A TIME-TRAVEL STORY
This is the third part of a seven part series,
please read the first two parts before you start reading Part 3, the download is free here on Shakespir.com:
…A lack of knowledge
will far too often lead
to fear of things
which in reality
need not to be feared at all.
And in all times
fear has been used
as a weapon of control
by those who have knowledge
against those who don’t.
Darryl and I are back in the car now. We have finished our first task successfully, we are on the way to our next one. I must concentrate but I’m still unable to quiet down my thoughts. Those painful memories rise up against my will.
I hadn’t seen those red marks on Luscinia for the first two weeks. She had always tried to hide them under her long-sleeved silky blouse.
But one day I walked in while my mother spread a soothing salve on a fresh mark on Luscinia’s upper arm.
“How,” I asked in shock, But somehow I immediately knew that those were burn marks. And I had seen the symbol before, though never on human skin. They looked like the emblems one of my father’s friends uses for his corporation.
A wave of hatred swept over me while for the first time the realization hit me that I had fallen in love with this quiet girl, who always seemed to be around when I visited my mother. All I wanted was to protect her at any cost.
“I will kill that guy,” I growled and turned around to the door.
“No, you won’t,” my mother raised her voice, using the same commanding tone as she did the first evening I had seen her again, after I had declared that I was going to confront my father.
But this time she spoke with even more authority and sounding stronger than I had ever heard her before.
“What you will do instead, is to be quiet and say absolutely nothing about what you have seen or heard here!”
And when I started to shake my head, she added more softly:“…until you have left Orange Country, together with Luscinia.”
“But that’s impossible,” I called out. Her request took me totally by surprise. “Nobody can leave from here.”
“You will find a way, Thani,” my mother insisted. “You have always been an inventive boy.”
Slowly David got to his feet and began walking, still thinking about the scene he had just witnessed. He had a dozen questions on his mind about the strange trade system, for instance, or about a six year old having a job, but then he decided to talk about what he knew had bothered Hope the most.
Yes, she had given the explanation to her young charge in the professional manner of a tutor, as if she were a grown-up, but David, being so closely connected to her mind, had sensed that, though she had kept it well inside herself, back at the bakery she had really been angry. He wasn’t quite sure why the obviously unjust remark had upset her so much, but he said what she most likely wanted to hear in the situation:
“Your Mr. Wang isn’t exactly a nice guy, is he, I mean the way he treats children?”
“Well,“ Hope bit her lip, “he is kind of different. And he treats everybody like that, not only children. I mean he disagrees a lot.”
“But he really was unfair, expecting something impossible from you. And you were upset, weren’t you?”
Hope sighed: “Yes, I was. And I became even more so the next day, when I met my grandma. She told me that all the ladies at the meeting had been on my side. They all said Mr. Wang was a mean old man.
“And Ms. Higgins said she hadn’t said anything in my defense because she didn’t want to get into a nasty fight with Mr. Wang–after all, the man was a grumpy, a permanent less than five-percenter. But she regretted it afterwards because it was me, little Hope, he had treated like that, after the terrible thing with my father…..” her voice fading.
“So if they all were on your side, why didn’t this make you feel better?” David asked.
Hope grimaced and shrugged her shoulders, and David realized that the solidarity of the ladies club hadn’t really been a comfort to Hope.
“You don’t like those ladies?” he suggested.
“No, I do like them…..” Hope shook her head. “It was just….oh, I didn’t like them talking about me again because when they start talking, the whole the community and often the whole village starts talking and looking.”
Hope shuddered: “After my father died, it went on for weeks and weeks. Wherever we went, my mamma and my brother and sister and I, they were whispering and looking at us with pity, and some came patting me on the head, saying “You poor, poor child….”
“And I just wanted them to leave us alone, stop looking at us like that just leave us alone….And now I thought it would start all over again.”
David nodded; he understood only too well. He had himself felt it so many times: the looks of pity, and the sense of people whispering behind his back, although in his case, those had not been whispers of solidarity.
He quickly changed the subject: “What is a less than five-percenter?”
“I hadn’t known the meaning of that word either,” Hope answered. “So I asked Grandma. She said that these were the people for whom the 95 Percent Rule was made, but mostly they were called grumpies.”
Anticipating David’s question, Hope went on:
“ Now I knew about the 95% Rule–I learned it in school. In every council meeting, all citizen members have to discuss each decision until nearly all members of the council agree–that is, at least 95 percent of them.
“If more of them disagree, then something is wrong with the proposed decision and the council needs to find compromises and keep discussing until they reach 95 percent agreement.
“Now Grandma said that those less-than-five-percenters are the grumpies. They would never agree, no matter how long the discussion lasts. They are people who always disagree with everything–men like Mr. Wang.
“And then Grandma went on about what the ladies at the meeting were saying about me and… I didn’t want to listen to it any more. I was so angry about all of it and about everybody, especially Mr. Wang. So I told Grandma I had to run.
“I knew there was only one person who would understand and that was Great-uncle Professor and he said……No, actually he showed me something.”
Hope stopped for an instant, then she went on: “I think I wanna show you, too, so you’d better sit down again.”
Hope pointed to another bench along the sidewalk. David obeyed and sat down. He concentrated and closed his eyes, eagerly awaiting another scene from Hope’s world.
He saw her running along the balcony of her housing-block, obviously on a lower level than before – probably third or fourth floor – but David couldn’t see it clearly, for now Hope had reached an apartment door, turned the knob, and burst into the room.
Facing the wall opposite the door, Hope’s great-uncle was sitting at a desk in front of a rather complex-looking computer keyboard.
The wall itself seemed to be a giant screen, the middle of which was covered with a three-dimensional graph surrounded by complex equations.
Below the graph there was the image of a long rotating tube with the inscription “Goedel Cylinder” below it.
To the left and the right of the graph David could see the holographic images of two men and one woman. These people were obviously not from Hope’s community.
One of the men had his head shaved and was wearing the dark red robe of a Buddhist monk, which left one arm and shoulder bare; the other man was draped all in white with a white skull-cap on his head.
The woman wore a tightly bound white headscarf, over a gray coat. She was talking in a strange language – Interlingua, David guessed–while typing at a keyboard in front of her. Several numbers and symbols on the screen changed and the tube became narrower at its ends and slightly thicker in the middle.
Then the door Hope had opened now closed itself behind her with a loud bang. Her great-uncle turned around and Hope ran toward him, her face tear-stained.
The holographic woman had stopped talking. She looked up and then smiled, greeting Hope in thickly accented English:
“Salaam little Hope, are you going to help us with our experiments again today?”
Hope didn’t answer. She shook her head and averted her face, trying to hide her tears.
Her great-uncle took one look at Hope’s face and then turned toward his colleagues saying: “I’m sorry my friends, I think we will have to postpone our conference until tomorrow. You understand, don’t you?”
The two men nodded, one of them asking: “Same time tomorrow?”
Great-uncle Professor answered: “Yes, same time”
Then the their images disappeared. Before she signed out, the woman once again smiled in Hope’s direction and said: “Sure Professor Morgan, of course we understand: first things first. Maybe you can help us tomorrow, little Hope.”
When they were alone, Great-uncle Professor looked questioningly into Hope’s face.
Hope was breathing heavily. She seemed unsure of what to say at first, then blurted out: “Why did God make grumpies?”
Great-uncle Professor nodded and his mouth formed the beginning of a smile. “I heard about your run-in with Mr. Wang.”
Hope’s voice was angry: “Sure! I knew you’d heard about it. Everybody has heard about it. And now they are talking and talking again, just like…..” Her tears started flowing again. She looked away.
Great-uncle Professor began to dry Hope’s tears with the back of his hand, then he softly held her face and turned it toward him. “No, it won’t be like before.” His voice was calm and comforting.
“When your father died, many people felt shocked. They felt so much compassion toward you and your family. They wanted to help you and yet they felt helpless to do so. So they talked….”
Great-uncle Professor paused for a few moments, then went on:
“But what happened yesterday in Mr. Wang’s shop is a one-day topic of gossip. It will be forgotten by tomorrow. And even though you can’t forget, you won’t feel mad any more by then, since after all, they were just a few words you didn’t like.”
Hope loosened her face from her great-uncle’s grip and looked at the floor, slightly disappointed by his reaction.
She said in a grumbling voice: “I guess you are right, but….but….” David could see the inner struggle on Hope’s face, logic against anger, and logic wasn’t winning yet.
And so she insisted on her earlier question: “Why did God make grumpies?”
Great-uncle Professor smiled and answered softly: “This is a good question actually. And though I won’t pretend to fully know the mind of God, I still think there might be a good answer. I believe that God gave the people whom many call grumpies some special talent.”
Now Hope looked intrigued: “What special talent?”
“Hmm,” the Professor answered, “let me show you. Get the chair from the kitchen and sit down next to me.”
When Hope had come back carrying her chair, her great-uncle had drawn the outlines of a heart and a leaf below the equations on his screen. He pointed to the drawings: “This is a heart and next to it is a spade. They are playing-card symbols.”
“Playing-card symbols?” Hope asked nonplussed.
“A couple of hundred years ago in most countries of the world, people knew these symbols well. Even young children knew them and they often played with cards containing those symbols,” the Professor explained.
“These symbols were combined with numbers, letters and images. There were many different games played with cards containing these and two other symbols.
“For now I am going to show you images of cards containing only those two symbols combined with numbers and images. I want you to disregard the images, the numbers and how often the symbols are on each card. Every card that contains one or more hearts is a heart; every card that contains one or more spade-images is called a spade. Do you understand?”
Her great-uncle continued: “I am now going to show you the card-images in a fast continuance and you tell me what they are. Ready?”
Hope nodded, her hands gripping the edges of her chair and her eyes focused on the holographs.
