Pit Schultz on Wed, 30 Jul 1997 09:42:47 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> COMPUTER GAME EUROPA by Cãlin Dan

 by Cãlin Dan
 Talking about EUROPE is a temptation I always fail to reject. 
 In that sense I am by no means better than the politicians, 
 civil servants, journalists, a. o. who made a profession from 
 exploiting this vague syndrome - the post-industrial EUROPEAN 
 identity. The reason for perpetrating an attitude that I 
 actually hate  lies, I guess, on some 5 levels of 
 explanation: 1. I am too limited to find a more original 
 topic, and EUROPE is at hand anyway. 2. I am too stiff to 
 become more personal, and EUROtalks are not about 
 individuals, but about "History". 3. I am too lazy to be more 
 creative, and EUROPE provides an unexhausted collection of 
 interchangeable clichés. 4. I am too conformist not to enjoy 
 the commodity of masochism. 5. I am too oppressed by my 
 Romanian identity, therefore unable to avoid speaking about 
 For those who ignore that part of the EUROPEAN history, 
 Romania is a country which found its modern political shape 
 around 1850. And started immediately a harsh debate about its 
 place in or outside EUROPE. The issue is still fresh some 150 
 years later and it didn't bring much to the country since a 
 lot of true EUROPEANS believe that the capital city of 
 Romania is either Budapest or Sofia. The capital city of 
 Romania is Bucharest (Bucuresti). 
 The love-hate relation Romanians have with their own country 
 has an equivalent in many other cultures who experienced 
 (episodes of) marginality. Exceptional here is not the tense 
 relation of the intellectual class (the professionals of the 
 S-M autodafé) with an ambiguous geography, but the extension 
 of that tension in other levels of the society, from the 
 political sphere to the mass of potential emigrants, which 
 are a high percentage of the active population. 
 Now imagine that on top of the Romanian identity (marginal, 
 post-communist, oppressive) you realize that you are also an 
 EUROPEAN. It's hard to be a Romanian but it's twice as hard 
 to be a Romanian in EUROPE .
 *Geophrenia.* Arad, my home town is situated at the Romanian-
 Hungarian border, in a region that some (still) name 
 MittelEUROPA. This should give a hint about the Eastern limit 
 of the continent, symmetrical to the Western one in relation 
 to the "Middle". The trouble is that MittelEUROPA isn't a 
 point, nor a line - it is an area of subjective shape and 
 dimension. Adding this to the unfortunate situation that 
 EUROPE is geologically bounded to Asia, we realize that the 
 object of so much fuss, recently, is very vague on one of its 
 margins. Pushed back and forth according to various agendas, 
 an important chunk of the continent could be better defined 
 as MittelEURASIA. 
 A common place that I like in EURObabbling is the use of 
 Europa's myth in order to present the continental gestalt  - 
 feminine, abused, oriental, fertile. For those who don't have 
 a dictionary at hand, here are some useful details: Europa, a 
 beautiful Phoenician princess was kidnapped by Zeus, 
 disguised as a white bull, who took her across the 
 Mediterranean see in Crete. There she gave birth to three 
 sons, one being Minos, who later on will be involved in 
 another case of bull erotica (his wife Pasiphae will have an 
 affair with a true representative of that species). 
 When I was a kid in MittelEURasia, the courtyard story went 
 about late Empress Maria Theresa who was so greedy, sexually 
 speaking, that she needed a horse to fulfill her; it was even 
 assumed that her death occurred in connection with that 
 zoophiliac abuse. I was always fascinated by the cruel 
 nonsense, and also by the theatrical aspect of this 
 speculation; therefore a had a shock while discovering on the 
 facade of a movie theater from Bucharest the allegoric 
 illustration of the episode: Maria Theresa, nude but with the 
 unmistakable hairdo, lying on her back with a horse between 
 her legs. The horse is mounted by Death. I realized then what 
 all this was about: an updated version of Europa's myth, 
 where the daughter of Agenor became the symbol of 
 rationalized Power, undermined by its own lust for the 
 irrational. Maria Theresa was Europa in the geopolitical 
 sense (EUROPE) - fertilized but also killed by the horse, a 
 Shamanistic substitute for the nomad warrior and for his 
 eternal trade - revival through destruction.
