard, one night, on Skype, to Cape Town. Dale, maestro of living chemistries, dabbler in the secret apothecary of nature’s excellent stores of biological genius and mystery, is among of a small fleet of scientists who just might be the ones to save us all.
He has been for decades in deep, weird collaboration with the likes of Rupert Sheldrake, Wade Davis, Jeremy Narby – scientists who know, and who are mad with telling that the whole world is alive – that we live in an intelligent, feeling, sophisticated living natural world which has the cure for our social and spiritual ills – which is the cure for all that plagues us. It’s his mates who argue best that Darwin’s theories are not only off, but dangerously inadequate. And they who are urgently calling the moderns to turn around, and take wisdom from ancient cultures, before we fulfil their prophecies of cataclysm.
They argue that plants can talk, that soil is conscious, that there is a marvellous, glorious heaven already laid out across and all around the more than human world, which not all humans – only a very specific few and type – have been destroying, brutalising, contaminating and disrespecting in an horrendous predatory nightmare of arrogance that has and will cause Armageddon if the rest of us don’t get it – now!
Dale was waxing lyrical, as usual, about the unbelievable superpowers of common weeds, cute little fungus friends of his, obscure herbs and basic human goodness, and listening through his one good ear, the other dripping with the juice of a tiny succulent leaf he had squeezed into it to treat an entrenched infection.
In the years I have known him I have heard about Dale squeezing bits of frog, bark, leaf, root and other matter into himself and others as he applies his wizard magic to his own real life. I had seen him also, feeding bits of chicken to his pet piraña, and in existential agony after he also, was used, sucked dry and then abandoned by a British yoga entrepreneur in Ubud, Bali… being a genius is no insurance from the Dark Bird. It’s probably, actually, a risk. There are hunters among us who prey on those who carry things that shine.
Dale said, “Oh hell yaaah… bloody horrible things! Frigates. Nasty screechy bloody pack-hunting Pterodactyls. I hate them too.
But what you need to know about, Jadey, I’ve told you this before – write it down; Slave Making Ants. You need to get into that.
Slave Making Ants, write that, and write this: propaganda pheromones. You’ll need that. And watch everything by Jeremy Narby. He’s a great mate of mine. Never writes a speech. Just makes a little prayer and goes out. He lived with Indians for years. You’ll love him.”
~ * ~
‘Extremely rare’ slave-making ants found at Kennedy Lakes
reads the CBC News headline of July 13, 2019 at 9am.
There’s something sinister going on in the Kennedy Lakes Protected Natural Area, about halfway between Renous and Plaster Rock.
“We’re talking murder, kidnapping, enslavement — all of this going along the side of the highway as we’re driving by,” said Donald McAlpine, curator of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum.
Insect specialists taking inventory of the protected area last week as part of BiotaNB discovered an “extremely rare” type of ant that parasitizes another ant species.
“We were kind of shocked at first,” said Aaron Fairweather, a doctoral candidate at the University of Guelph, describing the moment when two types of ants — one a bit larger than the other — were found living together in a rotting birch branch.
“We were like, ‘What’s going on here?’ We never really see this.”
What we’d found was a slave-making-ant.
It’s so exciting,” he went on to add.
The basic facts of the Slave Making Ant – or Harpagoxenus canadensis, is that its colonies are founded by a murdering queen who invades another species’ colony, disorients its members, then kills its matriarch, enslaves and kidnaps all its citizens to serve as workers for her own kind.
“Rather than surviving on their own and trying to forage for themselves they need to invade a colony and make their workers do their dirty work, pretty much,” said the scientist. It’s a sophisticated strategy, developed over millions of years, he explained – but doesn’t it remind you of something closer to home?
Isn’t this the strategy used by nations, employers, banks, and some individuals?
If ants do it, then it’s not a great leap to believe that humans do it.
In fact, it would be rationally unscientific to pretend we don’t. Since we are supposedly the triumph of evolution and therefore have its resources and successes at hand.
“It may sound evil to humans,” said Fairweather, but “nature is scary.”
I would have liked to have told him, if I was interviewing him, that most people I know are painfully coming to terms with the realisation that they find humans more scary than anything nature is dishing up at present.
But there is a key here ~ perhaps what we need to understand is that it is not a given fact that everybody who looks like you is respecting you, or cares for you, or will let you keep your boundaries, your home, your children or your mind, if they think they can take those things.
It is in ant nature. And it is frigate nature. And it is in human nature too.
You can see that through the simple scientific method of just observing it.
But there was that other note, scribbled in my own handwriting, left after the late night pow wow with my medicine man.
Under the headline, Slaves of Circumstance, New Scientist asks; “Why should one species devote its life to caring for another, with nothing in return?
