The ten leaders of the greatest country on the planet Girth sat in an emergency meeting. Civil unrest plagued the land. Something had to be done.
The oldest and wisest man – they were all men – spoke. His words were weighty. He put the facts on the table in a statesmanlike way. Only a few years ago, he was the supreme leader, but when his charisma faded a new leader, Peter, was elected. The Minister of Commerce, Still Gates, was a powerful man who benefited from small to no change in society.
“I think it’s a matter of seeming to do something versus actually doing something.”
“Valid points. Anyone else?” asked Peter.
The Minister of Culture was called Amen and he had a few suggestions. “The ongoing unrests are not products of too little bread and games. People are having book clubs and arguing about the books. At first it was only a small argument, but now it’s bloody and it threatens to divide this great nation.”
“Valid points. Anyone…”
“I’m not done yet. The ten of us need to pick a side.”
Still Gates didn’t like it at all. He preferred the government to be as small as possible. Preferably so small it could fit in his pocket. Amen explained the pros and cons.
“On the one side we have the old way”
“Loving it already.” Still Gates said.
“That is several characters who sleep with each other, whether it’s sister and brother, daughter and father. There are even instances of the father becoming a bull and raping thousands of pretty farm girls.”
“Okay so the morals are on our side, that’s good. What does the other side say?”
“Also a lot of characters, but that side chooses to focus on one particular guy, Roy.”
“What’s Roy’s story?”
“Well, just like the old stories he is a son of a great father. But instead of raping, sending plagues on mankind and killing – the morals we treasure – he goes around teaching pacifism and anti-capitalism.”
Still Gates interrupted. “What on Girth do I hear?”
Still Gates was the actual supreme leader, but he wasn’t as charismatic as Peter. Peter was beautiful and had a soft voice. He only agreed and did as the most powerful person said.
Perhaps book burning would be in order.
The head of the Fire Department thought it was a great idea. His name was Nero. It wasn’t the solution so it was voted down. Amen continued.
“Royalists – that which is what followers of Roy call themselves – are growing. I think we need to put the Book Club under government control.”
“Hmm. Valid…” Peter stopped as Still Gates held up his finger.
Still Gates was thinking. The book clubs were getting stronger and had to be controlled in some way. Nero banged his fist on the table. “Why don’t we burn them?”
“Again with the fire.” The old man said. He was in charge of language and a strong believer in a right language, meaning all others were the wrong languages. “Picking a book could be beneficial for uniting the people, both immigrants and natives, under the right language.”
Still Gates didn’t care about integration. These things solve themselves, he thought. Better not to let the government interfere.
Amen saw that his pleas weren’t received with optimism. He had to reach out to their inner desires. “If we supported the growing royalist movement now, we could have a way to steer it in the right direction.”
Peter thought about saying something about the points being valid, but never got a chance since the old and wise man spoke. “Steer it towards rape and genocide?”
“Well. Why don’t we make it mandatory to have a couple of chapters in the beginning from the old books? I mean: who would know in a few hundred years? No one will remember and they would think it was a natural development.”
“I don’t much care for that. I think that if a person wants to commit genocide he should be allowed to. There are several lesser countries around us to choose from. However I am very concerned about this Roy character. Could we rewrite him?”
“No I don’t think so. All of them love him as it is. Why don’t we do interpretations? We create a big government branch under my wing which has monopoly on the interpretations of the Roy character. Every other interpretation is wrong and those behind them should be laughed at and beaten, their family publicly humiliated and so on.”
“That’s a good idea, Amen.” Peter said.
The nine leaders applauded Amen for his ingenuity. Still Gates applauded with less enthusiasm. He was as enthusiastic, but it’s the principle of power to do things with less enthusiasm. The old and wise man had a name, but no one remembered it and they were embarrassed to ask him again. He asked how the book ends.
“This Roy character overthrows the great nation and both capitalism and war are eradicated.”
A horrified silence filled the room. Still Gates nearly sent Nero a barbecue invite on Amen’s behalf. Rewrites are in order, they all thought. Man spoke. It was the old and wise man’s name; just Man. That’s why they couldn’t remember it.
“What about having Roy die in the end? For the good of this great country.”
Still Gates almost got a tear to his eye, but again the principle of power forbade it. Man continued.
“It could be beneficial to end it with the death of Roy for future wars. People might be more willing to die for the nation if their favorite character also does.”
Amen shook his head. “People are not going to die because a character in a book did.”
Man twined his excellent mustache. “I think they might. If we guided them to it. Provided the right arguments. What if the people died in wars and it wasn’t really death? We could tell them it wasn’t the end. In fact it was better to die for the nation than to die of anything else, because when you die for the nation… something else happens, something great. One is greeted on a meadow of sun flowers full of motorcycles. ”
“Not everyone will care for that. Not everyone likes motorcycles and some people are allergic to sun flowers.” Amen said.
Peter nodded. “Let’s try to be specifically vague on what happens after death.”
