Analysis of ‘The Thing’

I: Introduction

The Thing is a 1982 science fiction/horror film directed by John Carpenter and written by Bill Lancaster. Like the 1951 film, The Thing from Another World, it was an adaptation of the 1938 novella, Who Goes There?, written by John W. Campbell (under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart); actually, though, the 1982 film is much more faithful to Campbell’s novella than the 1951 film was.

The Thing stars Kurt Russell, with A. Wilford BrimleyT. K. CarterDavid ClennonKeith DavidRichard DysartCharles HallahanPeter MaloneyRichard MasurDonald MoffatJoel Polis, and Thomas Waites in supporting roles. Though the film garnered praise for its special effects, it was poorly received on its release; some even considered it one of the worst films ever made. Its critical reputation has since improved, though, and it’s now considered one of the best sci fi/horror films ever made.

Here are some quotes:

[talking into tape recorder] “I’m gonna hide this tape when I’m finished. If none of us make it, at least there’ll be some kind of record. The storm’s been hitting us hard now for 48 hours. We still have nothing to go on. [turns off tape recorder and takes a drink of whisky. He looks at the torn long johns and turns it back on] One other thing: I think it rips through your clothes when it takes you over. Windows found some shredded long johns, but the nametag was missing. They could be anybody’s. Nobody… nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired. Nothing else I can do, just wait… R.J. MacReady, helicopter pilot, US outpost number 31.” [turns off recorder] –MacReady (Russell)

“I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.” –MacReady

[the Thing roars at MacReady] “YEAH, FUCK YOU TOO!!!” [throws stick of dynamite] –MacReady

[after passing the blood test] “I know you gentlemen have been through a lot. But when you find the time… I’d rather not spend the rest of the winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!” –Garry (Moffat)

************

MacReady: I don’t know. Thousands of years ago it crashes, and this thing… gets thrown out, or crawls out, and it ends up freezing in the ice.

Childs (David): I just cannot believe any of this voodoo bullshit.

Palmer (Clennon): Childs, happens all the time, man. They’re falling out of the skies like flies. Government knows all about it, right, Mac?

Childs: You believe any of this voodoo bullshit, Blair?

Palmer: Childs, Childs… Chariots of the Gods, man. They practically own South America. I mean, they taught the Incas everything they know.

*************

Blair (Brimley): [showing the remains of the dog-thing to the entire camp] You see, what we’re talkin’ about here is an organism that imitates other life-forms, and it imitates ’em perfectly. When this thing attacked our dogs it tried to digest them… absorb them, and in the process shape its own cells to imitate them. This for instance. That’s not dog. It’s imitation. We got to it before it had time to finish.

Norris (Hallahan): Finish what?

Blair: Finish imitating these dogs.

*************

MacReady: Somebody in this camp ain’t what he appears to be. Right now that may be one or two of us. By Spring, it could be all of us.

Childs: So, how do we know who’s human? If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know if it was really me?

*************

MacReady: How you doin’, old boy?

Blair: I don’t know who to trust.

MacReady: I know what you mean, Blair. Trust’s a tough thing to come by these days. Tell you what – why don’t you just trust in the Lord?

*************

Childs: The explosions set the temperatures up all over the camp. But it won’t last long though.

MacReady: When these fires go out, neither will we.

Childs: How will we make it?

MacReady: Maybe we shouldn’t.

Childs: If you’re worried about me…

MacReady: If we’ve got any surprises for each other, I don’t think either one of us is in much shape to do anything about it.

Childs: Well… what do we do?

MacReady[slumping back] Why don’t we just wait here a little while? See what happens.

**************

[from teaser trailer] Some say the world will end by fire. Others say it will end by ice. Now, somewhere in the Antarctic, the question is being settled forever.

[from theatrical trailer] Twelve men have just discovered something. For 100,000 years, it was buried in the snow and ice. Now it has found a place to live. Inside. Where no one can see it. Or hear it. Or feel it.

Nauls (Carter) and Clark (Masur) playing pool; Norris (Hallahan), Bennings (Maloney), and Garry (Moffat) playing cards.

The main theme of this film is paranoia, distrust of others, based on the fact that “The Thing” is an alien able to imitate other life forms to perfection, thus making it next to impossible to be sure if any of the men in the research base in Antarctica is really a man, or an alien imitation waiting for its chance to change the other men into imitations.

This ability to pretend to be human or animal, not just in physical but in mental form, too, is also in Who Goes There?, unlike the 1951 film, which is essentially just a monster movie. The alien can slip in undetected and seem to be one of the men, knowing their memories and personality traits down to the last detail. Hence, “Who goes there?” implies the next, and even more relevant question: “Friend, or foe?”

II: Unity of Opposites

This friend/foe duality is merged in how those who seem friends are often really foes…and vice versa. This merging and juxtaposition of opposites is seen in other forms, too, as in the extremes of fire and ice, both of which end and preserve lives (i.e., the flame thrower and the blowing up/burning down of the research base, which kill alien manifestations and save the men; this burning happens in the freezing cold temperature of a winter in Antarctica, which can kill the men and preserve the alien in a state of hibernation…“to die, to sleep”). Also, there are the literally polar opposites of Antarctica versus Scandinavia (i.e., the Norwegians whom MacReady confuses with Swedes, so, the Arctic); then, there’s the 1951 movie’s moving of the setting from Antarctica to Alaska.

Another opposition in the film is in its implied anti-woman versus anti-male attitudes. There isn’t even one actress in the entire film (save Adrienne Barbeau‘s voice-acting of the “Chess Wizard” computer game, which sexist MacReady calls “baby,” and a “cheating bitch” before pouring his glass of booze into its inner circuitry, because he can’t accept losing a chess game to a ‘woman’), something to annoy any feminist. On the other hand, this very lack of females is ironically itself a criticism of masculinity, since the point of the film is the relative lack of empathy, cooperation, and friendship among the characters, virtues more stereotypically associated with femininity.

MacReady (Russell)

III: Who Were Our Real Friends and Foes During the Cold War?

The more germane question of the movie, however, is what does this alien represent, this “Thing” that causes so much alienation and confusion among the men? One allegorizing of the film is of the Cold War (indeed, the story is a literal cold war), representing the antagonism between the NATO and Warsaw pacts, and the danger of provoking MAD.

Some might see the alien as representing the Soviets, and therefore its spreading imitations of humans as the fear of the spread of communism; while the paranoid, bickering men represent such right-wing curmudgeons as those in the GOP (and since this is a Hollywood film, all of this hostility between the two extreme sides is best neutralized with a ‘balanced’ liberal mindset [!]).

Those of you who have read enough of my blog posts will know that I have no intention of interpreting this film’s meaning through either conservative or liberal lenses. I, contrarian that I am, plan to flip conventional analysis of this film on its head. So what follows will be, in part, a Marxist-Leninist interpretation of the story.

Though the men fighting off the thing are Americans, and at the beginning, Norwegians (that is, members of two countries that were founding members of NATO, and therefore ideological opposites to the Soviets), I see them as symbolic of any socialist state fighting off the forces of capitalist reaction. US vs USSR, friend vs foe, fire vs ice, all men vs no women: all dialectically related opposites, the one side merging and interacting with the other. Because of the dialectical unity in all contradictions, we can see an interesting irony in Americans representing their ideological foes.

The Thing, capable of taking on any shape and imitating any life form, as we see here in its cross between a giant insect and Norris’s head.

Consider what The Thing can do: taking on any shape or form, it sneaks up on unsuspecting people, attacks them, and replaces them with imitations of them; then those imitations do the same to others, again and again, until–theoretically, at least–the entire Earth has replaced all life with alien imitations. It’s rather like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, actually.

This spreading of a kind of cancer, if you will, wiping out all life and replacing it with the infection–is this not like what capitalism does? Modern capitalism grew out of the mercantilism and merchant capitalism that were dominant in the modernized parts of Europe about five centuries ago. Those two, as well as feudalism, transitioned into capitalism as the new form of class conflict, which then spread around the world.

Capitalism also causes alienation between workers, like the estrangement felt among the paranoid men in the film. It causes alienation from one’s species-essence, symbolized in the film by the contradiction between the False Self of the alien imitation and the True Self of the original man who is imitated.

The alien imitations pretend to be the men’s friends, just as capitalism is made out to be the friend of humanity, according to bourgeois propaganda, liberating us from Bolshevik state tyranny, eliminating poverty, and bringing about economic prosperity. The metastasizing of neoliberalism, especially since the disastrous dissolution of the USSR, has shown what lies these notions of ‘liberty,’ ‘poverty elimination‘ and ‘prosperity’ are, just as when we are shocked to learn that Norris and Palmer are aliens.

A research base in Antarctica: a lonely, isolated place, vulnerable to attack.

So in this context, the US research station in lonely Antarctica can be seen to represent any of the socialist states, past and present, that have been economically isolated by sanctions and embargoes. The Americans’ struggle to defeat The Thing represents the aggravation of class struggle under socialism, as manifested in the Great Purge and the Cultural Revolution. Stalin and Mao knew there were bourgeois traitors hiding among them and pretending to be fellow socialists (just as The Thing hides among the Americans in the film), and allowing them to gain the upper hand would have lead to the defeat of socialism, the actual achievement of which, as we have seen since the 1990s, has lead to the egregious wealth inequality, the constant threat of US imperialist war, and destruction of the earth that we’ve seen and are still seeing.

Now, as we recall, a lot of nastiness occurred in the USSR in the 1930s, and in China during the late 1960s, just as there is nastiness among the Americans in the movie as they try to eliminate the alien: MacReady shoots Clark (not an alien) in the head. Of all the men MacReady–threatening them with dynamite–has tied up, only Palmer is an alien; the men freak out, tied up and helpless, as the Palmer-Thing reveals itself and infects Windows, forcing MacReady to kill them both with the flamethrower. These problems are comparable with the innocent Soviets imprisoned and executed (the fault of Yezhov, not of Stalin), and with the violent moments of the Cultural Revolution.

The film begins with a sled dog (man’s best friend?) running in the snow towards the US research station, with Norwegians in a helicopter pursuing it and shooting at it. The Norwegian with the rifle shouts frantically about the danger the dog poses; since he isn’t shouting in English, the Americans have no idea what his problem is. Because of his constant shooting at the dog, and accidentally wounding Bennings, he seems crazy (Dr. Copper [Dysart] speculates that the “stir-crazy” Norwegian got “cabin fever”)…and dangerous himself; so Garry gets a pistol, points it out the window, and kills the man.

Communists are similarly seen as crazy (as are the victims of narcissists) when warning the world about capitalists (who, especially in the upper echelons of power and wealth, tend to be narcissists); they’re vilified and often killed, as is the Norwegian. My point is that we leftists, like the Norwegians, see a real danger that most other people don’t.

The Norwegian, trying desperately to kill the dog-imitation. Though this seems madness, yet there is method in’t.

Later, we see that sled dog looking intently, ominously, out a window at the Americans’ helicopter returning after investigating what happened at the Norwegian base. Ennio Morricone‘s keyboard soundtrack was playing when the dog was chased by the helicopter, with an eerie bass synth ostinato highlighting a pair of loud notes making us think of a heartbeat…the alien’s heartbeat? The dog isn’t man’s best friend, but his worst enemy.

When the dog is caught in the middle of making another dog into an imitation, Blair (Brimley) examines the internal organs of the imitation and realizes how indistinguishable those organs are from a real dog’s organs. He is so horrified by the implications of this alien ability (i.e., that it can imitate humans) that he goes mad and violent, and then has to be sedated and confined, separate from the other men.

The imitation is both internally and externally perfect, and so the alien can take on all kinds of shapes and forms. Recall what happens to Norris’s body when Dr. Copper does the defibrillating; a huge mouth opens up from Norris’s chest, with huge teeth that bite off Copper’s hands, killing him. Then Norris’s head rips off the body and grows what look like an insect’s legs and stalks with eyes on the top of each; hence MacReady’s correct observation that The Thing’s body parts, right down to drops of blood, can be complete life forms in themselves. Copper’s mutilation symbolizes the injuries the worker under capitalism often suffers, often without compensation.

Capitalism, too, can adapt and imitate many aspects of leftist ideology, in ways so convincing that many people confuse real leftism with phoney versions of it, for example, mainstream liberalism, social democracy, identity politics, social justice warriors, “democratic socialism,” etc. Tiny parts of capitalism existing within ‘socialism’ are still cancerous capitalism, and thus must be rooted out. Capitalism’s ability to adapt is remarkable, as David Harvey noted in a quote I’ve used in other blog posts, but it’s relevant to reuse it here, too:

“Capital is not a fixed magnitude! Always remember this, and appreciate that there is a great deal of flexibility and fluidity in the system. The left opposition to capitalism has too often underestimated this. If capitalists cannot accumulate this way, then they will do it another way. If they cannot use science and technology to their own advantage, they will raid nature or give recipes to the working class. There are innumerable strategies open to them, and they have a record of sophistication in their use. Capitalism may be monstrous, but it is not a rigid monster. Oppositional movements ignore its capacity for adaptation, flexibility and fluidity at their peril. Capital is not a thing, but a process. It is continually in motion, even as it itself internalizes the regulative principle of ‘accumulation for the sake of accumulation, production for the sake of production.” –David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital, page 262

Left to right: Childs (David), Dr. Copper (Dysart), Nauls (Carter), Clark (Masur), Garry (Moffat), and MacReady (Russell). No one trusts anyone, no one knows who is friend or foe. Friends and foes get confused.

So, with all this shapeshifting and adapting that The Thing does, who are the men’s friends, and who are their foes? Much suspicion is put on Clark, Windows (Waites), Garry, and MacReady, all of whom, it turns out, are not aliens (though we can’t be too sure about MacReady at the end of the movie). Windows in particular has a menacing look on his face as he waits in the shadows for MacReady to dip a hot wire into a sample of his blood, only to prove his innocence.

Similarly, who are the friends, and who the foes, of the working class? Is communists’ preoccupation with the imperialist plunder of the Third World a legitimate concern, or does this concern just make us ‘tankies‘ whose ‘over-solicitude’ is used to justify ‘dictatorship’? Will a few left-leaning reforms, giving the Western working class some free stuff, be sufficient, while we not only ignore but aggravate the exploitation of people in developing countries? Is getting rid of Trump and the GOP all we need to do, or is there something more fundamental that needs to be fixed in American politics?

As I mentioned above, this alien doesn’t need a full body to reproduce itself in imitations: a mere drop of its blood is enough, hence the efficacy of MacReady’s blood test with the hot wire (also used in the novella). Since I see the alien as symbolic of capitalism and imperialism, we should consider what the drops of blood–these ever-so-small parts of the alien’s body as fully-functioning, independent units of existence, each a microcosm of the macrocosm that is the whole Thing–imply about the danger of the existence of even the smallest manifestations of capitalism, that eerie alien (and alienating) heartbeat that never dies.

Social democracy incorporates strong unions, a welfare state, free education and healthcare, among other benefits for working people, all within the context of a market economy. Yugoslavia under Tito pursued a market socialist economy and remained independent of the Eastern Bloc; some say Yugoslavia‘s non-alliance with the Eastern Bloc gave Western imperialism an advantage, helping them defeat communism by the 1990s, thus ushering in the current neoliberal hell. Recall that Lenin’s NEP was only meant as a temporary measure. Stalin put an end to it after a mere eight years.

Even the smallest part of The Thing–its blood–can exist as a complete entity, and thus as a formidable enemy.

Even the smallest amounts of capitalism–just like even the smallest amounts of The Thing–can’t be allowed to live and thrive. The microcosm is no less evil than the macrocosm.

IV: The Narcissistic Thing

While discussing the tinier manifestations of evil as seen in The Thing, consider how narcissism or psychopathy (seen in ambitious, exploitative individuals) are the microcosm of the macrocosm of capitalism and class war. People with Cluster B personality disorders will slip in among the crowd of normal people, pretend to be as normal as the latter, and will treat them as extensions of themselves, just as The Thing does to the Americans.

Non-psychopathic and non-narcissistic people will be falsely accused of having either those pathologies (i.e., through projection) or similar ones, as Clark, Garry, Windows, and MacReady are suspected of being alien imitations. Not only will the Cluster-B-disordered one accuse the innocent, but so will his enablers (even the unwitting enablers), as is the case when the non-assimilated men accuse each other of being ‘Things.’

The narcissist or psychopath is, like The Thing, selfish, wishing only to survive, even at the cost of betraying his own kind (this selfishness is noted especially in the novella with respect to “the monster”–Chapter VIII). A game of divide and conquer is played, making the victims hostile to each other instead of to the victimizer. We see this antagonism in The Thing, in the exploitative relationship between narcissists and their victims–that is, on the microcosmic level–and in class relations (i.e., big corporations vs. small businesses and workers) on the macrocosmic level. Recall Marx’s words: “One capitalist always strikes down many others.” (Marx, page 929)

The imitation of Palmer (Clennon), once exposed as such.

