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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Regrettable Past, Guilty Future

In her Utopian work of fiction, "Three Hundred Years Hence," Mary Griffith presents readers with a future version of the United States depicted as a dream by the protagonist, Edgar Hastings.  While discovering the new world Hastings presents many questions pertaining to the status quo and technology of his day.  Most of his answers are provided by a historical ledger called the "Recorder of Self-Inflicted Miseries."

On page 47 of the text the "Recorder's" purpose is explained to Hastings, "But I have a file of the Recorder of Self-inflicted Miseries, and you will see the regular gradation from the barbarisms of your day to the unenlightened times it has been permitted you to see" (Griffith 47).

What I am interested in exploring here is the ledger's title. It is a recorder. It records history. The process of recording something, such as an audio file, means that facts, histories, and quotations would be written verbatim--no editorializing, no paraphrasing, just cold, hard information exactly as it was presented originally.

The next portion of the journal's title is even more interesting.  The document means to record "miseries."  This would suggest that there would be no happy news in this record, just all the bad things that occurred throughout history.  Okay, so far we have an exact record of all the bad shit in the world.

What really changes the intent and the purpose of the "Recorder" is the fact that the "Miseries" it records are "Self-Inflicted."  Meaning, humanity has no one to blame for the bad shit that happened but themselves.  It does not seek to blame nature, fortune, or happenstance: it blames humanity.  Humanity, why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? Why did you hit yourself? Why did you inflict "barbarism" upon yourself? You did. Really, you did.  We have it here: all the miseries as they happened, verbatim.

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