Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The last Historian

    The argument : near the end of our planet system people continue to live and prosper.

I am not a historian and I could never imagine myself trying to write down the events of the near past and, what is even more difficult, the manner of our present lives. But the time has come and it seems necessary to do just that. Necessary ? I can see smiles behind my back. What need is there now that the sun can only sustain us for a few thousand years more ? But let it be. And let my ignorance for the science of history answer for my mistakes, together with the haste and secrecy that my writing requires. One last comment : I‘m not using my mother language but the international one, in order to give my story more of a chance to become known. My own language, like our fading sun, directs the play behind the scenes.

My future, futile reader, whatever you may think happened in my years or whatever you believe is going on in your time, I cannot be aware of.I can only wish you are able to read my story and exchange comments freely, regard it as a sign of strange and hard times. But mostly I fear that you are not able to talk or think freely, or even worse that you dont exist.

So here’s how things have turned out so far.

In time immemorial the International Space Organization was formed as a giant effort of all nations to colonize other planets. Who can say no to a little more space ? Thousands of technicians and scientists work for the I.S.O. and I’m one of them. This is the only part of my identity that I risk to reveal, to show that I have a very good knowledge of the colonization program from its very beginning. This statement of course doesn’t prove much. It could be an attempt for another well established lie. One can only hope that his reader believes, after going through the whole text, that the writer tried to give whatever part of the truth he was able to realize.

It is true that two planets have been found that satisfy our human needs and now we are able to reach them. We found no species on them equipped with an intellect that can be compared to ours. This is certainly another welcome feature of the planets if not another need of oursfora successful occupation.

It was 327 years ago when I.S.O. publicly announced that in some distant future the colonization could be possible. Soon after the announcement a movement of objectors started to form. They were protesting that trying to “escape” our planet was pure vanity and selfishness. That we should let nature create new life instead of imposing our own cycles in space and time. Most of them were devout Muslims or Christians and there were also some atheists among them who were inclined to philosophy with some distinguished professors leading the way. My impression though is that some people were becoming objectors first and then pious or philosophical. I really can’t say if something like that had happened before : people sharing a cause without quitting their distinct – and so much diverse – principles. It was a delicate balance imposed by the most absolute monarch. What idea can be more unifying than a vision of our common death ? I’m sure that the childish and melancholic notion of this fragile togetherness slowly spreading all over the earth crossed everyone’s mind at least once. But alas ! Compared with our situation this sounds like paradise on earth.

The heads of churches counterpointed strictly the movement’s rhetoric in a unison but tensions were kept low. There were no excommunications, anathemas or schisms. Perhaps they secretly respected the objectors’ point of view and they were certainly not alarmed by the movement’s appeal to their congregations. They stated that the spirit is one and we have the duty to preserve it, that we must fill the planets with our spiritual life. So, it was mostly a public exchange of arguments between priests, philosophers and a rather quaint movement. For instance, what if there is a form of spiritual life but we don’t see it, or what if we had really found clever beings like us on the planets ? But this can go on forever and I must continue with my story.

The objectors’ movement showed many faces. Sometimes the faithful prevailed, other times it was the atheists who had more things to say. It became piety, popular philosophy, eccentric fashion, party going. There was no fanaticism at all for the first three hundred years. Just speeches, friendly gatherings, peaceful protests, faith declarations and public prayers. Everyone knew about the movement but very few considered it as serious. And even less people were becoming part of it. The colonization program wasn’t affecting anyone so directly. It was something that just might happen sometime in a distant future. So why bother with its denial ? You could find a few objectors in every country with most of them, and the most active, in big cities. Their activity, like a useless cavil, was rather enhancing public demand (or, in fact bored consent) for colonization more than any official promotion. Everything was progressing smoothly and come to think of it, even now that everything has collapsed, now that we live at the bottom of a pit, our days go by quietly as if the program had never existed.

But after three centuries of insignificance the movement’s history became gradually our planet’s history. So if we try to understand it, how it came to be, how it changed over the years and how its influence changed, maybe we‘ll give ourselves some chance to find a way out. No matter how close the end is we don’t have to spend our days in a mousetrap.

So lets go back to the first day of the drama.

