Valheim: Fast Track to Valhalla

I wanted to get to this sooner–rather, I thought I would have more time–but my new obsession gained Two. Million. new players almost overnight. It’s shattered almost all other benchmarks set by previous fan favorites on Steam, from concurrent players to peak players to players in general. Which is just insane. I don’t even remember where I spotted what I thought then was a diamond in the rough of Early Access games, but it was the equivalent of finding a Grade A adventure in the bargain bin at GameStop. Then, a few days later, my joy was everyone else’s. And I couldn’t be happier.

Let’s start with the basics, shall we?

No game is likely to disappoint that begins with a gigantic bird providing air taxi services to a dark and mysterious land filled with danger and death. The list of those games right now, off the top of my head, contains only two: Valheim, of course, and Dark Souls. But that’s beside the point. It’s a hell of a way to kick off a party. And there you are, the life of the party, dropped into what seems at first a peaceful meadow. How sweet, how nice. Like any other survival game, you quickly find yourself picking berries and chopping wood. Maybe you have a house by nightfall. Hopefully. Otherwise, when that sound cue hits and the music changes, I guarantee you’ll get a chill up your spine.

And that is perhaps Valheim’s greatest strength, more than likely what sets it apart from so many other games in a similar vein: What would happen if Breath of the Wild and Skyrim had a child that was then adopted by Minecraft? Well, you’d have Valheim! This is something we can find with most games that become startling breakout successes. Somehow, by brewing all these different ingredients in the same pot, the dish comes out fully its own and delectable. Make no mistake, there are plenty of games that try to cross genres and blend diverse mechanics only to end up a hobbling mutated mess. But the ones that carry it off? *chef’s kiss*

Soon after spectacular bird delivery, you will find yourself scurrying through the meadows and forests, plumbing ancient tombs and fighting trolls, and (best of all) braving the waves with spectacular fanfare and sunlit ocean spray. What Valheim accomplishes in spades is not merely its blend of varying genres into a complete experience, but also the feeling with which the game invests your movement through the world. Nothing quite drives this home as well as the first time you set sail, even on just a simple raft, and the exultant music begins. I truly felt at the start of an adventure, which might be the best way of classifying Valheim: as an adventure. And in a time when games have become more and more commodified, to the point that every would-be Adventure game feels scripted to the point of roboticism, this game is truly a shot in the arm.

So too is it the gift that keeps on giving. Every new environment poses new and often unpredictable challenges. Upgrading to new materials (and thus new types of equipment) is askew from the usual means, requiring advancements through what is Valheim’s pseudo questline. More than once I’ve stumbled upon something new, exciting and mysterious in an environment I thought I’d already combed over or explored thoroughly. I’m keeping more than a few things out of this review in hopes that you experience them in full effect for yourself. For a game that can’t really even be classified as Horror-adjacent, let’s just say Valheim serves up plenty of scares. Not unlike Dark Souls, to return to that brief bird-taxi comparison earlier.

The cherry on the top of all this, to use a cliche in reference to a game in which there are none, is that Valheim is not just in Early Access on Steam: it’s in Early-Early Access. Meaning, we’re just getting started, and there’s already so much to do. Indeed, this massive windfall of sales–a leap from thousands of players to millions–can only lift this longship even higher on the wave of success. I’m on the edge of my seat to see what these guys do next.

It’s rare enough that I enjoy a game this much, but rarer still that I enjoy it to the point I believe the hype is not only warranted but something I get caught up in myself. If you have the cash, and the time, I urge you to go and pick this amazing experience up as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Cyberpunk 2077: More Than Just A Game

It’s an experience, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been religiously playing games since I was old enough to hold a controller and reach all the buttons. Before I could go through the whole alphabet, I could go through every level of Super Mario World. So when I say that Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the best games ever made and easily the most immersive, even at its bug-ridden launch, it’s not without some amount of weight. And I’ve already sunk in roughly ~20 hours since the game first came online at 7:00 PM EST on December 9th, with each hour building to some crescendo I keep expecting to come. And I know I haven’t hit the high water mark yet. I’m fully prepared to be blown away, perhaps literally.