Playing-cards appeared, each for only a fraction of a second.
Hope called out: “Heart, spade, spade, heart, heart, heart, spade, spade, heart, spade, heart, spade, heart, heart, spade, spade, spade, spade, heart……
The images changed so fast that even David, who knew them so well, had trouble following them, but Hope made it through what must have been half a deck of cards without mistakes.
Then the Professor stopped. He looked at Hope saying: “You did well indeed, you were fast and accurate.
But now tell me something else. What colors were the hearts? And what color were the spades?”
Hope shrugged: “The hearts were black, of course, and the spades were red,” she said surprisingly.
Instantaneously David murmured: “No, it’s the other way around.”
And then he heard present-day Hope jiggling in his mind.
And her great-uncle told the future Hope: “Yes you are absolutely right.”
The playing-cards appeared again on the holographic screen, only this time they stayed put, all cards laid out next to each other, an open deck. David looked at them, and then looked again, utterly surprised.
Why hadn’t he seen it before?
Were these really the same cards?
Yes, Hope had been right, the hearts were black and the spades were red.
The Professor continued: “You have never seen cards like these before. We don’t play card-games.”
“They are win-loose games, aren’t they?” Hope asked her great-uncle.
“Yes they are. But you can also do other things with these cards. And that is what some scientists did a couple of hundred years ago. They asked people after they had been shown each card for only a second, what color the hearts were and what color the spades were. And nearly all the people in that experiment said the hearts were red and the spades black.”
“Were they all color-blind in the Dark Ages?” Hope asked quite reasonably.
“No, of course not,” the Professor shook his head. “It wasn’t their eyes that had a problem, it was their minds. The cards I have shown you weren’t ordinary playing-cards. Real cards looked like this:”
A whole deck of cards appeared below the earlier half deck. David looked twice to make sure. And yes, this time they were ordinary playing-cards, with red hearts and black spades.
Little Hope also gave herself time to compare and before she said:
“The hearts and spades have opposite colors from the ones you showed me before.”
“That’s right, they have,” the Professor agreed. “And people who are used to cards like these, they will expect them to always be the way they are used to. Their minds trust in what they have learned before, and so unless they have enough time, they can’t even see the differences because their minds won’t let them. In scientific terms, this is called “Cognitive Dissonance”. And it happens to most people, with only a few exceptions.”
He looked expectantly at Hope, whose face slowly changed from slight confusion to dawning comprehension.
“Oh, you mean the grumpies, Great-uncle! They can see the difference faster.”
“Yes, these are people who do not immediately trust that what has always been will always be the same – now and in the future. This is their talent. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I guess,” Hope looked doubtful. “But Great-uncle, this isn’t exactly a useful talent, is it, to know the color of those cards correctly?”
The Professor sighed: “I guess you didn’t quite understand, Hope. You see, it is always extremely useful to be able to recognize the truth.”
Hope looked a bit chastened and so the Professor continued: “Don’t get me wrong, trusting in your experiences and in what you have learned is just as useful. There cannot be any community without trust.
I need to trust that Mr. Wang’s bread will not make me sick and neither will the meals from Ms. Dowling’s lunch-restaurant or Mr. Bennet’s dinner restaurant, or I would have to prepare all the food myself.
I must also trust that those who grow the food and service the irrigation and air-exchange machines will do their work diligently, or I would also have to grow all my food myself and all the feed for the animals.
And then I will always have to trust that you kids will take good care of our animals, feed them well, attach the milking-machines and collect the eggs, or I would have to do this all by myself.
And then there are the maglevs, ours and the ones that travel all over the continent. I trust they have been built well by the manufacturers and that they are being kept in good repair or I would have to do this also all by myself.”
Now Hope started to laugh: “Oh Great-uncle, you couldn’t do all this by yourself, it’s too much work for just one person.”
“True,” the Professor agreed, “it is even too much work for one community. Even for all the food you and I eat most days, we need our whole village and eight other villages to grow it. Our community has to trade food with all the other nine communities and with our partner villages or we would not have too many different foods to choose from. Wouldn’t that be boring?”
“I think if it only was my favorite food, I wouldn’t mind,” Hope replied.
The Professor now laughed: “I guess you wouldn’t, but I would and so would your Mamma.
And what about all the parts in those machines we need to produce our food and our clothes and our energy?
We can’t all make those parts in one community, not even in one village. We can assemble the machines in the repair-shops of Mr. Dalim and Mrs. Angros, yes, but most of the parts come from villages all over the nation and sometimes even from all over the world.
“We only have one manufacturer in our whole village. Do you know what they make there?”
“Sure,” Hope answered right away. “In the manufacturing plant of Mr. Rondell, Ms. Talim and Ms. Dariel, they make micro-chips. They are our village’s greatest trade objects, Sensei told us.”
“Yes, they are,” the Professor agreed again. “But those chips can only be used in certain machines. Other machines need other chips which are produced in other villages.”
“Yes, I know,” Hope said, “and this is why we need trade.”
Then she went on thoughtfully: “I know what you mean. In trade we also need trust. We need to trust that the things we buy are made well and we need to trust that if we sell something, the buyer will transfer the agreed amount of Intercoins into our accounts.”
“ And,” the Professor continued from there, “we need to trust that we can actually use the coins which have been transferred to the village- or our own accounts to buy something else, something we need or some luxury we want – after all, we can't eat coins.”
Hope laughed: “They’re digital– you can’t eat something digital!”
The Professor smiled back: “You couldn’t even eat them if they weren’t digital. In older times, they often used gold or silver coins for trade, and you can’t eat gold or silver either.
“Coins are just measuring units that will help you to trade real goods and also services, like the food items and the preparation of the food. Coins are an agreement between people, an agreement those people have to trust in or they could not do any trade with them.”
Hope nodded: “Yes, I understand,” while David thought: If only the matter of money were so simple in my time…. But for now, he was intrigued by the conversation, not yet sure what Hope’s great-uncle was getting at.
“So you see,” the Professor continued, “in order for your community and your village and the world’s entire human society to work, lots of trust is needed. Without trust, we could barely survive on our own and we surely could never have built a world of trade and high technology. And it’s not only in trade that we need trust. The same is true for gaining all kinds of knowledge.
“You trust that what your sensei is teaching you is correct. And your sensei trusted first his own sensei, and then he trusted the information he had to learn from the Peace-Web so he could become a sensei for you. The health supporters who come to your apartment when you are sick have also learned about all the illnesses from the Peace-Web, so that they can now help you to become better.”
“Oh, but Dr Welby, she mostly uses the body-scanner to tell what infection I have. She doesn’t need to know anything herself,” Hope interjected.
The Professor smiled again: “It isn’t quite as simple as you think. And then, even that scanner is programmed with information that is derived from the Peace-Web. And every so often new information needs to be added.
“And then you have the apothecary, Mr. Derrick. He is cultivating his herb-garden according to the information he gets from the Peace-Web. And when the plants are grown, he uses them to make the right medicine for you, one that will strengthen your immune system and help you to overcome whatever makes you ill. Mr. Derrick trusts that the information he has gotten from the web is correct, and you trust him and Dr. Welby.”
“And I trust the body-scanner,” Hope interjected again.
“And you trust the body-scanner,” the Professor added with a soft smile.
“The same is true for me as a scientist. Like everybody else, I trust that the information that has been built up for thousands of years and which is now collected on the Peace-Web is good and useful for me. My friends and I depend upon this information; otherwise we would have to invent the wheel all over again, as the saying goes.”
“Yes, I know,” Hope said, “Sensei always uses this expression when he tells us that we should check things out on the Peace-Web and not just rely on our own puny brains. He always says ’puny brains’”. Hope didn’t seem quite happy with that description of her gray matter.
“I agree with your sensei. If you compare all the knowledge collected by thousands of generations of human beings, billions and billions of brains working together over time and space, then all of my knowledge is puny and my brain smaller than that of an ant,” the Professor said, showing the ant-size with his fingers, while Hope again looked as if she did not quite agree.
“So yes,” her great-uncle went on with his explanations, “to be able to trust in other people, in what they do and in their knowledge, as well as to trust in the circumstances of your world, that things will be the way they are supposed to be and what you are accustomed to, that is an important talent. It is needed to build and sustain our world. And most people have this talent. But some people have another one–that is, the talent to distrust.”
“But Great-uncle, you just explained why trust is so extremely important. How can you call distrust a talent? Isn’t it rather a lack of a talent or an illness or something?”
The Professor didn’t answer directly; instead he started to type something on his keyboard.
Hope seemed to recognize what he was doing. “What are you looking for in your files, Great-uncle?”
“A story, I’m looking for images of a story I made some time ago…..Oh, here I’ve got it.”
A group of holographic cartoon-figures appeared in the middle of the room and with another key-stroke, they became animated and started to move around an also appearing scenery.
“Oh Great-uncle, did you really make these yourself? Your other images of a mountain and flaties and such things, they weren’t bad either, but these here are so much better, so life-like” Hope complimented enthusiastically. “And you made a whole story out of them?”
“Now don’t you sound so surprised. Of course I know how to make a real image story, I was a child once, just like everybody else,” the Professor replied.
“I didn’t mean that you couldn’t do it, Great-uncle,” Hope defended herself. “I just thought you wouldn’t waste your time on image-stories.”
The Professor smiled as he answered: “Science and stories are not opposites. Science most often starts with stories, ideas of what might be….. Now let me just tell you a story not of what could be, but of what might have been…..once upon a long, long time ago.”
“A story from the Dark Ages?” Hope asked eagerly, watching the little figures that moved around what looked like a tent-village.
“No, not from the Dark Ages,“ the Professor replied. “My story is from far, far longer in the past, before all written history, in a time that we call the Stone-Ages–do you know why?”
As usual, Hope knew the answer: “Because the tools in that time were made from stones.”
