insight is still valid, even if there is no God. (In at least two ofrnDick’s books, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and ArnMaze of Death, religions demonstrated beyond a shadow of arndoubt to be frauds nonetheless work miracles. And in at leastrntwo more. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and A ScannerrnDarkly, men have affairs with women who turn out to be agentsrnspying on them, but their love remains real.)rnFor Dick, the question then becomes whether people arernable to build those bonds, with each other and with the divine,rnor whether they will become entirely mechanized. The key ingredientrnhere is empathy, and in Do Androids Dream of ElectricrnSheep? the characters recognize the capacity for that emotion asrnthe dividing line between human and machine. The novel’srnhero. Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter; his job is to track downrnand kill escaped androids. But soon he finds himself empathizingrnwith his victims. To do his droid-exterminating job, hernmust become more androidlike himself.rnThis is a recurring moral dilemma in Dick’s books: the functionaryrnwho must choose between being human or mechanicallyrnserving the state apparatus. In three of his most remarkablernnovels, that functionary is a police officer. In DornAndroids Dream?, the officer is Deckard. In Flow My Tears, hernis Felix Buckman, a police chief in a near-future totalitarian society.rnAnd in Dick’s best book, A Scanner Darkly, he is Fred, anrnundercover cop searching for the source of a debilitating streetrndrug called Substance D. When undercover, Fred is Bob Arctor,rna free-spirited hippie who fits in with the people he is investigatingrnby also using Substance D. When not undercover,rnFred wears a “scramble suit,” which protects his identity byrnmaking him look like a vague blur. As the novel progresses,rndrug-induced brain damage exacerbates the split betweenrn”Fred” and “Bob”; soon, Fred does not realize that he and Bobrnare the same person, and, as he watches his surveillance tapes,rnhe begins to suspect himself of being the drug conduit. Thernpoliceman is broken into two people: Fred, authoritarian andrnmechanized, devoid of identity; Bob, very human but dwindlingrnawav. Dick wrote many stories about androids, but it wasrnthis novel, without a single robot in it, that most starkly portrayedrnthe dichotomy between man and machine.rnFred lacks more than empathy. He lacks will. As he chatsrnwith a colleague after hours of watching surveillance tapes, itrnbecomes clear how much Fred’s identity is determined by hisrnbureaucratic role:rn”I would never hang around with creeps like [Bob andrnhis friends],” Fred said. “Saying the same things overrnand over, like old cons. Why do they do what they do,rnsitting there shooting the bull?”rn”Why do we do what we do? This is pretty damnrnmonotonous, when you get down to it.”rn”But we have to; this is our job. We have no choice.”rnIn a 1972 speech, Dick suggested that becoming “an android,rnmeans… to allow oneself to become a means, or to bernpounded down, manipulated, made into a means withoutrnone’s knowledge or consentâ€”the results are the same. But yourncannot turn a human into an android if that human is going tornbreak lau’s every chance he gets. Androidization requires obedience.rnAnd, most of all, predictability.” For Dick, then, just asrnthe appearance of humanity can be negated by the reality ofrnrobotic conduct, the appearance of repression can be negatedrnby the reality of human rebellion:rnThe totalitarian society envisioned by George Orwell inrnJ 984 should have arrived by now. The electronic gadgetsrnare here. The government is here, ready to do what Orwellrnanticipated. So the power exists, the motive, andrnthe electronic hardware. But these mean nothing, because,rnprogressively more and more so, no one is listening.rnThe new youth that I see is too stupid to read, toornrestless and bored to watch, too preoccupied to remember.rnThe collective voice of the authorities is wasted onrnhim; he rebels…. He merely gets out of the way when itrnthreatens, or, if he can’t escape, fights back. When thernlocked police van comes to carry him off to the concentrationrncamp, the guards will discover that while loadingrnthe van they have failed to note that another equallyrnhopeless juvenile has slashed the tires. The van is out ofrncommission. And while the tires are being replaced,rnsome other youth siphons off the gas from the gas tankrnfor his souped-up Ghevrolet and has sped off long ago.rnThis is Dick at his most eountercultural, and to some extent hisrnleast convincing. Is a young, ignorant criminal really the bestrnsymbol of humanness? He may be unpredictable, but is he empathetic?rnAs Dick’s biographer Lawrence Sutin has remarked,rn”the celebration of random rip-offs as the means of warding offrncentralized oppression may not convince readers who live inrncrime-ridden neighborhoods.”rnBut Dick also had a conservative side, represented by hisrnstrong (if heterodox) religious devotion, his distrust of large bureaucraticrnstructures, and his longtime anti-abortion stance. Inrnthe last decade of his life, as he finally began receiving substantialrnamounts of money for his writing, Dick donated thousandsrnof dollars to pro-life causes. He also wrote “The Pre-Persons,” arnpowerful story in which parents can abort any child under 12.rnYet both the speech by Dick-the-hippie and the story by Dickthe-rnconservative are recognizably the work of the same manâ€”rnboth, in fact, were produced during the same period of his life.rnThe first endorses rebellion, no matter how nihilistic, against arnsoulless apparatus of power; rebellion, at least, is human. Andrnthe story denies the government the right to define who is a humanrnbeing, arguing that this will only produce a totalitarian systemrnakin to the one the juvenile delinquents in the speech arernrebelling against. One need not be pro-vandalismâ€”or pro-life,rnfor that matterâ€”to approve of the underlying point.rnThroughout his 30-year career, Dick wrote about what itrnmeans to be human in an increasingly artificial world, andrnabout the real connections that stay firm as the state cracksrndown and the universe turns to maya. Today, long after hisrndeath, his stories seem more relevant than everâ€”prompting arnrather Phildickian closing thought. In Ubik, several charactersrnappear to survive an accident in space but are constantly eonfrontedrnwith messages from a man they believe has died, divinernnotes hidden in advertisements and scrawled on bathroomrnwalls. Similariy, Dick has been dead for 15 years, yet his presencernin the culture continues to grow unabated. In the mediasaturated,rnparanoia-ridden world of 1997, a time of simulatedrnmen and lifelike machines, Dick’s tales might be taken as arnmessage from the deceased author, a crude couplet from Ubik:rnJump In The Urinal And Stand On Your Head.rnI’m “The One That’s Alive. You’re All Dead.
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