The Philosopher Between the Capitalist and the Communist
Chapter 18 : Give Me Someone Cruel!
In a palace in Babylon, the halls were echoing with, "Alas, this world -- it distresses me! I can feel its stinging pain in every last pore of my skin, like a parasite that works out every piece of energy and leaves me with only a little bit of sweat and blood," Hammurabi closed his eyes, wrinkled his eyebrow, and leaned forward, hesitating for a few moments, before finally shouting out again, "Guards! Get me our best assassin!"
"Of course, sire," a uniformed and armed soldier responded, "Should we use the assassin who killed your son when he tried to claim an extra fiefdom to his inheritance?"
"No, that's the family assassin," Hammurabi replied, "I want someone special for this. Assemble the lead general's assistants and entourage. I'm going to need to have a meeting with him."
"Roz was one of the best officers we had, he was a genius tactician and when it came to military strategy, he has no weaknesses," the General said, "But, personally, he did have a weakness -- he doesn't understand the difference between red, blue, and black. I fear for the world he might try to bring his children up in."
"This isn't an issue to moralize over, it's an issue to tactically examine," Hammurabi replied, "We don't want to convince Roz that he is wrong. We want him dead. Can you even imagine a soldier going off into the woods to join up with Anarchists and play a game of War of the Empires?"
"Normally, your majesty, whenever a few anarchists rebel, they're quickly beaten up by the police and then brutalized by judicial authority in some fashion or another. But, these anarchists are different. They have mountain fortresses, jungle-trained soldiers, and a people who are deeply enthusiastic about their cause."
"Is that really all that's different? They simply have a place when they can evade your attack while attacking you? They have club-wielding and dagger-carrying soldiers that know how to wade through marshes and how to dig with their fingertips to the tops of mountains? They have a population that chooses to pay its taxes in blood instead of gold? That's it? That's the whole thing keeping the police and the army and the navy back?"
"Yes, basically," the General replied.
"Babylon won't be beaten back by a few hundred anarchists hanging out in the depths of forested mountains. Burn their homes, kill their children, rape their wives."
"But, sir!" the General interjected, "We've already tried the tactics from the Battle of the Nile, where we worked their captives to death and then flung the bodies over their city walls with catapults. We ground salt into their fields so that their grandchildren would suffer for want of bread -- and we did it in the middle of the battle. Do you know how few Anarchists surrender? They either melt away into the mud of the mountains, or they bloodily end their existence in rage and fury. It's not going to be enough to repeat tactics of murder, war, and killing. Even our best assassins either deconvert from the state faith or they are intercepted by common citizens trying to preserve anarchy. We've tried every possible use of force that could be expected to have a positive outcome in this conflict. We need to find a different route for our troops to march into Anarchia."
"It's good to finally see someone as ambitious as I am around here," Hammurabi replied, "What we do here today is going to directly effect the course of events in human history for the next ten thousand years -- I guarantee it! So whatever plan we come up with, it had better save civilization. This is not a risk we can chance to fail."
"We sent in assassins with every type of weapon," the General said, "All they've ever given us back were their dead bodies or their letters of resignation. If you can't find the machinery, then you need to dismantle it. You need an assassin like a prophet needs a second god. What you really need is someone who is loyal to, can gain the trust of the Anarchists, and can bring down their whole social order. Anyone's allowed to do whatever they want in Anarchia, right? Why hasn't there been a single attempt to destroy the city by its most obvious means? Bring down their ordered system by bringing into question their ideals. An assassin might cut a throat, but you couldn't expect one to even nick the thumb callous of an ideal."
"Soldiers are just assassins who take orders more routinely," the King said, "What do you suggest in their place? And whatever it is, it better be enough to hold up an empire."
"Your soldiers already hold up that empire," the General said, "But your need is to take away someone else's. Birthing an egg and hatching it aren't exactly the same thing. You need something different to tactically handle the new situation."
"What do you think is better than an assassin?" the king asked.
"Get the best espionage agent you can," the General replied, "That's really what's needed here. That's how we're going to solve our new problem. You can't burst into the bubble from the outside, but we can fill it up with so much air from the inside that it bursts under its own natural pressure. Because anarchy is unnatural to humanity. It's as unnatural as birds trying to swim through seas and fish leaping through the air. Humanity was not meant for anarchy. It was meant for government and rule. There are subjects, and there are rulers. A land where there is neither subject nor ruler is a land that would frighten anyone who believed in government or military."
"In other words," the General said, "If every attack from the west has failed, then try an attack from the east, or maybe the north, or maybe the south, -- or maybe use more artillery, or maybe balance out your calvary more, or maybe wait for additional supplies and reinforcements, or maybe wait for your enemy to starve a little longer, or maybe cut off their supply lines, or maybe anything, except attacking from the west again. We need to act like professional men who know what we want and know how to get it, not like madmen and lunatics who escaped from an insane asylum, committing every type of indecency and sin you can imagine, just because it has been withheld from them for so long. Where the lunatic, Anarchists individuals failed to get anything they wanted, they have now teamed up together, and now they are committing every crime imaginable, against state, religion, family, and society. But in a way, this is our own fault. We should've held a tighter grip on their leashes. Now we truly are learning from our own mistakes."