Still, the narcissist needs other people to give him narcissistic supply, and the capitalist always needs new supplies of profit to offset the TRPF; just as The Thing always needs a new supply of life forms to assimilate. If the narcissist’s True Self is exposed, he goes berserk with narcissistic rage, feeling the danger of psychological fragmentation; just as the alien goes wild and physically comes apart when Palmer is exposed as an imitation.

Heat will expose the alien, and fire will kill it. It can, however, hibernate in ice. The narcissist, as well as the capitalist, has an icy heart–cold is his home. The Thing, narcissist, and capitalist can all hide in human warmth, though, pretending to be a friend even as they plot our destruction.

V: The Thing-in-itself

So, to recap, The Thing could be seen as symbolizing the threat of the spread of communism, as conservatives and liberals would see it. In my Marxist interpretation, the alien invader represents capitalist imperialism, the microcosm of which (that is, The Thing’s blood) is the narcissistic or psychopathic personality. But this all depends on one’s sense perceptions.

What is The Thing, in itself?

Thanks to Kant, I’ve just answered my own question.

Das Ding an sich.

The Thing appears to be a sled dog at the beginning of the film, thanks to the limitations of the Americans’ sense impressions. When they see the thing-in-itself, that is, in mid-transformation into other dogs, they realize their senses have deceived them. The men continue to have this sensory deception throughout the film, as do we, the viewers, right up to when MacReady and Childs share the bottle of scotch and begin freezing to death.

In this sense, The Thing represents the source of human problems, whatever that source really is; it is what it is, in spite of the limitations of our sensory impressions, those of our world view, those of our political biases. Conservatives’ and liberals’ biases would call that source communism, or something similar. Marxists like me would call that source the capitalism that conservatives and liberals defend (in its ‘free market‘ or ‘kinder, gentler‘ forms, respectively).

So, which is the friend, capitalism or communism, and which the foe? According to John Carpenter, one of the two freezing men sharing the bottle is an alien assimilation: is it Childs, or MacReady? Which is the friend, and which the foe? Is the friend the man who–suspected of being a foe–‘Stalinistically’ [!] had most of the other men tied up, and yet exposed Parker; and is the foe Childs, who was opposed to imperious MacReady’s blood testing, yet at the end of the film shows no light reflection in his eyes, and whose breath isn’t visible?

As for the thing-in-itself, some, like Wilfred Bion in his mystical conception of O, might associate Kant’s idea with God, or Ultimate Reality. O is to be understood intuitively through the abandonment of memory, desire, and understanding–no use of deceptive sense impressions. Bion didn’t sentimentalize his mystical idea, though; he acknowledged that O results in moments of ominous and turbulent feelings…feelings the alien certainly provokes in the Americans…feelings that cause one to lose one’s anchor of security in everyday reality.

The seemingly omnipotent Thing is too terrifying to contemplate in its unmasked reality.

If The Thing, as thing-in-itself, is some form of Divinity, again we must ask: is God friend, or foe? Is Ultimate Reality a comforting…or a terrifying…reality? Recall that Christians (Protestants in particular) often embrace capitalism, believing that God is rewarding their work ethic, seen as an expression of their religious faith, with financial success. Thus, God is a friend to the capitalists–to the rest of us, not so much.

During the end credits, we hear Morricone’s funereal organ tune and its alien heartbeat bass synth line; a fusion of life and death, more dialectical unity in opposites. The killing alien is still alive. The defeat of communism is a joy to the capitalists, but a catastrophe to us Marxists, who see imperialism‘s continued destruction of the rest of the world, just as The Thing will surely continue to assimilate other humans when a rescue team comes and finds the American research base.

When Childs and MacReady freeze, the human will die and The Thing will hibernate until that rescue team comes and thaws it out. Which man is real, and which is fake? It’s been said that all the men whose eyes show a reflection of light are real, and those without that reflection–like Palmer, Norris, and Childs (at the end)–are imitations. But that’s just the opinion, the sense perception, of cinematographer Dean Cundey, who deliberately provided a subtle illumination to the eyes of uninfected characters, something absent from Childs, with his conspicuously invisible breath, at the end. 

Cundey created that sense impression in the characters’ eyes, just as we all create our own sense impressions of the world through our personal biases. Does light in the eyes symbolize ‘seeing the light’ of human truth, or do we just interpret the symbolism that way? Is the light in our eyes just the limitation of our own sense perceptions?

If, Dear Reader, your senses perceive it to be disturbing that I would consider the communists our friends, and the capitalists–of every conceivable stripe–our foes, remember that The Thing is a horror movie. That’s the whole scary thing about the film: we don’t know who our friends and enemies really are, including our ideological friends and foes; and in spite of the persuasiveness of the light-in-the-eyes theory, we don’t know for sure which man–Childs, or MacReady–is The Thing.

The two freezing men will just have to wait there a little while, and see what happens.

Analysis of ‘Falling Down’

Falling Down is a 1993 thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher, written by Ebbe Roe Smith, and starring Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, and Barbara Hershey; it costars Frederick Forrest, Rachel Ticotin, Tuesday Weld, Lois Smith, and Raymond J. Barry.

Douglas plays Bill Foster (whose car’s personalized plate says “D-FENS,” hence the ending credits name him thus), an unemployed, divorced former weapons builder who has a mental breakdown in Los Angeles during a sweltering day in summer. He is the stereotypical “angry white male,” feeling shafted by a system that’s actually far more unfair to those other than his socioeconomic category.

I’d have to agree with Kirk Douglas and say that his son’s performance as D-FENS is his best yet. Though D-FENS represents a lot of disagreeable aspects of conservative American men, Michael Douglas humanizes the character and his many faults, making us sympathize with him, however indefensible his acts and thoughts may be.

Here are some quotes:

[Bill Foster exits his car in the middle of the highway]

Man on Freeway: Hey, where do you think you’re going?

Bill Foster: I’m going home! (his first line in the film) […]

“I’m rolling prices back to 1965!” –Bill, to Lee, the Korean store owner

“I am not a vigilante. I am just trying to get home to my little girl’s birthday. Now if everyone will just stay out of my way, then nobody will get hurt.” Bill, to Nick, the neo-Nazi surplus store owner (Forrest)

“I lost my job. Actually I didn’t lose it. It lost me. I’m overeducated, underskilled—Maybe it’s the other way around. I forget—but I’m obsolete. I’m not economically viable. I can’t even support my own kid.” –Bill

“You know what was in this? Zyklon-B! You remember? What the Nazis had! Listen! [shakes can, a slight rattle is heard] Empty! This was used, man! This was actually used! I wonder how many kikes this little can took out? Huh?! Think about it!” –Nick, to Bill

“Fuck you, Captain Yardley. Fuck you very much.” –Prendergast (Duvall)

Rick: Yes, sir?

Bill Foster: Hi. I’d like some breakfast?

Rick: We stopped serving breakfast.

Bill Foster: I know you stopped serving breakfast Rick, Sheila told me that you… why am I calling you by your first names? I don’t even know you. I still call my boss ‘Mister’ even though I’ve been working with him for seven years, but all of a sudden I walk in here and I’m calling you Rick and Sheila like we’re in some kind of AA meeting and…I don’t want to be your buddy, Rick. I just want a little breakfast?

Sheila: You can call me Miss Folsom if you want.

RickSheila. We stopped serving breakfast at 11:30.[Foster looks at his watch to find it’s 3 minutes past the deadline. He places his gym bag full of guns on the counter.]

Bill Foster: Rick, have you ever heard the expression “the customer is always right”?

Rick: (sighs) Yeah.

Bill Foster: Well, here I am. The customer.

Rick: (still smiling) That’s not our policy. You’ll have to order something from the lunch menu.

Bill Foster: I don’t want lunch. I want breakfast.

Rick: Yeah, well hey, I’m really sorry.

Bill Foster: (smiles back) Yeah, well hey, I’m real sorry too. (pulls out a TEC-9) […]

Bill Foster: You’re Korean? Do you have any idea how much money my country has given your country?

Mr. Lee: How much?

Bill Foster: I don’t know, but it’s gotta be a lot. […]

Nick: We’re the same, you and me. We’re the same, don’t you see?

Bill Foster: We are not the same. I’m an American, you’re a sick asshole. […]

“I am just disagreeing with you! In America, we have the freedom of SPEECH! The right to DISAGREE!” –Bill, to Nick

“Good! Good, freedom of religion. Now you get the swing of it. Feels good to exercise your rights, doesn’t it?” –Bill, then opening fire on Nick, shooting him through a mirror

“Beth, did you know that in some South American countries it’s legal to kill your wife if she insults you?” –Bill

Sergeant Prendergast: Let’s meet a couple of police officers. They’re all good guys.

Bill Foster: I’m the bad guy?

Prendergast: Yeah.

Bill Foster: How did that happen? I did everything they told me to. Did you know I build missiles?

Prendergast: Yeah.

Bill Foster: I help to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. Then they give it to the plastic surgeon. You know, they lied to me.

Prendergast: Is that what this is about? You’re angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven? Hey, they lie to everybody. They lie to the fish! But that doesn’t give you any special right to do what you did today.

D-FENS!

How D-FENS dresses and looks is significant. With a crew cut, glasses, and a white shirt and tie, he looks like a man straight out of the late Fifties, or early Sixties. In fact, he’s stuck in the Sixties, but not the way a hippie is; he is a don’t-trust-anyone-over-thirty kind of man from the Sixties, having built missiles “to protect us from the communists,” as his mother tells Prendergast. D-FENS thus represents straight America.

Now, D-FENS, like straight America, has always had problems. His ex-wife, Beth (Hershey) has always sensed his potential for violence; like Travis Bickle, Bill Foster is a ticking time bomb.

Similarly, the US has, throughout her history, been a bomb waiting to explode; we know this because she has already exploded so many times before. But now that the Cold War is over, and she doesn’t have the convenient enemy of the USSR, America needs a new enemy, and has been seeking them out eagerly; so now her explosive tendencies have grown so much more dangerous…as have Bill’s. On this hot summer day, his war with LA is no cold one.

His problem–a “horrendous temper,” as Beth calls it–is on a continuum with most of the other characters, and this is significant, given his being a personification of conservative America. Indeed, a number of characters, especially Prendergast, parallel D-FENS to at least some extent, in terms of their pain, anger, alienation, and how varyingly functional or dysfunctional their ways are of coping with their problems.

When we see D-FENS in his car at the beginning of the movie, stuck in bumper-t0-bumper traffic on such a hot day, his air conditioning not working, and a fly buzzing all around him, we see him sweating, growing increasingly agitated, and finally losing it and abandoning his car. He goes from this agitation to a complete mental breakdown within the next half-hour.

He seems, on the face of it, so normal, so ‘straight,’ yet he goes crazy and violent in such short order. Seeing this, we ask ourselves, ‘Could I do that one day? What will it take to push me over the edge?’ After all, we don’t yet know much about him, until we get his ex-wife’s perspective; so Bill could be any ordinary American, for all we know.

This potential to become–this changing from one kind of man to another, two kinds so seemingly opposed, from ‘the good guy’ to the bad guy, is what makes D-FENS so scary to us. This contrast seems stronger when we learn from his mother, who’s terrified of him, that he has built weapons for American defence–“D-FENS!”–and when he’s lost his job, it’s the rest of us who need defence from D-FENS.

Loitering and trespassing on private property.

Now that he’s stopped building missiles, he’s become a kind of missile himself. As a weapons builder, Bill represents more than just straight America: he also represents the military-industrial complex (MIC). His accumulation of weapons (a bat, a switchblade, a gym bag full of guns, and a rocket launcher) thus represents the frightening growth of the MIC. The phallic nature of those amassed weapons also symbolizes Bill’s growing hyper-masculinity.

The MIC has always been in the service of imperialism, which is the extension of capitalist hegemony into other countries. The capitalist imperialist tends, however, to project his intrusiveness onto his victims (e.g., ‘the terrorists are going to get us,’ so we must bomb the Middle East, or, ‘we must stop the Red menace,’ so any killing of communists around the world is considered justified), just as Bill projects his aggression onto those he runs into. He attacks, yet he imagines it’s all…D-FENS.

So when he walks into the grocery store for change for the pay phone, and he finds Mr. Lee (Michael Paul Chan), the Korean owner, uncooperative, he busts up the place, as the US military did when the North Korean communists refused to cooperate with capitalism. Bill’s paying for a can of Coke–rolled back to 1960s prices–represents the capitalist imperialist short-changing the global proletariat. His taking of Mr. Lee’s bat represents imperialism’s attempts (if not successes) at depriving countries like the DPRK of the ability to defend themselves, a depriving that the US considers…D-FENS!

Capitalism breeds alienation, which includes the inability to communicate; therefore it’s no surprise that Bill finds it difficult to say anything when Beth answers his phone calls. He says nothing during those first few calls, but she knows it’s him on the other end.

She explains to the police that she has a restraining order against Bill–which she admits may have done more harm than good (it has!)–because she (justifiably, we learn) fears the possibility, the potential, of his rage to blow up into physical violence. She can see the psychopathy in Bill’s eyes; just as we on the left can see the potential for the moderate right to develop into outright fascism.

Still, we viewers of the film find ourselves sympathizing with D-FENS, in spite of his increasing violence and instability, since almost everyone he encounters is rude and obnoxious. Our sympathizing with him, however, is dangerous in how we make ourselves complicit, if only in thought, in his excesses.

D-FENS, in gangland.

Indeed, when we see him encounter the two Latinos in gangland, their bullying of him makes it hard to sympathize with them; but when you see this film as an allegory of US imperialism‘s dealings with Third World countries (e.g., those of Central and South America), the two Latinos’ aggression against gringo Bill becomes more than understandable.

They claim he’s “trespassing on private property,” a turning of the tables of what’s usually the white man telling the poor and people of colour to get off his property. Seen in this light, Bill’s D-FENSiveness becomes far less D-FENSible.

Now, as we ignorantly sympathize with Bill, we feel less and less sympathy for those who annoy him, including the poor. A homeless man trying to get a handout from him bumbles and stumbles over his absurdly transparent lies, making us want to laugh at his stupidity rather than pity him for his plight. Bill, of course, icily rejects him, and we find ourselves agreeing with him that the man should just “try to get a job.” (We probably forget our having agreed with him when we later realize Bill himself has no job, which has already been implied by his suitcase having only his lunch, and no business papers.)

Such an uncaring attitude toward the poor is dangerous, though, given the American gutting of welfare just a few years after this movie was made, one of many neoliberal moves resulting in, among other problems, the current epidemic of homelessness, not only in LA, but also in such places as San Francisco, Toronto, and the UK.

His confrontation with the staff in the Whammyburger is instructive of how employees are treated in capitalist society. Granted, we customers can’t help being annoyed when we enter a fast food restaurant hoping for breakfast, but we’re only a few minutes late, and they’ve switched to the lunch menu; still, it’s hard for the workers in the hot kitchen, cluttered with both breakfast and lunch cooking equipment, to prepare both kinds of meals at the same busy, hectic time. A strict ending of the one, to facilitate the switch to the other, may be inconvenient, but it’s perfectly understandable, as any past or present worker at places like McDonald’s will know.

He’d like to order some breakfast.

Bill’s brandishing of the semi-automatic weapon, firing into the ceiling, is symbolic not only of the rudeness customers show to those suffering in silence in the food service industry (and I am guilty of such rudeness, too, far more often than I care to admit), but also of the boss’s bullying of his striking workers, getting the police to fire on them. Recall in this connection that, since “the customer is always right,” he is the boss even of the boss and managers.

As our Odysseus continues on his journey home (and recall that Odysseus returned home after invading Troy with his army, as Bill’s America invades countries all the time), seeing poor people all around him and caring little about their plight, one far greater than his personal frustrations, he buys a gift for his daughter and sees a black man (short hair, white shirt and tie!) complaining outside a savings-and-loan that won’t give him a loan because he’s “not economically viable!” Bill can sympathize with this man, because he’s clearly middle class by his clothes. The man is one of several doubles of Bill seen throughout the film.

Speaking of Bill doubles, Prendergast has his own family frustrations, including a difficult wife and a daughter he can’t see…because she’s dead. Instead of losing his job, he’s about to retire; and after leaving fighting crime on the streets to work at a desk, he has to endure the taunts of the other cops for supposedly being a coward, when getting off the streets is the only way he can stop his wife from being hysterical.

