Victor is impressively imaginative. On a warm mid-March afternoon, as
he wandered through a mesquite grove near a wash by his Sonoran Desert
retreat, he fantasized a possible future advertisement for clones.
[ In the humorous sketch that follows, any resemblance of the imaginary
product to today's middle or working classes is purely coincidental. ]
"Menial, semi-skilled and skilled clones available at $500-$900/month.
(depends on skill level) Replace your workforce with 24 hour/day,
maintenance free, rugged, durable, voiceless, ambitionless clones.
"The technology is here today! We can supply you with preprogrammed,
mouthless, stomachless clones for one half to one eigth of your current
labor costs. These amazing creatures are 'born' fully mature and trained
to perform your task. There is no costly new employee training. They have
enough knowledge and learning ability to do their job but not enough to
exhibit antisocial tendencies such as demanding compensation; nor do they
live long enough to learn them. What an improvement over today's grasping
"Our clones are created with enough body fat and stored water to last
their entire one month lifespan. Imagine the cost savings latent in this
"They are strong enough to work 24 hours per day seven days per week,
take no breaks and never complain. They are built without mouths. They
can replace four, forty hour plus workers at half the cost. Pricing at half
the cost of a single forty hour worker produces an eightfold cost reduction.
"They require only clothing suitable for the work environment (available
at a modest charge) and that may be passed on to their replacement next
"For as long as you keep your contractual agreement current we will keep
your station 'manned'.
[No replacements will be supplied in cases of deliberate or negligent
abuse or destruction of clones, without an additional charge. Proven
costs due to premature shutdown or breakdown is covered under our
warranty/insurance at a modest additional expense.]
"Imagine a world without excess population! We must make only what we
need. There will be no need to export jobs, risking the inability to
produce critical goods in times of trouble, in order to increase profits.
And we will have even more absolute control over our servants!
"Cheap, efficient, proprietary, semihuman servants to care for all your
[Offer not valid in states with anticlone legislation in force.
Know your local code before importing clones. This corporation
is not responsible for litigation costs associated with your
freedom of choice. Get out and vote for legislators committed to
corporate freedom and initiatives supporting corporate cultured clones.]
Victor seeks freedom from delusion. He believes peace of mind will
flow from that state and fill him with the joy of existence. It's been
said that the physical world is all delusion and that the encompassing
spiritual basis of the Universe, is reality. If so, that is not the delusion
from which Victor seeks to be free. It is the lies, pretentiousness and
arrogant posturing, role playing really, of a predominantly childish
humanity which pains his thought and dampens his joy. He found a lonely
place in the Arizona Sonoran Desert to sort it all out. Mostly by chance
but partly by choice, he's stuck there.
The weather at the Sonoran Desert campsite is warm and clear. A light
blanket is all he needs at night. Within a month that will change. He's
noticed the animals are already anticipating the the colder season. Vic's
getting ready too.
He's making arrowheads of flint to hunt with some fall. He still
has a rifle and ammunition but he wants to be ready for any eventuallity.
He's made a stout bow and arrow shafts using flint knives he contrived for
the purpose. He has some stone scraped and bark tanned hides from animals
he's shot. Sinew's have been preserved to fix the points to the shafts.
He's gathered and dried mesquite beans, staghorn cholla fruits and those
from barrel cactus and prickly pear. He even made some wine from the
prickly pears though he seldom drinks. He wants his mind clear of chemical
obstructions so it can wander freely over four hundred or so generations, of
human history that we have some information about.
The cave this desert recluse lives in is really a utility trailer made
from the bed of a Toyota pickup with a cap shell. In better days, before his
poptop camper broke down, he had hauled this dwelling to his favorite campsite
and dropped it off. When his camper was towed by the Tucson Police, in one of
the irregular sweeps of homeless campgrounds inspired by some politicians
desire for media attention, he had already stripped it. He had been able to
convince his daughter and her boyfriend to help him remove the photovoltaic
power plant and computer, cooking gear and other necessities from the camper
and they had brought it here to the shell.
The primative arts he is teaching himself, with occasional help from the
library, are a backup system. He doesn't really expect the post modern
human societies to fail but his confidence is not one hundred percent.
