The Philosopher Between the Capitalist and the Communist
Chapter 28 : I Wanted You Once, But Not Now
For a few brief steps, the Philosopher listened to the group's discussion.
"Hey, yeah, so just why are farmers all Capitalists?" asked one mechanic, "You live in dirty, grueling, brutal conditions like all of us. You work twelve hours a day. You have a master who comes along and collects the profits of your work, except you call it share-cropping or market-economy or something or other, while we just call it wage slavery. Why aren't you peasants all Communists, just like all of us workers and laborers in the cities? It makes no sense. You should be the first to revolt, not the last! You should be the one fighting the armies of the establishment, not enlisting as recruitments! What makes you all so Capitalist? Why is it that when someone digs in the ground everyday for a living, when someone kicks stones and turns trees, when someone works in streams and sleeps in the winters, why is it that all of these things can combine together to make a human being that is completely terrified of the Communist Revolution? What made you Capitalist peasants like that? There can't be any rational thinking about it."
"Why are we farmers mostly Capitalist?" one peasant grabbed the crowd's attention, "It's pretty obvious, isn't it? We each want to farm our own land, the way we want to farm it, when we want to farm, and how we want to farm it. And we know that requires a lot of land, even if you're just growing enough potatoes to feed your family. So the next person next to us is going to live miles and miles away. We don't want to need and live on their dependence. Calling a union meeting of all delegates of all farms in any region heavily dominated by a peasant economy is like saying their entire society should stop working for a week or several weeks, especially given the distance we might live apart from each other. We don't want to have to call an international congress when the sink in our kitchen springs a leak, especially when we put in the kitchen and attached the sink ourselves -- what good would it come to then, if we were going to cry out for help from someone who could reach us after only a long and maybe difficult journey? That's why I'm a Capitalist. I want my own, I need my own, and the way I live demands that I have my own."
"And the way we live demands that we have our own!" responded the Communist orator.
"Let my crops rot for days so that I can show up and make attendance at the Communist Party meeting?" a Capitalist farmer lifted the brim of his broad hat, "That might sound appealing to those who live packed like rats in small tenements, where public transit makes every location just a walk down the street. But to those who love fresh air and open sky, we could never have it. We would never tolerate it. You want to protect me from the merchant, the middle-man, the usurer, the creditor, the investor, and the corporation all at once, and your so-called 'worker parties' have always made that promise to peasants, and we always ignore it. It's because we can grow our own food. We might not be able to market yams and cabbage and bananas on an open-market dominated by a wealthy, trading elite, but we can live on it. If someone tells us that they're going to deny us a fair price on what is rightfully our own, we can sit, and let our whole harvests go bad. There's no life-or-death situation, like what faces any urban worker at 7:30 in the morning when the clock goes off. We can always have the dignity to tell anyone that we won't do business with them, and we can be stubborn about it, and still live -- because we grow our own food. But you workers don't know how to grow anything, and yet you think you're fit for building an organization that will change the world. You will never understand why peasant revolts happen."
"Stop! Stop! You can't do this!" the Philosopher ran, drawing one, then two, then a handful of a heads away from their speakers. And then even Emma and Benjamin noticed. The Philosopher had returned to them.
"Philosopher!" Emma said, "Welcome back, but our city is no longer a city. We now understand that we must disband, and why we must disband."
"It's good for you to be here," Ben said, "But this is to a good place to be right now. We shall soon desert these cottages and huts, leaving them to the torment of ravishing nature and professional armies."
"You can't break up, you mustn't," the Philosopher's hands rested on his hands, as he bent over catching his breath, "The Anarchist City is too important, too valuable, too significant in the heart of civilization now to be broken up."
"Philosopher, you argued with both of us when we first met," Emma said, "You said that my understanding of the world clashed too much with Ben's understanding of the world, that we fight each other over simple things when we should want important things, like happiness. Then when we built a city, you said we were doomed, and then when we accepted Roz and Pan as heroes in the city, you said we were letting contradictions run wild on our streets. And now, at this point in time, you've come to tell us that we can't break up what you've spent all of your time criticizing and questioning?"
"Every word she says is true," Ben added, "You never walked through our valleys or our fields with even the slightest compliment. You never were astonished at the tallest buildings we could erect or the most beautiful singers that we could give the world. You never wrote a poem about love that mentioned our city or gave a lecture on truth that talked about anarchy. These people you see here before you, these two crowds, the one are Capitalist, the other are Communist, but both were once Anarchist. Not anymore. And now you want to save the one thing in this world that you've never paid any homage to?"
"Maybe I didn't ever come here to convince you of anything else before," the Philosopher said, "Maybe the only reason I came here, that I met with you two, was just so that we could talk. Maybe I'm just someone who talks and talks, argues and argues, discusses and discusses. Before I asked you why you got together, now I'm asking why you're breaking apart. Don't either of you question the things that go on around you?"
