I wrote this story in the early 90s as an assignment for a Philosophy 101 class. I received a perfect grade on it, but looking at it almost twenty years later it is certainly lacking. Still some neat attempts at dialog here.
Read it using this nifty Flash text viewer, or scroll down for the plain text version.
Click here to read story
John and Socrates
by Brent Knowles
He woke slowly. His extremities tingled as he felt cold air brush his body. He heard a grating, screeching, metal-upon-metal noise that continued rumbling methodically while he sat up and opened his eyes. The faint odor of dust. Coldness. He groaned in confusion, as he looked about the foreign chamber.
He sat on a hard, metal table in a small room, with his body barely covered by a dusty white sheet. Flashing lights and images danced noisily across three of the four walls, blinding him with their magic. On the fourth wall sat a large, closed door.
A light burned within a long tube, singing with a low buzzing hum that startled and scared him. He looked up and behind him, to identify the source of the rumbling metal-noise. Some sort of machine with spinning metallic blades pushed cold air down onto him. One of the metal blades appeared bent and its deformity produced the screeching.
He knew that it is now the year 2513. A victim of nuclear warfare, Earth no longer supports human life. The survivors of the human race now live on scattered asteroids throughout the galaxy, most of them still working for the same harsh companies that their grandfathers had died for in the Corpwars. The people are disillusioned, pained, hopeless, and unhappy.
He knew which button to press into the wall to open a small compartment that contained clothing for him. He liked the feel of the tunic on his skin as he slid it on, and the quality of the boots impressed him. His outfit appealed to him, all black and elegant.
And of course he knew which button would open the door, the heavy metal sheet rising upward with a hiss that startled him. But he could explain the hiss to himself now, for he knew how it worked. He knew how everything worked. He stepped into the hallway, and turned to look at the blue lettering that glowed above the doorway. A more efficient language had replaced English twenty years before the Corpwars. But he knew how to read this new language, a language that was simply called the Language. And he read his name in this new language.
John Stuart Mill.
A quick glance down the hallway revealed other names; Descartes, Kant, Hume, Bentham, and a score of others. But he knew that those cloning attempts had failed. His was the only success, for reasons that failed to reveal themselves to him.
* * *
A week after waking up in the abandoned complex, John Stuart Mill left. The small pod jettisoned him from his birthplace and shot him through space at rapid speed. Beautiful stars, hanging in the void of space, glowed with a fiery intensity that almost blinded him. He saw in the far distance the red-eyed gas giant Jupiter. He realized that he was on the outskirts of the Known Galaxy, far removed from all the central colonies. All save one.
The other asteroid loomed closer and closer as the shuttle-pod approached it, the flight computer slowing the spacecraft down to safe speeds. Mill sighed with happiness as he noted the rows of neat green fields, cradled with flowing blue lines that were rivers, gushing forth from the beautiful brown mountains. With every approaching second, he moved closer to this mysterious little paradise.
The flight computer told Mill the colony’s name, location, and a little tidbit of information on the creator of the colony, but that was all the information he’d received. However, it was the only colony within flight distance for the pod and Mill knew from his manufactured knowledge that the other colonies were slow moving asteroids, covered with dense factories, and belowground dormitories where people slept in small closets. Crowded, smog-filled, disgusting hovels of abject misery. This green-blue paradise, this lovely chunk of asteroid caught under the spell of an Atmosbubble, was decidedly more welcoming.
Mill saw two pods, similar to his own, but with long tubes jutting out from the front of the vessels like a porcupine’s back, approach his vessel. He felt a shiver of fear as he realized that the tubes were weapon implements–lasers or missiles. His finger searched for and found a blue button with tiny black lettering engraved upon it. COMMUNICATIONS.
He pressed it and heard a voice echo through his small cabin space. “Unidentified vessel, this is Republic fighter 303, what are you doing in Republic space?” The man spoke in Greek, and Mill easily understood.
Mill said nothing, his brain a whirring of gears.
“I repeat, unidentified vessel, what are you doing in Republic space?”
Mill sighed and said, “I’m from the abandoned Uplica colony.” The name of his rebirth-place came to him without effort.
“Leave Republic space immediately.” The man’s voice echoed ominously in Mill’s cabin space. Republic! Could he mean Plato’s Republic? The reborn philosopher thought quickly, trying to remember as he much as he could from Plato’s ancient book.
