Mark Baxter’ is a narconaut. This means he smuggles drugs between planets and galaxies, mostly the highly addictive class A drugs known as ‘Pure O’ and ‘Mad’. Within a few minutes of meeting it’s strikingly clear he isn’t particularly ashamed of what he does and he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a drug trafficker either.
Relaxing in his London Gentleman’s club Mark Baxter presents a neat, if diminutive figure in ironed wool trousers and a tailor made white shirt that sparkles discreetly with Martian silica. He looks like a typical well heeled city trader. In fact his credentials are indeed, solidly middle class. Mark’s father is a civil engineer and his mother is a department secretary for a multi-national drug company. Mark sees the humour in this situation.
“Yeah, it’s funny right? We work at both ends of the pharmaceutical continuum, only she gets an office and a pension scheme and I get chased by armed government drones”.
I note a slight edge to this comment, as if, unbelievably, Mark thinks narconauts, or maybe all drug traffickers, should get the same occupational perks as his hard working mother. But I don’t want to rock the boat too early in the interview so I ignore the comment and tell Mark that I want to know how he got into being a narconaut and what exactly it involves.
“what’s a normal day like for a narconaut Mark?”
“It’s simple” he says, breathing out loudly as if rather bored with the question.
“We load up the ship, blast off, land somewhere, sell the stuff to a wholesaler, then fly home, sometimes with, sometimes without a homebound load – it’s all about rights of ingress and egress”.
“I’m not familiar with those terms”
” Well you see Alan, what I’m talking about is a kind of symmetry”, he presses his hands together in an appropriately symmetrical gesture, as if silently praying.
“Symmetry, as in Snow Flakes”
“You are losing me here Mark”
He lets out another long, tired, breath. Perhaps I suggest, he is suffering from jet lag or the chronic insomnia that afflicts so many astronauts?
“No, not at all” he snaps, somewhat defensively. Like all astronauts he has the habit of denying any personal weakness.
“I’m just thinking or breathing out loud if you will. Anyhow – as I was saying, let’s start with the Galbraithian supposition that conventional wisdom is never correct, this naturally leads to an attack on neoclassical economic thought, and just for fun Alan let’s go along with Galbraith’s Reductio ad absurdum for a while”.
“Ok Mark, I’m sure my readers would like me to go along with you for a minute or so, if it helps them to understand what you do”.
“I’m sure they would Alan, because according to the Interplanetary Epidemiology Working Group, there are some strange things going on between here and the Ultra Deep fields of the smallest reddest galaxies. We have an unaddressed extraterrestrial ““youth bulge”, for example, Mars and Phobos have populations that are 90% under 25 years of age, while down here on Earth, hmm, would the term ‘Grey Ghetto’ be offensive to your readers? Because that’s what we’re talking about, a kind of chronological-pharmaceutical schism”.
“So that’s the ‘symmetry’ you refer to – a balanced polarity between old body chemistries and young ones?”
“Not exactly, but it’s the beginning of an insurgent symmetry – an epistemological symmetry, not etho-national or cultural per se, more a kind of contested inner homeland – a mental topographical symmetry”
“You’re losing me here again Mark, could you explain these ideas in lay-mans terms?”
“I like to talk about ‘zones of impunity’ – against the influence of the state. Let’s say the state needs you, a journalist, to erect a wall of conventional wisdom around the rest of us, but, on the other hand, the non-state, the negated, the youth bulge and the borderless need me, a narconaut, to punch holes in that wall.”
“This has been called a ‘win-lose spectrum’ Mark – an awful lot of folks get hurt in this set-up’
“oh yes, I agree with you Alan, an awful lot of folks get hurt, including an awful lot of narconautical folk – blown right out of space by government drones, and guess what Alan?”
“Those narconautical folks have got narconautical wives, husbands and children’
“Isn’t that your responsibility – to get a proper job, to stop breaking the law?”
“Well you see now you are getting right down to it. The law”
“Yes Mark the law that says getting kids hooked on drugs is wrong’
“And this law was invented by the same state that gave those very same children Pure O back in the days when Conventional Wisdom was that the state could and should manufacture an abundance of contrived wants”.
“Am I right in thinking your astronaut training included philosophy?”
“I was trained in the contra modernist Socratic method as all astronauts once were”
“until the events of five years ago?”
“you’ve done your research Alan, yes, well done, events that I, inevitably, was very much involved in”
“As many of our readers will know five years ago there was an astronaut insurrection, in which, by a process of hypothesis elimination an entire NASA cohort decided to do the exact opposite of what they were trained to do, is that right?”
“That is right Alan. As our own tutors taught us, Galbraith said, “Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but to the massive onslaughts of circumstances with which they cannot contend. What you are talking about is the smashing of the Socratic fish bowl itself – think of the Earth as that fishbowl, the narconauts as the liberated fish.”
“Do you take the drugs you smuggle Mark?”
“No I don’t Alan – one cannot defend production as satisfying wants if that production creates the wants, this applies to narconautics as much as anything else. But before I go I’d like to throw one more spanner into the works – vigorous enforcement means higher prices and higher revenues for narconauts. You might like your readers to think about that.”
Next week: Fractal Psychiatry, an interview with the radical therapist Dr Ola Consul.