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Who's Hu ?
Hu was in a mood. He was given to moods. His lustrous existence, someone had once said in his (over) hearing, was akin to that of the North Korean dictator. Certainly, he pleased himself, indulged his fancy, pleased his appetites, pursued his purposes, enjoyed his authority, made the most of his opportunities like a well-trained rat. Yet he could not feel pleased. There was an irritating psychic tic which troubled him - was it his conscience or his passion, his good or his evil ? He did not know.
To be sure, there were times when the idea of some sort of goodness appealed, but he seemed to find with age, that it was increasingly difficult to separate the concept of goodness in a general sense, towards all, with the idea of survival and enjoyment and functioning in his own inimitable way, full of authority and superior patronising gleams of self-satisfaction. He found it in fact impossible now to be dealing with "the good" at all, when it did not concern himself. He COULD, with some effort, begin to envisage the idea of himself and his immediate top-line associates in some kind of general, overall good: for example a class rise in salaries which included himself, but touched some highly elevated others near him. This he could envisage with satisfaction, but he was never quite sure whether this depended on the fact that it would be a percentage rise, so that given the same base per cent, his actual rise would be the greater, since his salary was ... well, rather colossal.
When young, he used to have other ideas of goodness, such as kindness and helping the afflicted, and caring for people, but with the race for the top, and the sacrifices made to get there, there had been a profound alteration. What was it ? Why, here a dagger wound to an adversary - in polite but effective words only of course - there a slight distortion in his own favour in some review, somewhere else a veiled threat of displeasure if some subordinate did not carry out the not strictly correct duties he assigned in order to achieve more personal elevation through the result: through these and a thousand other such things in various parts of his life, he had changed.
Now it was like some kind of passion that gripped him, as sex grips some, alcohol others, personality parade another set, and sundry drugs yet more. It was simply not possible, he found, to achieve that early ambition of sensitivity, and at times he felt all but disgusted with himself; and yet, he pondered, who could do it BETTER than he. He was the best, and the earth did not hold his equal. It was not, he felt, that he was not humble, for humility in his book was bred in the due respect which one should have, neither more nor less, and he conceived the respect due to his smooth bureaucratic techniques, his capacity to induce harmony in others formerly at war in word or deed, to be surpassing. At times, he would simply sit back and admire it, as one might a good wine. What a work I did there! was his response in a sort of sheen of soul. He savoured it, and found there contentment and sort of quiet joy.
The trouble was, as in some fluids, that just as it was beginning to provide a palatable sensation in the mouth, then a certain sourness, or even bitterness would enter, so that it would appear a delusive liquid. This was the reaction of his soul, his life, the inward dynamic and the responsive thoughts of his innermost being. The cool would burn, the sweet turn sour, the exultant moving to a gruff sense of curt concern, which he had often the utmost difficulty in suppressing when in company.
His conscience would, in its last dying gasps, communicate all the more effectively for its weakness from long abuse, and guide him tenderly towards love to mankind, sacrifice for truth; but then he would think that no one knew truth as he did, and even if he did not actually know it, he could handle the domain better than any, always knowing the kind of distortion most likely to produce a sense of surgical skill in his aesthetic being, at the sheer audacity and finesse mixed, which had led him to the top post in the Earth Unity Force. Now it had gained some more power, and as its Secretary, he was IT.
IT! This is amazing stuff, he reflected. I am IT! No one can overturn me, for I have sycophants everywhere, people in fear, people grateful, foes now forgetful of former woes because of my intervention.
God, he reflected, yes, it is the teleological thing, you know, it comes into being from just nowhere ... or rather people like me. HOW! his wounded conscience would stricture him, how on earth can it 'come' when there is nothing to come from ? Do you think that nothing grew wings and this - it is science. No, I must have come from somewhere, but what sort of a where ? Whereabouts is the where without wherewithal which can hatch anything ? They talk of God. I never like that. It offends my sense of divine autonomy, master of my fate and all that - although I nearly joined Princess Diana the other day, when that fool of a driver of mine swerved violently to miss some hideous member of the human race, trying to arrest my attention. I'll arrest HIM!
Of course, when you think of it, 'divine' autonomy is precisely what explains it all. I realise of course I have some limits like death, but they are working on that in the telomere region. Yet the trouble is precisely this, that the whole devoted design is so complex and inter-related, I suppose you could say like any other magnificent design - that there are limits and bounds to everything, so that you cannot JUST do this and that, because each tends to affect the other, some other realm, region of the whole complex inter-active thing called my equipment, my body ...
‘Sir, there is a petition outside, some people dressed in black, negroes I think, who want to see you.’
‘Let them in!’ came the Secretary's authoritative voice.
Hu was famous for his favours to unlikely causes simply because he found that this increased his power with likely one, his reputation for accessibility; and if he only did this sometimes, it still made a splash, rather like that of a returning space-rocket parachuting safely down to world news coverage. He gleefully distilled this thought as the visitors entered.
A small deputation was unctiously shepherded to his presence.
‘Ah! how are you ? and where do you hail from ?’
‘We come, your illustriousness, to petition you for white rights in a certain African nation.’