Still, with all of his problems, he’s able to deal with them in a controlled, reasonable way, unlike D-FENS. The most violent he gets is punching a particularly obnoxious cop in his department for insulting his wife, and shooting D-FENS when goaded into killing him. Part of the p0int of Prendergast and the “not economically viable” man is to show that we can express our anger without making it escalate into frightening proportions.

Prendergast.

We hear so many tragic stories about unstable Americans (usually white men) with guns a-blazing. The US, as the nerve centre of global capitalism, “the belly of the beast,” as Che Guevara once called her, is also one of the worst places as far as alienation is concerned. Added to this is the toxic mixture of violent hyper-masculinity (a combination of biological factors and sex role socialization) and gun culture, including such absurdities as open carry. Then, there’s the growing problem of “white nationalism,” which leads me to Bill’s next major confrontation.

After Nick, the surplus store owner who’s been emboldened by Bill (and whom he says he’s “the same” as), taunts two gay men, he protects Bill from the “officeress” and gives him a rocket launcher. When Bill sees just how far to the right neo-Nazi Nick is, he refuses to identify with him.

Conservatives shouldn’t fool themselves about not being at least comparable to fascists. The only difference between a centre-rightist and a far-rightist is how much rage and frustration each feels with society. Both support the hierarchical, capitalist establishment; the fascist resorts to violence when that establishment is, or at least seems to be, threatened–the moderate conservative sees no threat…yet.

We must remember that the world isn’t a static, unchanging thing. All things flow dialectically, as I argued in my ouroboros posts. The social democrat shifts counterclockwise to the liberal centrist, who in turn shifts centre-right–or neoliberal/neocon–when such things as political correctness frustrate him; and this centre-rightist shifts to a pro-fascist position when the heat’s on even more.

“You missed.”

This is why, when D-FENS says to Nick, “I’m an American. You’re a sick asshole,” he’s being more than disingenuous. Conservative Americans like to rationalize their reactionary ideology by imagining they’re defending freedom, including freedom of speech and of religion…and who did many of these conservatives vote into office? Someone who cages migrants, has banned travel from six Muslim-majority countries, and dismisses criticisms of him as “fake news.” Because the DNC establishment is largely no better than he, he’ll probably get reelected in 2020, too.

When D-FENS shoots and kills the neo-Nazi, what’s interesting is how the latter is in front of a mirror. Bill is projecting his own fascistic tendencies onto Nick, pretending that his own evil potential is something alien to himself, when that Lacanian mirror shows Bill’s and Nick’s reflections together, a merging of the moderate right that is forever in danger of phasing into the extreme right. Whether Bill wants to admit it or not, Nick’s right-wing authoritarian ideal ego is Bill’s, too.

Just before D-FENS kills Nick, he falls down, which of course refers back to the film’s title (contrast this with Prendergast’s singing of “London Bridge is falling down…” to soothe and comfort his wife). Here is the point where Bill is falling down,…the point of no return. Up until this point, his aggressions have fallen short of lethal. He shot the Latino gang member in the leg, and the switchblade stab in Nick’s neck isn’t quite enough to kill him; but then Bill points Nick’s pistol at him with a shaky, spastic hand while looking at Nick and himself in Lacan’s mirror. Bill is fragmented and alienated from himself and his Nazi doppelgänger, as well as from the world. This murder is symbolic suicide (he shoots a hole in the mirror, at a point connecting with his reflection), for Bill hates what he can see himself turning into.

He’s at the point of no return; having killed the violent, fascist authoritarian, he’s become what he killed–the potential has become the reality. Accordingly, he threatens Beth on the phone. So much for the ‘American’ right to disagree: she disagrees with him, in his unstable state, when he asserts his right to see his daughter on her birthday; he implies he’ll kill Beth if she “insults” him.

Bill and Beth.

Normally, one would sympathize with divorced men who are discriminated against in child custody cases; but Bill is clearly one of those kind of men who are unfit to raise a child. His embrace of his daughter at the end of the film would begin a process of emotional healing for him, but he’s nonetheless reached the point of no return…

Now “dressed like GI Joe,” which is symbolic of his militaristic, quasi-fascist frame of mind, D-FENS leaves the surplus store with the rocket launcher in the gym bag and confronts a group of construction workers, like those whose blockage of the road set him off at the beginning of the movie. Again, as with the Whammyburger incident, we may be annoyed with government bureaucracy and all of its rules, regulations, and interference in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can assume they’re never justified.

When Bill is told there’s “nothing” wrong with the road, this could just be the worker’s exasperated attempt to placate him, since Bill won’t accept being told there’s a legitimate reason for digging up the road. Government bureaucracy, rules, and intrusions are sometimes without justification, but sometimes they can’t be avoided. Bill, as right-libertarians all too often do, refuse to accept this reality.

The right-winger despises unionized workers, but sometimes he despises the rich, too. That’s why D-FENS gets mad at rich golfers and plastic surgeons. Right-libertarians blame the state for propping up the super-rich while they insist on preserving the class system and ‘free market’ that inevitably result in the current oligarchy. Fascists and Nazis have sometimes paid lip service to opposing capitalism, but Hitler was content to get financial aid from big business, including from foreign capitalists. Both of these kinds of right-wing thinkers are wilfully blind to their own hypocrisy. Capitalism is fine when it’s convenient for their selfish interests; if not, it’s just ‘corporatism,’ or ‘crony capitalism,’ and not ‘real’ capitalism.

Still, we whites are made to sympathize with Bill. Such sympathy is dangerous, leading to such real-life violence as the 2015 Chapel Hill shooting (whose suspect was fixated on this movie). Whites often tend to lack sympathy for the justified anger of such people as the black rioters in LA in 1992, which disrupted the filming of Falling Down. When Bill breaks down and cries before the family in the backyard of the plastic surgeon, we’re touched by the expression of his pain (superbly played by Michael Douglas); but we mustn’t let that blind us to all the wrong D-FENS has been doing. Having a little residual humanity isn’t enough when the rest is all viciousness and brutality.

“London Bridge is falling down…”

Speaking of the mix of residual humanity with brutality, consider the world that D-FENS wishes would come back. As a builder of missiles “to protect us from the communists,” he had work centred around the Cold War. This means, on the one hand, he helped the American war machine undermine the efforts of the USSR, Maoist China, Vietnam, the DPRK, Cuba, and the Eastern Bloc to free the world of imperialism. To Bill, that’s “D-FENS!” To us anti-imperialists, it’s viciousness.

On the other hand, the very presence of those Red countries prodded Western countries to provide quasi-social-democratic programs to help the Western working class feel at least somewhat comfortable under capitalism, thus stemming the tide of communist revolution. This ‘pinkish capitalism,’ if you will, was at its zenith from the post-WWII era to 1973. This was that bit of ‘residual humanity’ symbolized in those sympathetic moments in Bill; to us Marxists, that ‘humanity’ did little of substance for the world.

You see, those postwar, social-democratic benefits were largely for white working class men. The story was different for women who, during WWII, had had their first taste of bringing home a good pay-check doing their husbands’ jobs, but then had to go back in the kitchen, or to traditional, lower-paying jobs, once their husbands returned; and secondly, increasing divorce, especially during the Sixties, threw many women back into the workplace, where they’d experience discrimination. I hardly need to review what blacks were going through at the time.

Still, this postwar prosperity, with the American assurance that Bill et al were on the side of freedom, was a world that gave a sense of identity, meaning, and purpose. By the time of this movie, though, the USSR has already dissolved with almost all the other socialist states, and ‘freedom’ has prevailed. But as Erich Fromm in Escape From Freedom observed, the experience of ‘freedom from’ tyranny leads to a vacuum that needs to be filled with a new sense of structure, since no ‘freedom to’ develop one’s human potential has been provided to fill the void.

Bill has been in this predicament ever since his divorce from Beth and the loss of his job. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, without any structure or purpose in his life. All he can do is resort to increasing violence, as did the Nazis, of whom Fromm wrote.

Similarly, the Western victory over communism left the US without an enemy, and with a NATO hungry for expansion. Terrorism satisfied that need for an enemy during the 2000s, and Russia and China have satisfied it recently. The US, like D-FENS, has been growing more and more bellicose by the year. Many foresee American self-destruction within the next ten to fifteen years, comparable to Bill’s goaded suicide at the end of the film. (Recall what I said above, that Bill is straight America personified.)

All those angry white men, by the way, who cheer on D-FENS’s aggression fail to understand the film’s real intentions. We’re not meant to condone his actions, however much we may sympathize with him for how he’s suffered. Just because he’s gone through so much hardship, “doesn’t give [him] any special right to do what [he] did,” as Prendergast–who has also suffered terribly, yet handled his problems far better–says.

Now, for those on the right side of the political spectrum who are reading this, and are shaking their heads at what I’ve written here, I’ll give you all a full confession. I too went through an ‘angry white male’ phase, from my mid-twenties up until my late thirties, from about the mid-1990s to about 2010, before coming to my senses, shifting from the centre-right–little by little–to the left where I am comfortable now. I know your anger, right-leaning readers: I’m not some latte-sipping liberal who lives in the ivory tower of a university life; I’ve known for many years how mean and nasty the real world is.

So, to all you fans of D-FENS out there: please come to your senses and realize that he isn’t meant to be emulated, as Craig Stephen Hicks emulated him. You don’t want to find yourself falling down with people like this. It’s a fall from grace you might not be able to pick yourself back up from.

Analysis of ‘Scarface’

Scarface is a 1983 crime film directed by Brian De Palma, written by Oliver Stone, and starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and F. Murray Abraham. It’s a remake of the 1932 film, which in turn was loosely based on the 1929 novel by Armitage Trail, itself based on Al Capone, who also had the nickname of Scarface.

In the 1983 version, Tony Montana (Pacino) is a Cuban criminal who immigrates to the US and lives in Miami, Florida. He rises to wealth and power in the criminal underworld there selling cocaine. He’s always been a bad man, but the acquisition of wealth and power estranges him from everyone around him, leading to his self-destruction.

The film got a negative response initially, with much criticism over its violence (also a criticism of the 1932, pre-Production Code film) and strong language (indeed, the 1983 film is one of those, like The Big Lebowski, in which the word fuck is heard more often than in most other films). Its critical reputation has improved over the years, though, thanks in part to its status as a cult classic, and now the film is generally praised.

Here are some quotes:

Tony Montana: You a communist? Huh? How’d you like it, man? They tell you all the time what to do, what to think, what to feel. Do you wanna be like a sheep? Like all those other people? Baah! Baah!

Immigration Officer #3: I don’t have to listen to this bullshit!

Tony Montana: You wanna work eight, ten fucking hours? You own nothing, you got nothing! Do you want a chivato on every corner looking after you? Watching everything you do? Everything you say, man? Do you know I eat octopus three times a day? I got fucking octopus coming out of my fucking ears. I got the fuckin’ Russian shoes my feet’s comin’ through. How you like that? What, you want me to stay there and do nothing? Hey, I’m no fuckin’ criminal, man. I’m no puta or thief. I’m Tony Montana, a political prisoner from Cuba. And I want my fuckin’ human rights, now! [slams desk] Just like the President Jimmy Carter says. Okay?

Immigration Officer #1: Carter should see this human right. He’s really good. What do you say, Harry?

Immigration Officer #3: I don’t believe a word of this shit! They all sound the same to me. That son of a bitch Castro is shittin’ all over us. Send this bastard to Freedom Town. Let them take a look at him. Get him outta here.

Tony Montana: You know somethin’? You can send me anywhere. Here, there, this, that; it don’t matter. There’s nothing you can do to me that Castro has not done. Nothing! […]

“You tell your guys in Miami, your friend, it’d be a pleasure. You know, I kill a communist for fun, but for a green card, I gonna carve him up real nice.” –Tony

“What I try to tell you? This country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the woman. That’s why you gotta make your own moves.” –Tony, to Manny

Tony: You know what capitalism is? Gettin’ fucked!

Elvira: A true capitalist if ever I met one. […]

[to the guests at the restaurant] “What you lookin’ at? You all a bunch of fuckin’ assholes. You know why? You don’t have the guts to be what you wanna be. You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, ‘That’s the bad guy.’ So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!” –Tony

“Okay, Sosa. You wanna fuck with me? You fucking with the best! You wanna fuck with me? Okay. You little cockroaches… come on. You wanna play games? Okay, I’ll play with you. You wanna play rough? Okay! Say hello to my little friend!” –Tony, with a grenade-launcher-equipped M16A1

The film begins with footage of Fidel Castro announcing that the Cuban government is letting go of thousands of Cubans who refuse to cooperate with the Marxist-Leninist revolution. This Mariel boatlift is sent to Miami, Florida.

A huge portion of those on the boat are criminals, like Tony and his friends. They come to the US with nothing, and have to fend for themselves in a country that has never cared for the poor in a meaningful way. Contrast this with revolutionary Cuba, which has provided housing for pretty much everyone, as well as free education, free healthcare (training superb doctors who often go to poor or wartorn countries to give the afflicted medical aid), and usually low unemployment rates. All of this, in a Third World country saddled with an economic embargo for almost sixty years now!

Tony tries to charm his way through US immigration, the officers there not buying a word of his lies. He speaks of all of his family being dead, when his mother and kid sister (Mastrantonio) live right there in Miami. He speaks of being oppressed by the Cuban communists, when he, representative of capitalists, is hardly one to judge the faults of any political or economic system.

The officers ask him about the scar on his left cheek: he says they should see what he did to the boy who gave him the scar when he was a kid. That scar is symbolic of a narcissistic scar, the childhood cause of Tony’s criminal pathologies.

Narcissism on a pathological level is typically rooted in childhood emotional neglect, abuse, and a lack of empathy from one’s parents, as Heinz Kohut observed in such writings as his book, The Analysis of the Self: “The mother’s responsiveness to the child’s needs prevents traumatic delays before the narcissistic equilibrium is re-established after it has been disturbed, and if the shortcomings of the mother’s responses are of tolerable proportions, the infant will gradually modify the original boundlessness and blind confidence of his expectation of absolute perfection. […]

“If, however, the mother’s responses are grossly unempathic and unreliable, then the gradual withdrawal of cathexis from the imago of archaic unconditional perfection is disturbed; no transmuting internalization can take place; and the psyche continues to cling to a vaguely delimited imago of absolute perfection, does not develop the various internal functions which secondarily re-establish the narcissistic equilibrium–either (a) directly, through self-soothing, i.e., through the deployment of available narcissistic cathexes; or, (b) indirectly, via an appropriate appeal to the idealized parent–and remains thus relatively defenseless vis-à-vis the effects of narcissistic injuries…In general…they consist in a hypersensitivity to disturbances in the narcissistic equilibrium with a tendency to react to sources of narcissistic disturbance by mixtures of wholesale withdrawal and unforgiving rage.” (Kohut, pages 64-65)

Now, while Tony’s mother is justified in being–to put it mildly–disappointed in him for his criminal ways, one shouldn’t find it hard to believe, knowing Kohut’s insights, that she was probably lacking in motherly love for him when he was a boy. Tony’s quick temper, his fury sparked by any slight, or by any sense of having been dishonoured, is the essential manifestation of his narcissistic wound, which is central to his personality.

He won’t have the Cuban communists telling him what to do, or what to think, though he’s perfectly content to tell his kid sister, Gina, what to do or think (i.e., not give up her ‘maidenly virtue’ to any man). Indeed, with all his mafia criminal activity in Florida, he’d do well to have the communists tell him what to do and think.

Now in the ‘free’ capitalist world of the US, Tony quickly comes to hate being a dishwasher at a local Miami restaurant. Granted, any worker would rightly complain of the alienation inherent in being a wage slave, helping a boss make profits and not getting the full fruits of his labour; but with Tony, the narcissistic injury of being a ‘lowly’ worker is too much for him. He wants to rise high in the capitalist world, and the upper echelons of capitalism are filled with narcissists.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, gangsters make a perfect metaphor for capitalists, people who get rich off of people’s craving for commodities, here symbolized by cocaine. Hence, Tony becomes a drug lord, killing his way to the top, as many capitalists have done.

Indeed, every rung of the ladder that Tony climbs, he kills people, has them killed, or at least alienates them: first, there’s Rebenga, the Cuban communist he kills so he and his friends can get green cards; then, there’s Hector, with the chainsaw. Hector’s dismembering of Angel Fernandez with the chainsaw perfectly symbolizes the psychological fragmentation, disintegration, and alienation from oneself that capitalism causes.

Next, there’s the murder of Omar, whose arguing with Tony exemplifies the alienation between competing employees. Finally, the killing of Frank Lopez, for his attempt on Tony’s life, demonstrates the alienation between worker and boss.

Tony is alienated from his family–first, from his disapproving mother, then from Gina, who grows sick of his overprotective attitude, really his sense of the patriarchal family’s honour being tarnished.

