26 June 2017

[Review - Part 2] THE CIRCLE: We Are Not Meant to Know Everything

Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publishing year: 2014 (Open-Market Edition)
Number of pages: 497
ISBN: 978-0-8041-7229-5
Genre: science-fiction, dystopian fiction
Price: IDR 122,000 (at Periplus)

kayaking alone: the moment when Mae became “human”

Mae loved kayaking alone sometimes.
She guessed at it all, what might live, moving purposefully or drifting aimlessly, in the deep water around her, but she didn’t think too much about any of it. It was enough to be aware of the million permutations possible around her, and take comfort in knowing she would not, and really could not, know much at all. (p. 272)
At that moment Mae apparently came back to her senses. She realised that she “could not know much at all”. This made me think that maybe the moment when Mae on her kayak on the sea is a symbol used by the author to show how calm the life is if you’re not connecting to the internet. The beauty of nature; the seal stared at you and you stared back solemnly, silently; the dark that made you invisible from others who maybe were also in that part of the sea; the time you made with yourself. In that brief of time, Mae became human again.
She didn’t move, and the seal didn’t move. They were locked in mutual regard, and the moment, the way it stretched and luxuriated in itself, asked for continuation. Why move? (p. 81)
But, ouch, the SeeChange camera apparently was installed in that coast too. From that camera, Mae was seen using kayak illegally, and it drew her to deal with the police. I think maybe this symbolise the inevitable reality that this moment without internet will soon be engulfed again and again by the power of internet itself.

mercer, let’s see if there was a chance for your bringing Mae back to her senses

Mercer, Mae’s ex-boyfriend, was the one who first confronted Mae boldly and sharply.
“It’s not that I’m not social. I’m social enough. But the tools you guys created actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs. No one needs the level of contact you’re purveying. […] It’s like snack food. […] You’re not hungry, you don’t need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you’re pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it’s equally addictive.”
(Mercer, p. 134)
Mercer was trying to bring Mae to her senses, but all bounced off. Sadly, later he was bullied by the netizens who were at Mae’s side.
“And you willingly become utterly socially autistic. You no longer pick up on basic human communication clues. You’re at a table with three humans, all of whom are looking for you and trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at screen, searching for strangers in Dubai.”
(Mercer, p. 262)
*Ha! That kind of thing is really happening now in real world.
“You know how I spend an hour every day? Thinking of ways to unsubscribe to mailing lists without hurting anyone’s feelings. There’s this new neediness—it pervades everything.”
(Mercer, p. 134)
*What Mercer said above is so true happening now, when unfollowing one’s Instagram account can hurt her/his feeling. The act of following one’s account only when she/he did a giveaway and then unfollowing her/his after the giveaway ended is considered to be rude. Is it so? Maybe we’re just being too sensitive after all.

when democracy becomes mandatory, is it still democracy?

Gradually, the Circle began to interfere in affairs of state, like voting. And yeah, it was Mae’s idea that encouraged the Circle to take over that very public act (p. 394-395). Previously, the Congresswoman Santos was the first elected leader who decided to become transparent.
“You’re either transparent or you’re not. You’re either accountable or you’re not. What would anyone have to say to me that couldn’t be said in public? What part of representing the people should not be known by the very people I’m representing?”
(Congresswoman Santos, p. 210)
But, yeah, it’s true that you will “behave differently when you know you’re being watched, and when you’ll be held accountable, and when there will be a historical record”. So maybe it was true that SeeChange—Bailey’s surveillance cameras, also the one that was used by transparent people—would eliminate most crimes because everyone would watch she/his behaviour out. But it also meant that everyone could be pretending in things she/he knew being watched. Didn’t it?
And then, as the Circle suggested once the voting system was ready to be tested, “Democracy is mandatory here!” (p. 406), I was wondering… When democracy becomes mandatory, is it still democracy?

the shark

The shark, first appear in Book II as one of the near-translucent sea creature brought by Stenton (one of the Three Wise Men) to the Circle. They were placed in enormous aquarium and the feeding time was a real show to Mae’s viewers, especially the feeding of the shark. I thought that the shark and its terrible constant hunger symbolised the Circle itself. The Circle which was always hungry to control the whole world.
“The fucking shark that eats the world.”
(Kalden, p. 484)