“That was true for many of the tools,” said the Professor, needing to be precise.
“Some tools were also made from wood or from animal bones or….. Look over there.”
In front of one of the tents, a woman was sitting and sewing a piece of clothing or possibly a tent-covering, using what really seemed to be a fish-bone.
The Professor went on with his story: “In this time and place, as you can see, the people no longer lived in caves as their ancestors had done but in tents made from animal skins, the same material as their clothes. They did not yet plant seeds for crops, they still were gathering a lot of their food from the wild– berries and other fruits, and nuts and leaves from certain grasses and roots. But they had already begun to preserve some of their food by drying it. They did it with some of the fruits and with meat and fish in order to store it for winter. They also had learned to domesticate some animals.”
A small herd of scrawny looking cows were grazing not far away from the tent village, watched by a couple of young boys.
“The villagers of the story were a quite happy people. They always had enough food to eat, and being a tribe of over two hundred people by now, they were quite strong together and had little to fear from wolves and bears and other dangerous animals.
But at the time of our story, the villagers had become afraid of a new danger.”
With a keystroke, the size of the holographic images increased and the scene zoomed in unto a few of the cartoon-figures and their tents. New figures dressed slightly differently had entered the scene, talking tonelessly to the tribal people using wild gestures, while Hope’s great-uncle went on with his tale:
“Traders had come to the village with stories, horrifying stories of an animal nobody, not even the oldest men, had ever encountered before. The animal, it was said, looked like a giant white tiger. But it was not an ordinary tiger; it was actually an enormous monster that could not be killed by spears or arrows or even by big stones dropped on it. Anyone who had tried to hunt it down or defend himself against it had been killed.
Different from all other wild animals, this monster did not fear humans. It would enter villages with impunity and slay everyone in its path, ripping up the tents and killing all the people inside– women and children and even the strongest men.
The only weapon that could protect against this horrible monster was fire.
And now there were rumors that the monster was close by, making its way from village to village, and soon it would come to the tribe of this story.
What should they do, the people asked themselves, what should they do to protect the village? Would it be better to break up the tents and move to the winter quarters? But maybe the monster would follow them even there…
The scene now changed to the inside of a large tent where a group of men were sitting around a fire, with one standing and talking. The Professor went on:
“And then in the council of the elders, a young man was heard. He had an idea.
‘Fire can protect us from the monster,’ he said. ‘And so we shall protect all of our people with fire’
‘You mean we should make a ring of fire around the whole village?’ one of the elders asked
‘No,’ the young man said, ‘that would be impracticable. The fire might get out of control and burn us all. But we could set a ring of dry wood and brush around the cave, east of our village. It is a barren area–the fire would not spread from there. And when the monster comes, all of our people can hide in the cave and then we will light the brush and wood, and the ring of fire will keep away the monster.’
‘But what about our cows,’ another of the elders asked. ‘The cave is too small; we barely can fit all of our people inside it.’
The young man answered: ‘We will scatter the cows while we are running and so the monster might slay only one or two of them, but after it has stilled its hunger and not found any people, the monster will move on. This is what it has always done–it never stays in one place.’
´But do we have enough time when the monster is coming to escape into the cave, together with all the old people and the little children? It is quite a walk to the cave,’ the elder pointed out.
And once again the young man had an answer: ‘My two friends and I will keep watch on the hill-top. We know the monster comes from the wet lands in the north, we will see it from afar. We will warn the village and this will give all of us plenty of time to flee to the cave.’
After a short discussion the plan was agreed upon. Only one of the elders disagreed, but nobody listened to him.”
“He was a grumpy, wasn’t he?” Hope asked, captivated by the story. The Professor nodded and went on.
“And so the three young men went out to the hill above the village. They kept their watch for many days, sometimes alone and sometimes all three of them together. But somebody else also kept watch, can you guess who?”
“Was it the grumpy elder?” Hope asked
“Yes, the grumpy elder. He followed the three young men around and watched them whispering to one another. But whenever he came close, they stopped talking. Now it was not unusual that people were whispering around him, he knew most people didn’t like him all too much. But somehow the whispers and glances of these men seemed different, and they had seemed strange to him even long before they had started their monster-watch.
And then one day the three young men came running down the hill, breathlessly screaming: ‘The monster-tiger. We’ve seen it! It is enormous, it is gigantic! It is coming!’
Fear spread through the village, but not panic, since they all knew what they had to do: parents grabbed their small children, older siblings pushed the younger ones in the direction of the cave. Some boys and men scattered the cows, others kindled torches. And then all of them were on their way.
And then the grumpy elder arrived. He had been running down the hill as well. But he was older and far more out of breath than the young men.
He tried to scream as well, but amidst the cacophony, his voice was barely audible and was heard by only a few: ‘There is no tiger, no monster, it’s only a deer! You don’t have to run!’
With this the Professor pressed a key and the scene of running people and the desperately gesticulating elder froze, he then turned to Hope challenging her.
“Now Hope, tell me, if you had been one of the people of the village and you had heard the grumpy elder, what would you have done?”
For the first time Hope didn’t answer right away. She gave herself time to think, biting her lip. Then she said doubtfully: “I think that if I had been one of those people in the village, I would not have listened to the old man because maybe he could not see so well any more. Old peoples´ eyes sometimes go bad and they need laser-surgery and they didn’t have that back in the Stone-Ages, I guess. So maybe he mistook the monster-tiger for a deer.
“And then there were three people who saw the tiger and only one who saw the deer. Three people have six eyes and one man only two. Just like you always say, Great-uncle, the more people put their brains together, the closer you come to the truth. You do say that, don’t you?”
“Yes I do,” the Professor agreed, but the scene remained frozen as he continued looking at Hope.
“But I think you’re telling me the story for a reason and there is something wrong with those young men. I guess they lied. And it would have been better, if the people had listened to the grumpy elder. Although I still don’t know why these young men would lie; what for? It would be such a mean prank to play on their own community.”
The Professor turned the projection on again and the people could be seen running in the direction of the cave. Nobody took notice of the elder, who was still trying to get his neighbors´ attention.
“You are right on all counts: all the people listened to the three young men because six eyes see more than two and because nobody could imagine that anybody would tell a big lie like this. People trusted the members of their community; occasionally some people would tell small fibs, but big lies like these–they were unthinkable.
And so the people of the village reached the cave, and when everybody was inside, the men with the torches kindled the fire around the cave. It was evening now and the sun had gone down. The people waited, watching the fire until it had burned down. It took all night.
At dawn the people started to walk back to their village, carefully and quietly, listening attentively for any sound of the monster. But they heard nothing.
The village, however, had been totally destroyed. All the tents had been ripped apart and the skins that had covered them were missing, some of the clay-pots were broken, but many women noticed that most of their pots had just disappeared without a trace. Especially the ones that contained their storage of dry foods. And also gone were the cattle–not a single cow could be found. But strangely enough, there were also no traces of slaughter, no blood stains anywhere.
Slowly it dawned on the people that there were no traces of an animal attack of any sort.
‘Marauders’, they yelled, ‘marauders were here!’
Marauders were tribes who were extremely violent. They found it more convenient to rob from other tribes, rather than to hunt or collect their own provisions or raise their own cattle. But they were normally just small groups who would attack only small tribes or people who wandered around alone. The village of our story would have been too big for a small gang of marauders to attack. They had succeeded only because the village was empty and unprotected.
But how had they known it would be empty?
And once again a realization hit the villagers: The three young men who had warned them about the monster had disappeared. Nobody had seen them since leaving the cave. Those men were gone and the villagers knew now….. these men had done the unthinkable. They had betrayed the village to the marauders.”
The scene froze again and the Professor stopped talking.
“But what happened afterwards, Great-uncle? What happened to the people of the village? Did they catch up with the marauders or with the three young men? And why did they do this in the first place, why did they betray their own community?” Hope asked excitedly
“Why did they do it?” The Professor shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, they had their reasons; for one of them, it was a girl he didn’t get, for the second, it was some old grudge he had against a few of the villagers, and the third one just followed the other two around.
And then one day they met a couple of the marauders and decided to join them. As a precondition, those three were asked to help the marauders capture the village’s possessions, their cattle, and the animal skins. Together they designed the plan. A couple of marauders would pose as traders to spread the rumor of the monster and the young men would seemingly come up with a survival plan.”
“And were they caught?” Hope asked again.
“No, the villagers never caught them or the other marauders.” The Professor turned off the projection.
“But what about the villagers?” Hope insisted. “What happened to them?”
“Many of them died during the next winter.”
“Because they lost all their cattle and all their tents and their dried foods?” Hope asked sadly.
“Partly, but the main reason was that they had lost something even more important” the Professor explained.
“What was that?” Hope asked.
“Trust,” her great-uncle answered. “They had lost trust in one another. The relatives of the three young men were blamed for raising such terrible people, and were under suspicion of having known their plan. Others came under suspicion as well.
“Instead of working together to start replenishing their food and skins supplies before the next winter by hunting and fishing and collecting plants, people fought with each other, and a few were even killed in those fights.
Then the tribe dissolved and small groups went into different directions. Some joined other tribes and survived, but others didn’t.”
The Professor went quiet.
“That was a terrible story, Great-uncle,” Hope protested. “I didn’t like it–not at all. And besides, I don’t understand it. You said that trust is important. But the villagers could only have prevented the marauders from stealing all their possessions if they had distrusted the three young men. And the grumpy elder did distrust them, but nobody believed him. So what use was his talent? What would have changed anything?” Hope pouted.
The Professor lifted her chin with his finger and looked into her eyes.
“The answer is time, my little one, time!”
We have finished the mapping of the last project and are on our way to Nanami and Pedro Allegri. Nanami is the woman who gave her child away, because she loves her more than anything else.
