Our Honeymoon with the Machine*
Inside the machine, my hands don’t need to work the way they feel they should. The movements are specific, regular, and my future robot servant is someone I feel nothing for, even if they will be the one who continues my work. The machine is armed, and each glittering tentacular arm is painted the dazzling copper of a cockroach shell. There is a manual inside. I read it, and I am reassured. Only what is written in the manual can happen to me. Each arm operates on its own, by a person operating it. Lines of well-dressed men sip their tea and nod as they watch the machine moving on its own, and speak in fearful tones about the power of technology, that something so wonderful will one day replace them. We, the operators, watch their interviews on our screens and nod in agreement. All we are, we say, we have had to conform to the measure of the machine. God, I love the machine arm I inhabit. Inside, I have created a small and comfortable room, which I keep clean and tidy, although I am often too tired from cleaning and moving levers to invite anyone round for dinner. I know that one day this will change, that I will be a brown womanish figure among the tea-drinking men. Not broke, they say, but pre-rich. The more I practise using this arm, the more I feel it as my own body, that I am a functioning natural part. The joy I feel as my loneliness leaves is like sunlight reflecting off the arm. We are learning to think the way the machine has taught us. We are walking using our many arms in the direction we have been told. We are all equally acceptable to Westerners, the makers of our machines, as contented museum pieces. We are learning and moving and wondering how much longer we can keep this up.
*From Occidentosis (غرب زدگی), l962, Jalal Al-e Ahmad (جلال آل احمد), translated by R. Campbell.
HASTI (she/they) is a poet and writer living in South East London. A member of the Southbank New Poets Collective and Ledbury Poetry Critics, Hasti also hosts monthly open mic and poetry night Fresh Lip.