Your introduction to the world of Cyberpunk 2077 is through the eyes of V, a rough-and-tumble mercenary who’s lately returned to their netrunning alma mater and the game’s main setpiece: Night City. And what a city it is. An elegantly mad gestalt of genre tropes that are so seamlessly blended and remolded that you barely notice them at all. Part Blade Runner, part Neuromancer and part Snow Crash–each titans that spawned a genre–this simultaneously glittering and grungy metropolis is host to a delightful hodgepodge of cultures, aesthetics and social classes. And all of this is backlit by neon and holograms, permeated with the sort of debauched and euphoric techno-misery that only cyberpunk can conjure.

Navigating my way through Night City, dropping in on gangsters souped up with cybernetic implants, hacking soda machines for fun and profit, driving around in my robotically bulky yet sleek car, I can confidently say that this is the first time in all my years of gaming I’ve been able to say that I really feel like I’m in the game. CDProjekt Red have succeeded in crafting their masterwork of a complete gaming experience. You don’t question for an instant what you see relative to the setting. The combat is fluid and has weight to the point that even using the standard weaponry is a total joy. If you remember seeing something in a movie, you can probably do just that thing. Almost every part of the environment is traversable and makes for a multitude of approaches to any objective or self-assigned task, not least of which are the many open world missions that dot the map and bring the city alive in their own right.

And this is to say nothing of the story. One might be tempted to deride it as cliche, an overdone and tired homage to greater works that falls flat. But this is not so and for the very reason that the homage is carried off so well. Like many cyberpunk stories, and even cyberpunk adjacent games like Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2077 centers around a heist, the details of which I won’t reveal and mostly because I haven’t gotten that far yet. I’ve been too busy, you see, gallivanting around and cutting clean through Night City’s seedy underbelly with my katana. But what I’ve seen so far is nothing short of thrilling, if not for the simple fact that I don’t have to distort it to fit my idea of playing through a Blade Runner or Neuromancer. Rather it is a perfect reproduction of what that experience would look like. Each character I meet is meticulously crafted to set the scene, to enliven and broaden, and yet so familiar that I feel right at home in the backseat of a fixer’s limo. I have to do no work, and what a gargantuan relief it is.

It is, it is…

Cyberpunk 2077 succeeds everywhere that Deus Ex: Humankind Divided fell short, and precisely because CDProjekt Red didn’t take the easy route. You aren’t a cop, a corporate operative or special agent for some kind of cyborg control unit. Those are villains of a different kind, no different from the pushers and fixers. You’re just lowlife scum like the rest of the downtrodden masses that populate Night City. Only you just so happened to have survived long enough to make a name for yourself and trick out your body with cybernetics. Indeed, you only exist above the rest because you were just more brutal and resourceful than the rest. As such, merc-for-hire V doesn’t exist outside the system or its effects on the world around them: You’re an intrinsic part of it, spat out from its ugly chrome womb and molded into a killer. The luxury of looking down and looking in on this twisted reality, brought about by corporate oligarchy and runaway technological advances, does not belong to you. Those in power are as distant to you as the heights of the towers you look at from the sidewalk. Like the police chief in the original Blade Runner says, “If you’re not cop, you’re little people.”

And in the world of Cyberpunk 2077, little people only have one way out from under the boot: cutting through or stealing from enough people to buy a chance at freedom. We’re just lucky it’s so damn fun.

World of Theorycraft, or the Subjective Value of Digital Labor: Part One (Youth)

Reliving an essentially static experience as two entirely different people is a unique–and rare–opportunity. How often is it that we may revisit some moment in our lives that for all intents and purposes has remained the same? How can we? Any place or person is not the same after the passing of years, not really. Others have changed with you, the years have had their way with even the stone. This is especially true now, in the age of rampant climate change, where even a period of decades may have fundamentally changed the geography of your memory. Indeed, during the 21st century, we might say it is impossible to thoroughly make a return as a different person to a wholly stagnant realm–whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Real, actual matter and substance obeys the rules of reality and proceeds and exists without us or our supervision or even our regard. This is object permanence. But this is only true in reality, something so vast and beyond our understanding that we exist at its whim and not the other way around. It is not true in realities we have constructed. The example I put forward–and hold your laughter–is World of Warcraft.

Within the past year or so, Blizzard has done something unheard of or at least so infrequently done as to be unheard of. Not in the sense of triumph or achievement–as has been said of other recent developments in electronic media, such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and the forthcoming release of Cyberpunk 2077–but rather the boldfaced recycling of old content. I am, of course, talking about World of Warcraft: Classic, the roots of which go back to Nostalrius a fanmade endeavor to retain the time-honored initial release of the popular MMORPG. This formerly little known passion project had been gaining more and more interest as interest conversely waned in the actual retail version of the game itself, and so the sharks at Blizzard, as they so often do, spotted the chance for a cash grab. Blizzard ordered a cease-and-desist and promptly “began development” of their own attempt at nostalgia which would become WoW: Classic as we know it today.