Indeed, alienation and social isolation permeate this film. Few people are real friends with each other. Men chase women only for sex and to acquire females as social jewelry, so to speak, as is the case with Tony pursuing Elvira (Pfeiffer)…not for love. Manny may feel a bit more for Gina than the women in bikinis he pursues with his laughable ideas of how to pick them up, but Tony’s gun ends the newlyweds’ love fast.

Elvira never feels anything for Tony, or for Lopez, for that matter; she just lives off their money and snorts their cocaine. She judges them and their work, just as a liberal judges capitalism, but enjoys all the privileges associated with it.

As mentioned above, Scarface is among those films in which the word fuck is said most frequently. Many objected to the film’s ‘excessive’ profanity, but I’d say there’s justification for the constant use of the word fuck, since it symbolizes the nature of human connection throughout the film. People fuck each other constantly, if usually only in the metaphoric sense.

The word‘s denotation as sexual intercourse–an entering and connecting of one person with another–is paired with its connotations of violence: one etymology of the word is from the Swedish focka, ‘to copulate, strike, push’). So this combination of denotative and connotative meanings gives us a hint as to the true nature of human relationships as seen in the movie–people connect, and they hurt one another.

This connecting to cause mutual grief suggests Wilfred Bion‘s extensions of Melanie Klein‘s notion of projective identification, that is, Bion’s concept of container and contained, symbolized respectively by a yoni and a phallus. One projects one’s pain into another, like a raping phallus entering a vagina, the contained entering the container, causing the container to hold all that psychological grief, and to become, to manifest, what is projected.

Normally, only a mother in what Bion called a state of reverie could contain the pain of her frustrated baby, and only a trained psychoanalyst like Bion could contain the pain of a psychotic, transforming that pain into something acceptable that is returned to the baby or psychotic, pacifying them. In Scarface, Tony forces others to contain his pain, which they cannot do; as a result, no pacifying return of the projections is possible.

Tony’s scar is a symbolic yoni, a container receiving narcissistic injury from his childhood, and from–I theorize–an unempathic mother who never contained his violent infantile projections in reverie. He therefore projects that pain onto others, symbolized by his every fatal gunshot or stab, and also in how he hurts and alienates his mother, through his criminality, and Gina, through his patriarchal overprotectiveness.

Indeed, Tony’s killing of Manny, after learning his friend has had his sister, is a projective identification causing her to be as violent as her brother has always been. She approaches him in a provocative state of relative undress, firing a gun at him and offering (in bitter sarcasm) her body for his incestuous pleasure. Tony ‘fucks’ Manny–with his bullet-ejaculating, phallic gun–for fucking Gina; she ‘fucks’ Tony back by firing an ejaculating, phallic pistol at him while offering herself to be literally fucked by him. Container and contained switch roles in this dance of relationships of symbolic sexual relations.

These relationships by fucking are explicitly connected with capitalism when Tony complains of the criminalization of drugs by the establishment. Capitalists don’t mind exploitation as long as they are the exploiters; but when the government intervenes and regulates, the capitalist feels exploited from the disrupting of his business, the lowering of his profits. Hence, Tony is enraged at the ‘unfairness’ of it all.

At least Tony acknowledges that this government interference can happen within the context of capitalism, unlike your average right-libertarian. Tony complains, “You know what capitalism is? Gettin’ fucked!” Elvira notes his hypocrisy, though, by calling him, “A true capitalist if ever I met one.” Capitalism is only good when it’s convenient for this or that capitalist.

Capitalism is also about expansion, and seeking out new markets in other countries, other parts of the world, resulting in imperialism. Hence Tony’s interest in doing more business with Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar) in Bolivia. Sosa’s drug empire stretches throughout the Andes; Tony builds his in a number of major cities in the US, after he removes the small-potatoes drug lord, Lopez. As Marx once said, “One capitalist always strikes down many others.” (Marx, page 929)

Sosa and his South American associates have their worries about a journalist who has been investigating their criminal activities. Sosa needs Tony’s help in killing the journalist, who is about to make a UN speech exposing Sosa. A car bomb is set up to kill the man, but his wife and daughters unexpectedly get in the car, too. Tony’s sense of honour is offended: he has no problem killing men, but to kill women and children would cause him intolerable narcissistic injury, so he kills Alberto the Shadow, the assassin operating the car bomb, instead. This infuriates Sosa, causing a mafia war.

This mafia war symbolizes inter-imperialist conflict, since Tony’s and Sosa’s cocaine businesses are those of capitalists from different countries, capitalists with conflicting interests. Tony, always snorting the commodity he sells, is full of narcissistic brashness, fighting to the end, even after the killing of Gina, who injures him with a gunshot.

At Sosa’s men, he fires a huge, phallic, grenade-launching M16A1, calling it his “little friend,” an ironic reference to this extension of his big dick. He narcissistically defies his killers, even after being wounded several times, saying, “You fuck with me, you fuckin’ with the best!” Finally, a shot in the back from The Skull is the one narcissistic wound he won’t recover from.

The world was his…for a while, anyway.

The Liberal Mindset

I: Introduction

As much as I recognize the conservative as my ideological foe, I can at least have a kind of grudging respect for him. We on the left know where we stand with those on the right: they support and rationalize the authoritarian class system we all suffer under, and while they spuriously claim that capitalism is good for society as a whole, they don’t go around pretending they care about social justice in a meaningful way.

With liberals, on the other hand, the situation gets foggy, and it’s in this way that the ruling class is particularly cunning. The liberal claims to care about all the social issues we communists are insistent on addressing (racism, etc.), but he or she backslides right when matters get urgent, or when his or her class privileges are threatened.

What must be understood is that the liberal, in relation to the conservative and fascist–and by these three I include every variety–is just another snake-head on the body of the same Hydra. Slice off Bernie Sanders‘s head, and the heads of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Tulsi Gabbard pop out of the same reptilian neck to replace his.

We communists, on the other hand, represent a different kind of serpent altogether: that of the dialectical ouroboros, as I’ve argued elsewhere. We recognize a fluid reality of material contradictions rubbing up against each other, especially in the form of class conflict.

For us, the resolution of class war will not come about in the form of making compromises with the capitalist class, as liberals would have it, by emulating the Nordic Model, or having a market economy with a strong welfare state, single-payer healthcare, shorter working hours, and free education all the way up to university; these social democrat benefits, of course, would be paid off through imperialist plunder.

No, we want to extend those benefits globally, and to rid ourselves of the market as soon as the productive forces of society have been fully developed, for the benefit of all. The liberal will never help us with this project; he, nonetheless, routinely tricks many left-leaning people into thinking he’s our friend. For this reason, we leftists need to be educated not only in dialectical and historical materialism, but also in the psychology of the liberal worldview.

The liberal, as we know, is hypocritical in his claims to care about social justice, and opportunistic in his politics. He says all the right things (well, except for stating a commitment to socialism), but fails to do what needs to be done. At the heart of this hypocrisy and opportunism is a psychological conflict resulting from a confrontation of his material privileges.

The liberal’s superego is making all these moral demands to care about social justice, including resolving class conflict; but his id enjoys all the pleasures and privileges of being part of a higher social class (including his cushy place in the First World), and his id doesn’t want to lose them. So his conflict tends to resolve itself in the form of espousing such things as identity politics: he’ll keep the class structure of society intact, but allow blacks, women, gays, etc., into the upper echelons.

The best way to think is to have neither the id‘s pleasure principle, nor the superego‘s ego ideal, dominant, but to have the ego‘s reality principle at the forefront. That’s why we Marxists are neither id-like opportunists, nor are we superego-minded utopian socialists: we are ego-oriented, realistic materialists, scientific socialists, acknowledging the necessity of revolution and the ongoing, lengthy struggle of making the dictatorship of the proletariat run its course until the day finally comes for the withering away of the state, and the enjoyment of communist society.

II: Defence Mechanisms

Still, liberals must preserve their illusions of having the most sensible solutions to the world’s ills, which are really just resolutions of their psychic conflict. Indeed, they try to resolve their cognitive dissonance with a number of ego defence mechanisms, such as denial, rationalization, projection, splitting, reaction formation, displacement, and fantasy, among many others. We’ll examine these now.

Liberals are in denial about the extent to which they support, whether covertly or overtly, the capitalist system. They will, for example, play the same game of false moral equivalency as conservatives will when it comes to comparing communism and fascism. In their opposition to communism, one every bit as vehement as conservatives’, they’ll pretend that Stalin’s leadership was every bit as cruel and oppressive as Hitler’s, even though it was the former’s army that did most of the work in defeating the latter and his army. See here for a more thorough discussion of the huge differences between the far left and far right, a discussion beyond the scope of this article.

Liberals rationalize their defence of the establishment by pretending to have a ‘pragmatic’ approach to curing the ills of our world. Hillary Clinton has claimed to be a “progressive who gets things done,” when the only thing she and her husband ever got done was to move the Democratic Party further to the right.

The funny thing about the Clintons is that they aren’t even, nor were they ever, liberals–they’re conservatives in ‘centre-left’ garb. Consider all they did in the 1990s: helping to lay waste to Russia with ‘free marketreforms, and keeping unpopular Yeltsin in power; the 1994 Crime Bill, allowing the prison system to ruin thousands of lives; the gutting of welfare with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996; the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which relaxed regulations and allowed mergers and acquisitions in the media, resulting in the great majority of it owned by only six corporations; the repealing of Glass-Steagall, which some believe was at least a factor that brought about the housing bubble and the 2008 financial crisis; and the carving up of Yugoslavia, culminating in the 1999 bombing of the former socialist state, using depleted uranium on the victims. A progressive pair, indeed.

Liberals’ ‘pragmatism’ is set against the ‘utopianism’ of Marxism, when as I mentioned above, it’s the latter of these that’s the pragmatic application of progressive ideas. Liberals, on the other hand, aren’t progressive at all. They like to imagine they occupy a ‘reasonable’ position in the political centre, avoiding the violent extremes on either side. We are not, however, living in a world where reality is static, unchanging.

On the contrary, we live in a world in which everything flows dialectically, like the waves of the ocean. Crests of theses alternate with troughs of negations, the rising and falling of the water being the sublations of all these material contradictions.

What’s more, the current of these waves has been going further and further to the right, ever since the dawn of the Cold War, and especially since the disastrous dissolution of the Soviet Union. That rightward movement means that ‘neutral’ centrism is at best a passive acquiescence to that current, and at worst a collaborating with it. We must move against the current, and that can only mean an aggressive, revolutionary move to the left.

Still, liberals smugly insist that they’re ‘the good guys,’ projecting their support of the unjust status quo onto conservatives, as if only the right is to blame for our woes. Oh, the GOP and their awful wars! Vote in the Democrats, and the wars will end…or, at least, they’ll be tolerable [!]; the same for the Tories and Labour Party in the UK, and for the Conservative and Liberal Parties in Canada.

Liberals not only project all government corruption onto conservatives, but also project their tendency to interfere in the democratic process onto other countries, as in the case of Russia, a country with whose politics they themselves have interfered, as I mentioned above with regard to Yeltsin. Even after the Mueller report showed no proof of the claims of the Steele dossier (in which many, including myself, saw no real evidence right from the beginning), some liberals will surely still claim Russia colluded with Trump to get him elected in 2016. Now, he can use liberal folly and dishonesty to his advantage, and quite possibly get reelected in 2020. Thank you, liberals!

Both liberals and conservatives use splitting, or thinking in terms of absolute black vs. white, good vs. evil, when judging each other. That conservatives do this is painfully obvious: “Either you’re with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Liberals pretend to be above splitting, characterizing themselves as “open-minded,” but they’re just as hostile to differing ideologies as conservatives are.

I’ve known many supporters of the Democratic Party who imagine that all will be fine as long as their idolized party is elected, as opposed to the GOP. This blind devotion continues in spite of how similar their party’s agenda has come to that of the Republicans. In liberals’ universe, the DNC is all good, and only the GOP is all bad, no matter what either party does.

On Facebook, back when Trump had just been elected, and all the liberals were traumatized, I posted a meme that said, “So, you’re Obama‘s biggest fan? Name 5 countries he’s bombed.” A liberal FB friend of mine (then, not now) trolled me, saying, “Who cares? We have Trump.” Now, granted, Trump’s bombing of countries has grown even worse than Obama’s, but this needn’t (and shouldn’t) involve us trivializing Democrat sins. The problem isn’t this party vs. that party, or this charming man vs. that charmless man: it’s the metastasizing of imperialism that’s the real problem; whichever party is manifesting it at the moment is immaterial. Liberals can’t grasp this reality.

This splitting between ‘good DNC’ vs. ‘bad GOP’ is so extreme now that liberals are willing to go to war with Russia for her ‘collusion with Trump.’ These same people who were so passionately antiwar back in the 60s and 70s now bang the war drums, all because they’re such sore losers over the 2016 election results. Recall Rob Reiner’s short film with Morgan Freeman.

When I posted an article saying that Russia is not our enemy, that liberal FB friend of mine trolled me, saying it was a “crock of shit article…Russians are persecuting gays.” I responded sarcastically, saying, “You’re right, Peter. We should start World War III.” He liked my reply. Yes, risking nuclear annihilation is the only way to help gays. Hmm…

Liberals will engage in reaction formation, condemning everything bad they see conservative politicians doing, while resting perfectly content if a liberal politician commits the same egregious acts; in other words, liberals make an open show of hating the political evils of the world, yet secretly either don’t mind them, or even support them. Had Hillary been elected, liberals would be at brunch now instead of protesting Trump; even though she’d have had similar, if not virtually identical, policies as he has. The wars would have continued, the super-rich would have their interests protected, she’d have been tough on immigration (including a US/Mexico barrier), etc.

Liberals engage in fantasy, not only the totally uncorroborated fantasy of “Russian collusion,” but also fantasies that mere incremental reforms will fix what’s wrong with our world. Ocasio-Cortez‘s Green New Deal, apparently, will heal environmental degradation, when nothing less than an immediate, revolutionary takeover, by the people, of the government will do so. Sanders‘s giving away of free stuff will cure everything, it is supposed, instead of merely placating the public and staving off revolution.

A fantasy world of people indulging their desires via legalized prostitution, pornography, and drugs would fulfill people, as some liberals would have it, instead of fulfillment from ending pimps’ and madams’ exploitation of sex workers, and having government-funded rehab programs to get addicts off of junk.

Deeper than that issue, though, is how pleasure-seeking is a mere manic defence against the depressing reality of alienation, as I’ve argued elsewhere. Instead of understanding libido as satisfying drives through pleasure-seeking, we need to promote an object-directed libido (by objects, I mean people other than oneself, the subject; hence, object-directed libido is, as Fairbairn understood it, an urge to cultivate human relationships). And the promotion of loving human relationships is part of what socialism is about.

III: Hollywood and Pop Culture

Entertainment as escape to fantasy is especially apparent in the liberal media empire known as Hollywood. Anyone who has read enough of my blog posts knows that I like to write up analyses of films, many of which are mainstream ones. Sometimes I do psychoanalytic interpretations of them, sometimes I do Marxist ones, and sometimes a combination of the two.

This does not mean, however, that I have any illusions about these all-t00-reactionary films. My Marxist interpretations are deliberately subversive: I wish to turn these narratives into various threads of a leftist mythology, if you will, in order to counter the liberal/CIAlaced propaganda narratives Hollywood is brainwashing the public with.

Another reason I believe my Marxist slant is justified in interpreting these liberal narratives is because I see them as reflecting the conflicted liberal psyche I outlined above. The liberal’s superego demands films that promote equality, but his id wants the gratification of pleasure and the maintenance of the usual class privileges. Hollywood may be liberal, but it’s also a business. Hence, there’s a mask of the idealized liberal version of equality (identity politics, etc.) in these movies, but behind that mask are manifestations of class contradictions the liberal would rather you didn’t see.

‘Liberty and equality’ in these films, past and present, are defined in bourgeois contexts, as in Casablanca; peel away the mask, though, and note how subordinate blacks like Sam are. American Psycho is masked as a scathing critique of yuppies far more than of the capitalist world they embody…which you’d see if you removed the mask. The old Planet of the Apes movies idealized a peaceful coexistence between ape (symbolizing the proletariat, in my interpretation) and man (symbolizing the bourgeoisie), rather than promoting revolution (which was toned down in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes). Political corruption is seen as sensationalistic and titillating in Caligula, while the real oppression of slavery sits almost unnoticed in the background…behind the mask.