There was a quiet silence for a moment. "It is the principle of Anarchism to question. We question everything. We question tradition and law and authority and the bureaucrats."
"Of course we question things!" Emma said, "There is not one habit or prejudice or belief that we refused to question. We questioned property and family and the nation and the gods."
The Philosopher pulled out two pieces of parchment from the inner folds of his hooded, long coat, "Do you question yourselves at all?" He threw them both to the ground, one marked in ornate decorations of blue and the other with a heavy, red stamp bearing the symbol of hammer-and-sickle. "When you go through that carefully compiled list of things that deserve the suspicions of an independent mind, have you ever considered yourselves?"
"Is that... an officially-sealed letter from the Party Headquarters in Athens?" Emma asked, "I can see the classification listing from here without picking it up."
"That is the official letterhead and design of Hammurabi," Benjamin said, "Even the material. I can tell that's papyrus from the Nile, not straw picked off of river ridges in Thessaloniki."
"Why are you paying so much attention to this so-called 'Philosopher', anyway?" Spargo asked, "You know he has caused trouble before, don't be surprised that he just showed up to cause trouble again."
"Who is this man, even?! I've never heard of him!" Agent 354 lied, "Should we be listening to strangers on the streets who wear sandals and hooded clothing, or should we be listening to the virtues of our souls?"
"You're a troublemaker, too, Spargo," the Philosopher replied, "Anyone can look up your past in a standard history book and make up their own mind. And as for you, Ally, how would our souls even know of virtue, unless it had come from someone who was a stranger, because they had that blessed trait which we lacked?"
"The blue letter is from Hammurabi, that much I can guarantee," Benjamin said, "There's too much detail and eccentric uniqueness in the calligraphic designs. It's too individualistic and talented to come out of a place as conformed and equalized as Athens."
"I don't trust it!" Agent 354 spoke, "It comes from a man who claims to defend truth but does nothing more than plays tricks on his so-called friends."
"If it's possible to steal a letter from Solon, then it must also be just as equally possible to steal an official seal and document where you can easily copy the king's signature," Spargo reacted.
"And its intent is as cruel and crude as Solon's!" the Philosopher said, "That's the one fact you're refusing to accept when you decide to part ways to break the city into fragments."
"Acceptance and refusal has nothing to do with it and never did!" Agent 354 responded, "That letter could have been conceived years ago and just never signed, until someone picked it up, forged Hammurabi's signature, and just passed it along, like any other letter. You know you've had spies before, so just one letter indicating that you might have another one, shouldn't really surprise you in the least. At least, it shouldn't, if you're really concerned about the security of these people and their families."
"You'll accept anything written, printed, and handed to you, won't you?" Spargo added, "I once went to a village where a local commissar was using a potato half with the hammer-and-sickle inscribed on its flat side as a stamp for official party documents. Take any old piece of parchment, print your message on it, stamp it with the potato, folder it into a ball and unwrap it a few times, and then you've suddenly got an authentic document that will get you the best seats in Athenian theaters and the highest wages in Greek mines. You think we should base our future on something like that?"
"You can't ignore facts!" Emma said.
"The evidence is the most important thing, more important than any of us who examine it," Ben said, and then turning to the Philosopher, "At least, when it's the Truth that's being accused."
"And, in all honesty," the Philosopher said, "I could be wrong. Those spies mentioned in the letters might never have been sent, they might not have arrived, they might never have intermingled among your people, they might never even have been here. It might be that no espionage agents ever fermented any disquiet among you to depart from each other. Perhaps, the only thing that matters, the only thing that these letters really prove, is that there's a disconnect in the society of Anarchia that can be manipulated, controlled, and self-destructed at the will of someone who does understand that disconnect."
"You think society is disconnected, but the reality of the matter is that the thinking, intelligent parts of society are just realizing how connected they are!" Spargo said, "We're just realizing how much we are Communist, and how much they are Capitalist."
"Your hybrid nature of opposition is the disconnect, Philosopher," Agent 354 said, "You couldn't tell that this was the city you wanted to build when you first talked to Emma and Benjamin, you couldn't tell that this city was worthy of defense was Roz and Pan came, and now you can't tell why these discordant peoples should be kept together when separation is their only desire."
"Independence was their only desire, that's what drove them away from Athens and Babylon, and that's what they think they're going to get by driving away from each other," the Philosopher replied, "For you intellectuals, it might matter, but for the rest of us, Communism and Capitalism are the same thing."
"Don't you think it matters?" Ben asked, "Don't you think it matters if we have a Communist side and a Capitalist side? Don't you think there's a point to it all when the side of property and individualism resists against the side of pillage and collectivism?"
