The twentieth century was an heroic enterprise, but it left us in the dark, feeling our way towards a locked door. Here ... a chink of light, a thin and fierce glow...

Whether we like it or not. The twentieth century ended with its dream in ruins. The notion of the community as a voluntary association of enlightened citizens has died for ever. We realise how suffocatingly humane we've become, dedicated to moderation and the middle way. The suburbanisation of the soul has overrun our planet like the plague.

Today we scarcely know our neighbours, shun most forms of civic involvement and happily leave the running of society to a caste of political technicians. People find all the togetherness they need in the airport boarding lounge and the department-store lift. They pay lip service to community values but prefer to be alone.

Homo sapiens is a reformed hunter-killer of depraved appetites, which once helped him to survive. He was partly rehabilitated in an open prison called the first agricultural societies, and now finds himself on parole in the polite suburbs of the city state. The deviant impulses coded into his central nervous system have been switched off. He can no longer harm himself or anyone else. But nature sensibly endowed him with a taste for cruelty and an intense curiosity about pain and death. Without them, he's trapped in the afternoon shopping malls of a limitless mediocrity. We need to revive him, give him back the killing eye and the dreams of death. Together they helped him to dominate this planet.

We are creatures of the treadmill: monotony and convention rule everything. In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom.

J G Ballard, Super-Cannes (2000, Flamingo) pp 263-4