Chapter 20
The union business...what a business! The Baklavaian layered skin cells of my liver are worn weary from wine, women, and worry. That and a Chlorestrogen level that's 200% above average for a twenty-seven year old male. But, that's my business. I've got my own Sam Spadian office now complete with a water cooler, frosty glass doors that say, "Lane Cooper, Director of Therapy,' and a private secretary who sits on my desk with her knees crossed taking dictation. I keep a bottle of scotch in my right hand drawer, and when I leave the office, I grab my gray Fedora. Okay, so I'm obsessed with the 1940s. I'll admit it. Can you blame me? So what if it's 2045. I'm not that different from anyone else. I long for a cinematic, black-and-white, celluloidistic return to an era when categories meant something. Hell-grayscale is easier to infodigest. Who would disagree with me? Things started to go downhill when movies started using color. When the movies were in B&W, people knew what they were doing when they went to the movies: they were watching a damn movie! There was no confusion, no doubts as to what constitutes reality, no contextual overlap krap. No one had to say, "THIS IS ONLY A MOVIE." Everybody KNEW that.

Then in comes color. People loved it. Of course, it seemed so real. It wasn't long before the multimedia megalopolies wrote the epitaph that was to foretell the whole story. All I know is my job as director of therapy would be a hell of a lot easier if things had stayed black and white. That's where the bottle of Scotch comes in.

Some would say I've got a great job. I would disagree with them, but they'd say it anyway. How would you like to be the psychologist to a nation of people? I've got millions of neurotic cyborgs out there asking me to reboot their mental systems. It's a stress-to-the-max, take two and call me in the morning kind of day every day.

What's it take to reboot someone's system these days? It's not easy that's for sure. I've got a system. I wouldn't say it's foolproof, but it sure as hell jingles their bojangles. It makes people feel again.

But now I've got too many patients with too many problems. I should have known better. I ought to have learned by now not to pry too deeply into the mouth of a gaping bulldog. But do I listen to the earnest advice of my most trusted companions? Apparently not. I get in trouble that way. I feel compelled to know everything about my clients. I fancy myself as some sort of earthly priest, whose confessional doors pay centuries worth of homage to a listen-and-never-tell tradition. Confidentiality elevated to a supernatural superstition--trust above all.

"Lane," Elaine my secretary called out, "your nine o'clock is here." That would be Wilson Wornthrop. Better take my feet off the table. As I greeted him at the door, I could see that something was amiss. His eyes avoided any contact with me; they kept shifting from right to left as if he were watching a tennis match on the floor. Wilson needed a lot of direction. Nothing could be taken for granted in his care. The dude had been psycholooneytooned in a major way. I'm still trying to figure out what kind of scenario they must have run on him. Wilson tugged at his tie like he always does. Every fifteen seconds he touches his tie in some way. It has to be ever so straight, positioned in just the right angle. No one knows how to tie a tie like Wilson Wornthrop--that's for sure. He sat down ever so slowly, leaning over his tie like a mason lowering his plumb cord along side a row of freshly lain bricks.

"So tell me Wilson. What's happening?" "Last night I left my office. I stood waiting at the elevator for a hell of a long time. I knew it was a long time because my arm got tired so I put my briefcase down. I always do that when I have to wait so my left arm doesn't overdevelop its muscles. That's why I never played baseball as a kid. And I REFUSE to play tennis. That's one sport I'll never, ever play. I swear to God in heaven I'll die before I go near a tennis racket. Talk about uneven muscular development."

"Yes, of course Wilson. You were waiting at the elevator. And then what happened?" Wilson took of his glasses and rubbed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose the way he does when he's trying to ward off a migraine. He quickly looked up and smiled.

"I'm sorry to go off on a tangent, doc," Wilson said raising up his right hand as if he was about to give testimony on a stack of bibles, "I won't do that anymore. I promised Maggie I'd keep focused. If I could just keep focused on one damn thing." His forehead wrinkled up like a basset hound's belly.

"You were waiting at the elevator," I said.

"Right. I was waiting at the elevator when I saw two class seven software developers appear before me as the doors opened." Wilson took a handkerchief out of his breast pocket and wiped a thin layer of sweat from his greasy brow. He continued to dab away at his forehead, anticipating in advance any possible run-off of sweaty secretions that might come his way as a result of his narration.

"These guys were CLASS SEVEN mind you. It's not everyday you see a class seven, much less two at the same time. One of 'em was looking straight at me, the other was taking notes. `Are you Wilson Wornthrop?' the tall one says to me.

