Describe an impossible or as-yet uninvented technology in the wrong hands.
rom my 2017 diary
Tuesday, August 15
Upon entry into Athens child next to me vomited all over himself.
Vast bright blue skies. The bumpy ride carried us over the sparse, brown mountains outside the city.
Arrived OK, but mostly slept the day away. Around three, I managed to find lunch near Monastiraki Station. I had hoped for Nikitas, but it’s closed for the month, so I settled on the touristy restaurant next door, the name of which I’ve already forgotten.
The host, Bill, liked me because I told him I’m from New York – his favorite city. His ex-wife lives there now and owns Greek restaurants in Manhattan. His English was very bad—he kept confusingly referring to her as his ex-husband. His strongest association with New York besides his ex-wife is September 11. Badly jetlagged, the possibility of discussing terrorism with him seemed too awful to stomach, but he pressed on, even as I tried to make clear my discomfort to him. He hates Muslims, he told me, and thinks they are the most violent people on the planet. I shook my head and said that’s not true, but he wouldn’t hear any of it.
Americans are too tolerant of Muslims, he argued. “You like them too much,” he said. My jaw hung open. This guy sells food? He could not abide by their presence in his country. Just down the street they are building a mosque that he fears will spawn terrorism in Greece. That won’t happen, I assured him.
I should have been more forceful but was afraid to allow myself to become visibly angry, since I feared it might break a dam within me. My modest disapproval of his racism and bigotry, while not quite at Trump’s level of “two sides,” didn’t go far enough, I knew that. I felt like the Conrad’s Razumov, somehow incapable of claiming a political identity despite the absolute necessity of doing so. I am being harsh on myself: I have an identity, though I failed a test of its character with Bill. (Or we were both Razumov, with him in a confused thrall with the autocratic violence of anti-Muslim attitudes in western Europe and me battered about in history’s tidal waves.) I had none gone far enough: I should have stood up and left. Is weakness of heart, even the jetlagged heart, worse than bigotry itself? Probably.
I returned to my room and slept the rest of the day away, then woke for dinner at Café del Sole.
“He ceased to think for a moment. The silence in his breast was complete. But he felt a suspicious uneasiness, such as we may experience when we enter an unlighted strange place—the irrational feeling that something may jump us in the dark—the absurd dread of the unseen.
Of course he was from being a moss-grown reactionary. Everything was not for the best. Despotic bureaucracy … abuses … corruption … and so on. Capable men were wanted. Enlightened intelligences. Devoted hearts. But absolute power should be preserved—the tool ready for man—for the great autocrat of the future. Razumov believed in him. The logic of history made him unavoidable. The state of the people demanded him.”
—Conrad, Under Western Eyes
Much of the news in the United States concerned another Trump press conference on Charlottesville, this time at Trump Tower in New York. He recanted his second statement—the one in which he acknowledged that racism and white supremacy are evil—and returned to his belief that there was evil on both sides. He said he was praised by the mother of Heather Hayer, who was killed by the Nazi in the Dodge Cruiser, that her words were “terrific,” and defended the alt-right by saying that they aren’t all racists and white supremacists and Nazis. It was a shouting match that ended with the line, “Does anybody know that I have a house in Charlottesville?”