In the story world of Carrion, drug users are the enemy. As a distinct social group they are to Reiner and the prohibitionist what the Jews were to Hitler and the Nazis, “if we did not have them we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy”.
They’re the outsider, the other, the enemy, the threat that people can be united against. Defeat drugs and the world will be a better place.
From Reiner’s point of view, the choice to do drugs represents a kind of desire for freedom, that poses a direct challenge to the security he craves. This makes Adam’s animosity towards drugs, more about his desire to be part of something bigger. Which raises the question, if you strip away that belonging would the animosity go with it?
Adam wants to be part of something bigger. The price to become part of that something is his sister. Unwilling to pay the piper he is exiled, forced to experience the world thusly.
Does that make Adam’s animosity to drugs environmental, a learned behaviour that has more to do with his relationship with Christine, than some innate hatred of drugs and users.
I’ve been going over yesterdays post trying to figure out the ten minutes of story that follow the inciting event. At its simplest the sequence is about Adam escaping. This prompted me to research individuals escaping arrest.
The scenarios for escaping arrest seem to fall into three main categories. The first involved intervention by a third party. Two bank robbers escaped custody when a prison van they were in was attacked by an armed gang. The gang forced the van to stop, threatened the guards with shotguns, freeing the two men.
The second involves meticulous planning. A murder escaped prison by scaling the walls of the prison with an improvised rope. He first hid in the prison gymnasium, then made his way onto the roof, before climbing down the wall using a rope fashioned from discarded netting.
The final scenario can best be described as an opportunistic escape. While guards were not looking, an arsonist slid under the van that delivered him. He managed to escape custody by clinging to the undercarriage as the van drove out.
The second of these scenarios is the least likely to work for Adam. There simply isn’t the time for him to plan an escape. The first scenario is also unlikely. All of Adam’s comrades are prohibitionists, who would come for him? Which leaves the third scenario, the opportunistic escape.
Refusing to kill Christine categorises him as a junkie in the eyes of Reiner and the prohibitionists. While the punishment for this treason could very easily be quick and final, Adam’s punishment is to be treated as a junkie, suffer the same indignities the drug taking community. Outcast by the prohibitionists, thrown in with the quarantined users, Adam is reviled by both sides.
This scenario is rife with the possibility of violent confrontation. Confrontations that have the potential to get out of hand and create opportunities for escape.
While working though various ideas I came across a much stronger inciting event, one that forces Adam to make an impossible choice. He’s given the opportunity to join the party, progress within the prohibitionist cause, but to do so he has to kill Christine.
It’s the most provocative inciting event I’ve managed to find. It’s forced me to reassess what follows, specifically the events after the refusal. Technically it’s the start of Adam’s desire line, but to save Christine he first has to save himself.
His refusal makes him a combatant deep behind enemy lines, a prisoner of war, which makes the next ten minutes of story, how does Adam escape?
One way is to have Reiner release him, but Reiner is so hurt by Adam’s refusal, so committed to the prohibitionist cause, this just wouldn’t happen. A second way is to have Adam fight his way out, but this option is just too obvious, Adam’s not combative enough at this point in the story, he has not yet learned to fight prohibition. It contradicts the “not fighting back” immoral actions that underpin his character.
A third way is to have him take advantage of events happening within the story world, swarming insect, a riotous mob or sympathetic aggressor? All of these scenarios have the potential to dilute events later in the story.
Overall it needs to be something of relatively low intensity.
Reading through Christine’s desire (1) I found myself going over one section repeatedly.
At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.
Thinking about her destructive weakness and creative need it dawned on me that this binary polarisation of destructive and creative impulses is at the heart of the story. The clash between the will to destroy and need to create is the point at which all the characters intersect. Adam and Reiner are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in; one of security or one of freedom? Each character wants to destroy the others version of the world and create their own. Another of the things this understanding allows is to broaden destroy/create dynamic into one of damage/heal. For example, the destructive weakness that compels Christine to rebel against Adam brings with it the creative need to heal the rift between them. I said this was a “short note” and it is. That’s it for now.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Christine Leigh. Who she is? What she wants? Why she takes drugs?
Christine’s relationship with Adam is the cornerstone of Carrion.
She is the reason he goes up against Reiner. Without her Adam would remain inactive, Reiner’s actions would go unchallenged, and our view of prohibition would remain inviolate.
The story only gets under way when Adam’s desire to save Christine kicks in. But there is a problem with characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved. Certainly it allows Adam to justify arresting her at the beginning of the story, but it has the potential to make her incredibly passive.
There is another thing. “Characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved” underestimates, or more accurately, misrepresents her drug use. Overall it presupposes she is victimised by drugs. Certainly she is persecuted by prohibition, but when I think of her drug use I don’t see her as a victim.
The understanding of drug user as victim relies heavily on the popular perception of those who take drugs as damaged individual running away from something. While there are undoubtably a percentage of individuals who fit this profile. I know the vast majority of people who use drugs take them for entirely different reason. If the truth were told there are probably as many reasons for using drugs as there are people who take them.
There’s also another misconception at play, one that presumes everyone who takes drugs is an addict. I view this as prohibitionist propaganda. The truth is less hysterical. Just as not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic, not everyone who takes drugs is an addict.
