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SOLAR LOTTERY

by Barb Mourning Child


    It was weird to be writing this critique of SOLAR LOTTERY during the presidential election of 1992. The reality of the book seemed to be happening in real life. bush got quacked after twelve years of the Reagan-Bush regime, and by a twitch of the bottle Clinton was made the new Quizmaster. The image Clinto gave of himself to the public during the election was somewhat like a hippie-turned-yuppie-JFK-clone. We are led to believe that the reign of the Baby Boomers has begun! Now we have our own John Fotzgerald Kennedy in the White House. JFK: the cartwright of the 60s, the one who was assassinated.

    Clinton appears to be like the charater Cartwright in SOLAR LOTTERY. What remains to be seen is whether Clinton will prove to be a true Cartwright -- a saviour of the masses. Is Clinton able to live up to this virtuous legacy? Don't count on it.

    The question in my mind is the same as it is in the book. Will Clinton make it through his first term alive? As I watch him jogging the steets of DC, smiling and waving, I expect to hear a gunshot ring out and see him crumple dead on the pavement. I imagine all the Teeps, the Secret Servicemen with their dark glasses, scanning the crowd in search of the potential assassin. And -- we know one is out there somewhere. Unless Clinton has sold out. If he hasn't he must be one nervous bastard. He looks tall and confident like he owns DC, and the people are singing "Power To The People" once again. I hope he lives up to their expectations.

    The threat of assassination is real and I'm sure Clinton is aware of it. George Bush has been linked to the assassination of JFK through his CIA background (see The Realist 1992) and he became the president. Clinton probably feels much the same as Cartwright did when he became Quizmaster; trembling in his shoes and looking over his shoulder most of the time to see if an assassin is stalking him.

    Cartwright was a devoted Prestonite until he got in power and the threat to his life became a real possibility. After that his only thought was of survival. He was sincere in his beliefs but when his life was at stake all he could think about was his impending doom. The fear of death controlled his thoughts. Will this happen to Clinton?

    Just like the loyalty of the Teep Corps in SOLAR LOTTERY, the CIA and FBI may have misplaced loyalties because they've been following Bush's orders and protecting his interests for so long. Some of them may feel an allegiance to the man rather than to the political ideology. To them this is just a myth used to control the masses.

    Once again Philip K. Dick has precogged our reality. he even has our current social trends worked into the books setting. he has the New Agers with their superstitions, stoic ideals, good-luck charms, crystals and taboos. Then there are the lotteries which are a big part of our lives today. Nearly everyone buys a chance at the jackpot and are looking for sure-fire methods to help them win. He even added the 'scum' or 'grunge' element of society as a food source called 'protine.'

    In SOLAR LOTTERY Dick has described our reality at this point in time and space with remarkable clarity. Will things turn out the way they did in the book? Will there be a structural change for the ood in our society? Will the people take control of their own government? Dick made a statement at the beginning of the book where he admitted he had used the mechanics of Games Theory as the structure for the reality of the book. He stated that this strategy of 'minimax' was used in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and is being used by politicians even today.

    How is the minimax theory used in today's political arena? The answer came to me when I was switching through channels, trying to pick up on news of the election. I came upon a news program where a reporter was interviewing a campaign contributor at a fund-raising dinner. The contributor was explaining that he had donated large sums of money to both political parties. This he had done just to perpetuate the current political system. In other words, he was buying the political system. He didn't support either man running for office. In this man's mind it didn't matter who was elected just as long as the election took place. The electoral process validates the existing political structure as a legitimate form of government.

    Our political system is bought and paid for by Big Business. It serves the interest of Business, not the interests of the people, the unks. The average person ould not get through the door to these fund-raising dinners. The reporter complained about how dificult it was for her to get inside. Even The Press had been turned out.

    Let's look at how minimax theory is being applied here. The active players -- the ones playing the game -- are the power elite who create and maintain the facade that the political system is valid and that the elections are fair and democratic. Anyone can grow up to be president of the USA. but the fact is that the political system is just an extension of Big Business where Democracy is becoming a myth and only the rich becomepresident. Big Business doesn't want us to find this fact out because it puts them at an advantage for the general public to believe this myth. So they finance the elections to perpetuate and control the existing political system. There is an illusion of random chance: When the people get suspicious of one Administration a new, more promising president can be elected. But is there any real difference between Administrations? The overall game remains the same.

