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Gravity's Rainbow Reading Group | Sections 66-69 | Week 20
Alright, home stretch foax. This section's a beast. Hang in there and keep sharing your insights! All together now... Section 66 "You will want cause and effect. All right." (663) What an opening - it's almost confrontational, mocking our need for clear narrative structure and causality. We discover that Thanatz was tossed overboard in the same storm that sent Slothrop off the Anubis and off on his adventure with Frau Gnahb. Thanatz is rescued by someone even stranger - an unnamed Polish undertaker (think on the etymology of that word) who happens to be a lightening aficionado. I'll stop here and comment that, earlier, when Slothrop fell into the water before and after getting on the Anubis, it brought to mind the river Styx in Hades - another underworld. It washes clean one's identity and memory. Makes you forget who you are. And there's traditionally a ferryman, Charon, to help people cross it. Can't help but think that's who saved Thanatz here, carrying him from the land of the dead to the land of the unliving, the preterite detritus of WWII. (An aside: Speaking of Styx, has anyone listened to Mr. Roboto recently? That song has some Gravity's Rainbow vibes.) Our undertaker here is inspired by the Franklin myth and is trying to get struck by lightening in order to experience that "singular point, [that] discontinuity in the curve of life" (664) passing from a rate of change of positive infinity to one of negative infinity in the blink of an eye. Seems there's something of a conspiracy among those who have been through this point of infinite inflection - a secret society of lightening heads who are aware not of another reality but of a new layer of reality laid on top of our own. Insight into a higher level of reality, of hidden systems. We get an example of the content of the lightning-aficionado's publication A Nickel Saved and it's supposedly full of coded messages for Those Who Know, each part being a veiled reference to other topics that contain the true meaning, requiring a true paranoid's ability to see (make?) connections. For example, there are repeated mentions of April, Easter, and Spring - the season of rebirth. To an Amperage Contest and lightbulbs failing - Byron the Bulb's attempts to strike back, perchance? A screen-door salesman - what is a screen door except a permeable interface? But our undertaker isn't interested in secret knowledge - he just wants to be a better businessman - and he deposits Thanatz on the shore and rows back off into the storm. Here, Thanatz meets a group of 175s - men formerly imprisoned in the Dora camp for being gay - who have formed their own solitary community in this isolated section of northern Germany. I suspect some of this imagery may initially shock readers - concentration camp victims who want to return to their prison? Who set up their own 175-Stadt to recreate the conditions of their imprisonment? But think about it - just last section, we saw Katje, someone who's been used and abused by those in power, balk at the thought of being truly free because she had become dependent on systems of control. She had integrated those control systems as part of her identity, her sense of self. "She needs the whip," Blicero wrote of her (662). Just like Katje, these men became so conditioned to depend on a system of total control and rigid social hierarchies that they don't know how to function without it. Their 175-Stadt doesn't seem like such a ridiculously dark, inappropriate caricature now, does it? Because isn't that a central point of this book - that everyone has been conditioned to need control, to need Their System, to not know how to function without it? Slothrop was our perfect everyman from within this system, and look at what it took for him to actually be free (and even then, the ideal of America still has a colonial outpost in his head). But in their 175-Stadt, these men at least control their system of control. They built it, they staff every level of it, and it's entirely under their control. An isolated state, separate from the broader System. But is there a ruler in this system, a king? No, simply the figment of Blicero. His name, his specter, looming over everything. A system of control with no real king? We've seen that before. Not only that, but this micro-society is not based strictly on the SS command from Dora, but what the prisoners inferred about the rocket command structure in the Mittelwerke. So even their "recreation" of their imprisonment is an approximation of a different system. I'd also stop here to comment that, is this imagery really as ridiculous/insane as it first appears? I'd say no, since the queeS&M community absolutely took inspiration from Nazi uniforms as symbols of dominance and control, repurposing it into fetishwear. But then, as in this 175-Stadt, the control is by choice, as is the submission. As we've seen elsewhere in this book (Blicero's Oven-State), turning submission into a fetish can be a form of rebellion, since it subverts Their means of control (fear of pain) and turns it into a source of pleasure. Is it truly control if you're choosing it? Enjoying it? No one said this book asks easy questions of its readers... Thanatz keeps looking for answers, and gets swept up amidst the vast swarms of preterite Displaced Persons being shifted across the zone. What's concerning is that these supposedly-free, albeit displaced, people, are shuffled without purpose across the Zone, with minimal food, water, or medicine, being "herded into wire enclosure[s]" and shipped around in freight cars, "deloused, poked, palpated, named, numbered, consigned, invoiced, misrouted, detained, ignored" (669). It's almost impossible to miss the painful similarity here to the treatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. Only here the mistreatment isn't out of some pathological hatred, simply a system without a place for so many people, and without the committed resources to actually, effectively help them. The thought is unsettling, since we like to imagine that only Naziesque hatred could prompt such brutal mistreatment, not apathy. Finally, he's rescued by the Schwarzkommando thanks to his knowledge of Blicero and the firing of Rocket 00000. Here, we learn a bit more about what happened that day. Looking into Blicero's eyes, he saw windmills reflected, though none were in the area. Another four-way mandala, like we saw last week with Slothrop. Thanatz isn't in great mental shape by this point, and he's beginning to equate Gottfried and Bianca both as his children. Why? Because he felt some sense of responsibility to them? Because he failed them? Either way, the Schwarzkommando learn all they need from him about that fateful noon on the Heath, though we do not. The section ends with a simple touch of hands between Enzian and Christian, a moment of connection, of trust. Section 67 Man, how do I even start summarizing this complete doozy of a section? As Weissenburger writes, "In this episode the narration begins to fragment." (344) Ya don't say... Well, here goes. We being one serious trip of a section with Slothrop, as part of a rather unimpressive team of quasi-superheros (the "Floundering Four") fighting against evil ol' Broderick Slothrop amidst the factory-state (a Metropolis-like iteration of the Rocket-State with movable buildings?!). Broderick, in the role of comic book supervillain, keeps trying to off Slothrop, but our hero has a lucky streak just wide enough to keep him alive. Right off the bat, we see another image of the chessboard - the whole factory-state is laid out in a grid, and it's all A Game of Chess, as der Springer already informed us, and our movements are limited. Crucially, "Your objective is not the King - there is no King - but momentary targets such as the Radiant Hour." (674) How can you win at chess when there's no King? How can the land be restored and the cycle renewed if there's no King to die and be replaced? Slothrop is joined by a truly slipshod lot: Myrtle Miraculous, the only one who seems to have actual powers; Maximilian, a suave Black club manager who can flow with all natural rhythms and thus able to navigate any scenario with ease, and Marcel, a mechanical chess player (an embodiment of the Mechanical Turk, but crucially, one without the hidden human operator. No hidden Grandmaster lurking inside Marcel here - nope, this android's the real deal. This section includes one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Decisions are never really made - at best they manager to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all-round assholery." (676) I can think of several times where I've been able to relate to that scenario all too well. Their chances for success and failure are equal, but these opposing odds don't cancel each other out - instead, the two opposing forces just create a "loud dissonance". The crew undertake some truly hallucinatory adventures through the Racketen-Stadt which I will not attempt to summarize, as that would be an exercise in futility. But we are treated to flashes of Slothrop, "Broderick and Nalline's shadow-child, their unconfessed, their monster son," (677) getting locked in an icebox, piloting a mobile building through the grid-streets of the factory-state like a giant chess piece. One line really jumps out at me, here, that I think is important: "Their struggle is not the only, or even the ultimate one. Indeed, not only are there many other struggles, but there are also spectators, watching, as spectators will do, hundreds of thousands of them." (679) Makes me think of the "glozing neuters," mentioned earlier - of the masses of people who are just trying to live their lives, neither part of any conspiracy nor actively aware of being subject to one. Must be nice. At the same time, the idea of other, simultaneous struggles, is noteworthy - it brings to mind the concept of intersectionality, and how people realizing their unique, individual struggles share common sources, and common traits, which they can work together to fight. We end this sub-section in an arena for these exact masses, where our heroes are on a stakeout, with Slothrop in full drag waiting in the Transvestites' Toilet for a message. You may be wondering about the multiple instances of cross-dressing, in various iterations, throughout the book. Slothrop in drag and Blicero in a wig and merkin come to mind. One aspect, I'd say, is that it reflects a blending of two (as far as society is generally concerned) binary opposites. A crossing-over, a transgression against the status quo and an option other than 1 or 0. Eliot, in his Notes on The Waste Land, wrote,
"Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem." (Emphasis mine).
Cue Crutchfield the Westwardman's world of only one of everything. Likewise, the women in Gravity's Rainbow often blend together, share traits or imagery. So do the men. The joining of the two sexes in Blicero, as well as Slothrop here at the end, is significant. The Low-Frequency Listeners The introduction here of the character of Rohr, the Keeper of the Antenna, specifically as a Jehovah's witness, was odd. It's such a specific subsect of Christianity. Then we see - he heard a man on the radio, dying, asking for a priest. Rohr says, "Should I have got on and told him about priests? Would he've found any comfort in that?" (682). In what? I had to look it up, but when I did, it clicked - Jehovah's witnesses apparently do not have priests, because they are all ordained. There is no separate priest caste in their church, and thus no Preterite/Elect division. In this section, we also learn that the Nuremberg trials are getting underway. Mom Slothrop's Letter to Ambassador Kennedy You start to feel even more sorry for Slothrop as you realize just how terrible his parents apparently were. His mom cares enough to at least write another letter asking Ambassador Kennedy as to what the hell happened to their son, but her letter quickly devolves into drunken ramblings complaining about striking workers and managing to make an innuendo about Jack Kennedy while also dismissing her love of her sons. Oof. Maybe Otto was right with his conspiracy of mothers... On the Phrase "Ass-Backwards" An entertaining linguistic debate between Säure and Slothrop on American idioms, specifically ones involving a reversal, as in the case of "ass-backwards". The section then slips into a story of Säure, in his youth, breaking into the home of a young woman, Minnie, who is unable to hear or pronounce umlauted letters, and thus manages to shout the word "helicopter" rather than "cute robber" well before the vehicle was ever invented. Her cry is heard by none other than a young aerodynamics student. The word is taken as a prophesy and a warning of the helicopter's symbol of the police state, with armed officers hanging out the sides, aiming down at their targets. My Doper's Cadenza It begins with a serenade from Bodine, and then an exploration of the tenement building "Der Platz" that is home to numerous drug addicts, dope peddlers, and general ne'er-do-wells. They are building an anti-police moat around the building, entirely underground so as to avoid detection, saving breaking through the street for the end. Shit 'n' Shinola Another idiomatic diversion for Säure. A beautiful line is tucked away in here - "from outside, the Hall is golden, the white gold precisely of one lily-of-the-valley petal in 4 o'clock sunlight, serene, at the top of an artificially-graded hill." (687) This building, the Schein-Aula (Seeming-Hall), suggests "persistence, through returns of spring, hopes for love, melting snow and ice, academic Sunday tranquillities, smells of grass just crushed or cut or later turning to hay..." (688) Yet again, imagery of spring, of a return to life from the dead season of winter, of the cycle. We return to the Roseland Ballroom, where shit 'n' Shinola do actually come together. "Shit, now, is the color white folks are afraid of. Shit is the presence of death, not some abstract-arty character with a scythe but the stiff and rotting corpse itself inside the whiteman's warm and private own asshole, which is getting pretty intimate. That's what that white toilet's for.... that white porcelain's the very emblem of Odorless and Official Death." (688) Here Pynchon cuts straight to the point - the almost pathological fear of death and its connections to fears of blackness, excrement. Shit, Death, and the Word. Edwin Treacle hit on this back on p. 276 when he tried to show his colleagues at the White Visitation "that their feelings about blackness were tied to feelings about shit, and feelings about shit to feelings about putrefaction and death." The cycle of life is too organic, too messy. Better to replace carbon with silicon, to hide shit with porcelain, to treat people with dark skin as "other" or sub-human to avoid acknowledging that their non-European, communal ways of life were, in fact, totally natural. An Incident in the Transvestites' Toilet Not King Kong, but a small, costumed ape comes up to Slothrop, who's wearing a Fay Wray dress while waiting in the bathroom for a still-unspecified message. We get a Miltonic blank-verse poem (thanks, Weissenburger!) about the movie King Kong, written in the voice of Anne Darrow (Fay Wray's character). It's honestly quite good - I love the line "in your own stone living space" - the internal rhyme there sounds really nice, and I like the riff on living stone / Livingston, both of which have popped up previously. In the poem, Darrow talks about when she was tied up, hung by the natives as an offering to "the night's one Shape to come" (689), echoing both Greta Erdman's scene in Alpdrücken and the Hanged Man card of the Tarot (willing sacrifice, sacrifice that prompts a return, a renewal of the cycle). Darrow says she prayed, "not for Jack," her suave costar, but for her director Carl Denham, "only him, with gun and camera... making the unreal reel / By shooting at it, one way or the other-" (689). Throughout GR, we've seen a film motif, and this really brings it home. The analogy of a gun to a camera, both of which make the unreal real (a camera creates films that interpret real life - the "unreal reel", a gun makes death, which we've blocked away and tried to avoid, real and inescapable). The director is in control of the movie, the actors, the story, of how it works and what is told. Darrow ends by asking Carl to "show me the key light, whisper me a line..." - a key light is used in cinema and photography to not just shed light on the subject, but to do so in a way that provides form and dimension to the subject and the scene. So Darrow is asking for the director to literally give her form and definition, to tell her what to say next. This ape, though, isn't so Romantic as ol' Kong though, and is much more direct. It hands Slothrop an anarchist's bomb straight out of the comics pages, and takes off. Slothrop freezes and is saved by a helpful transvestite who takes the bomb and flushes it down the toilet. But it explodes anyway, sending geysers of water up out of all the toilets. A Voice comes out of he Loudspeaker informing everyone that it was, in fact, a sodium bomb that explodes upon contact with water. Tellls everyone to get the "dangerous maniac" who threw it. That was supposed to be Slothrop, but he was saved by his indecision and the kindness of a stranger, who is now set upon by the other occupants of the toilet. A Moment of Fun with Takeshi and Ichizo, the Komical Kamikazes We now jump to a pair of comically-mismatched Kamikaze pilots stationed on a remote island well away from any conflict. One flies a Zero, the other flies an "Ohka device" which is basically a rocket-bomb with a pilot's seat. They get moonshine from their radarman, Kenosho, who mocks them daily for the lack of opportunities to fly to their deaths and who comes up with haikus that, while in the right format, really miss the heart of what a haiku is supposed to be. Streets Back to Slothrop, now, and a catalogue of the streets he's traveled down and what he's seen. We get a meditation on the absurdity of army chaplains, who worked for the Army and "stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation." (693) And it does seem a bit absurd when you consider that the Army that employs the chaplains is the same entity sending the men off to die. We see a bus driver (perchance our maniac bus driver from earlier?) driving through town in the night, his passengers looking out the windows, their faces "drowned-man green, insomniac, tobacco-starved, scared, not of tomorrow, not yet, but of this pause in their night-passage, of how easy it will be to lose, and how much it will hurt..." (693) Going back to the Waste Land, the phrase "I do not find / The Hanged Man. Fear death by water." is symbolic