<vuLED> txt _transcription_/integr.0.3.5
This is a message for the resistance — or whatever it is you call yourselves. My name is— actually I can’t remember — fuck. I’ve been working at the agency for 10 years. This I do know. I’m in a bar somewhere in central Hong Kong— it’s actually the middle of the warm humid season during golden hour — very pretty. The place I’m at is [location redacted] — I’m on a high rooftop with these sweeping unobstructed views of Kowloon. Below me, there’s a narrow main street lined with faux neon LEDs — they sort of shine like a tapestry through these floor-to-ceiling windows. I’m looking at it right now… Wow, I was just thinking ‘this is definitely where the triads would go to do business’ then this large crowd of suited men passed behind me in silence communicating through their devices. Typical of these kind of places, there so quiet and— anyway, I pressed record for a reason — from up here the city really looks like an interlocking computer system of memory banks divided into low and high density pockets of light. You see, nature had millions — millions of years to evolve complex organic systems of interdependence. In our modern world, the goal we’ve chosen— and it was a fucking choice, is just to use a century and a half of time to perfect the skill of people living on top of each other in, like, increasingly crowded spaces!
Okay— so the real reason I went to this bar was to buy some time. I was being followed — right — I AM BEING FOLLOWED. I just need to — to figure it out, figure out how I lost all of my data at once. The whole— my cache you know, which kind of acts like the — the intermediary access point between me and my data — I mean, you know how this works. I shouldn’t be explaining it to you. It’s so that future requests for information can be performed faster — It’s all gone. All of it. My whole chaotic existence… wiped! So my fucking question is how did this promise of a sleek cool digital life morph into such blind trust, the trust we have that our collective memory systems would just work and never break?
Now stay with me on this one — so in the recent past, the Internet—Web 2.0 at the turn of the millennium or think Web 3.0 circa 2010s, it tried to function as a space for, democracy, like a democratic space, but it failed. So now we all have Uplink, a software hardware neural backup that — well you already know this — it kind of archives memories in whatever form we choose it to and renders everything with perfect detail and this can be accessed anywhere on earth. I mean, stand out revolutionary tech, it closed the temporal gap between opening a device and pressing ‘save’. And now the new currency is data. If you generate more data, you get more social capital. Well in my case— in my previous employment — I was able to travel freely with impunity, now — now I’ve technically gone off-grid so I guess — so my life is clearly over.
I remember my parents explained once how people used things called — what was the name, it always confused me — oh yeah! Floppy disks — back in the mid 1990s, they were a magnetic storage medium that slowly decayed until most of the info was un-readable. The same fate emerged with VHS and cassette tapes, gradually demagnetised over the years as their electrons vanished. I still remember CDs. They captured light on crude plastic, very sturdy. They were much better at retaining information but got scratched, trashed, packed away in boxes somehow — never to be re-opened. With the rise of cloud services and smartphones, it was the end of private data ownership — imagine having privacy again? So — so it seemed nothing permanent existed of our lives since the adoption of digital tech. No one knew how to prevent the information loss — perhaps no one cared I don’t know. As a consequence, governments around the world encouraged this — this decay and history was slowly rewritten before the global crash in 2027. Well in retrospect it happened ‘cause they switched from that old internet system to the new quantum computational system causing all the world’s existing servers to like, crash simultaneously. But anyway, this new tech was still based on light, though it harnessed superposition and advanced AI in a radically new way and sort of packaged it within the handheld flexible visual unitary light emitting diode — or vuLED screens that I’m recording this on right now — I mean don’t misunderstand, I love this tech, it folds to the size of an old credit card. Anyway, it didn’t take too long for everyone to adopt it — it was fairly inexpensive, reliable, free of constraint.
What was I saying? So rumours began to circulate around how our information no longer had physical dimension or — like presence and whatever, other than within the gigantic render farms on the edge of major cities — those eyesores, like massive faceless concrete blocks — so these acted like nodes in the AI metanetwork and guess what? All owned and operated by one company, Uplink Integrated Tech — but this isn’t the big news oh no, I will have to explain further — that is if I’m allowed to ‘cause right now I’m looking round — the bar seems a lot quieter, kind of suspicious, I don’t — I’m just going closer — slowly towards one of the black sofas nearer the fire exit — I don’t have another plan yet but I might need extraction — Is that something I can still ask for?
