The farmer leaned into the plow and strained forward.
"Git up on! Git!"
He clicked and whistled at the horse, who shook its mane and nickered onward in protest.
"Grandpa!" He heard the light, bright, youthful call of his grandson soaring across the field to him.
"Grandpa come quick!"
The old man sighed wearily as he stopped the horse, and allowed the plowshare to sink back into the earth. He looked up into the twilight and made out the form of the boy at the edge of the field waving at him, his hand holding something. The farmer stretched and grimaced, then looked at the sight of the excited boy and smiled. He swatted his hat on his pants in a puff of dust, put it on, and then began to make his way slowly across the field.
"Oh what the hell. It's gettin late anyway." He said to himself.
The boy was exuberant by the time he got there.
The boy pointed to the patch of earth he had been working on, the irrigation ditch only halfway dug. The old man looked down and saw the soot mixed soil, and several items sticking up from the charcoal remains. He raised a puzzled eyebrow and then slowly knelt down to examine them.
"Grandpa, I think...I think it might be a patriot pyre!"
The old man recoiled. His eyes shot up looking in all directions as he reached for the boy's arm.
"Go get me some kindling and the gas can." He said quickly in a hoarse tight voice.
"But Grandpa look" The boy produced a set of blackened, charred pages. "I think it's a book of lies! If it was a patriot pyre then it's definitely a book of lies!"
The old man squinted, and then hesitantly reached over to take hold of the pages. He glanced over his shoulder one more time, and then slowly looked down at the remains of the book.
"They say that hindsight is 20/20. Considering the current year I thought it would be both amusing and troubling to discuss some future possibilities; the goal being to provide context for what we believe to be true now, and what we may be told to believe is true in the near future.
History matters. As of the year 2020 there are several basic assumptions about world history which I feel compelled to clarify. This "statement of assumptions" is important, because in the future there may be an effort to change them. If that happens, then this inquiry will have provided some valuable insight into what assumptions are being changed, and more importantly, why.
Let's start with some basics. Historians almost universally agree that the 20th century was the bloodiest and most devastating in human history. Only natural disasters can compare with the staggering death toll inflicted by humans during such a relatively brief period of time. In terms of destructive human impact, the 20th century has no rival. Estimates of the death toll vary, but most historians think that roughly 20 million people died in World War I, 70-85 million people died in World War II, and around 100 million people died during the interwar periods and the subsequent Cold War, at the hands of Communist governments. So the general consensus is that around 200 million people died in the span of a century.
If we consider who is to blame for these deaths there is widespread agreement among academics; Imperial Germany, Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Communist China. In other words the death toll can be firmly laid at the feet of three forms of social organization; Imperialism, National Socialism (a.k.a Fascism), and International Socialism (a.k.a. Communism).
What's curious to note is that among these, the one that appears to have killed the fewest civilians was Imperialism. This is strange because historically that has not been the case. Imperialism had, up until the 20th century, accounted for the greatest sociological calamities in human history. The Mongol invasions of the 13th century decimated between 7-10% of the global population. European Imperialism in the form of colonialism caused the deaths of tens of millions through the African slave trade and colonization of the Americas. Yet when we consider its role in the 20th century, classical Imperialism seems to have limited its slaughter, relatively, to the battlefield. By comparison, the Socialist movements of Fascism and Communism exterminated tens of millions in the span of only a few decades.
Why is that?
One reason may be that European Imperialism was on the decline in the early 20th century and was facing enormous pressure from various social movements, the chief of which was Socialism. Socialism manifested itself in two distinct versions; National Socialism (Fascism), which was based on ethnic or racial ideology, and International Socialism (Communism), which was based on economic class struggle. These two forms of Socialism quite literally battled in the streets of Europe for supremacy. The National Socialists were victorious in Germany under the Nazis, and in Italy under the Fascists. The International Socialists were victorious in Russia under the Soviets, and in China under the CCP.
Suffice to say that for reasons beyond the scope of this inquiry, the forces which had heretofore in human history been channeled through the ideological and logistical infrastructure of Imperialism, gravitated to a new form of human social organization, with cataclysmic consequences. The consciousness of entire nations was swept away in a fervor of new "collectivist" thought; one based on racial purity, the other based on class purity. It is curious to consider that these two versions of Socialism despised each other and considered themselves as representing opposite poles on a political spectrum. On the surface we can see why. The National Socialists were driven by a fanatical quest to destroy the racially impure, caring little for class; and the International Socialists were equally zealous in their quest to destroy the bourgeoisie, while caring little for race.
Even today we hear terms like the "far left" to denote Communism, and the "far right" to denote Fascism. However this model is flawed, misleading, and inaccurate, as a brief review of Aristotle's Golden Mean will reveal. Aristotle said that vice exists at the extreme ends of any virtue. For example if bravery is a virtue, then the extreme to one side of the virtue is cowardice, and the extreme to the other side is recklessness. The middle ground between extremes is what he termed the "Golden Mean". We can apply this to human social organization as well. To one extreme we have the complete lack of any social organization whatsoever. This is a state of anarchy, chaos, and one in which civilization cannot thrive. To the other extreme we have complete centralized social control, where the power of the state is supreme and any deviation from sanctioned activity is ruthlessly crushed. We generally call this extreme, authoritarianism or dictatorship, and it is equally abhorrent to anarchy because it allows no room for innovation or human exceptionalism. The social Golden Mean would therefore be a society in which there is the rule of law, but also freedom, equality, and opportunity. For instance a society in which the population enjoys the power to participate in the lawmaking process under the guidance of a core set of universal values, possibly codified in a Constitution. This society would be fixed securely in the middle of the political spectrum if we apply the Golden Mean. If the society drifted too far towards the chaos end or too far towards the dictatorship end, we could call that a drift towards whichever direction we applied to those terms. In other words right or left are arbitrary, what's important is that they are clearly defined opposites of total chaos and total control.
