In a post-apocalyptic America, an old man sits with a group of people under a tree and regales them with a story.
“There was a man,” he tells them, “Called Lawrence Durrell who wrote a set of books that stirred many readers. The subject of these books was Love.” His audience drew closer. “Romantic love is a relatively new invention,” he said. “Durrell told us that the invention of romantic love made man the most vulnerable of all creatures, subject to fits of hunger which can be killed by satiety but never satisfied.” He pauses to let that sink in. “ Unlike D.H. Lawrence, who built a Taj Mahal around something so simple as a good fuck, The Royal Road to Happiness, he told us, is open to souls with a morality that does not attach meaning to that which kills joy.” And then, the old man leaned forward and spoke in a whisper, as storytellers will do. “The subtext of the books,” he said, “Was power.”
“You see, during the time of the Industrial Revolution, when natural resources like oil became very important, the powers of Europe colonized North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt, where Durrell’s tales of Love were set, the British encountered a sticky problem. The government leaders were smart people, the Coptics, who knew how to run things.” A woman who was listening raised her eyebrows. She knew the Coptics were Christians, that they had been wiped out by Muslim evangelicals. The old man nodded, and he continued. “The Coptics knew the pitfalls of governing, so they kept the people informed. As we all know, informed people cannot be colonized and subjugated. They will not tolerate lies and manipulation. So the British knew they must soften the will of the people They came up with a very crafty plan. They replaced these smart government leaders with the Mullahs, the religious leaders who were vain men, more subject to flattery than common sense. The powers of Europe, the colonizer, whispered into the Mullahs’ ears, You must convince the people of these truths: That you, the Mullahs, are the direct representatives of God, so the people must listen to you, for you are wise beyond belief, and as a sign of the favor of God, you wear rich garments, You have dinnerware made of gold and large, rare jewels on your fingers.”
The old man sat back and looked around. Then he leaned forward and put his hands on his knees. “And so the foolish Mullahs held sway over the people, convincing them of their fears, and the people began to feast on each others’ unwholeness. Women, they said, must be kept in their place. They are inferior to men. The Mullahs, you see, were very afraid of their own mothers, who in the time of smart leaders, ran the world. The shamans and healers amongst us, the Mullahs said, are tools of the Devil. You must come to our places of healing, and buy only or medicines at great cost. It is wrong for workers to join forces and make demands of their employers, for they, like the hand of God, make it possible for you to put bread into the mouths of your families. As the foolish Mullahs installed their religious policies, cities began to fall apart. That is how the colonizers gained their power. They allowed the infrastructure to crumble. They poisoned the water. Roads fell into disarray. Bridges collapsed. And the middle east crept back into the Dark Ages.”
“70 years later, my friends, the same thing happened in a land far to the west.” The story teller waved his hand in a semi-circle. “The ruins where we now sit,” he said, “Was once a great nation called America. For 200 years, America was a land of prosperity. Then, little by little, as it was colonized by a ruthless oligarchy, it slid into darkness.”
“Years before, a great leader tried to warn them. Beware, he said, of the military-industrial complex. And for years the people listened. As we all know, an informed group of people cannot be colonized and subjugated. They will not tolerate lies and manipulation. But, the conquering horde had a plan. They softened up the people, as colonizing entities often do, by reshaping the role of women. They made them into sex object because sex sells. Love became a hunger that could be satiated but never filled. Let’s go shopping, the people said. They subverted the Arts, building a Taj Mahal around something so simple as a promise of a good fuck. Where once they were purveyors of Truth, artists became the instruments of shame and fear. They began to craft an American Dream. They subverted a medium that came into everybody’s home, called television, and filled people’s heads with inane stories that had one message: You are not good enough. You cannot possibly live up to ideals portrayed in our images unless you become wealthy, and the only way to do that is to sacrifice your lives to the ideal of work, and to keep your money in these large banks, which we will manage for you. We will give you credit cards so that you can get whatever you want at low-interest rates of only 27%. They commissioned economists who convinced the people that a golden shower trickled down upon the land.”
The old man looked around to see if they were still with him. They were. “But still, the people maintained control of their government, which regulated the would-be conquerors and held them in check. The corporate oligarchy had to be content to work behind the scenes, using lobbyists and perks and junkets to buy the favor of politicians.” His older listeners nodded. They remembered these government regulations against monopolies and for fair trade policies.
“And so the oligarchy, who were billionaires by now but could never amass enough wealth came up with a second plan. They studied the techniques of Imperial Europe. We must give power to the Mullahs, they said. Just as our forefathers sent missionaries to soften the minds of the Indians so that we could take their lands, we will send them again to take the power of government away from the people. And so, my friends, America fell into the hands of the Mullahs, the vain and foolish fundamentalist leaders. They took over school boards and changed the textbooks. The deliberate dumbing down of America opened the floodgates. They ran test cases, poisoning the wells with industrial spills and bursting pipelines, to slowly gain the power of controlling water and selling it to people in plastic bottles. When The People stood up against this heinous act in South Dakota, they passed a law to make it legal to kill protesters with a car or a truck. As this new millennium began to ripen, the Mullahs gained control. Women, they said, must be controlled. We will close down their evil clinics which sin against God. Unions, they said, were evil. Our golden shower cannot trickle down upon the people if there is a minimum wage. The power of the evil empire came to a crescendo when they took over the government. They installed an orange faced narcissist with nylon hair as the chief executive. He appointed foxes to guard the hen houses, a cabinet of oligarchs, each of whom contradicted the very truths their positions were supposed to uphold. And the people who called themselves Patriots thought that this was good. The billionaires are smart, they said, so they know how to run things. This, they felt, is the Brave new World.”
A shrill whistle pierced the silence. “You,” a policeman hollered. He pointed at the storyteller. “Get on your knees. Put your hands behind your back.” The audience scattered.