 *I am not an European.* Before 1989 all my life was confined 
 in an area that could be crossed in 18 and rallied around in 
 36 hours (by train). What was happening beyond that limit was 
 not to be seen, experienced or understood by me, ever. I was 
 supposed to live and die in my country, with no other 
 alternative, and I strongly believed in that fate, since I 
 resented emigration and I was not part of the privileged 
 class, who could travel. 
 Objectively speaking, I belong to a historic time when one 
 half of EUROPE was rejecting the other. And even more, I 
 belong to the rejected part - I am obsolete.  By coming to 
 live, in another time though, in the rejecting half of the 
 continent doesn't necessarily give me a new identity, but 
 helps me to get rid of the old one. It doesn't free me from 
 the new mechanics of power, but it exorcise the previous 
 ones, still sheltered in the dark corners of my brain.
 Therefore EUROPE is for me an object of trade, not a matter 
 of identity. I started to discover that outside  in the most 
 natural way for a Mitteleurasian - as an outsider. And I 
 became instantly mesmerized not by the reality, but by the 
 unifying concept in which the insiders  wrapped it - EUROPE. 
 One of the most resistant ideological products that I 
 experienced through the years, and I guess that my experience 
 was vast in that sense. The oppressive side of this product 
 might be elusive for the inexperienced, but the efficiency of 
 the EUROPEAN slogans looks impressive at a more careful 
 survey of the media. 
 When the Cold War status quo was abolished, the most 
 embarrassing effect was the drop in the quality of the spy 
 movies and novels. John Le Carré, one of my unholy heroes, 
 started to have problems of content since a vacuum appeared 
 in the procedures of the EUROPEAN collectivism, which kept 
 until then the West, respectively the East on the two sides 
 of the Iron Link. The brief next hysteria - the "House of 
 EUROPE" - with its shallow discourse about integrationism was 
 of no effect. And now we are back at the rationalization of 
 EUROPE into halves through the monetary union. Which is 
 implemented with a haste and persistence meant to hide the 
 lack of preparation and the despise for the human factor in 
 favor of always-bigger agendas. It actually reminds me of the 
 urge and determination which defined the launching of each 
 new "five years plan" in my home society, somewhere at the 
 critical margin of the EUROPEAN time. 
 I am not demonizing the East-West conflict. If there is guilt 
 involved in the installation of the EUROPEAN schizophrenia, 
 it is too old and too diffuse to make any judgment 
 productive. I personally believe in geopolitical 
 determination, and in that sense the EURasian psychotic 
 division-through-union is at the root of the other, more 
 internalized continental divorce (West vs. East, North vs. 
 South, NW vs. SE, etc.).
 I also reject the offended attitude of the ironed half of 
 EUROPE against the velveted half. I do not think that the 
 rich are indebted to the poor and the happy few owe to the 
 unhappy many. 
 But I also resent EUROPE - a tool meant to repress the danger 
 represented by the many poor to the happy rich. A cover for 
 controlling the individuals through always-renewed stories of 
 common concern. A transformer of dubious topics into emergent 
 priorities. A resource of revenue for a political oligarchy. 
 A rude celebration of cohesion which embarrasses the 
 excluded. Everything has to be EUROPEAN and in the interest 
 of EUROPE: the art, the politics, the education, the 
 production, the markets, the money, but mainly the 
 celebrations and the crisis. The English contaminated beef, 
 the child abuse, the drug connections, even the Bosnian 
 genocide are not events involving people, but failures of a 
 certain image of EUROPE. EUROPE is obsessed with itself - and 
 that might be a prove of insecurity and guilt feelings.
