Republic of Jesters

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Exposition Reel #2 – Live Freer

Now the video goes into a series of shots of oil extraction methods. There’s footage of pump jacks, modern drills, offshore drilling platforms and a typical tar sands sight – a gigantic dragline dropping a 100 ton shovel load into the bed of a 33 foot high dump truck. The narrator’s voice starts in. “When Mr. Lamar said that ‘we live in a world where transportation is run by oil’ he couldn’t have been closer to the truth; however, transportation wasn’t the only use for oil. Petroleum was used in so many products that it was nearly impossible to find a product that didn’t use oil at some stage in its production. Plastics, asphalt, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, waxes, and pharmaceuticals all used petroleum in their production. Even the foods that people ate were improved by petroleum because petroleum products were used as fertilizers for agriculture.”

This part of the film shows shots of the products in action. There’s a scene of a happy customer leaving a grocery store till with a handful of plastic bags, an athletic type draining a plastic bottles contents into their gullet, a close up of an asphalt road where car tires are in the foreground and whole vehicles in the background, a shot of bottles in an assembly line being filled with pills, and so on. The final piece of footage in this series is of an all American boy, complete with freckles and a baseball cap, taking a bite out of a gargantuan corn cob, chewing, and then laughing to reveal a smile with a missing tooth.

“The American way of life could not be complete without crude oil. It is strange to think that organic life forms that lived millions of years ago, such as ancient animals, plants, and microorganisms, that had been compacted by intense pressure and layers upon layers of rock, where the fuel for society. It was unusual thought, but it was the truth.”

This little section of the video contains shots of fossilized animals, geological formations, and ball-and-stick molecules being changed over time. Pure science isn’t well understood in post-Restructuring times since mass education doesn’t offer many science related courses,[1] so this part of the film tends to be short. The instructors barely even know what it is all about, so they don’t want the trainees thinking it is important then asking numerous questions about it after the video ends.

“However, there was a major downfall to this truth: crude oil was finite. Over the entire history of the earth, there had only been so many organisms that could be compacted; therefore, there could only be so much crude oil produced. In the short range, oil was a limited resource.” The film depicts a pump jack slowing until it reaches a complete stop. The counter weight’s counterclockwise rotation started out rapid, but its movement tapers out until it’s deprived of all movement. “This caused a number of problems because the population of the United States of America was growing, which meant that more people were consuming petroleum derived products. Additionally, the American way of life was so superior that other countries followed suit. People in countries such as Canada and Australia were living lives that were similar to Americans and seeing as Mr. Lamar and his associates opened the globe to business, privileged people in developing countries such as China and India adopted the American culture.” A shot of factory-new vehicles speeding down a new freeway appears. The freeway has an overhead road sign that has some intangible characters, then a number of characters underneath that belong to the all too familiar Latin alphabet reading ‘Beijing Airport 5 km.’

“This created a toll on the American consumer. As more and more people across the globe were driving private automobiles and using petroleum based products, less and less oil was to be found and refined. Extraction of the few remaining petroleum deposits was getting more expensive, resources going into manufacturing oil were becoming more costly, and the price associated with transportation of refined oil, seeing as it was run on refined oil, was also going up. Oil was becoming scarce, and as economics of the time dictated, a product that has a low supply and a high demand will have a high price.” A chart is shown to help the viewer visualize this concept. One would expect it to be a supply and demand curve, but the makers of this video know that the audience probably wouldn’t understand this,[2] so the chart is just an oil price curve. On the x axis is years, starting at 1970 and ending at 2030, and on the y axis is oil price in dollars/barrel. The chart shows some minor oscillations, but the main trend is a line that starts as an upward shallow slope then progresses into an exponential growth curve.

“Increasing oil prices caused the cost of living for the average American consumer to go up. Heating ones house was becoming more and more expensive, food at the grocery store was becoming more costly seeing as petroleum was used for fertilizer, and consumer electronics were becoming overpriced because of increasing shipping fees; but most importantly, gasoline prices were rising. Gasoline was the fuel for most automobiles, and if one product could sum up the American way of life, it was the personal automobile. The Romans had their chariots, the Mongolians had their horses, the Spanish had their galleons, the Americans had their cars. They were freedom machines; they allowed Americans to go anywhere and do anything.”