He's less sanguine about their willingness to continue to provide for his
needs or those of other excess members of the population. He hopes to prepare
himself to provide for his own survival. At age 52 he can still climb the
local mountains, chop wood, carry water and bicycle fifty miles with a 90
pound load. Remaining physically able at his age requires quite a bit of
strenuous exercise. The system he is counting on to provide for himself is
labor intensive. It might not be too realistic but it may be the only real
chance he has.
Besides hiking, hunting, gathering rocks, teaching himself about curing
hides, flint knapping and wild foods, he developed a Window's application
between last Christmas and April. It wants to be a "Utility Toolbox and Game"
but before any really good features can be implemented he needs to upgrade his
computer and compiler and plug his own machine into the internet. He hasn't
been able to do anything with it since his mouse broke in April. The Hard
Disk Controller has been acting up and he has to boot from a floppy. He isn't
sure how much longer he'll be able to use the computer for word processing and
DOS applications. So far the County and University libraries still let him
access his free web pages and e-mail but the security craze is just getting a
good start and he knows he's a likely victim of people's paranoia.
Since the equinox, Victor has made three trips to town to get money,
supplies and visit his children and friends. He also worked on his web
pages and unsuccessfully attempted to solicit funds through e-mail. He
was stopped and questioned by a Sheriff's Deputy, a University Policeman
and a State Trooper in those last six weeks. Two days ago on Wednesday,
the day after arriving back at his hideout, the Game Warden told him for
the third time that permanent camps aren't allowed on state land. Victor
feels sorry for the deer.
Many of the non-human animals he shares his environement with are likely
victims of what is generally considered unparanoid behavior, but Victor
thinks it is at best fantasy and role playing with real bullets. The opening
day of the first general deer season of the year is October 30. Victor
awakened about 3:30A and laid in his bedroll thinking and dozing until about
five. Then he got up and started a fire to make coffee. It's starting to be
uncomfortably cold in the mornings and the fire felt good. His denim jacket
keeps his back warm. His deer rifle is in Tucson. He won't be hunting deer
this year. He needs the food but the Game Warden wouldn't be able to look
the other way if Victor started poaching. He has no money for a hunting
license and it is too late to get a deer permit anyway. They keep pretty
close tabs on the animals by airborne surveys, radio collars etc.
On the day before the day he went to town for supplies, Victor had seen a
large mule deer with a a huge rack, about 200 yards up the wash from his place.
Several narrow, stony channels meander back and forth across a low, 100 yard
wide, on average, riparian area. The habitat is composed of big Mesquite
trees, some Palo Verde, Willow rushes and a great variety of grasses and shrubs.
Futher up, the area broadens and there are some impressive yucca and barrel
cactii. The buck had jumped out of a small stand of Mesquites just 50 feet
from where Victor was walking in a stream bed. The deer broke out of the trees
and ran a little way up the rocky bottom before turning back into the cover
and disappearing. Five or six seconds after the first burst of sound he was
gone. That was Monday.
At little before 6:00A on opening day Victor was still sitting by the
fire drinking coffee. The tongue of faint light that is the precursor of
dawn had withdrawn leaving a gradually shaded band like an aura along the
rim of the hills in the East. A few night birds and insects occasionally
counterpoint the tranquility but do not diminish it. That task fell to a
pickup truck this morning. Victor thought that it could as well have gone
undone as he heard the metallic resonated sound of an engine. This was the
first of the population of a small town of hunters, that had mushroomed in
the desert in the past few days, to invade Victor's consciousness this
morning. The truck turned onto the road which runs up the South side of the
wash. That road starts over a quarter mile down stream and on the opposite
side from Vic's camp. He wondered if they knew how loud they were as they
drove up to a spot about 50 yards beyond his and on the other side of the
dry creek. He knew that if he could hear them none of the deer in the area
would need a warning. On impulse, he decided to walk upstream on his side
to see if the buck was still around.
