The Philosopher Between the Capitalist and the Communist
Chapter 29 : A City Welcomes Back Its Heroes
"Ah, I see the Philosopher has returned to us," Roz spoke, "Come to break up our city again?"
"No, not this time," the Philosopher replied, "Just the opposite, actually."
Roz's eyes turned to Emma and Benjamin, just then noticing that a mass of Communist miners and blacksmiths stood behind Emma and a crowd of Capitalist farmers and intellectuals stood behind Benjamin. "Is what he's saying true?" Roz asked, his eyebrow furled, "Are you really splitting in half? Are you really breaking up?"
"Of course it can't be true," Pan added in, "This must be another piece of mischief on behalf of this cunning man who seems to get so much pleasure out of arguing with people. It's a joke, a ruse, an intrigue, a hoax! You can't truly and genuinely be serious, Philosopher? These people cannot be splitting up into halves. We found the perfect social organization that accounts for each and every one of human kind's impulses and needs. Why would a bunch of Anarchists break that up when its a social organization based on the abolishment of authority?"
"We're not breaking up," Emma said, "We were going to, but then the Philosopher came, and said something things, and well, it seems like things are different now."
"We decided to stay together, to keep the city and its people as one whole," Ben added in, "We're not going to tear down these walls or demolish our capital. We're going to keep it all together."
"You're making these decisions on your own?" Pan asked, "Just you two, by yourselves, are steering the course of the ship named Anarchia? Did Anarcho-Communists suddenly lose all sense of Democratic choice?"
"We've spent months and months in woods and hills, at riverheads and mountains, watching our best friends die and losing part of ourselves when we kill an enemy in vengeance, we've suffered and we've suffered a lot more than the farmers or the metalworkers or the professors or the social workers," Roz said, "And you? Just you, and nobody else, you two, you're going to tear apart everything that we Marxists and Militarists have fought for? You're going to say that our blood and our sweat isn't worth the same as your dreams and your ideals? What makes you think you ever had the right to make this decision?"
"I never decided anything for anyone else," Emma said, "I decided what I wanted for myself, expressed myself like I've always done, let others pick up some of my influence, and then went on my way. I never told anyone to do anything. I never tried to be in charge of anyone."
"I made decisions for myself and nobody else," Ben said, "I didn't come here to master others, but only to master my own mind and soul. If there are others who believe that their own minds and souls matter, then it is up to them to master themselves. My quest is one with myself, and nobody else. I'm not here for the others -- the Revolution, as far as it's come this far, is about my individualism, just like the others participate in it, because it is about their own individualism."
"You were going to break up the city without the most important contributors to its liberty and independence?" Roz asked, "I can't respect you. Either of you. The unknown soldier. That's who I respect," Roz said.
"The unknown soldier is not unknown," the Philosopher said with a smile, "You simply forgot who they were."
"I can hardly believe that you were willing to do this," Pan said, "You wanted to bring together humanity into a sort of Libertarian-style form of Communism and Collectivism, but now, when it comes time for that new humanity and its society to make a decision, all Communism and Collectivism is gone. The decision is in your hands, coming out of your own so-called individual voice, like the written orders of a Capitalist General from Babylon."
"Write down an individual's will like you're writing down predictions," the Philosopher smiled again, "And both pieces of paper will be equally inaccurate."
"I can see why you're not married, Philosopher. No woman in the world could put up with you arguing with her all the time," Roz said.
"He makes a good point," Pan said, "You're the pure Individualist. You're the one who wouldn't work the others here, while Emma and Benjamin were willing to make idealistic sacrifices to create what was unique. You never worked with anyone, we have."
"I worked with the Truth," the Philosopher, "That was the only partner I had when I worked with getting my own independence. That was the only thing I needed to work with to get here. That was the only thing that carried me."
"Obscure phrases and uncertain ideas," Benjamin said, "That's what the Truth has been and what the Truth will always be. As for our destiny, it's something that we need to work out for ourselves. It's something that we need to decide because of our own experiences, and not because of our devotion to some idea. If we were totally and completely devoted to either Anarchist-Communism or Anarchist-Capitalism, then it wouldn't have been possible for us to work together and build this city that you're so intent on keeping intact."
"Benjamin's right," Emma said, "We built our city out of the intentions of reaching our goals, which was either Anarchist-Communism or Anarchist-Capitalism, and then we decided to break up, and go back home, to Athens and Babylon, for the very same exact reason. We learned from our experience together. We have that sharpened skill of knowing what type of people we can live with and what type of people we can't live with. To stay together would be to let all of our social training to atrophy, to allow all of our emotional thought to decay. That's why we need to split up. To make use of what we learned politically."