    The political system in SOLAR LOTTERY, the Classification System, is much like our own. It has one man at the top, the Quizmaster, and is supported by the industrial corporate structure called the Five Hills. Everyone gets a 'P-card' at birth which theoretically gives them a chance to become the Quizmaster. but at some point in their lives the P-card is taken away either as fealty token to one of the Five Hills or sold for a few dollars on the street. There is actually little chance that the ordinary unk could be twitched and become the Quizmaster. The P-card is virtually worthless, the odds are so minute. The probability of becoming the Quizmaster is greater for the heads of the corporations, the ones having the most P-cards. The Quizmaster is in control of everything. He is the unopposed administrator of the random bottle structure which is the vast apparatus of classification, quizzes, lotteris, and training schools. The rules of the game are quite aggressive because the power and prestige of being the Quizmaster is absolute. It is the major goal of the game. Assassination is one means to that goal.

    Dick knew that eventhough the idea of assassinating a world leader ios politically immoral,assassination is one option our government frequently and covertly uses in world politics. In SOLAR LOTTERY it is an accepted rule of the game. The Challenge Convention is televised; the public can watch the assasssin being chosen. The rules for the assassin are few: Only one can be stalking the Quizmaster at a time and the assassin can act on his own behalf or in fealty to a corporation. Usually the assassinis hired by one of the Hills in the first place. The Political system in SOLAR LOTTERY according to its rules and regulations, seemed legitimate and fair. In actuality it was controlled and manipulated by the Five Hills who made it their policy to bend the rules. There is a point in the book where Dick describes how this society has come to its apathetically stagnant condition: "The disintegration of the social and economic system had been slow, gradual, and profound: It went so deep that people lost faith in natural law itself. Nothing seemed stable or fixed; the universe was a sliding flux. Nobody knew what came next. Nobody could count on anything. Statistical prediction became popular... the very concept of cause and effect died out. People lost faith in the belief that they could control their environment; all that remained was probable sequence: good odds in a iniverse of random chance." (SL 20)

    The average M-game player lived life in stoic withdrawal, being a non-participant and non-committed. Everyone sought to hoard his own pot, outlast the other players and wait for the game to end. In this section, Dick marks the death of the concept of cause and effect as the turning point for the society in SOLAR LOTTERY. In our reality, this change of thought occured back in the mid-1700s and was fathered by the empiricist philosopher David Hume. Hume argued that belief in a necessary connection between cause and effect is based on habit and custom rather than reason or observation. Logically, the concept of cause and effect is a circular argument -- a tautology -- and therefore an invalid system of analysis. Although his writings encouraged the develoopment of the Scientific Method which would ultimately lead to the rounding down of all knowledge to the basic scientific language of numbers and statistics, Hume's writings were originally a criticism of the failing power elite of his time -- the crumbling European aristocracy.

    In Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume criticises the popular philosophers of his era who were members of this aristocracy.This whole document was an attack on the metaphysical thought which dominated ideological discussions of the time due to the combined effort of the Church and the feudal state to impose their philosophical ideals as reality. Both Church and State sis their utmost to restrict the great scientific thinkers who threatened the Catholic theology and, thus, their power to rule. It was the time when one form of social structure was throwing over another form of social structure: capitalism overthrew feudalism.

    Hume attacked the medieval superstitions and customs of the feudal social order with the ideology of reason. He argued that we should not accept something as true just because it was the custom to believe it. He was trying to change the mind-set of the thinkers of his day, to broaden their horizons and consider a different reality.

    Upon reading this work of Hume's it seemed to me that he was writing from a time much like our own and the one in SOLAR LOTTERY. He desscribed the prevailing philosophy as stoicism refined to selfishness, with virtue and social enjoyment reasoned out of existence with "thoughts turned towards the empty and transitory nature of riches and honours..."(ECHU 36) He saw his society as a product of the human imagination which is biased by the predominate customs and superstitions.