I try to give it a name and I just want to swear at it. Twelve years ago the first wave of pioneers was ready to go. The huge ship was hovering at the edge of our gravity field with two hundred souls in it. The first little village of our new earth. Back on the ground the whole world was gathered in squares and stadiums, watching the spectacle and drinking beers. I think everyone was sharing the happiness. Dignitaries, artists, scientists, and many randomly selected people were sending out their wishes in public, a few hours before take off. Even some well known objectors were offering their wishes as a gesture of good will and brotherly friendliness. They were making it clear though, that they were only concerned for the men and women onboard undergoing this “ultimate” trial and not with the program’s success. Later, some of them denied their objection and became supporters of the program trying also to persuade the other objectors to abandon their negativity. But rumors were circulating that they were bullied into it by horrible threats. One of them was murdered a few years later, by some fanatical objectors as the official side claimed, but the word was out that it was fanatic supporters of the program who did it – they had sprung up soon after the accident calling themselves “new settlers” – because his wishes were considered spiteful and ironic. In short, he was a jinx. All of these rumors perfectly suited both sides, as they started to assume battle positions. As you should well know or as you may have guessed, the take-off was a disaster, and a terribly theatrical one. The moment the captain bid farewell to the earth and its inhabitants we all wittnessed the greatest firework ever. I, like many others, have not really come to terms with it yet. Even writing this “greatest firework ever” seems inconceivable. How imaginative ! There’s a five year old toddler riding a threewheeled cart immitating the ISO ship, going up and down my otherwise quiet road. The crazy rattling of this thing gives great joy to the little monster. The possibility that his vehicle may explode is zero. I wish I didn’t have to write another word but, I have already written about a dozen. I continue.

The objectors’ movement was a bit bolstered after the accident and that was only natural. They became more confident, more demanding and more of them. The ones who drew the biggest audiences were under discreet surveillance. There was no obvious reason for that but I guess this is why all the big states throughout history put the eagle on their flags. Its eyes detect the slightest movement from miles away, its wings minimize the distance and its claws are always ready to catch. This scrutiny by authorities bestowed on them a kind of aura that made them even more confident and appealing. The people, already a little numb from the accident, were just absorbing these worrying quirks. The announcement of the disaster’s cause, an air-condition malfunction, didn’t make any difference. The accident offered objectors new arguments and revived old ones.

Many of them originate from the fact that we don’t know exactly how tracing and transition work beyond the speed of light, which is actually a wrong term but sounds clear and impressive. Finding a target and getting there is almost the same thing. With a kind of navigation, all other possible targets are excluded and the energy is channeled to the desired one. We manage to create a path but why does it take us there ? We know how to hoist the sail but not why the wind blows. After we mastered the technique our record became perfect. Dozens of monkeys have died either from depression or after the provisions had finished, while being confined and monitored in the most expensive cages man has ever built. Inaugurating the human presence on the two new planets. But the worst was yet to come.

We picked up the pieces and started building a new ship. This took us another five years but it would be better had it taken us five centuries. Because during these five years the memory of the accident had not faded in people’s minds, nor had the objectors’ campaigns time to dull, growing firmly instead. But all these thoughts are in hindsight. At that time no one forsaw the dynamic of this “capriciousness”. No one would concede the untold glory of a successful colonization to a next generation. No one expected that the second ship would also be destroyed. But it did; this time, three days before take off, during some final tests, from an unbelievable coinsidence of mistakes and an unexpected rise of solar wind.

This word, this purple word that until now was carefully kept back by public speakers, suddenly made its escape. It started circulating everywhere, more and more frequently. From ISO laboratories down to ill-famed alleys. The calm, thinking man kept avoiding it loftily but sometimes it would slip out like a satire on the current events, a grudging humor. You would hear it here and there, sometimes seriously, other times in a joke, like hearing a child who has just learned a bad word and wants to annoy you by repeating it. Apocalypse. For ten years the weather had gone mad; the crops were going from bad to worse; it was the same with the diseases. Add a couple of big earthquakes and the cocktail was ready. Some people were serving it and some were drinking it but in the end we all paid the bill. The echo of this word transcended existing dogmas and policies. Breaching boundaries, creating a new, grim but somehow attractive space for words and actions, awarded with the honorable name of truth. Stern condemnations by civil and religious authorities didn’t matter at all.

Not even objectors were using the word “apocalypse” before the second accident. Like a royal dagger, richly adorned with amethysts it was laying somewhere, hidden and enchanting but in the end too heavy and repugnant for people like objectors, who had actually formed an apathy movement. However, after the second disaster their movement started to grow into notable dimensions and it seems that their leading figures realized the power in their hands and dreamed of having more. Being familiar with the art of language they started insinuating, mincing their words, that the Apocalypse of the scriptures had already taken place during the last great wars. So, since there is not much time left,

anyone who can put two and two together can work it out by himself. The remaining mortals, who become objectors of course, are obviously the chosen ones. Atheist objectors pretended they didn’t hear the minced words and anyway, these insinuations quickly became affirmations.

The original meaning of the word has been distorted. It is generally related with a spirit of monstrous and vile destruction. The fact that in a few thousand years the earth would not be hospitable any more wasn’t something apocalyptic but just a natural phenomenon – that doesn’t affect us anyway. But the two consecutive accidents and the bloody weather comprised tangible testimony to this spirit in action. So, the “new objectors” appeared, and for some reason I want to add “at last”, who believe that the time of the Apocalypse is right now. And that was the beginning of the end. In their dark narratives they were attacking, constantly and tirelessly, using fiery colours and cries of despair, against the easiest target in our soul, fear. They seized immediately the objectors’ territories and rapidly expanded them. The original objectors were either absorbed or vanished forever. The new objectors’ rising fanaticism made us a bit nostalgic for those poor initiators of new earth’s rejection.