And what a shot of nostalgia it is. The rush of the drums at the login screen. The lofty stone of the Dark Portal, swirling with chaotic energies and ready to usher you into a world of magic and mystery and blood. At once you begin to settle into a strange sensation not felt in so long a time: familiarity. It is not unlike going home. It is not unlike waking up and realizing that these last years and all their troubles have merely been a dream. Indeed, for so many the roads and dungeons of Azeroth were home and dreamlike in their capacity to whisk one off into a world so engrossing the loading screen would caution them to be sure to not forget the world outside. Character creation is like visiting a motley of old friends, once so intrinsically familiar that their absence is only truly felt upon rediscovery. The origin point for each path glimmers like the light eking from a hardly cracked door. Bleak skies over the gloom and glades of Tirisfal, the arid red rock of Durotar, the rolling plains of Mulgore, the peaceful forests of Elwyn, and so on. Each one a microcosm of a time in the avid player’s youth. Then, with a name and a few clicks of the mouse, this world once again becomes your own–for a time.

This is a feeling many will know who had played and are now playing again what is now a cultural titan, but not so long ago was the marker for a total and complete dork. I was one of those dorks. Indeed, I was and am the ultimate dork. I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was 8. I’ve created my own RPG rules set. I’ve written ten books and devoted tens of thousands of words to setting notes that other people will probably never see. This is not to brag, but to press home that despite appearances you will not find a bigger dork. So it is with some emphasis that I tell you how pumped I was as kid to throw together an Orc (my favorite race since playing Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness as a very wee lad), give him an Orc sounding name, and get rolling as a bloodthirsty Warrior ready to deal death and collect plunder.

And yet for all my cultic devotion to things nerdy, especially for anything pumped out by Blizzard up to and including circa 2004, I found my enthusiasm quickly begin to wane. Once I ventured outside the Valley of Trials, triumphed over the insanity of Barrens Chat and progressed into the grueling Thousand Needles, each rotation (Charge, Rend, Battle Shout if it wasn’t active, Heroic Strike, etc.) became a chore. Each quest became a task. The excitement bled away until all that was left was the incomprehensible drag that was leveling your character to 60 and your professions to 300 and playing the auction house to get enough gold for your mount and so on. Everything became what is known unaffectionately in all gaming circles as “The Grind”.

I simply could not tolerate it. My young brain was moving a mile a minute and required much noise, many flashing lights and moving objects. I quickly would retreat into Halo or Call of Duty or any of the many, many single-player RPG’s that sapped away hours and hours of my youth (Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Planescape: Torment and Fallout). I was an aficionado, you see, a lover of many digital delights, and the time sink of killing the same mob over and over and over to get item after item after item or running the same dungeon a minimum of 10 times to get a much needed piece of equipment could simply not appeal to me. Instant gratification was my muse. I wanted to move at my own pace, to be rewarded specifically at the rate of the work I was putting into the game. Patience was unknown to me and the frustration very familiar that comes on when confronted with the absence of reciprocation. If you’re anything like me, Dear Reader, you’re beginning to know all too well what I’m talking about. Because of course, after all, what I’m talking about is that other “Grind”. The Real Grind. The Dark Tunnel At The End of Which We Hope Is A Light.

What I’m talking about is Life and the labor of Living.

As a child, you have no concept of what that truly means. What is life as a child? What is the labor of living as a child? I speak from the experience of being a habitually depressed child with a less than stellar childhood, so let’s dispense with any indictment of the argument predicated upon some childhoods entailing some labor. Ideally, and for many, childhood is the period of years that will come to form one’s peak personal and emotional freedom. To paraphrase an expert on the existential dread that waits at the other side of the field of youth, children do not yet have any concept of what “day-in, day-out” truly means. And the young do not yet have any concept of labor or labor as it will come to mean in adulthood. Labor to a child is a simple matter of arithmetic. If I add one stone to the pile, there will be one more stone on the pile; conversely, if I take one away, there will be one less. A simple system of reciprocity. The idea of random apportioning is anathema, as it inherently is senseless at best and unjust at worst. Children are mirrors for the world around them. They haven’t yet been chewed up. A child can tell the just from the unjust by mere instinct. And so by mere instinct a child, barring extenuating circumstances, can suss out an exploitative and unfair system when they encounter one.