"I explained I was the one and only Wilson Wornthrop, Accounting Supervisor class two, Chief of Internal Accounting protocol standards. They nodded at me and said I would need to go to headquarters right away. Right away they said." Wilson's handkerchief was blotting up with sweat. I swear to you, Mr. Cooper, the guys had a sea of sand coming out of their teeth. We're talking Silicon Cyborg heavy duty bioincorporated stuff here. They tell me I'm out of balance on general ledger account number 4467843. I tell them, NOOOO NOOOO NOOOO!--that's just not possible. Everything about me is balanced. You know that Mr. Cooper. You know how I hate to see things out of balance. I don't suffer from muscular imbalances the way other accountant's do. I've trained myself for years...I don't do anything to the left side of my body that I don't also do to the right. I eat equally with both hands; I never use only my right hand to shake with. I've forced myself into ambidexterity, and these guys have the nerve to tell me I'm out of balance!"

Tears started dripping off his cheeks. He clenched both his fists and wept out loud. I moved over beside him and put my hand on his shoulder-patting him ever so gently.

"Let those tears out Wornthrop," I coaxed. And let them out he did. Together we sat there as he sobbed away.

"I'm crying out of both my eyes equally, did you notice that Mr. Cooper?"

"Yes. I can see that Wornthrop. There are no imbalances in that department, isn't that right?"

"Damn straight Mr. Cooper."

"So tell me Wornthrop, what happened after they took you down to headquarters?"

Wornthrop stared down into his handkerchief as if it were a crumpled up letter with the answer on it. "It was an inquisition. There was an army of accountants all pouring over my ledgers. Suddenly every account I ever worked on was called into question." He paused to weep. I handed him some fresh Kleenex. "They were into everything. They said my life was out of...out of...balance."

The weeping turned into wailing.

"Lane," Elaine my secretary tapped at the door. "I'm sorry to disturb you but Mr. Trochanter just buzzed and said to remind you that the speaking engagement starts in one hour."

"Speaking engagement? Shit! I thought that was for tomorrow. Elaine, can you take over for me with Wornthrop? He won't mind."

I bounced out. Thank God for cross training. Elaine's good. Real good. I drove down the hill to meet up with Trochanter. I know he's been pissed because two of our units were busted up last week by Macrohard patrol units. He wants to strike deals with the local gangs in the area to provide training in exchange for protection. Okay, there he is crossing the street. I parked my car and ran up along side him.

"Do you really want to do this thing with the gangs?" I said as I caught up with him.

"Get off your high and mighty. They aren't any different from you or me. They just live in a different context. We need protection, and they need skills. It's a perfect relationship. People need to be included. Forget about the labels. It's crap, all of it. These so called `ten-percenters' are only people who were pushed out of society. If every ten-percenter in the country joined us, we'd be the majority." He told me as we walked through a part of town called

"Deep East."

"Sure, criminals violate the mores of the society. The rule they live by is to break the rules. But, again, it's context dependent. If the society itself is corrupt--as ours certainly is--we need rule-breakers. The obedient, rule abiding folks are all at the corner guillotines, morphed out and counting their pennies after each execution. They're no good to us." He turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder. "Lane. We are gaining strength by shopping in Macrohard's dumping ground. We are buying at bargain basement prices. The gold is in the rejects."

I nodded as we continued to walk faster. I knew what the old fox was up to. He believed in people and he knew how to get what he wanted out of them. People liked this guy. Wherever we walked, people came out of their way to stop and say hello.

"Lane, do you smell that? Those are onions grilling on a hot stove. You see people actually cook - real food -- in this part of town. You won't find any synthetic steak sandwiches around here."

Trochanter knew where he was going. He turned left, then right then left again, in and out of a dozen alleys. We went through the Murder Dubs into the Dirty Thirties. Hell, I would never walk through the Deep East like this. Here I am, this tall, lanky guy covered in Tatts trying to keep up alongside this spry silver haired gentleman who knows the Thirties like he grew up here or something. Finally we get to this place called El Rojo Centro---a nightclub on East 33rd. It was packed. The place reminded me of a jail cell where everybody stayed decked out in their finest threads. There in the middle of the room stood a podium atop a small platform built on stacks of old tires.

As Trochanter walked up to the podium, the ongoing buzzing of the crowd wound down like a marching toy soldier running out of batteries on a crowded street corner. A roomful of thieves: luxey-luxes in their tuxes, but thieves nonetheless.

Trochanter walked up onto the stage. A pair of spotlights highlighted his face and shoulders behind the podium. A guy decked out in gray pinstriped synthetics brought him a glass of Compari on ice.