The heavy traffic is slowing down our progress. Darryl and my Spesaeterna companions are silent. We are preparing ourselves mentally for the next steps, while Darryl is communicating with his own men as well as with the other teams through his wrist-control.
“We are making progress,” he informs us. “Everyone will be at their assigned location soon.”
Mr Wang grumbles his approval, while the others keep quiet. The silence drives me once again into the darker realms of my thoughts.
If all goes as planned, Nanami will be reunited with her child tonight and they will stay together forever, while I was barely given three weeks with my mother…
Hope shook her head and looked questioning at her great-uncle: “I don’t understand, what time?”
“In time,” the Professor answered, “the world of the stone age people would change completely and then it would look more like this:
With a single key-stroke all the equations and graphs on the Professor’s wall had disappeared and were replaced by the over-sized image of a painting, headed by the title ‘The Pyramid of Power’.
“But that’s not really a pyramid,” Hope commented
“No, not really,” the Professor agreed
“Did you make that image?” Hope asked
The Professor shook his head: “An artist did it more than 200 years ago.”
Hope sighed with relief, since she could utter her opinion without reservations now: “It is really ugly.”
The Professor smiled and added: “But it’s still quite interesting, isn’t it?
Hope had to agree, the image was somehow fascinating in all its ugliness:
The lowest three levels of the structure portrayed seemed actually to form the foundation of a pyramid, getting progressively more narrow while gaining in height.
Built, however, was this structure not on solid ground but on a quaking mass of swirling and intertwined snakes, some of them hissing with open jaws showing sharp teeth dripping with poison. Dozens of snakes were also crawling inside on the floors of the building or winding themselves around the structural columns.
But looking more closely at the strange-colored floors, walls and columns, Hope realized that the whole structure itself was made of snakes biting in each others’ tails.
Caged inside the snake-structure were people. Some were sitting apathetically on the ground, images of desolation. Others were huddled together, their faces expressing fear and pain.
Still others, their faces distorted with anger, were wielding guns and knives or only sharp elbows to push and press others to the ground using those fallen bodies as stools and ladders to climb up onto higher levels.
From the second level upwards most people wore nooses around their necks. The ends of the ropes were held either by people on higher levels, or more often they were connected directly to the structure of the strange building.
But all those who held ropes, were also threatened to be strangulated by other ropes around their own necks. And like the whole structure of the building itself so were the ropes really nothing else but tail-biting snakes.
But strangely enough those noose-ended snake-ropes were actually vital for the structure of the building.
For from the fourth level on, the building was no longer a solid whole but a mass of dozens and dozens of smaller pyramid-like structures floating and swirling above without gravity tying them to the ground or the rest of the structure.
What connected them with one another and with the lower levels on the ground were alone the snake-ropes twirled together.
While some of the smaller structures had an obvious pyramid-form, especially those where the people inside wore uniforms, others looked distorted and skewed to one side with no real top. Still others looked as if they were constricted around the middle by an old-fashioned corset.
Just like in the lower levels, so contained each of these smaller edifices also caged in people. And just like the others below so would most of the people in the floating structures try as well to reach the higher levels of their particular structure, and that by all means possible. Some had stabbed knives into the backs of their neighbors and were now using those very knives as ladders to higher levels.
Some of them however had succeeded somehow in getting outside their own structure and were now trying to use the twirled snake-ropes to climb from one structure to the next, not realizing in their weightlessness that they weren’t climbing up but side-ways or even down.
But just like on the lower levels each one of the people was wearing a snake-rope tied around his neck.
Surrounding the structures were floating tanks, flying missiles and planes dropping bombs. Each of these pieces of armament were connected with a snake-rope to certain men inside the floating parts of the fake pyramid.
In the middle of the mess of floating edifices and weapons was the image of something that looked a bit like a giant eye with the people inside surrounding the iris. But like most of the structures which started out as pyramids and weren’t any really, so was the giant eye skewed and distorted.
In some way this eye was mirroring the faces of those men inside which also were distorted, showing mostly fear and hatred. But they also had the look of people who were nearly strangulated by the nooses around their necks, snake-ropes connected directly to the snake-walls.
The whole painting seen on the giant screen of the Professor’s wall had an aura of total hopelessness. Everyone was trapped or caged and close to suffocating. There was no way out. And even the background was of a dreary gray.
Hope felt, that looking at the painting made her even more depressed than the story of the betrayed villagers had, but still found it hard to take her eyes of it.
“This doesn’t make sense,” she protested. “No world can look like this, with floating buildings made from snakes.”
“Well,” the Professor replied, “artists see the world often with different eyes than other people. And this particular artist who lived towards the end of the Dark Ages saw his world like this.
But now let’s first go back to our villagers and a time long, long before the Dark Ages.”
With this the Professor clicked on his keyboard and the ugly painting disappeared from the wall to make once again room for the equations and graphs that had been there before.
Then the Professor continued his story:
“The survivors of the village adjusted to their new communities and they learned to trust again. They had children and the children had children.
But the marauders also had children and they taught their children in the ways of invading and plundering … and of murdering anyone who resisted them.
“But in time the marauders descendants learned that it was far more efficient and profitable, instead of attacking and destroying villages to only threaten villagers with violence and demand payments of food, skins and tools from them ever so often. And the villagers would decide that it was less costly in lives and possessions to pay them off than being attacked.
“In time the leaders of the marauders would see this arrangement as the divine order of the world.
“And while the peoples of all times and ages had been in search of God, seeing his power in the forces of nature the religious leaders of the marauder tribes would distort religion to fit the marauders’ actions.
“In time the tribal leaders would become kings and their tribesmen would be nobles while those they conquered would be peasants or slaves, members of lower and lower levels. Some were declared by the marauders’ religions as barely human, people with less value than animals…”
“But Great-uncle,” Hope protested, “you told Ameenah and me that religion was good, even other religions than our own, remember?”
But then she stopped for a second until she added, “oh I remember, the slide into the sea of desolation, you were talking about the marauder religion then, weren’t you?”
Her great-uncle nodded: “But it wasn’t just one religion. Each marauder tribe had another one, adoring different gods. But in reality all of their gods were nothing more but exalted versions of the marauders themselves – brutal and vengeful. One common thread united all of those religions:
“The belief that human beings were of unequal value.
“While some meanness and even aggressiveness had always been part of human nature, the marauders succeeded to change the culture of those they had conquered and forced under their rule.
“Pure selfishness now became accepted and compassion for one’s neighbor would be scorned, when the neighbor belonged to a lower level.
And so in time survival in a climate of greed, heartlessness and oppression became more difficult.
Taking a short breathing pause the Professor then looked questioningly at Hope: “But do you know what happens when a large group of people live under oppression?”
Of course Hope knew: “Yes, Sensei told us,“ then she cited:
“People who survive great disasters or live under conditions of hunger and need or under heavy oppression will have many children. This, like the First Principle, is written in our human DNA, for under bad conditions the means for a better future lies in the children.”
“Sensei Thomsen taught you well,” the Professor complimented.
“And did he also tell you what happens, when there are more and more people living at the same time closer and closer together?”
Hope nodded: “Yes, he did: When this happens, then knowledge will grow, for more people means more brain-power.”
Once again the Professor agreed: “Knowledge grew, but just as the marauders had decided that all the people of their kingdoms belonged to them as their subjects so would their subjects’ knowledge become the possession of the rulers.
“Knowledge would be a possession that needed to be horded and kept from those they wanted to dominate.
“And so in time the tribal sorcerers would find ways to codify knowledge in secret and sacred symbols, and only the elect would be given the code.
“This by the way was actually the beginning of reading and writing.”
The Professor now smiled as he added: “So you see, sometimes even out of a bad thing, something good can come in the end.”
Hope nodded and the Professor sobered again.
“With this knowledge could be written down and so more of it could be collected and passed on through the generations. Much of this accumulated knowledge however was used primarily to create new weapons, and not only physical things like arrows, spears or swords, but knowledge itself would become a weapon, a tool of and for power.
“Those who had the knowledge of chemical reactions, which could change the color of fluids or could start a fire seemingly by itself for instance, could use this knowledge to scare people under domination and into obedience.
“Those who knew about star-constellations or sun and moon eclipses in advance were also seen as being endowed with special and fearful powers”
With a few keystrokes the Professor produced a holographic solar-eclipse in front of Hope’s eyes.
“Yes, it does look scary,” Hope commented while watching the room becoming dark, “if you don’t know that the sun will come back again.”
“Yes indeed,” the Professor nodded slowly in agreement while turning off the projection, “a lack of knowledge will far too often lead to fear of things which in reality need not to be feared at all. And in all times fear has been used as a weapon of control by those who have knowledge against those who don’t.
“And so in time some marauder kingdoms by their superior weaponry and knowledge conquered many others and became empires. The growing knowledge was also used to raise enormous buildings as symbols of the empire’s power and the might of its rulers.
“But also in time each empire crumbled and was destroyed.
“For what happens when power becomes too concentrated?”
Hope had her own answer to that: “The power-monster comes and drives you crazy.” She lifted her hands and formed them into claws surrounding the imagined head of some hapless victim of his own power.
The Professor smiled: “Do they still use the same image in school from when I was a boy?”
Then he sobered: “To be sure, it is a good one. Too much power concentrated in a small group of people does not only corrupt their thoughts and actions, turning them onto the path of dishonesty and ruthlessness, it also drives the powerful to a behavior close to insanity. They will take crazy risks and eventually recklessly destroy what they or their ancestors have created.
“But sadly, in next to no time at all one empire was replaced by the next one.
“Often there were different empires ruling in different parts of the world at the same time and just as often those empires were fighting each other to increase their territories and power.
“And then, at the time of the Roman Empire’s rule, someone came in his own time,” the Professor’s voice had now become soft, generating a deep warmth enveloping Hope as well when he added: “the One who had been promised for times and ages.
