Tag Archive | totalitarianism

The Useful Idiot: The Circle

Absolute freedom and absolute tyranny both can be defined and enforced starting with the individual.  If the individual is not free, neither is society as a whole. If individuals are tyrannical without resistance, society eventually becomes tyrannical. Both the left and right sides of the political spectrum often use the term “useful idiots” to refer to those individuals who are fanatical to a fault in believing in the cause of their respective sides. These individuals are useful in the sense that without them tyranny would not gain a foothold and fools in the sense that they willfully ignore the truth and fail to anticipate the larger picture for the future.

The Circle by Dave Eggers (now a movie starring Emma Watson) tells the story of one useful, unthinking idiot, generally a progressive, but only in the sense that she wants to be part of the “in” crowd. The readers gets the feeling this twenty-something, Mae, would joyfully promote whatever was deemed to be popular and eagerly becomes part of and instigator in what can best be described as a “happy” fascism (see Hitler happy face on Jonah Goldberg’s bestseller Liberal Fascism). Her story instantly brings to mind the timeless quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

I read The Circle in about a day and a half. The book consumed me and I think not unlike the unhealthy way that media in general can consume an individual’s attention. It is a horror story in the purest sense, relating our own eagerness to create hell on earth and highlighting that whatever technology humans create, there is always, always a downside. That Egger’s writing reels the reader into being able not to do much but read the story, he is genius in recreating the addictiveness of entertainment and the desire to “know.”

The Circle fits into two story genres for me, the first and perhaps more benign one of young people (often women) obtaining a dream job in which the company consumes their life, draining and using them up all for the almighty dollar. This story belongs alongside The Firm and The Devil Wears Prada as much as it also belongs with 1984. The second category, those stories of totalitarianism is what makes The Circle rise far above the first genre.  In reading the story, those who are well-read or have seen totalitarian films or movies will find instant parallels to 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Minority Report, The Giver, Antitrust, and thousands of other, similar stories.

Mae’s useful idiocy in The Circle is truly amazing. The Circle is a modern tech company with tentacles in every conceivable human endeavor, clearly symbolic of Google, Facebook, Apple, and the like. The story is so horrifying because the consuming nature of social media and modern technology has become evident to all. People spend thousands of hours a year (including myself) scrolling through news feeds, trying out new apps, liking and disliking, and commenting on topics we know little about. We see daily how our privacy is constantly infringed upon, whether it be yet another requirement in airport security or cameras installed (with or without our knowledge) in our neighborhood. This is presumably all to keep us safe, but leaves us more vulnerable than every to tyranny.

Useful idiots are hard to resist because together they make up millions and millions of people.  Technology makes it easy to become disconnected to reality. Just think of all the people rapidly accepting the Transgender movement without question. It’s easy to take on a cause online. One doesn’t have to think or research or actually comprehend the larger picture. With social media, it is also increasingly easy to think that “online” equals reality. Think of when Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of girls in Africa. What was our response?  The #bringbackourgirls hashtag for Twitter. The Circle parodies this perfectly as Mae “frowns” at a militant group terrorizing another country and then becomes concerned that the militant group will, first of all care that she is virtually frowning at them, and second of all, take steps to stop their behavior. Laughably, she also worries that they will physically try to target and attack her due to her one “frown” among millions of others.

To perhaps highlight just how unthinking Mae is, Eggers shows her as a young woman eager to sleep with almost anyone, even those she’s really not attracted to. This relates directly to the social justice nonsense that people are some how “-ist” (racist, agist, sexist) if they have preferences along race, gender and so on for romantic partners. Just as Mae feels bad if she doesn’t instantly reply to any message from anyone around the world in The Circle system, it’s no jump to figure she would feel just as bad rejecting any of the same people’s sexual advances. One of her partners seems to only use her for sex and then suddenly, inexplicably, relies on her to save the planet from tyranny. Mae isn’t the only useful idiot, just the one we happen to follow in the story.

The part where The Circle implements “instant democracy” is profound. Mae herself still can’t just immediately mark or voice her opinion. She (who has a lot of influence and power by this time) waits until others have given their “smiles” or “frowns” before she herself chooses the most popular option. If there was one thing I could change about modern education it would be to have a class clearly discussing and explaining to young minds just what democracy is and means. Pure democracy isn’t much different from mob rule and the only reason the young champion it is because they are young and are being taught by totalitarians. If all of one’s opinions match perfectly with those already in power, it is easy to think that pure democracy is a great thing. It’s easy to think that the governments have every right to force their citizens to speak or even to think a certain way.

