…And today he had to play the role of a warrior king, of Henry IV firing up his troops with blazing patriotism before the battle of Agincourt.
Tall order! George thought to himself, looking around at the rubble-strewn wasteland.
Dressed in a grey jacket, brown slacks and thick-soled brown shoes, he sure didn’t look like Henry IV, for one thing. And the sea of debris made up of pulverised concrete and melted steel didn't look like the lush green fields of France either. A gigantic Stars and Stripes flag suspended from one of the Manhattan skyscrapers was about the only colour to be found in the depressing sea of grey.
The air was filled with toxic fumes and he coughed to get the poison and dirt out of his lungs. He coughed so hard that he paused as he walked over a plank that had been placed across a crater and which led to a mound of rubble and a small group. Only selected rescue workers had been given the special passes to enter the area. Mixed among them were secret service operatives, ready to fire on the crowd in the pre-scripted drama. Someone slapped him on the back as he approached. He turned round, startled and then half smiled when he recognised a familiar face from his White House security detail, dressed up in a hard yellow hat and yellow jacket.
Next, clapping and rousing cheers rent the air. On cue, he smiled, shook hands, slapped shoulders. He moved through the crush avoiding looking at the camera team as much as possible, trying to look spontaneous, natural.
As for his “stage”, a mound of debris, it sure did look pathetic, he thought as he clambered up, struggling to gain traction. Only Carl Rogue could have thought of this setting, he mused. That guy planned out everything in his head, but didn’t have any feel for the reality on the ground, for the emotion, the atmosphere….
Rubble beneath his shoes gave way and he took hold of the arm of a tough looking, tanned rescue worker standing on top of the mound. With just a word or two, the guy handed him a loudspeaker, so heavy George had to tighten his grip on the guy to keep his balance. He tried to look casual, in control as his ice-blue eyes scanned his surroundings. He saw the camera man at the foot of the beehive was angling his lens upwards to make his position look even more elevated. George puffed out his chest to look the part of Henry IV, surrounded by his troops, showing flaming patriotism, leadership and courage in the face of so many threats and dangers.
“I want to tell you something,” he began, putting his mouth to the loudspeaker.
He paused. The loudspeaker was a really silly idea, he thought to himself. It made his voice sound thin and flat. But there was nothing he could do about that now, he reflected as he glanced up at the leaden clouds above his head.
“Tell us!” came the chorus on cue.
Gathered around him now in a tight crush were maybe only 100 or so tough-looking rescue workers but the camera guys were filming a close up so that TV viewers would not be aware of just how small the crowd was.
The crowd was yelling and clapping – following the script. George paused to allow the cheering to fade.
Peering over the hard hats, he saw, far into the distance, he saw the flashing lights of the police cars and the hundreds of uniforms a barrier erected to prevent people coming off the street and joining in the event on Ground Zero. The police had already moved the demonstrators along, and so their chants were no longer audible.
“I want to tell you something,” he yelled through the loudspeaker.
“Tell us!” the crowd shouted on cue.
It all sounded so artificial that George struggled to hold back laughter. And failed. His face broke into something between a smile and an ironical sneer.
“There’s going to be a storm,” he said, pointing up at the sky.
There were a few chuckles at the satirical gleam in his eye and his dead pan delivery of the anti climatic punch line. But most looked at him, puzzled. Even his own guys. This was not a time for a comedy routine, George thought, frowning. He had to stay in his role. He was the concerned President, the leader who cared for his people. George swallowed hard, and resolved to sound sincere and passionate.
He raised his hand, a guesture that triggered another burst of clapping.
“I know people are hurting,“ he said, struggling to look serious. “There are families who have lost loved ones in this terrorist attack. I want to say: We’re hurting with you. We send our prayers to you. I want to say too to all the people here, we’re proud of your work! We thank you from our heart for what you did. We will always honour the heroism that our fire fighters and police men have showed. The deaths of the victims of these terrorist attackers were tragic but we won’t let them go unpunished.
On cue, the men started yelling.
„Go attack! Go attack!“
Their chants rented the air. As if picking up on the spontaneous outpouring of emotion, George put the loudspeaker to his mouth again and cried.
“I hear you. I hear what you’re saying. I promise you we will attack and hunt down terrorists wherever they might be!“ he cried, raising his voice and pumping the air. „We will not allow these terrorists to go unpunished! America, the land of freedom, will not bend to terrorists.I’m here to show those people out there who tried to knock us down that we’re not knocked down. We Americans are still standing, proud of our country, determined to defend our freedom and our democracy. Those people out there who attacked us will be knocked down soon.”
“Go attack! Go attack! Go attack!” On cue, the chanting began again. There was clapping and cheering. Fists pumped the air. George nodded in approval.
“Our American democratic way of life is at stake and we Americans will defend it against terrorists wherever they are in the world, whether they are in Afghanistan or Iraq!”
