“What do we learn from this story?” Professor Boyd continued when the silence had returned to Logan Hall. Jack had sat back, conscious that he was being watched by Arthur; and unused to such attention he was pretending an ease that he did not feel. Despite his pretence, he shifted repeatedly in his seat, adjusting his arms and legs, and trying to relax the tension in his back. From the corner of his eye he watched the bulge of book in Arthur’s jacket pocket.
“Firstly, the Irishman, however wealthy, should never have risked those roads. Criminals prey upon the unsuspecting because they are easy targets; and our Irish friend should have known better. Next, he should know that it is not the quality of your reasoning that wins on such occasions; it is your understanding. The Irishman was a fool, and deserves a fool’s death............Yes, Gentlemen. Deserves.”
Arthur leaned forward, the slightest of gestures, barely noticeable to any but Jack. He took a card from the stack on the table, and used his own pen to write: harsh but true.
“Once we have accepted the Irishman’s death, we must look to the role of the criminal. He might, for some, deserve respect. Who amongst you, I ask, has not broken rules for some better gain? And yet, consider his motives. Is this some Robin Hood? No. He is a man driven only by personal gain; and his gain is taken from the suffering of others, however witless.........”
The criminals are banished from the kingdom, Arthur wrote, ignoring the explanation that was given; they deserve no pity, no pity at all. They simply take.
Jack did not need such prompting; the professor’s sentiments were familiar. He guessed, however, that there was more to Arthur’s actions than his words; and so he smiled, as though relaxed. This did not bring the expected response, Arthur was in control; and whilst Jack was waiting for some further mention of the Myths, Arthur put his pen away and looked once more to Professor Boyd.
“We cannot expect to survive, Gentlemen, if we continue as we are. I look at you where you sit, old and new wealth, influence, position and profession; and I see the Samurai of our time. A Samurai, yes; the greatest we could ever expect. And yet, look at you; no more than men. How can you, or I for that matter, ever hope to survive, when we are no more than men; and when we live in a society that treats our greatness as no different to the idiocy of the Irishman, or the criminality of the outlaw?
That, Gentlemen, is the challenge I pose for you this evening. It is no idle challenge; we have not gathered here for merriment, or to listen to some well-worn story. If The Society of which you are honoured, and honourable members is to be of any use, to be more than just a talk-shop; then we must recognise the threat of democracy, and we must rise to it.”
The hall did rise, almost as one. Jack alone kept his seat, whilst the hall applauded. He felt his instincts complain at the show of support; Jack’s politics were studied, rather than fixed; and what Jack wanted was knowledge, reason and understanding, as opposed to this display of blind, collective faith. Arthur did not seem to notice the rebellion as he sat down, keeping his eyes on the podium where Professor Boyd stood. Instead, with a casual, indifferent gesture Arthur removed the book once more from his pocket. Then he passed it to Jack whilst he stood up and moved off about some other business.
As Arthur did so Professor Boyd’s lecture continued as some back-drop to Jack’s concentration. Like many Jack had heard of the myths, mostly folk-tales, or the gossip of chattering intellects. It seemed incredible, therefore, that he had a copy open in front of him; it was real, physical. Though the translation of a Russian priest, Jack could picture the original authors as if the Elder Pigs were gathered in the hall all about him.
These pigs, despite their name, were of many ages, each fattening for the kill. That was part of the wonder of their work; the pigs were owned, confined, held in one of the many farms that emerged in early Chinese society. They could no longer act for themselves, find shelter, food, water or mates; and so they simply observed the lives of their captors, learning to talk and write about what they found.
“They’re fascinating,” Arthur whispered, returning to his seat; “it’s a translation of course; but you’ll recognise the name Fr Nilus.”
Jack nodded, not as accomplished at such private conversations as Arthur was. He noticed the man next along turn, disapproval on his face. The man did not comment, and Arthur mimed an apology, taking the book back as he did so. A smile of conspiracy said that he would return it to Jack later. That was enough for now, and Jack pretended to listen to the remainder of Boyd’s lecture.
“Greatness,” Boyd announced at that moment, “is not commonplace; it is neither within the scope, nor the dreams of the common man. We cannot, and should not then, leave our futures to be determined by the many. History is littered with such determinations; be it the gabble of Babel, the mob-rule of Athens, or the corrupt Senate of Rome. All point in one direction, the demise of civilization.
If that is what you want, and I know it is not, then you may turn a blind eye to the bill for plural voting currently being debated in our chamber of Government. The bill, if passed, will give the vote to the honourable, mediocre and criminal alike, man and woman.
I say, Gentlemen, that we cannot afford such risks. Multiples of flawed reasoning and flawed understanding leads to flawed decisions. We owe it then, to ourselves, to our children and to the future of this great nation, to take control, to rule the kingdom of tomorrow, just as Samurai were meant to do.”
©2012 Padraig De Brún