"Pillage is the antonym of property?" Emma asked, "I would call collective property the antonym of private property. The antonym of property would have to be nothingness. But that's just the way of you Capitalists, you can never imagine what it's like to have nothing."
"One side resists the other, and the other side accuses the one of having no imagination," the Philosopher said, "So, which is it? Do you fight the violence of the other party, or are you scared of its inability to sympathize with your suffering? Are you aggressive, or are you timid? Or, are all rebellious types of personalities equally guilty of this despondence between angered cruelty and compassionate curiosity?"
"So what if spies were sent, so what if Communists and Capitalists can't make up their minds on the exact reasons that they hate each other, so what if they really agitate some old man just because they decide not to look at each other in the face anymore, so what!" Agent 354 spoke, "These are all facts that nobody will ever really be able to decide upon. More than that, you forget what brought all of us to this point."
"All of us?" the Philosopher said, "Didn't you just move to this city only a brief time ago? Since when did you even show up?"
"Oh, the explosion?" the Philosopher asked, "Is that really it? Those seem to be happening all over the place nowadays. Even in Athens and Babylon. Even when you're on the Greek plateaus or the Babylonian shores. Even when you're talking officials who wear red sashes or officials that wear blue ribbons. Even when you're in a land where every portrait is of Marx or you're in a land where every statue is some incarnation of god. They all have explosions."
"Athens is about building a new world based on Communism," Spargo said, "Explosions happen, in parliament and in party debates, absolutely, and sometimes industrial accidents or espionage occurs, but our vision of the future is one where no such explosions will ever occur."
"Babylon always burns the fire its opponents despise," Agent 354 said, "Babylonian explosions do happen, but its usually the burst of catapult and sling, the roar of captains and lieutenants, the melody of wardrum and the marching with flag, even the open airs and the clear skies alone are enough to count as an explosion. Besides, the capital of the Babylonian Empire gets most of its metal from imports, and if those nations treat their own people badly, then that's their responsibility."
"Are you at least still responsible to yourself for what you do?" the Philosopher asked, "You've both asked me a lot of questions why I'm here interfering. Now I have a question for you. Why should the city break up? You're the organizers of the coup. Now explain its justification."
"The people themselves decided, and they've always had it decided," Agent 354 said, "There never was any one people, but there were only two peoples, living side-by-side, the one Capitalist and proud of its hard work, the other Communist and begging for handouts. We didn't break up anything. It was like this when we got here."
"There are two classes, the owners and the ownerless," Spargo said, "The difference between the two are so great, because the one is often the exploiter and the other is often the exploited. The division of Anarchia into two separate parts wasn't something that just happened overnight. It was something that was necessary because of the prevailing way in how historical changes sweep over all of humanity and civilization. Nobody could stop it."
"Changes?" the Philosopher smiled, "I think you two are just trolls, sent here from the ambitions of kings far away or maybe just from the illusions of success you get from receiving a response. Let me tell you a story, not just you Spargo and Ally. But, I want you, Emma and Benjamin, to pay attention."
"An old man wants to turn a tale," Spargo said, "Go ahead, it's in your veins, you can't stop it and neither can we."
"In the village where I'm from, we never heard an elder speak without first giving reverence to the generations of obedient soldiers who had passed while fighting for us," Agent 354 said, "But I'll let you have your words, since you'll have them anyway."
"Besides, I want to hear them," Emma said.
"So do I," Benjamin added in.
"So, what was it about this small village, Aoeutuear, that was different from the others?" the Philosopher asked, "Quite simply this: religion. The Egyptians, while Capitalist, were going to impose a state-mandated religion on the citizens of Aoeutuear. The Ethiopians, while despised as Communist, had let them do whatever they cared with religion -- which just happened to be nothing at all. The villagers, their life, and their culture altogether was largely Atheist. But they were small landowners who always lived as Capitalists but then fought and died for Communists. If you understand how they could have fought so hard against such miserable odds, then you know more than I do."
"You want to figure out which is better, Communist or Capitalist? Well, fine! But you have the time to take a thousand years to figure that out!" the Philosopher said, "In the meantime, you don't have to be killing each other at the marked orders of some imperial overlord. That's all this is going to reduce to if you really decide to leave."
"Why do you always show up to disagree with us about things?" Emma asked.
"I've only been asking questions. Maybe you've misinterpreted me this whole time," the Philosopher responded.
"But Philosopher, we have to separate now, you know that," Emma said, "We're at a stalemate. There's no way the Anarchians can win against the Greeks and the Babylonians. There's nothing that we have to move against them and there's nothing they have to move against us. Humanity can't make any forward strides until these borders can shift back and forth again, until old tyrannies can be disestablished and ancient customs of domination can be ripped. When you're stuck in mutual grip with your wrestling opponent, you sometimes have to lose a little bit of a ground just to escape the grip -- we have to do this. There's no other choice for there to be any real, revolutionary Communism in the world unless the Anarchist City splits."
