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Writing project about alienation and resolving conflict.

Note: This isn't science fiction, or even futuristic - this is today and tomorrow. [1]

What do people do when their pain from past conflict is too much to overcome and hatred is all there is left? In this Hatfield an McCoy type story, two young men that were lost as children return home and allow themselves to become indoctrinated on opposite sides of their families' conflict.

In the beginning, they are good friends, but when brought back to their families they learn to emphasize each other's differences, to recount injustices and focus on them, to align the world with them as the good guys and their enemy as the bad guys, so that everything the other stands for or does is bad, and to look for more ways to hurt the other. They learn to hate each other.

In part two they begin trying to injure each other. This continues tit for tat until they finally are locked in battle. The battle leads to a precipice where one can throw the other over. At the edge, neither will stop fighting, so they both tumble over. They are badly injured and hospitalized for some time, in full body casts, feeding tubes, and unable to even talk. Their physician learns of their fighting, and takes stock of their situation. He calls a scientist friend who has been looking for subjects to experiment with a device for assisting paralyzed people to communicate. The two boys are ideal candidates.

The scientist hooks the device up in the hospital room and brings them into the same room. He puts a shield between them so that they can't see each other. Then he places a single giant television monitor at the wall at the foot end of their beds, and then places a mesh of electrodes on their heads. Their brain waves are able to make an avatar move on the screen. Each avatar is a furry round creature with eyes, arms and hands, legs and feet, and a head, is very mobile, and can be dressed. At first, communication is only through the creature's actions, but potentially the avatars can talk if the men become that advanced. Later the men can also populate the screens with objects and decorations to please themselves.

After a few days of difficulty getting any control over the avatars, one man finally gets good at controlling his. His avatar begins hitting, kicking the other avatar across the screen, butting, body slamming, and jumping up and down on the other. The other can't fight and just takes it. After a while the man loses interest and quits. Another day, the other man has gained control of his avatar, and does the same in return - unaware that the other man is asleep. Finally he loses interest and quits. The following day they really go at it and move around the screen and fight and fight. But neither avatar can injure the other, so the men eventually both chuckle and then quit.

They each learn to kick a soccer ball around on screen. They won't play with each other, but each will play with the ball by himself. The mens's families visit on separate occasions and learn that the two men are placed in the same room every day for this experiment. The families react with great anger and try to get the men separated. They scold the men for even doing the project, and recount their injustices and how bad the other family is. 

On successive days, each man begins decorating his space of the screen with objects that the scientist adds to the screen. They seem to have only one of each object, so they fight over each one. It is a race to see who can learn to operate the object the quickest so that he can get it first. Both want mostly the same objects. Only a few objects or decorations are different. When the second man has learned to operate an object, he steals it from the other. And when both are awake and stealing objects, they seize the decorations that are different.

When the stealing finally reaches an impasse, they often end up with a mixture of the objects they want most, and other objects. For example, one picture is of a herd of gazelles, the other is a herd of buffaloes. One has a table with a piece of pie, the other with a cake. One has a wooden set of praying hands, the other has a gold one. They both begin to see through the objects that humans are very much alike - they want the same things even though the objects are a little different. The differences aren't meaningful.

Now they learn that they can create additional avatars. Each new avatar is different.

Again the families enter the picture. They emphasize how different each family is, and how much worse the other is because of their differences.

One man learns how to operate a TV, the other a radio. They eventually learn how to tune them, and both produce programs with sound. They fight over these until both are exhausted. While one is asleep, the other steals the TV to his part of the screen, and hides it in a wardrobe with the avatar's clothes, and locks it with a number combination. When the other awakens, he becomes furious over losing the TV. While the other sleeps, he takes the other's wardrobe and stuffs it into his wardrobe and locks it with a combination.

On awakening, both avatars fight each other furiously. Finally one kicks a new avatar and it disappears. The other man creates a new one, but it isn't the same. He creates five more, but they are all different - none of them are the same as the one that "died." Again they fight furiously, killing each other's avatars, but they can't kill each other.

Once again the families visit in turn. This time they talk about their pain - recounting their losses at the hands of the other family. Each man gets to hear both sides. 

Next day they wander aimlessly around the screen for a while. Then both sit in front of the locked wardrobe. Finally one unlocks the wardrobe and removes the other wardrobe. The other avatar unlocks his wardrobe and removes the TV.

[1] Background

There are many promising areas of neurological research which are bringing new life to those who have  paralyzed muscles or are even totally paralyzed. Two steps forward, of course brings a step backward as new problems are found that need to be solved. Famous astroscientist Steven Hawkings is one example of someone who lives through artificial devices - a wheel chair for mobility, and a computer for speech. Other's have regained the use of muscles by electrical control to walk again, although this is not yet a "cure." Others have learned to use their brain to turn things on and off through electrodes on their head.

At Emory University, in another of several such experiments around the world, neurologist Dr. Philip Kennedy is helping a 53-year-old man learn to use his brain to operate a computer. He moves a cursor to letters to spell out a word. It isn't easy, and he tires quickly. But without the computer, the man has only the ability to blink. 

On a recent television show covering real emergency drama, a young gang member leaves the hospital paralyzed by gang violence. He will spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair. He doesn't hate his attackers - he is one of "them." But he has a new message for his kind: gang violence produces nothing good. They all need to move on.  

This story has few props to get in the way. I think that there would be value in trying to write this story using two opposing groups, each representing one of the two guys. It would allow each group to itemize the injustices, the pain, and the hate in their position. It would allow each to see the extreme positions to which people can move, because of hatred. The give and take over computer icons would let them see the tactics that people use to hurt each other, even when each is seemingly powerless. And it would allow them to see how much we are interdependent on each other for responses, and how we define ourselves through others actions and reactions. Since the main avatars can't die, solutions must be found. So, finally, it would allow them to see the mechanisms by which walls are torn down and we agree to live together, building respect, tolerance for differences, and finally an appetite for diversity.


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