“Every citizen silently, but never the less certainly, sustains the government of the day in ways of which he has no knowledge. Every citizen, therefore, renders himself responsible for every act of his government.”
“No action which is not voluntary can be called moral….Any action that is dictated by fear or by coercion of any kind ceases to be moral….Freedom of the individual is at the root of all progress.”
Dystopia 3: Detained
DJ felt the air on his face and knew immediately that something was wrong. The air was too still. Stale. Not the baking hot but fresh air he was used to. He struggled with himself not to open his eyes. To wait and listen first. To do what Gerry would have told him to do. Where was Gerry? He did not feel the presence of another man’s body near his or the sound of another man’s breathing close by. DJ’s mind began to clear slowly. Was he hurt? He felt an aching pain in his gut with each breath but otherwise he could not detect any problems. He was extremely thirsty but that was normal. Fragments of memory began to come to him. Dinner time. Lining up. Captured!! Thrown in a cell. His head hitting the floor.
Panic heightened the pain in DJ’s gut. He was in the belly of the beast. Inside the fort! Inside!! DJ had lived all of his memorable life outside. The most shelter he had ever had was a tent or a cave. The air inside the fort was stifling to DJ. It was made infinitely worse by the knowledge that, once taken by Blackwaters, no one had ever returned. The people that were taken never showed up at the wall as guards or in Blackwater uniforms. Their bodies did not show up in the desert. Did they keep the other humans for food? That had been one of the theories. Was he about to become dinner for the rich who owned the fort??
DJ forced his thoughts to his immediate circumstances. Panic would not help him now. He had to find a way out. DJ heard nothing happening around him. There were no voices and nothing was moving. Slowly DJ began to stir. He could move all of his limbs and only his head and abdomen felt bruised. He raised his head and opened his eyes. His hand raised to his head. There was a small knot on his head.
The room was dimly lit from the hall and DJ was filled with a new and unfamiliar panic. Claustrophobia filled his mind with the singular longing to get out of the cell. He stood up and immediately felt a wave of nausea hit him. He sank back down and in time rose again more slowly. He began to cruise around the walls of his cell looking for an escape. The cell was a 6 ft square. There was a small cot next to the wall and a hole in the middle of the floor with a foul smell. There was a door opposite the bed but there was nothing to grip to open the door. DJ threw his weight against the door knowing it would not budge. Something outside the door stirred. DJ cursed himself for being so foolish. But then what else would delaying the inevitable get him?
The guard looked threw the barred hole in the door. “You awake maggot?… Good.” came a gruff voice outside the door. Then there were footsteps as the guard left. DJ was once again alone to examine his surrounding. Nothing new was discovered during this second exam except a small container of water. Water! DJ opened the container and began to gulp it down. He had just finished the container when he heard footsteps at the door of his cell. More than one pair this time.
The door lock groaned and then clanked into place the door was pushed open. DJ pressed himself into a corner on the opposite side of the door. He was now certain that he was going to slaughter.
“Uuggh. I always forget the smell.” The new guard exclaimed. “Alright you, time to get you cleaned up.” Two of the guards entered the room and grabbed DJ. He had no where to run. He kicked and fought until the first guard lifted the butt of the rifle. “You want it again maggot?” DJ starred at the rifle as though mesmerized. He recognized the guard who had struck him outside. He remembered the shock of the rifle butt hitting his abdomen. He stopped struggling and allowed the guards to move him into the hall. There was no where to run in the cell anyway. He needed to get out to find his way back to Gerry and the others.
The guards led him into the hall and began to march him to the left. A row of doors now stretched out in front of him. He could hear rustling in some of the cells. From one of the cells a male voice called out, “Don’t worry. They bring you back. You’ll be OK.”
“Shut up.” The left handed guard pounded on the door as he passed.
DJ smiled and relaxed a little. Maybe he was not going to be eaten….not today anyway.
“Damn outsiders. Don’t know how lucky you are. Don’t appreciate all that we give you maggots.” The left guard, the one with the all purpose rifle butt, complained. The guard on the right was silent.
