Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Manifesto Soiree

by Jean Roberta

When slavery was abolished on the Emerald Planet, The Fourteen Families of the Millennial District vowed to protect their underlings to the death.

Lord Greenacre invited the others to a meeting where they drafted the Noblesse Oblige manifesto. All the heads of households believed that future generations would revere this document.

F20, the maid who served drinks to the assembly, seemed startled when her master asked for her opinion of the new law.

"It's not for me to say, Sir," she answered. The marks of the shackles hadn't faded from her wrists and ankles, and Lord G. tactfully waited until she was out of the room to explain that he had had to restrain her for her own good. A chuckle of recognition passed around the room. All those present had had to deal with a similar situation in their own households.

When M15, the lord's male secretary-in-training (and one of his sons), had finished typing the first draft of the manifesto into a portable file, he was asked to read it aloud. His young voice shaking only slightly, he began:

"Whereas we, the rightful inhabitants of this planet, recognize the need of all subject peoples for protection and guidance, we refuse to accept the arbitrary destruction of the relationships we have held sacred for five hundred years."

M15 paused for breath. A faint hum of approval could be heard over the sound of his breathing.

The slave went on: "The mutual obligations of master and servant are a time-honoured cornerstone of the culture of our planet, and must be upheld if there is to be universal peace."

Like shadows, a dozen slaves entered the room and stood against the wall, hands behind their backs.

"May I speak, Sir?" asked M15.

"After you have finished the task at hand, boy," answered his master. "Continue reading."

M15 continued: "We, the responsible landowners of the district, are under no obligation to accept irrational laws that are passed without our participation or consent."

"Amen!"

"Yes!"

"Well said!"

M15 cleared his throat. His voice tended to break suddenly from a boyish tenor to a manly baritone. "Our servants have no desire to be cast forth to die of starvation without our support."

One by one, more slaves entered the room. All the doors and gates of the Greenacre estate had been left unlocked. The lord was a confident man.

"We refuse to surrender to the threat of force,"read M15. His face remained expressionless.

"Somewhat ironic, wouldn't you say?" asked Lady Jadestalk.

Several of the older men frowned, while others rolled their eyes. "Not at all, my Lady," explained Lord Olivegarden.

When M15 had finished reading, the assembled lords and ladies agreed that only a fool could object to the manifesto, which contained self-evident truths. That some slaves recklessly favoured the new law and thought of themselves as citizens was clear evidence that they lacked the capacity for good judgment which would enable them to survive independently.

Civilization, it seemed, was to be preserved. Lord G saw no need to allow M15 to spoil the general mood of mutual admiration, and dismissed him from the room after he had finished reading.

Neither the lord nor his guests could see that his barn was already on fire.

As luck or fate would have it, I was visiting my "dangerously" liberal friends outside the district, and therefore I was spared.

It took several weeks for F20, renamed Sylvia Free, to find me and give me a copy of the portable file. "Don't tell anyone you're a Greenacre," she advised me. "And don't try to take back the land your ancestors stole."

I changed my name and found a job in the city. I never take my freedom for granted.






5 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Jean,

    It makes one wonder about one's own assumptions, about truths that are "self-evident". Even "liberal" ones.

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  2. Lisabet - excellent point.

    Jean - I wonder if your story was inspired by recent political events surrounding the aboriginal people of Canada. (it seems really weird typing aboriginal people. but that is the term used in Canada, right?)

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  3. Thanks for commenting, Lisabet and Kathleen.

    @Kathleen, Aboriginal and First Nations both seem acceptable. Re the inspiration for my little story, I wasn't specifically thinking of recent events in the ongoing conflict (over historical fact, among other things) between aboriginal people & various branches of government in Canada. (Though Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent comment that Canada has no history of colonialism deserves some kind of hall-of-shame award for willful ignorance.)
    I was thinking more about actual (i.e. legal) slavery, which is now widely considered barbaric, but which must have seemed "normal" & even inevitable to many in its time. (Abolitionists of the 1700s & early 1800s were considered crackpots, much like crusaders for universal literacy & a free public school system.)

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  4. It's interesting how things change over time, people's way of thinking changes. These days "Huckleberry Finn" is being censored because it has the word nigger in it, as if this were racism. It represents the way people spoke and thought at the time of the story;s setting, before the Civil War and well after. But Twain was attacked at the time the book was published and the book banned - because it was considered "anti-slavery" or at least "Anit- white supremacy."

    Garce

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