 If we get back to classic mythology, I guess that two other 
 episodes would be useful here. One is about Narcissus, 
 punished by the gods because of his arrogant refusal to make 
 love to either the nymph Echo or the boy Ameinias (the 
 posterity is divided on this detail). The punishment 
 consisted in falling desperately in love with his own image, 
 reflected in a water. In psychoanalysis, narcissism is "a 
 morbid condition in which the subject is intensely interested 
 in his own body. 
 The other one is about Procrustes, a brigand who was 
 practicing a curious taxation system on the travelers 
 crossing his path. They were compelled to lie on an iron bed 
 and then they were, upon case, either stretched or chopped 
 off in order to fit the bed's length. 
 *Comment peut-on être EUROPÉEN?* The peculiarity of the 
 EUROPEAN condition becomes obvious mainly when contemplated 
 as an isolated case of the human condition itself. 
 First a question - what is so special about EUROPE in order 
 to invest such efforts for keeping together the "continental" 
 image and infrastructure? Then some other - is the Asian ego-
 mania lesser? Are the Americas less obsessed with their split 
 "identity"? Is the African unity less necessary than the 
 But, after all, how can one be an EUROPEAN? 
 This question must be understood in relation to the one les 
 Parisiens were asking Rica after he proved to be socially 
 correct by adopting the EUROPEAN dressing fashion. 
 Montesquieu realized in this episode of his Lettres Persannes  
 (letter 30) the most effective (to my knowledge) cut into the 
 dilemmatic absurdity of the continental self-consciousness. 
 The question Comment peut-on être Persan? is a cover for the 
 repressed obsession with one's own troubled identity; and it 
 should be red actually Comment peut-on être EUROPÉEN?!  (with 
 amazement) one hundred times every morning, on an empty 
 stomach, until the patient gets over the anxiety of not being 
 EUROPEAN enough (or the other way around). 
 Etre EUROPÉEN is both as weird and as dull as being no matter 
 what other kind of excessive minority. Because the EUROPEANS 
 are  a minority, and if the political class developed from 
 this complex an irritated attitude on both home and global 
 matters, we - the average EUROPEANS - should try to 
 experience it without such a ridiculous intensity.
 More relativism concerning one's origins could do only good. 
 And reversing the aggressive question from the other to the 
 self should be an exercise of polite(ical correct)ness not 
 only for the EUROPEANS but also for other fundamentalists.
 When I rejected my condition of Romanian, it was altogether 
 with its EUROpackage; one can't trade an ideology with 
 another in just one life time. Shifting ideologies are handy 
 for those able to travel the whole spectrum, from the right 
 to the left and back. I am just a Persian, born in 
 MittelEURasia and established somewhere in EUROPE. For those 
 who want to know how can somebody be a Persian, a look on the 
 map would help: Persia isn't there any more. 
 *AAAA.* When you start learning your alphabet, first come the 
 vocals - A, E, I, O, U. When learning your continents, first 
 comes Africa, then America, then Asia and Australia. EUROPE 
 is the last one, after a long line of A's. When you look at 
 the global map, things appear to be different: the 5 
 continents are actually more (not to speak about the unclear 
 status of some islands as big as EUROPE), America is two 
 continents in one and EUROPE does not exist as an entity 
 separate from Asia.
 The two main fears of EUROPE are America and Asia, precisely. 
 In the oppressed codes of the EUROcolonialism, "America" 
 means the USA, and "Asia" means Russia. Since 1945, America 
 means NATO and Russia means all the Central-Eastern EUROPE. 
 Asia ends near Vienna; America is everywhere. 
 Of course EUROPE cannot cope with the idea that it became a 
 colony of its former colonies. And while EUROcolonialism has 
 been replaced by EUROcolonization, the metropolitan obsession 
 remains strong on the continent. The only change consists in 
 the efforts to suppress internal competition for improved 
 external efficiency. The EUROpoliticians try to enforce the 
 continental position by: federalism vs. "American" dominance; 
 and economic union vs. (EUR)Asian nomadism. 
 The united states of EUROPE are not about cohesion, but about 
 isolation from the old enemy - EURASIA - by adopting the 
 model of a lesser enemy - the USA. The failure of this policy 
 in the near future is guaranteed by the main specificity of 
 EUROPE, which is defined by division, regionalization, war. 