With the growing of neoliberalism, though, Hollywood movies have resolved the id/superego conflict, on the one hand, through identity politics (showing us strong women and blacks, as well as sympathetic portrayals of LGBT people, etc.), and on the other hand, through an upholding not only of the class structure of society (e.g., CEOs who are black and/or women, as opposed to promoting worker self-management), but also of imperialism and perpetual war (check out the spate of DC and Marvel superhero movies to see my point).

Whenever class issues are addressed, they’re rarely if ever dealt with in order to promote revolution; rather, it’s just as if to say, “Here, we acknowledged the problem–good enough.” Consider such films as Elysium, Snowpiercer, and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi to see my point. Thus is the superego placated, while the id is indulged.

Liberal pop stars like Bono and Madonna put on a show of caring about human rights, yet they’re bourgeois through and through. Consider her shameful support of Israel through her planned Eurovision concert; on the other hand, she felt morally justified in opposing only the Trump facet of the ruling class, promising blow jobs to those who voted for Hillary, as if Trump’s non-election would have made much of a difference.

IV: Julian Assange

Trump’s election certainly made no difference as to Julian Assange‘s fate, despite all this nonsense of the last few years of him and Russia supposedly helping Trump win in 2016. Trump, who repeatedly spoke of how he loved Wikileaks, and of how fascinating Wikileaks is, now says he knows nothing about it, and that it is of no consequence to him, now that Assange has been carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy.

Now we expect repressive, authoritarian measures from conservatives like Trump against journalists who make them look bad…but where are all the liberals, those who loved Assange when he exposed the imperialist brutality of the Bush administration, but changed their tune when it was the brutal imperialism of Obama’s administration, and of Hillary’s corruption, that was exposed?

On top of liberals’ splitting of the political establishment into ‘good DNC, bad GOP,’ we also see the displacement of blame from the rightly accused (Hillary and the rest of the Obama administration) to the whistleblower (Assange). The same, of course, goes for Chelsea Manning’s persecution, a displacement of blame from the murderous US army to she who accused them.

That same liberal former Facebook friend of mine (Peter) used to speak ill of Assange right up until Trump’s surprise election. Peter went on about how Assange had ‘lost all credibility’ (according to mainstream liberal propaganda, of course), even though not one Wikileaks publication has ever been proven false. He also described Assange with the most eloquent of language, calling him “a fucktard.” He claimed, back in 2016, that Ecuador was sick of putting up with Assange living in their embassy, when left-leaning Rafael Correa wanted to protect him there, and it’s only with Lenin Moreno’s election (and money from the IMF!) that Assange has been kicked out.

V: Conclusion

Liberals backslide and betray the people at the very moment when their class privilege is threatened. That’s what Mao observed in ‘Combat Liberalism’: “liberalism stands for unprincipled peace, thus giving rise to a decadent, Philistine attitude…To let things slide, for the sake of peace and friendship…To let things drift if they do not affect one personally…To indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent personal spite or seek revenge…It is negative and objectively has the effect of helping the enemy; that is why the enemy welcomes its preservation in our midst. Such being its nature, there should be no place for it in the ranks of the revolution.” (Mao, pages 177-179) This is why liberals are no friends of the left.

Stalin once called social democracy “the moderate wing of fascism.” On the face of it, his words may seem excessive; but when you consider how liberals like Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and Gabbard (in spite of, to her credit, Gabbard’s opposition to the war in Syria and defence of Assange) have no intention of overturning the capitalist system–instead, they would just soften it in order to stave off revolution–the logic of Stalin‘s words is revealed.

As I explained in my ouroboros posts, the clock ticks counter-clockwise from social democracy, then to mainstream centrist liberalism, then to neoliberalism, and finally to fascism. It’s not enough to be ‘left-leaning’ to turn the ticking back in the clockwise direction. Only a hard-left stance will have the necessary force to counteract the counterrevolution of the last fifty years: this means such things as ridding ourselves of antiStalin and anti-Mao propaganda, to arrive at the truth of the value of the communist alternative; for imperialism is a formidable foe that requires a resistance far more effective than the pathetically weak one offered by liberals.

The Ouroboros of the Workers’ State

If the ouroboros of the workers’ state were to be compared to a clock, 12:00-3:00 would be a state of ‘NEP,’ as it were (see below); 3:00-6:00 would be the beginning of a real building of socialism, as Stalin did in the 1930s; 6:00-9:00 would be remarkable progress in that building; and 9:00-12:00 would result in the withering away of the socialist state, and the attainment of communist society.

It goes without saying that one doesn’t go from revolution to full communist society overnight. A process of gradual transformation has to be made, starting with the capitalist structure one has just taken over (recall when Lenin wrote of how “difficult [it would be] to abolish classes”–Lenin/Tucker, pages 668-669), smashing the possibility of it continuing seamlessly from before that takeover, and building socialism step by step, changing every facet of what had existed before, each facet examined one by one.

This process of moving along the continuum from capitalism, through the building of more and more socialism, to full communism can be symbolized by the ouroboros, a circular continuum where the serpent’s biting head represents one extreme, and its bitten tail represents the opposite extreme. The tail is the dialectical thesis of the desired communist society; the head is the capitalist negation of that desired society; and the length of the coiled body is the socialist sublation of the contradiction. In other posts, I’ve discussed this ouroboros symbolism before.

We wish to move in a clockwise direction from the capitalist head (i.e., 12:00-1:00) to the communist tail (11:00-12:00); but a counter-clockwise reactionary movement continually threatens to undo all our progress. Because of this danger, the movement towards more and more socialism must be accelerated, to at least some extent; also, proper protections must be established, and acts of treason must be extirpated with the utmost ruthlessness.

In the early stages of socialism (i.e., 1:00-3:00 along the ouroboros’ body), some concessions to the established order are sadly inevitable, as was the case with the Brest-Litovsk Treaty to get the RSFSR out of World War I, a move Lenin had to make to fulfill part of his “peace, land, and bread” promise, yet also a move that angered the impatient left communists.

Lenin, in “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder, responded to this anger: “It had seemed to them that the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a compromise with the imperialists, which was inexcusable on principle and harmful to the party of the revolutionary proletariat. It was indeed a compromise with the imperialists, but it was a compromise which, under the circumstances, had to be made.” […]

“The party which entered into a compromise with the German imperialists by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had been evolving its internationalism in practice ever since the end of 1914. It was not afraid to call for the defeat of the tsarist monarchy and to condemn “defence of country” in a war between two imperialist robbers. The parliamentary representatives of this party preferred exile in Siberia to taking a road leading to ministerial portfolios in a bourgeois government. The revolution that overthrew tsarism and established a democratic republic put this party to a new and tremendous test–it did not enter into any agreements with its “own” imperialists, but prepared and brought about their overthrow. When it had assumed political power, this party did not leave a vestige of either landed or capitalist ownership. After making public and repudiating the imperialists’ secret treaties, this party proposed peace to all nations, and yielded to the violence of the Brest-Litovsk robbers only after the Anglo-French imperialists had torpedoed the conclusion of a peace, and after the Bolsheviks had done everything humanly possible to hasten the revolution in Germany and other countries. The absolute correctness of this compromise, entered into by such a party in such a situation, is becoming ever clearer and more obvious with every day.” (Lenin/Tucker, pages 563-564, Lenin’s emphasis)

Another concession Lenin made was with the NEP, which he himself called “state capitalism” (Lenin/Tucker, pages 511-531) as a temporary measure to deal with the economic exigencies of the early 1920s. Nonetheless, Stalin had already phased out the NEP by the beginning of the 1930s, as it was by then time to move socialism on forward. Indeed, when the concessions are no longer necessary, it’s time to continue clockwise along the body of the ouroboros (i.e., move from 3:00 to, say, 6:00).

In this connection I must discuss China under Xi Jinping, and do so with necessary candour. Nothing would make me happier to believe that the country is going down a genuine path of Marxism-Leninism, but beyond Xi’s rhetoric, I’m sorry to say that I can only see China as being, at best, in a seemingly almost permanent state of arrested NEP development.

China‘s is a mixed economy, partially state-planned and partially private enterprise. This latter part is the beginning of the cancer of capitalism in any country; the small amount of private enterprise allowed in Cuba is enough to make me fear for her future. That there’s so much more free enterprise in China should be enough to make any communist nervous, yet many respectable Marxist-Leninists out there still rationalize what China is doing. I must respectfully disagree with them.

The defences I’ve heard to support Dengism as legitimate Leninism include such arguments as wages have been rising (itself a debatable notion), hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, and of course, theirs is a state-planned economy. All of these arguments can be applied to capitalist countries, where at certain points in history, wages have risen (as they did in the West from 1945-1973), ‘millions lifted out of poverty’ has been claimed to have been a capitalist achievement, and state-planning, or state intervention, has existed–to at least some extent–in both fascist and Keynesian forms of capitalist economies.

How have ‘hundreds of millions of Chinese been pulled out of poverty,’ anyway? The poverty line is defined at making US$1.90/day, so any money earned above that, even US$1.91, is considered to be technically ‘above poverty.’ This World Bank definition is applied equally to capitalist boasts of raising people out of poverty as it is to Chinese boasts. Granted, many Chinese today are now doing much, much better than they were back when Deng Xiaoping had just taken over (including today’s hundreds of Chinese billionaires and millionaires!); but in the rural areas–and in some urban ones–many are still very poor.

How many of these Chinese ‘above the poverty line’ in as recent a year as 2015 were making, say, US$2.00/day, or $2.50, or $3.00, or in any case, under $3.20/day? Up to 7%. How many made under $5.50/day? 27.2%, not a trifling percentage, and not much money. As of the end of 2017, Xinhua acknowledged that 30.46% of rural Chinese were still below the poverty line. I don’t think the average Westerner would be happy to make less than US$3.20/day, or less than $5.50/day, then be congratulated for no longer being impoverished!

Need I remind you, Dear Reader, that the ‘state-planned economy equals socialism’ argument is commonly heard among certain quarters outside the China-defending Marxists?…they’re called right-libertarians and ‘anarcho’-capitalists. It isn’t state-planning per se that makes it socialist: it’s how the planning is used. Does it lift the poor out of squalor in a meaningful way, or does it allow–or even facilitateflagrant wealth inequality?

Recently, the Chinese government has cracked down on corruption; but this can happen in capitalist countries, too, if only with modest success. Socialist government is by far the most moral, but at least some virtue in government can be seen elsewhere. Virtue in government alone doesn’t make it socialist.

It’s not my wish to disparage China, or to speak out of malice; China’s growth since the 1980s has been nothing short of impressive. I certainly have no bourgeois agenda against China; these criticisms I’ve made are not the kind you get from anti-communists; nor are they of the infantile disorder one gets from impatient, utopian socialists who want everything perfect all at once. I just want to see China move further clockwise towards the tail of the ouroboros. I’m a patient socialist, but my patience has limits.

I would much rather have China (or Russia, for that matter), far less inclined to waging war, as the strongest country in the world than the eternally bellicose US…and I live as a Canadian in Taiwan! But until someone can provide more convincing arguments that China, having joined such capitalist institutions as the IMF, the WTO, and the World Bank, is legitimately socialist, I’ll continue to have my doubts.

Consider the working conditions in China’s (and Vietnam‘s) factories and sweatshops. Consider the legal existence of private property in China, and how Marx and Engels told us, “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” Consider the evidence of imperialistic tendencies, often reduced, by China’s apologists, to investment in the growth of developing foreign countries.

I think I understand the psychological motive for many to regard China as socialist in spite of its obvious capitalist tendencies: it is depressing to see the great majority of socialist nations having succumbed to neoliberal depredations, and so we’d all like to believe that China isn’t one of those casualties. Until I see a genuine Chinese movement away from the tendencies I outlined above, however, and more muscular efforts to even out the wealth inequality, I’ll find it difficult to support Xi’s government.

But enough of ‘NEP-oriented’ politics. Time to move further clockwise along the serpent’s body, from 3:00-6:00. When the productive forces are sufficiently developed, efforts towards universal housing, education, employment, and healthcare must be immediately undertaken. We’re moving towards the ideal of ‘from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs.’ Part of this means taking the ‘his or her’ part seriously, thus establishing full equal rights for women and a way out of the trap of restrictive traditional roles for both sexes (Lenin/Tucker, pages 679-699).

These developments, along with such ones as promoting tolerance for LGBT people, helping people with physical and mental disabilities, and eliminating racial prejudice, will help move us further clockwise along the ouroboros from its head to its tail, from 3:00-9:00.

Proper defences against the danger of a reinstating of capitalism, a move from 6:00 back to 1:00, must be erected. North Korea has done well in that regard with their development of nuclear weapons, the only thing that has prevented a US invasion. Venezuela must do more to protect herself from imperialist aggression: gusanos like Guaidó should be arrested (at least) for treason; let the liberal media lambast Maduro for being firm with these traitors, for they’ll criticize his democratically socialist government as a ‘dictatorship’ regardless of what he does. To ensure the survival of the proletarian dictatorship, not letting it slip counter-clockwise back to the bourgeois dictatorship of ‘liberal democracy,’ one mustn’t flinch at such measures.

To an extent, some concessions have to be made to ensure against the backsliding into bourgeois ways. But sometimes, those concessions really do result in such backsliding. A delicate balance must be made, like walking a tightrope. Moving too much the one way (as Mao was perceived to have done) or too much the other way (as I perceive Deng to have done) leads to a slipping along the serpent’s tail back to its capitalist head.

And once we reach the tip of the tail of the ouroboros (9:00-12:00)–when all remaining traces of capitalism have been eradicated, mountainous class differences have been lowered to the calmly rippling waves of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” the state finally withers away, and money is replaced with a gift economy–we mustn’t assume our new communist society will be a painless utopia. There will be new challenges to be dealt with, new contradictions of some sort or other. The bitten tail will phase into a new biting head, though not a capitalist one. We’ll have to be ready for those new challenges when they come.

Robert C. Tucker, The Lenin Anthology, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 1975

‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twenty-Four

[sexual content]

“Did you read the news in the paper today, Guy?” Thea asked him as she entered the kitchen with the newspaper.  

“What’s up?” he asked after gulping down some orange juice.  

“Ken Maynard and Ricardo Davis had to plead guilty on all the charges against them, including conspiracy to engage in human trafficking,” she said, then sat down across from him at the kitchen table. “Hey, don’t spill your cereal on the floor.” 

“I won’t,” he said, scowling at her never-ending nagging. “So, they’re in jail now?” 

“Yep. They’ve been sentenced.” 

“I still remember all the confessions from the staff, how they were smiling while high on the Creeps drugs. And how they were frowning when they had to confirm those confessions once the drugs had worn off, and once the staff knew that Van Gorder and Bill Shavick had heard the sex slaves confirming it all, and once the authorities saw the video that recorded all of Mark’s criminal intentions.” 

“Yeah, it’s so nice knowing the whole staff of Capitol is now behind bars, and investigations are being made of all the other Capitol branches, uncovering the same criminal scandal with the Creeps.”  

“I’m glad they all got theirs,” Guy said, then shoveled some cereal into his mouth. 

“Check this out,” she said, reading from the newspaper. “The so-called ‘Commodities,’ most of whom have nowhere else to go, were formerly either destitute or from impoverished countries, or from families that had betrayed them by selling them. So the government—which has also purged itself of the corrupt enablers of Capitol and put them in jail—has judged that the appropriate way to compensate the victims for their suffering is to renovate each Capitol building so thoroughly as to make the places unrecognizable for their former use, and make them new homes where the victims will be given free accommodation. Isn’t that amazing?” 

“Yeah,” he said. “And what of Petunia? I guess she’s living there.” 

“Presumably. You gonna go over there and apologize to her?” 

“Apologize?” 

“Yeah, for paying to rape her.” 

“Thea?! What the fuck? Didn’t you already say I was a hero for helping to save all those people? Haven’t I atoned for my bad karma?” 

“Guy, I’m very proud of you for what you helped me do.” 

“That’s funny: I thought you helped me do it.” 

“Yeah, well, anyway, I still think you should go talk to her about what you did in that VIP Room. Making her have sex with you under those circumstances is still rape.” 

He sighed, then left the table, having finished his breakfast. 

Around lunchtime, Guy went over to see Petunia, in her new room, which was all refurbished and given new furniture, including a bed, refrigerator, stove, TV, and sofa. She opened the door, and they stared at each other for a minute before speaking. 

She was in a T-shirt and jeans, as was he. 

“Long time no see,” he said. “How is everything?” 

“Much better, thanks to you and Thea,” Petunia said. “Come in.” 

They sat on the sofa. She looked over at him, but he, frowning, or trying to smile, just stared down at his twitching hands. 

“It really has been a while,” she said. “Too long, really, since you last saw me.” 

“Well,…I saw a little too much of you the last few times.” 

“I don’t mind.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “You know, this room was actually the VIP room we’d fucked in the first time.” 