Enter again World of Warcraft, inheritor of the social perils begun by Everquest. A lack of patience can render large swaths of the game a chore, but what truly deadens the experience for a child (or at least this former child) is the lack of fairness. “Life isn’t fair” is a common refrain among the playerbase in answer to any complaints regarding the game mechanics. Indeed, the game mechanics themselves are designed with that refrain in mind. How else do you continue shilling millions of people out of $15 a month? Surely not out of brand loyalty or legitimate entertainment, but by exploiting that reptilian desire to see numbers increase. Much has been written on the similarity between gambling and the mechanics of loot acquisition in gaming. World of Warcraft was perhaps the first significant example of this before the modern day boogeyman of Loot Boxes. So I won’t delve into that too much here.

Rather the point is more that this lack of fairness, which children who are able to afford gaming PC’s do not yet readily understand as an element of the real world, is repugnant to them. They can’t understand it. For the most part life has supplied them with what they needed and did not ask that they earn it first. If they earned anything, they earned it on the basis of reciprocity and not randomization. Many younger players will not go on to hit max level, to raid with prominent guilds, to make “World First’s” of this or that new boss. They will leave and return and leave and return until months or years they later reach something of an endgame. Only for another expansion to drop. Or another content patch. Or, god forbid, a sequel. One understands how a child could tire of this repetitive and sluggish pace, a repetitiveness and sluggishness not uncommon in adult life, which they have yet to experience. I might even suggest that World of Warcraft, in its purest and most original form, is quite the system of training wheels for how to survive in the capitalist and cutthroat nightmare into which we all one day age.

A nightmare we will explore afresh in Part Two: Maturity…

(Note: I am speaking under the assumption of a generally privileged childhood, as that was my experience at least in a monetary regard, which in many cases can be assumed of WoW’s playerbase.)

He Took An (Existential) Arrow To The Knee (Soul)

I’m not going to lead with my usual narrative build-up. The seed of this post is so well-known as to be a cultural artifact for anyone below the age of 40 and over the age of 10. Indeed, no sooner will someone within this demographic hear the words “I used to be an adventurer like you…” before automatically filling “…then I took an arrow to the knee.” It’s mnemonic in that way. But why? The reasons are many. The line’s meme potential defies calculation, which is obvious by the longevity and proliferation of same. It’s also very distinct and even when heard in passing remains an earworm as one continues to gallivant around Skyrim. Instantly the phrase recalls fond memories of Whiterun and Stormcloaks and Imperials and endless, endless Draugr. There is also the obvious color that hearing the line again and again undoubtedly adds to the game world. However, in my view, the value of the phrase is none of these, save perhaps a deeper aspect of the latter. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s consider a separate type of depth beyond physical and immediate exploration.

Many, many entertainment experiences–cinematic, literary or of the gaming variety–celebrate the sheer wealth and breadth of the work on offer. Brilliant, unique characters populate fantastic (or decidedly unfantastic) settings and contain endless narrative threads for the enjoyment of the enterprising consumer. The Open-World Game–emphasis intended–was once a novelty, especially on consoles, limited by the processing power of the then-current generation of technology. Each one to drop was an event, a herald of the coming sea-change in gaming. Fable, Spiderman 2, any Elder Scrolls game, and (of course) Ever(crack)quest and World of War(crack)craft. Iconic releases that defined an era in gaming and iconic specifically for the massive sandboxes to explore and manipulate. And there is much indeed to explore and manipulate. The experience feels expansive in each case. One may plunge deep into the content and wheresoever one chooses. Few of these games suffer from the adage “a mile wide and an inch deep”, if any. That’s their claim to fame after all: depth. Indeed, what they’re lacking has little to do with depth or lack thereof, but rather age. Which is the essence of having once been an adventurer until taking an arrow to the knee. Having once been. Until.

What I’m describing is more than a plenitude of spatial distance. Rather, what brings this phrase to the forefront of Skyrim like no other part of Skyrim is its suggestion that there is a before and consequently after to the narrative. That in itself suggests that you, the player, are merely a mote passing along the diode of time. In simpler terms, the guard saying for the umpteenth number of times that he used to be an adventurer like you before taking an arrow to the knee takes the vast three-dimensional world that Bethesda has become so expert at developing and stretches all its manifold components and narratives across a fourth dimension: time.

