Posted by: Ben | April 9, 2012

Case Of The Ex: Introduction

“A bunch of pretentious old men playing at running the world. But the world left them behind long ago. We are the future.”
Bob Page

Unknown location

In a hidden bunker in a secret location, two rich white men are discussing their plan to take over the world. The floor is marble, the décor brutalist. A huge sculpture of their organisation’s logo has been erected in the lobby at massive cost. They both have luxurious and well-appointed offices elsewhere in the building, but they are standing in the lobby because a catastrophic failure of interior design has left all the upstairs rooms too hot to go in. Despite the ambition and complexity of their plans, they retain an imperturbable confidence.

“Our introductory movie should be finalised within the week,” says the one on the right. He’s a middle aged man, balding but in excellent physical condition. There are parallel lines marked on his forehead, suggesting early adoption of some minor bio-mechanical augmentation. It is rumoured that he can read minds. His name is Warren Spector, founder of Ion Storm Austin and producer of Deus Ex. “I’ve already discussed the matter with the President,” he adds, referring to Eidos president Ian Livingstone.

See the woman on the left? As soon as she walks behind the sculpture, she just stops. You can still see her head. If there was a boom mic you would probably be able to see that as well.

“I take it he was agreeable?” replies his colleague, a thick-set man in a black coat who speaks in a lugubrious monotone. He has slicked back hair, shaved over the ears. On his face his veins are thick, swollen and pulsating, a symptom of nano-augmentation rejection. He is Harvey Smith, Lead Designer of Deus Ex.

“He didn’t really have a choice.” Eidos had thrown so much money at the development of Deus Ex that if it failed their shareholders would all be sweeping chimneys for a living.

“Has he been infected? With enthusiasm for what is basically going to be the best game ever, I mean.”

“Oh yes, most certainly. When I mentioned that there was a priority list for the ambrosia vaccine, he was so willing it was almost pathetic. I mean, that’s a really awkward piece of exposition. Post-exposure prophylaxis is a terribly inefficient way of dealing with a dangerous communicable disease, especially when people have to go on a waiting list after they’re infected.”

Smith gives no further thought to the implicit suggestion that the game might contain a ham-fisted continuity fudge within the first 30 seconds, returning instead to the matter in hand. “The twist of Bob Page and Walton Simons turning out to be evil is so obvious we might not be able to contain it.”

“Why contain it? Let it spill over into the opening cinematic, let it be blatantly obvious that they’re villains from day one. In the end, we’re not making a game for idiots. Our audience are sensible, media-savvy people. They know how these thrillers work. Agent discovers corruption within his organisation, goes rogue, defeats the bad guys. It’s a drama, not a mystery.”

“What about The Manchurian Candidate?”

“I haven’t seen it. Who watches films nowadays?”

“Hmm.” Smith strokes his chin, evoking the race-memory of Jimmy Hill. “I hope you’re not underestimating the problem. The reviewers may not go as quietly as you think – intelligence indicates some of them consider that giving out this information so early reduces dramatic tension.”

The camera zooms right into Spector/Page’s eyeball and this rather awkward imaginary dialogue breaks down.

Regrettably the “maturity” memo didn't reach the breast team. Neither did the “competence” memo reach the animators.

“Hide the dog, there's an inspector coming.” More low farce at St. Escher's Free Hospital.

Meanwhile, in the actual Deus Ex introduction, we find ourselves under attack from more facts than we can make sense of on a single viewing. Certainly Page and Simons are exploiting the plague to extend their already substantial influence over world society and its elected officials, and it would come as no surprise should we learn that they had in fact engineered it.

We are shown the UNATCO team in conference at Liberty Island, where the Statue has had her head blown clear (but not destroyed) in a sinister and unprecedented attack on one of America’s most important icons. This ceremonial execution of a symbol of freedom is a considerably more powerful and apt symbol than an attack on the World Trade Center (which symbolises capitalism) or the Pentagon (representing the US’s military strength; the Pentagon also has an occult significance.) We are not told who was responsible for the attack, but it seems unlikely that the NSF would be responsible, unless they objected to the statue’s possible Masonic connections. Famously, the twin towers will later turn out to be missing from Deus Ex’s New York skyline.