“Who rules your colony?” Mill asked, listening to the silence at the other end and fearing that he was about to become debris. Finally the fighter pilot spoke, his silence evidently born from his surprise at being questioned by a being who was not in the position to ask questions.
“The Rulers, under the guidance of Socratic,” the pilot answered. Mill noted the significance of the last word in the man’s sentence. Socratic…Socrates…Plato’s mentor.
“And under the Ruler’s order, I order you to turn back or be destroyed.”
By this time, the three ships slowly circled each other, the two Republic fighters circling Mill in opposite directions, with his vessel at almost a standstill.
Mill asked, “So, you are then an Auxiliary, one of the Guardians of the Republic?” Again there was a pause, but not quite as long as before. This triggered the man’s curiosity.
“Yes, but how…”
Mill said, “So, as a Guardian your nature ought to be one that is swift and strong, spirited and philosophic?” Mill had been called a child prodigy during his life and after, but his clone’s memory capacity astonished him.
“Yes,” the guard answered cautiously.
“I see that you are swift and strong, as you have shown by your commanding me to remove myself from the place you are called upon to protect. And you are definitely spirited, for I know that you would surely destroy my own spacecraft.”
“Yes, I soon will, if you do not come to a point quickly.”
“But, I fail to see your philosophic nature. Shouldn’t you be interested as to who I am and why I am here?”
“You are not born from the Mother, and thus, you are not one of our own people. Since, you are not one of our own, you are an enemy. All enemies are meant to be turned away or killed by the Auxiliaries. You are an enemy and I am an Auxiliary. Therefore, you must be turned away or be destroyed by myself,” the pilot said.
Mill gaped for a moment at the man’s logic, taking a few seconds to reconsider his options. “You say that I am an enemy because I’m not born from the Mother. Right?”
“Do you know everyone below in the Republic?”
The pilot said, “No, there are fifty groups of approximately 5040 citizens. I know only my own Kin network as a Guardian. My grandkin, parentkin, siblingkin, and childkin.” Mill absorbed this.
“So you do not know everyone from all the Kin networks, say in other communities and such?”
“No. I do not.”
“Does anyone in the Republic know the identity of all the planet’s population?”
“Yes. The Socratic would.”
Mill said, “And this Socratic would know whether a person belonged to the Republic or not?”
“But you do not?”
“Therefore, your judgment of me as an enemy is a mistake on your part, because you do not have the knowledge to know if I’m from the Republic or not. Right?”
The man sighed and then said, “I suppose.”
Mill smiled. He had chosen his words carefully. This was definitely Plato’s Republic.
“So, wouldn’t it be prudent to bring me to Socratic, and have him decide whether I’m an enemy or not, because you cannot possibly have this knowledge?”
“We do not refer to Socratic as a he, it is merely what it is.”
“Of course,” Mill said.
There was a long silence, and Mill assumed that the Auxiliary was discussing this turn of events with the other fighter pilot. After about ten minutes, Mill started to worry. There was a hiss of static suddenly as the man spoke again.
“Okay, but you must lock your ship to ours. I think that Socratic will want to speak with you.”
“Good,” Mill knew which buttons to press and what commands to enter, to lock his ship’s flight computer with those of the fighter craft. The small pod accelerated again, the three ships flying in a straight row with a fighter in front, Mill’s pod, and then the other fighter. Not that Mill could fly away now that his pod was linked with the others.
Soon they entered the manufactured atmosphere of the asteroid colony. Floating air synthesizers hung just within the gravity well of the asteroid, like the satellites that Mill had learned about–the ones that had sent all sorts of information across the planet Earth. Gradually the surface of the planet rushed up towards him, amazing Mill with the skill in which the terraformers had been able to reshape the asteroid into something so beautiful. He passed over rolling fields, crystal lakes and rivers, proud mountains, and vibrant pine and oak forests. Soon they entered the inhabited areas of the Republic; the small farming communities, each city a replica of the one before it. A marketplace surrounded by a craft building, in turn surrounding by residential buildings, and other structures that might have been schools, all finally ringed by the farms that gave sustenance to the community. Occasionally he spied a nondescript mineshaft hidden in the folds of a mountain range. Several times he noticed strange compounds outside the villages themselves and finally after the seventh such sighting he asked the fighter pilot what they were.
“Guardian compounds. But you would know that, wouldn’t you, if you were from the Republic? Just like you would know the proper way to address Socratic?” The pilot spoke with a sarcastic tone and Mill stammered for a reply.
