14. On the floor above Heikki they have their minds made up

The municipal health & environmental inspector had his quarters in the old town centre, in a three-storeyed brick house some eighty years of age and earmarked for demolition. He lived there from his own choice, couldn't imagine living without door panels or genuine bars in windows. In addition he well knew how unhealthy modern buildings were; a couple of decades were lagged in asbestos, one decade hermetically confined and ravaged by mould and dry rot. That didn't mean that all housing got better with age, like wine and cheese, but if you chose to go back one century in history, at least you arrived at houses that were porous, permeable and therefore well ventilated.
Upstairs, two merged flats housed the "Sacco-Vanzetti" collective. The health & environmental inspector took his dinners there; at half past five each day he seated himself in front of a brimful cauldron in the company of twelve very young people with good appetites. The cornerstone of the menu was a vegetarian dish, that suited both his mind and his stomach. For a dessert he got an exposition of global events and one or two discreet hints as to how he himself might contribute to improving the state of the world. That didn't interfere with his digestion, as long as the first course was the stable, common platform. (There was more stuff that united, but he admitted this only reluctantly, preferring to be a renouncer rather than a lukewarm fellow traveller when the table community aired its hatred of the philistines).

Each camp in this society had its own heroes, model personalities, as much in demand as potency pills and porn. You could approach a perfect stranger in the street, ask for his model or her hero and get a prompt reply, granted the person consulted was in a communicative mood that particular day. One option could go: Diane Fossey, the oldest generation probably answered: Albert Schweitzer, and when you asked for the third time there was some likelihood to hear: Dag Hammarskiöld. Or: Mother Therese. Or John F. Kennedy. (At the opposite end of the scale: Ernesto Che Guevara. Or Madonna, the Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, where modern times had entered their coordinates). After a couple of goes A always popped up his head anew, and there were at least ten bids on B when the question had been asked a hundred times. There seemed to be a small pool of destinies, achievements, only serving one purpose when it came to it: to act as guiding models for future generations. At the same time there was a public readiness to pull heroes and examples like rabbits out of the hats, allowing them to kick about for a while in the open air, to some unclear purpose. Standing there, admiring the helplessly kicking rabbit, the spectator couldn't help asking himself one question: who was chosen by whom in this turmoil, and why did a choice take place at all?
No one must jump at conclusions departing from this; model personalities didn't have an unquestioned ranking, not even on major holidays. Each citizen glanced first and foremost at the position of the mean proportional and felt at ease only in its proximity. Safety was connected with the great herd, if you had a choice you avoided the company of the bell cows and the large bulls on the margins. At a close look, the silent and often secret choice rather seemed to be dialectic: birds of the same feather didn't flock together, items of different polarity were attracted to each other. With this key at hand and some fundamental theorizing, a psychological profile of the subject of interview could be sketched: the hero made complete, filled up cavities in the personality. Here in turn was an entry gate for dabblers and charlatans, making themselves useful by offering their services: Tell us the name of your hero and we will tell what you lack!
Proof of the validity of this statement was offered by the affluent bracket of the nation, those who represented the highest degree of self-interest, the most consistent withdrawal from the demands and ideas of others. The first and foremost hero of the affluent bracket - even compared with indisputable heroes like Engelbrekt and Whitechrist - was a diplomat that under the Latest Major European War had organized visas and transport for thousands of fugitives and by this contribution had saved many a one from certain death in camps and burning cities. There was every reason to speak of a magnificent effort, in line with the humanism that had always been the undercurrent of the fashionable European barbarism. Unfortunately this was of no avail to the hero himself when he happened to cross one of the crucial frontiers of the time; he was held in custody, deported and in due time shot through the head by the secret police. Which was quite all right according to the logics of the side where he had landed up: it was a well-known fact that the acknowledged neutrality of his nation masked an ardent position in favour of either of the belligerent parties - and this of course must be particularly valid for members of the diplomatic corps.
The affluent bracket that had made good profits from selling to friend and foe alike, and gladly would have continued that way for some time still (in addition with some success having preserved the national phenotype in the as it were legitimate stream of incoming fugitives), this bracket with so little to pride itself on as regards contributions to humanity, with a sudden determination appropriated the missing diplomat and made him their ambassador in and for humanity. With the obstinacy of a bulldog it mapped his stays, his roads, his encounters. The shadow of the dead, at the head of an army of shadowlike philistines, took on an almost material shape, turning into a retroactive pain in the ass (resorting to a favourite expression of another of the belligerent parties) for Barbarian descendants in a direct line; in each prison camp from the Baltic Sea to the Ochotian Sea survivors from the Great Confusion had beheld his visage or overheard his name.