“Really?” he asked with a guilty smile. 

“Yeah. I kinda like it, actually, except for it being a little small. I feel a little squished in here. Though squished in here is a lot better than squished in those tunnels we tried to escape through.” 

“Yeah, I read about that problem you all had in the paper.” 

“I’m glad I’ll never have to do that again.” 

“I…really feel awful about what I did here, Petunia…” 

“Oh, Guy. It’s OK.” 

“No, it’s not OK. I took advantage of you. I treated you like a whore.” He was gulping back sobs; his eyes were getting wet. “And I always knew…you were better than that.” 

“Mark LeSaffre made me into a whore. Of all the men who paid to have me, you were the one I was happy to satisfy.” 

“But I was no better than they were,” Guy sobbed. 

“Yes, you were. Of course you were. You saved me, Guy. You and Thea saved me, and you saved all the other sex slaves. When you first found me in Capitol, sure I was uncomfortable, under my fake smiling, the smiling those Creeps were making me do, but I was uneasy only because I was worried you thought my slutty smiles were real. But now I’m glad you saw me there, because if you hadn’t, no one would have saved us.” 

“Yeah, I guess. I just wish I hadn’t fucked you.” 

“I don’t mind that. You were better than all the other Johns who had me.” 

“How was I better? In having you, didn’t I rape you?” 

“Not in my opinion,” she said. 

“How so?” he asked. 

“Because of all the guys who had me, you were always the one I wanted to have sex with.” 

“Why me? What’s so appealing about me? I’m a loser.” 

“Guy, you’re a hero. You saved all of us. I’ve been so hot for you, ever since I realized you’d done that.” 

“Well, maybe now, but how was I hot before that happened?” 

“Remember when I was sharing that apartment with Thea, and you used to come over and visit, to talk to her about, well, whatever? I saw you smiling at me, then you’d look away, all shy, whenever I looked back and smiled at you. You were such a cutie…you still are. I was always waiting for you to ask me out. I kinda liked your shyness, though: it was a nice change from all the aggressive guys who always bothered me.” 

“Was I any less aggressive when I screwed you in Capitol?” 

“Yeah, you were just as aggressive then, but that wasn’t the real you, just as me, acting like a happy whore, wasn’t the real me. I was happy to have sex with you, but not to be a slut: because deep down, I like you. I’ve always liked you.” 

“Really? Pretty girls never like me. They like guys with, you know, cars and money and stuff.” 

“Not all girls. I used to be like that, but after my ex slapped me around enough times, I left him in Vancouver, and came all the way over here, to Mississauga, to get away from him, and from my family, who only ever wanted to make me into something they wanted, not the real me.” 

“Why didn’t you get another guy right away? You’re pretty enough.” 

“I was hoping you’d be that guy. You’re sweet enough.” Then she pouted and whined, “But you never asked me out.” She playfully slapped his arm. 

You could have asked me out.” 

“Yeah, I guess I’m a little too traditional for my own good.” 

“So, you liked having sex with me?” 

“How many times do I have to tell you? I guess I have to demonstrate.” She pulled off her shirt. 

“Wait. Uh…” He started getting off the sofa. 

“What’s the problem?” she, now in her pink bra, asked. “You’ve already seen all of me. How is it different now?” She unzipped her pants and pulled them down. 

“I’m sorry. I do wanna do it with you; it’s just that…” 

“What?” She was standing before him in only her bra and panties. 

“Remember when you said, when we fucked in Capitol, it wasn’t the real you, and it wasn’t the real me? That felt…safer.” 

“But underneath the false me, the true me still liked it.” 

She took off her bra. 

“Why did you like it? I mean, with the false me?” 

“Because,” she said, pulling down her panties and kicking them aside, “I knew that, deep down under your false self, the lecher who leered at my body and checked me out, as naked then as I am now, your real self was still there, that sweet, shy boy who used to visit Thea in our old place, who came to visit me as much as to visit her.” 

“Oh, no. I came to see you…much more than to see her. I actually prefer staying away from her. She kind of annoys me. She’s a nag. Seeing my sister, that was just excuses to see you.” 

“Then let’s fuck.” 

“I want to…but I’m scared.” 

“Of what?” 

“That you won’t like me—the real me, I mean, when you know all about the real me.” 

“We’re all scared of that, Guy. But we try to love each other anyway, don’t we? And the more of the real you that I know, the more I’ll love you.” She unzipped his pants. 

He tried to stop her from pulling them down. 

“Why don’t I get to see you? You got to see all of me, and I don’t get to see you? That hardly seems fair.” 

“Yeah, but I look ugly nude. You have a beautiful body.” 

“I don’t believe you’re ugly nude, Guy. And I don’t care if I see physical imperfections. I love you as you are.” 

He finally allowed her to undress him. Both nude, they got on the bed. He lay on top of her, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He pushed his cock against her wet vaginal opening, gently coaxing his way in. She put her arms around him. 

As he slid inside her, she looked up into his eyes; but his eyes were still avoiding hers. She held his face in her hands as he pushed in further, aiming his face straight down at hers, to see her wide-open eyes and mouth. 

He got all the way in, getting a squeal from her. 

Still, as he moved in and out, he wouldn’t look in her eyes. 

“Why…won’t you…look at me?” she asked in panting words. “Oh!” 

“I’m…still ashamed,” he moaned. “I remember…our first time.” 

“I liked it…I like it now…I love you, Guy…You saved me.” 

“Yeah, I did…I saved you all…the past…is over. Ah!” 

“Yes…you’re my hero…I love you.” 

“I love you, too, Petunia. Oh!” 

“This is…the real you, Guy…Ah!” 

“And I’m…making love…to the real…Petunia. Oh!” 

“I’m…almost there! Ah!” She came. 

“Me, too…But without…a condom…” He came. “Oh!” 

“It’s OK,” she said. “The Creeps they gave me…ensured I’d…never get pregnant.” 

“Really?” he panted. 

“Yeah,” she sighed. “And I don’t…wanna have kids, ever. Now, your come in me…That’s a Creep…I’ll gladly take…inside my body.” 

************************** 

They got dressed and went outside. 

Holding hands, they walked on the sidewalk beside the building that had once been Capitol. Now the sign in front said Community. It was a sunny afternoon. 

“It’s so nice to be able to go outside again,” she said, taking in a deep breath of fresh spring air. 

“Yeah,” he said. “It must have been awful being cooped up in there.” 

“Hey!” a woman’s voice called out to them. They looked back at her as she ran up to them. It was Arunny. Sobbing, she threw her arms around Guy. “I just wanted to say…thank you…for saving all of us.” Her tears were soaking his shirt by his left shoulder. 

“Hey, anytime,” he said. Both he and Petunia exchanged hugs with Arunny. 

After letting go of him, she looked deep in his face with her soaking wet eyes. She kept looking at him with those grateful eyes for several more seconds, then turned around while still looking at him. 

“Thank you,” she said again, and ran off in the other direction. 

Now, a tear ran down Guy’s cheek, as well as one down Petunia’s, as they watched Arunny continue running away, back to the Community building.  

They turned around and resumed their walk.  

As they continued walking further and further away from the building, they came by a neighbourhood, and someone’s house, which had a garden in the front. She stopped at it. 

“Oh, yeah,” he said, standing behind her. “I remember that garden you used to take care of back when you were living with Thea.” 

“Yeah,” she said. “Those were happy days. I should try to set up a garden in back of the Community building sometime soon.” 

“And I can visit you there regularly, as I did in Thea’s old apartment.” 

“That’d be nice. It would bring back two pleasant memories.” 

“Two?” 

“Yeah. You seeing me in the old apartment, and you seeing all of me in the VIP room, which is now a much more important person’s room, with you as a visitor.” 

They kissed. 

She looked down at the garden soil. She started at the sight of a few worms crawling out of the dirt.  

It’s OK, it’s OK, she thought; they aren’t glowing.

THE END

‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twenty-Three

It was almost 2:00, and Thea was standing at the front door of Capitol. Two young men came to the door. Thea stopped them. 

“Sorry,” she said in her vocal fry. “We’re temporarily closed. Repairs.” 

“What the fuck!” one of them said. 

“Come back at five,” she said. “We re-open then.” 

“Fuckin’ bullshit!” the other man said as they stormed off. 

Thea’s cellphone rang. “Hello?” she said in her normal voice. 

“Is Mark back yet?” Guy asked. 

“No,” she said. “All the staff are in the staff room, though.” 

“Do you think Mark called Ricardo and found out the meeting is fake?” he asked. 

“I don’t know. It’s a chance we have to take. I’m locking the front doors and then coming over to you. Are the green Creeps set?” 

“Yes. Everything’s set. It’s all or nothing. Petunia and all the others are in the sleeping room, about to wake up from their nap.” 

“I’ll be with you in five minutes. Bye.” They hung up. 

Thea went over to the staff room, looking inside and noting all the staff were there.  

Where is Mark? she wondered; He should be here by now. Oh, God, please don’t let Mark suspect anything. That ‘policy changes’ excuse coming out of the blue was an awkward idea. 

He came with his men in the back door, as Thea expected him to. She could hear them approaching in the hall. 

“Cameron?” Mark called out. “Where are you?” 

“By the staff room, Mark,” she said. Shit, she thought; Forgot my man voice again. Then in her vocal fry: “I assume you got my text about the staff meeting.” He nodded with a smirk as he came nearer to her. “Good. Shall we go in?” 

“In a minute, Cameron,” he said with a smile suggesting he knew nothing. “Before we go in, let’s go in this room over here for a second.” Mark opened the door, and he and his men went in. 

“OK,” she rasped, making sure he didn’t see her lock the staff room door behind her. “But Ricardo and Ken will want to start right away. We’ll have to make this quick.” She went in the other room, trying not to shake. 

“Oh, let me worry about Ricardo and Ken,” Mark said, standing by the door. 

Mark closed it when she was right between his men in the room. “Boys, grab her.” 

They took Thea by the arms and held her struggling body on a chair. Mark tossed them a pair of handcuffs, which they put on her, the chain wrapped behind one of the thin poles making up the back of the chair. 

“Mark, what are you doing?” she shouted as she kept struggling, her first two words normal, her last three in vocal fry. 

“Enough with the fake man voice, Thea Cummings,” Mark said, grabbing her fake beard and ripping it off. 

“Oww!” she screamed. “You bastard! You won’t get away with this! The police are coming, with the Minister of…” 

“They’re all on my side, Thea,”  Mark said. “You and ‘Jack’, or Guy Cummings, your kid brother, really, were plotting to take over and expose our business to the very people we pay to stay on our side.” 

“Not all of them can be bought,” she said. “We know…” 

“Did you know we had tech implanted in you while you were screwing—or pretending to screw—Petunia, the girl you’re trying to rescue? We put it in Guy, too. When Petunia was with you, and when his Commodity was with him, they rubbed their fingers in your ears, and tiny Creeps slipped in, fixing tech to your ears, brains, and even eyes. We could then monitor and record everything you see and hear, including your conspiratorial conversations.” 

“You might have stopped me, but my brother has the app to put green Creeps in the staff. He’ll make them confess to the cop we know who’ll help us expose you.” 

His men were using rope they had on them to tie her ankles to the chair legs. 

Mark took out his cellphone and called Guy. 

“Guy Cummings,” he said. “We ripped the fake beard off your sister. You haven’t sent those green Creeps into my staff room yet, have you?” 

“Not yet, but I will if you hurt her,” Guy said. 

“Oh, you were going to do that anyway,” Mark said. “So I’m gonna make this even more difficult for you. If you send out those green Creeps, I’ll sic the yellow ones you helped me program on all the Commodities in the sleeping room.” 

“Go ahead,” Guy said. “I don’t care.” 

“They’ll kill Petunia LeBar, too.” 

Guy paused. 

“I don’t care. Do it. I’m drugging your staff to help me, and the cops are coming now, as we speak.” 

“And I’ll rape your sister. Here, I’ll let her talk to you, so you know my boys and I really have her.” Mark put the phone to her face. 

“Go through with it, Guy,” she said. “Send out the green Creeps. I’m…” Mark undid her pants and pulled them down. “I’ll be brave.” 

Mark chuckled at her pink panties, then began to unbutton her shirt.  

“Do it, Guy!” she shouted. “Don’t worry about me. Don’t let these bastards stop you.” 

Mark took the phone back from her. “Guy,” he said into it, “Three of us, me and my bodyguards, are gonna gang-rape your sister. In fact, to help us get nice and hard, we’re gonna use the orange Creeps on ourselves.” 

 Guy formed an enigmatic smile at that last sentence. 

“She’ll get one up her pussy, too, so she can get nice and wet, like a good little bitch,” Mark said, then slapped Thea hard. 

Ah! You fucking bastard!” she shouted. 

Guy thought, Oh, shit. The orange Creeps in her? Since when did he start using them on the pussy he fucks?  

“Go find him, you two,” Mark told his men, who went out of the room seconds after. “As for me, I’ll keep little Thea here entertained. Normally I like to fuck my bitches raw. It’s the Sadean sadist in me, to put a girl’s pussy in pain. But I’d like you to enjoy this fuck, so it’ll make you feel like a slut, and traumatize you better.” He chuckled. He had her shirt undone all the way down, then he pulled it wide open to see her pink bra. A tight strap went around her to flatten her chest. He removed it. “Gee, they’re rather small to need to be strapped down, Thea.” 

She spat on him. 

He wiped it off his face, then ogled her bra. “So pretty in pink.” 

“Fuck you!” 

“Well actually, it’s gonna be the other way around, but first—“ he dialed his phone—“one thing I have to do.”  

Dino answered his ringing phone as he and Leo approached the stairs. “Yeah, Boss?” 

“Dino, if you see any cops or government people at the front door, take them to Room Five, make them some coffee, and tell them to wait for me. If they aren’t our people, quietly lock them in the room, so they don’t know. If they find out they’re locked in later, the door will be too strong for them to break down.” 

“Will do, Boss,” Dino said, then hung up. He and Leo went downstairs and to the front doors, where Officer Van Gorder and Bill Shavick, the Minister of Justice, were banging on the door. “Thea must’ve locked the door. C’mon, Leo.” 

Dino opened the door. 

“You people are closed?” Bill asked. “I thought you opened at two. That’s what it says on the door.” 

“We have a bit of a situation at the moment,” Dino said. “Why don’t you come with us?” He led Bill and the policewoman into Room Five. “Have a seat. There’s coffee over there. Help yourself. We’ll be right back after we’ve fixed this problem. Just wait.” He and Leo walked out and closed the door. Dino turned his key in the lock with impressive silence, putting his finger to his mouth to ensure that Leo wouldn’t say anything. 

As they hurried off to find Guy, Leo asked, “Why’d you lock them in? They could get us all in trouble.” 

“They could get us in even bigger trouble if they find out what we’re gonna do with Guy and Thea,” Gino said. “I’ll bet ‘Jack’ is in the Regulating Room. Let’s look there first.” They went back up the stairs to the second floor. 

As they went down a hall, around the corner of which was the one leading to the Regulating Room, they heard footsteps. Dino gestured to Leo to stop and wait at the corner for whoever was about to come around. 

Guy had just clicked his phone to make the green Creeps swarm into the staff room. He put his phone in his pocket and went around the corner. 

Leo grabbed him, and Dino punched him hard in the face. Dino then punched him in the gut. Before Guy could shout for help, Leo cupped his hand around Guy’s mouth, and they dragged his struggling body over to the room with Mark and Thea. 

They could all hear the staff screaming and fidgeting as the green Creeps slithered up their faces, and into their ears and noses. Mark wanted to turn the Creeps off, but he needed Guy’s phone to do it, for Guy had changed the access code to control the green Creeps. As much as they wanted to go into the staff room and help the staff, Dino and Leo didn’t dare, for fear of getting green Creeps in themselves. 

Dino and Leo got Guy into the room, where Thea had her panties pulled down to her ankles, and her bra undone to expose her small breasts. They threw Guy against the wall and closed the door. 

“Bill Shavick and some female cop are locked in Room Five, Boss,” Dino said. 

“If they know they’re locked in, we’ll have some explaining to do,” Mark said. “Never mind, at least they’re not gonna hear what’s going on up here. It’s too late to turn off the green Creeps with Guy’s phone, but we can get our revenge on him, by hurting the people he loves.” 

Leo punched Guy as he tried to get up. 

“And this is how I’m going to hurt him,” Mark said, getting out his phone and clicking on his Creeps app. “Good. Guy didn’t change the access code to the yellow or orange Creeps, as he had the green ones. Dino, turn on the TV. I want Guy to watch Petunia and all the other Commodities die, all the ones he’d hoped to save.” Dino turned on the wall-mounted TV in the corner of the room. 