Now let us place the two forms of Socialism on the Golden Mean spectrum. Where do they fall? Well Fascism and Communism are both forms of extreme authoritarianism. Both systems demand complete obedience to the state, both systems regard the individual as nothing more than a cog in the machine, faceless masses in service of racial or class purity. In other words the individual means nothing and the power of the state is supreme. When looked at through the lens of the Golden Mean it becomes obvious that both of these forms of social organization belong on the exact same place of the spectrum. They both exist on the extreme end of control, authority, and lack of individual freedom. They are the furthest extreme away from the anarchy pole because neither Fascism nor Communism tolerate any heretical deviation of belief or behavior from their sociopolitical orthodoxy. In the end, despite alleged differences, Fascists and Communists are really opposite sides of the same coin.
This is why the modern political analysis is inadequate. It has assigned two forms of social organization which are identical in their extreme authoritarianism, to opposite poles of a continuum. If Communism is the far left and Fascism is the far right, then where does anarchy exist on their scale?
One might inquire as to what motivated people to adopt such a model. The answer is simple; to obfuscate the truth by assigning virtues to their preferred form of control. For example, if we were to consider the idea of greater individual liberty and assign it a place on the Golden Mean spectrum, then we could see clearly that it would represent a move away from authoritarianism towards the opposite pole. Now obviously too much liberty would result in chaos, and too little would result in dictatorship. But viewing the world through such a clear lens enables issues to be understood in context. However, modern politicians aren't concerned with context, their only concern is power, and to seduce their constituencies into granting them greater power, they must convince them that a shift towards the authoritarian pole is actually a move towards the freedom pole. Thus, "gay rights" are a move to the "left" and "gun rights" are a move to the "right"; when in fact both are a move away from the pole of authoritarianism towards that which favors individual liberty. But that can't be tolerated by those who seek power, and so they co-opt the ideals of greater liberty and bind them to the ideals of their preferred form of authoritarianism. That is why the electorate became so confused. A person who supported more rights for everyone was told that they were both "right" and "left", and thus entered a kind of sociopolitical cognitive dissonance. The pundits had linked an issue like "gay rights" to the "left" and to the party of crushing taxes, regulation, and infanticide; while the supporter of "gun rights" was forced into the arms of the "right" and the party of endless wars and religious fanaticism. Is it any wonder the nation fractured?
So why is this relevant today? Because as I've already said, history matters; and history has proven that authoritarians tolerate no dissent. I don't know who will win the coming war, but we may soon live in a time where discussions such as this are deemed treasonous or "counter revolutionary". Both sides will vilify the language and goals of the other; words will take on different meanings. People who might have marched for equal treatment by the police will be remembered only as Communist agitators and looters; and people who might have marched for their right to bear arms will all be castigated as militant racists. Any evidence to support those stereotypes will be eagerly propagated and become the doctrine of the victor's history books; while any evidence to the contrary will be viciously suppressed. In fact, regardless of which side wins, the very idea that there was even a difference of opinion on any of these important matters will be forbi-"
The rest of the page was burned and missing. The old man stood there for a moment, dumbstruck. His mouth was dry, his lips unable to form words. He reached over to lean upon his grandson for fear of collapsing.
"And look there!"
The boy pointed at something in the ground. The overwhelmed farmer's fearful, darting eyes, were suddenly snared, as if struck by a force more compelling than whatever he was afraid of that might be lurking at the edges of the farm.
"It's...a false flag Grandpa." The boy said with wondrous awe; as if witnessing something from a fable.
The old man stared at it, his eyes welling with tears. The stars and stripes could still be seen through the faded mud, ash, and blood. His eyes took on a strange sheen, his mind wandering into a ghostly past, incomprehensible to the boy; for a moment he looked almost young again, the hint of a smile delicately caressing his aged, lined face.
A dog barked in the distance.
The smile vanished instantly and was replaced by the look of fear that was the hallmark of all old men in his world. He took a moment to collect himself and then turned to his grandson.
"Go on, get me that kindling and can of gasoline."
The boy reluctantly obeyed. But before he went the old man clutched his arm fiercely, his voice rough, his eyes shining with a terrible light.
"And you don't tell no one about this you hear?! You HEAR?!"
The boy shrank from him, never having seen this side of the gentle old man whom he loved.
"Yes Grandpa. Yes sir. I mean no...I won't. I won't tell no one I promise."
The old man let him go and then his gaze drifted into the distance. His eyes staring into a lost horizon only he could see.
"I can't lose you too...not you too..."
Soon the boy returned and together they started to build a bonfire. It was getting late and the sun was setting over the farm by the time they finished. As dusk gave way to night, they watched the smoke swirl into the sky. It wasn't long before the boy fell asleep by the fire. But the farmer stood there throughout the night, motionless, watching the glow like a vigil, the flames dancing in his hollow, haunted eyes. His mind drifting between the sorrow of what he had lost, and the despair of what he had become.
"Tomorrow's a new day" he muttered to himself in false hope.
"Yeah...yeah...tomorrow is a new day."
The fire seemed to dim in protest to the lie.
Copyright © 2017 Short Stories by Christopher Daniel Barnes - All Rights Reserved.