The man was dead, no doubt about that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, but this wouldn't have sufficed, not even a death under obscure and possibly heroic circumstances would have sufficed to advance him to Hero. Over and above this it took a background army of Mutes, Doubters and Traitors, Peters and Thomases and Judases, survivors who when the tragedy was over, when all agitation had settled, set about making themselves strong, or at least about improving their credentials. New and more admirable generations may be created that way; militant humanists not contenting themselves with clenching fists in pockets where more firm measures are called for. Humanity advances towards new, elevated goals, by shoving in front of itself those heroes that were betrayed at the crucial moment. Or maybe as often: the heroes that couldn't be betrayed, because they were born too early or late in history, but would by all likelihood have been left in the lurch if the choice had been there.
Things were the same with the collective: the members would have liked to blow up trains or assassinate presidents and emperors, but hadn't brought themselves to more wicked deeds than mucking up the tyres of a couple of offensive limousines and breaking the display windows of all the bank branches in town. This was not good enough in a time when so many tyrants and so much outrage waited to be exposed or unmasked by means of action propaganda. But the clenched fist had some difficulty in getting out of the pocket, at least it didn't get out to the extent painted by the secret desires and promptings. The situation was just cut out for Heroes, which like amalgam filled out cavities of one's own personality. On the floor above Heikki there were two of them and their names were Sacco and Vanzetti.
When Harry got word of the table fellowship he commented: I well understand the whole idea of repression, society's counter-terror against the anarchists in those days. They were all mixed up to the extent that you could pick at random and score one direct hit after another. It is the same logics as when sinking ships, right and wrong don't matter in such cases. There's a statistical idea at the back of it. If we locked up every tenth young anarchist today, the expenditure of insurance companies for damage to display windows in cities would be reduced by ten percent.
'Why don't you, then?'
'You know damn well why: we investigate and punish individual guilt, not collective. Not the guilt of parents and teachers and social workers who failed. That is the greatest existing officially sanctioned injustice in our society. I am not saying this in defence of collective terror, but in order to point out that both forms of terror are equally repulsive to me. Every young person who is produced in this society should have a warrant, issued by the breeders; if something goes wrong you just collect a pound of flesh from the neglectful side, so that the scales weigh even, that is the essence of justice...'
'A couple of Germans visiting them last year suggested that they kidnap you, lock you up in a box and demand facilities for young people in the town centre. It loomed once or twice in our discussions. I think it was about the suggested multiactivity house in the old bicycle factory.'
'Aren't those types extinct yet? What made them abstain from such plans? I hope you put in a good word for me.'
'The majority felt that it would be wrong to hold one individual responsible for the shortcomings of a whole system. In addition some thought that the proposed action would compromise the otherwise praiseworthy purpose. It sheds some light on what you were saying, you would probably score a point or two in the discussions.'
'I'm inclined to agree with you there. On the other hand I should have some symbolic value, I might represent the whole system.'
'No doubt about that. It's part of the particular anarchist approach. All their actions are symbolic, sort of ritual murders.'
'I'll tell you in confidence: a couple of those characters were summoned to the district court a couple of months ago, they had been caught more or less red-handed in front of a smashed window. I took up with one of the lay assessors afterwards, he told me that he never before in his life had met with a couple of petty rascals as familiar with their rights at different levels. It's the same way with health insurance and social benefits and all the rest: they know the system inside out and exploit it as much as possible. But how about duties, what are their duties to the society in which they are to that extent entangled? I say: phew! Double standards in black and red are among the worst evils I know of in this world. Sacco and Vanzetti! If those two cuckoos didn't get what they deserved, you may call me Olsson!'
This inflammatory speech no doubt contained reminiscences from Harry's past as an agitator in the federation of the Party youth. Heikki tried to appease him: 'Many of them have very simple, unambiguous morals. They barely use any money at all, a couple of hundred a month, and they would rather die from scurvy and rickets than apply for help from the social. The problem is the hypocrites, I agree with you there, but they are not particularly numerous, and they are kept at bay by the others. And to my opinion not even the hypocrites are a serious problem.'
'But they take the command, they go to the top of the pyramid! That's where the hypocrites are heading!'
'You should know,' Heikki answered and stared restively at him.
'Come, come, don't be too literal now!'
'I say: the problem is with the crazy loons. If there are any crazy loons, they are a real problem.'
'And are there any?'
'Not that I know of. I don't know for sure, but I don't think so.'