At the end of the hall, the guard on his right stepped forward to unlock the door. DJ considered making a run for it but he had no idea what was on the other side of the door. The right guard took up his position and marched DJ threw the door and then down a second long hall and up one flight of stairs. Past some more doors and through the door at the end of the hall into a small chamber with moisture on the floor. DJ stared at the wet floor. How had someone managed to spill this much water?
Across from the door where DJ had entered there were bent tubes coming out of the wall a foot and a half off the ground. Brushes hung on hooks above that. There were strips of cloth, which looked like small tarps to DJ, folded on shelves to the side and a stack of buckets next to that.
“OK maggot. Time to lose those rags you call clothes. Get undressed.”
Was it more convenient to slaughter him naked? DJ’s eyes went wide.
“I said undress.” The guard reached up and yanked at DJ’s clothing ripping his thread bare shirt. Confused and totally disoriented by his surroundings DJ’s hands trembled as he undid his shirt and let it fall to the ground. The left guard smiled, “Knew I got you good.” DJ followed his eyes to his right side which was purple.
The right hand guard calmly pointed to his pants. DJ looked at him and the guard spoke for the first time. “Go ahead. Take ‘um off. You’ll be alright.” The guard looked bored but not angry. He did not look like a killer. The left guard DJ was less certain of. With no alternative, DJ undid his pants and let them drop. “The shoes too.” DJ complied. Left guard kicked DJ’s things to the back corner of the room with an obvious look of disgust.
The right guard swung his weapon over his back and grabbed a bucket. He took the bucket to one of the tubes in the wall. He filled the bucket half way with water using a spigot above the tube. DJ was no longer thirsty but he would of course not waist the water. This was an unexpected present from these cruel men.
The bucket was set before DJ and he was told to kneel. He complied. The left guard grabbed a brush off the wall and a small square of tan material from a shelf next to the tarps. To DJ’s shock he dipped the brush in the bucket. The water barely covered the bristles.
“OK maggot. Here is how it’s done.” He drew the brush out of the water and it dripped on the floor. DJ rapidly cupped his hands under the brush to save the water from dripping on the floor. The guard grunted in amusement. “All the same, you guys from outside. Hicks.” The guard shook his head and then rubbed the tan brick over the brush. He grabbed DJ by the left hand and began to scrub his arm with too much enthusiasm with the bush. DJ’s skin cried out with the rough treatment. Then, to DJ’s horror he started to put the brush back in the water. DJ panicked and knocked the brush out of the guard’s hand. The guard back handed DJ, cursed him and went to grab the brush. DJ scrambled up and grabbed the bucket. He dipped his right hand in and brought it to his lips. If he could drink all of the water before this insane man befouled it then maybe the water would not go to waste.
“God. They are all the same.” The guard roughly knocked him away from the bucket. “Look if you are really thirsty we will get you a drink as soon as you’re done. But first you get that stench off of you. I am not in the mood to scrub your filthy ass so you are going to have to learn to do this yourself, maggot.” This time the guard slapped the tan bar in DJ’s hand and the brush in the other hand. The soapy water dipped down DJ’s hand and on to his wrist. DJ instinctively bent down to lick the water from his wrist but stopped the second the water hit his tongue. The intensely bitter water burned his tongue.
The guard forced DJ’s hand to the bucket. DJ resisted befouling the water but the guard raised his hand to punch him again and DJ allowed his hand with the brush to be dipped in the water. The guard then forced his other hand with the soap over the bush. He then indicated that DJ was to scrub the other arm. Without alternatives, and the water already befouled, DJ did so.
“OK. Now you do the rest of you….All of you.”
DJ began to scrub the rest of his body. He had to admit, after the shock of what the guard wanted him to do, the task was not unpleasant. The water was cool and the feeling of the salt and dust leaving his skin was interesting and strangely invigorating. The soap was somewhat irritating though and left his skin slightly red. “The hair too.” The right guard stated without emotion. DJ scrubbed his head and beard last.