I strongly suggest you read the whole article, you can see it here – it is not only thrilling science, it might even unravel your dissonance about what your partner could be, your employer probably is, and what your government and the world elite most certainly appear to be up to.
One great line by New Scientist is this: after the queen of the slave making ant (of which they say there are at least 35 species, and more examples of in nature, including the cuckoo) attacks a colony in order to conquer and possess it, “the workers are inevitably hostile at first, [but] the slave-maker queen either subversively gains their acceptance, or else kills and expels them.
“For example, in the Mediterranean, the Epimyrma, a young slave-maker queen, whose body only measures just 4mm in length, literally throttles the host queen to death.”
The scientists continue;
“The second distinctive trait of the slave-maker syndrome is that the slave-maker workers never care for the brood or look for food. They leave all that to the slaves. Instead, they periodically launch violent, organised raids against nearby colonies of the host species. They capture and carry off larvae and pupae, never adults. This kidnapped brood matures in the slave-maker nest and replenishes the supply of slaves.”
Slave-makers are found in the Amazon, Europe and North America.
“Howard Topoff and his colleagues in New York recently discovered that when a queen of P. breviceps enters a Formica nest to start a colony she produces an appeasement pheromone… (which) somehow pacifies the hostile host workers. They retreat from [the invading] queen even as she completes her takeover by biting their own queen to death.”
All of which reminds me of living with a hostile step mother.
Harpagoexenus ants just hack up their resisters with their mandibles. But they also deploy a chemical weapon. This is a sticky secretion which the invaders smear on the workers, causing them to lose their minds and attack each other, passing the sticky substance on in combat. Once a colony is infected with the ‘propaganda chemical’ it will fall into a riot of neurosis and in-fighting while, unchallenged, the dominators simply slip in, murder the queen, and set up their own slave Empire.
Propaganda chemicals made by slave-making ants have been found which cause anxiety, internal battles among the invaded, failure to produce male offspring and sterility. The conquistador’s other tactics include abuse of high ranking ant officials by the queen, creating a culture of trickle down bullying.
And why don’t the enslaved ants revolt?
Easy. Because the invading ant enslaves and encultures them while they’re young, educating them them into its regime so that they simply believe that their conditions are normal.
Is this making you THINK! Yet?
~ * ~
Back in Galapagos I am moaning on and on to Jack about the fucking Frigates.
“The thing about frigates is that they can’t get their wings wet,” he counsels me. “They cant dive. They were either made this way, or have evolved so successfully that they don’t need to bother with the genetics required to hunt for themselves.”
They are perfect, top order slave makers. In other words.
And the fact that this is even possible, and going on in nature, should make YOU ponder why and how it is on Earth, that human wealth is currently possessed by a ruling 0.6%, who thrive and dominate with ruthless precision on the labour, bodies and agreement of a non-revolting 99%. Which probably includes YOU and your KIDS and everyone you know.
Not to mention how and why abusers, sidewinders, narcissists and others are at large, and getting away with it, everywhere.
~ * ~
It is a beautiful, bright dazzly morning aboard Samba, the frigates are wheeling and the little birds just keep bringing up their fish and struggling to get by the skyfull of sleek black feathers and claws as our trip briefing comes to a close.
The white wine is chilling in the dinky fridge of our cosy mess, little canapés are sitting primly beside an ice bucket as the most famous little cluster of islands on the planet twinkles at us across a turquoise sea. But the colour in Alex’s face has faded to ash. She is lost in New York.
It was the logistics for surviving our potential shipwreck that did it.
In the event of a disaster at sea (not as rare in Galapagos as you would like to believe), all 16 passengers and 6 crew are supposed to make it down the lethal ship’s stairs, along the shoulder-wide corridor below, and into our minuscule bunks to retrieve our boxy life-jackets and then re-trace our steps, passed the other 21 potential survivors, presumably variously freaking out and half drowned already, to muster at the bow. There were vaguely quizzical glances all ‘round at the unlikely physics of such an evacuation, but drills on boats are like drills on planes, you just ‘go with it’ really, don’t you?
Alex went with it while the guide gave the spiel, then announced to her new companions, “Forget me, I’ll be doing my own thing if we go down,” she tossed her curly blonde bob decisively, then continued in Russian-edged English. “That’s one thing I’ve learnt for sure in my life: if you’re in real trouble, you must follow your own gut!”
Would you know what to do if the building four doors down from you exploded into powder, while the earth is shaking, the blue summer sky turns to cement and starts raining rubble in all directions? Would you trust what your managers told you? Would you know what to tell your staff and colleagues?
What would you do if your job, your family, your kids, fellow drivers, the bank you’ve trusted, the doctor you rely on, the government you voted for started acting crazy, falling into despair, destroying your life, or displaying violence, or were hacking up the furniture, the forests, the rivers, the biosphere, and the escape routes provided in the manual were obviously fake and useless?
