A few minutes later, they were on their way out of the village, with the old man leading the way via a route that avoided all security cameras. They never found out what the council’s judgment was, and their new companion, although talkative otherwise, did not seem inclined to discuss that subject.
“He doesn’t have any trouble keeping up with us,” Chess remarked, as he walked beside Ileana. “I was sure we’d be sending him back to his village by the end of the first day. Kinda crazy, though -- I mean, he was so willing to pack up and come with us.” Chess frowned. “Did we ever ask his name?”
Ileana’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh! I don’t think so. I was just calling him ‘Grandfather’ as a sign of respect. As for the abrupt decision that he made… well, I guess he’s lived long enough to know when to seize a moment? I think I would have liked his college classes,” she added with a smile. “What do you think about that whole ‘visiting a darker part of the mind out here in the woods’ idea?”
“I don’t know… but stories about witches and magic seem to travel awfully far and fast out here.” Chess gave a shaky laugh. “And, as for unreasonable fear… I close my eyes every night wondering if the next time I open them, I will see Razor’s face.”
“That’s not an unreasonable fear,” Ileana answered gravely.
“Great,” Chess sighed. “The next time I wake in a cold sweat, I’ll be sure to thank you.”
Ileana shook her head. “I put you and Sariel in danger every day that I’m with you. That’s what I’ve been thinking about since Razor’s men caught up with us. And yet I continue to risk your lives.”
Chess shrugged. “You don’t have a choice. We’re not leaving you.”
“Chess the thief, who steals from dragons,” she murmured, smiling wanly.
“Like I said,” Chess snapped, still feeling uncomfortable with his starring role in the tales, “stories get weird out here.”
Trying to change the subject, Chess thought back to their interrupted conversation about Isaac Dale. “You know, I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot,” he said softly. “She must have been at that protest. I just hope… I just hope civ lasts long enough for her to live out the rest of her life in peace.” He shrugged at Ileana’s curious glance. “I mean, this world, as it is now… how can it last? Everybody’s hanging on to the shreds of the lives they know, but it’s all just a slow, inevitable collapse.”
“Oh, I really have been making you listen to Isaac Dale too much, haven’t I?” Ileana grinned.
“I don’t need anybody to tell me this stuff,” Chess answered, suddenly feeling impatient. “I’m capable of independent thought… which might be more than you could say for most of Dale’s audience. Seems like his followers practically worship him. I mean, what’s he actually trying to do?” Ileana touched his arm in a calming gesture, but he shrugged her off. He had been ruminating about this for a while and really needed to get it out. “I mean, it sounds like he’d be glad to see the collapse of civ. What about all the people who need civ? What about the kids, and people who are sick?”
“He’s just interested in fairness and the truth,” Ileana said mildly.
“Well… ” Chess protested, “how do you know that what he says is the truth?”
Of course, Ileana had an answer for his argument, which annoyed him.
“People outside send him and his group information,” she said. “For example, when Home Defense destroys a village. And his group tries to verify the information by any way possible: hacking into satellite images of the area or… oh, I don’t know. Maybe he has secret contacts in government.”
Of course, her example of the village bothered Chess. “Okay, well, but who fact-checks him?”
“Who can?” Ileana asked, opening her hands in a gesture of helplessness. “Who else is there?”
“Well,” Chess said darkly, “so many dissidents trust him and communicate with him…” He considered for a moment. “It’s possible that the government… or Home Defense… or even a corporation might attempt to buy Dale onto their side, so he would start spouting their truth instead. Someone who was shrewd and calculating could use the dissidents’ unshakable trust against them.”
Ileana smiled sympathetically. “That’s why we call you Chess.”
Continued next page...
Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that," he said, "shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.”
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Throughout history, most revolutions have involved violence, but, like Liu Xiabo, many recent leaders of revolutions have advocated peaceful resistance: Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Vaclav Havel, and others. In their writings, it is clear that these leaders discouraged violent revolution for a number of important reasons. Most obvious seems to be their belief in the importance of not hating others and their belief in the sanctity of human life. But there is another reason: all three wrote about the importance of non-violence as it related to their definitions of their goals and the ultimate goals of the revolution. Holding so strongly to an ideal or belief that it makes you willing to do anything, even commit violent acts is -- to (correctly, I hope) paraphrase Vaclav Havel -- exactly what got the particular society or country into the mess in the first place. Really, who is to judge whether a change to a new set of rigid ideals will be a change to something better?
As I have already mentioned, "dissidents" tend to be skeptical about political thought based on the faith that profound social changes ... -- because they are considered "fundamental"-- justify the sacrifice of "less fundamental" things, in other words, human lives. Respect for a theoretical concept here outweighs respect for human life. Yet this is precisely what threatens to enslave humanity all over again.
The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel
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