10. The public forum of a kingdom cannot be entirely ignored

Besides the anonymous mumbling there was a second species of public exchange of opinions and statements in the kingdom, light on its brow, it was announced by the signal "this is public forum". This particular signal never failed to be effective and was understood by everyone, as certainly as lapdogs understand the signal "this is play" before they pass on to rolling and snapping in the grass - with full impunity.
It must be added, however; public utterance in the kingdom did not reach the sophisticated level of dog play, the comparison wasn't in its favour, and appearance in the public forum avoided comparison where possible. Instead the signal "this is public forum" had taken its model one level down, from the way well-meaning adults approach kittens, yellow chickens and infants, with guttural babbling, eyes wide open, arms spread, making it clear: I am not dangerous. In behavioural sciences this is known as "the pjalting approach". (Infants react to it by yelling and vomiting curdled, bile-bitter milk). At the other end of the scale, citizens having difficulties in spreading their arms or lacking the prerequisites for eye-twinkling turned their backs on public exchange of opinions and statements. Thus two public roads emerged: on one you pjalted, on one you kept your arms close to the body and screwed up your eyes. A third path was not available, convention lay like a boulder of granite where the two exclusive possibilities forked.
Some were worse hit by this deadlock than others, or more in tune with one of its options. The pjalt obituaries were the foremost reason to fear death in the kingdom. No quarter was given; public metabolism was markedly necrophilic, supporting itself for a day on one single innocent victim, for a week on ten, for months on the stench from a massacre. When the natural turnover failed, victims were created: few athletes escaped from the public ruck after a heroic victory without overexerting the cartilage or the achilles tendon of their self-esteem. Hence there were good reasons to avoid an all too intimate public embrace, although nobody did so deliberately. And for politics there were no options, it lived and breathed in the oxygen and nitrogen of the public atmosphere; one fifth of the invigorating component, four fifths of the suffocating. You had to adapt to the physically given and still try to breathe naturally.