I am fascinated by Alex’s anecdote and when the briefing concludes on that slightly wonky note, I pour her a large Australian Sauvignon Blanc and corner her; “Tell me everything!”
Alex wants to talk. She is like any trauma survivor who knows things, and has never had the real chance to tell the whole of the truth. She says the first thing her manager said when New York exploded was, “Stay at your desk. Stay calm. Everything is fine.”
The power went out instantly in her building, the stench was overpowering… “impossible to describe, but I’d recognise it again immediately if ever I had even the faintest trace”, the noise; “incredible”. Alex had the feeling that things were very very far from ‘fine’, and so she ran.
She ran down the stairwell of her own disabled building, through the glamorous glass foyer which was warping from heat and tension, and into the street where gaping, crouching, bewildered New Yorkers were standing in shock, staring at the unfolding dimensions of the scene before them. “On the street, it was the only time in all my life that I have ever heard it quiet in New York”.
“Office workers stood on the grass, in their suits, pissing on the grass, staring at the towers,” Alex remembers. A journalist turned a camera on them and they threatened his life. “Managers from businesses all over the area were telling people to go back to their desks, or to wait for a bus. The ash was falling, thick over everything. We didn’t know if was over or if it had just begun, this war on our heads, so me, me and a friend, we ran!”
They ran back to Brooklyn, over the bridge. Whenever planes and choppers, despatched by New York security and the American forces, flew overhead, they threw themselves to the asphalt and braced for more terror. They ran for home. “When I got there I was covered in white powder, my suit was dusted in ash, my shoes, my face, it was in my teeth and eyelashes,” she says. “We were all dressed in that disaster, it took years, actually, to wash it away.”
On the 12th of September, 2011, Alex and her husband took visiting guests to inspect the site. They set out to walk the ruins of the Twin Towers and digest the reality of it all. What her husband recalls is the deep, fine layer of light grey ash that had settled over everything. “It was thick,” he says. “Like a kind of snow, on the branches, the signage, the parking metres. It was thick on the tops of the cars and I collected some in an old film canister. I scooped just that much and put it away. It was years later I ever opened that again, to show a guest from Russia.”
What happened next was so chilling we felt it – a bolt of biological cold ran through us – here on this volcanic hotspot, years later, with its just-out-of-the-oven lava fields still breathing hellfire over the archipelago.
“I was telling the story, just like now,” he says, “and I went to get the container, to show what that ash was like, to see it again after all that time. I opened it and tipped it out on some paper. I poured out a little powdery pyramid but then something solid dropped out. Something that was shining and geometric. We stared at it. All of us. We just couldn’t believe it,” he tells.
There in the powder was a perfect, intact human tooth.
The story, which seemed to massive, suddenly zoomed in to the painful dimensions of that tiny, intimate jagged cube.
The implications were painfully vivid, even to one whose entire science education is based on a single episode of NYPD Blue. That tooth has a name. And, according to what we’ve all seen on CSI it would take less than a few days for a DNA test to spell it out, with all of the immense, unpredictable ripple-effects. Simple cold science could arrange the letters coded into that tooth into a sequence that would likely attach it to an actual human being, one whose existence might be marked only by an empty grave somewhere near New York – a grave without a proper story…
That tooth, we all knew, was the potential answer to somebody’s life-long question; a wife, a mother, a sister, a son, a government?
But to me, and to him, it also represented the tooth that had been ripped out of the head of the American archetype that stood for freedom, justice and bravery on that day of 9/11.
As a national symbol, it was the ultimate image of the fear of being de-toothed by State or invasion that was always at the core of the American experiment, its democracy, and had underwritten its Constitution and Bill of Rights.
It was the tooth that symbolised the exorcism of liberty, self determination and the ability to fight back.
And also, this one relic, in the keeping now of Russian hands, had immeasurable power in somebody else’s true story. What it represented was mind-boggling: for whoever was related to it: the beginning or the end of a staggering agony? Something to hold onto, or something to tear open a wound? The solution to an agonising riddle? Proof of who really did this? A resting place? Or a Pandora’s box of suffering and rage?
I stared at Alex’s husband, overwhelmed by the colliding potentials.
“What would you do?” he asked me, staring straight into my eyes.
I fumbled. The pendulum swung. “I understand,” he sighed. “It is impossible.”
Later that day I pulled the Russians aside and said, “You know, if it were me, I think I would take the tooth to Bali, to have it blessed and cremated. To give it an ending. To complete its story.”
They looked at me quizzically, then Alex tossed her curls and said, “Yes, but we are hearing that Bali is not so good for the tourism these days; very hot and over-crowded.”
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