Though not hunting he made a game of stalking. Aware of the danger of
startling the deer and inadvertantly driving him to the incompetant hunters
over on the other side, Victor continued without much concern. After all
they had slammed the truck door and been talking in normal tones. Vic
assumed any animal within a mile already had them located and wouldn't run
He walked slowly and quietly up the other road on the North side; stopping
frequently to look and listen. The ranchers track, which is called a road
around here, climbed slowly up the highest line on the the long finger of
low, barely defined, mesa extending from the hills. The wheel ruts, as they
often do, have created an unnatural stream that carries a surprising amount of
runoff during a storm. It's weird to see a rivulet along the top of a ridge.
But, it's dry now and Victor trys to avoid crunching the gravels. Sneaking
along this way he came abreast of a lonely Palo Verde above the bank and
between himself and the wash, near where he'd seen the buck.
Vic stopped when he heard a clash like hard wooden batons, fencing. The
sound was to the left, towards the northern edge of the low mesa. Victor was
still on the road near the center of the ridge. The wash and dense
vegetation, where he had hoped for a sighting, is on the right. But even up
here the mesquite is thicker than many places in Arizona and the animals can
hide easily. It was almost light enough to shoot when the big buck moved
into his view less than 75 yards to the North East. Several smaller deer,
at least one of which was also antlered, had moved before him. They were all
moving towards the place Victor had originally seen the largest buck. One
now bent to a small Mesquite tree and began to batter it with his antlers.
He continued at that game for a minute and a half before he slowly, ambling
right and left, moved off towards the wash. Had Vic wanted to kill him the
sky had lightened enough for a clear shot while the deer was playing with
the tree. Instead, the man just followed the entourage from off to one side
and closed obliquely. He aimed for a spot ahead of the deer and beyond the
twelve foot precipice that bordered the wash.
Victor carefully approached the edge about 50 feet down from the point the
small group had gone over. He immediately saw the large buck standing just
across the stream bed. His legs were occluded by tall grass and brush and
his antlers by the branches of a mesquite. Vic could see the animals eyes
but still hadn't been noticed. He began to get excited but kept himself
controlled. The buck looked in his direction but didn't seem alarmed so
Victor thought he was still doing ok. He was crouched looking through a
small tree. There was another, about ten feet closer, to which he could
advance without exposing himself. But he would have to move in ultra
(shouldn't that be infra) slow motion. Anything resembling a sudden move or
the slightest sound would startle the deer. It's difficult to maintain
balance when moving so slowly; especially when staying low. Victor was
bent forward with his legs folded almost double at the knees and poised on
the balls of his feet. He was half way to the forward position when he
heard the deer walk off.
He thought, "That's it!" and stepped forward boldly in the sure knowledge
he'd already been spotted. But the buck had only moved fifteen feet and was
even more exposed than Victor. When he was really seen, the big one headed
South. A second buck took off from almost the position the first had been in
before Vic's maneuver. He ran North West towards the hunters! Victor heard
a third following the first. He was no longer sure which was which.
He said to himself, "Doh! You dumbshit, you were doing so well until you
started thinking. God, I hope that second buck knows where those guys are
and turns." But then he realized the deer had come up from the next valley
North and might not have been high enough to hear the truck pull in. He kept
on beating himself up all the way back to camp.
But no volley of rifle shots were heard within four or five miles of the
place. About two hours later the hunters got in their truck and drove by
Victor's camp as he was stirring a pot of beans he had simmering on the coals
of the morning fire. They waved and smiled stupidly when he looked up. He
just sighed and smiled.
The home bucks survived the morning of opening day of the first of two
general deer seasons in the next three weeks. Then come the bow seasons
which continue through January. They must keep a low profile and still
manage to get enough to eat if they are to survive the winter. But the first
three weeks, the gun seasons, are the most hellish for the deer. Hunters are
everywhere and once a buck is spotted, even if he escapes he is likely to
blunder on to another executioner over on the next rise. The poor animals
are bounced around like pinballs with no return holes. But they are
relatively safe and secure in their wilderness home come the first of
Victor wishes he was so lucky as to be ignored for nine months each
year, however he wouldn't care to pay for that luxury by being the constant
prey of homicidal maniacs the for next three. What is he trying to do? I
asked him, "Victor why don't you just get a job and live normally?"
