Cyborg Ontology in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on the Road to Consciousness: The Red Shark, the White Whale & Reading the Textual Body

By Murphy, Tom | Nebula, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Cyborg Ontology in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on the Road to Consciousness: The Red Shark, the White Whale & Reading the Textual Body


Murphy, Tom, Nebula


Introduction

In On The Road, Jack Kerouac's 1957 text, exploration and understanding are integral aspects that lead to enlightenment. (1) The road per say, is the location of divinity that unfolds before their eyes, providing understanding, in which the steering wheel that Dean and Sal use to drive forward in cars is itself the wheel of life and the altar of enlightenment. On their final road trip, Sal relates conscious moments of enlightenment as they drive in Mexico.

   Dean and I had the whole of Mexico before us. "Now, Sal, we're
   leaving everything behind us and entering a new and unknown phase of
   things.... and understand the world as, really and genuinely
   speaking, other Americans haven't done before us" (emphasis texts
   226).

   I was alone in my eternity at the wheel, and the road ran straight
   as an arrow. Not like driving across Carolina, or Texas, or Arizona,
   or Illinois; but like driving across the world and into the places
   where we would finally learn ourselves among the Fellahin Indians of
   the world, the essential strain of the basic primitive, wailing
   humanity that stretches in a belt around the equatorial belly of the
   world. (229)

Kerouac unfolds "understanding" as a combination of the road and the wheel coming together as divine events that allows enlightenment. However, the quest for enlightenment in cars changed with two cultural events: first, the invention of the integrated circuit by Jack Kilby in 1958 and separately by Robert Noyce in 1959 (2) and second, the assassination of JFK in Dallas in 1963. The fallout of these two events not only lead us to, but also enhanced Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. The characters Raoul Duke and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo journey in "the Red Shark" and "the White Whale," two cars that have named loci in which the counterculture's consciousness becomes not only grounded but accessible as we read these mobile hybrid human/car texts. Indeed the car has become monstrous in "Part One" and shifts towards a cyborg identity in "Part Two."

The intergraded circuit is the linchpin of cyborg ontology and Thompson's text illustrates the specification differences of the red Chevrolet convertible (the Great Red Shark) and the white Cadillac Coup de Ville (the White Whale). The intergraded circuit modifies the human/car automaton actions that become a closed loop system, which allows data flow throughout the cybernetic system and consequently permits the White Whale, Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke to become a single cybernetic system more causally called a cyborg. This paper's triptych aim includes discussion of a fundamental change in the third machine age that includes consciousness--the new cyborg consciousness, mapping Thompson's place in cyborg ontology, and the importance of the human/car hybrid shift in postmodern texts.

Part I

Earlier, I mentioned a change in the third machine age that includes consciousness--the new cyborg consciousness--that enhances Thompson's classic text. First, I believe that I need to ground these terms before proceeding. In Frederic Jameson's Postmodernism: Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, he states that Ernest Mandel "outlines" three steps of Capitalism based on technology:

   The fundamental revolutions in power technology--the technology of
   the production of motive machines by machines--thus appears as the
   determinant moment in revolutions of technology as a whole. Machine
   production of steam-driven motors since 1848; machine production of
   electric and combustion motors since the 90s of the 19th century;
   machine production of electronic and nuclear-powered apparatuses
   since the 40s of the 20th century--these are the three general
   revolutions in technology engendered by the capitalist mode of
   production since the 'original' industrial revolution for the later
   18th century. … 

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