“Do not worry, stranger. I know that you are not one of us. You speak our language, and know about our customs and beliefs, but you were not born from the Mother. But I think that Socratic will be very interested in speaking with you. You are not a threat to us, but perhaps you might help us.” Mill said nothing as he leaned back in his seat; the hard plastic reminding him of the stiff-backed chairs he’d sat in while working as a clerk for the India House. About half an hour later they finally stopped, the pods hovering down to concrete launch pads far below.
Immediately thereafter, Mill was following his two white robed Auxiliaries down a brightly-lit corridor, on his way to meet the mysterious Socratic. Both men were clean-shaven, tall, and well formed. He hadn’t expected anything different.
He wondered what Socratic might be; was it a computer? a clone like himself? or something even stranger? With these thoughts on his mind, he entered his host’s chamber.
“Socratic, we have brought the stranger.”
A voice echoed through the empty chamber, “Thank you. You may return to your duties.” Mill shivered again as the two men left him alone and the door behind him slid shut with a hiss. The chamber was broad, about forty meters, and twice as high. Yet, there was nothing in the room save fluorescent lights running along the roof in parallel lines.
“Welcome to the Republic. I am Socratic, the creator and advisor of this colony.” The voice said as it echoed all around the chamber. Without warning, Mill remembered the name of man who’d originally constructed the Republic colony.
“Carl Montgomery? I was under the assumption that you were dead,” he said.
A noise might have been a laugh. “No, I’m am not Montgomery. I’m much older. Much, much older. You might think of me as the combined essence of Plato and Socrates. Of course, dozens of others have contributed to what I am. You might think of me as a computer with the recorded memories, thoughts, and feelings of many individuals, merged into a wonderful essence known as Socratic,” he paused for a moment to give Mill a chance to digest this, “and now that you know who I am, would you please tell me your own name?”
“Mill. John Stuart Mill. I’m a clone, I was an educated man in the…”
“Yes,” the voice interrupted, “I know your history now that I have a name. Why have you come here to my Republic?”
“I had nowhere else to go,” he said.
“We have never had a stranger here before, but you seem to present no threat. In fact during your life you gave birth to, and expanded much knowledge that carried on long after your death. Perhaps, there might be some way to fit you in here. Of course you’d have to go through several tests and learn our philosophy and religion.”
This time Mill interrupted, “But, I do not know if I would like it here. This place, I assume, is based upon Plato’s writings, is it not?”
“Of course. I have created the perfect society here. A society that is content.”
“But I would not know if I would be happy here.”
The voice said, “Then perhaps I could arrange a little tour for you. Would that be suitable? You could see if the Republic would make you happy.”
“You do need a place to live?”
Mill said, “Yes.”
“This might be a good place to live. A place that might make you happy?”
Mill answered yes to this too. “Then take a tour. Decide if this place is good for you. If not I’ll arrange for a shuttle to take you into the Core, and you could try to live in that miserable place.”
Mill considered his options and said, “Sure, I’ll take the tour.”
“Good.” There was a low rumbling and the floor in front of Mill opened slightly, a pedestal rising from below the floor. A single piece of technology sat on the topaz pedestal. “Take the comchip and attach it to your temple. In this way you’ll be able to speak with me of what you see and observe.” Mill picked up the cool, plastic chip and stuck it against his temple. There was a slight gesture of pain as a thin needle entered his flesh.
Mill had an inkling of a feeling that this Socratic did not merely want have him to live here in the Republic. There was something more to it. As he attached the comchip, he thought to himself.
If I created a place like this Republic, then I would probably wonder if what I made was really a good place to live. Of course anyone living within such a closed society would probably not have contact with the outside world, and thus would not have anything to compare their civilization to. This would mean that the creator of such a place might want someone from the outside world to give an opinion. Yes, Mill thought to himself, Socratic wanted his opinion, and being a philosopher in essence it would like to know of any problems.
“Yes indeed, John Mill. I look forward to discussing The Republic with you. Now if you’d go outside.” The strange voice spoke within John’s mind and he found it somewhat unnerving to control his own thoughts. He followed the directions the voice gave to leave the building. Once more, he was out on the launch pads, but this time he walked down another walkway into the town.
* * *
It took a couple of hours for Mill to see the community. The whole place was clean and well kept, and the people seemed satisfied. They went about their business, smiled and nodded at him — making Mill wonder if somehow Socratic could speak with all the citizens to tell them who the stranger was. It was an unnerving thought; a whole community linked to a mother computer.
