Natalie's Final Paper

I stood motionless as I watched the television screen, unable to fathom what was happening, I only knew that it was something horrible. I saw the horror plastered on everyone’s faces. Then I watched as the World Trade Center plummeted to the ground, engulfing all surrounding areas in a huge cloud of smoke. Over the next few years, I experienced the rapid globalization of society. Everyday life was no longer everyday life; it had simply become the old life. The world was changing and no one could stop it. Identity had been lost. In Pattern Recognition as well as in today’s world, globalization has become a prominent issue, and the key to effective existence is adapting to changes and maintaining our identity.

But what exactly is globalization? You can look at globalization as being a result of commoditization, which puts a price on everything and forces society to conform to its demands. Globalization tends to lead to homogenization. For example, technology has taken on a more prominent role worldwide. It enhances communication, but it makes everything the same. Many times, large corporations monopolize and influence globalization. Blue Ant and Volkov’s oil corporation are examples of corporations that affect globalization. So how do you form an identity in such a society? The key is adaptation. You have to understand the world you live in. If you can control your own life and keep others from interfering, you can maintain your own identity. However, there are some things that cannot be commoditized. For example, authenticity cannot be commoditized because it possesses an original, creative quality. The footage represents an authenticity that cannot be commoditized. It shows the fallacies in the corporate system of globalization and how authentic, creative human thought overpowers any commodity. The footage exists as the expression of Nora’s thoughts that she cannot verbally express. It’s hard to put a price on human expression.

Authenticity seems to be the one thing that attracts humankind and reminds them of what it feels like to have an identity. Perhaps when we attempt to “find ourselves”, what we actually mean is that we are searching within ourselves for as much as an ounce of authenticity that has been lost in a world of commodified global existence. Cayce spends most of the novel searching for authenticity. This very reason is why she is able to do her job so efficiently, why she cherishes her Rickson’s jacket, and why she values the footage so much. Each of these is unique and original; it’s difficult to acquire duplicates. Cayce realizes that once an object is replaced, it loses some of its authenticity. She thinks of it as “history erased via the substitution of an identical object”. In fact, Cayce’s allergy seems to be a reaction to things that lack authenticity. Her worst reaction is to Tommy Hilfiger, and she feels that it is simply “simulacra of simulacra of simulacra.” This mimicking displays a lack of personal expression and creativity, and proves that in a world of globalization, we are less likely to have the courage to be unique and express the contents of our creative minds.

Sometimes, a single experience in a person’s life can alter how they view other aspects of life itself. In an instant, our perceptions of life can be shattered. One moment can alter the world in ways no one anticipates. The events of the terrorist attacks on September 11 drastically changed the American way of life, and it has yet to recover from this tragic experience. America has “gone in a different direction”, so to speak, and this change has affected all of us. For example, traveling via airplanes has become quite a hassle, but every precaution taken is to ensure safety. In Pattern Recognition, seeing the events of 9/11 has altered Cayce’s perception of the way life should be. Gibson writes, “Or is it, she considers, simply that the world had gone in such a different direction, in the instant of having seen that petal drop, that nothing really is the same now, and that her expectations of the parameters of how life should feel are simply that, expectations, and increasingly out of line the further she gets from that window in the SoHo Grand.” The window at the SoHo Grand is kind of the place that holds her expectations in place, and she realizes that as she steps away from it, she’s stepping into change. After Win’s disappearance on 9/11, Cayce seems to be forced into a state of neutrality and lives her life simplistically. The fact that Win’s disappearance cannot be proven as a death seems to give Cayce some hope that he is alive somewhere, and that if she finds him or can prove that he is still alive, then the world will return to the ways it once was. This hope appears to trigger Cayce’s hallucinations of seeing and talking to Win, which prevail throughout the book. Repetition of the phrase “He took a duck in the face” is an example of the influence that Win’s disappearance had on Cayce, and the hallucinations themselves symbolize her slight unwillingness to completely accept or deny Win’s death.

Conversely, when Cayce meets Stella and Nora, she is finally able to accept things for what they are. She is able to relate her circumstances regarding Win’s disappearance to Stella’s and Nora’s tragic experience and she gains some ounce of insight as to the direction her life is headed. Gibson writes of Cayce, “She feels as though something huge has happened, is happening, but she can’t define it. She knows that it’s about meeting Stella, and hearing her story, and her sister’s, but somehow she no longer is able to fit it to her life.” Cayce has followed the footage since the very beginning, and she is one of the few who appreciates its full value, mainly its authenticity. When Cayce is offered the resources to find the maker of the footage she can’t resist because she would know that someone who had maintained their identity in a globalized society existed. When Cayce meets Stella and Nora, she feels as though she is no longer living in reality, no longer living in her life, but in someone else’s world. Her life no longer exists the same way it did before. She is finally able to see the new direction of the world, globalization, and how she must adapt.

Cayce realizes that exposing Nora to Bigend will lead to globalization of the footage, and all authenticity will dissipate. Cayce makes a valid point as she ponders the connection she feels with Stella and Nora. She is sympathetic to their circumstances and warns them of encroaching danger, saying, “We have our own rich and powerful men. Any creation that attracts the attention of the world, on an ongoing basis, becomes valuable, if only in terms of potential.” Bigend saw the world’s reaction to the footage, as well as its potential and immediately took action. However, the difference in the footage and other commodities is that the footage is being protected by a counter corporation of equal capability. The footage is being protected from globalization by a corporation that takes pride in globalizing another resource, oil. Seemingly, globalization has now become a battle among the elite, and the key to winning is to manipulate the system, or the world, better than your opponent.

Uncertainty still surrounds the disappearance of Win at the close of the novel. Gibson leaves the question of whether Win is actually dead, perhaps for the reader to ponder a deeper meaning. Maybe it’s not too farfetched to believe that, given his intelligence training, “when the second plane hit, Win’s chagrin, his personal and professional mortification at this having happened, at the perimeter having been so easily, so terribly breached, would have been such that he might simply have ceased, in protest, to exist.” Win’s disappearance symbolizes the massive global changes that exist and the death of the old world, a more unique world. Just like change, globalization is inevitable. The key to countering globalization is not fighting the system, but working within the system. In doing so, you develop a voice among a network of elites. Once you develop a voice, you are no longer a commodity controlled by the elite; you are a distinct individual with a unique identity. Therefore, maintaining an identity in a globalized society is not a question of “Can you?” but a question of “Will you decide to?”

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