“After many years in the ministry of commerce I have learned a valuable lesson.” Still Gates looked at the others and leaned forward. “Threats work. Let’s focus more on what happens when they don’t die for their nation. Something terrible.”
Amen sat opposite Still Gates. He had a lot to gain from a monopoly of interpretations of a book character’s teachings, which also meant that he had to be mindful of what the book said.
“We can work on specific details later. I’m still concerned about the whole death thing at the end. I don’t want to completely destroy the hope of the people. Let’s write in that he was seen after. You know, leave it on a cliffhanger. But he was only seen by his followers who were all devoted to the nation. And also we could have small festivals and celebrations in his honor.”
“We already have so many.” Still Gates said. He thought about costs, of course. “The last Pagan Eve cost the nation a small fortune. Luckily a neighboring country had an underdeveloped industry and we could exploit them as cheap – well, free – labor.”
Man knew about costs, especially since they lowered taxes on the wealthy and costs actually started to matter. “What if we celebrated the birth of Roy on Pagan Eve?”
“What luck! Was he born on Pagan Eve?” Peter asked.
“No, he was born in June.” Amen said. “But let us rewrite his birth. Roy Eve sounds alright, but not great. We should give Roy a last name. Something every man wished he was. That will be the name! Roy Wishwas. Wishwas Eve. That sounds good.”
They agreed, however Amen held up the book. “Wishwas Eve is good, but you know there is one thing I’m a bit concerned about. There’s not a single mention of women in the book.”
Still Gates pointed at Amen. “Now that’s one thing I won’t move on. Women are subjects of their husbands. It should be written in the book. It was the way I’ve been taught and I’m too old to learn anything else.”
Amen knew he had to tread lightly. “Maybe women will not be as fond of the book if we only write that. Let’s write in a female character somewhere and also write something about how weak women are. I mean, fragile, and they need to be cared for. You can’t beat your wife.”
Man saw Still Gates’ reluctance and intervened. “Let’s not be too progressive here. You can’t beat your wife to death sounds better. If you do it by accident you have to be forgiven by the government employee of the local book club, who somehow is magically closer connected to the great nation.”
Nero was writing a poem about a burning city, but stopped and got a smile on his face. “Wait a minute. Can all wrongdoers be forgiven that easily?”
“Only if they swear to never do it again and live for the good of the nation.” Amen said.
Still Gates had other concerns. “We need to do something about pacifism and anti-capitalism. Isn’t there a passage of accepting all other races, even the slaves we bring in? We have worked so hard to enforce a loathing of other races, so men working with the slaves will not feel empathy. Was it all for nothing?”
“Let’s downplay Roy’s dangerously progressive thoughts. Again, you’re forgetting we have monopoly on interpretation. We need to set up a system of government employees who teach the interpretation. They must have a certain education and only a few can become such an employee.”
“Women?” Peter asked.
Again the horrible silence filled the room. Still Gates thought about electing a new supreme leader. Man came to the attractive Peter’s aid. “No, not women of course. They are busy with cleaning, cooking and breathing.”
“Breeding –listen to my words. I think we need some bullet points. Why not a rule from each of us? Ten rules to follow, when in doubt. Let’s go around the table.”
Amen had a concern about a lack of such ‘Ten Rules’ in the book. As previously mentioned, he had read it. Man explained that they could easily find support for whatever ten rules they wanted or just work them in here and there.
They started with an easy rule. The book is from the great nation which is master of you, the reader. The other leaders agreed. It was a good start. Still Gates was still concerned about anti-capitalism so he suggested a rule based on not stealing. Man suggested a rule on never having any other languages, which they reworked to no other nations, only this great nation. Nero continued on the theme. There shouldn’t be allowed maps of other countries. Not a single image in their honor. Another rule came from the next leader. You shouldn’t bad mouth this great nation. Also you shall never question authority, which they reworked to honor your father, which they added an appendix in cursive to: ‘and mother’. Six rules already. Five of them had to do with authority and the other about ownership.
Still Gates gave Peter the rule he was supposed to say, but he mixed up his words. Peter said you shouldn’t commit adultery, but Still Gates really meant that people shouldn’t stop buying and eating his chickens. You shouldn’t omit poultry. Man and Amen thought it was a good idea. Their concern was for the women. Well obviously not for them, but for them not liking the book.
Still Gates objected to the suggestion of having a rule not to kill. “How would soldiers fare in war if they couldn’t kill? They shouldn’t even hesitate. Do as ordered without a single independent thought.”
However the leaders agreed to still keep such a peaceful rule in there. A lot of book club killings concerned them. The cost of labor rose! The rule was to be interpreted as no unnecessary killings, which meant only to kill when told to. Also a rule about not lying about killing was added, which was reworked into simply not lying.
Still Gates added the last rule. He didn’t care that it wasn’t his turn. The other leaders were just extras and didn’t even get names in this history journal. The last rule was about not stealing again, but in different words; you shouldn’t even think about stealing. They were all satisfied. A great work day, they thought.
They looked at the minister of culture and told him: “You did well today… Amen.”