“Do no worry, John Mill,” the voice spoke in his head, “only the Guardians are connected to me. It was they who came into the city soon after you arrived to inform the citizens.” He continued his tour, and eventually they came upon a small, nondescript school. It was midday, and the children were outside studying.
This disturbed Mill. Being educated at home by his father, he’d had scarce opportunity to play with children of his own age, spending much of his time reading and learning. The way the children in this playground marched about reminded Mill of himself at their age. Dozens of complacent faces, nose-deep in laptop terminals, sitting on the white steps or on carefully spread blankets covering the green grass. No children ran about screaming or hollering; no children played skip rope; no children had fun. This was supposed to be break-time, according to Socratic.
“Why don’t they play?” Mill asked his guide.
“Why should they? What is the point of running around aimlessly? No, the children of the Republic are raised to value simplicity. They learn according to the old Greek schools: reading, writing, music, arithmetic, geometry, and so on. They also learn wrestling and other sports to keep them swift and strong,” Socratic paused before continuing, “and this makes them productive to the society. In Plato’s writings, he mostly considered the education of the Guardians, but I’ve since expanded it to encompass the education of all the children of The Republic. They become balanced individuals and this allows them the opportunity to develop themselves.”
Mill said, “Well I agree with them being cultivated mentally, this is very important, and they are getting exercise, but I think there is something wrong about this lack of variety.”
“Good enough,” Socratic responded in its mellow way. Mill asked another question, “What sort of textbooks and such do they use? Do private individuals make contributions to these books?”
“No, of course not. The Rulers regulate what materials are used. As you might remember from Plato’s book, he decided to edit the books for children, so that they would contain appropriate material.”
“So, you censor the school’s books. What about other material?”
“Well, first I just want to clarify that I do not DO anything. The Rulers make the decisions now, I’m only here to advise and make sure that they do not stray from my original objectives.”
“Okay, but about my question?” John Mill asked with a smile. The computer’s touchiness amused him.
Mill sensed some sort of annoyance now in the mental voice, “The Rulers will edit anything made for publication. If it has disagreeable portions, they are removed. Do you not agree with this?”
“No,” Mill said, “not at all. Freedom of expression is a given right. I once said, ‘If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.’ This right should never be violated.”
Socratic said, “But, let us take the example of the twenty-first century when Earth was still habitable –if barely. The televisions and Nets showed sex and violence to extremes. Do you think it would be appropriate for young children to watch such programs?”
“No, of course not.”
“And do not children usually emulate what they observe? Modeling is how they learn. They emulate their elders in speech, and walk, and behavior. So, if they see immorality, or read about immorality, this cannot be right because they may copy this behavior. Do you agree?”
“No, that is not right.” Mill said.
“And adults might be influenced by a barrage of such immorality too. So, they should not have to be exposed to such dangers.”
“But what about freedom of choice? Don’t you think the average man or woman in your society is intelligent enough to know what he or she should observe, or what his or her children should observe?”
Socratic said, “Of course, they are.”
“And the typical person knows the difference between right and wrong?”
“So, then such people would know that what they read, or observe, is immoral, and could act appropriately?”
“No! Sometimes they might be confused, or in sickness be weaker to such immorality. And what about children? If they are influenced by such material, what will happen with them?” Socratic said.
Mill shook his head. He said, “I have an example for you. Do you agree that a sickness is bad.”
“And that the sickness might spread, if it is contagious.”
“Yes,” Socratic said.
“But, how does one normally cure many contagious diseases in this time period?”
“With medicine, drugs, nanotechnology.”
Mill smiled before saying, “Aren’t many diseases cured by being exposed to a smaller influence of the disease, to build an immunity to it?”
“So, if a child, say, gets sick and is not treated properly he or she would become really sick. Right?”
“In the same way, without knowing what immorality is, without being exposed to a minor form of it, children would be destroyed by a stronger form of immorality. So, isn’t it better for children to be taught about immorality and read about it with responsible adults around to teach them WHY it is bad?”
“I see your reasoning John Mill, and it is something for me to think about. Perhaps, we should go on. I’m sure you’d be interested in the Auxiliaries and their training.”
“Before we do I would like to ask a further question.”
“I didn’t notice many children, and of course there might be other schools, but is there some measure of birth control in this system?”