of a death without return (drowning) contrasted to the sacrifice/return symbolized by The Hanged Man. These poor passengers, it seems, aren't to expect any return. Slothrop also, at this point, learns of the bombing of Hiroshima from a discarded Army newspaper, the photo of the atomic blast placed in poor taste next to an image of a pin-up girl. The bomb's mushroom cloud is compared to the Cross, to a capital-T Tree. But which tree? Is this a meditation on the deadly, unforgettable knowledge of how to split the atom, or of the tree of life, with the citizens of Hiroshima as a sacrifice made... but to what? I'm honestly not sure. Would love your thoughts. Listening to the Toilet As others have noted, this book in many ways is about the drug counterculture and hippie movement of the 60s/early 70s. This is the most overt in this section, in which we learn that listening for the cessation of the flow of water to the toilet in the pipes is a cue that a police raid is imminent - shutting off the water being a way to prevent the flushing of illicit substances. But it takes a special ear to hear the cessation of a subtle, pervasive white noise. What if the sun, in fact, massive furnace that it is, emits a constant, low-level roar that is so incessant we don't even hear it? What if eddies in the current of the Soniferous Aether cause rare spots of true quiet, where the noise is no longer transmitted and anyone in that spot can hear their own heartbeat it's so quiet? Interestingly, there are "quiet rooms" designed to absorb nearly all sound, used for precise sound calibration. I remember reading that most people can't sit in one of those rooms for more than 30 minutes or so because it's literally so quiet that you can hear the blood flowing through your veins, and people have even reported auditory hallucinations as a result. But why this digression? Maybe because we need to be asking what other white noise is out there that we've become completely deaf to? I think Roger and Jessica found a pocket of this quiet, early in the book, where the "noise" of modern society and all its associated obligations was muted by the War. Witty Repartee A return to our Komical Kamikazes, and a meditation on the ubiquity of the Hotchkiss machine gun across nations, independent of alliances. We get an image of a false King - an inbred idiot lying naked in a dumpster, attracting the attention of potential revolutionaries. But they can't decide if he's "a diversionary nuisance planted here by the Management, or whether he's real Decadent Aristocracy to be held for real ransom" (698). While the would-be revolutionaries are debating in the alley, sentries with the aforementioned Hotchkiss guns take positions on the rooftops, aiming down... Heart-to-Heart, Man-to-Man A dialogue here between Slothrop and ol' Broderick, with dear old dad interrogating his wayward son about a modern electric drug. Slothrop reassures him that he'd never shoot raw electricity - no, they dope themselves with waves. Major pre-Cyberpunk vibes here, with Broderick warning "Suppose someday you just plug in and go away and never come back?" to which Tyrone replies, "What do you think every electrofreak dreams about? .... Maybe there is a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us out through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever.... We can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified Electroworld-" (699). Matrix, anyone? Not to mention the waves of radio, TV, etc. and the simple, episodic, controlled reality they offer. Pleasantville also comes to mind, with all its commentary on the shows of the era. Some Characteristics of Imipolex G We learn that Imipolex G is the first erectile plastic, stiffening in response to certain electronic stimuli. The potential of a layer of controlling wires just under the outer layer of Imipolex, making it a second skin - a synthetic interface. Alternately, there's the potential to control it via a projection of "an electronic 'image; analogous to a motion picture." (700) My gods, I made it through this section... Section 68 Tchitcherine now, dealing with a spook, Nikolai Ripov, from the Commissariat for Intelligence Activities. His pal Džabajev has run off with "two local derelicts" (700) and is impersonating Frank Sinatra and wooing the ladies of the Zone. We get the line, "While nobles are crying in their nights' chains, the squires sing. The terrible politics of the Grail can never touch them. Song is the magic cape." (701) - Seems another example of folks recognizing the game, the Grail quest, for what it was and checking out - deciding not to play and just enjoy themselves while the Elect lose sleep over the endless searching. Ripov explains to Tchitcherine how "the basic problem... has always been getting other people to die for you." (701) Religion used to serve as an effective control for that reason - death isn't quite as scary if you think you're going to heaven. But modern society has moved on, and needs more secular sources of control, like a commitment to "History" as if you're part of some great narrative, sacrificing yourself for some imagined end-goal of what society is "supposed" to be. Seems Tchitcherine was doping on Oneirine theophosphate. Wimpe, his dealer, argues that a man is "only real at the points of decision. The time between doesn't matter." (702) Points man again - the moment of decision, of choice, that splits the future in two. Points of control. Contrast that to:
"Datta: what have we given? / My friend, blood shaking my heart / The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract / By this, and this only, we have existed." (The Waste Land, Part V: What the Thunder Said - emphasis mine).
Both are arguing that it's these key moments, irreversible junctures in our lives that make us real. Not what comes next, not what people say about us, just our moments. Integrate those moments, run them fast enough (say 24 frames per second) and you might even approximate something close to a person... We learn that Oneirine apparently leads to "the dullest hallucinations known to psychopharmacology" (703) - hauntings of the mundane, the almost-normal. Tchitcherine's Haunting Tchitcherine hallucinates that Ripov is interrogating him, and he becomes fixated on the question of whether or not he was supposed to die. Seems like part of him wants to believe in life after death, in some hope for meaning, which goes against the Soviet doctrine and thus isn't exactly endearing him to those above him. Thankfully this is just an Oneirine haunting, except... wait, it's too real - no subtle violations of reality. He tries to escape, but is outnumbered. But no execution for him here - just a reassignment to Central Asia. A cold and operational death. Section 69
"The dearest nation of all is one that will survive no longer than you and I, a common movement at the mercy of death and time: the ad hoc adventure." - Resolutions of the Gross Suckling Conference (706)
In other words, they seek a nation that does not function independently of its citizens - one that is not some separate identity with a quasi-personhood (much like how corporations are legally "people"). Rather, a nation that is inextricably linked to the people and that will die when they do. No immortality, no denial of the cycle or death. But poor Roger's still dealing with Jessica, and now with Jeremy, too, who he's at least amicable with. But he's struggling with their acceptance of the System, their embracing of it. Jeremy's all about reassembling the rockets and firing them, asking "What else does one do with a rocket?" (note how disassembling it or at least not using the weapon isn't even an option...). Jeremy's even so kind as to invite Roger to a fancy dinner with a bunch of corporate bigwigs, including folks from Krupp, ICI, and GE, and hosted by one Stefan Utgarthaloki, whose name should be a giant red-flag that something's amiss with this shindig. Roger picks Seaman Bodine as his date, the two having struck up a rather theatrical friendship, dress in their absurdist best (Bodine in the mother of all zoot suits), and join the party. We get some insight here into the nature of rebellions, and the danger of them not only fizzling out or failing, but of being co-opted as a tool to "help legitimize Them" (713). Of either dying or "living on as Their pet" - it brings to mind the corporate branding of "rebelliousness" as cool, as "a phase" that it's normal to go through and eventually grow up from. Treating the idealism of youth, the desire to make the world better and to fight against the problems of the system before you become numb to them, as a normal phase of life is such an effective way to neutralize it culturally. How many people have heard the phrase "you get conservative [i.e. more resistant to change] as you get older"? How many of us have seen youth-led movements being dismissed as examples of immaturity, for example? Between that and companies stamping their logo on it (hello, Hot Topic), it's a way to change the cultural narrative around any movement against the status quo to one that's dismissive, just accepting enough to let people burn off their energy and eventually fall into line. Because how else can you continue to live a decent life in a society that refuses to change? You either go build a shack in the woods somewhere, die, or acclimate to the system and just focus on being comfortable yourself, not constantly fighting for change. It's a depressing thought, and I'm sure Pynchon saw a lot of that attitude in the 60s. I have to wonder - do non-industrialized societies have "teenage rebellion" as a normal part of life? Is that a part of human nature, like we tend to think, or is it an explicit reaction to reaching maturity in a system that is anti-human and anti-nature? Anyway, back to the dinner party - between the depressing, anti-social music (kazoos?!) and the lavish dinner, things seem fine, but there's a plot against the Roger and Bodine. Fortunately a journalist, Constance, tips off Bodine that they might just be the main course of this feast, so Bodine cues Roger to begin the evening show - an absurd gross-out session that they planned in advance with the aid of now-deceased Pudding communicating via medium Carroll Eventyr. The pair recite an increasingly disgusting list of alliterative dishes, triggering "well-bred gagging" and guests to flee, though a few find it all quite entertaining. But it's enough to break up the dinner party and allow our heroes to flee. Note: If you made it this far, actually read all this,thank you. Bloom warned me this was a longer section, and boy, he wasn't kidding. I think this is longer than some college essays I wrote... Damn fun, though, and I hope you've found my thoughts informative, interesting, useful, or if nothing else, sufficiently diversionary for a spell. I truly look forward to seeing what you other fine foax have to say on these labrynthine sections. Questions
In the lightning-aficionado's "A Nickel Saved" excerpt, are there any other references or hidden ideas you can find? I have to think there are.
What is the meaning of the windmill reflected in Blicero's eyes? How do you interpret the imagery in this scene in general?
175-Stadt. Oven-State. Hund-Stadt. Rocket-State. Factory-State. We've seen numerous examples of specialized micro-states across the Zone, experiments in different forms of society. What are your thoughts on these? Are they hints at ways to find alternate societies, or manifestations of humanity's tendency to divide by category and put of fences?
In the "Shit 'n' Shinola" subsection, Pynchon connects Jack Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Tyrone Slothrop. What do you make of this intersection?
In "Streets," the bombing of Hiroshima is presented as being similar to the Cross, "it is also, perhaps, a Tree..." - the capitalized "Tree" here could be the tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the tree from which the Hanged Man dangles, or perhaps something else. What's your interpretation of this imagery?
In Section 69, we see references to the Albatross, famous symbol from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's presented that Slothrop is the (now-plucked) albatross, but it's not clear who killed this bird, or who's wearing it around their neck. They? Any ideas?
At the end of the Second World War, Europe realized that their hold on their colonial holdings was slipping fast. Most of them began to draw up plans to gradually grant independence. The people within these countries however had different priorities. They saw their chance to break from the colonial masters and took it. In 1950, only Egypt, Liberia, Ethiopia, and South Africa could be considered independent, by 1965 the vast majority of nations were on their own. Some flourished, some languished, but almost all improved with their newfound freedom. At this time, the world was locked in a struggle between Western Democracy and Communist Dictatorship. With little warning, a new theater opened in the Cold War. Africans were given the decision of who to side with. As an enemy of their former masters, the Soviet Union made a natural ally, and Socialism's anti-imperial (theoretic) stance appealed to people in post imperial regions of the world. Since independence, seventeen African nations have had a government which self-identified as socialist, six of those as Marxist-Leninist. Like Africa itself, socialist movements in the continent were varied and diverse. Ranging from self described socialist Nelson Mandella becoming celebrated world wide for his devotion to peace and equality to Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose violence and economic mismanagement killed thousands. The purpose of this post is to describe the ideological origins and tenets of African socialism, with a look at what makes it distinct from mainstream Communist movements. On this map red shows those states which identified as Marxist, yellow shows those which identified as with a variety of other forms of socialism, and green shows those which more closely fall under the Arab Socialist movement and will not be discussed here.
Broadly speaking, African Socialism drew inspiration from two main sources, the traditional body of socialist literature and that of the Pan-African movement. Socialism Both the ideological tenets of socialism and the practical concerns socialist nations played a role in African nations adopting socialism. Most of the nations of Africa were in a struggle for freedom from capitalist European countries and found a natural ally in the Soviet Union. Following WWII, it was in many ways a binary choice to side with the US or USSR. Those who led rebellions or coups against US backed leaders had few options other than the USSR. Political concerns aside, there were many reasons why socialism was ideologically attractive to educated Africans. Socialism is at its base revolutionary. "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries unite!” With even a cursory glance at Marx, it doesn't take much imagination to see why people oppressed for decades would turn to him. The anti-Imperial rhetoric of socialism (regardless of the actual aggression of the USSR and PRC) was another motivating factor. In this case, I point to Vladimir Lenin's Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this work, Lenin points towards imperialism as a symptom of the capitalist system. However, one of the reasons this work remained applicable after the collapse of most overseas empires is due to his characterization of imperialism. One example he gives in the book speaks of US domination of the Argentine beef industry. According to Lenin, though the US never carved out a concession area or installed a governor general, they used economic power to dominate the industry and exert control over the country. This characterization rang true for many people who looked at the efforts taken by former colonial powers looking to retain their economic stakes in their old colonies. One of the problems socialists face in implementing their policy is that Orthodox Marxism is heavily based on the conditions of 19th century Western Europe, and when applied outside of those conditions, thinkers need to reconcile the inconsistencies with the conditions on the ground. While we will look at how various African leaders adapted the ideology, one sub-ideology which played a major role in African Socialism was Maoism. Orthodox Marxism focuses heavily on a revolution based around industrial workers. Early 20th century China, much like post-colonial Africa had little in the way of industry. Mao re conceptualized the idea of the proletariat to include peasant farmers and made the revolution as agrarian as it was industrial. For example, the first president of Socialist Madagascar released an ideology book heavily inspired by Mao's Red Book. China also served as an alternative source of support in the event of a conflict with Russia; Somalia received aid from the PRC when they were at war with Soviet aligned Ethiopia. Pan- African Movement The Pan-African movement did not solely influence the African Socialist movement. In fact, almost all post-colonial governments took inspiration from many of the tenets of movement. Nor were all the central figures socialists, indeed Emperor Halie Salassi of Ethiopia was about as far from socialist as could be. However there was a degree of mutual influence in a number of places. The start of it can be traced to Jamaican thinker Marcus Garvey. The Pan-African colors and the icon of the Black Star both came from him. Kwame Nkrumah mentioned him directly as an influence. This remained on the nationalist and pan-nationalist side of African socialism. This and racial empowerment remained a constant theme in African socialism, with many African thinkers rejecting class reductionism. African's tended to be acutely aware of the role of race in world politics and used it in conjunction with class and capitalist interest to explain the world. Another major thinker was American W. E. B. du Bois. One of the founding members of the NAACP and author of one of the first sociological works about African Americans, Du Bois is one of the most important figures of the American Civil Rights Movement. Du Bois was in reality a Social Democrat, who often saw world communist governments as a means to an end for black people. In Socialism and the American Negro, he referred to the New Deal as a America's foray into Socialism. Though a stalwart supporter of democracy he visited Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin personally. He was a strong opponent of colonization and spoke to young leaders in the 1945 Pan-African congress. There he met future President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah. He would become a mentor to Nkrumah and move to Accra in his final days.