The left guard took the brush from him and dipped it in the water. DJ still felt emotional as the brush was allowed to drip all the way to its hook on the wall. The right guard then stood with the bucket. “Close your eyes.” DJ looked up at him terrified. Is this where the blow to the head would come from? Now that he had cleaned himself with their bizarre ritual. “You’ll be fine.” The guard promised. DJ looked away from the guard and closed his eyes. A sudden burst of cold and wet exploded across his head and down his back. DJ stood up shocked. His hands went instinctively to his face and wiped the soapy water away from his eyes and mouth. He shook his head to clear his hair.
When he opened his eyes the right guard was filling up the bucket again and grabbing a cup with a long handle off of the wall. The drink they had promised him. DJ waited for the guards return, calmer now. The right guard stood to the right of DJ again and DJ began to raise his hands expecting to receive a cup full of water to drink. Instead the guard began to dump the water on DJ’s horrified head. This was clean water! The guard began to explain, “That’s lye soap you just used. If you leave it on your skin it will peel the hide right off your back. You need to rinse it all off.” He thrust the ladle in DJ’s hand and held out the bucket for him. DJ’s trembling and unsure hand dipped into the bucket and poured a second ladleful over his head and down his back. The guard held out the bucket again and indicated DJ’s arms and then his legs. DJ watched mournfully as the dirty water disappeared down the drain in the center of the floor.
When the bucket was empty the left guard tossed him a mini tarp. “Dry off with the towel.” When DJ stood staring without comprehension the guard grunted and shook his head again. “Hick.” He pantomimed what DJ was supposed to do. DJ complied. The “towel” was covered in dirt after DJ was done despite the bath. After the guards seemed to be satisfied, DJ turned to put on his clothes.
“Whoa cowboy. Gett’in you clean would be a waste of time if you put those back on. Those have a date with the furnace, pal.” They led him away from his clothes and into the next room. For a moment he was afraid that his stay here would be without clothes at all. There were worse things in the world but that made DJ feel strangely uncomfortable and even more vulnerable than his current situation. However, the guards did not seem any more at ease with DJ’s nudity than DJ was, averting their eyes from him as they walked him to another room.
In the next room there was a series of shelves with tan shirts and pants of various sizes. The right guard held up a shirt to DJ’s chest and decided it would work and handed it to him. DJ’s mother had insisted on teaching DJ to read so he was one of the few on the outside of the fort that could read the word painted on the back of the shirt—“Trainee”. He also chose a set of pants and tossed them to DJ. The pants were simple and tied at the top instead of buttoning so they would fit a wide range of sizes. Once DJ was dressed the guard indicated that DJ should sit on a shelf and lift his foot. DJ did so and the guard grabbed a series of home made sandals and held them up to DJ’s feet. Satisfied with one of the sets he instructed DJ to put them on. Chagrined that his good boots, that he had repaired many times, were apparently gone for good, DJ complied.
The guards then took him on another trip down the corridors. DJ began to smell delicious smells down the hall. He had missed dinner and judging from the light streaming in through the windows in the corridor it was near noon the next day. He involuntarily raised his head to take in the smell better.
“I thought so.” The right guard said. The sounds of conversation filled the hall from the room ahead of them and on the left. The room was large and filled with men in the same tan “trainee” uniform as DJ. No women or kids. Only men, DJ noted. Maybe they held the women elsewhere. The men were lined up in front of a window with plates and silver. This scene was familiar to DJ. The men were getting fed. There were more guards in here. Standing around the perimeter. They seemed relatively at ease though. This was easy duty for them. The men in the room looked around as DJ entered the room with the guards. The word “newbie” rustled through the crowd. DJ scanned their faces and was thrilled to see that he recognized most of them. “DJ!” a man with a big smile shouted and waved at him.
“Matt!” DJ uttered, surprised to see the man in front of him. DJ was instantly reassured. Matt had disappeared months ago and he was still alive and not eaten! But out of the corners of his eyes he did notice other faces. Faces that looked at him with pity and not the joy that Matt did.
Matt left his place in the line and came over to DJ. He seemed unconcerned about the armed guards. “DJ, how the hell are you!” Matt extended his hand. DJ glanced at the guards but they gave no reaction. He took Matt’s hand and beamed at him. “Not so bad.” And then, “Wet though.”