This section is accompanied by footage from inspirational car commercials of the time. One in particular shows an SUV driving through a mountain valley highway with a canoe on its roof, a pair of mountain bikes clinging to its liftgate, all the while pulling a trailer that contains an ATV. This rig was somewhat unrealistic seeing as it contains some conflicting interests - the canoe and mountain bike cries ‘I’m in touch with nature;’ whereas the ATV screams ‘Git R’ Done’ - but it certainly gives off a message: automobiles were a means of exploration. Although the advertisement was just showing off some of the things the SUV could do, its inherent meaning couldn’t have been any truer after 60+ years of mass suburbanization. Activities were spread out over miles and miles, so walking became obsolete while driving became the only viable form of transportation. The commercial had the car exploring far off places like mountains, but this concept could be equally applied at a smaller scale; nearer places such as the mall, work, or sporting grounds were just as appropriate because they were only accessible by car.

“In the early decades of this century, almost anything could be done within the confines of a vehicle. One could do their banking, send off mail, or even order meals and eat them without having to leave their automobile.” A series of drive-thrus appear on the screen.

Gathering from the narrators tone, Mark is glorifying the Age of Convenience. It was fine and dandy and all, but the film forgot to point something out: the Age of Convenience, particularly for America, had seen the highest levels of obesity ever seen in human history. Fast food drive-thru restaurants can take a high proportion of the blame, but the other types of drive-thrus played a part as well. If one could get everything done in their car, what gives them incentive to leave the car and get some exercise? Sure, the media of the time made everyone at the time self-conscious of their body weight, but to do anything about it a person would have to spend hours upon hours at a gym surrounded by overly aggressive alpha males or perfectly shaped women that would depress the shit out any one around in a stable state of mind because they could never look anywhere nearly as good or they couldn’t get a girlfriend that looked nearly that good. The other exercise options were just as dismal. A person could go for a run in the park, but they would probably be distracted every five seconds because one of their friends just texted them a winking smiley face and wanted to know what was up, or they were constantly fiddling with their music device because a song came up on random that they weren’t feeling at the moment. One could go for a bike ride, but since most places didn’t bother building sidewalks anymore and nature trails were no longer seen as worth the taxpayers money because nobody used them anymore, cyclists had to take to the roads and risk being honked at every minute for being to slow or, on a more serious note, risk being run down by a guy who happens to be a good neighbor but a complete homicidal maniac when behind a steering wheel. Besides, who had the time for exercise anyways? People were too busy buying things or working so that they could pay off their credit cards.

Come to think of it, the Age of Convenience must have significantly brought down the average life expectancy of the United States of America. During this period, life expectancy was the highest it had ever been, but that was due to medical advancements and the access to a proper diet. If the culture hadn’t relied so heavily on the car, the average life expectancy could have probably gone up by 10-15 years. Heart disease, diabetes, other complications due to obesity, respiratory diseases, and automobile accidents were all leading causes of death. All of those top killers could be correlated, at least partially, with excessive automobile use. If one pondered hard enough, they could view the automobile as less of freedom machine, but more as a plague on wheels.

The narrator continues: “Entertainment was even provided for in vehicles. Early in their history, cars had access to radio stations which let the driver enjoy music. Later on, cars were equipped with ways of allowing the driver to select their own music so they wouldn’t have to flip through radio stations trying to find something they like.”

The film shows a zooming up shot of a typical late 90s sedan. The doors are open, which allows the camera to pan in and finally stop and the car’s center console. The next scene shows a man behind a table with white gloves on. He picks up objects off the table, shows then off for a few seconds, then moves on to the next object. The table contains a radio antenna, an 8-track cartridge system with a cartridge, a tape-deck with a cassette tape in front, a CD deck with a compact disk lying near it, and an auxiliary jack that’s connected to an ARTifact. Except for the last item, these are all extinct technologies that the viewer has never seen before. This part is going over the audiences head, but it is somewhat important because it is building up to something.

“Movies could also be enjoyed in vehicles. The 1950s brought us drive-in movie theaters where a movie lover could watch a film from their very own car. Extrapolating from this, newer car models had video screens that allowed their passengers to view movies during long car rides. Imagine this: you are watching this film, right now, in a moving vehicle. Crazy to think about, but if this film was released in 2010, that could very well be the truth.”

Nobody in the world would watch this video for their own pleasure, and most companies don’t train their employees in moving vehicles, so this statement is actually pretty far from the truth.

“With all the features and conveniences that automobiles had offered, there is no wonder why the Americans of the time cherished them so much. Automobiles were so important that they had become the defining characteristic of American culture. With so much emphasis on the personal automobile, it was no surprise that Americans were infuriated about the rising gas prices.”