“He was the One able to reconcile humanity with God and so would reconnect the people with what had been written into the recesses of their hearts by the very finger of God.
“His message was different from the messages the marauder religions had spread. His was a message of humility instead of self-declared superiority, of love instead of power, of a God who doesn’t conquer and avenge but suffers and dies for his people.
“And his message resonated within the hearts of many people. And so it happened, that Christianity grew among the many subjects of the Roman Empire.
“In time the Christians, who had been persecuted and killed before, had now become so strong in numbers, that even the powerful former persecutors could no longer resist.
“However instead,” the Professor’s voice became once again that of a neutral narrator of facts, “they would try to reinterpret Christian teachings to serve their own purpose again. Occasionally they would succeed, but in time because of a sturdy foundation, reinterpretations failed and were undone. Christianity was and always will be an egalitarian and universal religion.
“You know what that is?”
Hope knew: “A religion where everyone is equal before God and everyone can join, if he wants to.”
The Professor nodded and went on with his walk through history:
“A different egalitarian and universal religion came into existence a few hundred years later and that was Islam.
“But for those who felt superior to others, those who sought after power, the idea of equality of all human beings, even in a spiritual sense, seemed somehow intolerable.
“And so at a time when powerful individuals had successfully goaded Christians into a war against Muslim lands, the invaders discovered there those long forgotten ancient writings, which contained the knowledge of different marauder empires and the remnants of their religions.
“And these war-faring power-seekers found those religions far more to their liking.
“And out of those pieces of older religions they concocted their own. This religion of power was not for everyone but one for the elect only.
“This new marauder religion would not replace the other religions at first, instead its adherents would publicly profess one faith, while in secret practicing another one.”
“They were lying about their religion?” Hope looked disgusted, “it’s like lying about God. Who would do a thing like that?”
“Well,” the Professor answered carefully, “those men thought they had no choice, because having a different religion than most everybody else was forbidden by threat of severe punishment.”
“But those new marauders, they were wrong with their religion of power, weren’t they. So why shouldn’t it be forbidden?” Hope asked.
The Professor weighed his head: “Let’s go on with the story and see -
“The need for secrecy did not detract men from joining the group. On the contrary, many young men found the meetings in secret assemblies fascinating. They felt the knowledge of secret symbols and their meanings, that was being taught there, gave them an air of distinction, a reason for feeling superior and acting against those they saw as inferior.
“In time those men became extremely rich. At first it was by the war-booty from Muslim lands. Eventually, however, the new marauders came back to Europe. Having been defeated in the big war against the Muslims, they now started their own little wars in Christian lands by goading neighboring towns and villages into petty fights against each other.
“Having first loaned out gold and silver to both war-faring parties to cover the costs, the new marauders would later on reap the benefits when the debts of the winner were re-payed with the war-booty extracted from the looser.
“The new marauders also became the largest organization of usurers in Europe at the time, although in the Christian just as in the Islamic religion usury was prohibited.
“You know what usury means, don’t you” the Professor interrupting himself to make sure he was understood.
For once Hope didn’t and shook her head.
“Usury is an ancient word you can find in the Bible,” the Professor started to explain while turning around and pointing to an ancient leather bound volume lying next to his keyboard – Hope knew it was one of only a handful non-electronic books still in existence in her village, even Father Maximilian used the Peace-Web Bible.
“Usury means,” the Professor continued his explanation, “that when you loan somebody a sum of coins you demand that he pays you back a certain percentage more than you loaned him. During the Dark Ages this was called “the taking of interest”.
Facing Hope again her great-uncle went on: “And although these new marauders were thought to be Christians they had by now become more powerful than even the Church and all the kings of Europe together so that they could openly defy any ban or prohibition. The practice of usury together with war-profiteering became the main foundation of an enormous and ever-growing wealth.
“However, it also became the grounds for a giant arrogance. Like most people who suffer the corruption of power the marauders became not only mean but also reckless.
Eventually they had made a few too many enemies. When rumors of their strange religious practices started to be spread, one king took the opportunity to ban the organization and arrest their leaders. And after having been tortured, they were killed in the most brutal manner.”
The Professor stopped talking. Hope who had listened attentively and with a disgusted expression on her face blurted out:
“They were evil people, these marauders, driving people to war, just so that they could become rich. They were really, really evil.”
“So you think, they deserved it?” The Professor asked waiting a few seconds for an answer.
But when Hope averted her eyes, he went on:
“The leaders and some of the lower members were tortured in ways that produce excruciating pain. After that they were ripped apart or were burned alive while being bound to a stake.”
Then the Professor turned around to his computer again and with a couple of keystrokes he produced the image of a medieval drawing picturing the burning of an heretic.
Hope glanced at it only for a second, then turned away protesting in a low and hesitating voice:
“No, I don’t believe they deserved this. It was wrong………it..it was also evil.”
The Professor nodded once again: “Two evils never produce good. The burning of those men, called heretics, was followed by the burning of many other men believed to be heretics as well and of women who were believed to be witches.
“Most of those unfortunate people were innocent of anything they had been accused of. They were just victims of bad rumors.
“The surviving members of the marauder religion, however, went only deeper underground becoming even more secretive. Seeing their executed leaders as martyrs, they felt justified in their beliefs while harboring a great hatred for the Church and a thirst for revenge.
“And the marauder religion flourished even better underground than it had before, constantly attracting new members of young men with a superiority complex. The practice of secrecy and deceit allowed them to gain admission into the highest positions at the courts of kings and emperors becoming their closest advisers, governors and administrators and, of course, their financiers of war.
“ In time the marauders had turned into the real powers of the states, the so-called -powers behind the throne-.
“And while before their organization was banned, the marauders’ influence had corrupted many officials within the Church, they now could use the people’s disgust for exactly this corruption to bring division into the Church.”
Hope’s face displayed now a frown of frustration, while her great-uncle continued his history lesson in a neutral and emotionless voice:
“In time or by the beginning of the Dark Ages the members of the new marauder religion also had split into several branches which sometimes were fighting each other. More often, however, they cooperated. Together the marauders had now become the most powerful people on earth.
“Their faith proscribed that eventually all of human society would be shaped into the form of a pyramid, like the giant tomb for an Egyptian ruler who had believed himself to be a God.”
The Professor once again turned around for a few keystrokes and before Hope’s eyes appeared the pyramid-symbol with the all-seeing eye as it is pictured on the American Dollar-note.
Then he continued:
“The eye at the top of the pyramid symbolizes a small group of wise men, the leaders of the future, who would by then have concentrated in themselves all valuable knowledge of the whole world. They would rule this world and the less valuable people in it via layers upon layers of loyal servants formed like the layers of stone-bricks in the pyramid.
“Going down from top to bottom, knowledge would be parceled out to those servants in smaller and smaller amounts. These servants would then be allowed to rise to a higher level according to their unquestioning obedience, their usefulness and the needs of those above them.
“Like the first marauders the members of the new marauder religion truly believed that it was their divine calling to become rulers of men and that it was their true purpose in life to overcome in a constant struggle all resistance to their rule.
“They believed that the universe itself had been created out of chaos and through the struggle of opposing forces.
“And out of the concepts of the marauders’ beliefs evolved the marauder philosophies and the marauder science.
“Do you know what a philosophy is, my little one?” the Professor asked.
This time Hope was at a loss and shook her head and so the Professor gave her the answer: “It is a belief-system without a deity, basically a religion without God.”
“How strange,” Hope looked at the Professor shaking her head.
“Strange for you and me,” the Professor agreed, “but not for those marauders. For them it seemed logically that when human knowledge had grown sufficiently, there was no need for God any more, because men would now become gods to themselves.
“And since the followers of the marauders’ religion saw themselves as the guardians of all knowledge, the marauder philosophers believed themselves to be the authors of all science. Subsequently Dark Age science would describe the whole world including all the natural laws governing energy and matter in terms of the marauders’ philosophy, as opposing forces.
“Their basic belief was that every life form, including human life, was the result of a struggle of all against all. Survival was preserved for the fittest or the strongest, while those less fit and strong deserved death.
“And because of the power the marauders could wield over the nations their believes were universally accepted and promoted as truth by the nations’ institutions of education.”
“But Great-uncle, this is all wrong, how could any scientist believe that life is the result of struggles?” Hope was agitated.
“Life is based on cooperation, we learned that in school. But you don’t need to learn it, everyone can see that:
“Atoms combine to form molecules, molecules combine to form Amino acids which form complex proteins according to building plans contained in the DNA, and according to the DNA information cells reproduce and single cells cooperate to form multi-cell organisms and inside those the cells cooperate to specialize into brain-cells and into organs and into skin and bones.
“And even small organisms cooperate with larger ones, like the digestive bacteria which help to break down the food into energy-givers, this is called symbiosis… And…and even in the tiny cells of the most simple single-cell organisms you can find evidence of God’s intelligence in the complexity of it’s elements which cooperate to form tiny machines inside the cell to make the organism work….. and….. and Father Maximilian says that in all this cooperation we can see the power of God who is the originator of all the wonderful laws of nature and in his spirit of love he is the designer of all the complexity of life.”
Hope went out of steam and the Professor nodded: “Of course you are right, we know that all matter of the universe and especially the existence of living things are based on cooperation.
“We also know that in an ever-changing world both the strong and the weak must survive in cooperation. For what seems to be a weakness at one time, might become a strength when change sets in, for the world is always changing. And so cooperation of everything with everything else grants the survival of all.
“But when you see the world through the prism of the marauders’ philosophy, you can’t see it like this.”
Hope shook her head: “I don’t understand, why can’t you see it and what is a prism?”
