Natalie's Second Paper Draft

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. 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.

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 has thus 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.

A single experience can also alter a person’s individual perception of their own life. Whether it be losing a special person or meeting someone new, this change can deeply influence them. After Win’s disappearance on 9/11, Cayce seems to be forced into a state of neutrality. She doesn’t seem to be angry or sad. She lives her life simplistically. It’s like she is living in the world and experiencing the direction things have gone in after 9/11, but she isn’t completely taking it in. The fact that his 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. Or rather she lives now in that story, her life left somewhere behind, like a room she’s stepped out of. Not far away at all but she is no longer in.” Cayce 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.

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 Volkav’s oil corporation are examples of corporations that affect globalization. Bigend has globalized his corporation and is trying to expand even more as he searches for the maker of the footage. Volkav possesses a commodity that nations all over the world depend on: oil. Boone tells Cayce, “Saudi oil has not been looking so good to the really big guys, globally, since nine-eleven. They’ve tired of worrying about region. They want a stable source. Russian Federation’s got it. Means huge changes in the flow of global capital. Means we’re going to be running on Russian oil.” Bigend and Volkav have mastered global expansion of their corporations. They both have the resources and ambition to expand even more. Corporations of this caliber run the world, and they will, more than likely, never be challenged. Our job is to adapt.

So how do you form an identity in such a society? 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. Once societal elites begin to make your decisions for you and you become their mannequin, your life has become commoditized and your identity lost. However, there are some things in that cannot be commoditized. For instance, 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. 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 between the elite, and the key to winning is to manipulate the system, or the world, better than your opponent.

How society reacts to globalization is interesting. 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 of simulacra. A diluted tincture of Ralph Lauren, who had himself diluted the glory days of Brooks Brothers, who themselves had stepped on the product of Jermyn Street and Savile Row, flavoring their ready-to-wear with liberal lashings of polo kit and regimental stripes. But Tommy surely is the null point, the black hole. There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul.” 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.

Pattern Recognition is structured around change and adaptation to the effects of globalization. Maybe each occurrence in the novel was planned, or perhaps it was all coincidence. Cayce remembers her father’s stance on coincidence: “There is always room for coincidence, Win had maintained. When there’s not, you’re probably well into apophenia, each thing perceived as part of an overarching pattern of conspiracy. And while comforting yourself with the symmetry of it all, he’d believed, you stood all too real a chance of missing the genuine threat, which was invariably less symmetrical, less perfect. But which he always, she knew, took for granted.” Was it a coincidence that the footage did not fall into the trap of globalization? Or was that Gibson’s way of showing that globalization can’t consume everything? The footage shows that authentic originality cannot be marketed in today’s society. Sometimes, this authenticity is protected by forces beyond our control; it adapts to changes just as people should be able to.

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. Change is inevitable, and the same may be true for globalization. Perhaps the key to survival is preserving our identity in such a globalized world. If we can’t adapt to the changes that lay ahead, can we survive at all?

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