The true horror of The Circle is that it is an all-knowing, all-seeing, mandatory participation system created and run by humans. If atheists think God is awful or should be disbelieved for demanding holiness, they should consider the alternative: humanity trying to be God.  This is the “god” that Satan would have for the world. In this Tower of Babel system, people have no chance to opt out, no rest from interference from their fellow humans, and perhaps most importantly, no forgiveness and no real love.  It is an evil that Boromir of Lord of the Rings would say “does not sleep.”

As harsh, or rather as just as God is, for love of us, He made a way out of punishment and eternal damnation. In Hell, there is no God and no forgiveness. Hell’s inhabitants have no relief from the evil they have done and that is the basis of their torment. We joke that everyone online is permanent, but it’s really no joke, and past information on people (especially of a political nature) is often used as a weapon against them and by all sides.

The invasive tracking of the individual in The Circle also brings to mind biblical prophesies like that in Revelation in which people are forced to wear the “mark of the beast” to buy or sell anything. The ironic thing about constant surveillance and tracking is that it is at the same time very inept. If the NSA tracks our every keystroke, in looking for the criminals, their haystack is impossibly huge. In addition, even though the information is in the “cloud” or “ether,” it still needs a physical space to be stored and itself uses a ton of physical resources. Talk about a burden on nature.

The Circle was so horrifying to me because it’s not so much telling the future, but telling what’s going on right now. The good thing is that people are becoming tired of social media. The bad thing is, once the next big social media site has a foothold, the obsession will start all over again. It’s at once great and also terrifying technology. People are peer-pressured into only sharing positive things online. People are increasingly (myself included) mistaken in the importance of their own opinions and thoughts. People are pushed into holding up only the popular or politically correct views and are more and more afraid of listening to any other views. In fact, young people especially, are starting to believe that any view that doesn’t conform with their own, or that of their college professors, is dangerous, and–even more remarkably–as physically dangerous to their person. This is where the “snowflake” accusation comes into play. We are attempting to make the world into a place where no negative or bad thing is spoken, seen, heard, or felt.  However, as any realist knows, this is futile. It is impossible to erase all of the bad things in the world and it is impossible to make utopia. This experiment is bound to fail in the long run, and worse than failure, will likely end with totalitarian oppression that must be overturned with physical violence. If one side will not listen to the other, if we “don’t use our words” as Stefan Molyneux often says, “we must use our fists.” This is no more clearly shown in episodes like that of the Berkeley riots against anyone on the “right” side of the political spectrum, and the rise of Antifa, purportedly a group against fascism, but fascistic itself and prone to physical violence against anyone who merely disagrees with them. Brave new world indeed.

If Not Now, When?

Hey blogging world, I’m back again and with a perhaps controversial musing to kick things off.  Well, what’s not controversial today, right?  As I’ve finally wrestled most of my procrastination into submission, I am finally done with a good, clean first draft of Trolls for Dust, Season Two.  It will still be a few months before I publish and I have to fix some things, proofread, get a few critiques, etc., but to those of you who have been waiting for what may seem like forever to learn the fate of Harmony, Hezzy, Eva, and crew — I’ve not forgotten either about you or the story!

Ok, on with the musing:

The world is marching towards Totalitarianism which is a governmental system requiring complete and total submission to the State.  If you’ve never read 1984, now would be a really good time.  In that book, citizens not only have to do what the government says, they have to love doing it.  This march is being accomplished largely by Progressivism which embraces the State as a god and disregards morality, human life, religion, common sense, and the family all in a long grand march Forward for power.  And it is power for themselves the Progressives want, not “equality” or whatever compassionate word of the day they spout.  The most frightening thing about all of this is that few appear to see it happening and some that do just want to stick their heads in the sand and hope it will all go away.

Ever watch the cartoon Pinky and the Brain?  In each episode Pinky asks “What are we gonna do tonight, Brain?”  And Brain always responds, “We’re going to try and take over the world,” or a similar response.  The world is a lot like that cartoon in the sense that someone, some Totalitarian, some tyrant or tyrants are always trying to take over the world.  Totalitarians go under different names such as Communists, Fascists, Islamists, Progressives and the like, but they all have one thing in common:  All these ideologies require compliance down to our very thoughts, if possible.