It’s funny, I’m still drinking straight whisky after all these years with those fancy diamond ice cubes — well it’s not there now actually it melted — ah! that reminds me of a mysterious woman who I met before — when was it? Could have been last year. We saw each other in this same bar and hit it off straight away. So we got talking for a while — decided to connect via Uplink and you know, scroll through each others photos — so she had like thousands — literally — of individual shots along with immersive video of her whole life since she was at least — like at least 5. So I asked her why she didn’t reproduce any of the images as physical copies on paper and she said ‘paper’s too easily destroyed’ and — so first I was stunned, then she said ‘you know, it can disappear, get lost, burnt… plus vuLED is convenient as hell so whatever’ so then I said ‘woah, it’s not like I’m actually talking about something really old like sending faxes and she was a bit taken aback — she had to ask what faxing was — to be honest I still don’t know exactly what it is but I said ’it’s like — like words on a printed page sent through those old telephone cables — hang on — not sure if everyone around me is looking up from their devices — because everything’s super quiet. I feel anxious that someone might pay attention and hear this — right, so I said to her ‘you know when you send packages via drone drop?’ then she seemed to get it but I was like, starting to realise it was a really slow method of preserving images the more I think about it — on paper and I remember her talking about how she — she just sends it all through Uplink to everyone, saidit’s in-stan-taneous but I started thinking more on it — like I kind of enjoy holding a memory, you know, it’s sort of a piece of time you can never get back. I remember pausing for ages just staring at the wild ferment of whisky swirling round my glass then she winked at me and we locked eyes for a moment and there was this long pause. So I couldn’t wait and said to her ‘I gotta use the facilities’ or something, disconnected from her stream and — I think I went through to the bathroom past some low lit booths off the main room — Shit , I just glanced over there now — so at the moment they’re all full of people talking quietly — Anyway, when I got back she’d disappeared without a trace.
The point — what was the point? — so through that — what I realised after — was everyone around me — including her, had offloaded their entire consciousnesses onto Uplink — I mean we all rely on the network to remember everything. But Uplink knowinglysevered our connection with ourselves and each other — this is — it’s the truth and clearly the effects were profound. Our sense — my sense of myself has — maybe it’s forever remote and atemporal — like out of time or something. You know those novel experiences like drugs or playing with toys or like — novels and old horror movies and shit — even like cosmic connection or orgasm — transcendent stuff — each time we revisited it, the experiences become more — I don’t know — just diluted I guess, it’s like they are always happening and forever removed.
Right, this is what I’m getting to. So almost in response to that — mood of our time, there was a paramilitary group that became known — I think based in France but I might be wrong — some French speaking territory — that call themselves Les Cachés or ‘the hidden’, founded at some point after the network crash in the ’30’s, their aims were sort of spiritual in nature and really anti-tech.
Look — I can retrieve their manifesto — mission statement, which — ah it’s in french — yeah — let me just auto translate it — so on their page it says the following — that ‘the world is in a state of degradation. The reason why we pursued materialism and the scientific method was so that rationality could be dialectically fused with primitive egalitarianism — I don’t know what that means — but it continues — through government intervention, this equilibrium has not come to pass. In the west, we have been taught to identify with the body and only trust what we see when all spiritual practices across time say do not identify with the body, the world is an illusion. We live in a world where our needs are now different. This is why we are fighting not just for a political revolution, but for a global spiritual awakening to unite the world in solidarity against the tyranny of absolute power.”
So as soon as I heard about the group, I had to find out where their anonymous leader was located. Problem is I couldn’t — I didn’t have the ability to use uplink because everything I was doing was being monitored — I think — I’m still being monitored, this is why — why I need to leave and get this message out there — out to those who will listen but — so first, I need a method to escape — I can’t be noticed — I don’t exist, I’m not on any records with my cache — no retrieval — Okay, I’m going to — I’m going for the fire escape… what the — fuck! — the fucking alarm just went off — where is that noise even coming from? It’s like — like coming from deep inside the building — hang on — everyone around me just backed away and the barman uplinked and called for backup so quickly — like in a fraction of second. How does he know? — I don’t exist?, That I’m an anomaly? Some fucking convenience store assassin is going to — to come round the corner and take me out right fucking now, or the secret police with the — intelligent sight that sees through the fucking wall — I’m gone — just running for it — it doesn’t matter anymore. Now I don’t exist, I can expose it all.
End of transmission
Calamity in Rwanda: An atrocious phantasm
Clutter, clang, bang! A harrowing scream pierces through the frenzy and soon after, a wide face pops into space. As swiftly as it emerged, it disappears. It is replaced by a slender pair of hands and you have a fleeting moment of relief. The face is back again, large white eyes are staring down at you. You burst into tears, the face vanishes once again then another one pops into your vision. This new face is grim and misshapen and your anxiety surges. Large hands hover over you gripping a shining menacing object. The eyes that look down at you, in your cradle are cold and hollow.