‘Oh, I know which one you mean! but why are you black-skinned residues of white oppression interested in people of white skin when THEY are oppressed ?’
‘We are Christians.’
‘Yes, I suppose so. Still, there is really very little I can do about that...’
‘But Sir, they are losing lives, farms, income, capital, everything in that hostile vale of contention, and what is happening is famine and disorder and greed. No one gains except some who exploit as others did before them. Is not the Earth Unity Force interested in white people ?’
‘Of course we are interested in them, for most of our funds come from them; but we cannot try to turn back the clock and make all things one yet, in your land. There has to be a burning up of the old regime, before the new one has much chance of functioning well.’
‘Why is that, Sir ? We can all pool our resources and try to make the best of things. After all, they did bring in technology and advanced means of feeding us, and we also are feeling the results of famine from disorder.’
‘No, there must be lessons learned, just as you have had to learn them in the past. They must suffer until the books are a little more even. Then and only then will they know by experience how to treat all men alike.’
‘With respect, Great Secretary, we feel that wrong is never made right by vengeance.’
‘It is not VENGEANCE of which I speak, my man, but justice. Give them what they gave, and then they will understand better never to try to do it again.’
‘Do not, however, Great Sir, people often enter into a tide of revenge, back and forth, generation by generation, which moves like the ocean, until its roaring never ceases to be a din ? We believe that the Christian way of forgiveness and functionality without prejudice is better because you do not distance equity NOW for ANYONE EVER, whether for this reason or excuse or that. In that way, with JUSTICE always held in high esteem, there is firstly an example; and with mercy shown in practice, there is a winning prominence to the only way sinful men can ever hope to live together.
‘This we desire, instead of violation of rights, of making right from wrong, of making assault on truth, the truth that violence is vile when it merely serves your interests; and it is also an example, for teaching people by further breach of rules makes ever new impacts and exceptions, expeditions for overturning and disparagement of righteous living. It is respect for truth, equity, conscience, kindness and human thoughtfulness, shown by living it, which is always more productive because more pure, than making ourselves little gods who squeak up and speak up whenever there is something in it for us.’
‘In what way, then, is it "further breach of rules" when you pay back for what they took!’ asked Hu, already sensing that this was a personally unproductive expression of his greatness, to have allowed them entry to the Presence at all.
The group met his challenge calmly.
‘If we all try to pay back for what others took, call it justice or revenge, 'teaching them' or breaching them: there is no end, going back in centuries and millenia, through clouds and crowds of people and events, nation against nation, tribe against tribe, family against family, firm against firm.
‘Certainly, in a given status quo, if there is injustice, then law can intervene. But when you talk of things that are no longer current, and people who have passed on, then while law may still be able in some cases, to intervene in terms of equity based on special and particular people and records, the fact is that it is NOT JUST to treat a CLASS of people as if they all did what most did.
‘On the contrary: That is the breach of rule. Some may have engaged in no evil activity whatever; and even where their grandfathers may in some cases have done so, if you are going to punish generations for their ancestors' sins, then perhaps the British and French could work out whom to hit next in view of the British occupation of Calais and so forth, and the Norman invasion of England!
‘In short, Sir, it is impractical, it is unworkable and it ignores the fact that people are not classes but individuals, each with a conscience, each one with opportunities, each using these in this way or that, not necessarily even close to the way the nation, or the invaders, or the ancestors, or the culture group acted.
‘Such a way as that, it is sadly injustice. It is as unworthy of man as unworkable for men. It is endless. It leads to wrangles and angles that endlessly split into more legal work, headless violence, presumption and pride, seeking of illicit gain by some, use of the disorder for ridiculous gain to some activists, secret Bank Accounts in Switzerland for those who exploit anew and so on.
‘Was not Robespierre the sea-green immaculate in the French Revolution, Sir ? but in the lawless wrangling and tangling of execution, violence against classes, he too lost his head, at first in one sense, then physically. This is merely an example ... It did not last long. In 1793, he dominated the Committee of Public Safety, the wheel on which the revolution was turning; but the very next year he was executed.
‘Bear with us, Sir, for we are deeply concerned at the fresh wounds of viciousness in our land. Life, Sir, is too important to allow head to forces of passion and inaccurate presumption, making classes a consideration which blinds to individuals, or vague feelings lord either of revenge or rectification, measured in mere desire or the effort to make some kind of telling retribution. EACH person matters. NOTHING should be done which imperils truth or equity for ANYONE.
‘This is our Christian position; and hence we are, Sir, seeking help for the people of white skin in our country who are oppressed, their talents lost, their order and self-discipline thrown away, their livelihoods smashed, and sometimes their bones, imprisonment the order of the day, inefficiency wild like dying animals gnawed by hyenas. It is wild, like children in their tantrums, and worst of all, Almighty God is not blind. If their furies are worked now, whose furies will CORRECT THIS WILDNESS and selfish grabbing, without wisdom or order, next time! It is like a cyclotron of presumption, violence and hatred. It cries for judgment and it will get it if unchecked; and who then will benefit ?’
‘I am not here to be lectured on Christianity. I cannot help you. History must take its course.’
‘History will include this, Sir, that you would not intervene. We thank you for your time.’