The Philosopher Between the Capitalist and the Communist
Chapter 38 : The Last Dissident of Marxism
The families of both Roz and Pan were included in the threats made by invading troops. Roz and Pan's sentence was also their families' sentences. The wives and children were to be executed first, in front of their husband and father, each executed by a different method -- some of the methods were from legends, others from rumors from distant countries -- and in some cases, if the victim was not technically dead, an additional execution in traditional fashion would be performed. After that, both Roz and Pan would be executed as promised. This was tho oath of the Babylonian and Greek empires. But it wasn't only in the cities built on Authority where you could find orders for executing human beings.
"If you have the insolence to send us another message like that, we shall invite the messenger to become a free citizen of our city," Roz threatened the messenger at the gates of his Anarchist foothold, holding a piece of paper politely requesting that he surrender and meet the Babylonian and Greek generals for tea and dinner.
When Pan heard his response, he said, "I'm glad you gave them that response. I thought for a moment that you were going to say you would shoot the messenger."
"Well, I was going to say that," [*1] Roz whispered, "But then I realized that I was completely surrounded by my own Anarchist Army."
*1. Quote from "The Fall of Paris."
And the Anarchists kept true to the threats they made against Imperialists. After losing a number of their fastest runners, the kings made it a habit of only sending messengers to Anarchia if they were married men with families. But soon, it wasn't enough to simple invite someone into Anarchy if they became a problem for the Anarchist Armies. Soon, there were full orders for executions.
"I ordered the execution of three of my soldiers today," Roz said.
"Why?" Pan asked.
"Because they refused to attack when given the order," Roz replied, "They cowered in their holes. So we dragged them out, binded their hands, covered their eyes, and executed them each by crossbow shot to the head. I never could have done such a thing before, but at that point in the battle, a stunning realization had crept into the mind -- I am no longer surrounded by an Anarchist Army. These soldiers should expect executions."
"You know that feeling you have, when you see a worker watching their comrades on strike, but doesn't join them," Roz said, "He turns around, and keeps working for the boss, the scab to deep wounds within society. The traitor. I know that feeling, and I sympathize with it. It's the same feeling I have when I see a soldier tell me that they won't fight. Mutinous scum who would lay down and get ready to die when the warlords of the world come to make slaves out of us and our children."
"I sympathize with the way you feel about it, more than anything else," Pan said, "But you didn't have to kill them."
"I did if I wanted to stay free," Roz replied, "That fact alone made my decision for me. I'm the General of the Anarchist Army. Why can't I have the right to discipline my soldiers the way I need to in order to accomplish my duties?"
"It shows the soldiery how you really feel about them, who they are, what they want, and who you are and what you want," Pain said.
"What?" Roz started to anger, "Don't you know that the generals of the Greek and Babylonian Armies all executed mutinous and deserting soldiers? You know that some of their troops fight for years and years, under the worst of conditions, the worst food and the worst medical supplies, and one day, when they're ordered to throw themselves to their deaths, just to distract the enemy -- they revolt, and refuse to follow their orders. They are shot there, right then, on the spot, and left to bleed to death in the dirt and mud. And if a medic comes along, and resuscitates the near-dead person, and tries to carry them away in a stretcher, they get stopped by the General, who goes so far as to dismount from his horse in the middle of a battle, to walk over to someone almost dead and receiving medical attention, and put an arrow through the dying individual's head. Don't doubt that for a single moment, whether their governments have kings or dictators, whether the executive is supported by the parliamentary or the aristocracy." [*1]
*1. Fall of Paris, by Alistair Horne.
"I don't doubt it, I never doubted it," Pan said, "I always thought we were going to a world where that couldn't happen. I thought that you were ready to build a new world out of the shell of the old, but it just looks like you want more of the old world."
"You're going to break up a revolution over the right of the military to execute soldiers that refuse to fight?" Roz asked, "Don't commit such great, thunderous folly. Then there will be nowhere for us to go, either you, I, or our troops. Not the new world, not the shell of the old world. Just the gallows, hanging side by side on a short, short rope."
"I'm ready to do something," Pan replied, "I know that."
