The following short story was penned in response to the tragic shooting in Buffalo, NY. The author, Simon Simonsen, submitted this work to the Hyphen-Report to express his frustration at those who still seek a violent solution to the political woes of White people across the world.
The image box
Imagine you are placed in an empty box.
The box is gray. The floor is gray. The walls are gray. The Ceiling is gray.
The box is not claustrophobic. It appears like it can fit a great crowd if necessary. You have been in this isolation box for some time. You don’t really know how long. The days and nights don’t exist for you. Your whole experience is the box.
One day, images start appearing on the walls. The images mean little to you at first, because they are outside of your experience. Colours and shapes without form or substance to them flicker. Eventually, you are shown concrete images. Most of them are mundane. Some are erotic. Others are violent and gruesome. Many are humorous. Some are just bizarre without context. Gradually you are introduced to moving images. The moving images are similar to the static images. All of these projections appear random. Most of the time you can sleep, but you find the constant blinking lights obtrusive.
After you are used to the lights and images, sounds are broadcast into the box. You haven’t heard a word that wasn’t your own thoughts out loud for a long time. The images now make more sense. But the sounds do not stop. A constant buzzing noise pervades the box as if a single bee buzzed about. Sometimes it’s not only one bee, but a swarm. The noise keeps you awake so you are forced to look at the images and hear the sounds. It’s a dull roar. It’s maddening. You had no urge to escape the box before. You had accepted the box as if it was always so and meant to be so. This was your existence and it was fine.
You were never technically alone, however. There were always others in the box with you. I never mentioned them before because they were irrelevant. They were inconstant. They drifted in and out of the box. You never saw them enter or leave, but they didn’t just disappear either. It was as if they faded in and out of your memories. You talked with them about the images but never tried to understand them. Everyone was docile, going along to get along.
One day, things changed. The box started closing in.
Nothing had really changed; you realized it was always closing in. But it was so imperceptible as to be unnoticeable. Others began noticing it too. Not everyone believed their shared space in the box was gradually contracting. Some thought it was a myth. Others tried to respond. Some individuals would press with all their might against the walls, hoping to reverse their trajectory. Others jumped on the floor hoping to push the floor down. Some of them even claimed to be successful. When they pooled their efforts, they momentarily reversed the progressive constriction of the box or at least slowed it down. Some of them took this to be victory enough and then stopped resisting.
For others, however, these temporary triumphs were not enough. After some time, some advocated everyone in the box collectively act to destroy the box or find a vector of escape by analyzing the images. Perhaps the images held the key to overcoming the box. But something new happened. Those who advocated for that idea were subject to an electric shock. Those who they discussed their idea with, were also subject to a shock—milder but still quite deterring. Some had the courage to resist the shock. They continued working together and planning. They started to gain a consensus.
But a small minority advocated doing nothing. They would admonish anyone trying to escape. The do-nothing crowd started receiving rewards. They appeared happier as if some sort of drug temporarily took away their fears and loneliness.
You seemed to get the worst of the shocks. Every time you spoke with someone, regardless of the content or intent, you were shocked. It was intermittent. Eventually, you learned to shut up and the shocks subsided. You could not yell to drown out the images. You couldn’t even whisper.
But the box continued to grow smaller. It became more claustrophobic and oppressive. But even so, the discontentment increased. There were rumours that others existed outside of the box. The images seemed to suggest this fantasy was correct as did the unfamiliar voices on the loudspeakers.
You were most enraged. You wanted to take action, damn the shocks! So, you did. It appeared that whatever force controlled the box was not capable of monitoring everyone all at once, so you became more secretive. You used archaic verbiage and modern slang to evade detection. This protected you from monitoring by the general population, but it also isolated you. You appeared crazy to others. In fact, the box denied you sleep, and made you despondent and dependent. It made you into a ghost, no more real than the images and sounds you were broadcasted.
You met others who claimed they could explain the images to you. You had a dramatic scheme. If you couldn’t escape the box, you could make it more habitable for everyone, if you killed some of your fellow prisoners. There would be more living space and more resources for those who remained. Those explainers of images agreed with you and egged you on. You still evaded shocks. None came. You chose not to question your newfound freedom. You were not in a rational frame of mind. Even if you were rational by the standards of the public which judged you, they were just as screwed up, having been programmed by the images you were shown.
You were driven crazy by the box and you acted. You killed several others. In response, you were removed from the box. You escaped the box. You were placed in another box, far more unpleasant than the first. Occasionally you saw broadcasts from the first box of what happened there. You watched as the shocks intensified and the walls closed in quicker. You accomplished nothing. In fact, you accelerated the plight of those you thought you were helping. It’s not your fault. The machinery of the box is designed to make you insane. That was its purpose from the beginning. Those who egged you on did so intentionally. They were liars.
What you didn’t know was the efforts of the others in the box, who kicked the walls and stomped on the floors, those who stood on each other’s shoulders just to punch the ceiling had an impact. The box no longer had solid grey, unrelenting walls without disfigurement. There were cracks forming. The cracks were quickly repaired, but an observer claimed to have seen the mechanism which controlled the motion of one of the walls. The box was no longer all that was. It was no longer self-evident. It didn’t justify itself anymore to its inhabitants merely by its existence. Nobody took it seriously anymore as a force of nature. Those who were in the box began to surmise the gears and levers that controlled it. They started pinpointing its weaknesses. The box lost its legitimacy. It was unpleasant sure, but the unknown seemed worse. The box was uncomfortable for those who opposed it but felt fine for those who supported it. But the supporters dwindled as material comfort could no longer be guaranteed as the walls closed in.
You told everyone that you were a hero. When you were ejected, you went on and on about how you were brave. They knew you weren’t because you only made things more difficult for them. When they eventually overpowered the mechanism, you saw it projected weakly on your image broadcaster. You heard their muffled taps and pounding from a distance. You expected to be let out for you must have inspired them to action! You were justified by utilitarian principles. Besides, you killed people who weren’t going to be missed anyway. That was true. Everyone mourned them for a week and then their memories faded.
But you were not rescued from your box. You had to sit there, sulking and miserable as the very same image explainers joined you in punishment. They designed the box to satisfy and distract; now they experienced the fruits of their labours personally and not vicariously through agent provocateurs or monitoring systems.
Your punishment along with the makers of the box is to sit together for eternity. You are materially provided for just like before. So, you wait in terrible comfort whilst your former cellmates plunge into the beautiful real world and the majestic unknown, creating their own meaning in struggle.
Note from the Author: “This story is based in part off of Nozick’s “Experience Machine” which simulates reality. His point was nobody would choose a false existence over reality. Everyone would dismiss that as a means to happiness. He was a Jewish libertarian in the 1970s and he was completely wrong about that. People do choose a simulation of life, and they are driven mad by it. Some channel their madness productively whilst others lash out. You can’t blame them for lashing out and you must condemn the world that made them crazy. But that doesn’t make them good or righteous. A plague on both your houses.”