The video now puts off a very gloomy semblance. The soundtrack is funeral-esque and the image on the screen is of a gas station’s price sign where the cost per gallon goes up and up. The next shot shows a protest in slow motion. The activists are parading down a downtown street while wearing eccentric outfits and holding posters. The viewer can make out some of the messages written on the protestor’s posters. Among them: ‘Stop the gouging, lower gas prices,’ ‘In the beginning God gave us oil. It’s blasphemous to charge us so much for a natural, God given, product,’ ‘Fuel for thought: Decrease gas prices, Increase moral,’ ‘I work all day to pay for fuel for my car so I can get to work the next day. I could afford food for myself, if only you reduced gas prices,’ and ‘Fuck the Government, Fuck the Oil Industry, and Fuck the Earth for not making more oil.’

“In response to the public outrage of gas prices, a new political party took advantage of the situation and rocked American politics. In 2016, the Republic of America’s Freedom Party held its first national meeting. This was the birth of a brilliant party, and on this day, July 4th, they choose their leader: Scott B. Freer. Scott Freer was a successful businessman whose knowledge and expertise helped turn New Mexico from a nuclear weapons testing wasteland into a high-tech powerhouse.”

Businessman is just scratching the surface. Throughout Scott Freer’s long career, he had many business forays which gives him numerous occupational titles.

Scott was never a good student, in fact he just scraped by, but his father, Juan A.B. Freer, was a rich man who was capable of paying the excessively expensive Harvard University tuition. After getting a degree in Political Science, then getting a MBA at Harvard Business School in 1992, Scott got a marketing job at a company that made breakfast cereals. As it turns out, Scott’s father got him the marketing job because Juan owned a factory that produced one of the company’s cereal brands.

Scott’s first big break came in 1995 when he casted a certain Chicago Bulls player[3] in a commercial for one of the children’s cereals: Swishy Hoops. The timing was right; the player was relatively unknown at the time, so Scott casted him for cheap, but eventually he became hugely marketable. The Bulls winning three championships in a row during that period didn’t seem to stop the player’s success or Swishy Hoops for that matter. So the commercial brought in colossal profits for the company and Scott Freer got a big promotion because of it.

With the promotion came a pay raise and new responsibilities. Scott was now in charge of the production sector. Right off the bat he figured something out: the company could save money on the production end by using cheaper wheat sources. American farmers were charging too much for their wheat, so in typical Scott Freer fashion, he sized up the business climate and decided to buy Ukrainian wheat. It was the mid-90s so the Ukraine was experiencing the post-Soviet shock. Although the country was considered the breadbasket of Europe, the Ukraine was in a deep recession and the future was uncertain. But where there’s strife, there’s business opportunities. The Ukraine at the time was like a capitalistic wild west; industries were rapidly being privatized and land was changing hands like it were a hot potato. Scott assessed the situation and imported wheat from starving farmers who were selling at phenomenally low prices. This cut material costs down significantly, and eventually the cereal company bought land in the Ukraine and sent over some brand new American made combines; these being pieces of technology that must’ve looked like the Millennium Falcon to the Ukrainian farmers who were still using 40 year old Soviet combines (that’s if they still worked).

Scott Freer even contemplated buying land in the Zone of Alienation surrounding the Chernobyl reactor, but the deal fell through because of the negative publicity that would have followed. First of all, the guy trying to sell the land was a known corrupt official, and second of all, marketing the product would be immensely difficult. The American consumer just wouldn’t be able to get behind a product called Chernobyl Flakes with the slogan: Now with extra strontium-90. If only the land was contaminated with americium; now that’s an isotope that the American public could really eat up.

Around the time that the Ukrainian economy stabilized, Scott had already started his next foray. He noticed the gaining popularity of the video game industry, but realized that there was a niche that had been relatively unfilled: the adult video game. So, he quit the cereal company, got a massive severance package for his efforts,[4] got a few investors interested (one being his father, of course), then started up a video game developing company.

Scott Freer was now an entrepreneur. He bought an old Air Force base located a few miles south of Albuquerque that the government was trying to liquidate after a scandal occurred. Apparently, residents in the area were experiencing unnaturally high rates of cancer that were most likely due to experiments that were performed on the base. So, to avoid any further public scrutiny, the Air Force left the area, sold the land and whatever was on it for a discount, and built another base that was far away from any population centers. The old Air Force base was to become the video game studios, the housing plots for the studios employees, and a series of entertainment venues to keep the employees stimulated.

