This isn’t out of my brain, but from a film from 1968 called The Committee. It provides quite a bit to think about, as well as having a delightful psychedelic element to it. The musical score in the background is Pink Floyd. You can either watch it here, or read my transcript. Or both!

I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but that man, worrying about his car, you know what I mean, he’s not alive. If you can do what you say, why don’t you wake him up?

Just tell me what happened.

You could ask him, but he couldn’t tell you. That’s the point, isn’t it? He couldn’t tell you.

Can you tell me?

I can tell you this. In that car there was nothing, see, nothing, just talk. It’s fair to say, isn’t it, that a man like that doesn’t think. He doesn’t really feel. He goes through the motions of being human because nobody told him different.

Look, you may be the best surgeon in town, but you’re not making yourself very clear. What doesn’t he think?

OK, for all I know he might be a very clever and successful person.

Successful in whose terms?

In our terms.

His terms don’t matter?

Yes, in some sense they don’t matter. I know that sounds awful, I probably don’t even mean it. Maybe I have the whole thing wrong. The only thing to do is to try to make things better.

In whose terms?

Look, I’d like to explain to you about that guy. He’s enclosed in himself. He goes on and on, I get the feeling that he just isn’t concerned. Concerned with other people. I mean, everything else is a matter of taste, a matter of opinion. But if anyone can live on this earth and not care about other people.

So you cut his head off. The thing you really seem to hold against him is typified by what you did to him.

I did nothing to him. He’s okay. I put it back on. The head, I mean.

His head.

Yeah, I put the right head back on. In that car I was suffocating. Not just there, lots of times. We’re helpless really. You as well.

If we are helpless, then we are not responsible. But there is a difference between things. I can hold my breath, but my blood flows regardless.

You can hold your breath for a little while, but if you stop the blood flowing, that’s for good.

In the womb, the baby thinks that it’s the universe, and when the baby is born there is a glimmer of light. “I was there, but now I am here. So now there are two things: me, and the universe. The universe is there for me.”

Then what happens?

Other people. That’s what happens. I’m skipping the details, just hitting the main points. Other people. In thought you can try to clear the deck, but in practice, there is a lot of history. In a way, you sell yourself, but the universe is there for you. Now tell me what happened in the glade.

I did something to myself; like entertainment, like amusement, like a daydream. There was nothing there, and I saw something. I saw his head under the bonnet of the car. You can say what you like, but I saw the Bird of Paradise spread its wings.

And the suffocating? Are you still suffocating?

Not now. Not just now.

Can you put yourself in my shoes? Can you picture how it looks to me?

You know, that’s the one thing I can’t do.

Why can’t you put yourself in my shoes? Because it would mean eliminating me, in effect killing me? Or are you afraid to see yourself? And who am I?

You’re the director. Of the committee. You are the state. The trouble is that before the conversation even begins everything has been said.

Ten years from now, there will be a person wandering around, and people will say that it is you. Now they say that it will be you, but what really is your obligation to him? Suppose he starves. Does that bother you? Can you experience his pleasures?

In a way, yes.

Like you can experience mine? What is the difference between your relation to yourself in the future, and other people now?

I may be the director of a committee in the future… I can’t think anymore. There is something that we’re driving at, but I can’t see what it is.

Do you believe that I have access to knowledge? That I understand something about society?


Do you want me to stop the games and just come out with it?


Suppose I were to tell you, just like that, in a phrase. Do you have any idea what it would sound like? Do you think you could understand it? Do you have any idea what it would be? Would it even be a sound? What would it look like? Could you even recognize it? And would it always be the same?

I can tell you one thing. You’re just as much a part of it as me, and him.

What interests me about authority is the fakery, and what interests me about rejection of authority is also the fakery.

I think the whole world is a mad house. An extended mad house.

Is that a way of saying that *you* are mad?

As long as the dialogue goes on, there’s a chance of rationality.

Not everyone would agree with that. Let me ask you a question; suppose we could get far enough away from human society to observe it with detachment. What would it look like? A mold? A colony of bacteria going through the familiar phases?

And if so, what would we do about it? Try to break the ghastly chain?

With what means?

You would have to understand the process, or else just lash out, strike at something.

It’s late in the day. Maybe too late. I’d suggest we look for the best shortcut.

Back to the lodge?

Yes, if you like. Back to the lodge.

It’s obvious that my contract with society was not total. I may have cut my head off and put it back on again, but the wound didn’t close up completely. Not completely.

Some people think that the criminals and the mad are the real heroes.

Why not in a corrupt world? In a pointless and vicious society?

But in a reasonable society?

There are no criminals.

So one criminal act can turn a reasonable society into an unreasonable one.

And back again.

To the lodge?

Yes, if you like.