"You sometimes make me think that it really is better for an individual to pass out and lose all consciousness, making themselves completely vulnerable, if it means sparing them suffering," the Philosopher said, "So try to make use of what you learned politically. What was the point of the original myth?"
"What?" Pan said, "You're not here to argue politics. You're just here to argue with us. It's not about convincing us of this idea or that idea, you just want to stir up human airs like disturbing the peace of a pond by throwing rocks into it."
"And since when have you ever wanted to be politically involved?" Roz asked, "I recall once you had said, 'The day I associate myself with a political ideal is the day you can accuse me of lying for it.' Isn't that right?"
"Yes, I said that," the Philosopher replied, "But I know the difference between a happy people and an unhappy people, I know the difference of what it's like to live in Anarchia against living in Babylon or Greece. You're not just making a decision for yourselves, you're making a decision for a lot of people and for a long time to come."
"The Original Myth!" the Philosopher screamed again, "What was the importance of it? I know what you think, Spargo and Ally; I can pretty much guess what you think, Roz and Pan; but you, Emma and Benjamin, please, tell me what you think is important about it."
"It didn't mean anything at all," Emma said, "All myths are just that, myths. They're legends, not histories. They're culture, not social decision-making."
"We never believed they had to be the Truth, or anything like it," Benjamin said, "We invented an idea like the farmer who ties a rock to a branch to create the plough."
"And do you really think you know everything that's going through my mind, without the least bit of doubt about it in yours?" Spargo asked.
"What a wonderful spectacle we have here," Agent 354 said, "There's one person in this entire city trying to keep Anarchy all together, and now he thinks he can treat us like his subjects."
"Ha, Truth and the Philosopher," Spargo said, "You're like all conservative peasants, you sit idle with your hands on your lap and take every abuse from your masters, but at the moment a revolutionary shows up to break every chain that held you in bondage, then you show up in the cities and with great fury, burning and crucifying any rebels you can get your hands on."
"The course of Truth is as trackable as the weather," the Philosopher replied, "Its thunder storms and hurricanes burst into cities from the woods with neither warning nor caution, and disappear into complete calm and quietness just as quickly. Don't mistake careful thought for laziness and stupidity."
"That theory about an original anarchist society is hilarious, anyway," Agent 354 added in, "You didn't even need any objective evidence for the theory -- you just basically convinced each other of it with your enthusiasm. Isn't it time you left behind these childish pursuits of playing Anarchist, came home, and accepted the adult role of an obedient student? If you think you can learn from staying here any longer, then you're dead wrong."
"And what makes either you or Spargo think that there was anything really wrong with the Anarchist use of the Original Myth? At least, how was it any more wrong than how than how Statists in Athens and Babylon use it?" The Philosopher said, "Using information to hurt someone is cruel. Use information to expand your mind, to widen your consciousness, to start revolts and revolutions, to create inventions and discover universes, or just use it to keep the fire in your house going every night. But don't ever use it to hurt someone. You are disrespecting the person you hurt, and you are disrespecting truth. And if you insult and curse and twist and bend the truth to do what you want, you may soon find yourself very far away from it."
"And I'm not making decisions for anyone else, I'm only making decisions for myself," Emma said, "If others like my ideas and go along with them, then I'm as much a leader to them as any well-known painter, any hard-working farmer, any talented metalworker, any fluent intellectual. We never told anyone how to do things. We simply told others how we do things, and they decided that they liked our ideas as much as we do. We're staying together in the Anarchist city because we all like think something nice of Anarchy."
"Communism and Capitalism have to be the same thing. I mean, just look at them, they each have the same number of letters!" a drunken voice chirped.
"Well, I think the point of it is --" Emma was interrupted.
"No, wait, no they don't," the same drunken voice resounded again.
"The fact we need to bring ourselves to face is --" Benjamin was interrupted.
"Oh, wait, yeah, they do have the same number of letters!" the drunkard spoke again, "Oh, wait, wait, wait, maybe.... maybe not. I'm too drunk to count."
"Explain it to Pan," Spargo spoke, "Emma, tell him -- tell him why we are deciding to stay together."
"We're staying together because we hate the ideals of Statism, whether they come from Communist rulers or Capitalist rulers," Emma said, "It's that simple."