“Definitely. The normal citizens are to be responsible and keep population in a region at around five thousand. I believe that fear of poverty or war keeps them from birthing too many children. And of course the Guardians have even stricter birth control.”
John said, “I agree with this birth control. I think every person should be responsible for the number of children they bring into the world. But, don’t you think that such a measure should simply be a moral responsible not brought about by fear of poverty or war?”
“We both agree with the ends,” said Socratic, “but the means reveal a disagreement. But, do you not think that there should always be a threat of poverty or war?”
“I don’t think there should be, but in most cases such events are likely to happen. I don’t like the idea of the government being restrictive on the individual by using fear. Being held to rules of justice for the sake of others, creates feelings which have the good of others for their object. To have a government making you hold fast to rules of justice is wrong.”
Socratic said, “So, population control is okay as long as the people do it for the good of others, not to keep the government happy. Too much government is not necessary, I agree. I see your point now. Perhaps you are ready to see the Auxiliaries?”
“Sure,” Mill said. He walked some distance, enjoying the beautiful trees planted along the boulevards of the town. He breathed in the air, tested its quality, and was rewarded with a pleasurable aroma. It reminded him of the long walks he took with his father when he was a boy. Soon he was on the outskirts of town, heading towards one of the unusual compounds he’d observed earlier.
“This is the home of the Auxiliaries, and where all Guardians are trained. Some become rulers, others enter the civilian ranks in the town, but most remain as Auxiliaries — protecting the Republic. I’ll remind you of the system developed here, is that agreeable?”
“Okay. When Plato first imagined The Republic, he concluded that each person is especially suited for one particular career. Some people would be farmers, or craftsmen, or bakers, depending on their nature.”
Mill objected to this. “But people can be many things. I was a student, and then worked for the same company as my father. I debated and I wrote. I did many things.”
“But, if you had worked at just one of those things, do you not think you would have excelled?”
“I suppose, if I’d concentrated solely on my job, I would have been exceptional at it. But sometimes this is not always true. For example, my experiences in other areas of my life gave me inspiration for writing. Cross-field knowledge is useful. Doesn’t your baker need some knowledge of money to manage his accounts?”
“Of course, otherwise his would not be a functional business.”
“But isn’t managing money the domain of the banker? Shouldn’t the baker merely work on his baking?” Mill asked.
“Mm. But, this is just a minor point. Managing the baker’s finances is not that hard of a task for him. Consider, say, a farmer, who works his fields all day. He could not very much begin a career in art,” Socratic said.
“Why not? Shouldn’t he be allowed to try this?”
“No, his calling is that of a farmer.”
“But, how do you decide who is best suited for what sort of work?”
Socratic replied, “They are observed by the Rulers during their school years. When they are eighteen they are evaluated on their performance and a decision is reached. After this they are born from the Mother.”
John said, “I’m sorry but I don’t agree with this evaluation. People have the right to make decisions for themselves. Every man has a natural right to the full expression and development of his own character; whether other people like it or not. And who is the mother?” Mill asked.
“All the people of the Republic believe they are born from the earth — the Mother. This is a strong belief. And each year the children who are eighteen years of age are involved in a week-long ceremony in which they are sealed in a special rock cavern. Within this cavern, they have limited food and drink. When they emerge, they are told that they have just been born, and are children of the earth, and owe their life to the Mother. This is the reality of what Plato spoke of in The Republic.”
“How do you explain why some become farmers, and others join your Guardians?”
“Simple, do you not remember the metals?” Socratic asked.
“Oh, right. The Rulers are said to be fashioned from gold, the Guardians from silver, and the lower ranks of iron and brass. But this is not right; this isn’t true. No such thing happens. They are born like normal humans! You are telling them an outright lie!”
“But it is necessary. I of course tell the Rulers the truth, when they take their posts, but up until then, everyone believes the story of the Mother. Everyone would die for the Republic. That makes them agreeable to live in this society. The deception is necessary for the good of the community.”
“So what about the children? Is a farmer’s son always a farmer’s son? What about the Guardians — if someone weak is born what do you do with that person?”
Socratic spoke smoothly. “There is a simple answer. If the son or daughter of a farmer is good enough to be a Guardian, they are promoted to that level at the Birthing Ceremony. In the same manner, if the child of Guardians is not fit to be such than he or she joins the lower ranks. All easily explained.”
Mill asked, “How many farmer’s children have ever become Guardians?”
“Not very many. Why do you ask?”
