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The Machine February 24th of the second year

It was never intended to work like this, but it's what has happened nonetheless.

We are cogs in a machine whose size is beyond comprehension. If you want a machine to work and you want it to work well, you have to make sure that the output of each cog is maximized and that it will function for as long as possible. Well, human beings aren't literally cogs, of course, but the principals seem to hold true. Instead of outputting mechanical energy, our everyday efforts output in the form of taxes. Instead of having to do periodic maintenance on the gearing to keep our output flowing in a steady stream year after year, simply feed us the motivation to continue to labor.

This entry comprises of an on-and-off conversation between two engineers of the machine.

Squeezing the most out of each cog

Keep them occupied and our machine will run smoothly. How are we going to go about doing this? Well, we'll have to find something to take up their time. Really, the less time they'll have to think and question, the less likely we'll have to lubricate the machine or even have to give it a clean overhaul. Hrmm. Okay, well, greed seems like an easy means. Suppose we cast an image linking wealth to happiness, would that motivate them to work around the clock? If we can find a way to ensure that they always want more, we've found our way to rob them of their time. Hence, we'll be minimizing the required maintenance of the machine. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your cogs have demanded an 8-hour work day. 8 hours? That's it? Is that all they're going to give to power the system? Man, where are we getting these cogs? They seem lazy. Perhaps, but they value their time nonetheless. Bah! Can't we import some from overseas? Well whatever, we'll give them their 8-hour day. We'll give them 8-hours, turn it into 9-hours and push some to 10-hours. I'm willing to bet that we can get them to work even longer than that with the proper motivation.

How are we going to motivate these buggers? Hrm. There has to be some way to make them believe they need to work more. How am I going to do this? While I may not be able to get them to output more than eight or nine hours per day, maybe I can squeeze the most out of them in the long run. We'll institute something called the eight-thousand day work schedule, how does that sound? Honestly, it's absolutely dreadful. Oh. Maybe we should call it something else then. Toss me that thesaurus over there -- thanks. Let's see now. They're listing "assignment, business, career, chore, craft, gig, occupation, profession, rat race..." Woah, rat race! I love racing! "Stint, trade, vocation and work." I say we go with "rat race". Believe me -- no cog is going to want to be referred to as a rat. Yea, but these are racing rats! They're speedy! Sorry kid, it's not going to work. Fine... party pooper. Well, how does "career" strike you? What the hell is a career? Who knows, whatever it is, whatever it was, we're now calling the eight-thousand day work schedule a "career".

Now, how are we going to get our cogs to not only want an eight-thousand day work schedule, but have them believe that they actually need it? You know, we just got a whole shipment of cogs that fit seamlessly into the system. To tell you the truth, they're chugging along quite merrily at full capacity. I don't really think it's necessary to convince them of anything. Yea, I've heard of these worker-cogs, they're a good asset for sure. If every cog came out of the box that way, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Unfortunately, that's not the way it is -- more than half of our supply can become restless. So, I've been conceptualizing an abstract, complicated system of order that may just provide a means to capture the power of the restless cogs over the long run. It's pretty deep -- are you ready for this? Hit me with it, brother. It's a dream; a kind of ideal and we insert it into their heads. In short, the dream is designed to make the cogs all want things. By "things", I mean that they'll want to purchase and own either many possessions or just a few fancy and exorbitant items. Like what? Well, for starters, I was thinking along the lines of some extraneous living quarters or excessive transport devices. And not only will the dream encompass material things, but we'll include a desire for our cogs to support and sculpt baby cogs. I haven't given it a lot of thought quite yet, but the general idea is to both repossess the resources we've paid them while simultaneously inundating their time away from the factory with these extracurricular responsibilities. I believe this will cause two things to come about. One, the cogs will rapidly run through their resources. This will create the apparent "need" for them to return to power our machine day in and day out. And two, the five or six hours of waking time each cog has away from the machine will be reduced to only a couple. In doing so, our machine has a better chance of prospering because it's less time and ability for each cog to wonder and wander.