I am writing this post today to encourage people to speak out against what’s happening, because if not now, when?  Do we do it when the thought police, yes, thought police, invade our homes in the middle of the night? (Already happened — I’m looking at you, Wisconsin).  Until our freedom of speech is threatened? (Already happening, just look up the latest weekly outrage on either the Left or the Right)  Until our freedom of religion is threatened? (Already happening)  Until we have a literal gun of the State to our heads?  I think speaking up for the truth and our beliefs (whatever those may be) is the least we can do.  The world may march onward into darkness, but we don’t have to lie down and make that march an easy one.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak boldly, especially with your family and friends.  You may find you disagree on more than you realized, and that’s ok.  When the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan, where the people closest to you are going to stand could be important.  It’s also important to find out why others believe what they do.  Do both sides have logical reasoning, or are both being carried only on emotion?  You may also pleasantly find that you agree on a lot, and maybe even on key things like liberty and the idea that the common man can generally rule himself and his own life.  It’s a sad world indeed we are making if two friends or family members can’t sit down and have a discussion or debate without getting ridiculously upset.  If we can discuss things with people we know, all the better for discussing and debating those we don’t know.  And, boy, do we need practice in debate.

I am a self-confessed comments junky.  I love reading online comments, especially on political articles or whatever the offensive thing of the day is.  In the comments, sure there’s sometimes a lot of meanness, but more often there’s quite a bit of humor, some good reasoning on both sides, and the comforting fact that people care enough about an issue to comment.  People do care and almost all of them have an opinion one way or another.  There’s people who see the big picture and some who see the details.  Having those people connect online is awesome.  Yeah, there’s trolls, but there’s always going to be trolls.  The biggest thing that stands out in the comments, though (and I am as guilty as the next person), is that there is often no logical argument being built, though the people arguing both think they are using logic.  I firmly believe that when it comes to making and enacting laws and/or policy, common sense and logic need to prevail.  This is especially important when challenging an unreasonable law.   Common sense (which isn’t so common anymore) is the common man’s weapon against the forces of ideological tyranny.  And tyranny most often comes from governments, so we’d be best focusing on liberty for all, worrying less about what government can do for us and more about what it’s doing to us, worrying less about the wrongs of the past and more about the ones going on right now.  (Incidentally, the U.S. Constitution is all about what the government can’t do to the citizens).

More on the subject of free speech:  It’s a terrible world we are building if we think that saying the wrong thing should mean a person be automatically fired, their name dragged through the mud, their family be terrorized by protestors on the lawn, and that they should be bankrupted, publicly shamed and humiliated all by the force of government.  That sounds more like a Maoist China than it does a free America, and it’s the environment in which Totalitarians thrive.  These days discussion and debate are being tossed on the altar of lock-step PC Progressivism which knows no forgiveness and will not stop its march even after it has won.

 Isn’t it alarming that no one can give a speech anymore without protestors trying to shout them down, not even the President?  Freedom of speech should mean that a person can at least give their speech and have their say.  It doesn’t mean they are free from criticism and negative reactions, but they should at least have the freedom to speak, don’t you think? And people may not always word things well, but can’t we get off our continual motion machine of offense long enough to see the truth of what they are trying to say?  None of us have perfect grammar, spelling, and/or eloquence, not one.

The biggest thing people are afraid of hearing is the Truth.  The Truth cuts to the heart like nothing else and can be hard to take (think anything Donald Trump said recently).  The Truth is that the world, but specifically America and the West, is barreling down a dangerous path to tyranny.  If we don’t speak up now, then when?  Do we hold our comforts, safety, and security so dear that we can barely find a voice to defend them?  Do we have such low self-esteem that being called “bigot” or “racist” when we are merely stating the truth, silences us?  And for the Christians:  Is our faith, is our God, that fragile that simply mounting a defense for freedom of religion will shatter it or Him?

Today is the day to speak up for Truth and Freedom, for tomorrow we may be silenced or worse.  All Totalitarian systems have a knack for eliminating anyone who disagrees with them.  The body count is terribly high.  For the sake of our families and children, for the sake of our fellow man, we must find the courage to at least speak out.

The good news is that more and more people are speaking out every day.  And the more people speak out, the more people speak out, making tyranny’s foothold all the more unstable, and making total power of the Progressives all the more elusive.

The Assets

The AssetsThere’s no better spy story than a true spy story.  The Assets miniseries now playing on Netflix tells the real story of a mole hunt within the CIA, a hunt that started in 1985 and took many more years than it should have to find the guilty culprit.  Although I didn’t find Jodi Whittaker (BBC’s Broadchurch) to be the best choice for playing officer Sandy Grimes, she did a decent job despite her unnatural-looking blond hair, and the teenage-like tantrums that may have been more the fault of the writers/directors than the actor.  Paul Rhys (Borgia) was perfect as cocky-yet-geeky traitor Aldrich Ames.  Has ever a man been so obviously influenced by a love interest?