“I hear ya. You’ll learn to love bath night every couple of weeks or so after you’ve been here a while, though.” Matt laughed. “It’s cool Rick. I’ll take him through the line.” Matt said to the right guard. The right guard answered, “He has to go back to his cell for the day. Training does not start until tomorrow for this one.” DJ cringed at the idea of going back to the confinement and stale air of the cell.
“Come back after lunch and take him. I’m sure you got other things to do ain’t ya?” Rick, AKA right guard, shrugged and ambled away with left guard.
Matt guided DJ to the end of the food line. He showed him where the trays were and the plates and utensils. They stood in line and DJ eyed Matt carefully. “Why are we here, Mat?” DJ finally asked.
“Never one fer chit chat were ya, DJ?”
The Concepts Behind the Fiction:
“Why do men obey?” –Gene Sharp
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” —Albert Einstien
Why did DJ stay at the fort as other workers disappeared and he suspected that they were becoming food? Why did any of them stay? Why didn’t they over turn the forts at some point before they achieved all this power?
Why do we fight wars that will not benefit us and clearly will benefit those in power that have made the decision to go to war in the first place? Why do we allow our government to tell us for years that there is no money for health care or education and then turn around and give trillions to the banking industry the second it is in trouble?
No, really…why weren’t their people in the streets banging pots and pans yelling, “¡Que se vayan todos!” (“They all must go!) about our leadership? It happened in Argentina–a country with a history of disappearing people who did not agree with their point of view. More recently it happened in Iceland. Why not here in the States where I can actually write and publish these words from the comfort of my home?
Many people have looked at the complex relationship we have with authority. Some have sought to understand it’s dark roots or even to manipulate it. Even with some success as Ghandi’s life proves. He stood toe to toe with the most powerful empire of the day and forced them to leave his country with only the power of ideas. I think that it is no accident that both he and Hitler lived at the same time. One giving us ultimate good and the other dedicated to ultimate evil but both giving us the same lesson. The power of words and ideas.
Since Ghandi, many movements have used these ideas to achieve remarkable ends against long odds…South African blacks, Afro-Americans under M. L. King, even the Dalai Lama seems to be attempting this with minimal success for his beloved Tibet.
For a more indepth look at the psychology of authority, check out some of these links:
The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy
According to Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) the U.S. government has already committed to spending 9.7 trillion dollars on our current financial crisis. According to one of his guests on Democracy Now!, Michael Hudson, the number is closer to 12 trillion dollars. Most of that 12 trillion dollars is going to banks and financial institutions that are responsible for this collapse. As publicized by the media most of the people receiving the money are astronomically wealthy and feel entitled to it. So entitled that they gave themselves bonuses and retreats for a job so poorly done. You, the tax payer will have to pay off your mortgage to the bank, and pay off the toxic assests that are about to be consolidated into a bad bank with your tax dollars, and pay off the interest on the money that was given to the banks because that money came from bonds loaned from foreign investors. You, your children and your childrens’ children will be pay this debt for decades to come.
But what if the government by and for the people had not kowtowed to the rich and elite in America? What if they had given each and every American that money instead? Twelve trillion dollars, by the way, is close to the total amount of mortgage debt in America. Your share would be about $42,000. What would you have done with that money? Probably you would not have gone on retreat or given it to an employee who lost your company a phenomenal amount of money, bringing your business to the brink of destruction.
For example, the GDP, total output, of the U.S.A. is $12.6 trillion, which divided by 300 million, yields a per-capita GDP of $42,000. By comparison, the world GDP is about $61 trillion, which for about 6.55 billion persons is a global per-capita GDP of about $9,300.–Share the World’s Recources
My family has 3 members. Our family would have recieved $128,000. Enough to pay off a mortgage. This money could have been issued as a voucher for mortgages or to acquire a new home mortgage if you were a renter. The banks would have ended up with the money and the toxic debt would likely have gone away. A reset with the same amount of money that likely would have worked because it would have made you a good loan risk again. Why didn’t we take that route? Why didn’t we force our government to take that route?