other thoughts

“Actually, I don’t know if we should know everything.”
(Annie, p. 439)
This novel brought on me the anxiousness of future world with the very fast advancement of technology. On one side, I, of course, support that advancement but on the other side, I am anxious that we humans will one day be controlled by our creation. Even now, the symptoms have been observably. Internet, via our gadget, has controlled us. I became care so much in the number of likes I got on my posts on Instagram—more than I care about if someone I am interacting with in the real world likes me or not.
Though, I think that some technologies developed by the Circle are indeed useful. From all the of them, I’m very fond of the health monitor bracelet, but without the feature to share the personal health information to the cloud. I need privacy. And, you know what? I loathed Mae’s character, except when she did kayaking—it was when she was “so human”. Ah, I’ve gotten pretty confused about how old Mae was in this story.
Bailey: You’ve known our beloved Annie a long time?
Mae: I have. Since sophomore year in college. Five years now.
Bailey: Five years! That’s, what, 30 percent of your life!
(p. 281)
*Ha, 30% of Mae’s life? So, up to that moment, Mae had lived for 50/3 years or about 17 years? I’m sure that Mae wasn’t that young at that time!
Besides that, I regretted that I watched The Circle’s movie trailer before I finished reading the book. My mood had been sunken right before I saw Kalden in the movie. Kalden’s physical appearance in the movie was in no degree resembled the one I imagined when reading the novel. I imagined that Kalden looked alike L on the Death Note. Kinda freak; he was the type of person who sit before his computer for a long time. But, John Boyega, the one acted as Kalden, was so far from the image of a freaking genius who was also socially-awkward.
Source: The Circle Movie Trailer #2
Mae was almost at the bathroom door when she saw a man, in skinny green jeans and a snug long-sleeved shirt, standing in the hallway… (p. 91)
His eyes were dark, his face oval, and his hair was grey, almost white, but he couldn’t have been older than thirty. He was thin, sinewy, and his skinny jeans and tight long-sleeve jersey gave his silhouette the quick thick-thin brushstrokes of calligraphy. (p. 92)
*Look, you can see much physical differences, right?
I hoped that there was a disclosure about what the darkest secret of the Circle was, but nothing. Yeah, it was manipulating humans using SeeChange and many other its social-media-based technological products, but that's not the secret I expected as secret. This was just too frustrating, like what our main character—Mae—did to me. She had been so blind all the time because she was easy to be provocated. But, thank God, there was Mercer, whose opinions are corresponding with mine.

“We are not meant to know everything. […] Did you ever think that perhaps our minds are delicately calibrated between the known and the unknown? That our souls need the  mysteries of night and the clarity of day? You people are creating a world of ever-present daylight, and I think it will burn us all alive. There will be no time to reflect, to sleep, to cool.”
(Mercer, p. 434)
 Finally, I decided to give this novel:
my rating

25 June 2017

[Review - Part 1] THE CIRCLE: All That Happens Must Be Known

Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publishing year: 2014 (Open-Market Edition)
Number of pages: 497
ISBN: 978-0-8041-7229-5
Genre: science-fiction, dystopian fiction
Price: IDR 122,000 (at Periplus)

“Now we’re all God. Every one of us will soon be able to see, and cast judgment upon, every other. We’ll see what He sees…”
(Francis, p. 398)

congratulation, you’re hired to work to the Circle!

You have loathed your hometown for years you wanted to run away.
You have worked at a utility company, a kind of job and supervisor that you couldn’t stand anymore.
And then, with the recommendation from your best friend who had been a senior executive and now was a part of Gang 40the forty most crucial minds at the company (p. 14)—you are hired to work for that company, the Circle—the world’s most powerful internet company.
What’s your feeling then?
You must be feeling on top of the world and are buzzing for all about the Circle and your job!
Right, that was what happened to Mae. At first, in the Circle she worked at Customer Experience, with the job to answer the customers’ messages and ensure that they give her maximum ratings. Yeah, she worked in front of screens and dealed with numbers. In Book I, we watched how Mae’s life grew concentrated just within campus of the Circle until she became anti-social and addicted to social media. We could watch the process of Mae being brainwashed so that she couldn’t help but believe in what Bailey—one of the Three Wise Men who built the Circle—said,
“All that happens must be known.”
(p. 68)
In Book II, Mae’s role in the Circle became increasingly public since she had decided to go “transparent” (it means that she wore camera along her neck like necklace every time except when she went to toilet and to bed, and the public could watch everything she was doing). Meanwhile, there would be “completion” of the Circle. What did it mean? Nobody knew exactly, except, yeah, nobody also knew who knew.
Since going public, Mae nearly had no privacy, including private time to talk with her closest friend, Annie (and it was also because of the business of the two, especially Annie. “She’d been gone for almost a month in Europe and China and Japan, ironing out some regulatory wrinkles…” [p. 337]), her parents, and above all with Kalden—the mysterious man. But then, Kalden tried to open Mae’s eyes to the menacing that could be because of the completion. Since Mae had became the public figure represented the Circle, he hoped Mae agree to warn the people about the disaster could be brought if the Circle took over the world using SeeChange. He also hoped Mae would join him in preventing the completion from happening.
Would Mae agree to do that? Or, she would let the Circle be complete and moreover, help speed it up to reach the completion?