Many of the most interesting and successful movements in Africa were non-Marxist-Leninist. They took local beliefs and attitudes and molded socialism to fit them. These were incredibly diverse, ranging from forms of social democracy to far more authoritarian structures. The leaders ranged from educated elites to guerrilla leaders. The first socialist governments sprang up at independence and continued through the Cold War. These are some of the more notable ones. Consciencism Few other thinkers have had near the lasting influence on African politics and philosophy as Kwame Nkrumah. Born to a poor family in the British Gold Coast, Nkrumah was sent to school by his family where he excelled. Interested in Politics and Philosophy, he saved money to pay to visit the United States. He worked menial jobs to put himself through school at Lincoln University and University of Pennsylvania. In the US he became close to expat and American leftists as well as enjoying African American culture. After graduating he went to the London School of Economics. This is where he began political organizing. He returned to the Gold Coast where he founded the Convention People's Party. When the British began increasing local rule, his party swept. When the British did not meet the demands of the Ghanian people, he became a champion of the people with his down to earth nature and organization of general strikes. When Ghana was given full independence, he was the overwhelming choice. A strict empiricist, Nkrumah sought to make an organic political philosophy that was designed to change as the material needs of the country changed. He determined that the welfare of the individual was the most important concern of the government and society. It was from this lens that he criticized capitalism, contending that it reduced man to a means to achieving the goal of profit. He pointed to traditional African values, Islam, and European influences as the three ideological tides that shaped Africa. The latter two he condemned, though admitted their merits where he saw them (such as the French education system), and gave qualified approval to the first. African society was to be, in spirit but not practice the driver of society. This meant that pan-Africanism and historical study were to be focused on, but the actual institutions such as tribalism, traditional monarchy, and class hierarchies were to be abandoned. This is where socialism came into Nkrumah's Consciencism. It was not out of devotion to Marxist thinking, but out of a belief that socialist economic structures would be the most effective way of leading the country to prosperity. In a 1967 address he gave in Egypt he stated "Socialism is not spontaneous. It does not arise of itself. It has abiding principles according to which the major means of production and distribution ought to be socialized if exploitation of the many by the few is to be prevented; if, that is to say, egalitarianism in the economy is to be protected. Socialist countries in Africa may differ in this or that detail of their policies, but such differences themselves ought not to be arbitrary or subject to vagaries of taste. They must be scientifically explained, as necessities arising from differences in the particular circumstances of the countries themselves." To Nkrumah, Socialism was not prescriptive, but rather a process where one used communal ownership as needed to create a better society. He was a believer in the idea of scientific socialism in believing that socialism came from the natural needs of the people, rather than an ideological devotion. Ujamaa If Nkrumah was a product of the study of Philosophy, Julius Nyerere was a product of the study of anthropology and history. Unlike Nkrumah, Nyerere was the product of elite lineage. His father was a chief who earned the favor of both the German, and later British Administrations in Tanganyika. He was chosen by the British to receive education to be a local leader and studied at Makerere College before finishing his post graduate work at University of Edinburgh. Upon returning, he founded the Tanganyika African National Union, which pushed for independence from the UK through non-violent protest. His philosophy of Ujamaa, meaning familyhood in Swahili, became the guiding ideology of the party and independent Tanganyika (and Tanzania after their unification with Zanzibar). In this ideology, Nyerere posits that socialism is the natural state of African people. Before the introduction of Western influences, African people lived in an equal and communitarian society. While he admits the existence of elites he countered that the relative equality of means meant that there was no comparison to modern economic structures. For Africans to be prosperous, they had to return to the social structures as well as the spirit of pre-colonial Africa, while accepting modernizations that would benefit the common man. He posited that African society had a natural social value attached to work, and this work was done, not to the benefit of a capitalist elite, but to the benefit of society, thus with the fruits of labor belonging to society, they could be considered socialist. Through a return to these structures, they could have a socialist society that was structured on the needs of Africans, rather than those of 19th century Europeans. He regarded Marxists as rigid and dogmatic, stating that, "The works of Marx and Lenin are regarded as holy writ… We find them condemning others actions because they do not accord with what the 'priests of scientific socialism' have decided is the true meaning." His ontology marked the community as the basic unit. He believed in socialism through consent of the people, but not necessarily through democracy.
Marxist-Leninist nations in Africa tend to fill a different niche that those of non-Marxist states. Non-Marxist states tended to grow from movements within the countries with a locally based variant of socialism guiding the development of government structures. Marxist states on the other hand tended to come from the geopolitical needs of the nation. They tended to lean heavily into the support of the Soviet Union or People's Republic of China. These governments tended to be criticized by Orthodox Marxists both within the countries and abroad for simply slapping a Marxist aesthetic on a run of the mill authoritarian state. This is not universal, and depended on the leader and movement. Thomas Sankara (referred to as the African Che Guevara) is celebrated by leftists for his attempts to organize Burkina Faso, whereas his successor Blaise Compaoré simply co-opted Marxist symbolism until the end of the Cold War when it was dropped entirely. The two states I will profile show a best and worst case for African Marxists. Benin Nothing I write would be complete without me mentioning Benin somewhere. The Republic of Dahomey gained its freedom from France August 1st, 1960. At that time Hubert Maga, a school teacher turned politician from the North was named first president. Benin is divided into three broad super-cultural groups (though there are a total of 64 ethnic groups). The Fon in the South, the Yoruba in the East, and the Bariba and other Muslims in the North. The Maga government was soon overthrown and the country rapidly switched between a number of governments, each dedicated to giving as much as possible to their constituent area before being removed from office. This changed in 1972 when a young army officer named Mathieu Kerekou led a successful coup. Kerekou was different in the sense that he had no real ties to any of the political families that had been competing for power. He also ended the system of clientism that had defined Dahomeyan politics to that point (though some contend he showed bias against the Fon. Strongly nationalistic, Kerekou made his hatred for the French clear early on, pointing to them as the cause of many of the country's problems and the patron of the old regime. In 1974, Kerekou changed the country's name from the Republic of Dahomey to the People's Republic of Benin and formally adopted Marxism-Leninism as the guiding ideology of the nation. Oil reserves and refineries as well as the banking system were rapidly nationalized and Kerekou made overtures to international communist nations for aid. Austerity programs were also quickly ended. The North Koreans were particularly close allies. Curiously, Kerekou worked to retain warm relations with the United States. Peace Corps remained in operation through his entire presidency and working in the American embassy was considered a strong stepping stone. The practical effects for the average Beninese person varied from urban to village. Local leaders were required to be members of the People's Revolutionary Party, and extreme corruption and inefficiency meant that few resources radiated outside of population centers. Instilled with a strong labor union tradition during French occupation, the national labor movement was consolidated into a single approved union that was basically mandated to follow government orders. Unionized workers as well as students were the chief opponents of the regime and faced significant surveillance and harassment. This started to change in the mid 80s as it became clear that the regime's economic reforms weren't working. Benin was lagging behind its neighbors Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria. On top of this, student groups and workers in unofficial unions were demanding change. Simultaneously, the election of Francois Mitterrand in France opened a new era in Franco-Beninese relations, shifting the nation back to Western alignment away from the moribund USSR. Under mounting pressure, Kerekou agreed to a constitutional referendum and free elections. Upon his loss, he gracefully stepped down in 1991, but was reelected in 1996. Having dropped Marxism, he led his second term as a moderate liberal, doing little to harm the economic and political reforms of the early 90s. Ethiopia Ethiopia, on the other hand, faced the fullest horror of Communism and likely suffered to a similar extent to Ukraine and China. In 1970, the Solomonic Dynasty leading the Empire of Ethiopia was one of the oldest royal houses in the world dating back to 1270 and drawing its lineage back to the Biblical King Solomon. Their last Emperor was Halie Selassie, celebrated among Pan-Africanists as one of the only African leaders to resist colonization. Though celebrated by the diaspora, Selassie's rule was authoritarian and secretive. In 1973, a famine hit Ethiopia. Rather than petition for aid Selassie covered it up, and only accepted aid on the contingency that it was given in secret. The inaction of the Emperor prompted a revolutionary council known as the Derg to take over. This council quickly moved to numerous industries. Eritrean, Tigre, and Somali nationalists took advantage of the situation to launch offensives against the government. When the Carter Administration warned the Derg to cease the human rights violations they were committing in the crackdown, they cut ties with Washington and invited East-German and Soviet military advisors. In the Tigre region, the Ethiopian military embarked on a scorched earth offensive to quell the rebellion. Using such tactics in a nation with food security concerns was probably ill-advised. The offensive in the North consumed around two thirds of the national budget. The problems the Derg had created were compounded in 1983. In 1982, the rains failed and there was risk of another great famine. Having become an international pariah due to the extreme violence of Derg forces, the international community was reluctant to give aid and the Reagan administration lobbied heavily against it as part of his campaign to halt Communism in the Horn of Africa. When the famine hit in earnest, the Derg mobilized to create collective farms. These farms were incredibly inefficient, consuming 82% of imported fertilizer while contributing only 15% of grain production. To staff these farms, people from offending areas, particularly Tigre were forcibly removed from their homes and shipped to location. Africa Watch estimates that around 50,000 people died on these farms alone, comparing conditions to the Ukrainian farms in the days of Stalin. In total, as many as 1.2 million people were killed, 2.5 million displaced, with Human Rights Watch estimating that around half could be attributed to government actions.
