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Revolution by Richard Seltzer

Copyright by Richard Seltzer 1991

Once there was a kingdom where the farmers were unhappy, the tradesmen were unhappy, the soldiers were unhappy, and even the king himself was unhappy.

The farmers blamed it on the tradesmen.

The tradesmen blamed it on the soldiers.

The soldiers blamed it on the king.

And the king was the unhappiest of all because he had nobody to blame it on.

Then one day a farmer's son, who had gone far away to a great city and had studied at a university, returned to the kingdom.

He told everyone that the farmers weren't to blame if everyone else was unhappy. And the soliders, the tradesmen and the king to blame either. Rather, it was the system, the superstructure.

If things remained as they were, people would always be unhappy because people couldn't really "be themselves."

They were forced by the system to act out their assigned roles as farmer or king. Regardless of who was a farmer and who the king, things would always be the same -- so long as there were farmers and kings. What they needed was a revolution that would do away with such distinctions.

Everyone was delighted to hear what the student said, especially the king, who was the unhappiest of all. So they had a revolution -- a glorious, merry revoluton. Farmers and trades men and soldiers and even the king himself forgot that they hated each other for making each other miserable. They marched together through the streets carrying signs and chanting and singing and making speeches about how great everything was going to be after the Revolution.

While everyone was making merry, the student drew up a constitution and started planning the way things would be in the future. Everyone was so happy with the Revolution and the Constitution that they immediately elected the student president.

He proclaimed that no longer would farmers be farmers and tradesmen be tradesmen and soldiers be soldiers, but rather all would be workers doing their share as a team for the good of the Republic. There would be new tasks that would need to be done, and all could choose among them according to their skills and inclinations. There would be agricultural workers and industrial workers and defenders of the Republic.

Everyone was delighted that everything would be so different in the Republic.

Years passed, and things settled into a routine, with people choosing to do work that they understood and were good at. The farmers became "Agricultural Workers." The tradesmen became "Industrial Workers." The soldiers became "Defenders of the Republic. Their jobs had much fancier titles now, but, in fact, they were all doing exactly what they had done before -- all except for the student and the king, who had traded places.

The king had found that he was unsuited to be an agricultural worker or an industrial worker or a defender of the Republic. In fact, he found it hard to imagine himself being anything but a king. So he had left the Republic and gone to the great city and to the great university where the student had studied. There he, too, diligently sifted through the great works of history and political science.

More years passed, and once again everyone was unhappy. The agricultural workers blamed it on the industrial workers, and the industrial workers on the defenders of the Republic, and the defenders of the Republic on the President; and the President was the unhappiest of all because he had nobody to blame it on.

Then one day the old king returned, dressed in the garb of a student, with several huge books under each arm. He told everyone that he too had been to the great university; but having stayed there longer, he had read more and learned more than the student who had become President.

He pointed out to them that everything had fallen back into its usual place, with only the names changed. There was no reason to blame the student for this turn of events. The student had been right, as far as his theory went. But if he had read a bit further, he could have found that the superstructure depends on the super-duper-structure.

So long as the super-duper-structure remains the same, everything will eventually fall back into the same pattern as before. The only way to have a "true revolution" is to attack the root of the problem: the super-duper-structure itself.

Now, they were all so unhappy and so anxious to change their lot that they all wanted to hear what this super-duper-structure was and how they could change it.

The old king told them that so long as people needed food and water and sleep, and so long as they unthinkingly obeyed the law of gravity, people would remain pretty much the same. It was the super-duper-structure of natural necessity that they must fight.

Then the super-structure could really and truly be different, and the government be different, and everything be different. Then everyone could live happily ever after.

So commando teams were formed. Some challenged the limits of gravity by training for the high jump and pole vault. Others experimented with flight by hot air balloon. Through science and conditioning, others tried to stretch the limits of human endurance in such areas as hunger, thirst and sleeplessness.

The old king was made Chief Commando and oversaw all these varied revolutionary activities. Being a kind, understanding man, and realizing that there is a limit to the fervor of even the most zealous patriot, he declared that every other day should be a holiday, with feasting and drinking and merrymaking of all sorts. That way the commandos could renew their strength, and, for having tasted the fruits of Revolution, would work with enthusiasm on their days of work.

But soon, the commandos found the pace was too much for them. Both the revolutionary acts and the merrymaking were wearing them out. Besides, they were running out of food with which to feast and wine to get drunk with, because no one was working to make more.

So every third day was declared a "Day of Replenishment," and the men who had been farmers plowed their fields, and everyone else did their accustomed tasks.

Weeks passed, months passed, and the commando rules gradually changed. Now just one day a year was set aside for jumping and fasting and going thirsty and without sleep. The next day was a day of great feasting and merriment. And the rest of the days were as they had always been, with all the people going about their accustomed tasks, and everyone unhappy.

One day the Chief Commando asked the President why he didn't go back to the university, since the office of President was now no more than a title. "If I went to the university," explained the President, "I would conceive of another revolution and would once again become the ruler -- the most unhappy man in all the land.

"As it is, everyone in this land has an assigned task but me. I can simply do whatever I please. I am the happiest man of all."

Indeed, he did just what he pleased. He took up gardening as a hobby. And when his father the farmer died, he planted a garden on the old farm. Soon all of his spare time, which was all of his time, was spent in farming the old farm, in quiet content.  privacy statement