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Moment of Truth: The Eerie Canal

Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.

The title of this moment is The Eerie Canal. Unlike the Uncanny Valley, the Eerie Canal is all too embedded in actual human flesh. What's eerie about it? Let's catch a gondola and see.

A baby is about to emerge from within its mother, but before it commits to entering the world through a parting of what my friend Mike in high school called, disgustingly, but I can't get his phrase out of my head, so shame on me, "the roast beef curtain," it weighs its future possibilities. This baby is scheduled to momentarily make its grand entrance into what Shakespeare, who learned things before the advent of high school, called "this mortal coil." But the baby hesitates, because the curtain it is to enter from behind is also what liberal philosopher John Rawls, who had no friends in high school, or if he did, did not retain their sophomorically sexist if evocative nomenclature for aspects of the female anatomy, called "The Veil of Ignorance."

The Veil of Ignorance is a thought experiment: how would you design a society if it were possible that, once it was built, you might end up anywhere in it, in any social position, any geographic position, any economic position, any physical situation. You were ignorant of whether you would be rich or poor, strong or sickly, intelligent or mentally challenged, or somewhere in between. You just didn't know. Rawls didn't answer the question of what kind of society was to be designed. He posed it as an approach to thinking about justice and fairness and compassion, limits on power, and society's responsibility for the living conditions of the individuals it comprises.

This baby is as ignorant of its future status as any intentionally ignorant social thinker playing this theoretical game. It does know that it's human, but it doesn't know who its mother is. It doesn't even know its own sex, if you can believe it. Well, it's dark in there. Yes, it could feel around to find out, but to be honest, it would like to keep that information a surprise for itself.

So, this about-to-be-born baby has some things to work out. Unlike in Rawls' thought experiment, this baby knows what current societies are like. It's not that ignorant. It knows what Ugandan society is like, and it knows what Norwegian society is like. And it knows what conditions are like in various locations within those societies. It just doesn't know what kind of person it's going to be, so it can only hope for a good outcome.

I'm not sure where the little pup got this information. It wasn't from anything its mother was reading aloud or listening to on an audio book or BBC program, that would have given it some clue as to its mother's status. No, this knowledge simply appeared inside its brain, like a gift from a disinterested narrator. We're positing an objective report, in this instance, even though we know there's no such thing. Every report on anything reveals something about the reporter's biases. But here we're taking a bit of license. We’re going to call this baby's prenatal preternatural knowledge a five-dimensional snapshot of the human world. A ton of information without commentary. This is not a Werner Herzog documentary. It's more like you left a camera on that could see all of human history up to the present, all over the world. No editing. It's not particularly entertaining, but it is educational.

I realize that the baby already knowing its species is a bit of cheat, but this baby came to me this way. I'm not a fabricator, I'm inspired. The breath of this creature was breathed into my brain already whole. The only thing I, and the baby, are unsure of is, what will it come out into?

The baby's thoughts are racing, as it considers all the possible fates that await it at the end of the fallopian tunnel. Given the current statistics, it might prefer to be born male, preferably in a Western European nation, although longevity, if not a pleasant longevity, is on the female side in that case, but the odds are against that. Most likely it will be born in Asia, and it's possible that if it is female, it won't survive its first hours. But, it supposes, instant death is always a possibility.

It got this far with little trouble. That says something about its society's prenatal care. It can't help noticing feeling reasonably healthy, but then again it hasn't had any other feelings to compare it to.

The baby has started getting solicitations. "Be born here," and so on, as if the baby has a choice. Most of the solicitations are from the USA, which is a society very full of itself, with an endless advertising budget. "Come to Niagara Falls," the psychic advertising trumpets, through some psychic broadcast medium Zuckerberg or Musk or some other one-percenter tech douche figured out how to exploit. "Come to Hawaii." Yeah, sure, says the baby to itself, why not Disneyland? "Oh, be born in Disneyland," shrieks Disneyland.

There was a brief period during its inner counsel when the baby was seriously thinking of dissolving itself into its mother's tissue, disappearing into her. She was clearly living a life decent enough for a fetus to be kept alive all the way through gestation. Why take chances? Why not just be her?

But now it's too late for that. All the baby knows for sure is this: it has decided it will learn to juggle. Even should it be born without arms or legs, it will master juggling well enough to entertain itself, if no one else.

Product advertisements begin to take over the cacophony. Soda pops, shoes, toilet paper, reverse mortgages. "It's the best!" "We give you more!" "The happiest place on Earth!" The Rawlsian potential is being drowned out by the sirens of capitalism. Never mind that broadcast advertising returns at best ten cents on the dollar. The throat of marketing has opened and cannot be plugged. A deluge of sales pitches floods the very fabric of the universe.

The baby, still yet to be born, tries to master its attention and bring itself back to pondering the existential future. It strives to center itself. Then come the words:

"Whoa, I'm not braggin' on myself baby But I know someday, some way...

"You're gonna miss my lovin'..."

What fresh jingle is this? A Rawlsian rhyme for sure, but not John. This is Lou. Well, a Rawls is a Rawls is a Rawls...

"You'll never see," sings the womb, "what you've found in me You'll keep searching and searching your whole life through"

And that's exactly what the baby will do, search and search its whole life through for another home as comfortable as the womb, with as much good lovin'. A time and a place when all was potential, possibility. When, who knows, you might turn out to be anybody.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


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