Moon #28: “The World is More than We Will Ever Know”
“I think we all understand on a deep level that speech is free, and one of the reasons we allow speech to be free is that no one’s listening. It doesn’t matter what you say and it doesn’t matter how you say it because no one gives a shit. Sort of a central tenant of modern life is that people are all talking, but no one is saying anything, so it doesn’t matter.”
The 28th Episode of Mike Daisey’s 29-part monologue, All Faces of the Moon, doesn’t suffer from the usual symptoms afflicting a next-to-last part. Oftentimes the sheer logistics of putting everything in place for the grand finale hinders (albeit sometimes forgivably) the penultimate chapter of a series from having any real narrative heft. No so here; in fact this installment of Daisey’s New York fantasia on magical themes fires on all cylinders. Notwithstanding the quote above, which comes about halfway through this episode, this chapter indeed has something meaningful to say about one of Daisey’s perennial topics: management’s responsibility to labor.
In spite of the dozen-odd characters and components that need to be put in place for the epic final showdown between Daisey and the villainous Steve Jobs, Daisey still takes the time he needs with important character beats in this episode, like the uncomfortable encounter between The Grey Lady and Livia, or Jack’s subtle interrogation of Robert Moses’ wife, Mary. What truly impressed me was the deft reintroduction of elements like the Turk, the ghost in the Poland Spring bottle, and the First Church of Christ Ikea Redeemer; all of which featured prominently in the front half of the series and all of which I had essentially forgotten.
This episode also includes one of the series’ most thrilling action sequences. Daisey describes The Grey Lady, Saul, and Livia’s race to the base of the Ladder as a glorious widescreen event; you can practically see the camera moves and hear the score. The ladder itself, which leads from lower Manhattan to Heaven, fluctuates in appearance, cycling between a staircase of light and a ladder of bones and a series of floating stones, because ultimately, as Daisey says, “it is a metaphor.” The Grey Lady’s taxing ability to “edit” attacking vampires and thugs out of existence is also particularly inventive and appropriate; she is the human embodiment t of the New York Times after all. Daisey gives her a worthy last stand, and makes it all the more potent by connecting it to her previous life as Elaine the copy editor – a part of herself she only recently reconnected with during her hangout with Mary Jane a few episodes ago.
The Grey Lady is one of two benevolent representations of management in the Moon series, the other being the billionaire/philanthropist/vampire king George Soros. In an earlier episode, Daisey pointed out that labor has always been an important issue for him regardless of the form it takes. As a working performer, Daisey is part of the labor force in the American Theater. Many of his monologues, including most famously The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, have focused on the often lopsided relationship between management and labor. This episode, for all its action, really landed with me as the triumph of labor over corrupt management. Certainly there is a somewhat puckish component to Steve Jobs being the uber-villain to this piece given Daisey’s history with him and Apple, et al. But above all else, the Steve Jobs who appears in this story is the ultimate representation of exploitative management, with his stated end goal in this narrative being to basically put corporations in charge of the metaphysical and the magical.
But Jobs is dealt a crippling blow in this episode by one labor force on behalf of another. Reverend Billy and his First Church of Christ Ikea Redeemer, a congregation Daisey says is made up of the workaday performers and artists of New York, stage a demonstration at the 5th Avenue Apple Store, using magic to show video footage of iPhones being assembled on every surface of that giant glass cube. Simultaneously, Daisey’s ally the Turk uses the Apple master key obtained from Livia to transmit the same footage to anyone downloading an iPhone app. Jobs is greatly weakened by this act, even if it only lasts a few moments, for in Daisey’s world the greatest weapon against duplicitous management, the greatest magic that can be conjured against them, is accountability.
By contrast, The Grey Lady and George Soros both own up to their fraught relationships to labor in this episode. The Lady, who sent 16-year-old Livia to a den of vampire bankers to be sexually abused, deeply regrets their circumstances and acknowledges that it was appalling to sacrifice Livia and the 43 “Daughters of the Moon” who came before her, no matter what end it might have served. Soros, meanwhile, is an old school financier who often laments the young, dumb, and entitled bankers of today. And yet, as he prepares to take arms against a host of renegade vampires on their way up the ladder, he pauses. He asks a simple question of the dutiful assistant being dispatching to gather weapons and allies: “What is your name?” I’m sure Daisey didn’t intend for this to be a big emotional moment, but I found myself oddly touched by it. It’s a very, very small thing in within grand tapestry of this story, but it goes a long way towards defining Soros’ management philosophy in relation to Jobs’. He and the Lady are listening.
The final sequence in the episode depicts the ceremonial burying of The Small Man, a.k.a Robert Moses, by Jack and Mary Jane. As portrayed by Daisey, Moses has been a spectacular boogie man of management – working behind the scenes in New York for decades, and slowly ceding more and more access to corporations and using infrastructure to carve up the city to his liking. After Moses’ defeat in the Mexican wrestling match last episode, the new Dionysian king Jack and his queen Mary Jane take great pleasure in interring him – though still living out his seemingly immortal life – in a steel coffin in a trench beneath the BQE. He is nailed into the coffin with shards of “Trinitite,” which Daisey calls the “American Kryptonite” because it was forged during the Trinity nuclear bomb test in New Mexico in 1945 and thus is a pure artifact of 20th century American negligence and shortsightedness. I don’t know that Daisey has mentioned Trinitite before in this series, but he certainly did in his monologue If You See Something, Say Something; it’s a fitting final punishment for Moses, even if the reference comes a little out of the blue for some listeners.
As I have said, I like to think of this as the “Mike Daisey Omnibus,” so appreciate obscure callbacks to previous works, especially if it will help Daisey to say something that matters.
Listen to the podcast at mikedaisey.com