My son was excited to receive a Webkinz animal. For those unfamiliar with the marketing machine, cute, stuffed animals are sold at book and toy stores alike. Attached on the toys arm, is a code that allows my son to eagerly access the website, thus turning the physical reality of the stuffed animal into a real life, animated creature, at least as real a life as a computer generated image can be, to what a numerical facsimile can become. With Webkinz , my son can not only hold the creature in his hand, but on the computer, move it around from room to room in a house that he created. He can also play games, earn token money, put the animal to bed, and most importantly, feed it, for if the on-screen animal is not fed, the computer-generated image ceases to be.
Now considering the stuffed animal stays perfectly intact in the physical world, when the computer image is not fed, then I suppose what ceases to be is the computer generated soul, which is what the stuffed animal truly is. Or is it? For this morning, my son mentioned, after deliberating with himself about going upstairs, logging on, and feeding the Webkinz animal, that he would, well, he announced, ”I think I’ll let him die.” In my mind, the cold, unattached words, Let him die, brought out the radical ideologies bestowed to Jews and Negro’s.
However, it is only a computer image, right? It is simply a market driven, profit enhancing, I’m-going-to-guilt-you-to-come-to-my-site company. Then out of the blue, hearing the same words my son announced, my daughter, older, possibly struck down with similar adult attachments as my own, says, “Let him die, which one?”
I did not know when I began writing this that we were dealing with multiple computer souls, maybe a whole family, with brothers and sisters, moms and dads. How extended could it be? Were there cousins, aunts and uncles, which were all going to be part of what my daughter queried, Which one? Which of the souls were no longer to be in existence? To this, my son, after an embarrassing smile and a shameful laugh, states. “All of them! All of them will die.”
Well, I did not know what to say to something like this, and neither did my daughter. What can be said to the forfeiting of a life, real or computer generated. I have not even met these creatures, and instantly there was a longing in me that I will miss them. Has my son gone to where murderers go when to separate the soul from the body, when to make something real, or not real, enables the very act of discarding it guiltless. Or has my son come to the realization that what the computer generates is not a soul at all. That what the screen displays is only what we project to be real.
So, my son’s callous statement may not be obtuse in the least bit, but honestly grounded. And I believe that. I want to hold to that idea, for as much as our society uses and throws away in such a short time, can death be just as disposable. It is then my son says something that brings it all down to a fundamental reality, he says, “I don’t want them to die…die, I just like the stuffed animals is all.”
Maybe there is hope after all.