Socialism is a phenomenon that struck the African continent in many ways across the Cold War era and beyond. Its incarnations were as diverse as the groups it affected. This is by no means an exhaustive look at African socialism, but simply a chance for the reader to find a starting place for further study and give context to an under studied part of the world. Indeed, there were many important people and thinkers left out, such as Cheikh Anta Diop, Walter Rodney, and Siad Barre. Please let me know in the comments what if anything you would like to learn more about. If you found the philosophical analysis or historical fact more interesting, I would be happy to write more about it. Sources African Socialism Revisited- Kwame Nkrumah Ujamma – The Basis of African Socialism- Julius K. Nyerere Drought, War, and the Politics of Famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea- Edmond J. Keller Applying the weapon of theory: comparing the philosophy of Julius Kambarage Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah- Tomáš František Žák Three African social theorists on class struggle, political liberation, and indigenous culture : Cheikh Anta Diop, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah - Charles Simon-Aaron Socialism and the American Negro- W. E. B. Du Bois Benin- Chris Allen
Neo-Atheists, Atheists, militant Atheism and everything in between: Caged by Abrahamic Monotheism
Neo-Atheists, Atheists, militant Atheism and everything in between: Caged by Abrahamic Monotheism Nupur J Sharma | 7 September, 2020 Before we proceed further, there are two things that ought to be stated outright. Firstly, the purpose of this article is not to encourage desecration of the Quran or any other Islamic scriptures or doctrine. The sole purpose is to provide an understanding of the core matter at hand, in light of the online battle between ex-Muslims and Hindus. And secondly, most obviously, the author does not believe that all Muslims are Jihadis or terrorists. Now that we are done with formalities, let us jump straight to the matter. Steven Weinberg, the great American physicist and a Nobel laureate, once remarked, “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil, but for good people to do evil – that takes religion” and since then, this quote has almost been weaponised by Atheists around the world to condemn religion as an outdated concept that is using violence to maintain its relevance in a world that has outgrown the need or the desire for its tenets. The New Atheism movement started in the mid-2000s with the ‘four horsemen for Atheism’ – Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris – gaining immense popularity. The core tenet of New Atheism is that religion was created in an attempt to explain how the world works at a time when science had hardly made the leaps that it has today. Thus, at a time when science has progressed, religion’s validity has expired, so to speak. There are several other claims that New Atheists make which we will examine in the course of this article, however, the central theme remains constant – Religion, any religion, has outlived its validity. The New Atheism movement, however, ushered in another remarkable trend. It essentially espoused that being an Atheist was not sufficient. Atheists must ‘scientifically’ counter the theists and expose their dogmatic ways wherever they are found. What started off as an attempt to infuse scientific discourse and composed debate on the question of Religion, soon became a free-for-all with the influx of several ex-Muslims, like Armin Navabi, Harris Sultan and others, who simply assumed that the function of Atheism was ‘desecration’ without the consideration that criticism for every religion would have to differ based on the genesis, nature and context of that specific religion itself. Armin Navabi, Iranian Ex-Muslim who is now an Atheist first tore up and spat on the Quran. Following the support he got from Hindus, he proceeded to willfully desecrate the Hindu faith. The underlying reason for doing this, per Armin, was that all faiths should be desecrated equally, however, that is not where this saga began. It has already been established that the saga of desecrating the Hindu faith started with another ex-Muslim, Abdullah Sameer, shielding the Muslim community after the Sweden and Norway riots, getting called out by Robert Spencer and then, proceeding to draw a false equivalence between Hindus (who were calling him out online) and Muslims (who were burning the world). Soon, after the spat between Robert Spencer and Abdullah Sameer, Sameer started posting offensive images of Hindu Goddess Kali. Along with him, several other ex-Muslims like Harris Sultan and Armin Navabi started talking about how Hindus are just as bad as Muslims because they were calling them out on Twitter. On the 3rd of September, Armin took things a step further and shared the same image of Maa Kali. Only a couple of hours before posting this distorted picture which showed Goddess Kali in a sexual epithet, Armin was retweeting and talking about the #DesecrateTheQuran hashtag. Given how this spat started, one can easily assume that this entire episode was orchestrated to falsely equate Hindus and Muslims post the Sweden and Norway riots by the Muslims. However, for the purpose of this article, I will not be delving into that aspect. What needs to be analysed, however, is the surmise that gives rise to the notion that desecration of all faiths, in equal measure, is a desirable outcome of Atheism. It is in this spirit, that Harris Sultan, while speaking to ‘Hindu Atheist’ Kushal Mehra question OpIndia for covering Armin’s desecration of the Quran but being silent or even outraged, by his desecration of the Hindu faith. At the heart of it, is the supposition that all religions are equal and thus, all religions should be desecrated equally and it is this ill-informed position that needs to be challenged. Dissecting the ‘All religions are equal’ claim The notion does not really stem from Atheism itself but the notions of religious pluralism that assumes that not only do all religions claim that their truth is the ‘only truth’ that exists, but that all religions are based on the principles of Universal Truths and thus, these are the two tenets that need to be dealt with if religions are to co-exist peacefully. Religious Pluralism essentially says that firstly, all religions must acknowledge that certain truths exist in other religions as well, thereby declaring that it is not only their own religion that is the ‘only truth’. Further, it says that all religions must acknowledge that every religion teaches basic universal truths that have been taught since before the advent of religion itself. When one delves into the principles of religious pluralism as a construct that can enable religions co-existing without sectarian violence, it becomes important to ensure that all religions are brought down to the same surface level and hence, the claim that all religions are the same takes a beastly proportion where cultural context is often lost. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on Islam, Christianity and Hinduism since the question we eventually want to answer is- why is it permissible to desecrate Islam and not desecrate Hinduism? At the very outset, it suffices to say that no other religion in the world, at this point of time in history, lays out a doctrine for the torture, subjugation, conversion and humiliation of all the people who refuse to believe in their faith, other than Islam. This question of whether all religions are equal and whether Islam is inherently a religion of peace was discussed at length in an interview with Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer. He said in the interview that Islam as a religion indoctrinates its adherents to slay the Kafirs where they see them. They lay out the doctrine for religious warfare and strict rules as to what is to be done with the ‘spoils of war’. No other religion in the world has left behind a trail of mangled bodies, blood and gore in its wake as much as Islam and what is worse is that this carnage was sanctified in their religion, in fact, it is one of the necessities of their religion. Moral relativists and apologists of Islam often say that Islam is a religion of peace and it is its adherents who have distorted the peaceful version of Islam. They also say that the Quran is a peaceful text that essentially takes people closer to universal truths, just as other religions do, but it is the Hadith that twists the meaning of the Quran and ebbs people to commit violence in its name. None of these claims hold scrutiny, according to Spencer, since there exists no version of Islam that does not lay out a doctrine for the subjugation of Kafirs. In the interview, Spencer quoted verses of the Quran that themselves asked Muslims to slay the Kafirs and strike their neck. As Mr Spencer talks about the verses of the Quran that ordain its followers to slay Kafirs and Polytheists, one has to wonder how can a religion that is at odds with Polytheism be equal and aspires for the same goals as that of a Polytheistic religion? When Islam is at odds with Polytheism and the religious texts explicitly mention the subjugation of any Polytheist faith, how accurate is it to say that all religions are exactly the same since neither Christianity (which is also an Abrahamic religion) or Hinduism (which is a polytheistic religion) say anything that remotely resembles Islam. We can further classify this argument between Abrahamic faiths and Polytheistic faiths. In the conversation with Robert Spencer, it was clear why Islam took over 500 years to find footing in India and countries like Europe fell to the onslaught of Islam far quicker than India. The Quran presents itself as completion and correction of Christianity, said Spencer, which also gives us a window into just how vast the difference between the Hindu faith and Islam/Christianity really is. Hence, to essentially say that all religions are equal and aspire towards the same universal truths is a fallacious statement that is made by the people who either harbour malice, or ignorance. What the desecration of the image of Maa Kali meant for Hindus A familiar grouse that was expressed by the Neo-Atheists is why Hindus were celebrating the desecration of the Quran while they felt outraged when Armin Navabi desecrated the Hindu faith by sexualising Maa Kali. The underlying issue with this question that seems to baffle the Ex-Muslim Atheists is that they, almost militantly, follow the tenet that all religions are the same, a question, that we have debunked earlier in this article. When we have concluded, with adequate proof, that all religions are indeed not the same, one has to then understand the cultural context to truly understand why Hindus were celebratory, or even supportive, when ex-Muslim Atheists desecrated Islam and went after the same Atheists when they sexualised Kali. From what I understand, the backlash against Armin Navabi first started with him sharing the sexualised images of Maa Kali and was exacerbated with his follow-up tweet that essentially told Hindus to put Maa Kali in a Burkha if her sexualisation was offending them. What Armin did was to reduce the divine, with no provocation whatsoever, to a basal, human upheaval of hormones. To ask Hindus whether they would want to masturbate to a deity they consider their mother or even say that he “simps for Kali” which essentially means that he would put the deity on a pedestal to get sexual favours in return. This tirade did not come from a place of understanding but from a place of militancy of thought that had no cultural context whatsoever. When they ask “how is the desecration of the Quran different from the desecration of Maa Kali”, the simple fact remains that the ex-Muslims grew up in a household that deeply believed in the tenets of Islam, as per their own confessions. Their draw towards Atheism or even anti-theism comes from being told that if they do not follow exactly what the Quran says, they will go to hell. Or that apostates deserve death and if they do not follow the tenets of the Quran, they too, like apostates would deserve death. From being told that women don’t deserve respect or can even be beaten up because the religion accords a sub-human position to women. It is a faith that is largely considered the root of violence and militancy across the world, a faith that has claimed countless lives in order to stay relevant in the modern age. Hence, since their anti-theism or atheism comes from their experience of religion growing up in a household that followed Islam, they understand what they are desecrating, to begin with. They know, that when they tear the Islamic scripture, what is the extent of the ideology and what those pages say, in very specific terms. However, for most monotheists, barring a few who can be debated on their ideas of universal truths and not just anti-theism, the idea of Hinduism is too abstract to even understand what the religion’s basic tenets are. This was, in fact, admitted by Navabi himself in a podcast he did a year ago. How then is it acceptable to critique a religion one doesn’t understand simply because it is a religion and the anti-theist believes in the desecration of all religions, even though they are by no way equal. Further, what the western anti-theists and atheists, a significant chunk of them being ex-Muslims, don’t understand is that there is a cultural context to the outrage of Hindus. For thousands of years, Hindus have been subjugated by the Islamist invaders who have raped Hindu women, beheaded our kings, murdered our children all for the ultimate goal of the establishment of the Caliphate. There are countless tales of how the Islamic invaders murdered Hindus and kept their wives, mothers and daughters as slaves – the spoils of war. The barbarity was so perverse, that Hindu women often chose to jump into the fire and give up their lives after Hindus were defeated in war, lest they were taken slaves by Islamic invaders. You might wonder why they didn’t simply slit their wrists instead of stepping into the burning fire – well – they did not want their corpse to be desecrated by the followers of Islam who had laid siege on their land. The brutality is not just limited to Islamic invaders. In the modern political landscape of India, Hindus were humiliated during the partition as well. One recalls how the Khilafat movement claimed the lives of countless Hindus during the Moplah massacres by Islamists and even the Direct Action Day, spearheaded by Jinnah. After the countless deaths of Hindus, our own, MK Gandhi, asked Hindus to simply lay down their lives if the Islamists chose to claim it. During partition, Hindus were mutilated and their women raped. At the altar of ‘secularism’, which the Atheists love to espouse, India decided to not conduct a full exchange of population, a suggestion that was made by various luminaries at the time including Dr B.R. Ambedkar, and thus, began another cycle of subjugation in modern India. This year itself, we saw riots by sections of the Muslim community and aided by the Left against the Hindus. The saga of brutality continues to this day not just in India, but also, against the minority Hindus of Pakistan and when India decided that the minority Hindus could take refuge in India, their natural home post-partition, the Islamists ran riots yet again. They stabbed a Hindu over 50 times simply because he was Hindu and chopped off the arms and legs of another before burning him alive. Since the Atheists and anti-theists love to ally with the Left, the obvious question that will be thrown after reading this article is – what about the Muslims who died? Let me preempt that question and say that in every war, both sides suffer losses, but war is defined by those who start the war, and Hindus, have never started one. With centuries of subjugation behind them, when Armin says that Hindus must put their Goddess in a Hijab if they are offended by the cheap sexualisation, he triggers an all-too-familiar sentiment – convert or die, worse, be raped. For centuries, whether they were Islamic invaders, or the Muslims post-partition of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the domestic Muslims who still employ this tactic or even the Muslims of Pakistan who till date subjugate Hindus, this trope has been used to humiliate Hindu women and their faith. For centuries, these were the options given to Hindu women by Islamist barbarians – wear a Burkha, convert to Islam or be raped or killed. This is exactly the sentiment that was invoked by Armin – He essentially said that he will reduce our Goddess to an object of cheap titillation, a disrobed woman, humiliated because he can. And if Hindus did not want him to cheapen their mother, they should make her wear a Hijab. While it is unclear that this was the intent or not, however, it is clear that internalised misogyny, Hinduphobia, hate for Idolatory and the unbridled urge for the subjugation of Kafirs is so strong, that even after leaving the faith, the barbarism towards polytheists remains. Hindus saw what Armin did as not just the humiliation of their deity, but also Iconoclasm that the community is far too familiar with. For the Hindu, there is absolutely no difference between their Idols being desecrated by the Islamic hoards and being buried in the steps of a mosque, their Ram Temple being demolished by invaders to build a Mosque and then deny them their rights and what Armin did. Essentially, it was an outsider, an Islamist, perhaps, who desecrated their faith and presented the remains as an offering at the foot of Abrahamism. One simple account of the hatred Muslims had for idolators comes from a poetic account of what Ahmad Shah did at Sidhpur, available in Mirat-i-Sikandari, the history of Gujarat, written by Sikandar ibn-i-Muhammad alias Manjhu ibn-i-Akbar in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. He marched on Saiyidpur,— writes the historian, on Jamad-ul-Awwal in AH 818 (July/August, AD 1415) in order to destroy the temples which housed idols of gold and silver. As quoted by Sita Ram Goel in his book, ‘Hindu Temples’, the poetic account is as below: He marched under divine inspiration, For the destruction of temples at Saiyidpur, Which was a home of the infidels, And the native place of accursed fire-worshippers.— There they dwelt, day and night, The thread-wearing idolaters.— It had always remained a place for idols and idol-worshippers, It had received no injury whatsoever from any quarter. It was a populous place, well-known in the world, This native place of the accursed infidels. Its foundations were laid firmly in stone, It was decorated with designs as if drawn from high heaven. It had doors made of sandal and ud.