Erewhon. Chapter 1

A necessary struggle session by way of a preamble in advance of a problematic illustrated Magic Lantern adventure published in serialized form.

Part 1 of a soon-to-be-award-winning piece of investigative op-ed journalism: In which I smell an ahistorical rat. The facts speak for themselves when appropriately contextualized and extrapolated by me. What they reveal has implications for the past, present, and future of the human race. Enjoy.

The material you’re about to encounter requires context and trigger warnings

These apply to both the message and the messenger.

First, the message.

I am about to publish, word-for-word, the text and imagery of an illustrated Magic Lantern lecture from 1872: the height of the Colonial era.

I think we can all agree that Colonization was a terrible idea that was even worse in practice.

Colonization’s legacy is the genocide of first peoples, the wontan destruction of their environment, and the imposition of unwelcome values and guests.

It should never have happened.

(If you don’t agree it’s advisable to keep that very much to yourself.)

Besides, I believe that grey areas quickly become black or white when exposed to the light of reason. To perform that task is one of my many inherited privileges.

In the meantime, it’s easiest if we all just agree that Colonization was bad bad bad bad bad.

But, the author of this illustrated Magic Lantern lecture from 1872 doesn’t know any of that.

Lord Erewhon thinks Colonization is the best thing that ever happened(!). His attitude was as celebrated then as it is reviled today and I must invite you to acknowledge Lord Erewhon’s feelings in their historical context rather than our own.

It’s important for me to be incredibly accurate about what Lord Erewhon says he did and thought because so much of it is contradicted in this book:

Also called Erewhon and clearly based on the same material. Butler says he wrote it and it’s fiction. Lord Erewhon says:

I lived it and it’s true.

You can find Samuel Butler’s version free with your Audible trial, but you’ll only read Lord Erewhon’s side of the story here - on my Substack, Citizens of Nowhere. So I’m going to publish it as faithfully as possible using:

  • Lord Erewhon’s original MAGIC LANTERN SLIDES

  • Lord Erewhon’s original LECTURE NOTES and, where possible

  • Lord Erewhon’s ACCOMPANYING MUSICAL SCORE.

Eva Prowse, ladies and gentlemen the composer and musician who has recreated the authentic aural soundscape from the moth-eaten remnants of the original notation by Lady Erewhon.

The Magic Lantern is a powerfully dangerous colonization machine

The Empire Builder they called it. 150 years ago, people just like me would tour the UK with a Magic Lantern just like^ and slides just like the ones I’m about to reveal and show people just like you images of a better world; images that for the most part were not in the least bit true - simply figments of an artist’s imagination.

But on the basis of these FAKE IMAGES you’d be inspired to pack up your lives and emigrate to a whole new timezone and live there forever.

And you will.

I mean, they did. Silly me…

Anyway I need to tell you all this because best practice for problematic historical material that doesn’t conform to our latest version of morality is to just

it.

I’ve chosen not to do that

I hope it will quickly become clear why. Instead, I am going to publish it. Word-for-word, slur-for-slur, start to finish, interjecting only when I believe it necessary to protect you from dangers to your physical safety posed by the violence of Lord Erewhon’s words, thoughts and lived experience from 150 years ago.

Lord Erewhon’s authentic voice and writing will be indicated like this.

Nota bene: The thin brown line means that I am quoting him.

That puts any racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, or micro-aggressions squarely on him. (macro-aggressions too!). Nothing to do with me.

I’m Arthur Meek. I’m merely a Magic Lantern enthusiast who stumbled unwittingly on this extraordinary universe-altering slice of future history that will change everything you thought you knew about time and physics. Ergo, I’m compelled to publish it. Potentially at the cost of my ability to function in public.

Simply because I’m an ally of the evolution of the human race. 🌈

In case it’s not grovelingly clear:

I don’t think I’m Lord Erewhon and I don’t condone every dumb thing he says

You can’t cancel me because I was never green lit. But just because I’m immune to being ignored doesn’t make me insensitive. I want to actively forestall any and every possible offense that the ensuing publication will inevitably bring no matter what I do.

So, that’s the message.

Which brings me to the messenger

I’m a straight white male. I am the absolute worst breed of person to be gazing at (or giving voice to) anything.

I am directly, personally responsible for everything that’s wrong with everything and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t even apologize - not because I’m not sorry. I’m absolutely not not sorry. It’s because an apology is a pledge to put things right and I can’t go back in time just yet. But even when I can, I’m scared that there’s this COLONIZING INSTINCT encoded into my straight white male DNA.

I hate myself I really do

I hate this whole present mess. Indelible racisms both structural and personal; COVID-19; economic recession; depression; climate change; fake news; slavery to our phones.

It feels completely untenable and it’s only getting worse and I want to escape but where can I go to be free?

At least 150 years ago there were places to run away to right?

With all due respect to first nation peoples whose lives were disrupted and wiped out or whatever, but if you (YOU being a determined white man, which I am) wanted to believe or act in a different way, then you could emigrate to America, or New Zealand and do it:

but I come from New Zealand. I spent years in America, and now I live in the UK. I want to escape - but where can I go to be free?

Everywhere’s colonized.

Everything’s set in stone. There’s nowhere new to go.

So, like many of my generation, I tried emigrating online and living there.

But it was just weird.

Addictively weird.

It’s like all the technology that evolved with the promise of making my life better just made it sadder and worse.

I had to get away from technology for a while. My phone I mean.

I’m better now (obviously)

But for a long time my phone was making me sick, you know? So, long story short, I became a Magic Lantern performer.

photo by Vikram Valluri

When I perform Magic Lantern shows I feel like I can escape my own head - and the here and now - and it makes me feel good.

But nobody comes to my shows.

and live performance is pretty much banned now - and this is an important message that I want to get to the whole world - so my next best idea is to get it on the internet to boost my SEO.

I found Lord Erewhon’s lantern slides and everything I’m about to publish at the Magic Lantern Society of US & Canada’s Biennial Convention in Victoria, British Columbia Canada in 2018. Here’s the video proof:

I saw what you’re about to see.

Now, it’s time for me to stop struggling and let you judge for yourself.

This is Erewhon.

Part 2 is coming soon, so you should take the time to

Share

Erewhon Part 1 right now with anyone you love so that they can have the necessary context to understand what is about to happen and escape with you too (when the time comes ((which will be soon, so don’t wait till the end like you did with The Wire cos remember how long you had to wait before you could have a proper conversation about the season set in schools?)))