The implication that there exists a before to your journey in any narrative likewise suggests an after, both together suggesting linear time, and that implication performs an immense amount of labor in creating a living world. Indeed, there is a wide gulf that exists between a living world and an expansive world. An expansive world, if unalive, is simply static. You are the only moving object within the world. In a sense, time does not exist in that world or at least not in a linear sense, for events (and so time) only progress whensoever you choose. Living worlds operate like this too. We have not truly found a way (no marketable way at any rate) to create a persistent world in which the player is literally merely a factor (as opposed to the mere suggestion that they are a factor). Rather it is the dimension of time that helps to bring alive an expansive world, to engender a sense of progression and movement outside and notwithstanding the actions of the player. For there is no way that the player can stop that arrow from sinking into that guard’s knee. There is no way to prevent his hobbling and thus allow for the rise of his adventuring career. The player has no control over this scenario. This derailing of his life persists with or without them.

And of course all of this is to the benefit of the player.

The respect paid to time–as to the cultures, the locales and characters–crosses a threshold for the expansive open world game that would not be crossed otherwise. Ambient time–that is, suggestions of the before and after along a linear path that are come across in the course of things–seeps in around the player like a ghost. Whispers that there was a world here before and will be a world long after. A memento mori, if you will, that the struggle of the player is perhaps not in vain but certainly not singular. This is a staggering concept, with sobering implications. What are we but the shadows of dust thrown against the wall by the light of the fire of life, briefly present and hardly remembered? Who are we; where are we going; do the matters of our lives matter in the scheme of time? The answers to those questions have occupied some of the best minds of our species for millennia and continue to do so.

The great Human Experiment remains incomplete and won’t be solved here. But we continue to explore that concept. And, at its core, this exploration of ambient time poses an existential question that I need not explain. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably a member of that self-selecting population who finds some twisted enjoyment in picking at the scab of their ennui. Rather the key thing is to understand how easily we might inject a little existential truth into the worlds we build for others to explore and inhabit, how easily we might deliver more than a vast material space filled with a plenitude of static entities.  Indeed, the point is no more or less complex than this: All that sobering truth, that world-shattering and world-deepening, was accomplished with this simple, little line: “I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow to the knee.”

Disco Pandemonium: The Gotterdammerung of Ideology

A few days ago I beat what is among the best games to be released in the last decade: Disco Elysium. The title functions on so many levels of nuance it’s disgusting, as many as the game itself does, and hits them all straight on. I won’t be delving into what makes it a great game. Better and more prominent (and actual) games journalists have pried into that subject with more depth and expertise than I have any desire to match. Rather I want, like the narcissist I am, to explore how the game made me feel.

But first, a brief explainer: You are Harrier DuBois, a washed-up cop who was once a Rock Star Supercop, a Disco aficionado and creature of the night, renowned for your legendary benders and borderline insane commitment to The Truth. But that was many years ago. Now you’re like an aged bloodhound: You’ve still got the nose, but not the get-up-and-go. You need copious amounts of speed for that, and alcohol to bring you back down to earth. That sordid tumble from cocaine-fueled stardom has led you to Martinaise, as much of a backwater of a town as you are a wreck of a man, a filthy port town in the nation of Revachol. Martinaise’s geography is not one that many in America have to look far to find in the Real World. For those in the Rust Belt, it’s right outside their door. People struggling, hanging on; buildings decaying; trash collecting but never overflowing; just the right side of dismal to keep from collapsing altogether. In essence, a ghoulish behemoth struggling on if only for the fact that its muscle memory reads no other way.

Martinaise, and Revachol with it, however differs from your standard post-industrial American shithole in one key way: It was once host to a revolutionary vanguard. The communards of Martinaise overthrew the local syphilitic monarch and so invited the wrath of the MoralIntern, the game’s stand-in for the IMF/UN/Globalists, who proceeded to annihilate the upstart militiamen in search of a new world and a new future for themselves. To anyone with a glancing knowledge of history, particularly lefitst history, this is a tale told again and again and again. South America is rife with American interventionism in its leftist movements, frequently precipitating violent crackdowns from right-wing factions. Both Russia and China saw foreign intervention in their civil wars in pursuit of a communist state. I’d also be remiss if I did not mention the many movements crushed by domestic police violence a la the Paris Commune of 1871.

