October 7, 2007

Paragon’s People (5 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

‘Alright, people, the blessing is over, let’s get on with it.’ The lecturer was a black smear upon the blazing plasma screen array behind her. Someone needed to turn the brilliance control down. The array displayed the lecture title ‘Equilibria?’ and a bullet point list of the slides to come.

The student prepared himself for a powernap of lecture duration: he leant forward, put one hand over his eyes and propped up a pen in his hand as if he were constantly poised to take notes. Beneath his pen lay the crude sketch of a nude woman. The image was passionless. He closed his eyes and entered darkness. His hangover was still with him, its fingers scratching and cleaving along synapses.

‘So we have spoken of the cycle of optimism and cynicism,’ the lecturer began. ‘When a society or culture is optimistic, it reaches out, explores its boundaries, pushes them constantly. The natural progression of this, of course, is to cast aside all rules and an optimistic civilisation will tend towards self-destruction and anarchy. During this period where rules are paid little more than lip-service, the arts and sciences leap forward. So – you pay for progress with societal disintegration.’ She rubbed her hands together in demonstration, pretending they were sticky and said, ‘People just don’t gel anymore. Independence is prized above everything else.’

The student opened his eyes and looked towards the lecturer, over the tired, wooden benches that filled the expanse of the lecture theatre. Around half the seats were vacant; he’d heard a suggestion that universities were having a harder time meeting their budgets due to a decline in numbers. Particularly in foreigners, a well-paying crowd.

On the screen, a swinging pendulum appeared.

‘But there is point when the citizens grow fearful of their own culture. They begin to crave order again, someone to tell people how to behave, someone to force them to roll along well-established grooves. Slowly, freedoms are offered up for sacrifice one by one, until the people are comfortable again. But this process is a pendulum, not a switch, and the culture swings too far in the other direction. It becomes cynical and harkens back to old-fashioned values. The way things used to be, which they never used to be.’

The pendulum slowed as it swept through the nadir of its arc.

He wondered if the lecturer prayed at morningten; the three ten’s were only really imposed on the students. Having missed so many lectures recently, he’d forgotten he liked the lecturer and what she had to say. There was always an element in her lectures that derided American culture, but subtle, easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. Too much drinking and late-night sex – too many lectures missed. My God, what was he becoming?

‘Power is donated to the state until the state can take the remainder itself – and finally, the system controls the people instead of the other way around. Now the people are unhappy for a different reason, unable to express themselves, strapped to rules and regulations set by a special few. The pendulum finally starts heading back the other way; sometimes the extreme order will just burn itself out, but violent revolution can also do the job – often throwing the pendulum back into the embracing bosom of anarchy.’

The pendulum turned blood-red and then recoiled sharply from the right-side of the display as if kicked by an invisible foot. The lecturer should have added sound effects, the student thought, it would have been cooler. But Jesus, someone should turn the brightness down, it was hurting his eyes through the hangover haze.

‘And the cycle begins again. So – our question is, are we doomed to repeat this cycle of extremes again and again, or is this process swinging in shorter and shorter arcs, moving us towards a perfect equilibrium where liberty and order are carefully balanced?’

A perfect equilibrium. Could such a thing exist? Certainly the incumbent President resented individuality, but it had been going this way for a long time. The President wasn’t really to blame; he was just the manifestation of the people’s masochistic desire to be controlled and shepherded. The opportunity for the opportunistic had risen. The country needed something to counteract what was going on, an antidote, a neutralising agent. But what form could that agent take?

As the lecturer continued, someone passed the student a note from behind. He opened it, glancing behind to see the poet wink at him. The note said: ‘2nite same time/place. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’ He smiled to himself. New friends.

He then spotted that his nude sketch could be improved if the woman were bound. He scribbled lines around her as if the woman was being restrained by white straps of fabric, something like bandages.

She took on more life, became more alluring, her inked edges teasing and bleeding desire in black blotches across his notebook. He felt movement in his jeans and brand new ideas invade his mind.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1813

2 Responses to “Paragon’s People (5 of 11)”

  1. Jennifer wrote on 8-Oct-2007 @ 1555:

    This is getting so naughty!


    I like!!


  2. Jennifer wrote on 8-Oct-2007 @ 1555:

    This is getting so naughty!


    I like!!


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