In an atmosphere of this kind a young person could grow up, entering his adult and mature life with a feeling of having been tutored according to a certain procedure, understanding it all with growing inner maturity. That way the sum of all open and accessible information, received by an individual during his life-time got a semblance of required courses, managed by some rectorate or godfather institution, just following the existing curriculum. This was a firm conviction in the beneficiaries of the public forum of the kingdom: that they had been fed necessary and adequate information whenever it was called for. For confirmation they only had to look back at the years when doubt had been thrown on the aim and direction of the nation's energy production. Back then, a national evening class had been promptly initiated, exhausting every aspect of energy production, in the end the matter had been decided in a referendum, where all national abilities had been refracted and collected like sunbeams in a focal point. This way the energy question was taken off the agenda once and for all. The unravelling of this drama was widely conceived as most satisfactory, proof of the optimal function of public discussion. For certain retouches were still made at intervals, as if overall publicity still awaited its ultimate perfection, but meanwhile it continued spreading arms and twinkling eyes, this part at least seemed to be timeless, beyond reform.
Every aspect of existence couldn't be embraced as easily, however, the public forum observed sophisticated taboos. Certain questions, e.g. those involving thermodynamics or atmospherical chemistry, were regarded as purely subjective and to be solved according to individual fancy. Sulphurous fuels led to acidification of the atmosphere when burned, but the public fancied Bengal lights on New Year's Eve, therefore the souring fireworks prevailed. There were indications that emissions of carbon dioxide led to certain inconveniences, but the sight of four-wheelers spinning on velodromes for hours and hours caught the fancy of many; hence public and sanctioned fun emissions of carbon dioxide were televised to a global audience. At the other end of the scale: all actions connected with the circulation of money were considered purely objective and left to the machinery of the economic laws of nature for their automatic regulation, here any uncontrolled emission of fancy would be met by a global public outcry.
In conclusion: the public forum was neither bird nor fish, and it might be well advised to express opinions regarding it in oracular phrases, with reconciling Per-Albinian wrapping. No one said outright: 'The public forum is an uncleared minefield, to be set foot on at one's own risk.' Instead you might hear something like: 'The task of the public forum is to keep the population informed, and it has been almost too successful in that task.' (Yes, that might pass, but only just). Harry might even tell himself that the Party had itself to blame for the prevailing state: the corridor between cash social politics and soft-hearted rhetoric had been gradually erased, the same thing happening wherever liberal contagion manifested itself; brakes should have been applied while there was time, now it was too late. In recent years each grain sown had tended to fall on barren rock if the sower didn't know how to pjalt with the right tone of voice. Ruth rubbed salt into the wounds when she heard his rejection the first time: 'Pjalt is a typically masculine word of rejection. Where would we stand if men had been allowed to set the tone on this point, if women hadn't pjalted, with their own kids and their neighbour's young? Pjalted without limits. I want to propagate pjalting: Pjalt Mothers in all countries, unite!'
Harry never took Ruth up on such topics, in a second he was on the defensive: 'I use the term more in the meaning of a neighbouring language, like in the compound "pjalt proletariate"; public pjalting is the worst kind of philistinism I know of. Unfortunately that slant doesn't relieve me from responsibility. The people first and foremost cajoled still remain my own voters, so a certain amount of pjalting is expected from my side as well. But it's an obstacle to maturity and growth, you must agree! Our public forum is - no: you won't hear me saying anything. Stating that doesn't mean that i blind myself to the fact that it had similar problems in the past, it never was without problems. I just wish we could do without the liberty ideology surrounding the whole mess. That is what makes us hypocrites. If I had my freedom to say each and every moment: Our public forum is - you just fill in the empty lines. Plus. And. If I had the freedom to do that, I would feel more at ease when pjalting. But I mustn't. No saving clauses.'
'Come here', Ruth said, 'and let me pjalt a little with you.'
'Would that mean that I recognize the universality of pjalting? Its superior attraction? The fact that we want to be pjalted with?'
Ruth pursed her lips, considering. 'Yes.'
'May I consult the Party board first, or do I have to decide here and now?'
'The Pjalty board? You are expected to pjalt instantly, without so many pros and cons. The offer expires in ten seconds.'
By that she had bared the cold steel of pjalting. Harry fetched a deep sigh and carefully pressed closer to her.
'But Harry, no one is as good at pjalting as you! Now submit to your fate and make use of your faculties. You do not like the fact that the others will soon be as good at pjalting as you, you don't like competition, there I caught you!'