What keeps The Assets compelling is that it bounces between the CIA offices, the Russian assets they are recruiting, and Grimes’s difficulty balancing her secretive work with family life.  Themes running throughout the miniseries cover bureaucracy/institutionalism vs. doing the right thing, how the definitions of “traitor,” and “hero” change depending what side one is on.  Based on the book Circle of Treason by Sandy Grimes and her colleague Jeanne Vertefeuille (a wonderful performance by Harriet Walker), the series indicates that were it not for the persistence of these two women, Ames would have never been caught because the heads of the CIA didn’t really seem to care.  Chilling, if true, and a stark contrast to the KGB that is shown taking great pains to weed out any possible traitor in their midst.

Indeed, the scenes showing the fates of both the US operatives in Russia and their assets are the most compelling in the series, revealing just how sinister Ames’s actions were.  These women and those on their team are to be commended for their bravery and persistence in pursuing the truth.  The last few scenes had me in tears as truth won out.

For a full understanding at how closely The Assets fits the real story, watch the final episode, which is a documentary with real interviews and historical background.  I find the journalists’ mockery of the CIA, and especially their unfair condemnation of officer Vertefeuille to be irritating, as so many journalists, especially today, can’t defend or praise the US for any action, no matter how good, just, or honorable, people who throughout the years have most times chosen the stance opposite US interests, pretending that this stance makes them “objective.”

On the positive side, both Diane Sawyer and Ted Koppel both have obvious contempt for Ames and his wife in their interviews.  Also, it is highly embarrassing that Ames was allowed to get away with his treachery for so long, and it is remarkable that he was actually caught, and equally remarkable that the CIA did not appear to foresee such a threat.  Sandy Grimes’s obvious delight in the truth and seeing Alrich sentenced is also refreshing in a society that puts increasing emphasis on sympathizing and understanding evildoers, instead of stopping them.

It’s also refreshing to see communism portrayed correctly as an undesirable type of government, an ideology that spouts love for the common man and for freedom, but always turns out to be the exact opposite.  Communism is merely one side on the die of totalitarianism, just like socialism, fascism, and progressivism.  All four ideologies are touted by those who believe that those in power know better than the common man (incidentally this thought usually begins with a hatred of both morality and Christianity) in how to run their lives, whether it be seeing the common people as too stupid or too poor to take care of themselves, or both.

These are not friendly ideologies, but sinister ones that lead to death camps, eugenics, euthanasia, abortion, mass executions, and the like.  All four ideologies are summarized by a flagrant disregard for human life, especially the lives of those most vulnerable in society, and many in service to them are revealed in history to be some of the worst murderers and torturers that the world has ever seen.  Most chilling is the institutionalization of murder where barbaric acts are seen as “civilized,” and desirable in an “enlightened” society.  The barbarism doesn’t often happen overnight, but takes a number of years to be engrained, for any resistance to the idea that some human lives are worth more than others, needs to be quietly stamped out, as most people’s consciences initially object to such a thought.

Another side to the die, is Islamism, a system that is just as totalitarianism as the others, and currently a more immediate threat to the West, though the others aren’t far behind as the people of the West increasingly look to governments for their daily needs and tell themselves that if something is “legal” it must be “right.”  Western people condemn Christianity and Judaism for “judging,” but happily defend and embrace a religion for more censorious and dangerous.  It’s nice to watch a story in which good and evil are not swapped, and a story in which ordinary people are revealed to be the most capable in caring for the welfare of their fellow citizens.  It’s also of note for any ideology, capitalism included, that some will always want for more money/power, and will do anything to get it, even if it involves taking lives, thus the unwillingness of the CIA to understand that a traitor was in their midst.

Bake Sale for the Underprivaleged (On Totalitarianism)

Bake Sale for the Underprivaleged

 The sign read: “Bake Sale for the Underprivaleged.” Noni and Adam stopped to inspect the goodies while the weedy girl dressed in careful shabbiness dropped her arm protectively over an overfull cash box.

“This is soooo great that you’re doing this!” Noni gushed as she bought a brownie. “I mean, it’s, like, so nice to see someone actually doing something!”

“Your sign is spelled wrong.” Adam said as he fished in his pockets for some change. He dropped four quarters into the weedy girl’s hand. “So who is this money going to?”

“It’s for Hepperpot, duh.” The girl said. “They are recovering from a massive earthquake, and people are actually gouging them on food prices.”

“Oh, that’s so awful!” Noni said. “Here, take another dollar!” Adam picked up a peanut butter cookie.

“These look stale.”

“Don’t be rude, Adam, it’s for the poor! This is really, so very awesome…” Noni nodded to the girl as she grasped one of Adam’s backpack straps and pulled him away deeper into the quad.