book with no chapters

You’ve got to know that this novel contains three parts, Book I, Book II, and Book III. Actually it was pretty astonishing that I could enjoy read this no-chaptered book. Moreover much parts of the storyline showed the mere routine of the Circlers, as seen from Mae’s third person point of view. Normally, I will get bored easily, but maybe because I expected (and nearly believe) that there would be more and more suspense and something staggering, I could enjoy reading this. Ironically, the process of how Mae were becoming addicted to social media and how she grew from the Mae before working in the Circle until became one of the public figure represented the Circle, were the things that made me addicted in reading this book.

how the Circle made Mae be social autistic

Secrets are lies.
Sharing is caring.
Privacy is theft.
(p. 305)
In this book, Mae is our main character, and because we see things through her third-person point of view, we will get easily to know her personality. It is fascinating to watch the process of a person from zero in using the Circle’s social media to be addicted in it. Thing like this is really happening now in our real world.
Be hired to work at the Circle really changed Mae’s life. According to her point of view, she surely had better life than before. Her father, who suffered MS (multiple sclerosis), now could have real coverage from the company.
“Anything that makes our Circlers’ lives better instantly becomes possible.”
(Annie, p. 161)
Was it possible that her father would soon have real coverage? That the cruel paradox of her parents’ lives—that their constant battles with insurance companies actually diminished her father’s health and prevented her mother from working, eliminating her ability to earn money to pay for his care—would end? (p. 161)
But, we can see that Mae’s life hadn’t really gotten better. Her colleagues, for example, Denise and Josiah, made Mae feel guilty for not sharing her experiences to the social media (p. 184), a kind of “What if someone would benefit from your experience? But you didn’t share it!”. And it became so strange (and so wrong?) that Mae didn’t post anything to her social media about her doing kayaking.
“No, I mean, this is a tangent, but my problem with paper is that all communication dies with it. It holds no possibility of continuity. You look at your paper brochure, and that’s where it ends. It ends with you. Like you’re the only one who matters. But think if you’d been documenting. If you’d been using a tool that would help confirm the identity of whatever the birds you saw, then anyone can benefit—naturalists, students, historians, the Coast Guard. Everyone can know, then, what birds were on the bay on that day. It’s just maddening, thinking of how much knowledge is lost every day through this kind shortsightedness.”(Josiah, p. 187-188)
Since that, Mae became more concerned in building her image on social media. Working at Customer Experience, she’d got to know that numbers matter the most. Everything had been reduced into just the numbers. Her aggregate customer service score, the number of messages sent by other staffers, the number of friends in her OuterCircle, the number of unread zingers….
She could see how many people had viewed her profile that day, 210, and how much time on average they spent: 1.3 minutes. If she wanted, she could go deeper, and see precisely what each person had viewed. (p. 195)
*Wow, one couldn’t be a silent unknown reader or stalker anymore!
Mae becomes kinda too perfectionist in the matter of the numbers and it indeed made me cringe. Why did she bother so much at the 3% who frowned at her awesomeness? It is so natural having someone doesn’t like you, isn’t it? Mae just had used to have so much fans around her, that she was bothered that much knowing that not everyone was her fans. This was just too much, Mae. However, she couldn’t be blamed since this happened to her because the system engineered her to be. She was also exposed to too much “knowing everything” by the system.
… what had always caused her anxiety, or stress, or worry, was not any one force, nothing independent and external—it wasn’t danger to herself or the constant calamity of other people and their problems. It was internal: it was subjective: it was not knowing.
(p. 195)
*Oh, no, I thought that it was the contrary: what had always caused her anxiety, stress, worry, was accustomed to knowing too much, so that, once she was not knowing something, she became anxious, stressed, and worry. Like when she couldn’t find Mercer anywhere.
“There was something very wrong when you couldn’t find someone you were trying to find.” (p. 378)

Mae’s subconscious tried to tell her…

“…feeling the familiar tear, the growing blackness…” (p. 416)
I think that that was the indication of her not feeling right about the Circle, but she kept and insisted to kill it without gave it an opportunity to say her heart of heart’s voice aloud. She worked like crazy maybe to run away from paying attention and listening to her subconscious. But she thought of something else. She insisted in shutting her subconscious up.
“… she felt the tear opening up in her again…. she knew what the tear was and how to sew it closed. The tear was the madness of not knowing…. It was not knowing that was the seed of madness, loneliness, suspicion, fear. But there were ways to solve all this. […] Full transparency would bring full access, and there would be no more not-knowing.” (p. 470)
*The irony is, though SeeChange and Mae’s camera could see many things, the readers of this novel outdid them. We even could know what was Mae doing in the bathroom, where she went offline for a while.😂
“I think everything and everyone should be seen. And to be seen, we need to be watched.”
(Mae, p. 490)
To be continued in Part 2