In the Thirteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries in 2019, on Monday, June 17th, I append the most recent scouting report from the effort to encircle, tame, and put to work the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice.
I recently walked around downtown Toronto, one of the Sagacities. I noticed quite a lot, but in particular, I noticed a tremendous flow of traffic on the arterial streets,—and when I say tremendous I mean tremendous, as others will no doubt attest,—almost all of it vehicular. When I looked or walked along the side streets, however, I saw almost none, and much of what there was was pedestrian. If we postulate, therefore, the existence of the Charged Ooze, then we may at least hypothesize,—perhaps conclude,—that the arterial streets and roads are rife with the stuff, and that the state of the side streets remains uncertain.
Since I have characterized some streets as arterial, thereby introducing a blood-flow metaphor into the mix, I have to ask: are they in fact arterial, or are they venous? In other words, when traffic flows from homes to places of work or commerce, is it flowing back to or out from the heart? The same question arises when it flows back the other way. And is the Charged Ooze (remember, that is the short name I am giving to the Charged Global Membrane of B.W. Powe, which I call the Charged Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain; B.W. and I are entirely agreed about the Charge, although we vary in our concepts of what is charged),—is the Charged Ooze a vital fluid internal to the organism, or the external environment in which it lives and breathes, as air is to us, and water to a fish. And is it natural, or does the organism create it?
I have named the organism the Yottapede, intending to suggest a long narrow creature with a great many feet. I think you will agree that a city street is just such a creature, especially if we are allowed (and I do allow it) to count wheels as feet. I have two scouts out there studying the Yottapede: Astranasus, a star-nosed mole able to burrow through the Charged Ooze and sense its properties through his foveated tendrils, and a feminequine centaur named Mnemochiranne equipped with all the sensory tools of both a human and a horse along with the two-handed reasoning power of the former and the motive power of the latter. While I took a break last week they have been busy. They dropped in this morning before going back to their field work, to report some preliminary findings.
They have discovered, first of all, that the Yottapede is a complex creature, being both an organism in its own right, and the product or effect of the other organisms that compose it. In somewhat over-simplified terms these can be thought of as human beings, their servants, and their tools. As Marshall McLuhan is said to have said, first we shape our tools, then our tools shape us. We are both creators and the creatures of our creations, including the Yottapede itself; we all flow together through the Charged Ooze.
Whether the Yottapede is the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, or contains it, remains to be discovered.
The Yottapede is a parasite, depending on us and our tools for its existence. We are the host of this parasite. In the same way we are parasites of the Yottapede, depending on it for our existence, or at least for the only existence we can collectively imagine in our present circumstances. The Yottapede is therefore both parasite and host, and so are we. We are mutually parasitic, and mutually hospitable. Not only that, but we (with our tools) and the Yottapede are also mutually parasitic with the Charged Ooze which may also have the same symbiotic creator-creation relationship with both of us. When you take all this into account, you will begin to see that what we have before us is a considerable Unsolved Riddle.
Now one of the basic principles of parasitology says that a parasite that kills its host is inefficient at best, possibly suicidal. Or, at the very least, if it is going to kill its host, it had better know how to find or create a replacement. The emerald ash borer as a species is entirely dependent on finding another ash tree within striking distance. Before we jump to the assumption, therefore, that we can solve the Unsolved Riddle by killing the Yottapede in all its parasite-host complexity, we had better know how we are going to replace it.
In other words, the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice may look something like this, in its present form: This pervasive creature whom we have shaped and who shapes us, may be both necessary to the achievement of Social Justice, and the greatest, indeed decisive impediment to it. If that is inescapably the case, then taming the creature and putting it to work for that purpose is going to require something much more creative than a straight-forward tinkering with machinery. If we can’t break the Yottapede, and it appears we cannot without breaking ourselves, then we will have to whisper it. And we may have to take into account that it may have a mind of its own, and is whispering us all along the way in its own interest, which is also ours. Not to mention the possibility that it may use more brutal methods.
This much flows from the first reports of our scouts. I’ll check in with them again next week.
Posted by Paul Conway.