He rolled his eyes and sighed, then, with an ironic twist to his mouth,
began to explain, "Try to understand, there is no job for me. McDonald's
won't even hire me. And if they would, I still couldn't afford to rent a
place to live. The day labor shops might have two or three minimum wage
days a week and I could eat on that but little else. Even if it would
support me and allow a place to live there would be no health benefits and
I'd be exposed to God knows what dangers in the work places. Will you admit
minimum wage is a hopeless waste of time and that I'm better off trying to
make it on my own somehow? And in a decent environement?"
He's probably right that minimum wage doesn't get it but, "Come on, the
economy is booming and you have a college degree. Why don't you get a job
as an engineer again? You have a lot of computer programming and digital
circuit experience and they need engineers. A month ago it was in the news
that Silicon Valley wants 200,000 visas for foreign engineers because our
schools don't turn out enough. What's your problem?"
I knew I wasn't being fair when I asked that. He didn't choose to be
jobless and lose his home and family. He didn't fall from grace due to
alcohol or substance abuse. He did fail to have good connections and friends
in his profession. When the downsizing, implied by "the new world order" and
the rise of the CEOs came, someone had to go. However he came to be one of
the chosen ones is irrelevant to the fact that the same number of people must
be cast out whether or not an excuse or rationalization can be found. Though
many have alcohol and drug problems it is unclear whether the substance
abuse, or even mental illnesses, were the cause or the effect of the slide.
It is clear that the old boys cover for the lushes, addicts, lunatics and
idiots in their nets. That all the homeless are so through their own fault
is a delusion Victor has seen through even if his new peers usually believe
what they are told to believe, just like everyone else does. What he is
doing is trying to make the best of a bad situation. But life isn't fair
and I wanted to see how Victor would respond.
"They want cheap, entry level, engineers. If I deleted experience from my
resume they would bust me for lying and think I was trying to cover up some
heinous act of incompetence or imprudence. If I leveled with them and said I
was willing to take an entry level position the corporate psychologists would
eliminate me because I wouldn't be 'happy'. After sending out hundreds of
resumes in the past several years I'm fed up with bullshit. The stock market
boom is like the consumer boom, riding on a wave of plastic credit that will
collapse. That and CEOs artificially inflating stock prices to line their
pockets at the expense of everyone's standard of living and mine in
particular, gaurantees no place for me and those like me. My problem is that
most people believe the corporate lies and refuse to see the corporate
looting! There is no reasonable chance that I can survive in the normal way!
Further, after my rejection became obvious to me, I rejected them in turn.
I won't get involved in a downward spiral of musical chairs even though the
alternative is falling straight to the bottom. If the ruling elite noticed
us at all they would laugh to see us fighting over the scraps they throw
Victor is down there. What he is trying to do, he believes, has the highest
probability of success among his scant options. With the computer too far
gone for Window's programming, he concentrates on writing; while trying to
sell his partially enabled "toolbox" through a free personal homepage and
publishing his writings on his net sites. He requests donations to help him
continue to survive and write; maybe even get a new computer and a place to
live. He has no advertising budget. He's tried e-mailings to likely looking
addresses he found browsing the web. In six months he's received one gift of
twenty-two dollars. He also has no delusions about the possibility of his
work being published in the traditional way. But he may submit it. What the
hell does he have to lose?
And how does he plan to survive? "Surely, Vic, you don't really expect to
make it as a hunter gatherer?"
"No, of course not. It's ludicrous! Even if I could get to a place where
I wouldn't be harassed how could I rediscover a culture my ancestors lost a
millenium and a half (or longer) ago, before I starved to death. But I'll try
it anyway rather than die, stripped of dignity and miserable, in the city.
See, it's my last hope and ultimate backup position. I still haven't given up
trying to make a living within the System. I don't expect to get a job but I
still send out resumes. I would rather do something on my own, if possible,
even though there is no such a thing as independent living within society.
But if it comes down to the last resort I want to at least have a headstart on
learning the skills our ancestors took for granted. I'll need to learn to
hide better at the same time because the authorities will run me off whenever
they want to.
"But just because it's desperate, and I do mean hopeless, is no reason to
give up and die. If I work enough low probability endeavors, and those are
the only kind of options I have, maybe something will come together. What
else do I have to do?"