A fascinating idea for sure, but I don't see it happening. You realize that they each have brains, right? You can't simply tell them what they want. You're right, I can't. Each cog is going to react differently. Some won't latch onto the dream if it's about transportation devices and unnecessary living quarters. I could sit here and brainstorm a list of items that would fulfill the dream, but no matter how creative I get with the list, I cannot foresee the degree to which each cog will value a certain item. I mean, some will have a natural tendency straight out of the box to desire bizarre items... like garments or shiny things. Shiny things? Yea, well whatever, I don't know. I mean, I've met some pretty strange cogs in my day. I met one on the conveyor belt last week who had a death-grip on a shiny rock which I think was actually tied to its hand in some way. ?? Don't ask, I don't know. Apparently there's more than one of these rock-loving cogs, too. The interesting part about this particular cog is that it found its rock to be better than the rocks those other weirdo-cogs carried around with them. Where in in the hell did you find these cogs? I was actually wandering around the R&D lab at Cogsley Cogs. Anyway, this one gave me an idea.

If we can somehow have the cogs believe that, for example, "my rock is better than your rock", some may start wishing they had better rocks. For the cogs that really like rocks, it could turn into a sort of rock competition. You're losing your mind. No. Seriously, I think this can happen. The one cog I met on a conveyor belt had an enormous amount of pride in possessing this rock. It was as if without it, it might fall down. Fall down where? Who knows, but it would fall somewhere below the ranking of other rock-loving cogs. The whole thing was very odd -- it was like the cog had a status it wanted to uphold. So anyway, this is where I got the idea. Ready? All ears. In the dream we circulate amongst the cogs, we tell them that there is an imaginary ladder or ranking for all cogs who share their own particular desire. We tell them that it's possible to move up and down this ladder through their own means. Maybe we'll need to put a sentence or two in this dream explaining exactly how to climb the ladder or maybe, in some cases, they'll catch on and develop their own system of order. In either case, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that the cogs are occupied and are using their resources to climb higher all the time. In doing so, they'll need our machine more and more.

You may just be on to something here. I'm starting to believe that, too. We're going to squeeze the most out of each of these cogs and our machine will hum in perfect tune.

Controlling the cogs via informational seminars

I'm thinking we can smoosh every single cog into the system if we go about it the right way. All of them? Yup, all of them. It'll be kind of hard to determine which cogs are going to work best with the system and which ones will falter, but I think if we throw them all into the machine, the super effective ones will compensate for the laggards. It's going to be more than laggards. Some of the gearing on these cogs simply won't mesh. Oh they'll mesh, I'll make them mesh. I've come up with a variety of measures to wrangle and mold those who aren't readily compatible.

First thing's first. We're going to need a means and medium by which to spread our message to the cogs. I'm not talking about mass hypnosis here, it needs to be easy and it needs to be discreet -- I don't want any kind of resistance. Maybe if we can put them all into a stadium of some sort. Hrm. I don't know what to tell them, but if we have all of their attention at once, we can put them each on the same page. How about we tell them we're having a carnival! A carnival? What, with games and prizes? Games, gifts, candy and a great feast! And when they're not looking, WHAMO! We put drugs in their turkey and brainwash them! "Whamo", eh? I don't see that going over too well, but the carnival part kind of gave me an idea. How about we hold this festive carnival for free under the premise that they must attend an informational seminar beforehand. We can give out wristbands to each cog in our meeting hall so we know who did and who did not show up. Afterwards, we'll have the carnival. What do we say at the seminar? We have to communicate our message. Remember, it's all for the purpose of squeezing the most out of each cog for our machine.