“How many of all the lower ranks have ever been promoted? Exactly, if you can give me a number, say a percentage.” Mill said.
“Less than one percent,” Socratic answered after a few moments. “But why do you ask this?”
“In a moment. How many Guardians have ever been demoted?” John Mill asked.
Socratic sounded frustrated as he said, “About the same.”
“And what made them get demoted?”
“Sickness and deformities.”
John asked, “And what made the lower classes so outstanding that they were promoted?”
“They were exceptionally skilled…”
Mill interrupted and said, “You know what I think, Socratic. I think that the people in the lower classes remain there mostly because of the way that they are raised. They are not given the free choice of training as a Guardian, so of course it would be very hard for them to become thus promoted. And look at the Guardians, very few of them are demoted. Why?
“Because they are trained properly and learn the exact art of the Guardian. Sure, they all attend the same schools, but the Guardians children live in a Guardian society. They expect to become Guardians, whereas the other children do not.”
“That sounds that a correct observation, but I ask you why it is so important. Things run smoothly here.”
“I don’t care if they run smoothly!” John raised his voice slightly, “What I’m saying is that this isn’t fair. These people have lost the right of freedom, and they deserve to know the truth.” Mill stopped for a moment; he had come to one of the training enclosures that the Auxiliaries used. Out there, behind a chain-linked fence several dozen men and women were training for battle. He immediately noticed the grim looks on many of their faces, even the onlookers. They did not have the cheerfulness that the men and women within the city had. He asked Socratic why.
“It is not good for the Guardians to laugh too much. A merry nature often leads itself to silliness, which would not be good in the Auxiliaries.”
“As you might guess, I don’t agree with that. Why should they be unhappy?” Mill said.
“Because the happiness of the whole community is much more important. Individual happiness is not important at all. If the community as a whole is healthy and happy, it does not matter that an individual is unhappy. Besides, the people are doing what they would choose to do. The Rulers merely nudge them in the right direction.”
Mill shook his head. “Doesn’t anyone ever disagree with these rules and say something?”
“Of course not. They are raised to believe that the government is the most important thing. They would never disagree.”
“So, you use religion to keep the people believing in a falsity and to secure power for the state. If the people believe so strongly in their Mother, then they would do anything that your government tells them to do!”
“Exactly,” Socratic said. “But it is not like the Rulers, or myself are forcing them to do bad things. They are performing good acts.”
John Mill said, “Good, by your definition. In fact, you are restricting their free will, making them into automatons. Shouldn’t they have the right to choose what is right and what is wrong?”
“If you give every person free choice to do as he or she wished than you end up with chaos. Look what happened with democracy — the corporate powers took control. This is the state of the galaxy today! The majority work in abject slavery for a minority of rich corporate presidents. The Corpwars devastated the whole galaxy! Democracy killed Earth. Only this, the ideal form of government is right.” Socratic said.
“But what is the point of having this sort of government? Government when used by private agencies for the people can do great things, but government interference stunts human growth. Every power that the state gets diminishes the power of the individual. People should not have to live in such a civilization.”
Socratic responded. “These people have a stable, unchanging society. Yes, they do the same thing over and over all their lives. But they live in safety and comfort.”
Mill considered this. “But has your society ever grown? I mean has there ever been any sweeping changes to make the place better.”
“No,” Socratic answered, “as Plato said, ‘simplicity is best. Variety breeds maladies.’”
Mill said, “No I don’t think so. With variety, people might become discontented with certain aspects of their lives and work to change this. I think discontentment forces people to make improvements in their lives. Eventually your people will discover this.”
“Heavens forbid! That would be unthinkable.”
“But it will probably happen.”
“Why do you say this?” Socratic asked.
Mill said, “Because with simplicity comes boredom, and eventually from boredom comes discontentment. So eventually your people are going to start wanting to make changes.”
“It will never happen.”
“No one has even once spoken out against this system?”
The voice paused. “There have been a few cases, but these have been dealt with.”
Mill didn’t like Socratic’s tone and decided to change the subject.
“When I was being taken here, one of the pilots mentioned something about kin groups. What are those?”
“It was decided that sex should be severely regulated in the Auxiliaries to ensure the breeding of a better race of people. So, to do this, the Rulers decide who will mate with whom, in order to birth exceptional children. We hold special ceremonies and a marriage commonly lasts for about a month. We also keep careful records to remember who is related to whom. Upon birth, children are taken from their mothers and raised by a group of men and women. This result is that no one knows who their father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter is…”
Mill said, “…thus the need for kin groups, to prevent incest.”