The next step was to attain some employees. Scott scouted a number of graphic designers, software developers, animators, computer scientists, videographers, and a few others who had just graduated at the top of their classes. He knew that the industry was rapidly evolving, so he chose a team that was fresh out of school and had no ties to the past. The biggest obstacle for bringing them over was the fact that they would have to relocate to the boondocks of New Mexico, but that was quickly solved when they got sight of their offered salary. Scott knew he would have to provide some incentive, so he took a risk by paying his employees way more than what they would expect at an entry level job, and he even provided a couple of extra bonuses such as a red sports car to get them into work every day and a guaranteed McMansion once the air base became a town. This chance really worked out because within a year the company released a hugely successful adult video game: Skin City 2K.

Skin City 2K was a strategy game that put the player in the shoes of a strip club manager. The manager would have to higher new talent, watch performances to make sure their girls were rousing the crowds, order materials, hire a suiting disc jockey, expand their business to make it a franchise, etc. When the game was released, the media hounded it for being obscene, and certain church groups followed suit, yet that didn’t stop people from buying the game. The game also didn’t get rave reviews; most critics lambasted it for having weak gameplay or shoddy in-game dynamics. But that didn’t matter; what mattered was the interactive videos.[5]

At the time, the internet had not yet been completely saturated with pornography, so the game was released at an optimal time. Skin City 2K had offered the average man a decent alternative to procuring porno. Before this time, a person would have to walk into an Adult Store and risk being caught by a friend or employer, or even worse, getting recognized by the stores employees which would mean they were becoming a local. But Skin City 2K was attainable at any big-box store or video game retailer, so this erased a lot the shame in obtaining erotic material. Of course, the cashier who rung you in would know what you’re up to, but you could easily water down your selection by purchasing some Nu-metal CDs or action movies.

Ultimately, the game was popular for the wrong reasons, but it still brought in some tremendous profits that allowed the company to expand.

Scott used this revenue to build up the air base. With a little help from some investors, he developed the land like it was any other subdivision. There were single-family houses, McMansions for the original game developers, a shopping mall with adequate parking, technoburb buildings for work, a main strip that featured franchise restaurants[6] that were too big to fit in the mall’s food court, and even one of those desert oasis golf courses. Scott was now transitioning into a real estate mogul, and thus was the beginning of Techton, New Mexico.

While Techton was growing, Scott was becoming a successful venture capitalist. After surveying the playing field, he decided that there were two things worth investing in: energy drinks and mixed martial arts. These were gaining popularity quicker than a reality TV star, so it was Scott’s chance to diversify his portfolio.

Scott started out by investing money into a start-up energy drink company out of Southern California called ‘Turbo Taurine.’ He put down a significant amount of money which left him at about a 26% share, but this capital stock was paid off quickly due to the success of Turbo Taurine. The drink started out local, eventually getting the SoCal youth so hooked that Turbo Taurine pretty much had a monopoly over the San Diego and Inland Empire energy drink market. This brought on some attention, especially from some of the major convenience stores, which eventually distributed the drink nationally. In less than two years after the company’s inception, people across America, from SoCal to Maine, were slamming back Turbo Taurines thinking it was going to help them jump over a flaming barb wired fence on a BMX bike or stay awake at work. Little did they know, taurine had not been scientifically proven to be energy-giving. Caffeine was the active ingredient, but taurine sounded more exotic, thus it was more marketable. In fact, taurine was just an organic acid that’s a major constituent of bile. ‘Bile Blast’ wouldn’t have sold well, and caffeine was in too many drinks already, so when it came down to emphasizing an ingredient, taurine had worked just fine.

Scott had success in breaking into the energy drink market, yet he wasn’t so successful when it came to mixed martial arts. He couldn’t just start up an entire fighting league from the ground up, so he opted to invest in a clothing brand that had an image focused on the sport. Scott held 30% of the shares for ‘Desensitized Clothing,’ but making back his original investment turned out to be a much harder goal than what his first investment experience had been. The company tried everything to get a leg up on its competitors, yet nothing seemed to work. Everything that was cool at the time, the company tried to portray on a t-shirt. The designers made shirts with skulls, weapons, blown up punching bags; they made tattoo inspired graphics and vintage looking illustrations; they even made bedazzled clothes, but the products just weren’t selling like the investors had planned. As it turned out, the market was already saturated with clothing lines that were all trying to get a piece of this niche. Plus, ‘Desensitized’ was way too many syllables for its target market; most meatheads had trouble in school, so ‘desensitized’ just reminded them of their failing grades in grammar class. The only stroke of luck for the clothing brand came when a major discount retailer offered to buy the brand. The executives and investors agreed upon selling, so it was finalized. At the end of it all, Scott had barely broke even. Even though it was a warning sign to his vulnerability, Scott got out unscathed and would continue taking risks.