Which brings me back to the question, why does Christine take drugs? The short answer is she’s looking for something. If I had to pin it down I’d say she is actually seeking a state of grace. I don’t think of Christine as a religious person. I think what she seeks is less devine grace and more secular enlightenment. In an earlier post I outlined something of Christine’s character.
Born in 1995. She was two when her brother joined the army. In the years that followed she saw him occasionally. His absence from the family home meant she actually grew up an only child. The sole beneficiary of her parents emotional, physical and financials resources, the constant attention lead to a strong willed girl sensitive to disapproval. Denied competition from a sibling she exhibits a certain possessiveness with her time, space and belongings. Perfectly happy to spend time alone and fiercely loyal, she prefers the company of a few close friends to the superficial connections exhibited by her extrovert peers. (2)
I view Christine’s drug use as her way of connecting to others. It’s not just that she has a small group of friends who are united by a common activity, or the feelings of empathy that comes with the use of a drug like ecstasy. I think she uses drugs because she has a deep-rooted need to short circuit the barriers between people.
At the core of that need are the barriers she feels between herself and Adam. The flip-side of this need to connect is her great weakness, her rebelliousness, that impulse to resist authority, control or convention. All of which raises a question, what does her desire line look like?
Many of the recent posts have had something to do with Anthony Reiner, specifically his moral and psychological weakness.
I’ve been trying to understand the things that are not only hurting Reiner, his psychological weakness, but are also hurting the people around him, his moral weakness. I’ve realised his moral weakness is his persecution of the drug user, implicitly informed by his psychological weakness, an authoritarian personality.
What I haven’t addressed so far is his need.
To paraphrase John Truby, Reiner’s need is what he must fulfil within himself in order to have a better life. I have to admit, I’m having difficulty reconciling Reiner’s need with Adam’s, knowing how their individual needs interact.
The events of Carrion transform Adam from a self-righteous policeman into, what I can only describe as, a caring insurgent. I realise that reads like an oxymoron but essentially that’s what he becomes. By the end he cares about Christine, putting her needs first, for the first time in their relationship, even though what she asks devastates him. From this personal crisis comes his new moral action, he picks up a gun to fight prohibition. The story ends only after he has taken this action, finally making the moral argument against security and for freedom.
What does all this mean when considering Reiner and his need? What must he fulfil within himself in order to have a better life, and how does he argue for security? I think the answer to this question can be found in his authoritarian personality.
In “Reiner and the totalitarian mindset” I noted Alfonso Montuori’s characterisation of the totalitarian mindset as a response to the stress of contemporary pluralism. Basically we live in complex times, full of uncertainty, and feel threatened. Backed into a corner we have a tendency to succumb to black-and-white solutions.
When I translate this back to Reiner, it indicates a course of action. Adam’s refusal to kill Christine turns Reiner’s reality upside down. Until this point he considered Adam a protege, and so perceives his refusal to kill Christine as nothing short of a treasonous betrayal. He has a psychological need to restore order, return Adam to the fold. Unable to make that happen, he has a moral need to destroy him.
Reiner’s attempts to enforce prohibition are his attempts to make the moral argument against freedom and for security. The punch, counter-punch, of antagonist and protagonist play out as Adam and Reiner fight over the kind of world they will live in.
Reiner’s argument for security is crushed by Adam’s argument for freedom. If this were Reiner’s story instead of Adam’s, the argument for security would crush the argument for freedom.
One final thing. At some point I will have to turn all of this conjecture into a screenplay, but until I’m clear about each character that seems like a folly.
In a previous post I noted that Adam shares the totalitarian mindset of prohibition, he acts in self-righteous manner towards Christine. In another I laid out a new inciting event that forces him into direct conflict with Reiner, he refuses to kill Christine at his initiation ceremony.
This event doesn’t suddenly change him, he’s still the prohibitionist policeman, it simply forces him to take the first step towards something else. The stepping stones of his eventual transformation are the subsequent conflicts of the story.
Adam and Reiner go at it as each tries to win their goal, the kind of world will they live in. Will it be a world of security or one of freedom? Their punch counter-punch confrontation is essentially a repetition of the same position played out with increasing intensity.
Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t explain how Adam learns the right way to live in the world. It doesn’t explain how a foreclosed identity such as his, formed around the prohibitionist cause, is transformed into an identity personal to him, an identity willing to choose freedom.
His insight comes, I think, from the conflicts he has with other characters. Each conflict forces him to deal with things in a different way. If Reiner is the motor of Adam’s change, the other characters steer him, each dealing with the problem of the story in a different way.
Michiko, the disgraced doctor, is compassionate towards Christine. Sexton, the radical drug dealer, refuses to submit to prohibition. Each encounter forces Adam to learn something new, understand himself and the world differently.
So when he battles prohibition, he knows how he wants to live in the world, and what he must do. He knows how to show Christine true compassion, even if that compassion means helping her to kill herself. He knows how to deal with Reiner, even if that means throwing him to the insects. He knows how to deal with prohibition, even if that means picking up a gun and fighting.
One final thought.
Something I think I learned while writing this. We don’t change ourselves, other people change us.