We need to go back to the contents of our message. What did we decide upon? I dunno, a whole bunch of topics. What it really came down to is finding a way to make the cogs feel that they need the eight-thousand day work schedule. Right! To keep our machine humming along! Okay, so we have to figure a way to spread this message without having them know what we're up to. One of the easiest ways to do this is to somehow get our cogs into a pattern of living and then keep them in this pattern. If it works, they'll mindlessly spin and spin and spin. Maybe during the seminars, we should promote vigorous working habits. You know? Maybe there's a way to convince them that the harder they work, the better their life will be. That may be true in some regards. Indeed, but not for the cogs who aren't immediately designed to work in our machine. Oh, I got it! You know how I was talking about those strange cogs who had an bizarre affinity for rocks? Well, instead of a system of order for their rocks, we can advocate a system of order for each and every cog. We can tell them that if they follow all of our teachings to a tee, they'll rise to the top of the ladder! Like a caste system? Sure, a caste system.

This concept alone could open up countless possibilities - our seminars are going to become essential. We can show them this pretend system and then advocate all those little extracurricular things that'll take up the rest of their time when away from the machine. After they've embarked upon these extracurricular activities, we can then tell them that to change course is bad. This will ensure that they stay working day after day inside our machine. So, for example, let's say we've convinced all our cogs that they should marry and create baby cogs. Once they've done this, tell them that to break the family in any manner whatsoever is horribly wrong. Tell them that it is so wrong, that we might claim their wristbands and not let them come to our carnivals. If we can have them adhere to this rule, they'll get stuck in the pattern and continue to turn our machine. Furthermore, they'll be raising mini cogs and passing on our teachings to them. Really, our operation could turn exponential and grow in massive proportions. Hold up there, chumly. Do you really think that one seminar is going to make such a huge impression upon our cogs? Hmm. What are you trying to say? Do you think we need more than one? I think it'd help, anyway. We could have multiple seminars and justify it with multiple carnivals. Okay cool, how about we just start holding weekly seminars and have big carnivals two or three times a year? I think that'd be easier to manage, anyway.

So, what happens if the cogs aren't really listening to what we have to say? I mean, what if they show up to our seminars with a deck of cards? The seminars are going to be a serious matter. We need to dress up the meeting hall in a quiet, respectful manner. Respectful? Respectful of what? I dunno, respectful of us? Respectful of the super cog? What the hell is a super cog? I'm not real sure, but starting right now, this imaginary super cog exists and he's pretty awesome. You know what, let's dream up a whole bunch of super cogs while we're at it. I kind of liked the idea of only having one super cog. Alright, well, whatever - it doesn't matter. Let's use this super cog, or group of super cogs, as powerful, respectful figures. In this way, when the cogs attend our seminars, they'll be a little more civil and attentive. Maybe we could implement some scare tactics while we're at it. How about, if they miss our seminars or refuse to listen, we'll tell them that terrible things will happen. Like, they'll be sucked into a black hole... or... one day the super cog(s) will turn them into a lesser cog. A little fear could go a long way me thinks. It could really turn the seminars into a form of hope if we play our cards just right.

Controlling the cogs via magic cubes

I've come to realize that many of our cogs simply aren't going to attend the seminars. Well whatever, it's their loss - they don't get to enjoy the carnivals. Yea, and who doesn't love annual carnivals with prizes? Anyway, this means that those cogs aren't going to hear our message, they're not going to feel a need for the eight-thousand day work week, they may start to question their involvement with the system and as a result, they're not going to output as much energy as possible for our machine. Oh. Crap. Indeed. But never fear, I've come up with a solution. For every cog that skips out on our seminars, we will compensate that loss in potential power by dispersing magic cubes into their living quarters. They're kind of new, so let me tell you a bit about them. These are story-telling cubes. They have the capacity to show our pictures and words to billions of cogs across all Cog Nation. So, let's say, for example, that I want to tell our cogs that they need shinier rocks. I can show them rocks through the magic cube and convince millions that they need to forfeit their resources for shiny rocks, and I can do it without having to gather them into a meeting hall. Well that'll certainly be easier. Can you show more than our message?