    Strangely, Hume dispels the idea of chance in his section on probability where he flatly states that: "Though there be no such thing as chance in the world; our ignorance of the real cause of any event has the same influence on the understanding, and begets a like species of belief or opinion." (ECHU 52) He goes on to explain, by example of a die toss, "that if a greater number of sides concur in one event rather than another, themind is carried more frequently to that event and meets it oftener. This concurrence of several views in one particular event begets immediately, by an inexplicable contrivance of nature, the sentiment of belief and gives that event the advantage over its antagonist, which is supported by a smaller number of views, and recurs less frequently to the mind... The concurrence of these several views or glimpses imprints the idea more strongly on the imagination; gives it superior force and vigor; renders its influence on the passions and affections more sensible; and, in a word, begets that reliance or security, which constitutes the nature of belief and opinion (ECHU 53)

    In other words, Hume was saying that the humanmind is more likely to believe something as being true or ral if the norms, traditions and customs of society reinforce these conceptions of reality as being true.

    Unfortunately, his argument was so good it quickly became the ideology embraced by the newly emerging capitalist society, became the underlying blueprint for the Games Theory because it shows us how to play the game. Dick has shown us this in SOLAR LOTTERY where rationalism has reached a point of stagnation, floundering in its own superstitions and limited ideology. In the opening quote from John MacDonald's Strategy In Poker, Business and War, Dick sets it out: "Good strategy requires the use of the principle of 'Minimax', that is, a policy in which a range of possible high and low gains is adopted on the assumption that ome might be found out. But to avoid being found out one obscures the specific pattern of play by randomizing the strategy with chance plays." (SL frontpapers, not all editions)

    What exactly does this describe? Itimplies that the person playing the game is concealing something in order to gain something. To avoid being found out the player builds up an illusion to obscure his motives: "randomizing the strategy with chance plays" explains how to do it. The theory is the strategy! The players have to lie. Their support for the belief in chance is the shield which creates the illusion. It's a knowing belief. Only the participating players know that chance has been omitted, because the odds are stacked heavily in their favor and remain that way as long as the collective consciousness believes in the illusion of the game.

    In SOLAR LOTTERY Dick showed us empiricism as a corrupt institution that has its own centralised power groups and has dehumanized humanity. The people believe that nothing is real unless it can be proven with statistical evidence obtained by use of the scientific method. The average person cannot imagine, or even hope to control his own reality or destiny. Every person is just a number, a random chance in a chaotic world. This is the ultimate perversion of Hume's theory, as feudalism was the ultimate perversion of metaphysics. Hume stressed that although geometry expresses the accuracy of reason and assists in the application of the laws of physics, it owes the discovery of these laws to experience. Experience is a factor which the society of SOLAR LOTTERY had discarded when it had done away with the belief in cause and effect. What some have failed to see is that the Marxist slant isn't exactly a subtle part of the structure of the book, it is part of the social structure of the story along with capitalism. I bet Dick wondered when somebody would finally realise this particular revelation. He probably found it quite amusing that the academics were searching so hard for SOLAR LOTTERY's Marxist qualities by examining the seting and tone of the book for communist propaganda, when the main reference to Marxism is right under their noses. The Prestonites are Marxists! They have all the attributes of Marxists. The members of the Preston Society are laborers or the working-class proles who have class-consciousness. They have underground presses and mail literature to attract new members and are striving toward a new world. Preston wrote THE FLAME DISK describing his new world; Marx wrote Das Kapita explaining his new society. Dick's idea of Marxism is quite clear in his description of John Preston's body: "She could see his dark, ill-formed body suspended within the yellowed, fly-specked plasti-cube, hands folded over his bird-like chest, eyes shut, glasses eternally superfluous. Small hands, crippled with arthritis, a hunched-over near-sighted creature." (SL 27)

    Dick saw Marxism as an old, ill-formed ideology, short-sighted and impotent. Dick explained that the first sign of corruption in the political and economic systems in the book was the burning of commodities. The law of supply and demand no longer applied because it was no longer economically feasible. The supply of commodities was more than the number of people who could afford them. The products could not be given away for free because the open market would be subverted and the whole idea of capitalism is to gain surplus value, make a profit. The economy was then propped up by an elaborate give-away that dispensed merchandise through quizzes. Eventually these quizzes grew from winning material commodities to winning power and prestige with the jackpot being the office of Quizmaster and control of everything.