 In the EUROPEAN mentality, everyone desperately wants to be 
 the First, and it is hard to believe that millennia of 
 individualist politics will be abolished in just a few years 
 of systematic demagogy. It might happen that the future will 
 be decided by the conflict between the perversity of 
 globalism and the paranoia of provincialism.
 I remember my grand mother speaking about times when from her 
 Transylvanian town till Venice, or Ljubliana, or Vienna she 
 was traveling with the same passport, using the same 
 currency, referring to the same administration. She was a 
 citizen of the Königliches und Kaiserliches Empire, in the 
 times when federalist theories were trying to save a peaceful 
 EUROPE. Shortly after the Big War came, and the federalist 
 dream was abandoned for some more realistic solutions of 
 atomization. The risk in the present revival of federalist 
 dreams is that they might end in the reverse: a severe 
 division of the continent, even more radical by reaction than 
 the previous one. 
 EUROPE remains just a time bomb accumulating oppressed energy 
 until it will explode - around the Millennium, as it suits to 
 all prophesied catastrophes.
 *KartenDämmerung.* The symbolic confusion between geography and 
 nature is a recent disease of the human psyche, and it 
 started with the production of maps.
 Before, say, the 16 century, mapping was a remote, random, 
 also secret activity. It kept its esoteric side even 
 afterwards, as an instrument of political control in the 
 economic warfare. People started to visualize their 
 environment within the abstraction of mapping very late, when 
 the mass extension of education made geography a compulsory 
 object of study.
 From that period lasts, I guess, the oppressive 
 identification of the humans with a context large enough to 
 be out of the body scale - the disembodiment through 
 geography. Try to figure the life of the EUROPEANS before 
 maps were part of the daily communication system. Imagination 
 and consciousness were two opposite elements at that time. 
 Inventing spaces was a stronger component of daily life than 
 it is now, and identifying spaces was almost null. The few 
 travelers were the exceptions virusing this remoteness, but 
 their influence has to be imagined as punctual and generally 
 benign, like the influence of story telling on the childhood. 
 But that was before the organized transformation of 
 populations in masses of conscious producer of value. The way 
 maps were dealt with ever after speaks about the ability of 
 ideological agendas to hide the non-linearity of history. 
 Flat projections of fulfilled (or frustrated) desires, maps 
 freeze into patterns of dominance a reality based on 
 approximation and change. Territoriality, although a multi-
 dimensional concept, has its ultimate expression in the 
 abstraction of mapping, a symbolic act of imprisonment.
 The questioning of maps is considered an attack on the 
 survival of the human species - advertised both as a settled 
 configuration of power groups and as a dominant intelligence 
 able to control the environment by quantified information. 
 Maps are beyond doubt, as is the knowledge of the scientists 
 who draw them and the goodwill of the political class that 
 controls the instrument of borders.
 Monuments to the utopia of stability, maps should never be 
 presented in series, unless for illustrating a Darwinist 
 vector underneath historical processes, since progress is 
 cherished as the supreme logic of change. Thinking otherwise 
 means aiming at disorder, and finally at war.
 Computer game EUROPA In the spring of 1995 I became 
 fascinated by chaos, as a reaction against my new condition 
 of immigrant, I guess. Anyway, the combination between chaos 
 theories, my exit from MittelEURasia and the pressure of the 
 Amsterdam computer environment brought the idea that chaos 
 could be applied to the political history of EUROPE, in order 
 to define the strange attractors which determine the dynamics 
 of the borders behavior. And eventually to foresee the future 
 developments of the continent in that respect. 
 I was busy for a while figuring out an argumentation of my 
 intuition, and also giving it a visual consistency. Finally I 
 got stuck with a 10 pages essay and the idea of a web site 
 where the political map of EUROPE was moving towards the 
 future in a fortune telling way. My convictions about the 
 continent being pessimistic, the whole was dubbed "Happy 
 The disproportion between the research effort and the final 
 result was deceiving, though. For anyone familiarized a 
 little with the EUROPEAN scenarios, the process of gathering 
 enough borders information in order to feed non-linear 
 equations, and then put the whole into graphics, etc. was a 
 redundant effort. After all, who cares if Doomsday is happy 
 or not? Important is that it comes.
