Friday, March 30, 2007

Language Vector

"What cannot be spoken of cannot be defeated."


My head isn't clear and I pass in and out of sleep. I'm infected.

Stay with me as I type this. I'll give you a little background. In the 1950's the last of the South Fore engaged in ritual necrophagia and the prion disease Kuru recently claimed the last victims among them.  The last that ate the thoughts of another.  Nearby, another Papua New Guinea tribe discovered a more pernicious and far more horrifying threat about forty years ago.  For years, their population shook and trembled for a reason unknown to them.  They pointed to a cave in which words approximated by the English phrase The Black Whisper of Death were inscribed. "The plague came from in there," they said.

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Globalization efforts brought the whisper heard round the world.  Oh, look! On the overhead TV, that image..


A beloved American religious leader at a political celebration passes an attractive, conservatively dressed young woman. As the light of recognition flares in his eyes, he warmly greets her by name. She smiles mechanically. Suddenly horrified he whirls around to locate the camera capturing an unmistakable expression of humiliation.

It's on TV every other day.  She was a minor porn star.  It was not that he greeted her that condemned him.  He could have legitimately known her in a number of ways.  Even had he known her biblically it would have been taken in stride.  Who cares?  It turns out his televised shame indicted him more decisively than a living-room stash of indecent DVD s.  After all, it is shame and little else that condemns us.  The tabloids carried that image for months next to the articles decrying Death's Whisper.  It doesn't matter.  The young woman and the religioso are dead now, victims of their own fascination with their tabloid fame and more directly, victims of its adjacent coverage.

In this case it is knowledge that destroys. dsf6 -saf ;; This is not a disease borne by a bacterium, a virus, or a prion. See, this whisper is a disease carried by the most insidious of vectors - language itself. To simply understand what it is is to be irreversibly afflicted. What cannot be spoken of cannot be defeated. I am condemned already and by writing I damn my readers. But there will be no readers..

Some said it was the Creator, dropping in a kill switch to flip at the turn of a phrase.  It's adaptive. They named the disease in the native tongue and it killed them. Scientists described it in English and French and Spanish. It killed them. The blind read of it in Braille, the deaf signed in ASL. Experts from around the world spewed a rainbow of euphemisms. It killed millions. It is not bound to any particular lexical form - perhaps its representation in the brain creates the disease ex nihilo. I don't really know. We did not discover the mechanism that drives this epidemic.

It may be strange to think of language spreading disease, but it is not unique.  What is it that viral machines inject into living cells if not RNA/DNA coded assembly language pathogens?  I know that machines aren't affected because words are transparent to them. Still, machines played the pivotal role in the spread -&89sd(( of the disease as its immune and efficient carriers.

Can you imagine (no, you can't - because there is no you) seeing all those around you die for an unknown cause of death?  As death certificate handlers really understood the meaning of unknown cause of death they came down with the disease in droves.  Suddenly, the certificates began listing things like Onychocryptosis and Internecivus raptus.  Those who witness the deaths but don't know the cause are inexorably driven to discover it.  (Most of) those who know, and are infected, try desperately to not reveal it to anyone and have always failed.  Now though, strangely, I'm compelled to type this even if I have to type with the keyboard upside down to keep the blood from my hands from running into it.  I can no longer hope for any resolution but the obvious.

And I wait for that resolution even as the asymptomatic machines auto-hyperlink this document. No future, fatal question will go unanswered action diminishes c0ntracts freedom entered invalid through fear judged excuses penalty attached contrary vectpr for reflex arc st1mulus unexpexedly 0kers afwe ~pwnd xasl gatattaccaagggtc link <> link 032 . . .

(story copyright (c) 2007 Paul D. Senzee)

3 comments:

Senzee said...

Smoking crack?

LOL. That's what Dan Suleski says I was doing while I wrote this story.

Anonymous said...

hmm, yes, i've read snow crash also. i will grant that it had fewer wikipedia links.

Senzee said...

Snow Crash, eh? I haven't read it.

Maybe I should. I only ever got a few dozen pages into Cryptonomicon. Oh, and I read "In the Beginning was the Command Line".

Well I'm going to be really bummed out if people think I'm ripping off Stephenson. Especially since I'm not a big fan. But then, maybe I never gave him a proper chance.