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The Museum of Vestigial Desire


tags: field notes published on:

When signals cross in the air, sometimes failures can look like intervals. Endgames can seem like intermissions and hope can seem like a simple default emotion. In most cases road accidents are difficult to predict, preempt and control. Accidents are of course multi-variate situations. It doesn't matter whose fault it is, everyone suffers the damage. Such accidents have the potential to be understood as natural disasters. Unexplainable in terms of causal factors, these accidents seem to be spontaneous and wilful.

City life is governed by public relations exercises. At the time truckloads of cash used to be moved every month from the municipality to the offices of the film industry. Mayors around the world realised that if there was going to be any sustained idea of a civilisation, prototypes will have to be created by the cultural operators soon. So they didn't just fund all the films based in cities around the world, conveying that stretchability, that infinite playground of potential of city life, but they wrote all the scripts as well.

Municipalities then employed many more writers than the film industry. There was a special building which had a long unbroken factory floor like space. Hundreds of writers sat there and wrote day and night. Some wrote mysteries, some wrote romances, some wrote political thrillers. But all of them showcased city life as a charmed background which was glamorous, larger than life, rich with stories and histories, with beautiful men and women and the stage for the most daring crimes ever. In fact when crime syndicates were experiencing a lull in ideas, they did not know any more what to do, what to scheme, they watched these movies. It has kept them busy ever since (and I hear there are still movies they discuss with each other ever now and then).

Disappointment is embedded deep within the idea of public relations. Because it is generally accepted that when a certain idea is bankrupt, another one needs to be fabricated to take its place. This replacement, swapping is the core function of public relations. Movies were the perfect conduit for this activity. And the offices of public relations attached to the numerous municipalities around the world were very successful in this activity. Good writers were well paid. In some cities the entire public transport system was free because of the revenue from the secondary sales of the scripts to the movie industry and the mafia. Once in a while the mafia also got scripts commissioned. So say if they wanted to burgle The Louvre instead of doing their own research and detailing a plan they would just commission the municipality in Paris to do it and they would turn-in a magnificent script with brilliant detail and plausible events. The police never made this connection but there were at least a whole decade of successful heists that were pulled off with the municipal scriptwriters.

All of this stopped when the film-industry crashed world over. People suddenly stopped going to theatres. On probing it was found that something new was happening. Someone had discovered the world behind the sheen of movies and other works of the public relations offices. This discovery was made by mistake and for a long time no body believed it. They loved movies so much that to accept them as anything but what they stood for was sacrilege. There was mass grieving, people burned posters of movies, statues of film stars were demolished. But what was the discovery? How was this de-sheathing done? It wasn't something circumstantial like some act of peeking into the municipal images division and finding a room full of writers typing away. It was something else. One of the biggest productions of recent years was being screened in a lavish theatre. Theatres then always had casinos on campus. In the middle of the film they accepted bets on the potential directions that the narrative could take. There was active and passionate betting. And with open and legal gambling the general understanding was that nobody had special privilege, no inside information, no secrets. But one day when this guy was placing a bet he got a glimpse of the distortion in the system. Although the municipality facilitated the gambling and they even lost enough bets here and there, they never lost money. At this particular moment this guy wanted to place a million currency notes on what the officials knew to be a winning bet. And they hesitated, made it difficult, brought in as much red tape as as possible and then finally just refused in desperation. A million of their currency was a very large sum, roughly equivalent to their entire annual budget. At that precise moment our man, the whistle-blower realised what was happening. He realised that a big victory, a massive campaign was impossible in this system. It was more a question of making peace with a specific kind of defeat.

It was more about coming to terms with the level of your disappointment.

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