— It was studded with rings of gold, Its floors were laid with marble, Which shone like mirrors. Ud was burnt in it like fuel, Candles of camphor in large numbers were lighted in it. It had arches in every comer, And every arch had golden chandeliers hanging in it. There were idols of silver set up inside, Which put to shame the idols of China and Khotan. Such was this famous ancient temple, It was famous all over the world. By the effort of Ahmad, it was freed from the idols, The hearts of idol-worshippers were shattered with grief. He got mosques constructed, and mimbars placed in them, From where the Law of Muhammad came into force. In place of idols, idol-makers and idol-worshippers, Imams and callers to prayers and khatibs were appointed. Ahmads good grace rendered such help, That an idol-house became an abode of Allah. When the Sultan was free from Saiyidpur, he marched on Dhar in AH 819 (AD 1416-17). One has to understand that for a Hindu, what Islamic invaders did to their temples and their idols is no different from what Armin Navani or any of the other ex-Muslim Atheists did to the image of Maa Kali. In both cases, the iconoclasm was exactly the same. In both cases, the followers of Abrahamic religion (yes, Atheist is also an Abrahamic, Monotheistic religion, which I will explain later in the article), desecrated the idol that they sacred. An idol and a faith that did absolutely nothing to deserve the kind of humiliation that it received except the fact that it chose to exist and fought, fiercely, the attempts to convert. The urge to desecrate Hindu idols comes from the basic contradiction between Hinduism and other monotheistic religions. The icons of Hinduism are expressionist while the monotheistic religions are mostly suppressionist. While Islam and Christianity are political ideologies, Hinduism is that which depends on its adherent’s experience and spirituality. While all you need to understand and even criticise Islam and Christianity is a study of their text, what you need to criticise Hinduism is experiencing and ultimately, working up to understanding its scriptures. While Christianity and Islam focus on a binary value system, Hinduism has multitudes of value systems that can even be at odds with each other. That Islam and Christianity both function on the basic premise that any human emotion is to be suppressed, Hinduism believes that it is to be celebrated and expressed, and it is this expressionism and the lack of binary value systems that Abrahamics find so difficult to rationalise. The binary model simply does not work with Hinduism and thus, the frustrations of a suppressive culture is often expressed by desecrating symbols of an expressionist, spiritual religion. Essentially, when Hindus say that Abrahamics do not understand Hinduism enough to criticise it, they mean that until they have gone through the experience of being Hindu, there is no text that they can read and claim proficiency in the religion, unlike Islam and Christianity. To top it all, other than the painful ignorance of Hinduism itself, the Atheists and anti-theists who have denounced Islam do not understand the cultural context of the Hindu communities struggle with Iconoclasm and thus, have not the faintest idea of the scars that have been inflicted time and again. For a Hindu, an Atheist is only deepening the scars left by the religion they claim to have denounced. For a Hindu, what the Atheist does is no different from what the adherents of Islam did to his idols and temples. And this cultural context cannot be ignored simply by repeating the “all religions are equal” trope, because they are certainly not. Why Hindus endorse desecration of Islam but not of Hinduism 20-year-old Yazidi girl Israa, who had been rescued from ISIS, burnt her hijab as she was surrounded by the Kurdish forces in 2019. The image, that powerful image, became one of the symbols of resistance against the Islamic forces. Israa is helped by female Kurdish fighters after being released from IS fighters (Image source: metro.uk) In her interview, she had said that she felt suffocated the first time she was asked to wear it and she wished she could burn the ISIS terrorists just like she burnt her hijab. Why did Israa feel suffocated with the Hijab and why was burning that Hijab such a powerful sentiment for her? For that matter, why is burning the image of Adolf Hitler such a powerful image for Jews? Why does a Yazidi celebrate when symbols of her oppression are destroyed? Because the hijab symbolises and is a manifestation of her oppression. Her scars. It symbolises the very people who took away her dignity, her faith, her family, her community, her temple, her everything. It is a symbol of those who pushed her and her family to darkness. It is a symbol of those who she wishes to destroy, not because she hates Muslims, but because the staunchest followers of Islam destroyed her life and desecrated on everything she and her ancestors held dear. Given the history of Hindus and their subjugation by Islamists, the sentiment mirrors that of Yazidis. When symbols of oppression are destroyed, Hindus are bound to support that as an act of defiance. It becomes even more pronounced when that destruction of oppressive symbols comes from those who claim to have left the faith of Islam. It is essentially seen as a validation of vindication of their pain. The reason why Armin got support and coverage when he desecrated the Quran is for the very reason that a Yazidi woman would burn her Hijab or be jubilant when someone else does. It was a destruction of the symbol of centuries of oppression. It was an act of defiance, the same defiance felt by Hindus. It validated the angst felt by Hindus. Now, imagine claiming that the destruction of the Hijab by a Yazidi is the same as the destruction of the symbols of Yazidism. While Islamists consider Yazidis as devil worshippers, would it be fair to assume if a Yazidi is happy about the destruction of the Quran or even that of the Hijab, she has to mandatorily be accepting of the destruction of her faith when has done nothing to receive that ire? This analogy is exactly what is needed to understand why Hindus supported the desecration of the Quran by Armin and not the desecration of Maa Kali. Hindus saw their vindication in an ex-Muslim recognising that Islam is a religion that has the potential to subjugate non-believers because that premise has been responsible for their own humiliation for centuries. On top of that, it helped them reinforce that what the Left has been telling them to almost gaslight them, about Islam being a religion of peace is not true – and this came not just from Hindus, who were the victims, but also people who used to be Muslims and have since left the faith. Then came the inexplicable desecration of Maa Kali and it jolted Hindus from their stupor. They wondered why an Atheist ex-Muslim would desecrate their faith when they had done nothing to deserve that ire. Armin tore the Quran because his experiences taught him that he did not want to endorse the ideology in the Book. What was his experience with Hinduism that drove him to desecrate Hinduism? Nothing except the notion that all religions are equal. Hindus would endorse the desecration of the faith that subjugated them and reject the desecration of their own faith that has been subjugated by the oppressor. Interestingly, Atheists seem to not have the bandwidth to grasp the fact that by desecrating Hinduism, they have only cut the branch that they were sitting on. Their aim in desecrating Islam was that its tenets are inconsistent with the modern age values that the world espouses. However, one of the tenets is to slay polytheistic religions and as a result of that, idols are desecrated. Essentially, the Atheists ex-Muslims seem to have done exactly what their erstwhile religion ordained them to do, it was only cloaked with Atheism and not Islamism. The ire of Hindus was expected, and necessary because for far too long, their faith has been desecrated for no fault of theirs, simply because the Abrahamics cannot accept polytheistic faiths. Saying ‘enough is enough’ is important. The shaming of Hindus when they voiced their disgust We have already established why Hindus were disgusted and outraged at the conduct of Atheists against Hinduism and the depiction of Maa Kali, however, what was more unpalatable is the response of the Atheists, ex-Muslims and Hindus to that outage. Outright, Hindus were labelled “just as bad as Jihadis” for protesting against the blatant disrespect for their faith, for no good reason. What is essentially wrong with this assertion is that first, the ex-Muslim atheists and Liberal Hindus were trying, rather hard, to draw a false equivalence between Hindus and Muslims. That is almost the same as drawing an equivalence between Jews and Nazis when a Jew criticises the desecration of its faith by ex-Nazis. Or saying that a Yazidi is “as bad” as an ISIS terrorist because they differentiate between the burning of the Hijab and the ruination of her faith by the very people who enslaved her. What the Atheists and Liberal Hindus essentially wanted was to submit to the whims of those who clearly have no idea of the cultural context of Hindus or worse, know and don’t care. Personally, I believe it is the second because I have seen several videos where these ex-Muslims discuss Hinduism and I find it hard to believe that they would have no idea of the cultural context. Essentially, the Atheists ex-Muslims and Liberal Hindus wanted Hindus to submit to the desecration of their faith, quietly, demurely, or they threatened to label them just as bad the very people who raped, subjugated, murdered and forcefully converted them to Islam. The manipulation in this tactic is staggering. Essentially, this is akin to telling a victim that she must not voice her opposition to what the perpetrator did against her or she will become just as bad as the perpetrator himself and because the victim harbours such visceral hate for everything that her perpetrator stands for, she would somehow be brainwashed and gaslighted into silence. The debauchery of this argument was further exposed when some of the Hindus started telling their fellow Hindus that Hinduism is a tolerant religion and hence, any and all desecration must not be responded to aggressively. What they wanted to tell Hindus is that they should accept the desecration of their faith to display how tolerant they and that if they don’t, even their words of protest would be right compared to those who were murdering and burning down entire cities because they were offended. Perhaps the overtly erudite Ex-Muslims and Hindu Atheists and liberal Hindus need to pay attention and read Karl Popper. He says: “Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.—In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant“. Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance is an apt description of what Abrahamics and Liberal Hindus want pious Hindus to follow. Essentially, these elements want Hindus to be tolerant to a level where the intolerant reign over the tolerant and the tolerant espoused by Hindus dies along with them. Certainly, one can see how that is a principle that has never been one that can be followed without the complete annihilation of the community that wishes to be tolerant to the level of their own destruction. It is essential to understand here that Islam took over 500 years to find footing in India because of the deep faith that Hindus held. Despite the barbarity heaped upon them, they refused to submit to the rule of Islam and held on to their faith despite all odds. When the Liberal Hindu and ex-Muslim Atheists want Hindus to inexplicably let go of that faith in the name of tolerance, what they do is create a situation where they leave the faith open to the onslaught of Abrahamics – the intolerant. Does the last standing major pagan religion in the world deserve to be annihilated on the basis of hollow principles like tolerance? This is a question that Hindus need to ask themselves without consideration for what Abrahamics believe they should do. But under no circumstances should Hindus be played by moral pleas of tolerance and in no manner, should they be manipulated to believe that their words can be deemed just as violent as rampaging mobs burning the world down. Freedom of Speech – The hypocrisy of it all Neo-Atheism and especially, those by Ex-Muslims and Ex-Christians are essentially based on two concepts that they consider the axiomatic truths – Universal value system and binary value system, as discussed before, that draws heavily from the Enlightenment philosophy. Essentially, this means that Atheists believe that there are certain universal value systems that are to be accepted without any question. Individual rights, the dominance of man over nature, freedom of expression, overt reliance on logic and essentially, rejecting everything that is not “real”. The binary logic sees everything in black and white and is a concept of absolutism. Essentially, Atheism gives no room for any deviation from what it believes to be the ultimate truth and/or the ultimate value that is to be espoused. When ex-Muslims criticise Islam for its dogmatic practises, they must essentially declare that all religions are to be treated the exact same way since their binary logic does not allow them to understand a construct where a religion like Hinduism can have multitudes of value systems. When they talk about freedom of expression, they must be absolutists because any limitation means that they are being thoroughly non-binary. For Atheists, they must desecrate Hinduism if they desecrate Islam because since one religion is problematic, all religions must be equally problematic. If one religion has Jihadis who burn the world down, the other must also have the same kind of adherents even though there is no empirical evidence to prove the hypothesis. The beliefs of Liberalism and Atheism come from the enlightenment age which had no scope for the understanding of Hinduism since it was aimed at overthrowing the dogmatic Church. Thus, Hinduism and its criticism thereof simply remains a product of the Abrahamic lens that is donned by Liberals and Atheists without really the consideration that none of these principles applies in totality to Sanatan Dharma. In that sense of absolutism, freedom of speech and expression is also meant to be absolute according to most liberals and atheists, however, just as any absolute ideology, this too suffers from its inherent hypocrisies. Every culture has its natural limits to freedom of expression that draws from the cultural context of that particular society. For example, one would not go to Israel and name their child Adolf Hitler because there is a contextual limit to FoE that comes into play. Similarly, one would not use the “N-word” in the USA because attached to it are tales of suppression and one has to give due importance to the cultural and societal context before being an absolutist as far as FoE is concerned. This was proved remarkably well when in a podcast by Kushal Mehra, who calls himself a Hindu Atheist, three ex-Muslims refused to use the “N-word” even when the subject came up. The ex-Muslims on that podcast included Harris Sultan who is now equating Hindus to Jihadis because they would not roll over and accept the desecration of their harmless faith. If Harris Sultan was indeed an absolutist when it came to freedom of speech, he should have ideally had no problem with using the N-word rather openly. He did not because Sultan seems to be more clued in and respectful of the cultural context of the country he lives in and more importantly, the culture he has adopted as his own. Extending the same rationale, one has to question the Atheists that if they would not demand absolute FoE to use the “N-word” because of the history of subjugation attached to that word or would not expect a Jew to ‘tolerate’ anyone ‘hailing Hitler’, why would they then expect unbridled and unrestricted freedom of expression when talking about Hinduism? If these ex-Muslims would not call Jews ‘just as bad as the Nazis’ for voicing their exception to their faith being desecrated in the same manner as Hitler did, why would they say that Hindus are as bad as the Jihadis when Hindus were voicing their exception to their faith being desecrated in the exact same manner as the Jihadis did? To take this a step further, their wails of ‘freedom of expression’ became a loud shriek and words such as ‘Mujahindus’, drawing an equivalence with Mujahideen, were thrown about. Atheists posture as the arbiters of morality but here they are, conflating people trolling a person on social media with cast distance between them with actual terrorists. Speech is now violence we are to believe. And such people pretend to be FoE absolutists. Abhijit Iyer Mitra calls Hindus opposing the sexualising of Maa Kali ‘Mujahindus’. The amusing aspect of this is the fact that Abhijit Iyer-Mitra himself does not hesitate to abuse the parents of individuals he disagrees with. Coming from him, it is especially difficult to accept such an argument. The other argument, presented by Kushal Mehra is that people in India do not understand how neo-atheists in the West operate. I humbly disagree with that assertion. We understand perfectly how neo-atheists operate in the West. Neo-atheists in western countries are overwhelmingly oriented towards the Left and suffer from delusions of their own. In the current context, just because they get a kick out of abusing our Gods, it does not mean that a deliberate provocation ought to go unchallenged. There also seems to be an insinuation that Hindus ought to be fearful of the mockery neo-atheists are capable of. With due regards, there is absolutely no reason for us to be fearful of them. Instead, they are the ones who ought to be careful with regards to the manner in which they use their speech. One does not know when cancel culture strikes them down. Also, Abhijit Iyer-Mitra and Kushal Mehra are good friends of mine but I am extremely disappointed with their ideological stance on the current debate revolving around atheism and freedom of expression. The hypocrisy of Harris Sultan is particularly astounding. He was recently threatened by a Muslim for his criticism of Islam. The offended Muslim had actually threatened to hurt Sultan’s family and had made it clear that he was aware of the atheist’s address. Hindus have done no such thing. Harris Sultan has personal knowledge of the fact that Hindus and radical Muslims are not the same. Even so, even he peddles the delusion of equivalence between the two. Why it is perfectly okay for Hindus to endorse desecration of Quran and oppose abuse of Hindu Gods At the very outset, it ought to be mentioned that the foremost loyalties of Hindus ought to lie with their Gods and Goddesses and not to concepts such as freedom of expression and other such things. It is perfectly permissible, even rational, for Hindus to not tolerate the abuse of the Devis and Devtas. There is no decree that FoE ought to be the foremost priority of Hindus. Atheists might value FoE above all else, and we have already established that they are not the FoE absolutists they pretend to be, but Hindus are under no compulsion to prioritise FoE over their Gods and Goddesses. It is also perfectly rational for people to have one set of rules for the out-group and completely different for the in-group, there is nothing wrong with that. Atheists do not have the authority to decide what is permissible and what is not. For them, insulting someone’s mother is crossing the line. We share the same sentiment. The only problem here is that we consider our Goddesses to be our mothers as well. Therefore, their insult towards our Goddesses invokes the same emotions in us that an insult to their mother evokes in them. They have no business dictating the relationship we share with our Gods and Goddesses. It also ought to be mentioned that neo-atheism is intrinsically Abrahamic in its approach. It arises out of the enlightenment worldview that was ingrained in Abrahamic philosophy. It is no surprise then that modern atheism has a distinctly protestant approach to it. Furthermore, it also ought to be mentioned that the fervour with which modern atheists approach politics is the same as a devotee approaches religion. Neo-atheists have merely substituted religion with the political ideology of their choice. Instead of proselytising on behalf of a religion, they proselytise to convert their people into their favoured political ideology. Instead of Gods and Goddesses, they want people to believe in absolute FoE, the rules of which they wish to dictate as the evidence clearly by the current saga, and the precepts of liberalism** ... continued in comments**
Gravity's Rainbow Group Read | Sections 13-16 | Week 5
Well folks, this was a doozy of a week, wasn’t it? Some of these sections are quite challenging, for a variety of reasons. But we also see some pretty critical plot developments, and some genuine hilarity at poor Slothrop’s expense, too. Gotta love that cubeb. This is also where the book really takes off in terms of it’s story arc (especially Slothrop’s origin story), as well as its embrace of sexual deviancy in all its forms, so I’m very curious to see the reactions from the first-timers. It’s a lot to take in. Anyhoo, I’ll start this with a broader summary of themes, then break the summary and analysis down by section, and include some discussion prompts at the end. There’s a lot to work with this week - this section was twice as long as previous weeks. This analysis is going to be lengthy, but I’ll try to keep as focused as I can. Several broad themes start to crystallize by this point in the narrative, especially opposition, which takes a multitude of forms: 1-0, white-black, death-life, social control-anarchy, Capitalism-black market, division-unification, colonizer-colonized, domination-submission, Elect-Preterite. My ordering of items in those pairings is intentional. This book (and Pynchon) sees white, Euro-American colonial culture as intimately tied to a need for control, domination, and a belief in salvation (everyone likes to think they’re part of the Elect, nicht wahr?), which results in a culture of death and division. The War is the embodiment of this. Pynchon repeatedly takes the side of the Preterite - the anarchist, the minority, the colonized. Pigs, which Pynch clearly loves, seem to be emblematic of this noble-yet-humble Preterite. Related to that is the idea of resisting baser desires and human nature vs accepting them vs sublimating them into full-blown pathologies (e.g. colonialism, Crutchfield the Westwardman). Many of the worst symptoms of society stem from our artificial divisions and denial of the natural order. So, if we have deadly, pervasive, controlling systems, what are us poor folks stuck inside them to do? How do we free ourselves from the System? From Them? Pynchon brings up at least three options in this week’s reading: 1.Escape (Katje leaving, vs Gottfried’s passive waiting for salvation) 2.Enjoy the good and ignore the negative (Jessica trying to live in her bubble with Roger, vs. Roger’s unhappy focus on the negatives without being able to change them) 3.Blow it all up (Katje’s option for Schußstelle 3, which she decides against, vs what? Death, perhaps?) Finally, I’d like to discuss an underlying theme based on a separate work that has strongly influenced Pynchon, and Gravity’s Rainbow: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. I never realized this before, but I’ve read the poem probably 75 times since I last read GR, so I’m pretty familiar with it by this point. I highly recommend reading it, but it’s primarily about the decline of Europe after WWI into a wasteland and the death-and-rebirth cycle. A central theme relates to the ancient belief that the harvest god (or later, the king, such as in Arthurian legend) was fundamentally tied to the land. If the king was young and vibrant, the land would be fertile. As the king became old or fell ill, the land would become barren. Thus the king (or harvest god - see the Hanged Man of the tarot) would be sacrificed, either literally or symbolically, so he could be reborn and the land could be restored. “Death is a debt to nature due…” as ol’ Constant Slothrop’s epitaph read. We see this concept explicitly addressed in section 16 (p. 131):
If he’s not in fact the War then he’s its child-surrogate, living high for a certain term but come the ceremonial day, look out. The true king only dies a mock death. Remember. Any number of young men may be selected to die in his place while the real king, foxy old bastard, goes on.