"Look, Emma and Benjamin gave up, they disappeared into thin air," Roz said, "The Philosopher? The man who starts up a city with a few words and then doesn't spend enough time to keep it together? Nobody even knows where to look for him. The sympathies of your lord, Solon, and the friendship of my lord, Hammurabi? Yeah, those are the sympathies that are trying to kill us. Spargo, the dirty Commie who worked with Ally, the filthy Cappie, to break up the city? You can bet they won't even turn their heads to watch our execution. At least the others at least feel something about us. But those two would probably give more sympathy to a dying worm in the sand than to us. You and I are the only, original fighters in this world. Everyone else had to abandon us. It was part of their legacy, just like it will be part of ours. You and I, the Marxist and the Militarist, will show the world that we're not really all that different after all."
"Communism and Capitalism are the same thing, right? And all of that?" Pan said, "I don't know if I buy it."
"Me, neither," Roz said, "But maybe Marxism and Militarism are the same thing. They have the same spirit, the same tenacity, the same power and ability to distinguish the fog from the enemy."
"So, you agree with me then, that I should have the right and should practice it next time there is a situation when executing a soldier would mean victory over the enemy forces?" he finally asked.
"No, that's not going to happen," Pan's eyes searched the great emptiness of the skies, speaking with calmness and firmness, "I'm going to execute them. Bring them to me, and I'll do it. Only then are will every soldier either listen to your orders or find some way to secretly desert in the middle of the night."
"Let's not get into an argument about authority over this," Roz replied, "I know how I like to organize my soldiers and I've always known that. And it's not like I'm not doubting your organizational ability one bit."
"It's not an argument about authority," Pan turned around, "It never was. We both believe in government, or 'authority,' if you want to call it that. Don't dress up these things in different words. We all know what it is. You know I believe in it just the same way you do. A necessary evil. We all know what needs to be done, so don't make it personal with your pride and your prestige. If I execute a soldier, if a Marxist was the one to pull the trigger ending a soldier's life, there wouldn't be a single member of your troops who would expect mercy or clemency should they turn into a coward at that sudden moment in battle when lives are being sacrificed for nothing but orders and more orders. You let me kill that rebel, and we won't have a single problem anymore with either mutiny or desertion. Don't think of it as a matter of authority. Think of it as a matter of strategy. Do you want to be in charge, or do you want to win the war?"
"You got through to me," Roz eased, "You're right. The next mutinous soldier shall be executed by your hands. I will make sure that they are delivered up to you, all prepared and readied, but still breathing, of course."
"How far away is the heart of a genuine Marxist from authority?" Pan replied, "Not very far."
"I shouldn't have doubted you," Roz said, "This issue should be resolved and completed sometime this week. I look forward to your cooperation on this matter." And with that final bit of formalism, Roz departed. Pan turned back to the window, and examined the emptiness of the sky, in its depth and vastness, thinking quietly and solemnly to himself, "What are you revolting against now? What are you killing for now?"
That night, Pan disappeared. A handful of officers and veterans from the original, Third Anarchist Army also disappeared. In all, Roz lost fewer than fifty of his fighting troops. But they were some of the angriest, loudest, and most determined of his forces. It didn't upset Roz at all, to think that he had lost a few strands of muscle tissue in exchange for ignoring the commands of the heart. But Roz knew more about war and orders than he did about anatomy or psychology. His profession was that of a military commander, not a doctor that works with broken bodies or a psychiatrist that works with malformed minds.
"I thought something was going to save me," Pan thought to himself, as he walked through the forest with his small cadre of loyal soldiers, "I thought that I believed in the light, and that was enough for me to find it. I thought that if I could pick up a few stones and throw them at an old, dilapidated, rotting building that I might be able to knock it down. I thought that the streams wouldn't resist my striding through them except for the strength of their currents, and I thought the winds wouldn't poison my lungs except for the power of their odors. If I had fallen into those deep seas, or got sucked up into those whirling tornadoes, I thought I could quietly accept it, trust my own senses, and be rescued by some benevolent force that couldn't stand to see innocence sacrificed to cruelty. I thought there was something, or at least someone, who wanted me to live and thrive and grow and expand, but no. There is no one. It was always just me, all alone, the whole time."
"Pan, we got enemy reinforcements building up on the Eastern flank!" one of his comrades spoke, "We need to move fast! We can make it past the gully and the rivers if we leave now!"
"Then let's keep moving," Pan said, "If we fail, our dreams won't forgive us, destiny won't keep its promises."