“Rude? Noni, you think it’s rude to ask where my money is going?” He bit into his cookie and spat out the mouthful. “Ugh. Stale. If these people can’t even make a proper peanut butter cookie, how do they think they can help the poor? There’s more to this than just a bake sale, I’m telling you.”

“Well, on the news the other day they talked about company XYZ…and the earthquake…” Noni trailed off as she bit into her brownie and grimaced. “These are…interesting.”

“As in horrible? I’m no geography major, but I’m pretty sure there’s no country called Hepperpot. I’m getting our money back.”

“No!” Noni held him back. “It’s for the poor, Adam! So they aren’t the best bakers in the world, the money still goes where it’s supposed to!”

“Does it?” Adam shrugged out from under her arm. They both looked back to the bake sale table to find it empty.

 A few weeks later, Noni and Adam strolled through the quad after class. They noticed a large group of students gathered at one end in front of the Anthropology Department. A tall girl dressed in trendy army fatigues shouted platitudes into a microphone while everyone cheered.

“What’s going on?” Adam asked one of the students.

“Aw, get this, man, some American corporation is selling food to the survivors of the Hepperpot earthquake! Selling! It’s, like, so wrong!”

“Like, soooo wrong!” Adam said in the same tone. The student glared at him.

“Ha, see?” Noni pointed at the giant banner scrolled over the school building’s face. “Action for Hepperpot now! It’s a movement!”

“That it sure is,” Adam said with a wink. He nodded to the tall girl with the microphone. “She look familiar to you?”

“Not really…I mean, kinda like that girl from the bake sale last month, but this girl has blond hair, not red.”

“Check out that cash box.” They saw an overflowing guitar case at the microphone girl’s feet. A man in a suit, tie and dark glasses sat on the steps and kept a hand placed on the handle.

“Something’s not right about this.” Adam said.

“But they’re helping––”

“The poor, I know, I get it. Notice they haven’t given any evidence that this corporation is doing what they say. I mean, they could just be lying.”

“It’s a corporation, what more evidence do you need, man?” A student next to them snarled while snapping picture with his cell phone.

“Nice phone,” Adam said, staring at the fruit logo on the back side.

“This is a necessity!” The student scowled.

“Necessity or not, it’s a great product…made by a corporation.” Adam said, stepping back as the student lunged at him.

 Adam woke abruptly to staccato knocking on his door.

“It’s Saturday,” He opened his dorm room to find a worried looking Noni standing in the hallway. “What is it?”

“Adam, you gotta see!” She urged him down the hall to the lounge where a giant television blared the weekend entertainment news. Noni pointed at a tall, elegantly dressed brunette standing confidently next to a popular movie star.

“Hey, that’s…” Adam said. They listened intently to the news reporter.

“Actor Evan EagerBeaver has just set up a foundation to help the world’s poor! If you would like to donate, call the number on the screen. The EEB foundation will help those swept into poverty by recent earthquakes and turmoil in the third world. Evan, how wonderful! Tell us how you came up with the idea!”

“Well…” the handsome actor’s eyes flicked to the woman on his right and then to the screen, “something has to be done. We also plan to sue the corporation that’s been selling food to those in Amnezia.”

“Selling food? How horrible! Those poor people!”

“Yeah, they’re selling water too, if you can believe that. It’s awful, but I am proud to say that the EEB foundation has raised over ten million dollars already to help the world’s poor and put those corporations to shame by giving the poor and homeless food for free for life.”

“Wow, that is so amazing, Evan! Who knew you had such a kind heart?”

“Don’t forget the green projects,” The brunette placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled at the camera.

“Uh, yeah, we plan to invest…a million dollars in new green energy. Once we get all the new floating windmills in place, people will see how awesome they are.”

“Even better!” The reporter cooed. “If only other rich people would follow your example!” She turned to face the camera. “Once again, to donate and help those poor people, call the number on your screen! No amount is too small to feel like you’ve done your part!”

Noni switched off the sound, “It is weird, Adam, that this girl is everywhere with this stuff.”

“Yeah, and they changed the name of the country to another one that doesn’t exist.”

 ◊

Several months later, Adam and Noni sat side by side in Current Events 462 and gaped as their professor told them of a new bill being introduced in Washington DC.