“You’re willing to kill off all your sources of profit?” Guy asked, wiping the blood off his mouth. 

“Thought I was bluffing, eh?” Mark said. “I can replace all of them like that.” Mark snapped his fingers, hardly bothering to look up at the TV. All the Commodities were screaming on the TV as a swarm of yellow Creeps crawled onto their bodies. They frantically tried to wipe them off their arms and legs, but so many more replaced the ones wiped off that self-defence was futile. “I have people all over the world recruiting new Commodities. Families in Africa, India, Cambodia, Latin America…poor families actually sell me their 18-year-old daughters, sometimes sons, too. I pay them well, they kiss their kids goodbye forever.” 

“Exploitative bastard,” Thea said.  

“We’re gonna exploit you in a minute,” Dino said.  

“I’m not so sure, Boss,” Leo said. “She’s awfully hairy. Almost no tits. Ugly body. Who’d wanna fuck that?” 

“Fuck you!” Guy said, fiddling with his phone behind his back while lying on the floor. “I bet your mother is uglier.” 

Leo kicked him in the gut. 

“That’s why we use orange Creeps, Leo,” Mark said. “They give us the help we need when the woman’s body doesn’t inspire a hard-on.” He clicked an app to summon three Creeps. 

“I’ll bet you’re just impotent,” Thea said. 

Mark slapped her. “Boys, untie her legs, un-handcuff her, and lay her on the floor.” 

As they were doing that, Mark looked up at the screen. 

“The screaming stopped,” he said. “They should be burning up inside by now. Wait…what the bloody hell? They’re fucking!” 

Guy grinned. 

On the TV screen, instead of several dozen naked sex slaves writhing and squirming in agony from incendiary tech burning up their internal organs, they were all paired up in a huge orgy. Guy could see Petunia sucking a man’s dick, while another man was fucking her doggie-style. Arunny was sucking Petunia’s left tit while a third man was fucking her doggie-style, too. Since most of the lovers were women, there was a lot of lesbian sex to be seen. 

“What’s the use of a revolution without common copulation?” Guy said, mocking Mark’s incorrect quote of the Marat/Sade. “You must have clicked the wrong icon on your phone for them, Mark. Clicked ‘orange’ instead of ‘yellow’.” He laughed, hoping Mark would believe him.  

Mark looked back at the TV screen. Did I click the wrong icon, in my anger and absent-mindedness? he wondered. I thought I saw yellow Creeps on the TV screen. The room they’re fucking in is dark, so it isn’t easy to see clearly. Were they yellow, or orange? I’m getting sloppy. 

“Well, I’ll just have to hurt you and Thea more directly,” Mark said. Three orange Creeps slithered under the door crack and into the room. Definitely orange, he thought as he saw them crawling nearer. I’ve gotta be more careful. He, Dino, and Leo pulled down their pants and underwear. “We were going to have orange Creeps for you and Thea, but now I think we’ll just fuck you two raw, as we normally like our bitches. Only orange Creeps for us three.” 

Guy breathed an enigmatic sigh of relief at that last sentence. 

The Creeps crawled up the rapists’ legs. Guy smiled. 

“You’re taking those up the ass?” Thea asked, sneering. 

“Why not?” Dino said in a shaky voice, smiling and shivering as the Creep went into his rectum. “We have…kinky…tastes.” 

“Yeah,” Leo moaned. “They feel…good…up the ass. Oh!” 

“Leo’s…bi…by the way,” Mark said, also shaking. “He…likes you, Guy. Ooh!” 

Leo grabbed Guy and got ready to fuck his ass. 

Guy struggled as Leo was undoing his pants, but Leo punched him in the gut. Guy’s pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles. Leo knelt behind him. 

“We’re gonna…rape you both, then…kill you,” Mark said, shaking as he got on top of Thea, Dino holding her for him. “Then we’ll…kill that cop…and Shavick…in Room Five. Stop squirming!” 

“You can’t kill everyone,” Thea said as she tried to get free of Dino’s grip and get Mark off of her. “Someone will find out and stop you!” 

“I own…the cops…and government. I just…have to know…their price…Wait, this doesn’t feel right…I’m hot inside.” 

“Not the kind of hot you were expecting, eh, Mark?” Guy said, smiling and noting the discomfort in Leo’s face. “Or you, Leo?” 

“I-I’m burning, Boss,” Leo said. “Aah!” He fell on Guy. 

“Me, too,” Dino said. “What’s in these Creeps? Unh!” 

As Mark lay screaming and shaking on top of Thea, who was now more frantically trying to get him and Dino off of her, he was clicking icons on his phone. 

“Remember those yellow and orange Creeps that got mixed up, Mark?” Guy said, finally getting Leo off of him. “I never sent them back to the supplier. I thought you and your thugs here would want to rape a few Commodities today, so I set up those Creeps at the last minute today, so your cellphone app would summon them.” 

“I know,” Mark gasped. “I should’ve…figured it out…when I saw…all the Commodities…fucking on the TV. Ah!” 

“As I said, I was hoping you’d use them earlier,” Guy said. “Before the meeting. Your monthly lunchtime fuck, with a Commodity as raw as we’d have been here now.” 

“I just summoned…all the orange Creeps…to come here,” Mark grunted. “You won’t be ‘raw’…if you know…what I mean. Ah!” He fell to the side, shaking and groaning for a few more seconds before dying. Dino then dropped down dead, falling on top of Thea. She shoved him off.  

“Oh, fuck!” Guy shouted as he looked at the door and heard the familiar screeching. 

An army of orange Creeps was crawling under the door, and straight at Guy and Thea, who were only now pulling their pants up. Before they could do them up, Creeps were already on their thighs, crawling on their bare skin, racing for their anuses and Thea’s vagina. 

“Oh, God! Guy!” Thea screamed. “They’re in me! They move so fast! Aah!” They were crawling up to her face. 

Guy was shaking from two that were already wiggling up his rectum. He raced to get Mark’s phone. 

“Can you…shut them off?” she asked, shaking all over. 

“Yeah,” he said in a tremulous voice. “I even know…how to get…into Mark’s phone.” Guy tried desperately to control his shaking body, and especially his hand, to touch the right numbers on the screen of Mark’s phone to access the app. Guy traced a swastika along the numbers 3-2-5-8-7, then 1-4-5-6-9. 

“How…do you know?” she asked, flailing her arms and legs, keeping her mouth closed tight, while Creeps were nearing her ears and nostrils. 

“I watched him…behind his back,” Guy said, accessing Orange Creeps, then Disable

All the Creeps lost their orange glow, just like Christmas lights being switched off; and they stopped moving, like insects on a farmer’s field sprayed with insecticide. 

Guy’s and Thea’s bodies stopped jerking about. Guy dropped on the floor beside his sister. The immobilized Creeps on their faces and bodies fell off. They lay there for a few minutes, panting, trembling, and waiting for their heart rates to slow down. 

Finally, Thea spoke: “Are the outer coverings of these Creeps going to melt inside us, causing the burning?” 

“No,” Guy said, getting up. “The programming is supposed to make the incendiary content inside melt the outer coating, then burn you. I turned off the program, so we’ll be safe. If the coatings had melted, we’d be feeling it by now.” 

Thea got up, and they both did up their pants. 

“So, to get these things out, we’ll have to shit them out?” she asked as she did up her bra and shirt. 

“Exactly.” 

They looked down at the bodies of Mark, Dino, and Leo. Guy got the key off of Dino. 

“Bastards,” she said, kicking Mark’s corpse. Blood gushed out of his mouth. “Eww. We’d better go get Van Gorder and Shavick.”  

They rushed out of the room, then looked in the door window to the staff room: all the staff were either standing, seated, or lying on the floor, rocking or fidgeting, their eyes agape and staring in a daze. 

“We need to bring Van Gorder and Shavick in there right away,” Guy said, “while the green Creep drug is still at its most potent point, to get them all to confess the truth.” 

“You really think it’ll work?” she asked as they hurried down the hall to the stairs. 

“Yes,” he said as they went down. “Sodium Pentothal is mixed into it; it’s like a truth serum. Besides, when Petunia and the others come down off that aphrodisiac, horny high they’re on, we can get them to confirm the truth about Capitol.” 

“I’m proud of you, Guy,” she said. “You’ve proven what a good guy you are.” They grinned at each other. 

On the first floor now, they could hear banging on a door. They raced over to Room Five, and Guy unlocked the door. 

“Why were we locked in here?” Shavick asked. 

“Because Mark didn’t want you to know that he just tried to kill us,” Guy said. “He ended up killing himself.” 

“I told you he was crooked,” Officer Van Gorder said. 

“C’mon,” Thea said. “Let’s go up to the second floor.” 

They all ran up the stairs and down the hall, much of which had an army of immobile orange Creeps on it, to the staff room. When Van Gorder and Shavick looked through the door window and saw the dazed staff, Guy got out his cellphone, clicked on the app controlling the still-crawling green Creeps that hadn’t yet crawled inside anyone, and turned them off. They lost their glow, and now lay as still and dull in colour as the orange ones in the other room. 

“Luckily, the door to the staff room closes tight enough to seal off any possibility for the Creeps to crawl outside,” Guy said. “Unlike the orange Creeps that were crawling into this other room.” He opened the door, showing the corpses of Mark, Dino, and Leo. 

Van Gorder and Shavick gasped at the sight of the bodies, then winced at their half-nakedness. 

“You said they killed themselves,” the policewoman said. 

“Yeah,” Thea said. “That’s why their pants are down. They let the orange Creeps crawl up their asses.” 

“Why?” Shavick asked. “Why kill themselves like that?” 

“They weren’t trying to kill themselves,” Guy said. “Normally, orange Creeps are for getting the sex slaves ready for sex. These three wanted to get themselves horny—“ 

“So they could rape us,” Thea said. “Then they’d kill us.” 

“Luckily, I had a box of these orange Creeps which had mistakenly been equipped with incendiary content meant for yellow Creeps, and vice versa, as we’ll see in the room where the sex slaves are kept to sleep at night. Mark used these wrong ones on himself and his two bodyguards, and so they killed themselves accidentally.” 

“Sorry,” Shavick said, wincing and shaking his head in confusion. “Orange Creeps? Yellow Creeps? What are you talking about? All these things on the floor?” 

“Yeah,” Guy said. “We’ll explain everything in time.”  

“Let’s go to the sleeping area,” Thea said. “Mark used the wrong yellow Creeps on them, thinking he was going to kill them in revenge for our exposing his criminal business.” They were hurrying over to the sleeping area. “Again, lucky for us, Guy tricked Mark with the switching of the colours,” she continued, as they reached the sleeping area and looked through the door window, “and instead of killing the sex slaves, Mark caused them to do this.” 

“What the hell?” Shavick said as he watched the naked women and men continue their orgy. “It’s like a porno film.” He chuckled; his and Van Gorder’s eyes looked away. 

“Yeah,” Guy said, clicking his cellphone to turn off the yellow Creeps, of which the few still lying on the floor became immobile, no longer glowing. “We’ll have to wait a few hours for them to come down from their horny high. Then they’ll be able to tell you what’s really been going on here.” 

“Do they have any clothes?” Officer Van Gorder asked. 

“Oh, yeah,” Thea said. “There’s a locker room on the far side of the room, where all their clothes are kept. That door in the right corner leads to it.” 

“It’s locked, but I have the key,” Guy said. “When they all come back to normal in a few hours, we’ll go in and get their clothes for them. But for now, let them indulge themselves, I guess.” He chuckled. “They aren’t hurting each other.” 

“It seems to be the best sex they’ve all had in a long time,” Shavick said. All four of them laughed. 

Is my sister Mary in there, in that orgy? Van Gorder wondered as she tried to find her among all the gyrating flesh. I don’t see her anywhere. Oh, well. I’ll try to find her later. 

“In the meantime, let’s all go back to the staff room, and get confessions from the staff,” Guy said as they all started walking back there. “As I told you before, Officer, the green Creeps act as a kind of truth serum, a pacifier that will make them perfectly cooperative. I also want to demonstrate, in the Regulating Room, how we can make them say anything we want. That’s how Mark controlled them.” 

Analysis of ‘Three Friends’

Three Friends is a concept album by Gentle Giant, released in 1972. At this time, the band was a sextet, with saxophonist/singer Phil Shulman playing beside his younger brothers, Derek (vocals) and Ray (bass, violin, acoustic guitar, backing vocals); original drummer Martin Smith was replaced by Malcolm Mortimore, who played only on this Gentle Giant album before being replaced in turn by drummer/tuned percussionist/singer John Weathers, who would stay with the band until their breakup in 1980.

This album is not as dissonant or complex as the other Gentle Giant albums, and I say this in full knowledge of how they abandoned progressive rock in the late 70s in an abortive attempt to become more radio-friendly. Put another way, I don’t consider their attempt at going pop to be genuine Gentle Giant…and I don’t think mine is a minority opinion. The profit motive ruins art by forcing it to conform to trends.

The outer front album cover shows three boys, sharing a similar whitish-blue-purple colour for their bodies, sitting and facing each other, with a seagull in the middle; the back cover shows the three boys with their backs to each other, their colours now different (reddish-white, greenish-white, and purplish-white), and the seagull flying away. The front cover thus suggests their similar nature at first as boys, enjoying each other’s company by the sea, an image I’ve elsewhere associated with the highest peace; this then changes, on the back cover, to their growing different from each other, and thus alienated, with the memory of their togetherness by the sea having flown away, like the seagull.

The inner sleeve shows black and white drawings of the boys at school, with their strict, authoritarian teacher, their blissful memories together hearing an old brass band, and playing with kites on the beach, with the seagulls flying nearby. Then, we see each of them as men in their respective career choices: a wealthy businessman in his coat and hat looking at his nice, expensive house and car; a construction worker with his pickaxe; and an artist in his (basement?) studio with his drawings. The three men are facing away from us, for they are as alienated from us and the rest of the world as they are from each other.

The six songs of the album tell the story of these three boys, whose childhood friendship ended with them as men going their separate ways–a worker, a painter, and a businessman. This story can thus be seen to be an allegory of how class conflict causes alienation among people who, except for this class conflict, would be close and happy together.

Here is a link to all the lyrics on the album.

The first song, “Prologue,” sets the tone for the album by presenting a precis of the story in the lyrics, and by creating a dark mood in the music. A snare drum roll by Mortimore leads into a mildly dissonant opening, with Kerry Minnear‘s organ, Gary Green‘s guitar, and Ray’s bass; these three are playing in 6/8 time while Mortimore is drumming a cross-rhythm in 4/4.

Next comes a dark theme, the main one of the song, played on Ray’s fuzz bass, Green’s guitar, and Minnear’s Minimoog. Phil joins them on baritone sax, then sings the lead vocal, with a backing vocal by Minnear, singing contrapuntal melodies that are independent of each other, and reminding us of the independent voices of a polyphonic Renaissance madrigal, already a staple of Gentle Giant’s music.

Phil sings of how the boys’ friendship shared all the joys and sadness that any childhood relationship would have. “But fate and skill and chances” would eventually separate the boys, not just geographically, but also in terms of class, most crucially. As Phil and Minnear are singing, we hear Ray’s sad notes plucked on a 12-string acoustic guitar in the background.

“They tell their tales to justify,” that is, justify why they have had to go their separate ways; for, in spite of how, deep down in their unconscious, they’d much rather be together again, as adults they are in deep denial of how empty their lives have become. “Skill” separates them, for their differing skills (or lack of them) result in their going either higher or lower in terms of social class, the “chances” being their differing economic opportunities.

“Schooldays” is my personal favourite song on the album, for it is the richest in melody and harmony, in my opinion. It opens with a playful melody on Minnear’s vibraphone and Green’s jazz-toned guitar. It suggests the joyful, spontaneous energy of children running around, laughing, and playing together. Minnear and Phil sing in reminiscence of the happy time the boys shared, one voice following the other, as one boy chasing the other in play.

Each of the three men, in his dreams or internal monologues, has moments remembering his Edenic childhood; for only in their unconscious minds, or their private thoughts, would they allow such idyllic moments to be experienced. “Was it real, or did we dream? The days of children gone,” young Calvin Shulman (Ray’s son) sings as Minnear sings of the boys together with their ice cream on the beach, or hearing the brass band play.

The childlike innocence of the first half of the song gives way to a dark melancholy in Minnear’s pounding piano chords, based on the tritone interval (the diabolus in musica), suggesting the loss of that Edenic innocence as childhood naïveté acquires devilish knowledge in the authoritarian setting of school. The bitonality between these dark piano chords and the simultaneously playing, but also fading-out instrumentation of the previous “How long is ever,…” section also emphasizes the conflict between childhood innocence and adult experience.