 But then, I had a revelation. Looking at the structures of 
 the power discourses I realized that I was wrong in two 
 aspects: 1. the belief that "The zeitgeist seems to be, at 
 this moment of the 90s, a converging trend starting in the 
 computer based art and ending in a certain area of scientific 
 research." If there still is such a think as a zeitgeist, 
 then it definitely is the screen based GAME. There is no 
 issue that cannot be itemized as a game, since there is no 
 issue too complex not to be compressible into information, 
 therefore easy to manipulate towards entertainment. 
 And 2. - looking at the chaos aesthetics without counting in 
 the human factor. If we remember the first chaos 
 representations realized by Mandelbrot and followers, and 
 compare them with the developments of the computer games in 
 the 90s we see the distance between the frozen and the 
 dynamic aspects of kitsch. And that distance can be measured 
 through a human factor, called INTERACTION. 
 But introducing interaction into a chaotic pattern is a 
 conclusion to which I was drove by the example of the surfing 
 class. The term of ruling class became outdated during the 
 80s, in a rapid process of inflation which increased the 
 number of "rich" people and decreased the age level of 
 becoming millionaire. The nouveaux riches are belonging 
 ssmainly to the computer and to the media connected 
 businesses. They combine the managerial status with other, 
 more punctual skills, and with a charismatic, New Age 
 oriented attitude. Their real decisional power is hard to 
 evaluate at this moment; but the surfing class is definitely 
 the remote controller between the power centers and the 
 billions oriented markets, the indicators of the purchase 
 behavior of the masses, the dandies of the 90s, when the 
 fashion moves the populations into a fever of teens 
 consumerism. The surfing class might be already in power, it 
 still is not the ruling class of older times. It is a 
 transitional phase, in a longer game.
 According to the teachings of the surfing class, exhibited 
 seriousness is not a productive attitude in our infantile 
 environment, where everything has to be wrapped playfully in 
 order to pay off. Therefore, EUROPE can't be a chaotic model, 
 but might be an INTERACTIVE GAME. Needless to mention this in 
 the post-Gulf era: all games converge into war games. Their 
 structure depends on what is the significance of the war 
 parameter in the user's psychology. 
 A user-friendly war is a war that rewards in an obvious way 
 the skilled warrior. 
 Skill is something connecting the neurons to the muscles, in 
 the same way that the mouse (the joystick) is connecting the 
 software to the screen. 
 Skill cannot be internal or even remote, without developing 
 into a frustration. 
 Skill has to be exhibited tri-dimensionally. 
 Through skill, physical effort survives in the computer game 
 era as the ultimate approach to entertainment. 
 While territoriality remains (still) the maximum war-game 
 reward, although it is obsolete in the post-industrial real-
 war protocols. 
 To close the circle of those speculations, "Happy Doomsday!" 
 turned into a game hopefully for the benefit of all 
 interested parts. 
 *Temple of Anxiety.* I go to a fitness club every second day; 
 when I am depressed, I go daily. The club is called "Splash", 
 and has a logo inspired from the famous engraving of Hokusai, 
 called "The Wave". Looking at the image more closely, Hokusai 
 and Mandelbrot seem to have used the same non-linear 
 equations for building their foamy fractal graphics. 
 Two elements that I consider crucial for the post-industrial 
 mentality have a direct expression in the world of fitness. I 
 already mentioned them before in other connections - 
 infantilism and masochism.
 The paraphernalia of body building looks like coming both 
 from a baby shop and a sex store; the fitness environment 
 provides a radical shortcut through the psychoanalytical 
 "ages", from oral to anal to sexual, all in the same person 
 and at the same time.