“Well, kids, it’s been a long time in coming, but Nutshell, the force for the poor, has finally gotten a bill into Congress regarding the recent scandal with XYZ corporation and their affiliates selling food and water to the poor! Thanks to this great new bill, XYZ will not be able to charge a dime for their products! It addition to that, the government is looking at a serious overhaul of the corporation and others like it. It is simply inhumane to sell people what they need to survive.” The professor gloated as he clicked to the next screen on his computer presentation. “Here is Congressman Marion Marionette with her aids, all of whom wrote this innovative bill together. The bill itself is over twelve hundred pages long, so they really did their homework…”

Noni and Adam gasped as they saw the weedy woman standing at Marion Marionette’s side. This time she was impeccably dressed in subdued grays and handed Marionette her speech to read.

“Like I said,” Adam whispered, “this is more than bake sales, a whole lot more.”

On Totalitarianism–Security Checkpoint

Security Checkpoint

Some people like to make a point. Such people are the bane of my existence. Yes, I have the unhappy role of working in Airline Security, Inc. I have been doing it for twenty years, but recently I have noticed that people are feeling a bit repressed by all of the safety measures we have in place. Take the other day when I was testing out a Body Scanning Machine Thingy (BSMT). This middle-aged man walks up in a skeleton suit, one of those black, formfitting onezies with a skeleton painted in white on the front and back. The guy thought he was pretty funny. So, yes, these are the things I have to deal with. Mostly I try to humor the customers, because, of course, they go through a lot on an average airplane flight. Then there’s Lola, one of the ‘trying to make a point’ people, and, yes, a Bane! Strikingly beautiful, but nonetheless…

Lola Richardson flies often for her job as a consultant. As to what kind, I had always guessed “hair” because she changes that quite often––different colors, textures, lengths. Actually, the only thing she keeps the same about her appearance are her boots. The first time she came through, one morning on her way to Dallas, I thought that maybe she’d forgotten about having to slip off one’s shoes to send through the scanner. I greeted her with an indulgent smile and asked where she was off to. She flirted and said how she’d never flown from this airport before.

Let me tell you about Lola’s boots: Purple shiny fake leather that goes up to mid-thigh, including all twenty-one crowded sets of lace holes, five-inch heels made of some indestructible material that, although not hazardous, is thus-far unidentifiable. When I ask her as I always do, where she got them, Lola shrugs and says, “I didn’t know you were also the fashion police.” We make this exchange quite often since she comes through security four times a week.

The first time Lola came through, she sent her numerous carry-on boxes and bags down the conveyor belt––each of which seemed to scatter annoying glitter and sequins everywhere (Even now, when I stand in front of the mirror to check the progress of my balding head, I find glitter nestled in the crevices of my face.) and stopped abruptly, causing the line of people in back of her to wobble. Ever so nonchalantly, Lola lifted her right foot up, placing the heel on the conveyor belt. She stretched out, much like a ballerina doing her exercises and undid all twenty-one laces as slowly as possible. We had to open up two new stations just to compensate. Some of her fellow travelers giggled, getting the joke, but most just wanted to make their flights. When she started in on her second boot I asked if she could speed it up a bit. She looked up at me with her fantastic wide brown eyes and said, sweet as honey, “Oh, I’m sorry, am I inconveniencing you?” Bane. Bane, bane, bane of my existence! The airport would like to ban her, but I tell them that’s only inviting trouble. So yes, we watched her undo her second boot, both of which went through the scanner just fine. Her bags, however, were filled with shampoo bottles, hairspray, suntan lotion, face cream and the like. As we, sadly, threw each bottle away, she pulled out a store receipt and said loudly what each item cost.

“Our liquid carry-on policy is clearly stated on the signs just to your left, the signs as you enter, and the notices on our website.” I hissed, but Lola only arched a perfect brown eyebrow and stared at me. “Yes, and how much safer I do feel. I suppose I’ll get this stuff back on my return flight? Or will you bring your aging girlfriend a new face cream this evening?” After that it was again with the re-lacing of the boots––and this she did much faster, sitting on a bench by herself. She packed away all of her empty bags into another empty bag and clip-clopped off to her gate.

One day, not so long ago, I asked Lola what exactly she was a consultant for.

“Security, of course.” She answered as she handed me her black leather jacket with the zippers and buttons made of gunmetal.

Originally written in 2010.  ––P. Beldona

On Totalitarianism–Mottle Knows Best

Mottle Knows Best

Mrs. Mottle scurried after her neighbor, Rose. Rose stopped abruptly on the sidewalk and turned around with a grimace. “Following me again, Mrs. Mottle?” She put one hand on her hip. “Let me guess, block party meeting this evening?”

“We are a social group.” Mrs. Mottle said, taken aback at Rose’s fierceness. “We get together and talk about the happenings in the neighborhood.”

“Gossips, the lot of you.” Rose tapped her heels impatiently. “I’m due at the office in twenty minutes. If I arrive late and someone else grabs up the spot, I’m blaming you.”