"Let's go, I can already see the enemy troops breaking through our perimeter," the soldier reiterated, "We need to move!"
"With the wind," Pan replied, before the platoon of ex-Anarchist rebels had melted into the woods.
"Pan, where are you? I've been looking for you," a mysterious, hooded man mumbles to himself in the middle of the forest, "I know that a contingent of enemies broke off from the main siege to find you out, and that you're somewhere in these woods. I know that you're here and all alone. I know you're just waiting to die, but I hope you are more patient than the Anarchists."
Thickness of green and brown, air filled with humidity and the smell of life, a sky unbreached by clouds and a ground undisturbed by footprints. This is the environment where the Philosopher carries himself. This is the world he walks into and through. "Pan..." the Philosopher kept speaking, "I know you are out here. I know you're staring at me in between the cracks of the rocks and the bark of the trees. I know you're looking for someone to help you get away from here. I know you need me. Pan, where are you?"
"Hurry hurry hurry!" the able-bodied assistant urges Pan on as they retreat from encircling forces, "We're not going to be able to survive this if we try to fight! There's too many of them and there's too few of us!"
Pan turned to his comrade while picking up his pace, "I've always thought that we only needed the subjective conditions to reach the point where they can reform the objective situation, but maybe --" Pan is interrupted by a splash of blood across his face, opening his eyes just in time to see his arrow-filled friend collapse to the ground.
Flipping around the bow over his shoulder into his hands and taking cover between a boulder and the corpse of his comrade, Pan releases three quick shots towards the front of the enemy's perimeter. While making haste, he drags his friend from the sight of his enemies. A hand grabs his wrist, the tightness of the grip causing the blood to rush out at an even greater rate. "What happened, Pan?" he can barely open his eyes, "We were going to save the world. We were going to be the heroes to everything that was good... what happened?" Pan struggled between the sources demanding his attention, a bright sun glaring in his eyes, cries of pain and suffering ringing in his ears, the tremble underfoot of moving artillery and running soldiers, the smell of fear and death.
"I know you are close, Pan," the Philosopher spoke quietly to himself as he reached a mountaintop, "I feel it. I know you have to be near me." He scanned the landscape with his eyes, searching and seeking, uncertain of the either the direction of movement or the affiliation of the masses of soldiers in the distance. "If you were an ex-Anarchian, Marxist who suddenly burst into a rage of fervent revolt and rebellion, how far do you think you could make it before being stopped by someone in authority? Where would they land after facing the first brunt of the assault by the forces that be? In what direction does the wind carry those seeds of Revolution?"
"I need to find you," the Philosopher lifted his hood up over his head and disappeared into the quiet of nature below him. And there, in the dense darkness of the wooded scenery, he looked up, and saw who he had been searching for. He found Pan.
"You need to come with me," the Philosopher said, "Your life depends on it. We need to head south, then southeast. I've got transport ready and waiting for us, but we can't wait around here too long."
"And why should I trust you?" Pan said, "The only time we've ever talked is when you tried to push me out of Anarchia, to make me look like an Authoritarian among those living in so-called 'perfect liberty.' You instigated the Anarchists to start a city and a Revolution without somehow taking any responsibility for it. And then when they tried to defend themselves against the rapists and murderers of the world, you show up only to break up the city into insignificant fragments of nothing. I don't know why they say you're the Guardian of Truth, but you certainly are the Guardian of Trouble."
"There are too many human beings around for there to be any need of a Guardian of Trouble," the Philosopher replied, "It's not so much that someone guards trouble as that the many produce its existence. But Truth was not produced by anyone or anything. We have no truth-generators, no truth-farms, no truth-tanks. What we have of it, we need to make it last. That's why Truth needs a guardian."
"Trust Truth's Guardian?" Pan asked, "How do I know that you're not actually the Guardian of Your Own Self-Interest?"
"How has anything I've done ever improved my situation in this world?" the Philosopher asked.
"Some people need bread and wine to be happy," Pan replied, "But you need discord and disorder. Your personality thrives on it. If the most popular personality with the greatest public confidence says one thing, you have to say the other. You live on argument. It's your only nourishment, like a beast that can't hunt other creatures or produce edible plant life, but must scavenge, looking for the remains of others, to fill the rotten, bloated gourd you call a belly. Others build up monuments to their own legacy, but you only wait until time knocks it them so that you can cart away the bricks and resell them at wholesale rates. You haven't left anything behind, neither an object of your own creation nor a memory that anyone would cherish. Emma hates you, Ben hates you, Solon hates you, Hammurabi hates you, Roz hates you, even I hate you."