The strict, Yahweh-like teacher wants obedient, unquestioning pupils who get all their homework assignments done on time. One suspects that the boy who thinks “it’s worth the pain to go out when [he] want[s]” will become an underachieving student who, when he becomes a man, will be…

“Working All Day” begins with Green playing a guitar part whose tape recording is slowed down, the discordant lowering of pitch suggesting how the first of the three friends has gone down in social rank, and how discordant the resulting class conflict feels. Indeed, since he’s a member of the working class, the painful contradiction between him and the bourgeoisie will be most keenly felt of all three men.

“Digging up the roads,” he has to do the most menial of labour to live. As miserable as he is, though, he’s often in denial of that misery, for he gets his money to “spend it where [he] like[s],” and “money buys escape” (drinking and partying, presumably), so he’s “got no regrets,” apparently. This denial of discontent is just as evident in the other two friends, as we’ll soon see.

The guitar- and sax-driven main riff reflects the meat-and-potatoes life of the working class, a strong contrast to the jazzy playfulness of “Schooldays,” and the Baroque lushness of the first part of “Peel the Paint.” The rock-oriented voice of Derek is thus most appropriate for “Working All Day.”

“Papa was rough. He didn’t care for learning. Hell, life is tough.” Either Papa was “rough” in the sense of unrefined, or “rough” in the sense of beating the boy, or both. In any case, the first friend wasn’t encouraged to be ambitious, hence he’s a worker.

The bitterness he feels over his life’s disappointments causes him not to believe in socialist ideas about equality, so one assumes he isn’t in a union; from this, we can assume that “working all day” means working more than eight hours a day for him.

He does all the work, “the boss gets all the money. Life ain’t just.” Without a union to help him fight for his rights (and this at a time, in the 1970s, when unions were at their strongest), “who can [he] trust?” The dissonance of the background instrumentation at the end of each verse symbolically reinforces the sense of class conflict, the contradiction between the interests of the boss and those of the overworked, underpaid workers.

Since the painter, whose story is sung by Phil during the first half of “Peel the Paint,” is “free from the start” and “thinks he has won a place in the sun, free from the worries and the ways of everyone,” it seems reasonable to assume that he isn’t the stereotypical starving artist. I’m guessing that this second of the three friends has achieved a moderate level of success, though “high in the air, his dreams are there,” as he hopes for greater financial success.

Since the first friend is working class and the third friend is among the upper classes, and since all three friends have gone “from class to class” (as we hear in the title track), that is, separated from each other in terms of social class, it is safe to assume that the artist occupies the remaining section of the social ladder–the middle class.

He fancies himself a creator of great art, of the sort that will be remembered among the masterpieces of Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer; hence, in the background instrumentation we hear Ray plucking violin pizzicatos behind Phil’s singing, then after we hear Phil sing “colour the brush,” we hear a lavish pastiche of Baroque music with Ray bowing harmonized violin overdubs. This Baroque/Rococo parody suggests the artist’s snobbish pretensions.

The contrast between Phil’s gentle singing of “colour the brush” (i.e., put on the paint, and hide yourself), as against Derek’s aggressive singing of “peel the paint” (i.e., take off the paint, and show who you really are) symbolizes the artist’s pretence of artistry against the moral imperative to reveal the ugly truth, that the artist has compromised his integrity for money. Putting on the paint, versus taking it off, is like a prostitute painting her face with bright colours of makeup (as if pretending to like what she does), versus removing it and showing her unhappy self.

The artist imagines himself to be refined, but underneath he’s “the same old savage beast,” whose savagery is reflected in the change from the fancy first half to a balls-out hard rock second half, now with Derek on lead vocals. This brutish materialism is what the artist really exudes underneath the phoney genteel surface, since he’s a mere panderer to lucrative trends; Gentle Giant’s moral condemnation of the painter is ironic given how the band made a failed attempt to do what Genesis succeeded at in the late 70s, a pandering Gentle Giant would soon regret.

Speaking of pandering for the sake of financial success, consider now the third friend, who’s grown up to be “Mister Class and Quality?” He brags of “the prizes [he has] showing,” then denies his narcissism by saying he “never shout[s] about them,” namely, his “house and car and pretty wife.” His friends are his only in terms of how they can help him rise higher; put another way, those two childhood chums of his are no longer of any use to him, so why try to reunite with them?

After each verse, a dissonant counterpoint is heard between the guitar, organ, and bass, once again representing the class conflict between him, “the artist [and] the lazy workers” as well as between him and those at work, among whom he must “give and take the orders.” There’s a similarly dissonant bitonality between the fading-out end of the instrumental jam (licks courtesy of Green’s bluesy guitar and Minnear’s wah-wah electric piano) in the bridge and the return of the main riff (lead by Ray’s violin) for the final verse.

The title track is a sad epilogue for the album. Some on the internet claim either that the three friends see the error of their ways and reunite in the end, or at least imply a possible reunion. I see no evidence anywhere in the lyrics or in the music, especially with this last song’s melancholy melodies, to justify such an interpretation.

Their childhood past was “sweet in sadness,” for it included both the good and the bad times that occur in every relationship. The “gladness” that comes “in the end” must be ironic, a reference to how gladly the businessman chooses money over friendship; how the painter gladly panders for money, instead of sacrificing comfort for the sake of preserving artistic integrity; and how the worker gladly spends his meagre wages as a fleeting “escape” from his miserable existence as a wage slave.

The tragedy of the three friends–a tragedy whose cathartic quality is what makes the album so artistically satisfying–is their mutual alienation, an inevitable consequence of moving “from class to class,” lower, middle, and upper. People on different rungs of the social ladder don’t mingle, except “to give and take the orders.” That’s the whole point of Three Friends: all of us, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, are like those three lost boys, separated by skill, fate, and opportunity, mutually alienated.

‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twenty-Two

On the 17th, Mark and Guy were in the Regulating Room, Mark watching the video screens of the clients having sex with the Commodities while Guy was entering data into the computer. 

“So, are those new Creeps programmed and ready?” Mark asked. 

“Just about…there,” Guy said as he typed a few keys. “All done.” 

“Good,” Mark said. “I have to go meet with the police commissioner and the Ministry of Labour, give them their thank-you gifts.” He grabbed the handles of two briefcases filled with cash.  

“I’m surprised you’re not having your usual lunchtime fu–,” Guy said, first with a slight frown of disappointment, then remembering he wasn’t supposed to know about what he was about to say. “D-don’t you normally go to F-Fredo’s for lunch around now?” 

“No time today,” Mark said. “Gotta give this cash to our business allies.” 

“Why do you have to go there physically in this electronic day and age?” 

“I could just wire the money to them by computer, I suppose, but I like the personal touch. It reinforces our relationship to give it to them personally, face to face.” 

“It’s sure nice having the government on our side,” Guy said. 

“It is. I really don’t like the government at all, but we can’t get rid of it. I’m a libertarian, at heart.” 

“And a libertine, at hard-on.” Guy chuckled, and Mark’s chuckles followed. 

“I’ve always been pleased with the similarity between the words libertarian and libertine, in sound and meaning. Well, if you can’t beat the state, take it over, I always say. With a business like this one, you have to, in order to survive.” 

And your hypocrisy in that regard doesn’t bother you at all, obviously, Guy thought. 

“I was thrilled when we were able to clinch the legalization of brothels. For me, it was a new sexual revolution, and in my view, the only real revolution. I remember an old play by Peter Weiss, the Marat/Sade, when the Marquis de Sade asks, ‘What’s the use of a revolution without common copulation?’ I don’t remember the exact wording, but the quote was something like that. Anyway, I have to go. Back by 2 PM. Take care of the place for me.” 

“I will, Mark. Bye.” Mark went out the door. “And…everything’s set up.” He got his cellphone and called Thea. “We’re ready.” 

“OK,” Thea said. “Where’s Mark?” 

“He’s off making the payoffs to the cops and the Ministry of Labour,” Guy said. “He says he’ll be back by two.” 

“OK, I’ll send an e-mail to him and all the others to get into the staff room for the meeting at that time,” she said. “But I’m letting Mark know last, so he doesn’t interfere in any way before then. Bye.” She hung up, then began typing the e-mail: 

To all staff, everyone meet in the staff room at 2:00 PM sharp for a general meeting. IMPORTANT. Stop whatever you’re doing at 1:50 and get in there for a conference with Ricardo Davis and Ken Maynard, who have important policy changes that must be discussed in detail. Only Davis and Maynard will be communicating by phone, because they are too busy where they are to be in the staff room. Everyone else must physically be there to ensure a proper relaying of the information. I just received word from Mr. Maynard himself of this. Urgent. Forward this message to any staff not addressed here. 

She sent the e-mail to Mark and every staff member whose name she could remember, while walking through all the halls of Capitol telling everyone and anyone she hadn’t sent the e-mail to about the meeting. 

As Mark was being driven to the police station with his two bodyguards, Dino and Leo, in the back seat, he got a message from a staff member on his phone, saying he’d be a little late for the conference. After reading it, Mark said, “What the fuck? Cameron never told me about Maynard or Davis saying anything about ‘policy changes’. Why am I being told about this all of a sudden? Cameron could have told me about this any time earlier today. I’m not too happy about him doing business behind my back. I’m getting the info directly this time, for a change. I’m calling Ricardo.” 

As he was dialing the number, his driver asked, “What’s the problem, Mark?” 

“Oh, my mixed-up assistant manager, Cameron Thewlis, just sent messages to all my staff about a ‘general meeting’ we’re all supposed to be involved with. We all have to be in the staff room in person, apparently, at 2:00 PM,” Mark said. Ricardo answered his call. “Ricardo? It’s ‘Free Mark’ here. What’s this about a general meeting to make policy changes, and everyone, except you and Ken, has gotta be in the staff room at 2:00 sharp today?” 

“What are you talking about?” Ricardo asked. 

“You don’t know anything about this?” Mark asked. 

“First time I’ve heard about it,” Ricardo said. 

“Never mind. I’ll e-mail Ken and find out what’s going on.”  Mark hung up and sent Ken an e-mail: “Did you tell my assistant manager about a general meeting to be held in my staff room at 2:00 PM today, everyone attending? Urgent: answer ASAP.” 

In two minutes, Mark got a reply. No. What is this all about? 

Mark replied: I smell a rat. Let me investigate. I’ll get back to you. 

“Alright, Cameron,” he mumbled as he set up an app on his phone to monitor ‘Cameron’, using the tech he’d had implanted on Thea and Guy, slipped in their ears by Petunia and Kusiima. “What are you up to?” He found an archived video recording of her chatting with Guy from a week before. He saw video through her eye and heard through her ear. 

“Wait,” Mark said. “That’s a woman’s voice. What happened to Cameron’s gravelly voice?…Oh, of course! It was a disguise! Yeah, come to think of it, I do recall ‘him’ losing that raspy sound and speaking like a girl occasionally. He is a she! Now, who’s this guy—his name is Guy—that she’s talking to?” 

“Cameron Thewlis is a girl, Boss?” Leo asked. 

“Yeah,” Mark said. “Shut up, I wanna hear what they’re saying. This ‘Guy’…looks familiar. His voice sounds familiar…” 

“We’re here, Mark,” the driver said, parking the car in the police station parking lot. 

“I’ll go in in a minute,” Mark said, eyeing the video on his phone with obsessive eyes. “Who the fuck are they?” His ears drank up every word of their conversation, which seemed to be in the living room of their home. 

“…and then we’ll get Petunia out of there,” she said. 

“Petunia?” Mark said. “Petunia…LeBar, the one we renamed Walker? That’s it! ‘Thewlis’ was that woman…what was her name? Cummings! She wanted to prove that Petunia was in Capitol against her will. Guy was that kid, her brother! His voice, his manner, is kind of like…Jack!” 

Mark turned off the video, and switched his phone over to the app for monitoring ‘Jack’. He found an archived video recording monitoring Guy from several days before, seeing what one eye of his saw and one ear of his heard. 

Mark was looking at video of Thea’s face, in the same living room, for Mark recognized its distinctive wallpaper and furniture, green and brown plant and tree motifs on the walls, and polished wooden chairs and tables. Her voice was identical to ‘Cameron’s’ non-gravelly voice. He heard Guy’s voice…the voice of ‘Jack’. 

“How, Thea, will we sync up the use of the green Creeps on the staff in the staff room, with Mark in there, sync that with you calling Officer Van Gorder and the Minister of Justice?” Guy said in the video. 

“Now, I know,” Mark said. “They want me in that room with them, so they won’t set the Creeps loose yet. Let’s hurry up and give the commissioner his money, then get back to Capitol.” 

“But what about the Minister of Labour?” Dino asked. “We have to give him his cut.” 

“Paying him will have to wait for the moment,” Mark said, opening the car door. “Hurry up. Let’s move!” 

Mark and his bodyguards rushed into the police station, his bodyguards even shoving people out of the way as he made a beeline to the commissioner’s office. He didn’t even knock on the door; he just barged in. 

“Excuse me, Doug,” he said. “I’ve got an emergency situation back at work. Here you are.” Mark plopped the suitcase of money on the commissioner’s desk. “Sorry. We’ll talk later. Bye.” 

Officer Van Gorder, who was in the commissioner’s office, looked at Mark with widened eyes as she saw him and his men rush out of the building with the same rudeness as when they’d entered. They got back into the car. 

“Drive!” Mark snapped. The driver started the car. 

‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twenty-One

Two weeks later, ‘Cameron’ called Ricardo Davis. 

“Hello?” Davis said on his cellphone. 

“Hi, Ricardo,” Thea said in her gravelly voice. “This is Cameron. Mark wanted me to tell you that from now on, he’ll want you to discuss all your business with me instead of with him. I’ll relay all your messages to him from now on.” 

“Really?” Ricardo said. “That’s quite a change. Why’s this?” 

“Because with the growing success of Capitol, he’s finding himself much too busy with other aspects of the business, and he wants all his dealings with you allocated to me; so whenever you have new Commodities recruited, tell me about them, and I’ll tell Mark about it in our weekly meetings.” 

“OK, if that’s what Mark wants,” Ricardo said. 

Later that day, ‘Cameron’ sent Ken Maynard an e-mail telling him the same thing ‘he’ had told Ricardo. Maynard replied, saying he agreed with the whole idea, as he found himself busier and busier with his work for Capitol in New York. Thea smiled when she read that. 

************************ 

The next day, Thea was talking with Mark in his office. 

“There’s a message I need to relay to you from both Mr. Davis and Mr. Maynard,” she said, remembering her hoarse vocal fry. 

“Oh?” Mark said. “And what’s that?” 

“They were hoping that I would mediate between them and you, instead of you talking with them directly,” ‘Cameron’ said. “They’re getting busier and busier with their work, Ken especially—he told me himself, so they won’t be able to come over to discuss bringing the new Commodities directly; they asked me to do all that for them. Only on the rarest of exceptions will they come here, the same with your going over there to talk to them. I can handle it, and they insist on it. I hope that’ll be OK with you.” 

“Yeah, I guess you can act as middle man for us,” Mark said. “You’ve learned enough about the job, and I find that I can trust you just fine.” 

“I’m happy to hear that, Mark.”  

************************ 

Later that day, Guy was about to leave the Regulating Room, when, with the door just open ajar, he noticed Dino and Leo talking with Mark in the hall a few doors down. 

“I can’t wait for our next monthly bit of fun in the VIP Rooms on the 17th,” Dino said. 

“Shut up, stupid!” Mark snapped at him. “I don’t want any of the staff to know about that. Anyone in a nearby room could’ve heard you.” 

Guy smirked and closed the door. 

************************ 

That night, Thea and Guy were talking in their house. 

“Well, I’ve managed to minimize any contact between Mark on one side, and Ricardo and Maynard on the other,” she said. 

“Good,” Guy said. “Now we just have to make sure the three of them aren’t chatting with each other on the day we spring the Creeps on all the staff.” 

“We won’t be able to guarantee that, of course,” she said, “but I’ll do what I can to keep them from contacting each other, and figuring out what we’re up to. Shall we decide on a target day, when the shit will hit the fan?” 

“Let’s use around…say…the middle of this month to set things up and minimize anything getting screwed up. How about on…the 17th?” 

“That sounds all right. Mark usually goes to pay off the police and Ministry of Labour around that day. He typically leaves the office to do that in the early afternoon, so we can get all the staff in the staff room for the meeting then, without him getting in the way. He’ll be busy with the payoffs, which he likes doing in person, so that should minimize any risk of him chatting with Ricardo or Maynard. We’ll have plenty of time to fill up any holes by then. If there are any problems, we can add a few days to fix things, and maybe I can get him to delay the payoffs till then.” 

“Sounds good. Up until the 17th, we must do all we can to keep those three from chatting.”