"That's not exactly what you said," Agent 354 said, "Benjamin, tell Roz -- tell him why we are staying as one. Explain it clearly."
"Is the blindfold for the shooter or the victim?" the Philosopher asked.
"You've got a saying for everything, Philosopher," Spargo said, "But questions don't look for coined phrases and popular analogies. Questions look for answers. Now do you, Emma and Benjamin, have an answer? What made you want to go back to your homes in Athens and Babylon?"
"It's quite clear to me, and it should have been quite clear to me a long time ago," Benjamin said, "Capitalism is just a game where individuals can use property to make them servants to their private empires, just as Hammurabi and Solon do to their own people."
"But I'm a Capitalist," Roz said, "What's wrong with me having my own garden to tend every morning before departing for the bloodshed of your liberty?"
"Before you finish, Roz, let Emma answer," Agent 354 said, "You know why the Anarcho-Capitalist wants to stay in Anarchia. Now let's get an answer out of the Anarcho-Communist."
"Communism is the same game as Capitalism," Emma said, "It's about using the seal of Officialdom and Bureaucracy to steal the fruits of another's labor while contributing nothing to the great masses."
"I'm a Communist," Pan said, "Why can't we workers have a right to the factories that we built together, that we manage together, that wouldn't exist at all unless we had the fortitude, the will, and the power to coordinate together?"
"You see now," Spargo said, "There is a big difference between Communism, as you and I believe in it, Pan, versus the Communism of the so-called Anarcho-Communist. You going to let Emma break up the city whenever she wants to and for whatever reason at all?"
"It's good for the mind to realize that, every now and then, you can be wrong, no matter how brilliant you are," the Philosopher said.
"What instigated you to all of this anyway?" Agent 354, "Why would you take so much trouble to keep together these Anarchists?"
"Some serve causes, some serve their own needs, and others serve themselves," the Philosopher said.
"What did you say about Capitalism, Benjamin?" Roz asked, "That it was nothing more than a ploy to steal from hard-working people? Is that what you think about me? While you're here arguing and bickering and disagreeing, while I'm out there in fields and amidst the trees sacrificing every convenience for our city's sanctuary, while the Greek and Babylonian armies get closer and closer, while all of this is happening, you decide that Capitalists, and people like me, just want to use possession as a means to exploit other people?"
"What gives you the right to ask those questions?" Emma asked.
"They have every right to ask them!" the Philosopher screamed, "They asked those questions when they showed here to help the city. You didn't answer them then, you can't answer them now. Even I asked that question, only nobody thought it was asked politely enough to merit a response. You were all busy getting on with your Revolution. What some old crazy man in the corner had to say was unimportant."
"We were at war," Emma said, "We didn't have time for words, only time for fighting. Maybe you had time for speaking, but our lives demanded that we make time for struggle."
"Each one of us could have died if we spent time listening to your arguments instead of using that time to sharpen our blades," Benjamin said, "Communist or Capitalist doesn't matter much at a time like that, when those who believe in liberty are your family and those who oppose it want to kill your family."
"You you you!" Roz spit to the ground, "You make decisions for yourself, not the group, Emma. You do what you want, not what anyone else wants you to do, Benjamin. It's all about you, like some cafe intellectuals who don't know a single thing about work. You were going to break up an entire civilization just because of what you personally felt at heart? Don't you think you should consult someone who believes in dying for what you feel? Don't you think it matters what true Capitalists believe in terms of choosing who to fight with and who to fight against? Why should I have confidence in you, when you have no confidence in me? Why should I suffer for you, when you don't say a word in my defense?"
"I have the same questions for both of you, Emma and Benjamin," Pan looked up from his disgust, "Here you are, these two statues and monuments of your own ideological faith, both of them Revolutionary Anarchist, one leaning to the Left and the other leaning to the Right, but neither of them really pointing in any one direction and neither of them really certain where they're going. As soon as you lose that common weight holding you both together, you drift apart in your own directions and apart from each other. You're like children that need to be looked after. You want to know why Communists like me believe in Marxism? It's because workers like you waste and disperse your energies so quickly and in such a frenzied, mad-rush, mob mentality."
"What's come over both of you?" Emma said, "We've agreed to keep the city together."
"We're here together, as Communist or Capitalist," Benjamin said, "But all of us are Anarchists. We all believe in liberty. That's the only faith our city needs."