“I see that women train with the men, so does that mean they are equal?”
“That is good, I have always believed that women should be considered equals of men. But, this marriage ceremony, how is it conducted?”
“The most brave and heroic receive the best women to mate with. The Rulers pretend that lots are drawn, but in fact they decide who will have intercourse with whom.”
“You talk about men, but I assume brave and heroic women also receive the best mates.”
“But no one declines the marriage.”
“Not really. It is considered an honor to be chosen for the ceremony. Why do you ask?”
“Because, the way I see it the women become pregnant. What if they don’t want to become pregnant, is this fair?”
“I suppose it isn’t, but I don’t see what you are getting at.” Socratic said.
Mill started walking again, observing the compound more. “I just don’t think it is fair to force the women to become pregnant, if they don’t want to be. I imagine some women have disagreed?”
“Yes, but they were reasoned with, and came to their senses,” the voice said.
“But, shouldn’t they have the right to choose? Maybe it is good that you chose the best partners, but I still think there is a fundamental error here. But leaving that aside, if they can’t pick their partners shouldn’t they be able to say no?”
“It is something to consider,” Socratic said, ending the topic. “But what do you think of the Kin group?”
“There are good and bad things about it. There is definitely a limiting of personal freedom, something as you know I disagree with heartily, but there does seem to be some sort of bond. I imagine this would make them better warriors.”
“My reasoning exactly. It creates a tight, capable group.”
Mill smiled and said, “Very capable. Have you ever considered what would happen if your Auxiliaries decided to rebel? Who could fight against them?”
“Nobody, but it would never happen. They are raised to treat enemies fiercely and their fellow people with friendliness.”
“But, as we have discussed earlier, your Auxiliaries are not the happiest group of people. In time, they might decide to make themselves happier. As I remember and observe here, they own no property, no houses, nothing. Everything is community owned, but down in the city everyone has private ownership. It is not fair. Might it not be better to give the Auxiliaries some more freedom so they would be happier?”
“Mm, perhaps so. Your point is well taken. But, with more freedom comes greed. Take a man who has never tasted fine wine in his life. His life has been spent working and supporting his family. But one day he has dinner with a neighbor and the neighbor gives him fine wine to drink. Being polite, the man drinks the wine and realizes a great fondness for it. Up until now he has lived a good life, he was comfortable and satisfied, but now after returning home he is depressed, for he knows he cannot afford such extravagance. So, now after a taste of the wine, the man is feeling less than what he was before. And in a further scenario, if the man cannot resist the temptation he might begin buying wine, sacrificing other more important necessities. In this way, with a taste of freedom, I worry that the Guardians might desire more, and they being in a position of great responsibility as the care-takers of the Republic, would damage society greatly. Is it not better to leave things as they are now?”
Mill said, “You have so little faith in men and women. Here in the Republic you have cultivated philosophic minds. Again, I think that your Guardians are well enough in mind to make the right decisions. They might taste the wine and enjoy it, but I think they’ll use it in moderation.”
“Interesting idea…” Socratic was interrupted by a woman’s piercing grunt of pain. “Ah, I see that the new candidate is being tested.”
The noise came from a large, arena-sized building to the South. Mill said, “Sounds like someone is hurt.”
“Don’t worry, it is just a Guardian being tested to see if she is worthy of becoming a Ruler.”
“Sounds more like she is being tortured!” Mill joked.
“She is. We test our future Rulers severely. We believe that the best candidate would be one who identifies himself or herself wholly with the life of the society. Do you agree that the only time a person might be robbed of his or her true beliefs is through theft, or violence, or bewitchment?”
“Yes, that seems to be the case. Society often does this to individuals, don’t you think? I mean, the government educates them in the government’s interest, therefore stealing the true beliefs of the individuals. Laws, through threat of violence and punishment further rob individuals of their true beliefs, and often times through the guise of religion is an individual bewitched. Yes, I agree with you that theft, violence, and bewitchment are the only ways in a which a man might be robbed of his true belief. I can think of no others. I take it that you subject possible rulers to tests of these three components, to ensure that they are suitable to govern?”
“Yes, we force the Rulers to undergo severe hardship, and alternately scenes of great pleasure and reward. Those who persevere the perilous and resist the temptation, are of great use to the society,” Socratic said.