    The burning of the commodities in SOLAR LOTTERY represents an important idea in Marx's revolution theory and is probably the reason academics believe he was writing from a Marxist perspective. marx predicted that the social revolution would occur at this point in the capitalist progression. He explained that the crisis inherent in a capitalist society is reached when the growing supply would lower the surplus value of commodities until they balanced out equal. When the production catches up with the profit, when supply equals demand, there will be no more capitalism.

    But Dick did not agree with Marx. He points out that the capitalists have an answer to everything; Marx didn't fully understand the way to play the game. In his righteous indignation over the atrocities of industrial capitalism, he failed to realise that the capitalists would cheat. If the supply oversteps the demand, the capitalists create artificial shortages. When asked about the Marxist slant in an interview (unsure of source) Dick explained that the Marxist /capitalist conflict in the storyline was unintentional. He said that the book was definitely written as a critique of capitalism but it wasn't intended to be taken as pro-Marxist. he said that he wrote the book moe in the tradition of French Realism (PKDS-5 6). This is true. French realism reveals a true picture of industrial capitalism and usually deals with the class conflict in a capitalist society. Realism in general usually has a Marxist slant as it reflects the reality of our society. Our society has a class structure based on capitalism.The Marxist theory is an explanation of the conflict in an industrial capitalist system. Most realistic modern art will express some form of the Marxist onflict theory, whether the artist intends it or not: it is inherent in the philosophy of today's world.

    Dick wrote about reality the way he exerienced it. The philosophy he reflects in SOLAR LOTTERY is one which goes beyond the outdated ideologies of capitalismand Marxism. The ideology which he usually extends in his work is that we can create a more harmonious society by using human ingenuity -- gained by experience -- to transcend the limits of old ideologies. He uses the same argument that Hume put forth when capitalism replaced feudalism, indicating the need for a change in consciousness again.

    This comparison of today's capitalist society with the feudal society is clearly shown in the decor of SOLAR LOTTERY. The reality of capitalism is exhibited as Verrick's domain, the medieval castle, an ancient ghoulish reality crumbling into dust: "The chamber was high-ceilinged, done in ancient wood panels, probably from some ancient monastery. The whole structure was much like a church, domed and ribbed, its upper limits dissolving in amber gloom, thick beams charred and hard-smoked from countless firs roaring in the stone fireplace below. Everything was massive and heavy... "This wood, "Verrick said, noticing Benteley, "is from a medieval bawdy house."" (SL 54) According to Dick, capitalism is deteriorating quickly. He compars it here to the feudal era of serfs and aristocrats from which capitalism once emerged. he depicts Marxism as the antithesis of capitalism with Cartwright's domain. he describes it as old-fashioned and obsolete. Marxism being behind the times and fake or false. Preston is like a false prophet, he isn't real. He had a fake corpse on earth and was a simulacrum in space.

    It seemed strange to me that the battle between Moore, as the assassin Pellig, and Preston as the simulacrum was given so little emphasis in the book. It was almost as though Dick felt it was irrelevant. We're left wondering about it, sensing that there must be some significance to the battle but we shrug it off. Then I realised that the battle being fought by Moore and Preston was the battle between the defunct ideology of our rational, capitalist society and the crudely simulated ideology of Marxism. Both ideologies are man-made, non-living defunct theoretical constructions. Neither one can win. They aen't real and alive, they are only the theories of dead men assimilated into the structure of our society as ideas and common beliefs. Dick clearly believed that the end of corruption and the dehumanisation of our society could only be accomplished by real human beings, people who think beyond the boundaries of the existing social customs, traditions and norms. In SOLAR LOTTERY he tells us to transcend the old philosophies and create a newone which would allow us to conrol our environment, our government and our lives.

