I was profoundly affected by the events in Paris. I’m not sure why, perhaps because of my respect and admiration for French culture, or perhaps because it was so easy for me to imagine myself in the victims’ places, simply going about my daily life when the unspeakable unfolded around me. Yet I am ashamed to admit that I noticed a headline about a bombing in Beirut just one day before the Paris attacks and did not blink an eye. I am surely not alone in this, and the differing press coverage each incident has received – both IS bombings targeting civilians living their normal lives – tells us much about how we are naturally inclined to think and to speak. We are unfortunately wired for tribalism (there is a vast amount of psychological literature on this, an interested reader might begin with Joshua Greene and Jonathan Haidt for some general accounts), and far too many of us have become inured to violence in the Middle East. How tragic this callousness is.

To try and make sense of what is so unmanageable, so incomprehensible in the terms with which I view the world, I wrote. Not much, just a couple of pages to try and see if I could face the hurt we feel and the desperation and ideological blindness that contributed to what drove the attackers to do what they did. Nothing could ever justify their acts, but we must look within to see the culpability we have in a world where nothing is clean, nothing is cut and dry, and no tax-paying adult is uninvolved (even if by legal force). We must come to terms with the things our countries do and withdraw or increase our support for what we deem appropriate, for that which will lessen the ill and strengthen the good. My thoughts, when I could form them on paper, didn’t take away my core angst but they did help me understand it. My response to the world is to write, and many of you certainly share that.

This is the point at which writing becomes art, when it is a meaningful interaction with the world we inhabit. If we think of the greats that have preceded us, Proust, Rilke, Yeats, Joyce, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald (to name but a few), we find that their works dwell on what it is to be a human in their time and place, exploring the universal and timeless beneath the surface of details. Books like The Da Vinci Code may be page-turners but what do they really tell us about the human heart, the human condition? (This criticism may apply to the thriller genre in general, though there must be exceptions.) I suggest we use this art we’re gifted with, to whatever degree, to explore and build on that great theme of the human being and not simply wank our lives away with pulp. We all need so much more than that now. We do this as a tribute to all victims of senseless violence, perverted ideas of justice, and misused power everywhere, as a tribute to all of us.

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Something old, something new

For the last three years I’ve focused entirely on my academic work, building up a publications list (in academic journals) of enough depth to make me – at least on paper – qualified for the type of full-time university work I’m going for. I got into the game late and had a lot of catching up to do compared with the people blessed with better foresight who went straight into grad school after their own uni adventures petered out in the way those years tend to. For the most part I’ve enjoyed it, writing essays has been challenging and stretched my abilities; I feel that I’ve grown a lot the past few years. But I can no longer ignore the itch.

You know the one I mean, that calling for the next big project, the next book. Book. Just typing out the word is daunting, especially knowing what’s in store and how little time I actually have to give to it. Still, the voice is there. And now too an idea. I am on the cusp of beginning something and it is a delicious taste, one to savor while it lasts and before the grind of it kicks in.

At this point that’s as far as I’ve gotten: the central idea and some rough notes. I have been trying to let ideas for specific scenes percolate away as the general storyarc sinks into my mind. An undetailed central character stands out, as well as the main supporting characters, but nothing yet beyond that. As I said, this is all just getting underway and I’m very much enjoying it.

Many of you will have been here, and not a few will have seen their projects burn themselves out before they’ve been completed. I’ve been there; what writer hasn’t? Many of us have even completed full-length novels only to dump them unceremoniously into the trash icon. And no doubt with good reason. The writing game is a harsh one and we are often the harshest judges of what we do. As well we should be. So I won’t make any promises but for now – now – I’m excited.

What can we expect when we are at this stage? Certainly not fame and riches, only a fool would attempt those from writing. The modern publishing world being what it is we can’t really count on a fair shot from the trads either; but no bother, we have options. Like my last this one is intended for the Drugstore here though I will probably try to market it a bit more should I make it that far. Knowing that adds its own level of excitement as I revel in the control I am sure to maintain. Come what may it will be a work I am deeply proud of, one that reflects me as the person I am in the time and place I am. Can any of us really ask for more?

Of course we all want hundreds of thousands of readers, and the Gods willing may they come, but when we write we must acknowledge that we write out of our inner cores for no other reason than to express our being, to give life to what is within us, to let go of the burning to get out, to surrender to who we are. That in itself is a beautiful part of what it is to be human. And how lucky we are to live in a time when we can pursue this. Let us never lose sight of that.