"I didn't even know they had leashes," Hammurabi replied, "Choke-chain seems like a more appropriate term for it, based on how the police interacted with them -- if the word interact is appropriate there, which it probably isn't. The reason that they're rebelling now isn't because we didn't give them enough discipline. If there's something different between today and yesterday, it's that the anarchists were a few scattered handfuls, here and there, with appeal to nobody, and certainly nothing even resembling disagreement among themselves, but now, they occupy an entire subcontinent, and if you push inwards in any direction against them using sword and catapult and spear, they will push you out with more force that exceeds the limits of human toleration. And if I can't beat it to death, no matter how many soldiers I throw away onto it, then maybe we do really need to make it explode asunder from within, like a rotten watermelon bursting under the pressure of fermentation within."
"What's the quickest way to make a watermelon rot?"
"That's a good question and I don't think a brewer's going to help with it," Hammurabi replied, "Normally, a healthy upbringing would mean that the watermelon wouldn't rot at such a rapid pace. But there's no need doubting that it's already beginning to smell and fill up the air with its noxious fumes. If you want to burst that watermelon from its own pressure, let it sit out in the sun and swell up, then take a single pick to it with a sharp edge, and land its tip in just one single, tiny, insignificant, microscopic area -- you will blow the entire thing apart from one single blow."
"And for something like that, you need someone more special than just police or detectives, assassins or spies, intelligence agencies or 'emergency teams responsible only to the executive branch'. No, at that point, you need an espionage agent. Not someone trained to kill a human being, but someone trained to kill an idea. You're not trying to dismantle a human being, you're trying to dismantle an entire social organization. That is precisely what we need," the General replied.
"Good thing we have order and hierarchy," Hammurabi responded, "Without that, I'd fear that our own empire might be just as fragile and weak and full of critical points, that just a handful of people, or maybe even just one single person, would be enough to poke in just the right area, where not one single soldier would die, but every single law governing our thousands of miles of territory would dissipate into the air, like those laws had never even existed to begin with."
A small amount of color reached the General's face, but as soon as he realized that Hammurabi noticed, he quickly looked out the window, and pretended to be distracted by something he saw. "Marketplace looks tremendously busy today," he said, "I can see goods of every type being carted all about. Must mean a good reaping for the tax harvest."
"Yes, it always does," the king's tone became less demanding and ordering, more relaxed and light spoken, "If you had a child run away from you, tell you that everything you've done is wrong, and then they build up this new life, living how they want, without having anything to do with you, finding a spouse and having kids and raising a family, treating everything you say like fire spit forth from the serpent's tongue -- what would you think? What would you want in that situation?"
"Not a single sense of remorse in your voice, not a single feeling of regret in your stronghold?" Hammurabi asked.
"I would crush it quicker than I crush my child," the General replied.
"You're a good general," the king said, "Nobody's calling into question your skills, abilities, or ambitious nature. We all know you're completely and totally devoted to victory. That's just the way you militarists are. Fighting is prayer, and winning is a blessing. I believe you and every word you say. But for now, just respond to the question not like a General, but like a father."
"I run my household like a barracks," the General replied, "The Father is the General in every home, as far as my opinion goes."
"Of course it does," Hammurabi smiled, "And why shouldn't it? You're right. I must be asking the wrong person the wrong questions in the wrong order. If you knew a priest, who was married to a rich landowner, who in turn had strong connections with the military, how do you think they should raise their son, so that no one would ever be disappointed in whatever they do? And, how do you think they should punish their son, if they were ever disappointed in him?"
"Raise them strictly, and punish them strictly," the General replied, "In one swing, unrelenting strike, but whatever you do and however you do it, do it strictly. That is the only advice I can offer you, coming from both the father and the general of a happy barracks and a happy home. You won't find one piece of disobedience in any of my holdings, not in one single realm of my dominion. That is because we, in the home of Capitalism, offer better and more strongly what no other part of the world can offer: strictness and discipline to work, family, and moral values. But strictness is really the key word."
"Yes, I've heard that from Militarists before," Hammurabi replied, "How strictness is the key word. I thank you for this input on this matter. You've been an invaluable help in settling this matter. Get me the best espionage agent we have. Get someone clever, someone cunning, someone brilliant, sharp, and quick."
"I will get us the best," the General said.
"Now, remember, I want Roz dead," Hammurabi said, "He must die in the way that we have promised his death, with all of the misery and suffering that it entails. Make sure that Pan dies, too. They world needs to know what happens to traitors that turn their backs on their fathers. And as for Emma and Benjamin, bring them back to me, and I don't care whether they're still breathing or not, whether they're in one piece or in thousands -- bring me the Anarchist Philosophers, the world demands that they disappear from all political affairs and so do I. It will be I, the Capitalist King, who teaches all posterity the value of hierarchical organization."
The General wrote jotted down a series of quick notes, handed them to his assistant, and gave the order, "Take this to the division commander of the Second Babylonian Army."
"Yes, sir!" the assistant saluted and disappeared.