“Hmm,” Mill said, “so you are saying that a man who has the strength of will to survive such hardship, would do so because of his love for his community?”
“Yes,” Socratic replied.
“But, can’t a man of evil disposition be as strong in will as a man of good disposition?”
Socratic said, “Not really. Evil as an essence is weaker than good. It is possible that an evil man might be strong in will, but never stronger than a good man.”
“I disagree,” Mill said, “I think that a man who runs a crime family must be very strong in will to assert his control over others. Whereas a man of good does it through love, the man of evil might use fear to intimidate and control. But, in both cases there is a strength of will here, each man knows exactly what he wants to do, and what is his common goal. Yet, what if a person in The Republic, through a series of misfortunes came to dislike the society?”
Socratic said, “That would never happen! We raise all the children to love their country.”
“Okay. How about the rancher. He breeds and controls his livestock much more efficiently than the Rulers can govern the citizens of The Republic. But occasionally isn’t there an unruly stallion born, or a sickly colt?”
“Yes, I suppose there is,” Socratic said.
Mill noticed a small, wooden bench and sat upon it. Several Guardians walked by, wearing tight-fitting white robes and carrying rifles. He nodded at them, but they ignored him. “So, isn’t it possible for an unruly guardian to be born?” He asked.
“Yes, that is true, but his parentkin would notice such behavior and act to remove it.”
“Do you agree that the child could deceive the parentkin; knowing that his or her behavior causes punishment, the child could learn to hide bad behavior? She or he might even act the role of the model child.”
“It is very unlikely, but I’ll concede that it is possible.” Socratic said.
“So, this child might grow up resenting The Republic and wishing to change it. Of course, the only way she or he could do this is by becoming a Ruler. With the proper strength of will couldn’t someone survive the tests that the Rulers set forth.”
“Again, it is unlikely, but possible. I see your point, that there might come a time when a Ruler who does not care for the community might come about. But we hold a council of six Rulers in each community, making it very much impossible for the evil person to do much damage.”
“That is good, but I just wanted to draw the point out that even the most rigorous of tests will not give you the results you desired.”
“I thank you then. By now you’ve seen much of our community, and challenged many aspects. I think that I have argued my point effectively, although many times we have arrived at an impasse, neither able to change the others opinions.”
Mill nodded his head in agreement. “Yes,” he said, “I believe that man is right in proportion, as he tends to promote happiness, and wrong when he produces the reverse of happiness. This is the Utility principle. The Republic however asserts that man is right in the proportion that he identifies and cares about the society as a whole. I agree with you that studying and contemplation is very important, that this is tranquillity, but I also think a measure of excitement is required for the growth of a community. Your society makes this undesirable.
“And of course time and again you infringe on an individual’s freedom; by censorship, by regulation of sexual partners for the Auxiliaries, and also by choosing what occupations each individual must work at for the rest of his or her life. I disagree with the torment that the Rulers are put through, and I do not believe that you have the right to deceive society, especially by using the concept of your Mother religion, which is so blatantly a misleading belief. This is wrong.
“But, I think that the way in which the Guardians act as a large family is good. Also, keeping your population at a responsible level shows great insight by your Rulers and peoples, but I think, as I’ve said, this is something that people would do regardless, considering the education they’ve received. Freedom of expression is very important, but in the Republic, seems severely limited. This, I do not like.”
Socratic said, “I feel much negativity from you, John Mill. Have you then decided to leave The Republic?”
“No, on the contrary, I’ll stay,” John Stuart Mill said with a smile, “I think that happiness is desirable, and that I might lack much happiness in your society. But, at one time in my first life I suffered in lethargy and realized that if all my goals were achieved in an instant I would not be happy at all. It was then that I realized that I was happy effecting change, improving society, and helping humankind by making changes. I think that I would be happy to live here, in The Republic, but I warn you that I will not be silent like your most of your citizens. I have a strong love for knowledge, and for social reforms and I will create my happiness in making mankind better.” Mill almost felt a smile from Socratic, a mental smile that spread open, with delight in a new challenge.
“I accept you. It has been long since I’ve had someone to disagree with. Welcome to the Republic, John Stuart Mill!”
And with that John Mill, the clone, walked, under Socratic’s guidance upon a long trail, that led deep into the country. The trail wound into the thick folding arms of large mountain peaks, and lush, life-filled forests. And John Mill felt more awake than he’d ever been before.
Copyright Brent Knowles 2009