“Me?” Mrs. Mottle’s heart fluttered. “Rose, you are so irritated at me when I’m only trying to help you…for your own good! They may take you away!”

“What?” Rose’s eyes narrowed and she stepped forward. “What did you say? What have you been telling the block party, Mrs. Mottle? Only too happy to ‘report,’ aren’t you?”

Mrs. Mottle realized she’d said too much. “N-no, of course not, dear. We’re only here to help! I would never get you…in trouble, but for your own good, it––”

“Then what is it? What did I do this time?”

“Rose, you must understand that I have your best interests at heart. This morning,” She sighed, “Now prepare yourself…this morning your shower was seven minutes.” Mrs. Mottle looked up hopefully only to find Rose staring down at her open-mouthed.

Rose crossed her arms. “And? I’m waiting for the punch line…”

The younger woman laughed shortly. “Oh, Rose, why, you’ve forgotten! The new edict! Now let me see if I remember it straight, ‘all citizens are responsible for their water use. To go beyond the recommended five minutes for a shower is shameful and a waste.’ So you see––”

“Oh, shut up!” Rose pulled her handbag up higher on her shoulder. “What does it matter if I take a seven-minute shower? What does it matter if I take a twenty-minute shower? I’m paying for it! We have entire oceans at our disposal, and, apparently you haven’t noticed because you’ve been too busy spying on people, it has rained cats and dogs every evening for the last eight days! Oh, and another thing! You think the Higher-Ups really care about these things? You think the block party does? Damn it, Mrs. Mottle! Can’t you see what they’re doing?”

“Of course, Rose, but Practical Science states––”

“Ha! As if PS is ever practical! Or right! One day eggs are good for you, the next they’re bad! Why, I saw an article just the other day on the evils of fruit! Fruit! You know what it is, don’t you? They want us to eat only that dog food for humans they keep manufacturing, while the Higher-Ups feed on steak and wine! Oh, I can’t believe I let you rile me up this early in the morning! Good day, Mrs. Mottle!” Rose tromped off in her heels.

Her neighbor looked sorrowfully after her. Little did Rose know the danger she was in. Two more strikes and she would have to be put in Rehabilitation…for the common good, of course. Mrs. Mottle didn’t like her task, but the important thing was that the laws be kept. Rose was always going off about the “stupid, ridiculous, impractical laws that made real living impossible!” Mrs. Mottle didn’t think that was for them to judge. That was for the Higher-Ups, the people who knew better. She wasn’t sure at that moment why they did know better, but surely they must, as they were in charge. She must inform the party of Rose’s seven-minute shower. The young lady puffed out her chest. They would talk it through. They would come up with a solution and show Rose how her thinking was wrong. It was only a matter of time.

Story originally written in 2010.  –P. Beldona

On Totalitarianism–The Fairest of Them All

The Fairest of Them All

A beautiful child and a malformed child stand before me. The mother of the beautiful child weeps quietly into her long stretch of golden hair while the mother of the ugly child curls her lip. I place my hands on the arms of my golden throne and wait.

“What is it you wish?”

The mother of the malformed child bows to me. “O queen, see the children that stand before you. One is a cherub, full of glowing beauty. She will want for nothing in life.”

I look over at the child as she pats at her mother’s hair.

“Indeed, she will want for nothing. I myself was a beautiful child, and look where I am now, the ruler of a kingdom.”

“Not only a ruler, but a fair ruler.” The ugly child’s mother says.

“What do you ask of me?” I say.

“Make my child beautiful, like that one.”

“Like that one? Exactly like? Wouldn’t you rather want your child to be…more beautiful?” I raise an eyebrow. The mother’s eyes light up and she begins to respond, but my advisor interrupts.

“But that, your majesty, would not be fair.” He offers a sweeping bow.

“No, it would not.” I agree. “Tell me, women, what is the meaning of this request? Am I King Solomon? Am I to cut the child in two to see the truth of the matter?”

“Of course not!” The woman is outraged. “I would never suggest such a thing!”

I sigh, “My dear woman, I cannot make your child beautiful. Not by surgery, not by potion and not by witchcraft.”

“But it isn’t fair your majesty! The other children! They hate my daughter for her ugliness!”

I watch her narrowly, “I have already given my answer. What would you have me do?” Again my advisor steps forward.

“Ah, perhaps, my fair queen, you could make the other child less beautiful?”

“That is a thought,” I say, but the beautiful child’s mother objects, scrubbing away at her tears. “Why do you weep?” I ask.