This is something we do not know or rightfully understand in America. The protests and organizing of the 1960’s and 70’s pale in comparison to these others, who came far nearer the sun than we could ever have dreamed. To have achieved something, only to see it laid waste by some vast and insurmountable power, is a pain we perhaps will never know. Only this most recent primary can conceivably come close and put that pain into perspective, this massive upswell of organized power only to be dashed by legally illegal election rigging and party apparatchiks. The only way we can truly experience this feeling of defeat and dread, outside Bernie having won and subsequently shuttled off by a military coup, is through media. And Disco Elysium, like Les Miserables before it (yes, I went there), captures this perfectly.

It presents the sort of ideological vacuum that takes hold in the aftermath of the destruction of a popular movement. That sense of directionless, a mindless plodding onward without any heading but that which the bare necessities of life obligate you to pursue, shelter and sustenance, brilliantly exploited by a capitalist system. A void is opened in the heart that any light struggles to escape: We had come so close and were struck down. How do you recover from such a blow? How do you rally the people when charge upon charge of “Look what happened before…” may be levied against you? I don’t have the answer. Disco Elysium did not have the answer and that is perhaps the most poignant, sorrowful note of the game. At the end of all this soul-searching, this uncovering and confronting the ghosts of the past, both your own and the city’s, you are left only with the simple and grim clarity that comes after realizing a thing cannot be put right again. The old wars are lost, and a terrible peace was sown a long time ago despite all your fighting. There is simply the present, wan and plodding, and you simply must get on with it. No amount of amphetamines or alcohol will transmute this washed-out landscape back to its fresh glory. It’s over. They’ve won. And here you are.

It is not so difficult, then, to read this as the dirge of leftism as we have come to know it in the real world. What are all our wars but ones that were fought long ago, with surer hands and many more besides, and still lost? I’ve asked already how we recover from such a blow, but a more brutal question is perhaps how do you build upon ruins? How do you hew a new edifice when the foundations are already cracking beneath you? You can’t, and anyone who tells you otherwise has his hand in your pocket. It’s so very hard to see by the light of the sunset, let alone the dawn. But if we hope to see the full brightness of another day, we’ve got to let the dawn come. We’ve got to realize the sun is setting on the old days and all that the old days entail. We’ve got to embrace the dawn, even if that means embracing the night. We’re living through the twilight as it is–the gotterdammerung of ideology.

If I were to attempt to accurately sum up this current predicament, I’d say modern leftism is the Disco Cop. Run-down, tired, clinging onto the bright tapestry of the past in hopes that it will impart some magnificence to our lives today. And so this is a moment in time with only two outcomes: Either we transcend this crisis point and forge ahead with a new path, a new heading; or we descend, squabbling amongst ourselves and the world around us, into Armageddon. But trying to remain where we are will destroy us. Like the Disco Cop, failing to move on and acting against inertia will only exacerbate the agony when the world chooses for us.

I am of the mind, after all the shit we’ve gone through from 2016 to now, that an entirely new approach needs crafted and pursued. No Democratic Party, no Green Party ticket. Throwing our lot in with either is to embrace the old, the old that hasn’t worked in decades and by no discernible logic looks to work in the future. It is tantamount to willingly take on baggage that isn’t yours. I’d go so far as to abandon the DSA, the SRA, the PSL, and all acronyms in between. Throw the colors in the trash and forget all the thinkers and writers, themselves whales beaching themselves on the shores of history. Retain the theory, reject the fountainheads that only encourage infighting and factionalism. If it casts aspersions or burdens us with iconography that does more to dissolve than to adhere, leave it in the dust bin. The cause is all, and everything is a tool and means to facilitate that cause. Nothing else and no more.

There’s no time or choices left but the one, as near as I can tell. We’re at the finish line, if not as a movement then as a species. This is a war, solely ideological at present, but that does not change the fact that we need to treat the cause as such. All our resources and machinery and infrastructure must be retrofitted to achieve the aim of a socialist state, whether electorally or otherwise. If we don’t right the ship soon, we’ll be living in the same nihilistic hellscape the Russians are right now. Our sense of individual reality will be courted and manipulated by an ominously nebulous state that exists beyond the bounds of electoral action or organizing, in which need to enforce a police state with open brutality is almost nonexistent. Indeed, a political landscape so efficiently managed and crafted to vent frustrations without resulting in substantive change that popular uprisings simply will not occur. I fear, like the Disco Cop, we may be at the precipice already.

So, which way are you gonna jump?