The king is dead. Long live the king. So how does this connect to our broader themes? Remember earlier when we discussed the invisible hand of the market, and how the economy and even social order are now hidden, directionless systems with no ruler? If the king is the land and the land is the king, what do we think would happen to the land, to society, if we replaced the king with an invisible, incomprehensible force that operated under its own rules, outside human control? The chaos of WWII? The mass death without clear cause? The markets taking on a life of their own? I think that’s what Pynchon’s getting at here. Would love your take. On to our section summaries… Section 13 YouTube Recording by u/ShisusBolton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69MV1vafocs Here we delve further into formal psychology and it’s specific application not just on dogs, but humans. We are finally shown the origin of Slothrop’s unique ability - psychological conditioning by Professor Jampf on poor “Infant Tyrone,” in an experiment that echoes the very real “Little Albert” experiment. We also learn why the connection is sexual - a simple matter of binary practicality to make it easier for lab assistants to measure the response to stimulus x. But what IS this mysterious stimulus? More importantly, was Infant Tyrone properly de-conditioned? It would appear not. Here we get a direct quote from Pavlov, the source for this part’s title. The concept of a “silent extinction beyond the zero,” the failure of which is the source of Slothrop’s rather intimate connection to the V2. Slothrop is part of the psychological Preterite - a poor sap doomed from the beginning to be abnormal, no chance for salvation here. Controlled entirely by outside forces he’s not even aware of. Apparently Slothrop’s “talent” is pretty damn precise, since his stars line up perfectly with the rocket strikes. We see some competing explanations for how this could be - from psychokinesis to some echo back through time of the rocket’s blast. We see characters all desperate to figure out why so they can predict where next? Maybe find out if they’re part of the Elect or not. The one possibility none of them consider, cannot consider: what if it’s all random? That’s too terrifying to contemplate for people who believe in predestination. Of course, only Jessica has the empathy to wonder if the women have all died or not. As a slight aside, on p. 85 we get a linguistic exploration of the concept of “beyond the zero” by Mexico that I really loved:
Odd, odd, odd - think of the word: such white finality in its closing clap of the tongue. It implies moving past the tongue-stop - beyond the zero - and into the other realm. Of course, you don’t move past. But you do realize, intellectually, that’s how you ought to be moving.
The play on “ought” as the extension of “odd” beyond the zero is delightful. Here we also see “white” (remember our many examples of opposition?) being tied to finality. No death-rebirth cycle here. We are then witness to a discussion between Pointsman and Mexico where the opposition of their personalities comes into sharp relief. Pointsman seeks binary cause/effect, Mexico seeks alternative between the 1 and the 0 - he proposes to “strike off at some other angle.” That scares Pointsman - it undermines not just his science but his fundamental worldview. His is one of predestination. This also ties into the broader idea of how everyone’s actions and beliefs are consistently shaped by their (often unconscious) fundamental view of the nature of reality and how the world works. Thus, every character’s actions reflect not just their personalities, but distinct assumptions about the nature of causality, of human behavior, of society, of life and death. Misc. notes: The abbey near the White Visitation is described as a ruin on a cliff (p. 86) - it brings to mind the Tower from the Tarot and the related imagery of the Castle Perilous (both referenced in The Waste Land). On p. 90-91 - I’m not positive, but this jumped out to me as an allusion to the play Waiting for Godot. The phrasing and pace of the segment starting “Why do you need me” and ending on the next page with “Help me” sounds very similar to an early scene in Godot, and the works share the themes of purposelessness, meaningless, invisible control, and the question of salvation. Section 14 YouTube Recording by u/BodinethePig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6RFKZPX8rQ Back to the mansion of the opening scene’s banana breakfast. An anonymous cameraman (is it us, the reader?) lends an element of voyeurism, as Katje models for the camera - but why? Meanwhile, Osbie Feel is busy making psychedelic cigarettes from mushrooms grown on the roof. Pynchon notes Katje’s dress, and I suspect the focus on the name used for that particular cocoa shade is a subtle example of England’s casual racism and colonial past. A derogatory term repurposed for a product. A view of Osbie’s oven triggers a flashback for Katje, to her time as a double-agent reporting to Pirate on the rocket battery Schußstelle 3, under the command of the sadistic Captain Blicero. We first heard of him back during the seance. His true name is Weissmann (literally white man), and his code name, Blicero, is the Teutonic name for death. I mentioned the theme of opposition at the beginning of this increasingly-lengthy post, and Blicero is emblematic of one pole - literally white, male, colonizing death. But his teeth reveal hidden decay behind the white exterior. If Blicero is the personification of white Euro-American colonial culture, Pynchon’s saying there’s rot there, and it ain’t pretty. Here’s where S&M comes into the narrative, in a darkly graphic way. Pynchon is fully willing to make the reader uncomfortable by confronting the parts of life that we normally avoid talking about or acknowledging, including those on the fringe. On top of that, we get the image of Der Kinderofen, echoing both Grimm’s fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel as well as the ovens of the concentration camps. The house that Blicero, Katje, and Gottfried inhabit is a microcosm of colonialism and/or modern society. It’s literally referred to as “their Little State.” If that’s the case, Katje and Gottfried represent two responses to such a scenario: Katje decides that quitting the game is only way out, whereas Gottfried waits for salvation. Gottfried is confident he’s part of the Elect, but Katje isn’t so sure, and takes matters into her own hands. Meanwhile, the oven looms in the background - both the base of the State, and its ultimate destruction (p. 99). Is Pynchon implying that the modern state is fundamentally self-destructive? It would seem so. We also get our first look at the other end of the arc: the rockets being fired. Interestingly, we realize they’re not as all-powerful and precise as they first appear. Deadly, sure, but many are exploding right after launch, even on the launchpad, killing the operators. The flashback to Blicero’s history in colonial Africa introduces us to the Herero people, including Blicero’s lover, Enzian. Enzian represents an entirely different worldview from Blicero - a non-European, non-binary, non-Christian perspective. One of his gods, Ndjambi Karunga, represents the merging of the opposing forces that are so disconnected in the European’s worldview. Back to the house, and we get more insight into Gottfried’s character. He’s clearly a passive participant, submissive, willing to do as he’s told. “If you cannot sing Siegfried at least you can carry a spear.” (p. 103). He accepts the suffering he endures as part of the system, a normal stage in life before moving on to some career of his own, some form of autonomy. But he doesn’t see any action required on his part to make this happen. After all, “He knows, like everyone, that captive children are always freed in the moment of maximum danger.” (p. 103). That’s the faith of one convinced he’s part of the Elect. Here we see one of the most well-known quotes from the book - “Don’t forget the real business of the War is buying and selling…. The true war is a celebration of markets.” (p. 105). In the interest of brevity, I’ll leave it to y’all to delve more into this critical section, but at least on the surface, it gives one of Pynchon’s more direct statements on the nature of war, its function, and its objectification of human life. We also get a fascinating aside on Katje’s ancestor committing avian genocide against the dodoes, that most unfortunate of birds. Yet again, we’re examining the conflict of Preterite vs Elect, and how the fantasy of salvation is is a way to pacify those who are doomed in their current lives. If not that, then all is chance and the dodoes are “only our prey. God could not be that cruel.” (p. 111). But couldn’t he? The evidence doesn’t appear in god’s favor, does it? Last but not least, we see Katje’s film being put to use to condition good ol’ octopus Grigori. But again, to what end? Section 15 YouTube Recording (by yours truly): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPgiptRr-W0 Mrs. Quoad! One of the funniest scenes in the book, and one of my favorites. It showcases both Pynchon’s visceral descriptive abilities as well as the insanity of prewar British candy. Before the Disgusting English Candy Drill, we see Slothrop’s exit from a controlled, laboratory setting and instead being released “into the wild” for observation. He is moving toward Pointsman’s Rorschach-esque experiment, the nature of which is as-yet unknown, but which occupies much of Book 2. This also marks the beginning of Slothrop’s (fully justified) paranoia. In the words of my father, “it’s not paranoia if they’re actually watching you.” Slothrop senses he’s being followed, observed, and starts to get a bit jumpy. Wouldn’t you? My analysis is already far too long, so I’m grateful for this mercifully short and simple section. I think we all needed some levity after Blicero, no? Something tells me Pynchon was thinking the same thing in granting the reader this reprieve. Section 16 YouTube Recording by u/DanteNathanael: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NapZnTK3TRU In this section, we see more of Roger and Jessica’s history together, and the contrast between his more fearful, negative recognition of the System in which they live, and Jessica’s more carefree willingness to focus on the moments of joy she can find. But even nihilistic Roger finds some beauty on this Christmas eve walk. An aside: the line, “who are all these people…. Freaks! Freeeeaks!” absolutely cracks me up. The rest of this section alludes heavily to another poem by our friend T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi. It’s fairly short and accessible, and a truly beautiful work. It’s told from the point of view of one of the magi, looking back on his journey:
All this was a long time ago, I remember, / And I would do it again, but set down / This set down / This: were we led all that way for / Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly / We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, / But had thought they were different; this Birth was / Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We get glimpses into how the War has worn down the population, drained them, recycled even the most mundane objects (e.g. toothpaste tubes) into material for the war. But we also see a reversal of this, with Spam tins recycled into toys for children. An echo of the death/rebirth cycle we previously saw with the king and the land, and in the poem above. A glimmer of hope? Pynchon discusses how the War relies on the illusion of unity but in fact is founded on disunity, on division. Society and the System depend on broad perception of rational, ordered, mechanistic system. Surrealism, the removal of this illusion of borders, en masse is societal suicide. But also an inextricable part of it. As with the microcosm of Blicero’s oven, the end is baked into the origin. The ordered reality of the System is a facade - even time’s sped up thanks to the War. In fact, Roger’s first moment of optimism, of faith, comes after the choir’s act of “minor surrealism” - the removal of artificial boundaries between race, culture, language (p. 129). The War destroys the death/rebirth cycle: its death is a finality, with just a gold start as a consolation prize for the dead who lay buried under the snow in a bomb crater, and humans subdivided to the point of being individually numbered. But for a second, for just a second on Christmas eve, people can forget that - even Roger, who enters the ultraparadoxical phase when sound of the choir overcomes his knee-jerk nihilism and actually brings him back around to hope, if just for that night. Questions
What are your thoughts on Professor Jampf’s experiment on poor Infant Tyrone? What might be variable “x”? Does that even matter?
Is Slothrop “sensing” the rockets before they are launched? Are the rockets somehow drawn to the locations of his sexual forays? Is he reading the minds of the rocket operators? Or worse, and most terrifyingly, is it all somehow coincidence?
What was your initial reaction to the section with Blicero, Katje, and Gottfried? Did your perspective change after you finished the entire section?
Why didn’t Katja give up location of Schußstelle 3?
How does “the Change” that Blicero is fixated on play into our larger themes? There’s an allusion here to both Ovid’s Metamorphoses and several Romantic poets. How would you define Blicero’s desires?
The Mrs. Quoad scene seems to largely be a light aside to break up some pretty heavy material. But is there anything more to it? Any other insights to be pulled from the candy jar?
Well, if you made it all the way to the end of this, thank you. I think I put more energy into this than several college essays I turned in, but it was a lot of fun, and I’m blown away by how much I gained from this exercise. I’m excited to see what insights you have! Addendum: great discussion so far! Thanks for the excellent insights and observations!
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Escape from Tarkov New Player Guide 2.0: 75 Pages and packed with all the information you could ever need for success!