Of course, we can show anything we feel like showing. Not only can we tell our cogs stories and get our message across, but we can have them focus upon the things we want them to focus on. Our machine will run smooth if the younger cogs look up to the older cogs with a perceived sense of wisdom. So, let's show stories or clips where this happens. If we show it enough and we show it in various ways, eventually the cogs will get it in their heads that their elders know best. As for our eight-thousand day work schedule, we can introduce the cogs to various methods to complete the schedule. Once we have them commit to one of the paths, they're as good as ours - remember, change is bad. We can continue to show the light at the end of the tunnel but never show the struggles in getting through parts of the tunnel. If we show the other cogs going about it without any real dire straights, they'll continue spinning and our machine will buzz along. If we only show the most perceivably attractive and successful cogs on the magic cube, the regular cogs may start to compare themselves. You know what this does for our machine? It makes it more reliable. If all the cogs are striving to be like the ones we show on the magic cube, we can continue to pull their resources from them when they upgrade themselves, their lifestyle or anything they have. Less resources for cogs means more time spinning in our machine. Not only that, if the cogs are sitting around using the cubes, they have less time. Less time free time on their hands is ALSO more reliability for our machine. Really, our potential with the magic cube is endless.

Mmm... cube. It's a beautiful thing, really. It can spread our message, promote the dream and in turn, promote the eight-thousand day work schedule. Maybe we could hold the seminars through the cube, too. Ha, that would be too perfect! You know what else we could do with this cube? What's that? I was just thinking that maybe we can further promote a habitual pattern through "sad" messages and our cogs will all be less likely to change course. If there are messages we can put on the cube that will cause the cogs to value their reality by comparison, that will keep them coming back to our machine day after day. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that we need to take their alternative paths and put them in a sour light. You know what I'm getting at?

We'll have a certain broadcast coming out of the tube that only shows how bad their lives could be. Have them believe the world is a dangerous place, its inhabitants are largely malicious and nature is all but merciful. Maybe we can take tiny dangers and blow them up into perceivably tremendous peril, explaining the precise risk in extraordinary detail. If it seems as though crime is overwhelming the world, everyone is trying to get the best of one another and violence is constantly on the rise, they'll be far less likely to alter their "safe" course. I think this may also create a sort of low morale or lack of faith for the overall future of Cog Nation. Like the seminars, it'll be another scare tactic to keep the pattern alive. Why would anyone pay attention to a magic cube that is cutting down on morale? I'll tell you why. It'll make them feel superior. It'll reassure the cogs that their path is just. If we can find the right tone, tempo and attitude, we can change the way they perceive ideas.

We'll keep them from faltering and our machine will hum along in perfect tune.

How to deal with misshapen cogs

Okay. So, we have cogs spinning away, cogs attending seminars and cogs basking in the glow of magic cubes. If all goes according to plan, the cycle can press on indefinitely. Though, I think we both know that that isn't going to be the case - it's not so simple. We're literally changing the shape of some of these cogs to get them to fit and while the majority of them will mesh with a little elbow grease, some might wear quickly or even break. Since we can't just toss them aside and keep trucking, we're going to have to come up with a means to somehow glue the broken ones back together or effectively ostracize them from the machine.

Industrial strength epoxy! I'm thinking simpler. You know how we're going to have the magic cubes displaying alternative paths in a sour light? Well, what if we go one step further and sort of cloak that choice altogether through small catch phrases. You know, something like, "deal with it" or "that's life". So, what you're saying is that when a cog begins to spin at an angle, the other cogs are going to say some magic words and then voila, everything's better? Well, no, I guess it won't necessarily be better, but at least it'll still spin and get the job done. And what if the cog is a little more than angled, what if it's cracked in two? Yea, catch phrases might not work so well. This is going to become complex.