What if they had given it to you as cash with no strings attached, as the original bailout was given to the banks? You could have paid off your mortgage, true, but I have other creative suggestions:
1.) You and some of your friends could buy and run a local business for profit.
2.) You and alot of your friends could buy many businesses of the same sort and run them as a national corporation that will not out source itself because all the owners live here.
3.) You and some of your friends who don’t have a mortgage could pool your money and loan money to other people in the local area for an interest rate that was better than that being offered by banks but also protecting your money and giving you better interest than most 401K’s. Kinda boggles the mind doesn’t it? Perhaps no one has written more about authority and undermining it than Gene Sharp:
Clearly the question of why people obey is central to understanding the dynamics of political power. Sharp lists seven reasons:
1. Habit: In my opinion habit is the main reason people do not question the actions their “superiors” expect of them. Habitual obedience is embedded in all cultures. After all, isn’t that what culture is—habitual behavior?
2. Fear of sanctions: It is the fear of sanctions, rather than the sanctions themselves, that is most effective in enforcing obedience.
3. Moral obligation: This “inner constraining power” is the product of cultural programming and deliberate indoctrination by the state, church and media.
4. Self interest: The potential for financial gain and enhanced prestige can entice people to obey.
5. Psychological identification with the ruler: People may feel an emotional tie with the leader or the system, experiencing its victories and defeats as their own. The most common manifestations of this are patriotism and nationalism.
6. Zones of indifference: People often obey commands without consciously questioning their legitimacy.
7. Absence of self-confidence: Some people prefer to hand control of their lives over to the ruling class. They may feel inadequate to make their own decisions.
When analyzing human obedience the psychological factor is decisive. Domination and submission are psychological states of mind. Those who argue against the use of nonviolent tactics like demonstrations or petitions, claiming that they are merely symbolic gestures, forget that power is symbolic as well. Withdrawing support, even symbolically, calls into question the props and illusions that hold Power up. Yet people are often ignorant of the power they hold, and governments conspire to maintain the illusion of their monolithic power, making their subjects feel helpless. Fragments–Discussing Gene Sharp’s Theories
Which one do you fall into? Why haven’t you asked for your share of that money? Refused to pay taxes? Called your Congressperson? Banged pots and pans in front of City Hall?
Alright, I know I harp on this a lot. The importance of water was recently brought home to me. I usually live in the State of Jefferson, but my day job has brought me to Arizona for the last few years. During my time here, I have lived in a town that literally ran out of water. For weeks the town’s people got their water from an emergency water truck parked down town. We put it into large containers to haul home. You have no idea how much water you use until you are in a situation like that.
Now I live in another town where I have to “haul water”. That means that there is a 2500 gallon tank in the back yard and a guy with a large truck comes to put 2000 gallons of water in the tank. Kind of like propane or fuel oil in other parts of the country. Current price for this service is $75. Just to let you know our family of 3 uses 2000 gallons in 3 weeks. That is less than half of what the average American (4410 gal) uses. We do not live particularly hard but there are things that I had to get used to, like no dishwasher, reusing water for watering plants, and not flushing the toilet every time. (I know. Gross.)
The other thing that I had to get used to is watching others waste water that I have now learned to hold dear. When I see someone in a wash room letting the water run it bothers me on an emotional level. It actually makes me anxious. I am uneasy when I am in a hotel and I hear someone in a near by room taking a long shower. Even though I know I used to do all of those things.
One of the worst things that the IPCC is predicting is a loss of fresh water in the future. We are currently living well outside our means when it comes to water. We are using up our ground water faster than it is regenerating. So much so that there are earthquakes in China due to the emptying of aquifers and salt water is being sucked into the fresh water aquifers throughout the world.
Major corporations are trying to capture a market in water, forseeing coming shortages. The companies that monopolizes oil could do the same thing to water. How different would the world look if every gallon of water was as precious as a gallon of oil is now?
Opening Skinner’s Box by Lauren Slate
The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo
Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston
The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten
The Great Turning by David Korten
Deep Economy by Bill McKibben
The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman
Flow by Maude Barlow
Blue Gold by Sam Bozzo
Dune by Frank Herbert