Greetings, this is dumnem, also known as Theorchero, but you can call me Theo. I'm an experienced Tarkov player and I'm writing this guide to try and assist new Tarkov players learn the game, because it has one hell of a learning curve. We'll be going over a lot of different aspects of this guide, and it is going to be huge. Feel free to digest this in parts. Additionally, this is a work in progress. I will write as much as I can in one Reddit post, but subsequent parts will be in additional comments. Google Docs Version (Note: Link is placeholder atm, but here is a sneak preview!) Disclaimer: Tarkov recently updated to .12! That's a HUGE amount of information that I need to update. Please be patient! If there is anything I have gotten wrong or may have omitted, please let me know. This is Primarily directed towards Tarkov Novices, but should be useful for even Tarkov Veterans. It hopefully includes everything you need to know to be able to go into a Raid equipped for success and to successfully extract with gear. Want to play with friends? Want to have fun and learn Tarkov? Check out my discord here.
[Updated for .12]
Money making strategies completed.
Minor grammar adjustments, adding additional medical items.
Added additional resources, updated old ones.
Hideout section complete
Table of Contents
Tarkov Overview - What is Escape from Tarkov?
Tarkov Resources - Useful links
Tarkov's Health System
Tarkov's Hideout System
Tarkov's Quest System and Progression
Tarkov's Hotkeys to Know
New Player's loadouts - LL1 Traders
What to Loot - How to get the most money per slot
Stash Management - How to combat Gear Fear
Tarkov Economy - How do I make money?
Tarkov Overview - What is Escape from Tarkov?
Escape from Tarkov is a tactical, realistic, FPS with MMO elements developed by Battlestate Games. It is currently in closed Beta. The game features several maps in which your primary character, your PMC, goes into Raids in order to find and salvage loot and useful equipment to survive and thrive in Tarkov. Death is very punishing in Tarkov. If you die you lose everything you had on you when you die (with the exception of what's inside your Container and your melee weapon) including any equipment you brought with you or what you found inside the Raid. Enemies can be players (PMCs) or Scavengers ('Scavs') that are either controlled by AI or by players. Unlike many shooters, AI enemies in Tarkov are deadly - they can and will kill you on sight. They have recently been upgraded to act more intelligently, shoot more accurately, and react to situations on the map, such as investigating noise of gunfire or searching. It features beautiful and immersive environments, intricate and in-depth weapon modification system, a complex health system, dynamic and specific loot placement, and multiple options for engagement. Do you want to play slow and stealthy, to avoid fights, or set up a deadly ambush on an unwary foe? Or do you prefer raw combat, where only your quick wit, placements of shots, and tenaciousness determines who gets out alive? It's your Tarkov. You make the rules.
Tarkov Resources - Useful links
I take no credit or responsibility for any of the content in these links. To the best of my knowledge, these are updated consistently and are accurate, but user beware.
Huge collection of all the keys in the game. These are also on the wiki, but this page has them all on one page, and tries to inform the user if the key is worth keeping or using. Check it out here. This section is open to revision. Mention me in a thread (or in the comments below) about a resource and I'll see about adding it here.
Courtesy of Veritas (Send me his reddit username?), It's located here. (Open in new tab.) Contains: Detailed information about: Ammunition, Health, Firearms, Body Armor, Helmets, Rigs & Backpacks, Labs & Quest keys. Outdated! Needs to be updated for .12
Offline Raids - Player Practice
Offline raids is a feature added for testing and learning purposes for both new and veteran players alike. It is an incredibly useful tool. In an offline raid, your progress is not saved. This means you don't keep anything you find, keep any experience 'earned' if you successfully extract, or lose any gear when/if you die. To access OFFLINE Raids, head into a Raid normally until you see this screen. Then Check the box indicating that you want to do an OFFLINE raid and you're good to go! You even have a choice on whether or not to add AI. You can also control how many AI enemies spawn, fewer than normal or a great deal more! You can even make Scavs fight each other. (Framerates beware.) You can control how many scavs spawn (if any) as well as a number of other paramaters. New players should use offline raids as a tool to practice shooting, controls, movement, etc.
Tarkov features several maps - ranging from wide, beautiful vistas to ruined factory districts, to an abandoned laboratory where illegal experiments were being conducted. It is important to learn the maps you intend to play. In order to keep your gear, you must 'extract' at one of your designated exfiltration points. Not all extracts will be active every game, and some are conditional.
To see what extracts are available to you, double tap 'O' to show raid time and your exfils. If it has a ???? it might not be open.
Gate 3 Extract A small, fast-paced map that was primarily created for PvP. Scavs spawn in all the time. Very close quarters, shotguns and SMGs tend to dominate here. PMCs can only access one Exit (Gate 3) without the Factory Exit Key. Good place to go if you need PMC kills as action is pretty much guaranteed. It is recommended NOT to bring in a lot of gear to Factory until you are experienced. Factory Map in PvP is best played in Duos - due to the layout of the map, a Maximum of 6 PMCs may be present in the game. Due to the split spawn points, you effectively have 'sides' that have up to 3 spawn locations that are close together. This is why it is recommended to secure/scout enemy spawn locations. If you go in with a Duo, you at max have 2 players on your side for an even 2v2, and if played smartly you can eliminate them and know your 'side' is secure from aggression for the time being. Upon loading in, scavs usually take a couple minutes to spawn, though this depends on the server in question and isn't super reliable. For new players, the best loadout in Factory is going to be a MP-153 Loadout - using just an MBSS (or similar bag) and ammo in your pocket to fight other players and Scavs. Scavs will often spawn with AKs and other 'vendorable' weapons, so is a good source of income. Factory is also one of the best maps to Scav into, as Scavs can typically avoid the Exit camping strategy employed by a lot of weaker or newer players in order to secure gear, because they typically have extra exfiltrations whereas PMCs without the Factory Exit Key are stuck using Gate 3. If you go in with a modicum of gear, it is recommended to keep at least a flashbang (Zarya) in your container. This will allow you to quickly slot it into an empty chest rig or pocket so you can throw it into the exit door, this will flash enemies and is cheap to do - the one time you survive because you flashed the 3 exit campers using shotguns will make this strategy extremely valuable.
Extract map A fairly large map that was recently expanded and is expected to receive an overhaul within a patch or two, due to the choke point design of the map. Essentially, players spawn either on 'warehouse' or 'boiler (stacks)' side. If you see a large red warehouse ('big red') near you (Customs Warehouse), then you spawned on the warehouse side. If you don't, you likely spawned near Boiler side. Players can also spawn in several places in the woods North of boilers. This map has the most quests in the game. Geared players often come to customs to challenge other squads over Dorm loot and to fight a Scav boss. New players are usually trying to do one of several early quests, such as ‘Debut’ which tasks them with killing 5 scavs on Customs and acquiring 2 MR-133 shotguns (pump shotties) from their corpses. Construction is also a popular hotspot as it has a lot of scav spawns as well as the location for the Bronze Pocketwatch, which is Prapor’s second quest. Customs itself does not offer very much loot on average. There are several spots which can contain decent, but the vast majority is located in a couple different locations. Dorms is the best loot location for Customs. It has two sets, 2 story and 3 story dorms. They each have their own sections of good loot, but the best is considered to be 3 story dorms, due to the presence of the Marked Room. The marked room requires a marked key to open, and has a good chance to spawn rare loot, such as keytools, documents cases, weapons cases, and high-end weapons. Due to the nature of the high value of this room, it’s almost always contested and it’s one of the best rooms in the game to farm, albeit with difficulty to successfully extract with the loot found. Note, though the key required has a maximum amount of uses, it is a fairly cheap key, and worth buying if you like to run customs and go to Dorms. Dorms also has a ton of early quests (Operation Aquarius, for one) with some keys being valuable to use, but most dorms keys aren’t worth that much on the market. There’s too many to list here, but make sure to check the Map Keys and You at the top of the guide to determine what the value of a particular key is. Checkpoint (Military Checkpoint) is also a decent loot spot, though not nearly as good as Dorms. If you have the key, it has a grenade box and 2 ammo boxes which can spawn good ammo. The jacket in the blue car also can spawn good medical keys as well as medical items. It is very close to the gas station, so I’ll include that here as well. The Gas Station is one of the possible spawn locations for the scav boss. It has loose food items, a weapon box in the side room, with two keyed rooms leading to a safe and a med bag and box. Also contains a couple registers and food spawns on the floor. The emercom key can spawn on the seat in the ambulance out front. North of the gas station is the Antenna, which contains 3 weapon boxes, a tool box, and a med bag. Possible location for scav boss spawn, albeit rarely, and also spawns regular scavs, like checkpoint and gas station. Beyond that, there’s scattered loot around the map in different places, but usually not enough to warrant going out of your way for. There’s also scav caches, mostly around the middle road outside construction and around the boiler area. The scav boss for customs is 'Reshala.’ He has 5 guards that have above-average gear and can be tough to deal with solo. The guards tend to be more aggressive than normal scavs, so they can be a lot to handle but are vulnerable to fragmentation grenades or flashbangs due to their close proximity to one another. Reshala himself has a good chance to have one or more bitcoin in his pockets, as well as his unique Golden TT, which is required for a Jaegar quest and used in conjunction with other Golden TT's to purchase a Tactec, good plate carrier. Reshala may spawn either Dorms (either bldg), New Gas Station, or rarely the tower north of the gas station. Scav bosses are dangerous enemies with escorts that have above-average loot (sometimes great loot) and are hostile to everyone, Including player scavs. Scav guards will approach a player scav and basically tell them to leave the area, and if they walk closer towards the scav boss they turn hostile. The ‘official’ spawn rate for Reshala is 35%.
Woods Map with Exfil A very large map that is mostly just a large forest, with the occasional bunker, and the Lumber Mill in the center. The Lumber Mill is the primary point of interest, as it contains a couple quest locations and is the primary location to farm Scavs, as Scavs killed on woods are a good source of end-game keys that are hard to find. Since the map is so large and open, sniper rifles with scopes usually reign king here. You will see a lot of players with Mosin rifles as they are a cheap way to train the Sniper skill (for a quest later on) and are capable of killing geared players and scavs alike. Overall, not usually very populated. An early quest from Prapor sends you here to kill a number of Scavs. A good map to learn the game, as although the loot is not fantastic, you can get experience with how the game runs and operates while fighting AI and possibly getting lucky with a key find off a scav. As of .12, Woods now houses a Scav boss that acts as a Sniper scav. He is incredibly dangerous and usually carries a tricked-out SVDS. The 7.62x54 caliber is not to be underestimated. That caliber can and will wreck your shit through what most players are capable of wearing, especially early on in a wipe. He may also carry an AK-105, so he's going to be dangerous at both short and long ranges. He has two guards, and he typically patrols the area around the Sawmill, and carries a key to a cache nearby full of goodies. His key is part of a quest for Jaegar. Woods also has two bunkers, one of them being an extract and requiring a key. Both bunkers have some moderate loot in them, thus worth visiting, though not necessarily worth going out of your way for them. Several quests occur around the sawmill area, which contains a good couple keys that can spawn.
Shoreline Map, with Loot, Exfil, etc A very large map, notorious for its FPS hit. Generally speaking, one of the better maps for loot. The primary point of interest is the Resort, but scavs spawn there, and is primarily occupied by hatchlings (players only with hatchet, ie melee weapon) and geared players. Resort has great loot, but requires keys to access most of it. A great map to learn though from new players as the outskirts still contains plenty of loot and combat opportunities with AI scavs. You can hit Villa, Scav Island, Weather station, Docks, etc and come out with a backpack full of valuable gear fairly easily. The Village (Not to be confused with villa) contains a lot of toolboxes which can contain lots of parts used to upgrade your Hideout. Location of many quests, including a large quest chain where players are required to kill many, many, scavs on Shoreline. For this and other reasons, probably the best map for new players to learn the game with. A good loot route is to hit the village (caches in it), scav island (2 med bags, 2 toolboxes, 2 weapon boxes, 1 cache), burning gas station (weapon boxes and a safe), pier (potential extract, 2 pcs 2 safes and lots of filing cabinets), and weather station. Scavs may spawn around these areas, but most players just head straight for resort anyway, so you are much less likely to encounter them, especially if you avoid Mylta power (most players hit it on the way to or leaving from the resort). Excellent route as a player scav as well.
Detailed map Great, great loot area, but very complex map. Old computers might face unique struggles with this map. Features a mostly-binary exfil system like Shoreline, but.. kinda worse. Exfil camping is fairly common on this map, but usually avoidable. Huge map with multiple floors and many many different stores. Communication with teammates is a challenge on this map, but the map is also fantastically detailed. This map features a lot of loot that depends on the kind of store you're in. It's a great place to farm rare barter materials which are valuable to sell on the Flea market or to use for quests or for hideout upgrades. An early quest (from Ragman) sends you here to kill a large amount of Scavs. I'd recommend getting Ragman to level 2 and accepting his quest asap when going to Interchange, as getting this quest done can take a while as it is and you want all scav kills to count towards progress. Both the tech stores (Techlight, Techxo, Rasmussen) and department stores (Groshan, Idea, OLI) are the primary places to hit. There’s also Kiba (weapons store) as well as Emercom and Mantis. Players have different strategies, but this map is unique in the sense that it really rewards exploring. Most stores will have things you can grab that are worth quite a bit but are often overlooked. Very popular place to go in as a Player Scav.
Brand new map, chock full of loot. Has more complex extracts than other maps, save for Labs. Excellent place to farm rare barter items, computer parts, and especially military hardware. PMCs have limited extracts, most being conditional, and the ones that aren’t require activation of ‘power’ to turn on the extract, which alerts the map the extract has been opened and can spawn Raiders (more on them below.) Additionally, has a scav boss by the name of Glukhar, who has multiple heavily armed guards. He has multiple spawn locations and can arrive with the train.
DISCLAIMER: Labs, like much of Tarkov, is under constant development, so issues may be fixed or created without warning. Always check patch notes!
Labs is a very complex map compared to the rest of Tarkov. There is a great deal more exfiltrations but many of them have requirements or a sequence of events needed to be able to extract from them. It is recommended to read the Tarkov Wiki on Labs before raiding there.
LABS IS NOT LIKE OTHER MAPS. READ THIS SECTION CAREFULLY.
Labs is a lucrative end-game raid location, comparable to 'dungeons' in other games. They are populated by tougher enemies that give greater rewards. In order to go to labs, you need to acquire a keycard, this functions like mechanical keys but instead of opening a door, they unlock your ability to select Labs for a raid. They may be found in-raid in various locations, most notably in scavs backpacks, pockets, and in filing cabinets. They may be purchased from Therapist at LL4 for 189K Roubles. Labs are populated by a unique kind of AI enemy, Raiders.