Whatever happens, we can't let the rest of the cogs come to know that the machine is the cause of a broken or distressed cog. We can't let the rest of them know that some cogs simply aren't naturally designed to foster little cogs of their own or to behave as we have instructed. Some cogs are going to have a real problem spinning in only two dimensions; some have an innate desire for three. No doubt the machine will particularly stress these - we'll have to cover up this fact somehow. What if we just throw them into the scrap heap and call it a day? Don't you think that the other cogs are going to start to wonder what happened? Well, we don't just haphazardly do this. We'll have to pinpoint those cogs that are easily identifiable as misfits - I'm talking about the ones that come out of the box more rectangular than circular. This should make it obvious to the rest of the cogs that the one rusting out back is defective. Not bad... not bad at all. And for those cogs under tension who aren't rectangular, how do we write them off? Easy. Label them as defective. With the advent of modern science, we can bring them back to the milling machine and cut them some new gearing, too. Done and done! Brilliant!

Back in they go. Back into the machine they go to keep it humming along in perfect tune.

The cognizant cogs - HA!

Oh man. I'm loving this idea. I'm wondering though, what happens when we have to put new cogs into the machine? Are we going to have to start all over with them? Well, at first I suppose we might, but after a while, they older, perceivably wiser cogs will pass on the message to the younger cogs. That should work, right? I guess it will. But what if the younger cogs refuse to listen? What if they don't want to power our machine as much as we'd like? And what if it's more than just the new cogs, what if we have cogs beyond the grasp of both our seminars AND the magic cubes? They could be a real detriment to function of the system if others take notice. Hrm... I see your point. Maybe there's some way we could undermine credibility of particular cogs, a sort of silencing. How does duct tape sound? Being an engineer, you know full well that I'm always looking to use the duct tape, but I don't think it'll fix the problem this time. Of all things, cogs will not stand to be silenced as such. Yea, I had a feeling you were going to say that. Well, we don't have to physically silence the cog, maybe we can find a way to have these rebel cogs go unnoticed? What if we just teach the rest of the cogs to label these rebel cogs as attention-starved or overly zealous by nature? You know, kind of make it seem like the perceivably abnormal cog is exactly that, abnormal. I think that could work. Well, even if it doesn't, I'm sure we can find a way to distract the rest of the cogs anyhow.

Yes! Of course! A distraction! A diversion! And we'll use the magic cubes! Aren't we already using the cubes? Yes, but we're only transmitting the "dream" right now! What's to stop us from using the cubes not only as a means to spread our word, but also as a device to distract from the cognizant cogs! Yes! Magic, distracting, entertaining cubes! All we have to do is figure out what cogs naturally enjoy to watch and we'll broadcast that kind of stuff to their heart's delight. Ha, I can see it already. A whole mass of cogs all mindlessly and passively tuned into some entrancing, sensory-overloaded broadcast while the rebel cog is apparently complaining about something far less enjoyable. No cog is going to want to spend its scarce time away from the machine listening to some dullard. Well that was easy. Worrying about the rebel cog almost seems laughable now. HA!

I've got one last question. Since we're not going to silence the cogs, what happens if some of these rebel cogs comes up with both an enlightening and entertaining means to expose our tactics? What, like an educational message? I don't see many paying attention to that broadcast. What if it's more than a broadcast? What if it gains popularity through a larger medium? Larger than our magic cubes? It's not likely. If somehow this situation does come about, well, let's hope that the cogs pay more attention to the pure entertainment than the message. I think that most would have the tendency to hold steady to our teachings. We have the advantage in utilizing various methods and with the seminars meeting every week and the dream broadcasting 24/7, our machine will be fine. I mean, if these rebel cogs are cognizant enough to detect our tactics, then the system has already been rolling for quite some time and our message must be widespread. I'd bet that the rebel cog's message quickly fades from consideration since its fighting such an aged and widely accepted practice.