For the child, Peekaboo is a captivating and equally confounding experience. Peekaboo is a game often played with an infant; the other player hides or covers their face and reveals it to the bemused infant. This is because babies have an inability to understand object permanence that objects continue to exist even when they are not seen. As we grow up we develop an intuitive understanding of space and time as fixed and we suspend the idea of space as illusory and malleable.
The sequence of the events that happened from April to July 1994 in the country, Rwanda played out like a morbid hallucination than the reality one’s accustomed to. Over one million Rwandan citizens, adult civilians and children, belonging mostly to the Tutsi ethnic group lost their lives during the Rwandan genocide by the Hutu nationalist government. The chilling participation of Rwandan civilians in this ethnic cleansing, where people were ambushed by their own neighbours and friends, is perplexing and leaves one with questions about the causal factors that instigated such violent atrocities. In a matter of three months the structure of society was lost, the veil of spatial permanence and the spatio-temporal networks were dismantled. In a short space of time all systems collapsed and the green and undulating landscape of Rwanda had mutated into a red terrain of death and chaos.
The overt assassination of President Habyarimana and the ethnic tension incited by the Belgian colonizers in the early 20th century serve as an introductory pretext to explain this act of brutality. From the rise in violent grass root crimes prior to the genocide, to the growing dissension about privatization and land ownership, the events and phenomenon surrounding and leading up to the genocide suggest that there was a complex network of determinants from institutional to interpersonal friction, a form of causality generated by a broad range of psychosocial, economic and political factors.
Prior to the genocide and colonialism, there was the Nyiginya kingdom comprising of the Twa, the Tutsi and the Hutu. The archaeological artefacts of this kingdom challenge the ethno racial colonial construction that is often regarded as the primary determinant of the war. The precolonial history suggests that Rwanda was a non-ethno racial society with a complex political system. Non-essentialist identities of pre-colonial Rwanda were converted into defined ethnic groups with supposedly distinct divisions during colonialism.
The migration trajectories of the Twa, Tutsi and Hutu, suggest that there was cohabitation and a spatio-temporal connectedness apparent in their socio-political structures and economic processes. The sociocultural divide between the citizens of the Nyiginya kingdom was held together by institutions embedded in spiritualism and ritual practices however, these institutions were hierarchical in nature and there was a growing opposition between the ethnic groups about the incorporeal, mystical systems that determined the organization of space and society.
How does one narrate a “complete” story that captures the range of spatio-temporalities that are pluralistic in scale, from the individual to the global impact and in perspective? From the precolonial, to colonial to post colonialism, Rwanda’s story is a story about occupation, demise, deconstruction and reconstruction. From the scholarly vantage point of an outsider how does one decide to frame one’s perspective? The phenomenological framework we use to unpack these sensitive histories are entangled not only with other spatiotemporal frameworks that work at the macro levels of global politics but with the local level of the individual Rwandan battling everyday with their lived trauma.
Milk, bread, tea. The chattering around you, the cars, the steady drown have all faded away as you wonder further into a semi coherent landscape of thoughts. You are walking up the inclined pavement and The Union Trade Centre building in Kigali comes into view. The buzz snaps you from your thoughts. You are standing beneath the walk through metal detector. The security guard looks irritated and you instinctively hand them your bag. They look through it and hand it back. What was the list again? Bread, tea, milk, jam and something you can’t seem to remember. It is okay, hopefully you will remember inside the supermarket.
- Harvey, David. “Space as a Keyword.” David Harvey, n.d., 70–93. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470773581.ch14.
- Kimonyo, Jean-Paul. Rwandas Popular Genocide a Perfect Storm. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2016
- Norum, Roger, Mary Mostafanezhad, and Tani Sebro. “The Chronopolitics of Exile: Hope, Heterotemporality and NGO Economics along the Thai–Burma Border – Roger Norum, Mary Mostafanezhad, Tani Sebro, 2016.” SAGE Journals. Accessed April 12, 2020. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0308275X15617305.
- Jeffries, and Paul Christopher. “The Philosophical Implications of Quantum Non-Locality.” NASA/ADS. Accessed April 12, 2020. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2000PhDT………7J
- Giblin, John. “Political and Theoretical Problems for the Archaeological Identification of Precolonial Twa, Tutsi, and Hutu in Rwanda.” Academia.edu. Accessed April 12, 2020. https://www.academia.edu/14880215/Political_and_Theoretical_Problems_for_the_Archaeological_Identification_of_Precolonial_Twa_Tutsi_and_Hutu_in_Rwanda.