"I wanna tell you a little about our guest speaker tonight. He goes way back with us. I remember sitting in a all remember. Wondering what the hell I was gonna say to my appeal board. Well, I ain't neva had the gift a gab. I had other natural talents, mind you. Just speakin' in public never was one of 'em. So anyway, this guy shows up. This guy---Trochanter, they tells me. He's gonna fix your problem. Some kind a speech coach they tells me. Hell, I thought theys afraid I was gonna squeal so they sent this guy up to cap me! So Mr. Trochanter sits down and talks to me. Has me readin' poetry out loud. Can you believe that? The man lays it out for me. How to speak in public. He tells me what to say. He tells me how to say it. So then I go up to speak to the board. I stand up. I speak. They listen to me. They give me everything I ask for. I'm telling you, it helped me out. I owe this guy. Listen to him, he knows what he's talkin' about! So here he is. Let me present to you tonight our famous guest speaker. Mr. Al Trochanter!"

The guys gave him a huge applause. I didn't know gangsters could be so attentive. Trochanter cleared his voice, took a sip from his glass and began.

"This is a rare opportunity for me to come before you tonight. Rare, because for the first time in the history of the Nationstates, the need for change has never been more urgent. Never has the need for change been so crucial, so absolutely vital to our survival. The writing on the wall is clear, and it says: OUR TIME HAS COME." The crowd roared with approval.

"You have honored me here tonight, here at this crossroad of destiny, with one purpose in mind: how to guarantee your future survival in a political climate that has become increasingly hostile, increasingly violent, not to say increasingly a pain in the ass." The audience chuckled as Trochanter took another sip of his drink. "You know it. I know it. The squeeze is on. And they ain't gonna let go till they've done away with every last bit of liberty left to us by the founding fathers of this country. They won't be satisfied until the last drop of water in the well of individual freedom is long gone. It's a famine they want: the starvation and deprivation of our right to make a living for ourselves and for our families." Trochanter paused and looked into the collective eyes the audience.

"I'd like to talk to you tonight about how we've all gotten to this point. They say you're all thieves. You've all made your living stealing the intellectual property of Macrohard. But what I say is how the hell can the words `intellectual' and `property' honestly be used together? How can an idea be property? Can an idea be `owned' by one person? The whole idea of intellectual property rights is ridiculous and let me explain why. First of all, ideas are not invented, per se. Creation does not occur without the stimulus of inspiration. All ideas already exist-sitting in a big pot. Original thinkers are just people who keep stirring the pot---coming up with fresh combinations. Who can claim rights to the original ingredients? Do they really belong to anyone? Hell, no!

Let's take public speaking, for example. Something I know something about. Aristotle is credited for discovering much of what we know about speech making. Civilization, undoubtedly, owes him a great deal. But, should the heirs of Aristotle be paid royalties each time someone gives a good speech? Should we be forced to throw a few coins in Aristotle's grave each time we stand up and say a few words?

No. Ideas are not things that can be bought and sold like Chevrolets or candy canes. If I sell you my car, it is no longer mine. We cannot both own the car. Either I have it or you do. Ideas don't work that way. You can't exchange ideas, because you never lose them! If I give you an idea, I still have it. Seriously, what have I lost by sharing ideas? Nothing. Imagine if the opposite were true. If you told someone your name, you'd forget who you were!

They told us the intellectual property laws had to be. They were crucial to efficiency. But what if the inevitable result of efficiency is extinction? Look at what happened with Singapore and the old big three auto companies. We all know that Singapore took over the auto industry. But why? Singapore made more efficient cars. The people of the Nationstates demanded efficient cars. Singaporean cars were faster, cheaper, and had better fuel mileage. So they bought, and bought, and bought. However, what the Nationstates overlooked was the context within which this efficiency was made possible. Singapore was a slave state using slave labor. Their citizens had no say in where or how they worked. Of course they could produce better cars for less money that we could. Did Nationstate consumers ask why? No, they didn't care. They just wanted efficient cars. Global free trade force fit all automobiles into one giant, equal marketplace. So what did we do? By practicing `efficient buying' we built up the Singaporean economy while we simultaneously dismantled our own. Economists and politicians scoffed at the failing Nationstate auto industry, believing that if they couldn't compete in the world market, they deserved to fail. We all know what happened next.

What no one seemed to realize is that a democratic style of government wherein the majority of its citizens maintains a reasonably high standard of living is an expensive thing. People need to earn decent wages if they are going to feed their families and pay the necessary taxes to keep a free society afloat. Singapore didn't have such worries.