The verbal violence evolved naturally to its menial form; at first, between old and new objectors; then, between new objectors and new settlers. The new objector was becoming more combative, he had a popular hero’s allure, lent to him by the actions and threats he suffered. He was trying to establish a modest, distraught appearence as you could tell by his dishevelled hair and tight lips. They transmitted, they were moved by the terror of that which is approaching and this terror spread out like the flu. And who was the Old Nick according to them ? But the ISO of course. And ISO responded marvellously. After an understanding between the big states that mainly make up and control the ISO, fake research was published maintaining that “probably” we don’t have another five to twenty thousand years to spend safely on earth, but only a few centuries, or even just one. They thought that they would scare the people in their direction since the need for colonization would prove so immediate but the result was exactly the opposite. ISO was accused for spreading out lies and also for striving only to save the powerful of this planet, since there may be no time for all of us. ISO scared people but only away from its purpose. That phony research too, worked against everyone. Finally, after one year ISO published a new study, disproving of the previous one. Official announcements were now considered a good source for jokes but that was not funny any more.

Everyone was getting tired of trying to understand what was going on, trying to find some truth in this chaos. Little by little people started to pick sides. You should either be a new settler or a new objector and soon people started to pick fights after exchanging a few words. We had demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, both violent, in all big cities. Provocations between the more active objectors and settlers had now become murders. We were all wondering if there could be a way for things to calm down. The authorities resorted to more obvious policing without any obvious results though. Many believed, and with good reason, that the new settlers were incited, if not created, by the authorities and acted as a kind of police extension. In the end they proved to be the objectors’ best advocates and allies. I was sure that the words and actions of citizens were going to be restricted before long. And I think that this is bound to happen when half the people will use every possible means to impose their views onto the other half. Because this is exactly what they both want : to limit the words and actions of the others. And one of the two teams will get the upper hand. But no one thought that we would end up like this.

Despite, and in the middle of this turmoil, ISO had started very carefully and quietly to build a third ship. All units, dispersed around the globe, were operating as regularly as ever until four of them were sabotaged in the same day, almost at the same time. The new objectors had penetrated everywhere. Even some ISO scientists had sacrificed their peaceful, creative life only to obstruct the colonization program. Because it is very unlikely that they thought they wouldn’t be detected. Such irrational actions delayed the program for six months and eliminated our freedom ever since. Two months after the sabotage all states decided unanimously to give full authority to the ISO. Since then it is able to dictate any law, in order to ensure the safe and unfaltering colonization for the entire human population and above all, the common good. This was announced in a monumental official gathering where all the important politicians and scientists of the planet agreed that they must save the world. Despite the graveness of their task they were all trying to present a totally different look than that of the objectors; a fresh style, casual suites, gentle manners and endless smiles. You could sense a sort of choreography involving committee meetings, interviews and the general assembly. There, it was asserted that ISO will use its power prudently and moderately to serve a single and sacred aim, the survival of Homo Sapiens. The general secretary of ISO, who is now ruling the earth, finished his address with a comment on our planet’s biology : “we must get the mice off the ship.”

Censorship has been introduced everywhere. The profession of the informer has once again started to expand. I cannot recognize my city anymore. Men and women, buildings, machines are the same as before but it feels like a very basic element is missing. You could say that common fear has replaced trust among people but it’s more than that. It is a sense of uselessness that shrouds our eyes. Objectors all over the earth are being interrogated and I don’t know where all these interrogators were found. The official explanation refers to efforts to intercept any possible saboteurs but I think it is pure intimidation. People vanish and no one can say how much more frequent this is than average. We have all learned to measure our every word but even so, rumors go wild that there has been more sabotage, that objectors are being executed, that your turn is coming. Three months ago the third ISO ship took off successfully with people onboard. We had feasts, wishes and beers like the first time but no one is sure that the take off was real. Access was extremely limited because of security measures. I cannot say either if it really happened. And where have all the objectors gone ? Have they all been dispersed, have they despaired or are they preparing their counter attack ? Do we really execute them ? We never look someone in the eye because we know very well that we shall find either frustration or scrutiny there. Our minds are filled with agonizing questions. Did the ship leave or not ? Will the colonization be carried on in secrecy, only for the chosen ones ? Do we really deserve to spread our species around the universe ? And if we get there shall we be free ? Is ISO the Old Nick after all ? We lower our gaze to the earth and she looks old and empty. We turn our eyes towards the sky and it looks like it’s mocking us.

Dimitrios Zacharakis



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