Around 2011, Scott’s sights were focused solely on Techton. He became the store owner of several franchise restaurants and retailers; he invested in a number of high-tech companies that were starting up or relocating to Techton; and he hung around the golf course[7] to keep in touch with his powerful friends. Everything was going smoothly, but Scott still had a bone to pick. With all the stores that he owned and all the companies that he had invested in, the amount of money that he was ‘losing’ to taxes was really upsetting him. Scott thought that it was absurd that the government could take so much from a man that has given so much to the New Mexican economy.

Mind you, Scott Freer knew all the loop holes, he had the Swiss Bank accounts and a crack team of corporate lawyers, and New Mexico had a number of tax incentives for businesses operating within the state, especially for businesses that create high-tech jobs (which was one of the original reason why Scott located the Skin City 2K studios in New Mexico[8]), yet Scott Freer didn’t think all of these were enough. So he hired a lobbyist to persuade the Governor to create more tax credits and exemptions for businesses. When the Governor said that they couldn’t do anything more, Scott sent the lobbyist to Capitol Hill. The lobbyist pressured Congress into passing legislature that would lower corporate taxes to the Reagan era rates, but they didn’t seem to budge. Several lobbyists were pushing for the same thing and when dozens of voices are all squawking into the same ear, nothing can be comprehended. Plus, the country had been in a recession for a number of years, so the government had to make money somehow. All of this irritated Scott Freer so much that he decided to take up a new occupation: politician.

From this whole ordeal, Scott Freer gained an ideology that was so right-wing that he could only fly in circles. A question he often pondered was: If the marketplace could lead society in the right direction, wouldn’t that make the government just a useless obstacle? After thinking over the dynamics of this question, his answer was always the same: yes. He thought that the government was just biting the invisible hand that feeds it, so his whole attitude towards the government was the less, the better. He shared this view with a couple of his friends and they said, “Wow, Scott, you’re really on to something. You should become a politician so you can spread your ideals.”

Now these questions and ideals weren’t new in any way, but Scott thought that they weren’t being addressed and that many people must’ve thought the same way about the burgeoning government. So, being Scott Freer and all, he scanned the political landscape to see what party would suit his ideologies. The Democrats were obviously out and although many Republicans would agree with his platform, he just wouldn’t be able to fit in with the party due to his Skin City background. A lot of them were religious and all, so they would probably think he was an immoral and blasphemous man. So that left the Libertarianism Party. Now Scott’s views could certainly be called libertarianism, with his devotion to personal and economic freedom and all, but the problem with libertarianism is that there are so many theoretical branches of it that no two people have the exact same views. There are objectivists, civil libertarians, fiscal libertarians, libertarian socialists, minarchists, anarcho-capitalists, geolibertarians, neolibertarians, classical libertarians, paleolibertarians etc. All these genres that debate over minute details make uniting a group of people under one banner difficult. Being aware of this, Scott decided that no existing parties suited his views, so he created his own from the ground up.

With support from the business community and his powerful friends, Scott got the word out that a new political party was forming. As an ode to his marketing days, he strategically choose a name that everyone could get behind: the Republic of America Freedom Party, or RAFP for short. Thankfully they had the ‘P’ in the acronym because they wouldn’t want to get confused with dainty flyboys (the Royal Air Force) or commie wannabes (the Red Army Faction). But that’s beside the point. The ‘freedom’ section would really stand out for Americans, and that’s what Scott was banking on for the success of the party. Who can say they don’t appreciate freedom? Freedom of speech, economic freedom, personal freedom, spiritual freedom, freedom to do whatever the fuck you want with whoever the fuck wants to do it, freedom from an obtrusive government… If you don’t vote for the Freedom party, then you’re voting for a party that denies these freedoms.

Having the most knowledge of the party’s aim, Scott Freer was elected as the leader of the party at their first meeting, effectively giving him one more occupational title. The list, at this point of time, was now: marketer, production manager, entrepreneur, real estate mogul, venture capitalist, store owner, investor, and finally, politician.

[1] Still, science is more understood than a certain subject that Americans have always put on the back burner; that subject being world geography.

[2] The makers probably wouldn’t understand it either.

[3] No, not Michael Jordan.

[4] And also to keep his mouth shut about certain Ukrainian dealings.

[5] Ironically, the superior interactive software that was featured in the games numerous strip scenes would later be used in interactive educational video games.

[6] Some of which Scott would own.

[7] Which Scott owned.

[8] Also because the Freer family is originally from the Albuquerque region.

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