“Trans-Atlantic” by Hamish Spiers continues. We’ll be running a new installment each week through summer so be sure to pop back each week.
By Hamish Spiers
Part VII. An Interesting Call
Well, that was the first and last time I traveled through one of the oceanic tunnels. They haven’t gone anywhere but they’re just relics now. Nowadays, most people use the new airplanes with their various means of propulsion or, if they’ve got the time and the money, they travel on a cruise ship.
However, not everyone’s fallen in with the new trends. There’s a man out there who designed a motor yacht that uses anything available to get it going. If it picks up speed, it glides over the surface of the water like a hydrofoil. If it really picks up speed, wings fold out and it gets airborne, flying five or ten meters over the water. It uses sails, wind turbines, solar panels and, if the man’s not in a particular hurry, he lets it drift.
He never patented the design. He made one working model that he spent most of his life savings on and now he travels the world, going from place to place in quite reasonable comfort. Far more comfort than anyone in an oil–era plane or the new variety.
As for speed, he says he always gets where he’s going in good time. His yacht may not be as fast as the new airplanes of today but it’s never too far behind.
So if you’re thinking of a trip abroad and you’d rather not shell out for a plane ticket or go on a cruise ship, ask your local port authorities if that man’s stopping by any time soon. You’d be surprised. He gets around. And he always enjoys company. You won’t be able to pick your own destination of course but he’s always going somewhere interesting. After all, the world is still an amazing place.
So anyway, that was the end of my little string of experiences on the Trans–Atlantic. Soon after the scene in the dining car, I was in New York. But it’s not quite the end of the story. About a year and a half after I arrived in New York, I got a call from Bob.
It was something, I tell you. Because after ditching his job at Trans–Atlantic, he was well on his way to becoming the celebrity he is today. But it turns out he remembered me. And he was also in the dining car when that worker came in and, since I stood up for the guy, he decided I was a decent fellow. And he tracked me down so he could catch up with me.
We met for lunch in a modest café.
“So what did you want to talk about?” I asked him. “Saving the world again?”
“Something like that,” Bob said. “I was just wondering if you’ve figured out what I tried to tell you on the train. A friend of yours says you’ve been working on a short story about it.”
I shrugged. “I have. But it isn’t easy to change the big things. The powerful still exploit the rest of us, hoard resources and charge the rest of us a king’s ransom for the bare necessities of life.”
Bob just smiled as he listened.
“And the people in government won’t regulate the madness ’cause that would tick off the people who funded their election campaigns.”
“So?” Bob prompted me.
I smiled back. “I guess we can’t rely on the governments of the world to make things better.”
Bob nodded. “That’s a start.” He then pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and passed it across the table. “Here. I printed this out for you.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s a little story. I thought you might like it. Do you remember that stuff in the news a couple of years ago about Marakaz?”
Marakaz – the young country not the instruments with similar sounding name, and not to be confused with Mauritius, Mauritania or Madagascar – came to the world’s attention after the last global financial meltdown. About six months before I left Amsterdam.
Most governments went through the usual routine. They bailed out the people responsible for the mess and made the rest of the population pay for it. But in Marakaz, something interesting happened.
The president of the country outlined his austerity measures. People from the poor and middle classes would pay levies on top of their medical expenses, wages would be slashed… all the usual measures. But the people rejected them. The debt was not theirs, they said. It belonged to the bankers and the stockbrokers and was their problem. A large crowd blocked the entrances to the houses of congress and prevented the president from entering.
He responded by calling on the highest ranking member of the police force to disperse the group, a grizzled man in his sixties who’d been through a lot in life, including a stint in the military. In the president’s mind, he was the man for the job. So you can well imagine the president’s surprise when the man said, “No. I won’t disperse the people.”
The president said to him, “Do you know who I am? I am the leader of this whole country.”
And the man replied, “You’re not a leader. You are a servant. And not a very good one. With the people’s consent, you will be dismissed and we will run the country without you.”
The president was furious and he called in the army. To his chagrin however, the army backed the police and the people. It seemed they had more in common with the people than the bankers and the stockbrokers.
A temporary government was then formed and the president, along with the bankers and the stockbrokers, were deported.
“You’ll regret this,” the president said to the people before he stepped onto the plane that would take him away from Marakaz forever. “Without my guiding hand, this country will go to the dogs.”
Those in the temporary government then pondered what form their nation’s future government should take and it was decided that a draw would be held every three months. Ordinary citizens would be selected and asked to come forth and participate in a committee that would oversee any decisions that needed to be made. They would have to discuss, negotiate and come to agreement on the matters that affected the whole country. And a new committee would be selected every three months.
It worked. And life in Marakaz continued as normal, except without the anxiety that comes from having someone threatening the entire populace with austerity measures. Then the central committee was replaced with smaller committees that served cities and towns directly, although all the cities and towns would still share ties.
To spectators on the other side of the globe, particularly those who viewed the events in Marakaz as a potential catalyst for sweeping world changes that could threaten their own immense power and wealth, this was interpreted as a sign of weakness. In their minds, it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people of Marakaz were incapable of governing themselves. It was in their view the beginning of the end.
Many media groups, with strong financial ties to these wealthy spectators, took great delight in ridiculing the people of Marakaz and holding them up as an example to everyone else, a warning about what would happen if they tried to usurp the authority of the wealthy elite and the governments who were in bed with them.
For a while, the blitzkrieg of propaganda had the desired effect but only for a while. Reports began filtering back to the global community that Marakaz was getting on just fine. In actual fact, Marakaz was thriving.
Then questions started flying in. How did the people maintain their infrastructure? Who ran the farms? Was the whole place now a hippie commune with everyone living in tents?
One journalist decided to stay there a year and answer some of these questions. And Bob gave me the story he brought back.