"Spargo hates me, too," the Philosopher smiled, "So does Agent 354. Oh, they definitely hate me. It's good that you've found so many wonderful people to lean against as you ridicule and attack the man who's trying to save you. Should I just see myself out of your forest while you go back to your fond, loving family?"
"What words would you be referring to that need action to back them up?" the Philosopher asked, passively putting his hands behind his back and twiddling his thumbs.
"Everything, in fact, just showing up and talking needs action to back it up, because if you don't act on what you say, others will, and they probably won't be acting the way you want," Pan said, "Who made you the Guardian of Truth? Who says that you get to be that person? Who elected you? I didn't vote. I didn't see a campaign poster or a candidate list. I didn't see you get sworn into office or take an oath. You just showed up one day, this mythical, unknown stranger, calling himself the Philosopher, claiming to be the defender of truth, as though you had some exclusive title, some heavenly mandate or king's approval or patron's patronage. You're nobody, that's why you pick a name that can't be argued with and a cause that can't be attacked. You will always be nobody, because you never took sides."
"You're wounded, and we need to get you to medic soon if you're going to live at all," the Philosopher said, "And besides, I can hear the rush of enemy footsteps in the distance. Are you coming with me, or are you staying?"
Bleakness went across Pan's face. "I'd never go with you," Pan replied.
"Then that logically means you're staying," the Philosopher replied, "Do you have any requests before I leave you to the wolves?"
"What? You're just going to leave?" Pan beckoned.
"Not just going to leave, I am leaving," the Philosopher replied.
"But, what about defending truth, what about defending the working classes from the exploiters of the earth?"
"Pan, you have your fight, I have mine," the Philosopher said, "Now you can take my hand, get up, and walk right out of this hell. But I can't help you if you don't want me to help you."
"I don't care if it's raining and thundering," Pan said, "I don't care if the dark skies rumble over the greenest parts of the planet; I don't care if the trees split in half and the rocks exploded into a thousand pieces; I don't care if the ground beneath me suddenly shattered, and let me fall into some burning, molten lava; I don't care if my lungs are flooded with putrid sea water or if my some iron-gloved fist chokes the life out of my throat. I don't care about any of that, so long as I never shake hands with you, the human being who started a revolution on accident but could never stick around to watch it grow up or defend it, like some absentee parent hoping that birthday cards and days out of school are a way to raise a child."
"Goodbye, Pan," the Philosopher said, "I won't forget you, no matter what happens. I promise." Just as he turned to flee from the ensuing armies, the Philosopher exchanged a glimpse with one of the attacking troops, before completely disappearing into the green of the woods and the red of the mountains. Pan was captured without a fight, since he had barely enough blood in his system to even keep him conscious. Everywhere among the search-and-destroy teams, there was heard the constant whispering, "Look for a hooded man with a fast pace." Almost every rock had been turned over and the cracks in every tree's roots were shaken out, but the enemy troops could find no Philosopher. The blood-soaked Pan was bandaged by a physician and then left on the floor of an iron crate that was dragged away at a careless and casual rate. While on route to Athens the next day, Pan died.
Only a corpse arrived in Athens when Solon was expecting the perfect prelude to grand parades of soldiers wearing Red stripes and chanting the Workers' Victory, a song written by one of the best known graduates of the literary program at the Athenian State University. The dead body didn't remind Solon of victory at all. "Disappointment," Solon said, "That's what you are and that's all that you give to my mind. Pan, you are disappointment. And no matter how tremendously strong and overpowering this emotion, no matter to what level of my soul it reaches and to what height in my mind it stretches, some of that disappointment is in myself. Your world was horrible, what you did was horrible, but if I was right enough, maybe your world wouldn't be so miserable, neither would you, and neither would anyone else be. Disappointment, in myself and my ability to govern and rule. When I first invited the Philosopher to this city, some long time ago, I thought he would tell me everything I needed to know so that a moment like this would never come to pass. And maybe he did, but I just wasn't listening."