The king walked to the window, watching a peasant woman dragging a wooden cart latched to her back, and then yawned as he stretched to the chandelier dangling from the ceiling -- and he then stopped in the middle of his stretch. The king turned to the General, "Is your salute... to the brow, or above the brow?"
"Are you absolutely positive? Are you sure?" the king asked, looking desperate.
The General's face was flushed, as he began to realize, "... my assistant."
Somewhere, nearly a mile away, an old man was exiting the Royal Babylonian Palace, departing with such depth of gratitude and welcome from his hosts, leaving behind those tall, tall doors of gold that kept the king separate from the common rabble. And in his hands, there was a small piece of paper with just a few words on them. Rubbing his beard as he hastily paced, he took in word by word, curiosity greater than fear. At a safe distance from the majesty and his General, the old man uncovered his hood. "Hhmmmmmm, I see," the Philosopher said to the note, folding it up, and putting it into his pocket. Just like he disappeared through the trained crew guarding the citadel of the king, the Philosopher just as easily disappeared through the armed soldiers guarding the city's walls.
Back at the palace, there was cursing and screaming and shouting, "Get me the Philosopher! He was hanging out with the Anarchists when we tried to arrest them, we just saw him in here pretending to be trustworthy counsel, and he's probably somewhere far away at this exact moment, so we have every reason to suspect that he's up to something! Bring him to me! And make sure he's unhurt. You leave that part of it to me."
"You made an enemy... of the Philosopher?" the General inquired.
"I didn't make him an enemy, he made me the enemy, and more than that, there was no enemy-making to begin with, so the question is moot," Hammurabi replied, "I made an enemy with a man, one single, human being. That's all. And I shall have him. You know that."
"You don't think..." the General's face showed just the ingrown lines of concern and distrust wrinkling into themselves, ".... you don't, do you?"
"What? Think what?" Hammurabi asked, "You mean about the truth? Like I made a war on truth?"
A wry, half smile crept out of the perimeter of the General's mouth.
"I made a war against Anarchism and the Anarchists," Hammurabi said, "The guardian of truth is just a suspect as a consequence of our police's rudimentary, investigative procedures. That's all. Just a suspect. And if a suspect resists lawful arresters, then for perhaps a few, single, violent, and bloody moments, we will declare war on him. Leave those details to the police. I just want him here, in my presence, and still breathing."
"Emma, Benjamin, Roz, and Pan, are all to be collected by the vested authorities, and delivered over to your majesty. Said authorities will make all attempts to make sure said individuals are delivered alive, but they are to be given orders to kill if necessary," the General hesitated a moment and breathed in, "And if the Philosopher is found, and refuses to be delivered, we should be arrested, forcibly restrained, and brought back here -- and the harm visited upon him in the arrest procedure shall not exceed the limits of the human body. Are these the correct orders?"
"Yes," Hammurabi replied, "Kill the rebels, every last one of them, rip up their arteries and splatter the mountains with their warm blood, but the talker, the one who has deflected every attack with a word and every assault with a phrase -- make sure he is still breathing when you bring him here in bondage, I don't care whether it's shackles or handcuffs or an iron cage, just make sure he can still talk. Those are your orders. Make them happen."
"Yes, sir!" the General saluted the king, above the brow, and cordially exited the room. The closing of the door to the king's office resounded with a thud, and the king quietly waited until he was certain he had heard footsteps going down a flight of stairs. And then, he became more comfortable with his environment.
"I wonder," he said, walking over to the window again, staring at the clouds. He didn't notice how the peasant woman from before had broken one of the wheels of her cart, and how she was now reloading it again after a hasty repair, nor the police officer who was writing her a ticket for an unsafe vehicle. He only noticed how that one cloud wound around itself again and again, spiraling through itself, covering a great distance of the earth in a single day and yet not seeming to move at all.
"Why did the Philosopher come here today?" he thought to himself, "He's been here in the citadel before, he's been in Solon's palace, he's been in the first building of the Anarchists that governments tried to burn down, which is the closest thing those people will ever have to a capital building -- who's side are you on, Philosopher? I know, it's not Truth, that foolish myth you use to control everyone into fearing your arguments or submitting to your implications. It must be your own little ambitious nature to make a deep imprint on the world, without really knowing the great consequences that small minds can have. That's what must be driving you. I know. It has to be. I might've suspected you were curious before; but now I suspect you of being disingenuous"
There was a knock on the door. Hammurabi turned and squinted at the door, cautiously reciting style and volume of the tapping in his mind, "Who is it?"
"It's your majesty's General," a volume echoed into the room.
"Come in!" the king ordered, and at the appearance of his commander's face, he asked, "Did you get someone cruel yet?"
"Here in Babylon, we have more than just a few strong leads in that case," the General replied, "Unlike our search for the Philosopher. We believe he must've escaped the city."
"That man has the patience to wait until the angels fall asleep to escape the universe," Hammurabi grumbled to himself, "Don't give up the search. He must be found somewhere. Check every village, every hut, every field -- even check the rivers, in case the old man preferred to kill himself rather than suffer the wrath of a man of greatness. Bring me the Philosopher!"