Roz and Pan looked to each other for a moment, and then turned back to their audience. "If you're going to break up this city so quickly and without so much as a thought to send for my opinion, then we don't want you here."
"Get out, both of you," Pan said, "Take your huddled masses with you. The only people we want here are those who are going to fight for liberty, and who won't take the decision into their own hands to break up an entire city without calling for a vote."
"You're seriously joking!" Benjamin said, "You can't make us leave. This is our city."
"Before or after you decided to break it up?" Roz said, "Because Pan and I never decided to split our city in half. You did. Now stand up to the promise. The First and Second Anarchist Armies will assist you out, if you have trouble getting to the front gates."
"You're going to force us out!?" Emma said, "How can you be Anarchists and use force against civilians!?"
"How can you be an Anarchist and make a decision that effects in the most crucial and intimate ways that millions of people will live?" Pan asked, "Your continued presence here is just more and more of a threat to us."
"Roz, what did you ever want out of your fight with Hammurabi?" Benjamin asked, "What did you think you were going to get out of fighting with the person who made you First Officer, then Lieutenant, then Captain, then Major, then General?"
"I'd answer the question, if I knew I wasn't talking to some vagrant," Roz said, "Because even if we let you stay here, you'd just want to break up the remaining human resources available for our armies and the tilling of our fields."
"Would you answer the question, if you knew that Truth wanted to know?" the Philosopher asked, "And if you're so harsh on vagrants, what are you going to do with me?"
"You don't want to break up our city, so you're not a threat," Roz said, "Asking what to do with someone who comes here to talk versus what to do with someone who tears down the city's defensive walls is like asking what to do with water versus fire. And you want to know why I'd fight Hammurabi? Maybe it's because I know the true evil inside of him, because I've been closer to him than any other human being in this city. Ben, if you want to go cuddle up next to your master, the door's open. You can leave any time."
"We have prerogative here!" Emma said, "We were here first!"
"Prerogative is the word of kings and queens, and you're no queen, Emma," Roz said, "Get out now, or you'll be forced to leave." Several contingents of archers from the First and Second Anarchist Armies took to the roofs of several residences and raised their bows in the air. "Get out! You filthy vermin, you couldn't keep a city safe on its own and even by yourself, you want to destroy it! Get out, get out, get out!!"
"Like Roz, I don't get you Communists, but I'd never tell you to ask someone for what you should be just taking for yourself," Benjamin replied, "Why do you need to demand or even ask for anything? You're the biggest obstacle to getting your own wishes, and you're too busy relying on those around you to realize it."
"In Athens, we believe in equality so much, that we've equalized everything -- even knowledge is equally held, so there's on point in building a pillar with the rules on every street corner. That seems like an awkward thing for an Anarchist to be proud of. Are you even sure that you're really an Anarchist?"
"Are you even sure of that yourself!? I haven't seen more conformity and rigidity than in the lifestyle and order of Athens."
"The only conformity and rigidity you can be proud of in Babylon is poverty and servility, and just look at the trouble you Capitalists had getting the philosopher to visit your city."
"Please, don't let any of the responsibility for this evening's proceedings to fall on me," the Philosopher said, "But at the same time, I don't think any of you should be doing any of this. Stop, don't break into halves, or thirds, or quarters. Stop, don't do it,"
"I've never listened to anyone who told me to stop before, and I'm not going to start now," Benjamin said.
"You're not going to listen to truth?"
"If the revolution moves forward, and the truth doesn't want to come along, then so be it," Emma replied.
"You're going in the wrong direction."
"The revolution has always moved in the same direction -- always forward, never backward; no struggle without the experience to overcome it, no victory without the enlightenment to appreciate it," Ben said.
"You're going to argue with a compass about which way is north?"
"Why do you disagree with everyone all the time?" Emma asked, "You disagreed with us when we decided to build an Anarchist City, but didn't say a thing when we defied the two most powerful empires in the world. You disagreed with us when we accepted Pan and Roz, but didn't say a word when they brought us to victory. And now you're disagreeing with us when we want to split up, and once you see the good that comes out of it, I bet you won't say a single word."
"You can't expect the guardian of truth to judge people," the Philosopher replied, "Someone like me can only ask the right questions about the right problems. And on that note, what makes you think that criticizing my character is going to help you find what you and the Anarcho-Communists need?"
"Maybe I didn't say it because I thought it would help me," Emma replied, "Maybe I just said it because I needed to say it to you."
"I remember you thanked me once, for this city," the Philosopher said, "And all I did was ask the right questions in the right order."
