Widespread compassion fatigue has become pervasive, which is thought to be due, among other things, to the continuous adoption of digitally mediated out-of-body experiences that have the capacity to immerse us in the point of view of our fellow human beings to an unprecedented degree. To counter this trend, government initiatives have been implemented to aid a “return to the beast in your heart.” Retrofluff programmes facilitate a reconnection with a variety of animals in a variety of situations, encouraging a rejuvenation of our empathy by an active engagement and communion with animals that seeks to go beyond the usual relationship of cute and fluffy subjugation to appreciating animals as a significant social others in their own right. However, since nothing has changed in our animal eating habits, a paradox has emerged in which advertising, propaganda and everyday mindsets promulgating not simply animal rights but “animals as equals,” and even more strongly the thorough romanticisation of animal-human relationships, are belied by the realities of the meat industry. In addition, “animal fatigue” - the perhaps inevitable result of the top-down imposition of a social engineering programme - means that we become increasingly dissatisfied with such empathy engineering. Many of us, especially those in the ambiguous realm of the “third culture,” have developed strong cravings for the very technologies that were held responsible for atomising our compassion. We also indulge in increasingly baroque designer drugs, through which we try to connect vicariously with more extreme social, political and cultural experiences.
One of three Third Culture storyworlds developed at the xcoax_workshop