“My husband and son died in a fire last night, a terrible accident. Please, let me live with my daughter in peace. She is all I have left!”

My advisor and I exchange glances. “You, woman, are you still resolute? You wish me to maim this child hoping that your own child may benefit in the process?”

The woman bows to me, “You are the supreme ruler of all the land. We owe all to you, my queen. I ask that you make things fair for us all.”

“You turn the matter entirely over to me?” I smile, “You don’t wish to come to a conclusion yourself?”

“You have the authority, my queen.”

“Authority you gave me.” I say. “I am beautiful, just like this cherub standing here, this child you so despise. And you trust my authority, do you?” The woman nods. “How do you know the fault is not with your own child for being so…ugly? Maybe it is she who is to blame.”

“Surely not!” The mother stamps her foot. “And in any case, you cannot make her beautiful, as you said.”

“I cannot make her outwardly beautiful, but allow her to stay with me for awhile and we will cultivate her inner soul and it will so fine that all the young men––”

“No!” The woman interrupts. “No! Young men only see with their eyes! They will not stop a moment to see into my daughter’s soul! They will trample her on the way to the great beauty’s side!”

“And so you will have me maim this beauty?”

“Yes! I wish for her to be as ugly as my own daughter! If they are both ugly the young men will not prefer one over the other!”

“Indeed the young men may pay them no attention at all,” My advisor says dryly.

I ask the malformed child’s mother if she is certain. The beautiful child’s mother clings to her daughter, looking on in desperation. The woman declares that nothing will do but fairness. I fold my hands and ask the beautiful child to step forward. My advisor tells the guards to hold her mother back.

“Compose yourself, mother.” I order her and look to the child. “Come here.” Trembling, the child steps forward.

“She is beautiful enough to sprout wings!” A nobleman near me gasps. “Do not do this, my queen! Such a pity!”

“Such a pity for your eyes, you mean.” I say sourly. “Now, child, this will only hurt for a moment.” I raise my right hand and put one long, sharp fingernail to the child’s blooming cheek. Quickly and carefully, I make one clean cut on her skin and release the child to her mother who covers the cut with her hair, then her cloak, then her tears. “There. It is done,” I say.

The ugly child’s mother gasps, outraged. “That was nothing! That will heal in a week! My child––”

“Guards go at once to this woman’s home and bring both her husband and son to me. They shall be hung on the gallows at dawn. Tell them that in all fairness to their beautiful neighbor they must be extinguished!”

“What? No, no! My queen, no!” The ugly child’s mother shouts.

“My dear woman, what are you so upset about?”

“You cannot kill my husband and son!”

“Why not?” I laugh. “You gave me authority to do so!  It isn’t fair for your daughter to have a father and brother while this newly scarred child has none.”

“B-but! I only wanted you to harm her!” She points at the beautiful child whimpering into her mother’s embrace. Again I exchange a glance with my advisor.

“Give me authority to harm another and you give me authority to harm yourself.” I say. We wait for the guards and when they return I say to the woman, “Pay your last respects.”

“I beg of you, please, let my family live!” The woman drops to her knees. “I am sorry! I am so sorry that I ever came to you in the first place!”

“You don’t want me to be fair?” I ask.

“No, no, please no!”

“And what about you?” I ask the beautiful child’s mother whose tears are beginning to dry.

“Please, leave the matter be.” The mother says.

“As ruler, I cannot.” I say.  I look down to the woman groveling at my feet. “Get up. Your husband and son may live.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, my queen!”

“They may live, but not with you.” I step forward. “You have asked that I commit great evil on your behalf. This I cannot let you forget. Therefore, as supreme ruler, I declare your marriage to this man to be dissolved. Husband,” I indicate the beautiful child’s mother, “meet your new wife. She is a widow in need of looking after.  Child,” I look down at the ugly child. “meet your new family. I hope that you may learn to appreciate beauty, rather than to be jealous of it.”

The beautiful child’s mother pulls the ugly child into her embrace. The husband and son regard their former wife and mother with suspicion.

“What did you do?” They ask before joining hands with their new family.

I look down at the woman now motionless at my feet. She raises her head.

“Do you have no forgiveness in you?”

“Forgiveness?” I say, “But that is not what you wanted. No, my dear woman, you wanted fairness. The beautiful child is marred and now both children, beautiful and ugly have a complete family who will care for them and love them for who they are.”

“But what am I to do!”

“In all fairness I should do you harm for wanting to harm another,” I say, “but as I do rather favor forgiveness, I shall let you live in the hope that you will come to repent of your wicked ways.”

“Truly, queen,” My advisor says, “you are the fairest of them all.”