"Don't do this," the Philosopher said, "Just don't do it. You're so impatient for humanity to make just one stride forward, that you'd sacrifice so much work and so quickly, so many hopes and homes, so much for the masses and so much for the individual -- but you're completely unlike me in that matter. I'm prepared to sit and wait a thousand years, knowing that any human being who wants to be free can be free, and any human being who wants to be a slave can be a slave. I don't mind waiting out that stalemate for any amount of time. A situation like that can never last. And even if it does, I would never treat the situation... like I was stuck and had no choice."
"We are stuck and we have no choice!" Benjamin said.
"Choose to look at this cloud or that cloud, choose to plant purple flowers or orange flowers," the Philosopher said, "Be happy that your children are free, and choose the damn colors you want in your garden."
"I choose liberty for all of humanity, and I won't accept anything less!" Emma replied.
"Then someone else is going to make the choice before you do," the Philosopher replied, "You're giving up so that you can get out of a stalemate. What you're really doing is letting someone else make decisions for you. Giving up now means that you have less heart that your opponent to wait it out. Don't you believe in your own causes enough for that?"
"We believe in our own causes too much!" Benjamin said.
"Finally, something well-put by the Capitalist entrepreneur!" Emma replied, to the unpleasant smirk of her former colleague.
"You have no right to do this to the people who always stood by you from the beginning," the Philosopher replied, "The carpenters and blacksmiths from Athens, the farmers and teachers from Babylonia, they moved their entire lives, their whole families, from one part of the world to another, just for you and your dream. And what happens when someone finally listens to you, for once, out of a thousand years of miserable existence of being alone? You end it, before they can. Am I right?"
"No, you're wrong," Benjamin said, "You never understood my motive or tried to understand it."
"You've always run away when someone doesn't understand you," the Philosopher replied, "Did it save you before? Do you think it's going to save you now?"
"The problem with you Anarchists is that you've forgotten the diligence of your parents!" Spargo said, "Don't you remember what is worth living by? 'The early bird gets the worm'?"
"I'm a Vegan," Emma said "How does that slogan even vaguely apply to me?"
"And I'm a Vegetarian," Benjamin added in, "And the only dairy I eat comes from animals that I raised from birth."
"It's symbolic!" Agent 354 shouted, "It's not supposed to mean that you eat an actual worm. It just means that you need more drive and initiative in your life, and that's the real fault with this Anarchist society. You have no initiative."
"We live by 'Patience is a Virtue' instead," Emma said.
"Saying 'The early bird gets the worm' is like saying 'The ambitious emperor gets the slaves,'" Benjamin said, "And that's the real fault with Statist society."
"Do you live by the sayings of freedom, or have you only lived by them? Apparently, not all Anarchists have resolved their differences. Maybe only the first Anarchists did that, the rest simply followed along, until at a single moment, a rift was split open among their millions, when it was based on the solidarity and community of just two people," the Philosopher said, "Maybe two of you have resolved what's different about you and have come to peaceful terms with those differences, but for the rest, it seems like you've always been eyeing each other in evil ways, suspecting each other in crude fashion, and being almost quick to persecute those who seem too weird when asked the question 'so what do you think about authority and property?'"
"Listen to me!" Spargo said, "You have to listen to me! This man came here before to break the city apart when Roz and Pan showed up, and now that two new personalities are here, he wants to force you us to stay together! He never came here with any purpose but to disagree with us."
"He wanted to break up the city, when it could become something amazing," Agent 354 said, "But now he wants to keep it together, because he knows he's keeping its members from reaching their fullest potential."
"You've heard the things I've said, haven't you?" the Philosopher said, "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to stay," Emma said, to large boo'ing from the crowd, "And if anyone out there wants to go, they should go! I don't intend to keep you. Statist-Communism is evil because it pretends to eliminate the suffering of Capitalism while creating its own unique form of suffering."
"And I'm here to stay, too," Benjamin said, "If any farmer or professor leaves, by all means, your lecture hall and your fields won't miss you. Statist-Capitalism is evil because it's based on the ancient tradition of the strong and powerful dominating the weak and vulnerable."
There was some mild, disgruntled shoving and elbowing in the crowd, but the group finally calmed down.
"Oh, it looks like some friends have come back home," Benjamin said. The Philosopher looked up. It was Roz and Pan, arriving with small contingents of the First and Second Anarchist Armies.
"They are our friends, aren't they?" Emma said, "At least now, don't you believe it, Philosopher?"
The Philosopher looked to the ground, measured a stone's distance across the dust of the city's market floor, and finally returned the glance, "No, this isn't right."