The Professor formed a triangle with his hands and answered: “It is a glass cut into two angles like this. The light that goes through it will be fractured, so you now only see it in parts. The light looks no longer clear but colored like a rainbow. This is exciting to look at for sure – and for some the fractures themselves seem to be the real truth. But still it’s an utterly distorted view, for the ultimate truth does not lie in the division but in the combination of all the colors of the spectrum which are unified in the bright light of the sun.
“The minds of Dark Age scientists were cut by the marauders’ belief that war and strive for power was the purpose of life. With the same mind they looked at nature and their eyes could only see what their fractured minds allowed them to perceive: a world of struggle.
Do you understand now?”
Hope nodded, if a bit reluctantly, but the Professor was satisfied and went on:
“In a world of constant struggle each of your neighbors will become your enemy and all your efforts are centered on creating better weapons against him.
“The most fervent adherents of the marauders’ philosophy saw mankind itself as the very enemy of life on earth, a parasite on the planet, who was in need of reduction in numbers.
“Other marauder philosophers saw themselves as being of superior intelligence, the first of a new species of trans-humans who in order to grant the progress of intelligent life would have to cull and cage the inferior human race.”
Hope shuddered while imagining people in cages. The Professors’ story was like a gruesome fairy-tale, but she knew it would have a happy ending…… but not quite yet…
“And so,“ the Professor continued, “with people of this mindset in positions of power the Dark Ages became the times of the most life-destroying wars ever fought in the history of mankind. The accumulated knowledge of humanity was used to produce ever more destructive weapons. And once again knowledge itself became the most effective weapon, a weapon used against the minds of the people.
“The marauders’ empires were formed by wars of conquest, but ruled by deception.
“One of these weapons of deception was the Dark Age coin-system.
“You know, why coins exist?”
“Sure I know,” Hope answered at once and added in her school voice: “to facilitate trade.
‘The Rubel must roll and Coins must flow’,” Hope then cited, “always from where there are many coins to where there are few. If you look for something to buy that cannot be produced in your own village, you must look for a seller in a village with a low Intercoin-account. Only then the coins will flow and more trades will be facilitated.”
The Professor nodded again: “This is our system, it is based on reason. The marauders’ system was different, based on complexity, debt and usury.
“It’s real, however secret, purpose was not to facilitate trade but to transfer the wealth of resources and lands from most of the people to the few who controlled the coin-system.
“In older times coins were most often made of rare metals like gold and silver imprinted with images of kings and emperors. But when the empires grew and stretched over large parts of the earth, trade also grew and gold-coins became impractical. They were replaced first by paper coins – which were also imprinted with images of the powerful.
“Eventually in time of the Dark Ages, when machines were developed, ever more coins were needed to facilitate production of goods. But the people who wanted to produce something with machines needed to borrow those coins first, because the machines were expensive. And the workers needed to be paid long before any products could be sold.
“To make borrowing easier paper-coins were replaced with accounts like we have, only the Dark Age accounts were controlled by banks.
“Whenever somebody needed coins he would go to a bank. At the time most people thought, the bank would then loan out the needed coins from their owners’ accounts or from the customers’ accounts who brought their coins to the banks to save them for a later use.
“But this is not how the banks really operated, instead the amount the borrower needed would be written into his account, so he could use those coins to buy whatever he needed.
“It is similar to how it is done nowadays, when the district or the nation or the International Help-Board cannot collect enough Intercoins in the project pots, then the extra amount needed is written into the pot.
“But our representatives try to do that as rarely as possible. Do you know why?”
“Sure,” Hope answered, “if you write more coins into the system, then eventually all the coins will have less buying power.”
“That’s right,” the Professor agreed, “and the people of the Dark Ages knew that, too.
“And this is why, when the borrower was paying back the amount of coins bit by bit, the amount of coins would also disappear from the system bit by bit. In this way the whole amount of coins in the coin-system would not grow too much.
“Coins would be created, when the banks loaned them out to the borrower and would then disappear again, when the borrower paid the loan back. However, since this was a system of usury, each borrower had to pay back some percentage more to the bank than he had borrowed. This was called “interest” and was the banks profit.”
“Oh, but Great-uncle, this doesn’t make sense. If somebody borrows coins, that are newly written into his account by a bank, and he uses those coins to buy some things from his neighbors, shouldn’t this mean that he owes to his neighbors a little bit more and not to the bank?
“After all coins have no real value they are nothing but tokens, only the things you can use and the food you can eat has real value. And the coins written into his account would be used to buy those things of real value. This means he was actually borrowing from his neighbors the ones who made the things he wanted to buy.”
Hope stopped for a second to think hard while biting her lip.
She then added: “And then the seller would use those borrowed coins to buy something else, wouldn’t he? And the next seller would also buy something else from somebody else and so on. And everybody would be using the same coins as were written into the burrowers account.
“Its like everybody using the same coin-system as the borrower has been loaning him the coins. Isn’t that right, Great-uncle?
“So why should the bank be allowed to ask a percentage more from him, why not all his neighbors, his whole community or his village or his nation?” Hope asked
“Because,” the Professor answered, “both the borrower and most everyone else would not know that. Only few people knew how the system worked. The truth would be hidden under layers and layers of complex equations like these.” The Professor pointed to his wall.
“But these are time-travel equations,” Hope commented perplexed.
“The equations used in the Dark-Age coin-system were equally complicated,” the Professor stated.
“There were never enough coins in the system to repay all the debts, since the coins to pay in usury fees were never written into any account. Instead, there was a constant need for more and more debts to pay back the old debts.
“In time nearly all the coins in the system of practically all nations of the world had been created as debt owed to the banks. And each debt was charged with the usury fees, which were called interest.
“And the debts of the nations and of the giant production shops, which were called corporations, could never be repaid, because those debts had in reality become the coins everybody had to use to trade and buy goods for their needs. It was as if all the coins in the system were negative numbers. They were not something people owned, but something people owed.
“Ever so often, however, the burden of debt became too high, for the governments of nations, for the production shops, for the food producers and also for many ordinary people. This happened especially, when those who controlled most of the coins would horde them for themselves or play with them outside the reach of those who needed the coins for re-paying their debts or for production and trade.
“And then the banks would no longer write out enough new loans, and in turn there would no longer be enough coins in the system for either trade or for paying debts.
“As a consequence many borrowers would loose whatever possessions they owned, since the borrowers before getting a loan of coins, always had to sign an agreement, that their possessions would become property of the bank, if they could not repay the loan or the usury fees.”
“But this isn’t fair,” Hope interrupted. “The banks did not actually own the coins they loaned out, they would only write them into the accounts of the borrower. You said that, Great-uncle. Why would the banks now get the property?”
“Because,” the Professor repeated his earlier statement, “the borrower would not know the facts. Neither would the policemen, who often had to help the banks to take over the possession of borrowers, know that the coins owed were only written by the banks. And the judges who made the decisions would not know that, and even most of the people who worked for the banks would not know that either.
“And actually even some of the people who profited from the coin-system would not really understand how it worked. For a long time the only ones who knew, were those who managed and controlled the coin-system.
“ They were the ones who profited most from the usury fees called interests. They were the main owners of the banks, called share-holders. And with their profits they could now buy up these properties of houses, lands, production- and repair-shops, that were once owned by the borrowers and had now fallen to the banks.
“And the same profiteers could even buy up water and energy resources once owned by whole nations, when those nations could no longer pay the usury fees to international world banks. They would then raise the prizes for the necessities of life, like water, electricity, food or housing to the point where many people could no longer afford to pay.
“Many would suffer, some would starve or die needlessly from poverty caused illnesses or from desperation. These ups and downs of availability of coins for ordinary people was called the economic cycle.
“The majority of people were trapped in a coin-system that made them suffer ever so often,” to emphasize his words the Professor formed a circle with his hands, his fingers becoming horizontal bars to the entrapping cage, “a coin-system that inevitably would transfer their wealth of real useful things and resources away from them and into the control of only a few people, who had done nothing useful for other people to earn this wealth. It was a system based on deception.
“Like the marauders who robbed the villagers in the stone-age story, so had the marauders of the Dark Ages come to understand that deception is a far better weapon to take away other people’s possessions than physical violence.”
“But why wouldn’t the majority of the people just change their coin-system into a better one like ours?” Hope asked shaking her head.
“Because,” the Professor repeated his earlier argument: “most people just did not understand their coin-system. Those who did understand, believed there was no alternative, no better one at least.
“And those who thought there actually might be a better one, still believed that changing the coin-system would be impossible without destroying their whole world.”
“But why?” Hope asked once again.
“ Because they were told so by those they trusted, their government leaders, their teachers, their scientists and their information offices, which they called mass-media. From the biggest of those media outlets -named news agencies- billions of people all over the world would receive the same pieces of information about their world and their trade- and coin-system.
“ And the first thing the marauders with their power and coins was to buy or otherwise control the mass-media and just as they would use their coin influence to control what was taught in the teacher- and scientist-schools which were called universities. The marauders then set pre-chosen men and women in control of their mass-media and schools.
“There was a time when in marauder-controlled nations all information given to the people would have to be approved by marauder-controlled government officials, even what was written in books or what words somebody could sing to a melody in public places.
“Really?” Hope grinned and then started singing, “la-le-loon, I sing a tune, marauders are bad and that will make them mad!”
Her great-uncle listened and then commented with a smile: “They didn’t actually call themselves marauders, you realize that?”
And then he added in a more serious tone: “But yes, even something as harmless as a small tune of protest would make some government officials angry enough to throw the singer into prison.
“The people who lived in those nations knew that, and they felt suffocated by those restrictions. And some would protest or even resist in spite of the danger of arrest. More and more would follow until eventually the government was overthrown.
“In time, however, most marauders had found that if they wanted the people to become really willing tools and subjects a far more clever method of control was needed.