He did the movements and the gestures. But the whole thing had a leaden feel about it. He knew he had to sound more angry, fired up, outraged but he felt cold, weary, depressed and his mouth was dry. It was hard to reinvent himself as General Patton, fighting for freedom when he was the grandson of a banker and senator who’d just about escaped trial for his collaboration with the Nazis during world war two, and who had hatched a plan to assassinate Roosevelt and declare martial law - a plan that had only been uncovered by Congress at the last minute. Yes, he had to sound like a warrior ready to put his life down for his country when he’d dodged the military draft and Vietnam. He had to sound like one of the people when he’d led the privileged existence of an aristocrat. To get into his role, he swung out his arm an dput it around the tough looking fire fighter hoping this would show the world that he was one of the regular guys. Then he drew in sharp breath and said in a loud and determined voice.
“I am a man of peace," he cried out. "Everyone knows that. But there comes a time when even a man who love peace has to go to war to defend his country, to defend his people, to defend America and its values of freedom and democracy against hate filled terrorists who kill thousands of innocent people!”
There was more yelling, clapping and cheering and waving of hats and Stars and Stripes flags in an outpouring of patriotic fervour! George looked on, wearily.
The minute the camera team stopped filming, George handed back the loudspeaker. He climbed back down the mound and walked back across the rumble strewn area in silence accompanied by dozens of security agents.
Walking across the cratered landscape oppressed him. It was all so bewildering and overwhelming. As he walked along, he kept thinking this was just the beginning. The plot had so many twists and turns he could hardly take it all in, he thought to himself, glancing over at Rogue, who was waiting for him at a heavily guarded exit. George paused to shake the hands of a few fire fighters and cops thanking them for their sacrifice and hard work. Then he got into one of the armour-plated limousines with Rogue him without saying a word.
The motorcade rolled away. George sat back and unzipped his jacket while Rogue pulled out his cell phone.
He was talking to Emmanual Silverstein while scanning the small TV set where a CMM anchor was discussing the speech George had just given at Ground Zero.
“A stirring call to patriotism, there, for the President at the sight of the terrorist attack,” the anchor was saying.
George stopped listening. He felt cramped, claustrophic. He turned his eyes to the side and looked through the window at the streets outside. The police had cordoned off half of Manhatten. There were only a few people to be seen. It was already getting dark. The lights of the buildings were starting to blaze. The shabby, dirty streets, depressed him.
It must be awful, terrible to live in this kind of place, he thought to himself, glad he had his ranch in the middle of the countryside with plenty of space and light – not to mention his luxurious apartments inside the regal White House.
Yes, it must be a terrible fate to be born to be one of the millions of wage slaves, toiling away for long hours in offices and military bases on low pay like the slaves of Babylon toiling away for their masters.
George wished he could switch off the CMM coverage of his speech at Ground Zero and watch one of the baseball games.
But he knew Rogue wouldn’t allow him to change channels. Rogue was always lecturing him. In his eyes, he was a slacker and a lightweight. That annoyed George. He tried to repress his anger. After all, he and Rogue needed each other. They were different in character -- Rogue was the intellectual strategist, he, he was the charmer – but that’s why their talents complemented each other, and they made such a good team.
Rogue was like Odysseus and he was like Sinon. Together, they had persuaded the people of Troy, who had fought back a siege by the Greeks, to take in the Trojan Horse. The brainy Odysssues had thought up the plan of slipping an object into the city filled with soldiers, and then storming Troy from the inside. He, George, was like the guy, Sinon, who had been sent by Odysseus to persuade the sceptical Trojans that the wooden horse was actually a present, a farewell gift from the Greeks, who had finally accepted defeat.
Like Sinon, George had a talent for acting, for improvising, for persuading the American people he was a patriot with their best interests at heart when the opposite was the case.
Among the Trojans, just like among the Americans, there were enough people who had seen through the ploy, mind you. Laocos and Cassandra had warned the Trojans not to take in the wooden horse, and there had been plenty of voices, warning the people of America not to elect him – though the alternative was also one of the aristocrats.
But those wise counsellors had been overruled by the others, jubilant to see the Greek fleet apparently sail away from their shores. The wooden horse had been wheeled inside the city gates. That same night when the Trojans were celebrating the end of the Greek siege, the doors hidden in the wooden horse had opened, and Odysseus leading Greek soldiers had jumped out and begun their slaughter….
In the same way, as soon as the Americans had elected him as President, George had continued the work of dismantling their civic rights, and their constitution and also of constructing an efficient financial apparatus that was designed to suck out as much money from every corner of the country as possible.
While George stared out of the window, wearily, Rogue sat there studying some papers.
“Don’t you ever tired of all that stuff?” asked George, glancing over at him.
“All the statistics and the calculations?”
“I love them! Other people turn to God when they are in trouble. I turn to my statistics.”
“Are you finished?”
Armed with pocket computers, calculator and blackberries, a sharp memory and huge store of knowledge, Rogue was a walking encyclopaedia. He had an IQ of 155, too.
Rogue sat pouring over statistics and figures on every aspect of the media coverage. Watching him, George had the impression that he loved work for its own sake. He loved to plan and calculate.
“Good, good,” Rogue muttered without taking his eyes off some sheets.
“What?” asked Geoff, wearily.
“All going perfectly.”
“Yeah, we got away with deception on a new scale?”