What we failed to realize is that efficiency is one thing, and the context in which it occurs is another. We fell victim to what I call 'contextual overlap': the failure to distinguish one context from another. The failure to see the big picture. Sure, Singapore could produce more efficient automobiles. Look at their society. The price we paid, by buying these so-called efficient cars, was to reduce our overall efficiency as a society. What good is an efficient car if you don't have a job or a school to send your kids to? So what should the Nationstates have done? They should never have purchased Singaporean automobiles except under the most outrageous tariffs and taxes. They should have supported their own system. They didn't realize that a successful system is not necessarily efficient. Efficiency is not the most important thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating shoddiness. Competition is good when and only when society itself benefits from the competition. When Singapore competed with the Nationstates, a slave society became bigger each time we purchased a Singaporean automobile. There was a direct transfer of wealth straight into Singapore. That is not competition. That is lethal short sightedness. By the time most of our manufacturing was dismantled, it was too late to change course. The Singaporean military invaded and you all know the beating we took. Later, when information became the primary commodity in our economy, the system went completely totalitarian. Why? Because information is like air. You can't control it, unless--- you can control thought itself. Information is in the realm of ideas and how do you control ideas? Mind control. Basing an economy on information was like giving every citizen a counterfeiting machine. How could you possible keep everyone from ruining the whole economy? That's where the guillotines came in. Put something in your head that doesn't belong there, and watch what happens.

You see, wealth and power are artificial. Wealth is the product of human relationships. It exists because of vested interests, not in spite of them. Wealth is about people watching out for their own. Power is only maintained by nepotism. You help your friends and they help you. No one ever got there alone, despite what they'll tell you. It all comes down to Quid pro quo. You do something for me, I do something for you. We both prosper. It's not about logic. It's about relationships. And that's what we have here tonight.

You're no angels, and neither am I. Hell, that's no secret. You've been set up, just as I've been set up. By a country that's hell bent on making everyone into data entry operators. What kind of work is that for people like us? We who have worked and tasted the sweat as it rolled off our brows. We who have lived to see our families prosper through our own labor. We who have broken the rules, not because we wanted to, but because we had to do what was right. Because we wanted to see our families eat real food instead of protein slabs. We who wanted to see our friends live and love without being hooked into a terminal sixteen hours a day. We alone have stood in anguished silence, refusing to go along. Refusing to let our spines be pulled out of our backs and turned into mindless wimps.

Friends, I know I can count on you to provide support as we move toward a newer society. A freer society that's not ruled by infotyranny. A society that takes care of its citizens. A society that works by the people, for the people, through the people! Friends, OUR TIME HAS COME!"

The room started cheering. Trochanter signaled for me to bring him a glass of water. As I ran up to the podium, I could feel the admiration oozing from the crowd. Trochanter had them right where he wanted. They would walk into an ongoing truck if he asked them to.

Trochanter kept 'em going for another fifteen minutes. What he wanted was their protection. In exchange, he was willing to train them. "Inside every thug," he used to tell me, "Lives a ham. Everything comes down to wanting an audience; wanting to be part of something greater or finer. Teach 'em how to speak in public and they realize they don't have to beat people up to get attention."

For days it went on like this. We went from one speaking engagement to another. Trochanter was building a coalition and he wanted everyone on board who could possibly help our cause. It was working. Every day new groups were giving their allegiance to our newly created union. The union where everyone would literally have a voice.

Since Trochanter's speech to the mob we haven't had a single incident with the police. Our speakers were spreading out all over the Nationstates. We were growing exponentially.

Everyday people seemed to like us. Why shouldn't they? They all knew the system was slanted against them. They were tired of their twenty-four hour -data entry world. We offered them a voice. In exchange they gave us union dues. And believe me, the money was well spent. We were starting to look respectful. We were becoming less and less an underground organization. All of us were speaking in public every day. Each and every day in some part of the country at least three hundred of us were giving a speech to a captivated audience. Signing up new members was only limited by how fast we could pass out union contracts. We had the entire orchard to ourselves, all we had to do was walk in and start picking. We created a living, chain reaction that swept out in concentric circles from each of our union offices.

The word VOX became ubiquitous. Plastered on walls, spray-painted on bridges, sewn on jackets, stenciled on T-shirts, pulled by airplanes, printed on blimps, carved in trees, chiseled on bricks, mowed in fields, and written in sand. But, more importantly, it was on people's lips everywhere. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to join. Everyone wanted to be part of this seismic wave rolling its way from coast to coast. The roots of the past were being pulled up and everyone knew it.

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