“So instead they created a system where ordinary people believed they were ruling themselves, because they could vote for their government leaders, and that they were free to say and write whatever they wanted. And the marauders then called this system a democracy. But the marauders were still in control, for once again those who came into the highest positions to be voted for were pre-chosen by the marauders, just like those in the highest positions in all major news-outlets or teacher-schools.
“The trick was not to ban the truth but to hide it under a mountain of unimportant tidbits of information, or contradict it immediately, or ridicule the person who says the truth, or never allow important information to be repeated again, or never connect it to other information until eventually it is forgotten.
Hope shook her head in disdain: “How can you forget something really important? I wouldn’t !!”
The Professor smiled: “Maybe you wouldn’t, but on the other hand maybe you wouldn’t even read this information. Look!”
The Professor let the image of a thick newspaper appear. The pages turned slowly all by themselves.
“A new paper like this would be delivered to the people each day. Most thought, that the really important information would be on the front page in big letters. But what, if this information is on page 23 or page 39 and in small letters? Would you read all 48 pages every day with all the tidbits, to find that single one important piece of information, which is printed there in maybe half a year?”
Hope declared stubbornly: “If I had to, I would.”
“Maybe,“ the Professor conceded, “but most people didn’t know they had to. They trusted their news-outlets to inform them well. They trusted especially those which were send electronically over the air.
“These electronic outlets became eventually far more important than the written papers, for here the people could see the faces of those who brought them the information. And seeing the same faces day after day, these news people became somehow mentally part of their own community. People knew every line in their faces like in a family member or a friend.
“In the minds of those who watched them the news narrators became persons to be trusted. And so those newsmen told the people whom they could trust to vote for as their leaders. You do remember what was needed to sustain any community, do you?”
“I know, Great-uncle, you said, it was trust. But instead of voting for leaders,” Hope asked “why didn’t the Dark-Age people just vote for what rules they wanted, like we do?”
“Because,” the Professor explained, “in the Dark-Ages people weren’t allowed to do that. Scientists had convinced most everyone that there was only one form of democracy which had no alternative. The power of decision should be handed over to government leaders, who were people of higher intelligence and competence than others.
“And while most Dark Age people believed themselves to be quite intelligent, they saw most of their neighbors as being far too stupid to make good decisions”
Hope grinned: “That’s stupid.”
The Professor nodded smilingly: “Quite so.”
And then he became serious once again as he continued: “And so the decisions the marauder controlled governments made was to send their populations into one war of conquest after another. The marauder controlled mass-media demonized the governments of the targeted nations as monsters and their people as being better off, if their governments would be changed even by means of war.
“At the same time marauder controlled scientists would tell lies about nature. They would say, that resources were scarce when in reality they were abundant. They told people that carbon fuels like oil and gas were made from dead dinosaurs, even though they already knew better.”
Once again Hope shook her head: “But why would anybody believe something so dumb. Carbon fuels, which are created by pressure and heat, come out of the deep layers in the mantle of the earth. And they are constantly seeping up into higher reservoirs continuously refilling them. This is so clear.”
“Yes, we know that,” the Professor agreed, ”and the Dark Age scientists knew it for quite a long time while they still pretended otherwise. They also called most people and their children parasites on planet Earth. They insisted that there were too many of them living and breathing on earth, destroying the climate so that the earth would become hotter and turn into a desert.”
“Did the people really believe that? How could they?” Hope was agitated. “Didn’t they understand that we need to fear the cold, not the warmth, because we are living in the interglacial part of an ice-age. That’s why we need ice-breaking missions and…and Papa….” she swallowed.
Again the Professor nodded: “Many scientists knew that as well, but pretended otherwise because the marauders pressed them to do so.”
“But why lie about nature and science? It just doesn’t make sense.” Hope shook her head.
The Professor replied: “Remember that the marauders’ ultimate goal was that all nations on earth would in the end come under one set of rules, one trade and one coin-system, a world where all of human kind would become part of a giant pyramid of power.
“Creating artificial shortages of resources they controlled was to help them to reach this goal. Making people believe that they were too many for the planet and that having children was evil would allow them to introduce laws to control who would be allowed to have how many children and who would not.
“To have this kind of control over the children of men had been the dream of the first marauder philosophers nearly 2500 years earlier written in a script called “The Republic”. “
“They were evil those marauders, so, so, so terribly evil.” Hope spread her fingers in disgust. “Why didn’t God just let them all drop dead?”
The Professor shook his head: “God doesn’t work like this, you know that, don’t you?”
“Why not,” Hope wasn’t content, “ these people, they were not just bad, they were evil.
“They hated children…children! God should have struck them with a bolt of lightning or give them a deadly illness or something. I would have…”
“If you were God, you mean,” the Professor ended the sentence. He stopped for a second, but when Hope averted her eyes and looked to the floor, he continued slowly.
“The marauders also thought they knew better than God. They thought that when they would succeed in controlling everything and everybody they could create a more perfect world than God had, with better people in it.”
Hope protested but in a far lower voice than before: “I’m not really like the marauders, I would never do these terrible things they did. In our age nobody would, nobody.”
The Professor weighed his head: “I’m not so sure about that. Do you remember, I told you once about a friend of mine, who also thought that a more perfect kind of people was needed?”
Hope now looked rather disconcerted.
“John Galt,” she whispered, “yes, I just haven’t thought about him.”
The Professor nodded: “Yes, the marauders’ ideas are often far closer to us, than we want to remember……But let’s go back to our story of the past:
“God didn’t send bolts of lightning, instead he let the sun shine and the rain fall on all people as he had always done.
“But in time the system that had evolved for several hundreds of years out of the marauders’ philosophy became ever more unstable because it was built on deception.”
The Professor pressed a key on his board, and when the ugly painting of the snake-structure called power-pyramid reappeared, he went on to say:
“And to uphold this system over time ever more preposterous lies needed to be added. But still, most people couldn’t see those lies for what they were, because they were clinging to their community, a giant community of which everyone had become a part of on some level.”
Still fascinated by the ugliness but instinctively knowing that she couldn’t allow herself to be drawn into the image, Hope turned away. She even turned her chair, so she wouldn’t have to glance at the image again, for the Professor made no move to turn it off.
Instead he started talking again: “The levels of the power-pyramid had become the people’s community and while many of them tried with all their might to rise from one level to the next one above being in constant fear to fall to the one below, they would be as blind to the whole structure as those subjects in the experiment, I have told you about. You remember those people who suffered from cognitive dissonance to reality? They could not see the real color of the false playing cards, the blackness of the hearts and the bloody red of the spades.”
Hope nodded but then added “I still don’t understand. Why didn’t they just take a longer and closer look?” She was mumbling now, still strenuously avoiding to look at the image of the ugly painting.
“Because,” the Professor explained patiently, “recognizing all of the truth at once, would have been too painful and too scary for most people. They would have lost trust in everything they had trusted in before. It would have been as if the ground had been taken from underneath their feet.”
“But why should the truth be more painful, than what the marauders had done to them with their lies.” Hope asked confused: “With their coin-system the marauders would take away people’s possessions, so they could no longer fulfill their needs. They would make the resources scarce and lead the people to war against each other. And they would even tell them that their children were parasites on the earth. What is more scary or painful than all that?”
The Professor took Hope’s both small hands into his big ones and looked her deep into the eyes.
“What would you feel, if I told you, that everything your parents have told you was not true. Everything your sensei taught you and everything you have read, seen and heard on the Peace-Web was a lie. Nothing is the way you thought it was and even I haven’t told you the truth, never, ever…”
The Professor’s gaze didn’t waver, it was near hypnotic. Hope tried to avert her eyes, only to be confronted by the scary image of the ugly painting. Fear rose up in her and doubt. Had he really lied, and the others, had they as well? Hope found it now hard to breath, she started to tremble.
Then the Professor broke the gaze, and Hope pulled her hands away, instead she flung her arms around her great-uncle holding him as tight as she could.
“You would never lie to me, Great-uncle, never. You just wouldn’t.”
The Professor loosened her arms and held her on the shoulders looking her once again straight into the eyes: “You are right, I would never lie to you, my little one.
But it is scary, isn’t it….. to doubt?”
Hope nodded emphatically and then sat down again to listen.
The Professor went on: “Most of the time the people even in the Dark Ages did not lie deliberately to their children, their students, their neighbors, their readers or their listeners. They just didn’t know any better. They were repeating what they had learned and trusted to be true. When they did lie they trusted it to be necessary to protect a greater good.
And so like every other community the pyramid of power was stabilized by the trust of the people.
But in the long run lies just aren’t a stable foundation, more and more of them are needed to keep the old ones alive.
In time the deceptions became too obvious to go fully unnoticed. And still, most people couldn’t see them, because of their need to trust. But there were a few people with a special talent…”
“I know, I know,” Hope interrupted, “the grumpies, they had the talent to distrust…….but…nobody believed them.”
“Well,” the Professor said, “nobody, but other grumpies…..at first. But these were the times when the precursor of our Peace-Web had been invented. Now people were able to communicate with one another over far distances and share information without the use of the news-outlets and outside the constriction of teacher-schools. And so, when the grumpies from all over the world could talk to each other, their body of knowledge grew and the truth started to shine its first rays of light unto the mass of lies.”
Now the Professor turned back to the ugly painting, pushed a series of keys and turned it into some kind of animation.
Hope also turned around and watched with fascination what was happening now.
The image zoomed out slightly and now you could see that the gray surrounding which had caused the dreary atmosphere were actually dark clouds. These clouds started to rip apart and small rays of a sun that was still mostly covered started to light up the image. The rays hit the lower parts at first.
The Professor explained: “Slowly but certainly the truth would rock the foundation of lies on which the pyramid was built upon”
The snake-pool at the foundation transformed and turned into mush and the structure started to tremble.