“If you’d ever read Hamlet, you’d know there’s always been something rotten in the state of Denmark, George!”
George saw the patronising gleam in Rogue’s eye and felt the desire to take him down a peg or two.
“I’ve read Hamlet.”
“Really?” Rogue sneered.
“What’s more I liked it. I could really identify with the guy.”
“I know what he felt like seeing the a country go to ruin because the evil got into power,” continued George. “The greedy and ambitious uncle murdered the noble and enlightened king and got the crown by tricks and lies and not by merit and that’s were it all started to go wrong. The proper universal order was broken. The cosmos has its own order, you know. It loves goodness and truth. When the evil overturn that order, the whole of society and universe breaks down into chaos. There’s disorder, natural catastrophes, famines and wars.”
“What are you going on about?“ asked Rogue, staring at George, amazed.
„That’s all in Hamlet!” cried George. “I’m telling you Shakespeare saw life as a macrocosm and the microcosm. He believed a human being, nature and God all had to be in alignment.“
Rogue looked at him, affronted.
„I can tell you what the natural and divine order is,“ he said. „It’s when we put “them” back into our places!”
He jabbed his finger and pointed at the passers by outside: he said the word „them“ with venomous contempt.
“They are the one’s who’ve shown arrogance and overstepped the mark. What’s rotten is the rule of “them”, the herd, in a democracy. The people who should rule are those who are fit to rule and that’s us. We represent the greatest collective intelligence on the planet. We control much of the world’s wealth through our brains. We shouldn’t have to bow and scrape to the morons out there.”
“You don’t then believe in God, then? Not like Shakespeare?”
“Did he believe in God? You ask such bizarre questions. Sometimes, I wonder….”
“Yes, you have an odd logic?”
“I’m a pragmatist. I do what works!”
“You know I’m really starting to worry about you, George. You’re starting to sound like one of the sheep out there, who runs around confused all day long, bleating whatever sound bites the media or the church feeds them. There is no God. There is only money and power. It’s people like us who still have the warrior ethos, the aristocratic blood, the desire to command and more importantly the ability to rule who should have power. The rest of the people are just the sheep, the herd, the drones. Shakespeare knew that society had to be organised so that the people with the best ability were at the top and the rest at the bottom. He believed there was a fixed hierarchy and that the kings had the divine right to be at the top of the pyramid. He believed the subjects should accept their position and not overstep the mark out of ambition. The drones should not try to rule a nation or a state because they don’t have the brains for it. But that is precisely what’s happening today. The catastrophe of our century is that every idiot thinks he knows what the country needs. Nowadays you have every Tom, Dick and Harry wanting to be the president or the prime minister even if he’s an utter jerk. I mean just look at the guys in power in Britain, France and Germany.”
“What’s wrong with Tim Burns?”
“The guy is a jumped up no body. He’s filled with burning ambition. He wants
impress others, win admiration. He’ll do anything we ask…”
“He’s a freemason…”
“But us? We don’t need power like a drug. We have always been the top of the pile. We don’t need to prove anything. Power is not a drug we need to feel good about ourselves. Power gives us the capacity to do things we want to do. We’re in it for the money. We’re intelligent, clever, rational people making sensible business decisions about how to invest our cash so that our wealth increases.”
“That’s why we kill 3,000 people in false flag attacks…”
“You think we’re the only ones? The reality is this is a dog eat dog world. They’re all at it. The Chinese are coming up, India and Brazil are coming up. Global warming is going to wreck the planet and we caused it with our oil. We have no choice. We have to make a big push or forever sink down to the level of those people out there.”
George turned away and looked out of the window. He saw a few people walking along, all with the same functional, plain grey clothes and all with the same earnest, preoccupied expressions trudging up and down these pavements in this grey city going to grey office blocks to do grey work…
“Who are these people, George?” Rogue was saying, pointing out of the window at the stream of people. “Nobodies. They work like slaves here in New York for their Masters in Tel Aviv believe whatever lies the media tells them. What kind of a life do they have? Look at them hurrying along from their cubicles to their tiny apartments, working 14, 16 hours a day, not earning enough to even afford a room of their own. All they care about is money and a promotion and a bonus, going to bars, women and cocaine. All they dream about is getting ahead of the pack and owning a five bedroomed-suburban house with two SUV’s in the drive. If they have that, they’re totally happy. The guys have no respect for women. And the women are gold diggers with no respect for the guys. They get together and torment each other in marriages until they get a divorce. They produce more kids when our planet doesn’t have enough water and food for all those useless mouths to feed. For us to survive, the population has to go down by six billion or so. That’s the work we’ve got ahead of us.”
“You’re a bastard,” said George.
“Sometimes, I think you’re only temporary. There’s a soft spot in you that makes me worry. In this business, you have to be pitiless, show no mercy.”
“There is no God, George. Don’t worry. No need to fret. We invented God to keep the masses under control. Just relax. You need to get ready to give another speech tonight.”
“This one is about the terrorist network Al Qaeda and the need to eliminate their base in Afghanistan…”
George gave a weary sigh as the motorcade rolled through the empty streets of the New York.