ANCILLARY DOCUMENTATION: GUTTERGANGS
(excerpt from “A Dark and Hungry God Arises: The Gap into Power – book 3 of the Gap Series, by Stephen R. Donaldson)
[The following bit of futuristic science fiction isn’t terribly long to read but has much to say regarding our own global current situation and condition. It doesn’t propose solutions but is a good reminder of how “stuff” can go from cause and effect to greater cause and effect until “humans” are just pawns in powers they think they set in motion but can never control.]
“Until humankind came into contact with the Amnion, it was easy to believe that guttergangs would eventually rule the Earth.
In one sense, their roots were as old as crime. “The poor you have with you always,” said Christ, not inaptly. However, he might have gone on to observe that poverty had no meaning in the absence of wealth: where all have nothing, all are equal—and none poor. From the moment when human evolution first stumbled on the concept of having, some individuals or tribes or people had more while others had less. Predictably the disparity bred tension. In due course that tension led to violence—the taking away from those who had by those who had not.
As in all human endeavor, concerted action proved more effective than individual effort: groups could take more.
Gangs of one kind or another became inevitable as soon as having was invented.
In another sense, however, guttergangs were more recent. They were a product of modern mechanization and urbanization. More specifically, they were a symptom of as well as a reaction against the slow collapse of Earth’s social infrastructures.
Because the services of well-meaning but overtaxed communities could no longer feed or care for their young adequately; because educational systems tried harder to control than to excite their students; because transitional life-styles and intense technological changes eroded the ability of families to provide stability for their children; because humankind’s rush to exploit the planet and consume its resources led to a rising tide of poverty which no one could stem; because the fiscal policies of governments were designed primarily to defend the comfort of the few against the hunger of the many; and because, finally, no one could pay for enough police to combat crime: for all these reasons and more, guttergangs flourished throughout Earth’s sprawling urban structures with a vigor unprecedented in human history.
The gangs were starving, loveless, abused, despised, cornered: therefore they fought back. And they were able to fight back successfully because they wrested their survival from the same crumbling infrastructure which had created the conditions for their existence—thereby, of course, hastening the decline of that infrastructure; worsening the state of people who lived within rather than against Earth’s social compacts; encouraging the growth of more guttergangs.
Much like corporations or governments, they bred chaos around them for the sake of creating order for themselves. Creating nothing, producing nothing, they took away what other people produced or created. More than that, they took away the very constructs and compacts which enabled creation and production to occur. They were parasites on the body of human civilization, just as civilization itself was a parasite on the body of the planet. Some cynics argued that they represented the inevitable outcome of humankind’s imprecise moral sense: rapacity and selfishness carried to logical extremes.
Sooner or later, parasites usually lose. They feed on their host until the host dies; and with the death of the host, the parasites themselves starve away. But the guttergangs were too entrenched to be rooted out by anything short of complete cataclysm or absolute tyranny. And the development of the gap drive made their existence more secure rather than less.
Interstellar travel supplied humanity with the opportunity to exploit distant asteroid belts and planetary systems; in other words, with a vast increase of available wealth. Naturally the influx of new resources shored up Earth’s tottering infrastructures—which in turn gave the guttergangs more to live on. By prolonging the life of the host, the gap drive gave the parasites more time in which to spread and multiply; increased the rate at which the parasites devoured the host.
It was easy to believe that guttergangs would eventually rule the Earth.
This entire societal equation was altered, however, by contact with the Amnion. The discovery of a fundamental, insidious, and above all external threat to humankind’s existence turned the tide of history against the guttergangs.
The effects of this discovery were not simple. Obviously the struggle for the survival of the race would take place hundreds or thousands of light-years away, and would be carried on by the forces of the infrastructure. The fate of humankind would be decided elsewhere: the guttergangs would live or die with their host. By the ordinary laws of parasitism, therefore, neither society nor the guttergangs had any reason to change. Yet the knowledge of an enemy they could not see and would never have to fight changed the guttergangs profoundly.
They did not suddenly discover patriotism, of course. They did not put aside their clenched internecine attack on all social structures outside their own for the sake of humankind’s greater good. Nevertheless they were human beings—genophobic to the core. Like patriots and religionists, environmentalists and native Earthers, nations and corporations, politicians and cops, they could not stifle the visceral frisson of their revulsion against imperialism by mutation.
By degrees too small to be measured, too small even to be noticed in the short term, the guttergangs began to erode.
This process took any number of forms. As one crude example: thanks to the Amnion, the appetite of the UMCP for young bodies was as intense as, and inherently more comfortable than, the guttergangs’. Active recruitment by the police gave the hungry youth of Earth a choice distinct from the more passive, as well as more brutal, accretion of the guttergangs.
Or a more subtle instance: hating and fearing the Amnion, the ordinary people of Earth—the natural prey of the guttergangs—had less hatred and fear to spare for those gangs. Therefore in complex, almost indefinable ways the guttergangs began to lose their mystique, their attraction for the lost and disenfranchised of the planet. In comparison to the Amnion, the gangs were perceived as more bearable, more manageable, more normal; therefore less threatening to humankind—and less appealing to humankind’s downtrodden. Over time, no human enterprise could oppose—or remain unchanged by—this kind of perceptual shift.
Slowly across the decades, genophobia united humankind against its common foe.
Cynics saw this turning of the tide as a demonstration that prejudice was the only true survival instinct humanity had left. Less cynical observers had difficulty deciding whether to be grateful or terrified.”