Muckers!!!

In the 1968 novel, Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner coins the term “Muckers” to describe people who go crazy and start killing people. According to the book:

It’s no coincidence…that we have muckers. Background: ‘mucker’ is an Anglicisation of ‘amok’. Don’t believe anyone who says it’s a shifted pronunciation of ‘mugger’. You can survive a mugger, but if you want to survive a mucker the best way is not to be there when it happens. (pg. 31)

The book actually introduces muckers much earlier in a newsreel-style narration:

The incidence of muckers continues to maintain its high: one in Outer Brooklyn yesterday accounted for 21 victims before the fuzzy-wuzzies fused him, and another is still at large in Evanston, Ill., with a total of eleven and three injured. Across the sea in London a woman mucker took out four as well as her own three-month baby before a mind-present standerby clobbered her. Reports also from Rangoon, Lima and Auckland notch up the day’s toll to 69. (pg. 7)

In other words, the frequency of deaths caused by people who start killing others is reportable on a daily basis in the fictional world of Stand on Zanzibar (set in 2010).

I am most amazed that a Google search for “muckers” does not return results related to Brunner (at least, not on the first three pages as of this writing…and who proceeds further than page three of Google search results?).

Every time I hear news of another mass shooting or senseless act of violence, I think to myself, “Another mucker.” While Brunner’s explained etymology was the word “amok,” the additional layer that “mucker” could be “m(other)-(f)ucker” adds emphasis to something that currently has no term and is yet universally deplored.

Brunner’s term, “mucker,” deserves its place as the word modern society uses to identify individuals who, from whatever motivation, disregard the sanctity of human life and rob others of their existence through overt, public spectacles of carnage and terror.

Source:

Brunner, John. Stand on Zanzibar. Del Rey, 1968.

Note: It’s been twenty years since I read Stand on Zanzibar. Of the plot, characters, and important themes, it’s only the Muckers that remain in my memory. I actually own the library book I read in the 1990s, not because I stole it, but because I bought the actual copy from the library book sale years later.

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From “The Curse” by Dame Wilburn

“I don’t think that smart people are smarter than me; I think they’ve read a book I didn’t read.”

This is from the radio show The Moth: True Stories Told Live. I caught bits and pieces while driving out to the middle school to pick up the girls after a student council workshop yesterday. The above quote does a much better job summarizing my philosophy about intelligence than anything I’ve come up with. My closest equivalent is: “I’m not smart; I just like smart things.”

Listen to the full story here:

https://themoth.org/storytellers/dame-wilburn

From Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

“Ah, but it is hard to find this track of the divine in the midst of this life we lead, in this besotted humdrum age of spiritual blindness, with its architecture, its business, its politics, its men! How could I fail to be a lone wolf, and an uncouth hermit, as I did not share one of its aims nor understand one of its pleasures? I cannot remain for long in either theater or picture-house. I can scarcely read a paper, seldom a modern book. I cannot understand what pleasures and joys they are that drive people to the overcrowded railways and hotels, into the packed cafés with the suffocating and oppressive music, to the Bars and variety entertainments, to World Exhibitions, to the Corsos. I cannot understand nor share these joys, though they are within my reach, for which thousands of others strive. On the other hand, what happens to me in my rare hours of joy, what for me is bliss and life and ecstasy and exaltation, the world in general seeks at most in imagination; in life it finds it absurd. And in fact, if the world is right, if this music of the cafes, these mass enjoyments and these Americanised men who are pleased with so little are right, then I am wrong, I am crazy.”

from pg. 35.

Hesse, Hermann. Steppenwolf. Translated by Basil Creighton et al., Bantam Books, 1969.

From Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

“A man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of our present-day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous. Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserably just as a savage does in the midst of our civilisation. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence. Naturally, every one does not feel this equally strongly. A nature such as Nietzche’s had to suffer our present ills more than a generation in advance. What he had to go through alone and misunderstood, thousands suffer today.”

from pgs. 24-25.

Hesse, Hermann. Steppenwolf. Translated by Basil Creighton et al., Bantam Books, 1969.

Note: Within this excerpt we find the plight of John the Savage in Huxley’s Brave New World, published just five short years after Hesse’s Steppenwolf appeared in German and three years after the English translation.

From Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

“Yes, and he who thinks, what’s more, he who makes thought his business, he may go far in it, but he has bartered the solid earth for the water all the same, and one day he will drown.”

from pgs.  17-18.

Hesse, Hermann. Steppenwolf. Translated by Basil Creighton et al., Bantam Books, 1969.

From “A New Refutation of Time” by Jorge Luis Borges

This is a longer quote, and also includes quotations from other sources; however, I wanted to preserve it nonetheless.

“Via the dialectics of Berkeley and Hume I have arrived at Schopenhauer’s dictim: ‘The form of the phenomenon of will . . . is really only the present, not the future nor the past. The latter are only in the conception, exist only in the connection of knowledge, so far as it follows the principle of sufficient reason. No man has ever lived in the past, and none will live in the future; the present alone is the form of all life, and is its sure possession which can never be taken from it . . . We might compare time to a constantly revolving sphere; the half that was always sinking would be past, that which was always rising would be the future; but the indivisible point at the top, where the tangent touches, would be the extensionless present. As the tangent does not revolve with the sphere, neither does the present, the point of contact of the object, the form of which is time, with the subject, which has no form, because it does not belong to the knowable, but is the condition of all that is knowable” (Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, I, 54). A Buddhist treatise of the fifth century, the Visuddhimagga (Road to Purity), illustrates the same doctrine with the same figure: “Strictly speaking, the duration of the life of a living being is exceedingly brief, lasting only while a thought lasts. Just as a chariot wheel in rolling rolls only at one point of the tire, and in resting rests only at one point; in exactly the same way the life of a living being lasts only for the period of one thought” (Radhakrishnan: Indian Philosophy, I, 373).”

from “A New Refutation of Time,” pgs. 232-233.

Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: selected stories & other writings. New Directions Pub. Corp., 1986.

from “A New Refutation of Time” by Jorge Luis Borges

“I am told that the present, the specious present of the psychologists, lasts from a few seconds to a minute fraction of a second that can be the duration of the history of the universe. In other words, there is no such history, just as a man has no life; not even one of his nights exists; each moment we live exists, but not their imaginary combination.”

from “A New Refutation of Time,” pg. 223.

Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: selected stories & other writings. New Directions Pub. Corp., 1986.