I had this week’s piece begun. I was already mixing metaphors and coming up with wildly improbable similes to illustrate a point that’s only one step up from a filthy hobo ranting about his poop-filled drawers and gathering uprisings. You never expect satire to become real. Except when, you know, it totally does. At this point, it’s possible that one or both of my readers is completely lost, so I’ll begin at the beginning.
December 2007: 2K games releases BioShock, the greatest video game of the decade and high in the running for greatest game of all time. Ignoring the immersive gameplay, the evocative art deco surroundings and the brilliant mediation on the illusion of free will, the best part was the richly detailed game world. Rapture was a city built on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, founded on the libertarian principles of Andrew Ryan, a man whose name is a near anagram for noted sociopath Ayn Rand. By the time you show up at Rapture, utopia has already crumbled and the darkened halls echo with the gibbering of a few unfortunate survivors.
Rapture was intended as a place “where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small.” It’s a seductive notion, because it speaks to one of the central flaws in the human brain: the belief that we are the exception rather than the rule. Rapture’s collapse was inevitable simply because there are only so many places at the top. Libertarian utopias require the existence of an underclass to function. As Frank Fontaine puts it: “They come to Rapture thinking they’re gonna be captains of industry, but they all forget that somebody’s got to scrub the toilets.” That’s the part that no one seems to remember. Social classes calcify (due to a persistent lack of money, opportunity, and the true death of any merit-based society: inheritance) and the underclass becomes a permanent one. So now you’ve got a group of people with no hope, you’re in the middle of the ocean and they’re all around you. It makes about as much sense as getting a full body wax before prison.
The solution, of course, is robots. Because nothing says safety like servants made of unyielding steel, armed with metal claws, and are utterly devoid of human compassion. Might as well build them time machines and Austrian accents. It’d save some time.
Sorry for the digression there. I’m obligated to mention the robot uprising every month until Skynet shuts off my Internet. Anyway, Rapture is pure science fiction, and a great way to deconstruct the essential immorality and impracticality of libertarian thought. Good thing satire never becomes real, right. Well, fuck you, reality. Fuck you in the neck.
Okay, so it’s not exactly Rapture. They’re building this one on the surface of the ocean rather than the sea floor, and I’ll be surprised if this one will be at the mercy of lightning-throwing mutants at any point in history. It’s about as close as something is likely to get without sanity just throwing up its collective arms and making drill-armed golems.
Wait a minute, I can hear you saying. It was the ADAM slugs that lead to the demise of Rapture. If there’s one thing ‘80s movies have taught us, it’s that too many insane mutants do serious harm to a society’s longevity. Had Rapture never discovered those stupid slugs and thought it was a fantastic idea to inject them into little girls, everything would have been fine. Plasmids are merely symptoms.
Fed up with a country that just won’t let him spread his wings, billionaire Paypal founder and Ryan stand-in Peter Thiel has decided to build a new country out in international waters, right off the coast of San Francisco. I honestly can’t tell you how happy this makes me, although it’s the same kind of happiness I got watching LeBron choke during the Heat/Mavs series. The Germans have a word for it, I think.
Displaying the profound lack of historical understanding one would expect from someone that thinks water makes a good foundation, Thiel had this to say to Details about why he’s decided to choose Rapture: “The United States Constitution had things you could do in the beginning that you couldn’t do later.” It’s worth noting that only rich white people wax fondly about the early days of our country. Maybe I’m seeing the tacit racism of an entitled jackass whose closest connection with a black person was the time he saw Barack Obama on television and reflexively rolled his window up quickly. Maybe Thiel really enjoys dying of cholera. That was huge back then too.
The article goes from merely amusing to fucking hilarious with this quote: “Mr. Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.” Maybe I’m crazy, but crowing about looser building codes while building a dream city in the middle of the ocean near one of the earth’s major fault lines doesn’t seem like the best advertising technique. Ironically enough, these were also the guiding principles of another utopia. One which unfortunately collapsed when my mother needed the couch cushions for company and I had to go to bed early.
I am pleased to note that there will be few restrictions on weapons, but that begs the question, what will those restrictions be? One assumes that walking around with a katana will be totally fine, if only because that will lead to awesome swordfights in the main plazas to pass the time between food riots. But what about firearms? Unlike the real Rapture, leaks shouldn’t be a big problem, except perhaps in the lower levels. How about biological weapons? How about unintentional biological weapons? With the draconian standards the government imposes on drinking water gone, that stuff is going to be like the primordial soup. We might see the first society in history fighting tooth and nail for the right to drink raw sewage.
I do sympathize with the men who want to accomplish the impossible. After all, these are poor billionaires, unfairly oppressed by a country that cruelly kept them from… more billions I guess? Midget gladiators? Penile rocket sleds? I don’t really know. The core of libertarian philosophy appears to be, “Fuck you, I got mine.” And now they’re going to take their toys and go home into the middle of the ocean. I, for one, support their right to do this.
And I know they support my right to mock them. Everyone’s happy.