    Most of the trouble with the book is derived from the publisher's insistence on cutting it down. In WORLD OF CHANCE, Dick chose to cut whole passages rather than bother with cutting adjectives and verbs which would undermine his style of writing. (see PKDS 21). He must have thought these passages that were cut were not that important to the story as a whole. This decision shows how insignificant Dick felt Marxism to be to the big picture. He probably felt that the Prestonite's journey to the Flame Disk, as a subplot, was nothing in comparison to the actual game being played on earth in the major plot. The most significant part of the text that was omitted from SOLAR LOTTERY was in chapter 6 on board ther rocket heading to the Flame Disk, when the turmoil among the colonists came to a boil. This passage is important becasue it links the Prestonites with the Marxists as it portrays the nature of the communist party. It shows how most members come to adopt the communist ideology as true to their experience, and it stresses how there are conflicting opinions on how to achieve the final result of a new social order.

    Many of the Prestonites became disillusioned by the existing social structure when the commodities were burned. When this happened in SOLAR LOTTERY the system didn't change, the capital was not redistributed. Some people had become dissatisfied and became Prestonites. In Marxist terms these people had acquired class consciousness. In this section Dick makes much use of the terms us and them, these are the terms that signify class consciousness.

    On the ship the Prestonites were split into two factions: those who wanted to go back to earth and those who wanted to continue on to the Flame Disk. Marxists are similarly split into two factions. There are those who believe they can work through the existing sysem and those who believe they must go all the way to the final goal, a new society.

    On board ship, Cartwright served the same purpose for these people as Clinton does for the working class today. He gave them hope that they could make improvements through the existing system. But, as Dick points out in chapter 8 in another passage cut rom SOLAR LOTTERY, that the mutinous proposition to return to earth and work within the system was suggested by Dr. Flood who was a spy for Verrick planted within the Preston Society. This shows that Dick was perhaps a little ambivalent about working within the system as he questions the credibility of this idea.

    If SOLAR LOTTERY reflects PKD's attitude toward Marxism then he sees it as jkust another dimension to our reality. Insignificant to the big picture which is capitalism in transition. Dick was optimistic and believed in humanity; our basic belief in good. He argued that the state of humanity has reached an apex where we have control of so much knowledge that it's time that the collective consciousness caught up to the ominous power we can collectively manipulate. Its time to show some responsibility for our creations.

    But a critique of SOLAR LOTTERY cannot be complete without analyzing it from a metaphysical standpoint because this is the way Philip K. Dick must've looked at reality, it was evidently how he experienced it. I must admit strange metaphysical things happened to me while I was preparing this essay. One day I was trying to figure out exactly what PKD was getting at in SOLAR LOTTERY when he discussed the downfall of civilization in the book; the death of cause and effect (SL 20). I had just read those pages and was scratching my head shuffling off to the bathroom, wondering how the death of the concept of cause and effect could cause the disintegration of a society. I reached into the drawer in the bathroom -- I keep it stocked with interesting reading material -- and pulled out a copy of Kant's Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics. I opened the book at random to page 5 of the Introduction and began to read. It was all about Hume and his battle against the most important metaphysical concept: Cause and effect! Or, as Hume called it, "a priori reason... a bastard of imagination, impregnated by experience." (PTSFM 7{258}). Kant critiqued Hume's idea because in essence it discarded the idea of God as the ultimate causal agent in nature. When society discarded imagination and experience for empiricism it became corrupt and lifeless. What a coincidence that I happened to turn to that particular page in that particular book for what I needed! Later on, as I was doing some more reading in Mouni Sadhu's The Tarot, I decided to check out the numbers which ranked the characters in SOLAR LOTTERY as compared to the major arcanum. This led me to some interesting ideas. Dick tells us that Cartwright's birthday is October 5, 2140. He is a Libra. Referring to Sadhu's book I found that Libra is The Hanged Man, number 12 in the major arcanum. In a previous essay on THE COSMIC PUPPETS I had noticed that Dick had used the same symbol of the Hanged Man when Ahriman picked Ted Barton up by the heel and turned him upside down at the climax of the battle between Good and Evil. The Hanged Man is named 'Sacrifice' and also 'Caritas', a virtue that Dick came back to in his later works (TT 278). This is the character of Cartwright; he was willing to sacrifice his life to bring about the creation of a new world.