Only about a dozen UNATCO staff are involved in the ..briefing? ..dedication ceremony? Jamie Reyes is there, along with Gunther and Anna, but neither of our conspirators are present. One unnamed Unatco member can be seen to have a tattoo of an eye on the back of his neck, the recognised international symbol of the conspiracy theory. This symbol, with or without its accompanying pyramid, has been variously used to represent Freemasonry, the Illuminati, Catholicism and the Trinity, Horus, the United States, Buddhism, Count Olaf, and Warren Spector’s former employer Steve Jackson Games.

Maybe our Man In Black has worked for one or other of these secret societies in the past. Or alternatively he could have been in prison. However he got the tattoo, the message he wants to send to anyone creeping up behind him is the same – you are being watched. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the eye in the pyramid in the future.

In the juxtaposition of this all-seeing eye with the severed head of the Statue, we are given an unsettling reminder of the saying attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” This in turn leads us to the Benjamin Franklin quotation which is to be found on a plaque somewhere in the vicinity of the statue: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!

"So basically, we've invented the greasel. Well done everyone."

Not being a pretentious old man playing at running the world himself, Page is comfortable referring to the work of Thomas Aquinas.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16

A quick search of Aquinas finds that the words “city” and “hill” don’t appeart together anywhere in his most important works, the Summa Theologica or Summa Contra Gentiles, although he does include commentary on the passage in his Catena Aurea, an extensive synthesis of earlier analyses of the four gospels. The consensus as he presents it is that the passage refers to the worldly prestige that Jesus expected his apostles to attain through preaching his message. It appears to be accepted that the “city” represents the Church.

In City of God (427 CE) Augustine of Hippo equates this city with the virtuous lives of Christians. After the Last Judgement, and the resurrection of the body, the city takes on physical form and is directly ruled by God, equated with the “New Jerusalem” of the book of Revelation. Augustine makes some attempt to describe this city, but Aquinas in the Summa Theologica (1273) goes further. He attempts to predict the laws of physics after the renewal of the world and the glorification of man, concluding that the movements of the heavenly bodies will cease, the brightness of the sun and moon will increase, and that plants and animals will cease to exist.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
Revelation 21:2-3

Eschatology is the defining factor in this kind of global conspiracy. There would be no point in having a shadowy body of powerful men behind the government if they weren’t trying to bring about the stated Neoconservative goal of the End of History, to immanentize the Eschaton. We find the “New Jerusalem” mirrored in the “King of the Israel who will become Patriarch of the world” in the endgame of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1903) and in the Antichrist of premillennial dispensationalist Christianity (dating from the mid 19th century). Thus the image of the post-historic city is portrayed as desirable or otherwise depending on whether it is shown as being with or against Christianity. Note that the key historical antecedent of this plotline in Deus Ex is an antisemitic work of fiction which exists as a point on the line of thought that led to the Holocaust.

Not that the foundations of such cities are devised solely by shadowy men in smoky rooms, fictional or otherwise. The “shining city on the hill” was an inspirational metaphor for the Puritan colonists of America. In a 1630 sermon, John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massecheussets Bay Colony, said “We must consider that we shall be as a city on a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” So America itself, at least in the eyes of its own founders, is the city. This American exceptionalism is a central plank of right-wing American thought.

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”
Ronald Reagan

So will the city be a nice place to live? That all depends on whose side you’re on. Theocracies can be a living hell for people whose ethics differ from those of the ruling party, and as we’ve seen from modern America, the “freedom” espoused by the Right can seem to be antithetical to the liberal interpretation of the same principle. Here’s another Reagan quote: “Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.” But cities tend to be big places, and the social development of America has been influenced as much by liberalism as by puritanism.

The goal of the “shining city” represents an obvious source of tension for Bob Page and Walton Simons. The New Jerusalem is a powerful metaphor for the kinds of changes our secret conspirators hope to bring about through judicious application of biotechnology. But of course, it’s primarily a myth for monotheists. Such a city doesn’t have “gods”, it has “a God.” This town isn’t going to be big enough for the both of them, a society composed of none but the wicked contains the seeds of its own destruction, and Walton Simons, henchman, is essentially doomed. Like America, trying to hold itself together under the tension of the culture wars?

As Warren Spector might have said, but didn’t, most probably because it would have been rubbish: “Romero spoke of making you his bitch. Soon that bitch will be a reality. But it won’t be Romero’s. Better than that. It will be mine!”

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