 Fitnessing people wear baggy clothes, clumsy and easy to 
 dress, they dry and oil their skin constantly, use bandages, 
 drink from feeding bottles, take vitamins and diet, measure 
 their weight periodically.
 But, at the same time, they develop a lust for self inflicted 
 physical pain, which combined with their fragmented nakedness 
 gives an indication about the kind of libido working out in a 
 gym. In the autistic environment of reflecting walls, 
 connected by sophisticated bondage to the prosthesis of the 
 machines, the people who suffer and compare, pull and push in 
 front of a mirror are externalizing their sexuality like the 
 warriors did in previous times, while penetrating alien 
 territories. The American fantasy of the male cyborg and the 
 Asian nostalgia of the nomadic invader meet in the fitness 
 room, where a subculture dominated by anxiety tries to 
 recuperate its corporal identity and keep under control 
 hidden pulsions of the collective psyche. 
 The mass of energy that frustration can displace in one day 
 is amazing. On the other hand, there is never enough 
 attention paid to the techniques of exorcism - and fitness is 
 one or them, sublimating the nomadic pulsions into exhaustion 
 and relaxation. It is interesting also to watch the shift 
 from fitness to "wellness", a new trend which emphasizes the 
 training of the cardio-vascular system and not necessarily 
 the body building. The cult of physical challenge seems to 
 loose pace in front of a concern for the basics of survival 
 and the socializing through performance is displaced by a 
 sort of individual hedonism. More and more people seem to 
 resume training as a guarantee for a healthy future (somehow 
 in the same manner they have bank savings), and less for 
 cultivating a spectacular change in the shape of their 
 A new period of rationalized sedentarism seems to begin in 
 the mid 90s.
 *Adio, EUROPA.* The tragic split in the Eurasian continuum 
 brought among other consequence the loss of Shamanic 
 coordination in social behavior, and with that the 
 disappearance of a magic aspect which made existence more 
 complex, but maybe also more integrated. The infantilization 
 of aggressivity in mass hysteria (see pop concerts, soccer 
 games), the transgression of the hunter in serial killer and 
 outlawed robber, the transformation of human sacrifices in 
 media executions, the substitution of the magician by the 
 charismatic political leader, the encryption of natural 
 aggressivity in social adaptability, the codification of the 
 natural chaos into ecological equilibrium - all those are 
 aspects of a progressive psychosis, installed in the 
 civilization with the loss of Shamanistic self- 
 In the summer of 1994, obsessed by those ideas, I tried to 
 experience the Shamanic trip on my own. Since marijuana and 
 hashish didn't appeal to me, I performed a home dance: with 
 my Hi 8 handy-cam taped on the forehead (and pointing to the 
 floor), with all kind of spoons, knives and pans hanging on 
 my belt (to produce the noise which chases away the evil 
 spirits), I turned around myself for almost an hour, locked 
 in the bathroom. My wife, who had a sneak view of the 
 performance, considered it intensely funny and so relaxing 
 that she almost fell asleep. Still, she forbade me to repeat 
 the event afterwards. Although offended in my magic pose, I 
 couldn't disobey, because my dark Eurasian beliefs are always 
 weak in front of her white magic of Western good sense. 
 Nevertheless, my conviction that Shamanism was the only 
 opportunity humankind had to experience chaos in a non-
 mediated way and also to control chaos via ritual practices 
 is underlining the process which ended in "Happy Doomsday!". 
 And if the heroes of this game are just failed warriors with 
 skinny legs and pumped upper bodies, the change from nomads 
 into muscled office managers is just a detail which doesn't 
 influence the crisis of the present and the substance of the 
 future .
 I am not implying here that Shamanism has nowadays more 
 healing powers than other New Age options. But, although it 
 is the least trendy one among them, it obviously belongs to 
 (and defines) the deepest strata of human nature, where the 
 modern ethics are abolished for more general impulses. And 
 since the EUROPEANS were its most fierce oppressors (via 
 Christianity, but also via other media), we can say that 
 paying attention to Shamanism means also going beyond this 
 propagandistic invention - EUROPA, into a more confused, but 
 less rigid environment.

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