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The end of history

I think hard.


The history-howitzer nearest me slams back into its recoil shielding. Good technicians swarm around it. Check the grammar, clean the swarf of punctuation from around the muzzle, and press the small of their backs into the velvet bulwarks to heave it back to the edge of the battlement.


Beautiful, terrible things; covered in carvings of dolphins, cherubim and seraphim. Not ornament you understand, they are essential moving parts. That is, I should say, it's essential that all parts are moving. Deeply moving.

Dolly back. Fade to black.

Sorry - you'll need some context. I forget. It's all so familiar to me. Good operates this side of the front.

"Front"? "End" more like. Front is a legacy of war when it was finite, fungible. This can hardly be called a war. It is an eternal, endless enterprise.

Yes, enterprise. It is a business all right. Momentary advantage and its resultant arbitrage are all both sides can hope for. Once you realise that, then it becomes more believable that both sides were once, indeed, businesses.

Big businesses, true - the two biggest there were in the world before the machine - but even the most megalomaniac of each companies CEOs would not have dreamed what they were to become.

It's hard to believe, when the only thing both sides agree on is how important the past is, that no one can tell who invented the machine first. Like most of the catastrophically powerful things mankind has made, the least important fact is who invented it, first built it, or first used it - it's enough that it was made at all.

The ultimate machine - the macguffin at the heart of a hundred films, a thousand novels, and a million daydreams. The time machine.

There was to be but one flaw in the fantastic though. They couldn't send anything through it. No gentlemen-scientist heroes, soviet pioneer-puppies, everyday ordinary objects; not even a paperclip.

They couldn't send anything through it - except ideas.

But that would be enough.

Initially, it took massive amounts of energy, exotic materials and a team that would have spoilt a Nobel nomination panel for choice even to send something as intangible as an idea back much further than a week. They managed it however, and that inaugural experiment meant that Company A was ahead of the global game. No one knows what that first idea was - it could have been a reality TV show, a robot companion, a game, a slightly-hipper-than-thou style of sports shoe. Again - it doesn't matter. The first idea back before its time was wildly successful. All that mattered was the arbitrage, the advantage to the tune of billions on the bottom line.

Bottom-line gets attention at the top. The top decides to send more ideas back. Company creatives are engaged to come up with products, brand names, ad campaigns, trends, and c-list celebs to make or break.

Bottom-line gets attention elsewhere. The market ensures unfair advantage doesn't remain so for long. Company B gets a machine, and gets hungry for ideas.

Quickly each side refocused all its corporate resources and funds on their respective machines. In-house idea forges grew bigger and bigger. Brand-strategists, graphic designers, fashionistas, conceptual artists and con artists alike were hired like never before. An arms race for imagination and innovation began - smaller firms and freelancers were acquired. Soon college theses and school-projects were fair game too.

Strategists at both firms were rapidly becoming aware of the bigger picture however. Although the physical laws of our universe seemed to break or at least bend under what now seemed like trivial pressure, the laws of economics would not. Strip-mining the minds of now to send in ever-finer decreasing circles of trend trumping was the very definition of diminishing returns.

Marketing minds in each firm realised, seemingly simultaneously, that the brand was the thing - make their firm loved, fought for, empathised with - cradle to grave. Those loyalties were the ultimate prize the machines could garner, and from those loyalties would flow ultimate market-dominance for the winner.

The key to this would be to send as far back as one could, the core message of each company - the DNA of the brand, as they would have it - something clear, something eternally graspable however far back they sent it. A narrative - stories are powerful said the creatives.

Back they both shot their initial salvo of myth-missiles. Things changed, immediately and irrevocably. The now - that which we live in, and the companies were firing from - got both smaller and more concentrated at the same time. Narrower, perhaps more confined but stacked taller - like tectonic plates of time itself had collided to raise the now higher than the rest of history. On these elevated battlements, the only two brands left in the world looked across at each other, thought hard, and fired again - further back.

Salvo after salvo, each myth purer in its message, more universal in its theme until each side had refined their brand to its ultimate positional point, its clearest execution.

Good versus Evil.

At that point the comfort of business of usual replaced the thrill and the fear of the struggle to outpace each other - to some extent anyway. Business rivals at the end of history settled into the familiar pattern of momentary advantage, and it's resultant arbitrage; for an eternity of their own creation.

Technicians and creatives on each side reiterate and reload the recurring themes into the history howitzers. Heroes and villains with a thousand faces to bombard the brittle past just where each side's generals think will gain them the most.

If you think that history is repeating, it is not because some things about human nature is eternal and enduring: like honour or betrayal, love or hate. It is probably because a junior creative like me has written something for someone just like you, to make you think for a moment what side you're on.

Written something like this.

I think hard.


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