“Yeee,” Hope cheered, “the truth-light is poison for the snakes.”
The Professor smiled and nodded: “And the grumpies´ communication was noticed by others. “
Some of the people within the structure who before had looked apathetic were hit by rays of light and started to lift their heads.
And the Professor continued: “In time the seeds of truth planted in the hearts of those who didn’t believe them at first started to sprout. And the non-grumpies started to join in the pursuit of truth, being able to see what their own fear had hidden from them before. Finally they were able to leave what had caged them in before.”
By now a growing number of people had left the structure and begun to build houses outside it. Some were already tilling the soil and planting food.
The clouds were thinning out more and more and the sun-light had become stronger reaching now to the upper parts of what was supposed to be a pyramid.
The Professor went on: “With more and more truth coming to the light of day the trust of the people in the marauders´ structure, which once had fed into it and stabilized it, eroded. And slowly but certainly the pyramid would crumble.”
The animation showed the decay of the structure. The snake-walls and floors started to wither and then to dissolve into dust. The people in the higher levels let go of the ropes in their hands, instead they used their hands to loosen the nooses around their necks.
Every time anyone of the uniformed men let go of the ropes in his hands some tanks turned into tractors, and missiles turned into cranes. A machine gun that before had been in the hands of one of the uniformed men on the lower levels had now, after he had left the structure, transformed into a plowshare drawn by an oxen.
The snake-ropes, which had connected the different parts of the structure, turned into slithering slopes at first, allowing some of the people to slide safely to the ground. Eventually, however, the ropes turned into dust, like the rest of the withering structure. And those who had missed their opportunity and were still inside, when the floor finally dissolved under their feet, had a rather uncomfortable lending. Because, with the disappearance of the strange structure, it seemed that normal gravity had set in again.
And the Professor went on:
“But different from all the earlier fears, this was not the end of the world. The sky hadn’t fallen and the seas hadn’t risen to cover the lands. Only a pyramid had disappeared from the face of the earth. The people, however, all those who had been inside, they still existed. And the lands to grow the food and the houses to live in and the technology and resources to build, make and trade things were still there as well.
“And because the destruction of the corrupt structure had been a slow process, it had given most people enough time to adjust and rebuild their trust, focusing it now on something better than a pyramid of power or rather Someone better.”
The Professor looked up to the ceiling, while Hope following his gaze nodded in understanding, then he continued: “And the knowledge needed would now be shared. Information would now no longer be monopolized and partitioned, and therefor the knowledge of all people would be growing and growing.”
The image zoomed out slightly more to show a landscape of villages and small towns surrounded by fields, meadows and woods.
The Professor ended his tale: “The Dark Ages had faded into the pages of time and our age had begun to rise.”
The image zoomed in again to show the spot, where the pyramid had been before but now had disappeared without a trace, making room for the construction site of what was quite obviously Hope’s village.
“Does this answer your question?” The Professor asked then unexpectedly.
“What question?” Hope was at a loss for a second, but then lighted up. “Oh, of course, the question why God made grumpies. Sure it does.”
This was the happy ending Hope had been waiting for, but she wasn’t quite satisfied. In all good fairy tales the hero gets to slay the monster and the witch, who had intended to fry and eat Hansel and Gretel, was pushed into the oven herself.
And so she asked: “What about the marauders? What happened to them?”
The Professor shook his head: “You still don’t understand.
“Towards the end of the Dark Ages in just about all the nations on earth, the marauders were everywhere. No city, no village, no street, no house, and not was free of them, and they even were lurking in the minds of the people. All those enclosed within the pyramid depended on it for their physical needs, and for their thoughts and their knowledge.
“Yes, when the pyramid finally crumbled, there were a few isolated trials against some of those who seemed to have been the most responsible for wars, war-crimes, and other forms of mass-murder. But most of the former marauders, although they probably were just as guilty as those on trial, were persuaded to rather become witnesses who could unravel the lies of the past and bring to light the necessary facts needed for the big picture of truth to emerge.
“To some people it didn’t seem quite fair that those who had been the instigators of so much oppression and war weren’t properly punished. However, the more reasonable people realized that a thirst for revenge would have been an obstacle in the process of truth-finding.
“And when the full picture could finally be seen, it brought a few surprises for most of the people, since the real image of truth somehow started to turn into a mirror of the past, and the reflected image was a discomforting one for most who dared to look into it.
“ Sure, the reflection told them, that those on the highest levels in the coin- and production-system had profited most, and yes, those rich and connected people had seemingly possessed infinitely more power than the average person, but there was far more to it.
“When the people started to look closely enough, they could see reflections of their own past. And it was then when they realized that while they had still been inside the pyramid, they themselves—each and every one of them—had participated in its atrocities in one way or another.
“Whether they had tried to protect their own livelihoods or, afflicted by cognitive dissonance, they only had sought to protect their fragile peace of mind, they had nonetheless often deliberately turned a blind eye to the horrible crimes being committed. They had denied those crimes, even defended them at all cost, and far too often they had played an active role. And thus the people realized that at some level, they all had at least a few pieces of marauder inside themselves and that there was only one way in which to diminish these inner marauder-pieces.”
The Professor looked up to the ceiling and cited: “…and forgive us our trespasses, as we…..”
“forgive those who trespass against us…” Hope finished and then considered this for a while before eventually commenting thoughtfully:
“You said diminished, Great-uncle. Does that mean that these pieces of a marauder in the minds of the people were still there, but just smaller?”
“Of course,” the Professor stated, “and they will always be there while people live on earth—the greed, the pride, the desire to control the world and other people….
“They are inside all of us, you and me included, a part of our fallible human nature. And when nourished by jealousy, anger, or fear, they will grow and could create another pyramid or a similar monster of power and destruction.”
Hope shuddered and then concluded, “And so, we still need grumpies.”
“Yes,” the Professor agreed, “in every age.”
Hope jumped from her chair. “Maybe, I should tell, Grandma, your story.”
For the first time the Professor looked unsure of himself.
“Hmm,” he said ruefully, “I don’t think my sister appreciates a long answer to a short question. Even when we were little she told me I talked too much.”
“Oh, Great-uncle, I think she likes your answers now, even if they are long. Because she always sends me to you, when I have a question, just like Mamma does. And she would not do that, if she wouldn’t like your answers, because she loves me a lot.”
The Professor smiled gratified.
And Hope reconsidered: “Maybe you should tell it to Grandma yourself. I will go and buy a panini now. And I will tell Mr. Wang “Assalaamu aleikum”.”
The Professor laid his hand on Hope’s shoulder while he followed her to the door: “You do that, my little one, you do that!”
It happened on the twentieth day after I met my mother again.
The moment I came down to the basement, I found Luscinia outside my mother’s door looking deeply worried. I sensed that she was holding back tears.
She stopped me from entering straight away by whispering: “Inessa has done so well the last few weeks, ever since you have come back into her life. I thought she was recovering. I thought the three of us would leave together…”
“But…” now tears started dropping down from her eyes, “since last night she has gotten weaker again, weaker than I have ever seen her before. She is coughing all the time, she can’t eat and she barely can breath. I’m afraid, Jonathan, that…”
“She’ll be alright,” I denied her implication and hugged Luscinia trying to reassure myself as much as her.
But when I entered the room, I saw my mother in the same state I had seen her the first time three weeks earlier. No, it was even worse.
Weakly she lifted one hand in a motion to signal Luscinia and me to come closer. Then she was shaken by a seemingly endless coughing attack. Luscinia was trying to steady her, to relieve her pain. I only watched helplessly, realizing what was going to happen, but still refused to acknowledge it.
“I need to tell you one more thing,” my mother whispered after the attack was over, her voice barely audible now. I had to kneel down and get closer to hear what she was saying.
“You know your father’s society?” she whispered.
“Yes, I know it,” I answered, wondering at the seemingly arbitrary question. “He will initiate me in it next month on my birthday. But this is not important right now, Mamma. You need to spare your breath.”
“Yes, Thani, it is important,” she whispered urgently. “It’s because of this society, that I am here. I went to a meeting.”
I looked at her in disbelief: “They don’t allow women.”
“They don’t,” my mother agreed, “but I was there once and I was hiding and then I was caught, but only after I heard something…something…”
Another coughing attack interrupted her and when it was finished, her voice, weak as it was, became even more urgent: “You need to make a recording from their meetings and you need to take it with you to the outside-world.”
“Why?” I asked, but my mother started coughing again, a suffocating cough.
“Luscinia,” I called out, “do something, please do something!” Together we lifted my mother in a sitting position. She stopped coughing and gave us both a weak but grateful smile. She tried to say something more, but then exhaling she gave us another smile, a smile filled with all the warmth she could leave behind. And then the light in her eyes broke.
“No,” I cried, “it can’t be!”
I held on to her “Mamma, please, no Mamma, come back. It’s not fair, not fair, we need more time, more time…”
But our time together was over, and she didn’t come back. There was only Luscinia kneeling next to me, and she was crying as hard as I did myself.
Sure, the Professor talks a lot, telling stories, a narrative from the perspective of a society in which peace is the highest good.
His stories are turning the historic and narrative -the way most of us have been taught it- upside down. And they show us our own time in an uncomfortable light.
Is the Professor’s view reasonable, is it in any way factual?
The reader has to answer these questions for him- or herself. Trying to find actual facts is most often a matter of trust. What sources can and will you trust and what sources do you consider to be less than trustworthy?
True or false, only the future can tell us for certain.
Wouldn’t it be nice, if we actually would own a time-machine we could use to see our time from the perspective of the future, in the same way as we in the present see the past of the medieval era?
Jonathan remembers the time he spent with his mother. David follows Hope into the office of her Great-uncle, where she learns about the past over the ages, about empires and how they rose and feel, and about money and they used to create it.