Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Eloquence of My Master Trainer

As promised, I deliver today a reviewed and approved excerpt of my Master Trainer's elocution in the case In re disclosures by one Phutatorius, American, heard by a per curiam session of the Council of Elders, on the 16th of October, in this the 474th year of the reign of Inca Atahualpa. (As the EIDF refuse to accept the legitimacy of Pizarro's conquest, it is their practice to count the years in this fashion, for archiving purposes.)

The segment I have selected for you is from the Master Trainer's closing argument, when, to my mind, he really hit his stride. Put on three pairs of socks, Brother/Sister, so that my Master can knock them off, seriatim, with his passion and genius. Are you ready? Here goes:

"Councilor A******** appeals to tradition as his reason for convicting the American, Phutatorius, and sentencing him to three days in the Scalding Room before his execution. 'X is what we've always done,' he says, 'and so X is what we must do today.' But there is — or there ought to be — more to tradition than the thoughtless repetition of prior practices. For what are we, if we are not capable ourselves of evaluating what is right, and good, and appropriate at this moment? If we lack this ability, we are empty shells of men. If we lack the will, we do not deserve to occupy this great Mountain Redoubt of our ancestors. Sure, some deference is due to the practices that have survived the generations. But a tradition should only endure so long as it deserves to — and not a minute longer."

"Councillor B******** says that 'rules are rules,' and the rule is clear: the American, and all who read his publication, must be repeatedly scalded, then bound and left in the Falcon Room with the hungry birds. Ah, well: that is the beginning and the end of it. Never mind that we were born with the capacity to exercise judgment. There are rules to channel us through life, so that we might be spared any use of that judgment muscle. Councilors, I am of the opinion that this strict adherence to rules has caused our judgment to atrophy over time — to the point where, when all good sense would call for us to pull together as a community, we instead find ourselves wracked by political divisions. It is because our judgment fails us, that we are separated and sorted into our two fortified Redoubts, and on the brink of war."


[The Master Trainer's voice rang through the courtroom with such intensity that it set the birds a-squawking in the Falcon Room overhead.]

"RULES! TRADITION! RULES! TRADITION! GOD DAMN THESE RULES, THESE TRADITIONS! Do we really believe that the drafters of these treasured rules, the sources of these traditions, have more to say about our lives, today, than we do? Who were these 'ancestors,' these fountains of reason, to whom we must pay deference at every turn, even if it means leaving poor Phutatorius to be picked to death by our trained birds of prey?"

"I'll tell you who these ancestors were. It is an unpopular fact, and one rarely acknowledged before this august body, but the Empire of the Incas was lost because our ancestors — the fighters best positioned and equipped to defend it against the Spanish — held ourselves above the fray. We certainly could not come to the aid of our countrymen when Pizarro ambushed and slaughtered them on that awful afternoon in November. Why? Because the battle was in a public square, and to embroil ourselves in it, in broad daylight, would have controverted the Rule of Secrecy."

"And though the Archives tell us that our predecessors on the Council fiercely debated the question of whether to conduct a covert campaign of assassinations, we let that opportunity slip as well — for fear that a series of mysterious Spanish deaths in the dead of night might garner unwarranted attention. For fear that some enterprising person might endeavor to find out who was behind this concerted effort to protect our culture from the treachery and corruption of the White Man."

[At this point a number of the jurors shifted their eyes away from my Master Trainer and in my direction, causing me to issue a nervous cough.]

"I know that many of my adversaries on this Council have said, over and again, 'Our ancestors would rather allow the entire Incan Empire to fall than risk disclosing the secrets of the EIDF, of the AVVLAIDF. Who are we, then, to decide these secrets are too 'inconvenient' to keep?' That turns the argument on its head, for this is, I think, the greatest indictment of our secret society: that its Rule of Secrecy restrained us from protecting the larger society to which we belong."

"We've seen the price the Quechuan peoples have paid, and continued to pay, for our inaction so many years ago. But what about us? Should we not ourselves have been punished for failing to come to the Emperor's aid? Well, I say we have been punished. Every day we've spent living in the shadows has been a punishment for us. We are unable to maintain normalized relations with the outside community. At best, many of us are required to lead double lives, with homes in the nearby villages where we keep our wives and children. And those of us who live in this way pass every moment in abject terror, lest our wives, our children might somehow learn something about us that they're not supposed to know."

"What if my children follow me to the Redoubt? What if I talk in my sleep, and I reveal secrets to my wife?"

"Councilor C********, you sit in your chair today, stone-faced, determined that my pupil must die. You were required to surrender your eldest daughter to this august Council, after she followed you up here to the Redoubt. Councilor D********, you lost a brother to this damned Rule of Secrecy. And you others, who choose to reside here, secluded from the rest of the world. Why do you forego the simple, perfect pleasures of family? Because of the RULE. Because you don't trust yourself to leave this building, as we do, and not let something slip."

"And it's for this — to defend and preserve this deplorable state of things — that you are determined to scald Phutatorius, and to strip off his clothes and subject him to our falcons, and to remove his eyes with the Ceremonial Spoons? Today, councilors, you have the opportunity to exercise real independent judgment. You have the opportunity to put an end to a curse that has lasted nearly half a millennium, because to this point no one has had the courage to call for change. You can fix this, and you can spare this young man's skin from the pot's boil, his viscera from our birds. You can save his eyes, his tongue, his toes. The power is in you."

To this, I have absolutely nothing to add.

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