Technology’s Blinding Nature and a Play on Peripeteia

In Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, chapter 12 depicts the danger of man-made technology to the human race. One important moment in this section involves the conversation between Aleph and Miranda Zero as they discuss the consequences of allowing the kinetic harpoon to drop, killing 88% of the world’s population. As Aleph chastises Zero for not evacuating Chicago, Zero curtly responds with the statement: “Yeah? Try this. Is it true that the U.S. government has city-destroying missiles trained on its own citizens? Is it true there was ever a plan to reduce the human population to “manageable” levels? Panic on a scale America has never yet experienced, Aleph.” Her statement exemplifies Ellis’ concern regarding technology, the concern that the human race has the capability to destroy itself. As often heard in society (particularly in references to the United States, Russia, and North Korea), various countries develop weapons of mass destruction that are stored away for future use, perhaps occasionally forgotten about if not implemented. Ellis draws attention to the fact that society’s preoccupation with creating the latest and greatest weapons will inevitably lead to its own demise, in this case, a mass explosion with a heat level equivalent to the edge of the sun. The piece also has a strong anti-government mentality, noting that not only is the harpoon threat the fault of the government, but that the government also refused to fully cooperate with rescue efforts.

The comic depicts a life in the 21st century where technology hardens the human conscience by facilitating death to an alarming degree. Technology, in this case, blinds humans from realizing the true dangers involved with it, distracting us with the excitement of a technological advance while its power to kill goes unnoticed. This notion reminded me of an excerpt in Sven Lindqvist’s A History of Bombing, in which he describes man’s first flight via airplane: “Finally humans could fly! That humans could now bomb as well was forgotten in the excitement. All of the dangers associated with the conquest of the sky were blown away like mist in the tailwind of the first airplane.” Like Ellis, Lindqvist also purposes that the excitement of new technology produces a veil over its dangers, masking them from common perception and keeping the population in ignorance. These facts contribute to Ellis’ message that if we do not reign in our use of technology to fulfill our lust for power and world domination, humanity will ultimately come to its timely demise.

The apocalyptic tone depicted in the last episode of global frequency echoes Frank Kermode’s The End, an analysis on human nature and our desires to predict our own apocalyptic termination. Kermode visits man’s desire to consistently predict its own demise and define a timeline for human life, rather than accept that time could possibly extend infinitely. He explains that humans buy into the peripeteia that surrounds apocalyptic narrative, stating, “…we think in terms of crisis rather than temporal ends; and make much of subtle disconfirmation and elaborate peripeteia. (Kermode, 30)” Ellis emphasizes a use of peripeteia as well, depicting a calm society whose existence is suddenly and unknowingly threatened, only to be saved at the last possible minute. This reversal of fortune, from safety to almost certain demise and miraculously back to safety, draws in the reader, evoking an emotional response of concern, and possibly, fear. Global Frequency confirms Kermode’s theory of our need to predict society’s end, while utilizing the peripeteia described within the essay to produce a more lasting message. Ellis’ ability to utilize this emotional response to enable readers to question society, technology, and morale make Global Frequency a clever critique on modern society, designed to show through images and emotional response rather than simply relay a dissertation on the dangers in society.

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2 Responses to Technology’s Blinding Nature and a Play on Peripeteia

  1. newtonscradle7 says:

    I absolutely agree with your point of technology blinding us from realizing the true dangers involved with it. Building off of that, ever since computers and robots became an idea, people were always depicting robots taking over the world. They could make every task easier, but one day there will be an uprising. Even with Y2K, the internet began to boom and so many things relied on technology and everyone thought this new millennium would be the end because the computers would lose everything. To tie in with the Global Frequency chapter, we are experiencing the same problems that Miranda Zero mentioned about knowing everything the government is doing. Does society really want to know if there are massive weapons in space that could take out an entire region? I felt this chapter really connected with recent events and your references added much more to it.


  2. danwillisdan says:

    I love A History of Bombing! I think Warren Ellis and Sven Lindqvist have similar projects in that they view technology as a great ethical concern that is difficult to reason through, but Ellis looks to the future as a site of order while Lindqvist looks to the past as a site of chaos.


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