If not, well, the machine may require additional maintenance. We could be in for some challenging times.


Can't understand why it's not working like you imagined?
Worried that you're in over your head?

Can't understand why you're having feelings that are anything but monogamous?
Maybe there are human beings out there who weren't designed for that ideal.
Maybe, in all actuality, there are very few who are.
Or, maybe there's simply something wrong with you. Maybe it's a disorder of some kind.

Surprised to find yourself not emphatically in love with the process of raising an infant child?
I'd bet pregnancy is a bitch.
But society says that it's not meant to be perceived that way.
Ever find yourself thinking that something is wrong with you?

Scared someone might break into your house?
The more locks, the better.
Afterall, everyone's out to get the best of you.
Latch the deadbolt exactly five times.
Ensure nobody is going to come in.
Ut oh, now it's a disorder.
Open your wallet, here comes the cure.
How did we get here?

It's the germs! They're everywhere!
Oh God! Please help me!
Believe it or not, human beings come equipped with immune systems.
And well, if you're praying to imaginary people, ask yourself why.
I hope you're not looking for the "strength to change".
Why is your natural self somehow less than acceptable?

Mourning a loss?
Why? How did this become a tragedy?
If you ask me, death is the gateway to an infinite dream land.
Maybe you'll find what you've been looking for.

How would you perceive the televised news if you could simply read their words?
How is their tone, tempo and demeanor altering your perception?

"It's a good thing you're doing this now while you're young and have the time."
I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say this to me.
My immediate response is, "That's what they keep telling me."
Why does age somehow correspond to your amount of free time?
Am I going to be out of time twenty years from today?
Not if I don't want to find myself saying,
"I wish I had more time."

The story, my mere presence is dangerous to their well-being.
In their heads, they must rationalize their own decisions
Or face change. Maybe regret.
So await that next vacation, you've certainly earned it.
Just know that your "free time" has actually become quite costly.
How did this happen?
How did we get here?

Can anyone say "caste system"?
Enjoy the seminars.
Let them convince you that you'll have another life after this one.
-- Please, remove my desire to live with meaning.
Good, good. That's a good worker-cog.
Churn out the cash, save it all up.
Now spend it on something great.
Climb the ladder, quickly! Up, up, up we go!
-- Check out my Lexus!
-- Isn't it cool? Look! A retractable cub holder!
-- How sharp is your flat-panel television?
-- I bet it's not as nice as mine.
Do you see what you've done?
You're now doing the work for them.
And you've spent your days inside the machine,
To buy, of all things, a bigger magic cube.
Bravo, well done! Now sit there and soak up their message.
You've not only been brainwashed,
but now you've invited them into your home.
They'll show how well you've done,
And show others who haven't.
They'll keep you from faltering.
You won't dare change course.
Or even question.
Is this not the absolute epitome?

People are always surprised to hear how many random, kind-hearted folk have helped me along the road.
Rarely will the wealthy individuals lend a helping hand without already knowing me.
They love to tell me that I'm taking risks.
That there are "many crazy people out there".

While reading this entry, I'm sure many felt I was wrong
It's likely that I was.
Though it's also likely that the truth is hard to admit.
It'd be much easier to label me as overly zealous.
-- The kid's a naive hippie.
-- And he's taken his journal too far.
Why would they effectively silence my thoughts?
It's not as though thoughts are dangerous to their well being.
Are they?
Have they abandoned the notion of considering them altogether?
Or was the consideration of new thoughts a capacity lost long ago?

Television used to be entertaining to me.
But ever since this trip, I've come to understand.
It was only a distraction.
A brainwashing.
To keep me from what matters most.

It was never intended to work like this,
but it's what has happened nonetheless.

Its illusions are no more. And never before have I seen so clearly.

Update 05-Mar-2007: A friend of mine just sent me a link to this clip from the movie, Network. It depicts much of what I was getting at.

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