Apart from two or three persons the members of the collective had simple, unambiguous morals. They wanted to live quietly, without too much noise, among people having the same sort of clothes, eating the same kind of food, listening to the same music, reading the same books. They wanted to cut their own leather laces, dig their own potatoes. They wanted to avoid the different forms of disciplining, didn't want to dirty their hands by exploiting humans or nature. Each action was intended to cultivate global responsibility as distinctive character, down to the smallest matter and appendix. In this way the collective turned into a cocoon, not unlike those cocoons that were the preferred mode of organization in many other places in society. But the caterpillar resting in there had a parasite within its body, a gnawing restlessness. From a biological point of view this was quite in order, parasites occurred where there were dormant caterpillars, seeing to it that the system wasn't overcrowded with butterflies. The name of the unrest was Heroes, men and women who had lived in the sign of black and red, running blood and burning beams, who hadn't satisfied themselves with clenching fists in their pockets or smashing display windows. When such thoughts haunted the caterpillar it wanted to make itself strong, and an unrest passed through its clumsy body so that the cocoon became less homely for boarding guests. When it happened, Heikki used to keep out of the way, not returning until well after the nocturnal running up and down the stairs had passed its peak.
For he preferred to live quietly as well, with as little fuss as possible, he too cultivated his distinctive character and preferred to spend his leisure time with people of the same mind. He had a good time during his hours in the collective and was a welcome guest, generously contributing to the fare. One day he might come dragging a sack of parsnips, the next day he had procured a demijohn and in due time he got a fermentation enterprise going that, when time accomplished, produced an excellent wine. There was always a certain expectation in the air pending his arrival; what had he got up his sleeve this time? But tonight expectation concerned the barrels: the rumbling from their direction had made itself heard inside the cocoon. He could measure it from the silence surrounding the table as he helped himself at the sideboard.
'God's peace be with you. Don't ask me about the barrels, I don't know any more about them than you do.'
'It goes without saying that he feels bound by his promise of secrecy to Capital.'
At the end of the table Kristina was enthroned, she who was his Prosecutor in life.
'Capital doesn't lie behind such things, the responsibility is with organized crime.'
'As if there were a difference between one and the other.'
'In general Capital works under some sort of publicity principle, it is bound to make a clean breast of it. Organized crime tries to evade all public scrutiny and is willing to carry the costs of confusing both accounts and issues.'
'From what you are saying it sounds as if there are waterproof bulkheads between the two of them.'
'In that case maybe I should be a little more precise. Barrels are dug down by people coming from the grey zone between housebroken capital and organized crime. Small cheats: haulage contractors, farmers and suchlike, people with poor economics who want to earn some fast money.'
'You are trying to construct a contradiction between capital and organized crime; we don't agree that there is one. There is a current from one side to the other where money is whitewashed and becomes, as you put it: housebroken. The reason for that is clear as crystal: all capital is based on exploitation of the base, one way or another. Why should we make a difference between one kind of money and another? That is to confuse both accounts and issues.'
Heikki noted the "we" and looked around himself. Several of the listeners were awaiting his answer with some suspense, he had to fight the battle for those souls. He let go of his spoon and sighed. 'In different directions, in camps that otherwise don't have much in common, I can see a tendency to lump all aspects of social life together - tending towards the dark, chaotic, destructive. There is a denial of the ordered, the regular, a denial of the existence of legality. In such tendencies I discern an interest, namely the interest to exploit a war of every man against every man, for own obscure purposes. My experience is, that anyone who is in this way trying to clean the slate, start from square one, gives up the tools by which a society is built and reassured. I for my part want to plea for legality in all contexts, even where you experience that you are living in a state of lawlessness, since you always must have recourse to legal, "housebroken" procedures when you are trying to build a better society.'
'The plea for totalitarian repression always went that way.'
'The plea for the freedom that is necessity understood always went that way.'
The silence that followed upon this answer gave Heikki time to rise. 'I lose my appetite when you go on like that. If you want to hear my opinion, I believe the barrels are pure invention. And if they are not, it's up to us to hunt them out and render their contents harmless.'
'If you want to hear our opinion, certain circles know damn well where the barrels are located - and they have done so all the time.'
'And what circles would that be? Just tell me and I'll go there and ask, this very minute!'
'You could ask your friend, the reformist and prince licker Harry Jönsson.'
'Why would I ask Harry? He was the one who received the anonymous call. You are just ad-libbing and talking wildly, you don't know one bit more than he and I do!'
'What if the barrels are the bad conscience of the renegade? Do you think that a sparrow falls to the earth in this municipality without Harry Jönson being informed about it? I bet he didn't dispose of them himself, the masters leave the dirty jobs to others, but he knows who did it, and that puts him in a position to find out where they are buried.'
'Bullshit! There is bad conscience everywhere, everyone has his or her torments. You have Sacco and Vanzetti as your particular hairshirt, Harry has his voters, and if I search myself I will probably find something of my own. Why make the whole thing so individual at all? Maybe it is a question of collective tribulations: your barrels and my barrels and Harry's barrels? Two hundred of them - there's enough for all of us!'
'There is a difference: some people can meet their bad conscience and look it in the eye, others bury it and are ashamed of it...'
Heikki thought: it's she who invented the whole thing, as a metaphor! And he thought in addition: that is completely wasted on Harry Jönsson! But Kristina read his thoughts and shook her henna-red hair: 'Nope, it doesn't come from here. But I almost wish it did. And don't get surprised if there is a follow-up on our part.'
'Oh, give me a break! Why don't you leave me alone? It's hard enough as it is, my boss is harassing me like a hornet and the journalists lie in ambush everywhere.'
'You are a paying guest here, but you don't share our values. So why should we show any particular regard for you?'
'No, why should you?'
Heikki turned on one heel and thundered down the stairs, behind him he heard the alternate singing: the militants, the mediators, the gentle ones. The voices broke against each other, rising and sinking like roaring waves; in the street he could still hear the sea run high in the collective "Sacco-Vanzetti".

22 kB, first published 14.10.05, latest corrected 27.11.08.

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