"Curiosity was just a spark to our little Revolution here in Anarchia," Emma said, "You don't even know what I will be able to accomplish once I participate in the next revolt. An Anarchist Revolution without Capitalist influence -- that will be very different from what you have seen so far."
"That last part, I don't doubt it a bit," the Philosopher replied.
"That's good," Emma said, "You doubt too much."
"The world has always been yours. If you think that just now you're reclaiming it, then you may want to consider other perspectives," the Philosopher responded.
"And now it's time for us to break up this little party we've been holding," Benjamin said, "It's time for Emma and I to split up and accept our differences. It's time for Roz and Pan to fight until not a single soldier on their cause stands. And you, Philosopher, I'm assuming you have a chart of villages that you're always needed at, or at least, you always believe you're needed there, so that's probably where you'll be hurrying to next. With your kind, it's really impossible to tell. Philosophy has made you like a permanent transient."
"You ever hear the phrase, 'a rolling rock gathers no moss'?" the Philosopher asked, "What do you think that means?"
"I'm pretty certain it means that someone who keeps traveling from place to place will never get any friends or loved ones," Benjamin said, "They'll simply fall off."
"I was actually just walking through that trail over the mountain that comes to town, thinking just that very same thing," the Philosopher said, "I stumbled across a patch of moss. It wasn't even bound to the ground. It was just this loose patch of moss that was getting kicked around, would soak up some nutrients from the ground, some water from the rain, some light from the sun, and then get kicked again another twenty feet away, without so much as a thought from the traveling strange or a reaction from the unexpecting moss. If moss is so loose and can't attach itself easily, don't think it's the moss's fault that a rolling rock gathers no moss? Mud sticks to a rolling rock just fine! What the hell is wrong with moss like you that you don't have enough in you to stick to someone who knows where they're going and travels fast?"
"Mud doesn't grow, though," Emma said, "It never turns green, it always remains its unpleasant self, a type of nothingness on this earth besides the air. Trying to brag about mud sticking to you, as though it were a living, growing creature close next to you, is like bragging that the air travels through you and in you."
"If the air never traveled through you and into you before, then yes, it is worth bragging about," the Philosopher replied, "Maybe you forgot where started, where we're all going to end. By then, there will by neither the rolling of my rock, nor the lack of inclination on your part to attach to it. There will be dust where I lay, and dirt where you lay. We shall be the perfect mixture for someone, at some distant point, to roll right over us, and while the moss fails to attach to that rolling beast of stone, you and I shall attach to it quite nicely and without a single bit of disagreement."
"Never underestimate the ability of an old man to ruin a conversation with visions based on ideas based on popularly-known sayings," Benjamin smiled.
"And your flower will wilt, too," the Philosopher said, "It will also turn to dirt, just like everything else around you now. There's a chance that rolling rocks in the future might just pick up a little bit of you, too. Even if you don't want it, they'll find your words and your sentences, broken and shattered by this cruel and merciless war you're getting yourselves into -- and they might just put those phrases back in order, and they might just reconstruct your paragraphs, and they might even figure out what you were thinking. They'll pick it up. They need to -- they have to. The immediate future is narrow and bleak, but the whole of humanity's future is wide and open."
"This is your fault, Philosopher," Pan said, "You don't have either the resolution or the character to defend your own family."
"I don't know why you ever came up to this hilltop to talk with a bunch of Anarchists, anyway," Roz said, "But now you've caused all of us and our own families so much trouble and misery."
"I came here to keep your city together, like you two claimed to desire," the Philosopher said, "But now you have it, whatever it is that you wanted. Good luck. I'm sure you'll both think I'm being facetious about that, but I'm not. Now I must leave." The old man disappeared out from the masses.
"Those who want to stay with us, follow Pan and I. We are going to continue the struggle against any aggressions made by the twin empires of Capitalism and Communism," Roz spoke, "We will need to farm the fields, where raids can be expected at any time from any opposing army, because we lack the human resources to specialize in either agriculture or military, but this is something that can be done."
"That's fine," said one farmer, "We're Anarchists, so, being ready to drop everything and fight comes naturally to us."
"Yes, yes..." Roz rubbed his chin and hesitated for a moment as he thought to himself, "Sure, right, we are still Anarchists. We're still an Anarchist Army." As that group of fighters huddled around their lit fires, the few sources of light in an abandoned city, the night flew over them, and the moon passed with its greetings.