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Ingrid Swenson

In Conversation

 

Are you okay?

Excuse me?

 

I said, ‘Are you okay’ – I had the impression that you might need some help.

No, I’m absolutely fine. This is the way that I’m supposed to be. It’s completely correct. This is how I can be the best version of myself. Or at least the latest version of myself, which must strive to be an improvement on the one before. This, I assure you, is what success looks like.

 

But you look completely shattered.

We prefer the word atomized, it is more accurate – more contemporary, on-message, and it reflects my innate and robust power. These ratchet straps and tethers are made with military-grade webbing and have in fact endowed me with additional strength and, as you can see, gravity-defying buoyancy – a superpower!

 

I actually meant that you looked tired, knackered.

Well, I’m sure that is to be expected because with great power comes great responsibility. For centuries I have proudly assumed the mantle of mascot to mankind’s greatness – overseer and protector of the world. I assure you that a tiny bit of fatigue will not diminish my strength, courage, and supreme authority.

 

Are we underneath a railway line or something? I have been periodically hearing this shuffling, rhythmic beat interrupted by the noise of something striking a hard surface. There is a solemnity about this sound, which is strangely compelling. But let’s not get distracted, what I wanted to ask was what exactly you meant when you said that you are being the ‘best version’ of yourself?

It’s about my ceaseless endeavour towards self-actualisation – the highest earthly ambition which must be achieved if I am to realise my full potential. I exist through the continual iterations created by men over millennia. I am the reflection and incarnation of Man’s greatness, so this version which you stand before now is of course a reflection of all the outstanding achievements and advancements that have been made by men until this point in the history of the world.

 

Sorry, but I’m finding this quite hard to follow.

Oh dear. Let’s lean into this a bit more, and I’m sure that you’ll get it.

My first version, in marble, was formed in the second century, during those spectacular times when the world was opening up and the glorious Emperors were spreading their munificence far and wide. However, there followed centuries of dark times and it was more than 1000 years later when the next version of me – also in marble – appeared. A twin! Together we were bestowed the highest honour of standing guard at an entrance of the Medici family’s great villa in Rome epitomising the perfect alignment of political and economic power with religion and high culture. Since this time, more than 30 other versions have been created in marble or bronze to grace the seats of power and culture across the world. So revered have we become that multiple other, smaller versions have been created in humbler materials to take pride of place in the homes of simple souls. In my majesty and ubiquity, I am in truth a gift to the world.

 

Wow. Why so hubristic? I am of course aware of the iconic Medici Lions, but what I am trying to get at is why you look the way that you do. Although you’ve gone to great lengths to impress upon me that this version improves on what has come before, this isn’t necessarily borne out in what I’m seeing.

Steady on, I feel as if I’m on trial here. The negativity that you’re bringing to this discussion is really not very helpful.

 

I’m not here to be helpful, I’m here to try and understand. How can you explain the pile of marble rubble on the floor beneath you? In previous versions this has been a solid sphere or globe on which your paw rested. Earlier you said that your tethers enhanced your strength and are an indication of your potential superpower. But in reality, if you were to be lowered to the floor, you’d collapse, literally go to pieces. I agree that you may well be a 21st century version, but do you seriously believe that this is a better version? Your assessment of your situation seems wilfully inaccurate to me. Well-honed tergiversation in my opinion, which I guess is not surprising in your somewhat compromised situation.

Thank you for your observations. We take your comments very seriously and assure you that we intend to address these in a robust manner. You have alighted upon some complex issues which we know can be hard to grasp, so a statement is being prepared.

 

There you go again with subterfuge, and suddenly you have become ‘we’. Spoken like a pro. Perhaps you hadn’t even noticed before I mentioned it earlier, but may I suggest that the pile of broken marble is in fact a sign that our world is completely fractured, and unlike you – all trussed up and suspended – it cannot be put back together? It seems to me that we are in a state of emergency, but it is going unnoticed. Another thing that I am curious to understand is Mars. What is it doing here?

Ah yes, I’m so pleased that you asked. Don’t you think that he is looking splendid? In Man’s endless quest for knowledge we are in the early phases of exploring this exciting new frontier. On Mars – as it has always been on Earth – expansion and progress is our mission and duty. Stagnation and unproductivity is the alternative and that would be a message of weakness, leaving us vulnerable to all manner of threats. Because Man has expanded so efficiently on Earth, we are now thrilled to have the opportunity to become explorers once more. This really is a good news story. We embrace the adventures and challenges that come with our desire to create new colonies for generations to come. These new settlements will be built using the latest technology and materials, and in this regard, I am excited to play a pivotal role. I too have been created using these new skills and knowledge – I am a prototype for our future on Mars no less!

 

There would be no need to colonise Mars – which as I’m sure you are aware is named after the Greek god of war – if our very own Earth had not been so defiled and polluted, if men had not pursued this catastrophically destructive and greedy campaign of endless imperialism to the point where there is no return. Respectful stewardship of the Earth rather than the aggressive extraction of its natural resources would have meant our continued life on this planet. Preservation is not the opposite of progress.

You must learn to put your faith in those with power. We now have so much expertise and experience, there is no possibility that these plans will not succeed. I have absolute confidence that whatever minor miscalculations that might have been made in the past will never be repeated in the future. I know that you will be reassured by the statement that will soon be released.

 

There’s that sound again… can’t you hear it?

I can hear it now, yes, and I have only heard it a very few times before. It’s millions of men dancing to the beat of death. They are carrying swords as if ready for battle but must perform this sacred ritual while consumed by their grief. They attempt to dance in unison, but they are only human and so often miss a beat, or stumble, or even fall over, and have to carry on as if everything was faultless. This failure to keep together in their dance is part of the tragedy of their efforts. Regardless of how fractured and broken they are, they carry on.

 

Surely, they have the choice to stop?

Absolutely not. It has always been this way, and nothing can ever stop it.

 

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