Riding the Satellite to the Millennium

How do we know that we exist? The last philosopher for the next millennium, Vice President Al Gore, has the ultimate answer: place a satellite in space that will continuously beam the image of earth in its entirety to all the screens in the world. Whenever we doubt our existence we can log on to the site - www.existence.com - and be assured that we actually exist.

The satellite will be located a million miles from the earth, at a point where sun and earth cancel out their mutual gravity. A zero point, a point of objectivity, a point of suspension of all force. A flat point where all hierarchy is subsumed, all force is nullified, all contradiction is resolved. A point where there is no reality, because there is no depth. A point of inertia. A point of death. From this vantage-point, the earth will be made visible in its entirety. Against the backdrop of black space, the earth will be seen in all its blue nakedness. Exhibitionism on a global scale. The perverse spectacle of the exhibitionist is not staged shamelessly for the other, but for his own benefit. The other is a mere prop to locate his gaze, to see his own obscenity.

The satellite will be named Triana, after the sailor Rodriguez de Triana, who, sailing on the Pinta at two in the morning on October 12, 1492, woke from his slumber and screamed "Land, land!" Did Triana spot land or the later death that awaited thirty-nine sailors on the land he saw?

It's appropriate that the "environmental" vice president should think of such a fabulous idea. Environmentalism is the attitude of a conqueror's benevolence towards the conquered. Letting the vanquished live on borrowed time, as exemplary spoils of an accomplished deed. What difference is there between a dinosaur skeleton in a nature museum and a grizzly bear in its natural habitat? Both are man made. One a fossil of the past, the other a fossil of the present. The museum ideology of preservation now wants to cross the horizon of possibility by turning the earth into an exhibit; but where will we build a museum big enough to hold the earth? In the virtual museum, the earth will always be there, preserved like a mummy wrapped in blue, free to see whenever we want with a click of a mouse-button. We will have to see it again and again on the screen, because we have no memory. The computer is the keeper of our memories. The screen is the eye that gazes - but does not see; that displays - but does not reflect.

In 1985 the whole world was jubilant, ecstatic with joy that a diseased prophesy of a demented writer had not come true. But prophets are never wrong. 1984 was realized and it is here to stay. The truth of 1984 is not the subjugation of humanity by force nor the controlling of minds, but the power of the screen. Screens everywhere. Subjugation is the seduction, subjugated are the seduced - seduced by the screen. The seduced neither have power nor will. The enchanted are the imitators of an image, wanting to be like it, to be in place of it, to be the image. Is it meconnaissance? No. Misrecognition always implies a future, an Ulyssean promise of disenchantment, a possibility of returning to the beginning, to Penelope. We are beyond it, on the other side of mirror stage. The mirror has absorbed the child.

On Thursday October 26, 2028 the whole world will log on to the web site, www.existence.com or will be glued to the TV, like any other day, viewing the image of earth from Triana, awaiting asteroid 1997XF11 to strike. At an appointed time, 1:30 PM Eastern Time to be precise, the fascinated victims will witness their own terminal fadeout in real time (the famous French psychiatrist Clerambault killed himself in front of a mirror). Freud analyzed the Wolf-Man and located the cause for his neurosis in the Wolf-Man's witnessing the moment of his conception. What psychosis will the witnessing of the moment of death produce? Who will analyze these children of the mirror?

Seeing oneself die? "But it is a comedy!" laughed Bataille. For consciousness to come to its fruition, to become self-conscious, "the privileged manifestation of Negativity," death has to be actualized. "In order for Man to reveal himself ultimately to himself, he would have to die, but he would have to do it while living - watching himself ceasing to be" (Hegel, Death and Sacrifice). Bataille was right in so far as the impossibility of realizing self-consciousness in actual space and time.

But Bataille was wrong because he lacked prophetic vision. He did not envisage the fourth order of representation that will resolve all contradictions - the coming of a simulacrum that will make everything possible. In the simulacrum, the last man is born: self-conscious, the Spirit of the last man utters the final Yes. He lives in the night under the pale glow of a screen casting the lengthiest shadow. He lives the longest. He is the Beautiful Soul. He is the Man without the Other. The only child of the Simulacrum.


Even before I wrote the above, it was definitively proven that the death rock 1997XF11 will not strike the earth, but will pass us at a distance of 300,000 miles, ignoring us. What an arrogance! But I am talking here about the future, and as Alejo Carpentier said, "every future is fabulous."

Pithamber R. Polsani is Assistant Professor of Spanish, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Arizona, Tucson. He is currently working on two books, Comedia on the Graph of Desire, a Lacanian reading of seventeenth century Spanish theatre; and The Mirror Children.