Raiders are the Labs form of Scavs, or AI enemies. However, unlike other maps, they cannot contain player Scavs. Raiders have a much tougher than your average scav, they are capable of advanced tactics (such as flanking) and throw grenades and use other consumables as a player would. Once 'locked' onto you, they are typically capable of killing you very quickly, even if you are wearing high-end armor. In Tarkov, Raiders act like the avatars of Death. They are clad in USEC and BEAR equipment, as they are effectively AI PMCs. Many changes have been made to labs and specifically how Raider AI works and to prevent exploits to easily farm them as well as bugs where they could be deadlier than intended. A general rule of thumb is not to fight Raiders directly. They can and WILL kill you. Raiders can spawn with 7N9, or 'big boy' ammo. This ammunition type is incredibly lethal to players, even those wearing the toughest armor. If you get shot in the head, doesn't matter what kind of helmet, face shield, killa helmet, etc you are wearing, you will almost certainly die. Because Raiders are controlled by AI, they have zero ping. They may also end to immediately respond as if you were aggressive even if they did not originally know you were there - ESP Raiders effectively will prone and return fire even as you ADS and put them in your sights. This is why engaging a Raider must be done very, very carefully. There are a few strategies that you may employ, most commonly some form of baiting them towards an area and then killing them when they arrive. Players may accomplish this by generating noise - gunfire, melee weapon hitting walls, crates, etc, player deaths, players Mumbling (F1 by default) can all attract Raiders to investigate your area. Due to the high power of Raiders, players often go in with minimal loadouts and seek to avoid conflict with other players, especially geared ones. Most players avoid PvP in Labs, though a good portion of the playerbase thoroughly enjoys hunting down poorly-geared players after they kill a few Raiders for them. As such, players will lay prone in a hallway, or crouch in a room, and attract Raiders to enter their domicile by opening the door, and immediately headshotting them. Few Raiders actually wear helmets (though some do) so most players specialize in 'flesh ammo' or, ammunition that foregoes armor penetration in favor of raw damage in order to kill Raiders more reliably, because Raiders have slightly higher head health than PMCs do. Raiders spawn with a great variety of equipment, weapons, armor, and materials such as medication or hideout parts. They tend to have chest armor and may have different helmets. Their pockets can contain Labs keycards, morphine, Ifaks, cash, and other items. They're always worth checking. Raiders are a good source of grenades, they will often have F-1's and Zarya's in their rig or pockets that you can use to fight off players and Raiders alike. Recently, changes have been made to Labs to make them less profitable so that other maps are more appealing. The cost and rarity of keycards increased, as well as reducing the frequency that raiders spawn, so that they come in more infrequent groups but also tighter in formation, while also lowering the overall output of individual Raiders, so that they are less likely to have a bunch of extra materials, such as grenades and other items.
Experience Farming on Labs
Labs is one of the best places to farm experience in the entire game. Killing a Raider with a headshot awards 1100 Experience. This does not include any looting, inspection (searching bodies), examine, streak, or other experience. Killing a large sequence of Raiders gives additional bonus experience in the form of Streak rewards, usually 100 bonus exp per additional kill. Surviving the raid multiplies all of these sources of experience by 1.5x
Changes coming to Labs
Disclaimer: I am not a BSG developer or employee. This is what I have seen on this subreddit and heard elsewhere. Some might be purely rumor, but other points are confirmed by Nikita Labs is undergoing constant changes. Nikita and BSG take feedback seriously, and always consider what the players are telling them. It known that Labs will eventually be accessed via the Streets of Tarkov map, and will require you to enter that map, make it to the labs entrance, and then extract from Labs to return to Streets of Tarkov and exfil from there as well. This will likely add an additional layer of risk to being ambushed for your goodies along your way out, as well as punishing damage taken in labs more severely. Additionally, keycards will have a limited number of uses, and may open more than one room. The full extent of the changes coming is not known. Remember, you can load a map in OFFLINE mode to practice against bots or to learn the map without fear of losing gear.
Tarkov's Health System
Tarkov Wiki Article Tarkov has a very advanced health system, and while it might seem overwhelming at first, you'll get the hang of it rather quickly. It features a very wide variety of effects and injury, including hydration, energy, blood pressure, blood loss, fractures, contusion, intoxication, exhaustion, tremors and more. Not all of the Health System is implemented yet. Expect changes! Your character (PMC, or otherwise) has a combined Health of 435. Each of his limbs have separate health. Taking damage to a limb that reduces it to 0 'blacks' that limb. Blacked limbs are a problem. They greatly impair the activities your PMC performs, and taking damage in a blacked limb amplifies the damage by a multiplier and spreads that damage among your other non-black limbs equally. You cannot heal a blacked limb without the use of a Surgical Kit. Notes:Bloodloss applies damage to the affected limb and can be spread like other damage to a blacked limb. Treat immediately. Also causes significant dehydration! Bloodloss also helps level your Vitality skill, which in turn gives you experience towards your Health skill, which is necessary to reach level 2 of in order to improve your hideout. Losing a limb applies additional effects. Fractures also apply these effects but not the damage amplification (Except for damage if running on fractured leg.) Fractures require specialized medical kits to heal. Dehydration is what happens when your Hydration level reaches 0. You can view your Hydration level in your gear page, at the bottom left. Becoming dehydrated is extremely bad. You take constant damage. Taking dehydration damage can kill you if you have a black chest or head. Restoring hydration helps train Metabolism, which improves positive effects from food and drink. Head/Chest: Bullet damage resulting in losing your head or chest is instant death. Note: Bloodloss resulting in your Head/Chest being black does not result in death, but any damage to them beyond that point will! A back chest will causes you to cough (much like your stomach!) Painkillers: Prevents coughing that comes from your chest. Doesn't help otherwise. Stomach: Massively increased rate of dehydration and energy loss. You must find liquids or exit the Raid soon. Additionally, your PMC will cough sputter loudly, attracting attention. A black stomach multiplies damage taken by 1.5 and redistributes that damage across your entire health pool. Painkillers: Significantly reduces the frequency and volume of the coughs. Arms: Makes activities like searching, reloading, etc, take additional time, as well as adding a sway, reducing accuracy. Arms have a .7x damage multiplier. Painkillers: Reduces sway, removes debuff Pain. Legs: Blacked legs cause your PMC to stumble and be unable to run. Blacked legs have a 1x damage multiplier. Painkillers: Allows you to walk at full speed and to run. WARNING: Running while your legs are blacked or fractured WILL DAMAGE YOU.
Tarkov features many health items - 'Aid' items, which can be used to restore your characters health and to fix ailments or injuries he receives as the result of combat or mishaps. The two most important health conditions to consider are bloodloss and fractures, which have both been covered above. Some food items may have ancillary effects, such as losing hydration. Since in the current patch the only ailments to worry about are bleeding and fractures, it changes which health items are most necessary. We'll go over them below.
Medical Items on Wiki AI-2 medkit The newb's medical kit. You receive several of these when you start Tarkov - they'll already be in your stash. Available from Level I Therapist, they are cheap and effective way of healing early in the game. They will not stop bloodloss. Because of this, you also need to bring bandages or a higher-grade medical kit. Affectionately called 'little cheeses' by the Tarkov community. Using it takes 2 seconds, and because of how cheap it is, it's often brought in by higher level players to supplement their healing without draining their main kit (which is capable of healing bloodloss or sometimes fractures). Due to its short use time, it's often very useful during combat as you can take cover and quickly recover damage taken to a vital limb. They're also useful as you can buy them from Therapist to heal yourself if you died in a raid. Bandages The newb's bloodloss solution. Available from Therapist at Level I. A better version, the Army Bandage is available at Level II, after a quest. Mostly obsolete after unlocking the Car Medical kit, but some players value them due to the Car's overall low health pool. Activating takes 4 seconds, and removes bloodloss to one limb. Splint The newb's solution to fractures. Cheap, takes five seconds to use, and takes up 1 slot. Fractures are much more common this patch, due to them being added back in the game from standard bullet wounds, not just drops. Available from Therapist at Level I, no quest needed. Can be used to craft a Salewa. Alu Splint More advanced form of the normal split. Works the same, but has up to 5 uses. Recommended to carry in your container if possible, due to frequency of fractures from gunfire. CMS (Compact Medical Surgery) Kit New medical item added in .12, fantastic item. Allows you to perform field surgery, removing the black limb state and allowing you to heal it beyond 0 hp. Takes 16 seconds to use, and cannot be cancelled so make sure you are safe if you are using it! Will reduce the maximum health of the limb it's used on by 40-55%, but will effectively remove all negative effects incurred by having a black limb. Highly recommended to carry in your container for emergencies. Can be bartered from Jaeger LL1, and purchased for roubles LL2. Surv12 field surgical kit Same as the compact surgical kit, but takes 4 seconds longer, and the health penalty is reduces to 10-20% max health of the limb. Considering this kit is 1x3, taking up a huge amount of space, it's probably not worth using. It's just too large. Better this than nothing, though. Car Medical Kit The newb's first real medical solution. Available LL1 as a barter (2 Duct Tape) and available for Roubles after completing Therapist's second quest. Has a larger health pool than AI-2's (220, vs AI-2's 100), and removes bloodloss. Takes up a 1x2 slot, so requires to be placed in a tactical rig in order to be used effectively. Cheap and fairly efficient, takes a standard 4 seconds to use. Rendered effectively obsolete when the Salewa is unlocked. Often kept in a player's secure container as a backup health pool, before IFAKs are unlocked. Salewa Good medkit for use in mid and end-game. Contains 400 total health and can remove bloodloss. More rouble efficient form of a healing due to its high health pool, costs 13k roubles. Same size as the Car medical kit, so requires a tactical rig to use effectively. Because Tarkov does not currently have effects like Toxication in the game at the moment, this kit is favored by most players who go into a raid with at least a moderate level of gear. With a high health pool and relatively low cost, it's also a more efficient way of healing damage sustained while in raids. Unlocked at Therapist Level II after completing a level 10 Prapor quest, Postman Pat Part II. Required as part of Therapist's first quest, Shortage. This makes Salewas very valuable early on in a wipe as it gatekeeps the rest of Therapist's quests, most of which occur on Customs early on. Can be crafted in your meds station with a painkiller, splint, and bandage. IFAK Fantastic medical kit, and is the one preferred by most players. Features 300 health and the ability to remove bloodloss and a host of other negative effects that are not yet implemented into the game. It does not, however, remove fractures. Taking up only a single slot, it is favored by players in all stages of gear, and it is recommend to carry one in your Secure Container in case of emergencies. Is available at Therapist Level II for a barter (Sugar + Sodium), and may be purchased for Roubles at Level III after completing Healthcare Privacy, Part I. It is a fairly expensive kit, but due to its durability, its small size, and ability to remove bloodloss, it is a very common medical item used by players of all levels. Can be crafted in Lvl 2 medstation. Grizzly The 'big daddy' medical kit, boasting an impressive total health resource of 1800. It is also a very large kit, taking up 4 slots (2x2) - in order to be able to use this quickly, it would require specialized tactical rigs that feature a 2x2 slot. It removes all negative effects (some costing HP resource), including fractures. Used by highly-geared players who intend on staying in raids for an extended period of time, or by players with additional Secure Container space available in case of emergencies. It is available for barter at Therapist Level II, and purchase at Therapist Level 4. Due to its price point from Therapist at just under 23k Roubles and its healthpool of 1800, it is by far the most efficient method of healing from raid damage, at a 1.3 roubles per health, dramatically lower than other options available. Can be crafted in Lvl 3 medstation.
Using any of these items results in your character being 'On Painkillers' which allows you to sprint on fractured and blacked legs, as well as reducing effects of fractures and blacked limbs, and removing the debuff Pain. Essentially, the only difference between most of these items are the speed of use, price, availability, and duration of the effect. Note that the Hideout has changed how some of these items are used, and because Tarkov is under constant development, it is very likely that these materials may be used to create higher-grade medkits or to upgrade your medstation. That being the case, it's best to hoard the unknown items for now as efficiently as possible until you know you don't need them. Analgin Painkillers The holy grail of pain medication. "Painkillers" have 4 total uses. The total duration is greater than Morphine and less risk of waste. Takes a short time to use, and is available from Therapist Level 1 for both barter and Roubles. Makes a loud, distinctive gulping noise. Can be used to craft Salewa kits. Morphine Quick application of painkillers. Favored by some highly geared players as it has greater usability in combat then it's typical counterpart, Painkillers. Has a longer duration, but only one use. It is required for a fairly early Therapist (and a late Peacekeeper) Quest, so it is recommend to hoard 10 of them, then sell the rest unless you intend on using them. They are worth a good amount to Therapist and take up little space so they are a valuable loot item. Available from Therapist for Roubles at Level 4, after completing Healthcare Privacy, Part 3. Augmentin Basically a cheaper Morphine. One use, 205s. Not recommended over Painkillers due to its cost. No current barter for this item, so usually it's just a fairly expensive, small loot item. Most likely a component of a medstation manufacturing process or upgrade. Keep it. Ibuprofen Powerful painkiller. Lasts 500 seconds and has 12 uses. This item is recommended as your long-term solution for painkillers. While it is valuable because it's used to trade for THICC items case, it's the cheapest component and is very useful as a painkiller. It has a long duration and a large amount of uses, so keep it in your container for use as a painkiller if your primary painkillers wear off. Don't use it completely up, though. Keep the 1/12 bottles for the trade. Vaseline Powerful medical item. Cannot be purchased from dealers. Has a maximum of 10 uses. Removes Pain, applies Painkillers for 500 seconds (8.3 minutes). Useful to keep in your container as an alternative to Painkillers, though it takes 6 seconds to use, which is longer than other painkillers. Used as part of a barter trade for the Medcase. Golden Star Balm Fairly useful medical item. It can remove Pain and Contusion (not a big deal of a debuff, goes away on its own shortly) and provides a small bonus to hydration and energy. It also removes toxication and Radiation exposure, both of which are not yet implemented into the game. Like Vaseline, has a maximum of 10 uses. Painkiller effect lasts for 10 minutes, and takes 7 seconds to apply. Recommended to take only if you are going on large maps and you have extra room in your container. Can be used with Ibuprofen and 5x Med parts to craft 7 Propital.
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