The public forum of the kingdom had reached its highest level of development when new technology made it possible for one part to spread its arms, twinkle its eyes and invite the other: Let us hear Your opinion, what do You think in this matter? Next kittens, yellow chickens and infants could vote Yes, No or Don't Know and finally check if they had sided with the winning team. These achievements meant a great improvement to the human condition, removal of the last obstacles to an unlimited exchange of ideas and attitudes.
All this had been brought to a preliminary climax with The Great Tsunami. Harry was unable to think back to those days without getting goose pimples all over (and the wave in itself wasn't the cause); here pjalting had attained its universal breakthrough in universal publicity. To any well-read politician the case was as clear as water in advance: tourism was a wasteful, exploitative activity, exporting capital, importing flu and venereal disease, irrevocably destroying resources of the targeted countries. The Mediterranean area lay wasted after a hundred years of renewed Vandal invasion, instead the pjalt proletariate of the kingdom was offered bread and circus games at the shores of the Indian Ocean. (The transport in itself adding tons of sulphur and carbon dioxide to global pollution). A tourist was just a fortune-hunter, a no-good-person, if he got into some sort of trouble he was expected to scrape his chestnuts out of the fire on his own.
After the catastrophe widespread and embarrassing piracy in the straits which were worst jolted ceased at once, a clear indication that even earthquakes could be for the best in the best of worlds.
At this point the public dialogue had made its thrust by asking the prize question: Do You think that the Party has handled the Tsunami in a correct way, Yes, No or Don't Know? Harry had hastened to vote Yes!, but at that very moment had been washed away by a tidal wave of No! votes; the population turning its thumb down like one man. Before he knew what was happening he was floating in the middle of the Medial Ocean, hanging on to his convictions, out of sight of all land. In such a situation a politician might be tempted to summon elections and elect himself a new people, but in Harry's honour it should be said that he never considered that option. After reading the stars of the dark sky overhead and establishing the position of the North Pole, he changed his political course, slowly paddling in a direction where he expected to reunite with his electorate.
A dark night in the Medial Ocean invites relentless analysis and self-criticism; Harry realised that his own weapons had been turned upon him, that he had been beaten with weapons of which he had the mastery, in a moment of weakness. The pjalting public forum had grasped the situation quick as lightning: Tourists are our clients. Whereas the Party, blocked and paralysed, had left the stranded bodies of maids and farmhands to decompose on foreign soil. Reaching the beaches of the fatherland the tsunami was no more than a surge, but tufts of grass have been known to overturn large loaded carts before. You had to be mindful of that risk. And he thought with sudden resolve: Tourists are our people. (This paraphrased an ancient Minister of Finance, who in similar fashion had ushered house-owners into the arms of the Party - from this we learn how knowledge of History may be helpful when crucial decisions are made). Maids and farmhands didn't have holiday villas in nature reserves, they were obliged to emigrate for their recreation. They couldn't be left in the hands of a pjalting public forum, there they would end up as cat's food. Revived by these thoughts he took a few legstrokes propelling him in the right direction; once he reached land the right words would come by themselves.

Citizens of this nation were republicans, dedicated to public things and public goals, they would stick to their conviction even if shown the implements. At the same time the citizens of the same nation were childishly fond of everything being other than it seemed: theatre daggers, sooty soap, glasses with brandy-coloured, solid contents. In the modern time this national humorous disposition had found it natural to let the republic appear on the scene in monarchic disguise. (Incidentally, the whole confusion started with a masquerade ball, where the sovereign had appeared disguised as a republican). Toasts were proposed to king and fatherland - and nothing came from the glasses, faces were soap scrubbed to royal splendour - and called chimneysweeps to mind, in despair the protagonist threw himself on the regal sword - and the whole thing was just theatre for entertainment. From this turmoil monarchy crystallised as the favourite topic of the pjalting public forum, not only was it highest in rank at dinner tables, but at the same time it was the first and foremost Victim of the nation, again and again groaning the phrase that opened the whole performance: Ah! Je suis blessé, tirez-moi d'ici et arrétez-le!
Peeling the facade back a little, the whole thing took on the appearance of subversive activity; in the pjalting public forum the nation was Kingdom and the republic nothing but bad theatre. On this state of things a conspiratorial theory could in turn be built: a restoration was taking place in the nation, preparing an inversion of the primordial masquerade, as part of the turnabout intending assassins had also begun targeting Party ministers instead of royal persons. Maybe the pjalting public forum was even developing into a second parliament, a House of Lower Commons relative to the true one, sadly depopulated, with the Monarch as figure head on the prow?
'Rubbish!' Harry would have blurted out if someone had ventured to set out such a theory in earnest, but when the majesty complained about not being informed about the Tsunami in due time - pjalting 'Ah, je suis blessé' - Harry saw the writing on the wall, and his internal republican gave a roar: 'In such cases caution prompts the government to lock up the royal family in the attic of the royal castle, and there Their Highnesses are expected to keep their mouths shut until the danger is over!'
At any rate, after these shocking events one thing was obvious to every true republican: the public forum of the kingdom could no longer be ignored entirely, you had to lend an ear to its underlying, anonymous message.

16 kB, latest corrected 19.2.05, 27.11.08.

  • Svarta Hål, chapter 9
  • Svarta Hål, chapter 11
  • Back to contents