    Cartwright represented what Dick felt was needed to bring about the change. This man jimmied with the mechanism of the bottle. He knew what numbers were going to be twitched! He gained ontrol of the game. Once he'd taken control he had to be willing to make the sacrifice, to put his life on the line for what he believed in. He took the step, became the Hnaged Man. The Hanged Man also represents the decension of spirit into matter-- what was needed -- an idea that Dick emphasized in any of his books. When I tried to do a numerological analysis of the Hanged Man as shown in the book, it wasn't easy to figure out. Dick didn't give Cartwright a rank by numbers because Cartwright was an unk, an unclassified. So I used the numbers Dick did give: "born October 5, 2140." (SL 36) 5, 2, 4, 1, 0. These add to 12 which would represent the victory of the subtle over the dense. Verrick "was already a 6-3" when he became Quizmaster (SL 13). This reduces to a 9. In the tarot trumps the number 9 is The Hermit. The old hermit can use the mental, astral and physical planes consciously but only under the condition of karmic prosperity in the mundane world. Stagnation at this point is impossible. Since Verrick represents the collapsing, existing social structure of capitalism in SOLAR LOTTERY, then the Hermit represents the same thing. The society of SOLAR LOTTERY had reached a point of maturity where it had control of the three planes of thought, the metaphysical, psychological and empirical. At this point it can no longer remain retarded by superstition, prejudice and ignorance. This is the point of change. The old ideology had turned into a superstitious, sluggish restraint which delayed manifestations of independent thinking, it must be discarded.

    Moore and Benteley are both class 8-8's. This reduces to 16, The Tower trump. Another name for the Tower is Elementio Logica or deduction. This card represents the necessity of logic as used for building theses. The dual symbology of Moore and Benteley shows that logic is in itself neutral but can be used in different ways. Moore is the cold empiricist using science for power and prestige while Benteley, who is also a scientist, wants some sort of aesthetic reward for his work, more in the tradition of Socrates.

    The Tower also represents Hegel's concept of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. It is the confirmation of one thesis with the logical exclusion of all others which creates a metaphysical reaction in the basic laws of thinking. It represents stressed bonds which confirm one form as it destroys another. Fate with the help of physical stress preserves some forms while it destroys others, causing a physical destruction. The lightning strikes the Tower and both the nobleman and the peasant fall. The destruction is blind to the rank, power and prestige of man. All of this is represented by the interaction of Moore and Benteley.

    The Tower is also being represented in Chapter 6, in Verrick's castle. Here Benteley clashes with Moore, his equal opponent, in an outright brawl. The struggle is Good against Evil. The lightning flashes! Benteley awakens:
"The room was deadly cold. Nothing stirred. There was no sound, no life. He struggled stiffly up, bewildered, his mind broken in vague fragments. Through the open window grey early morning light filtered, and a cold ominous wind whipped icily around him... Figures lay sprawled out... in heaps here and there. He stumbled between outstretched limbs, half-covered arms, stark-white legs that shocked and horrified him." (SL 67)

    This is of course the moment when Benteley is first in the Pellig-thing. He sees himself as one of them, dead and ghoulish. The lighting flash has snapped the bonds, Benteley has realised his true self and the consciousness of his reality. He has been enlightened. Numerologically the class '8-8' indicates the liberation of one thesis fighting with the liberation of another. It is the conditional domination of a certain conception in the fight against another's conception. The Tower represents Benteley and Moore as two opposing scientific theses combatting to form a synthesis. It shows the transition of social thought as experienced by Hume when empiricism overthrew feudalism and became synthesized into capitalism.

    In conclusion, SOLAR LOTTERY shows a comparison of our modern capitalist society as analogous to the feudal society of medieval Europe while it was going through the transition to capitalism. Dick examines the dynamics of this transition and concludes that, for our post-capitalistic society to get through the present transition, we must realise that reality is controlled by certain habits of thought and we must change these preconceptions and discard those that are retardatory. The method he recommends is to tinker with the machinery and to use our imagination to create a new world more suitable to the needs of humanity. -- Barb Morning Child {note: This essay first appeared in FDO#4}


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