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Another By Prescription Only round has come and gone and I find myself in a whimsical mood so drift along with me, if you will, on some gentle breezes…

I sometimes like to daydream about the kind of days I’d have if I were a full-time writer. How would I structure my time? How many hours would I put in over the keyboard? Into planning? What kind of notes would I keep on current projects and would I have multiple ones running at once or limit myself to one at a time? Would I stick to a strict working day or let my writing life ebb and flow with the visits of my muse? (This involves even more flights of fancy as it means I have no duties at home and/or the actual space at home to be able to do something. (A home office! In Tokyo? Ahh, but to dream…))

The questions are of course a moot point but come back now and then when guys like Will Self write about their lives. (I think I last read something along these lines in a London Review of Books piece but my subscription has since lapsed and I don’t see the need to look it up.) Perhaps by virtue of his immense vocabulary and his willingness to show it off he has the luxury to write for a living, which he apparently does from very early in the morning in the comfort of his own writing room and on a typewriter and/or pencil and pad. (Take that technophiles!) I like the idea of typewriters more than their actuality and so I’d probably stick with my desktop. On the rare occasions when I do have a full day to give to writing I find that I can somewhat answer the above questions. I do in fact stick to regular working hours, put in about 7 hours of writing, and have found that even if inspiration is very far away the sheer act of starting to write usually generates its own flow, sometimes laboriously and sometimes freely and easily. A benefit of discipline? I suppose so, or maybe just a side effect of having sat down to write often enough that my body knows how to respond.

In an ideal situation I think I’d like to keep one fiction and one nonfiction project going at roughly the same time, just to give free reign to both sides of my brain and keep myself nice and confused. Who would read these works? It hardly matters, this is fantasy – Why not let it all hang out? And then at the end of the month I’d collect my paycheck merely for being human and alive. How was it that Bertrand Russell put it? (Back in 1918! See chapter 8.): “The World as it Could be Made“.

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Drinking Urine and Eating Livers, or “Oh no! What now?” by Andrew Oberg

The final work in our By Prescription Only: Themed Writing short story and essay showcase on the theme of Regret comes from me, Andrew Oberg. I basically throw a wrench into the whole works with this short essay that aims to cut regret open and take a look at what’s inside. I hope you enjoy it.

A different disclaimer!: The following is a nonfiction essay expressing the views of the author solely and not necessarily those of Drugstore Books. Works cited are referenced and valid as of the time of writing.

Drinking Urine and Eating Livers, or “Oh no! What now?” by Andrew Oberg

Regret is a complicated, sticky thing. It can either be used in reference to our behavior or our situations, although typically when we say that we regret something (or that we don’t) we do mean what we’ve done, or, more likely, what we haven’t done but wish we had. We describe feelings of a sense of sorrow, disappointment, and/or loss, pointing to the past to explain that emotion at present. It’s a troubling “what might have been”, a haunting specter that we carry around with us, that we find very difficult to exorcise (for some of us, anyway), and that clouds our current judgments and interactions with others. Perceptive readers will notice something else in play here; if we just add a sense of transgression to our feelings of melancholy and failure then this same description could be applied to another emotion: guilt. Like regret, guilt too is a remorseful “what might have been”, an “if only”, tying up the present with the past, following after us and making the hairs on the back of our necks stand on end, though we don’t dare to turn around and look at it. Regret and guilt get mixed up inside us, often overlap, and lead us to talk about them in ways that don’t make it clear just what we mean. It’s true that the former is usually employed when we wish we’d done something differently and the latter when we wish we hadn’t done something that we did, but as we’ll see a little later on, even this doesn’t make the case cut and dry. But maybe we’re overly confusing things. Guilt, after all, carries with it a sense of responsibility, of having committed a wrong, whereas regret doesn’t. Or does it? If regret is usually about what was left undone, can we be responsible for that not done? If we should have acted but we didn’t, do we really think of that as being an offense?

To approach this in a somewhat roundabout way, consider the highly influential 1884 case of Regina v Dudley and Stephens, which involves not a failure to act but acting under duress and the question of mitigating circumstances.* After their ship sunk en route to Australia in the South Atlantic, Tom Dudley, Edwin Stephens, Edmund Brooks, and Richard Thomas Parker found themselves adrift in a rowboat with two tins of turnips, no water, and no hope for rescue anytime soon…

To read the rest, download the pdf

*For full details of the case, its aftermath, and legal result, see here: Lloyd Duhaime, “Cannibalism on the High Seas: the Common Law’s Perfect Storm”, Duhaime.org: LawMag, August 20, 2011. http://www.duhaime.org/LawMag/LawArticle-1320/Cannibalism-on-the-High-Seas-the-Common-Laws-Perfect-Storm.aspx.

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Biscuit in the Lovespace by Nick Cody

This week in our current By Prescription Only: Themed Writing short story and essay showcase on the theme of Regret is a contribution from Nick Cody. Nick’s writing typically mixes a dash of high-level literary criticism with a pinch of salt-of-the-earth wisdom and two shakes of down home hilarity for added measure; on that score this one doesn’t disappoint!

Breathlessly: The following story is entirely a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, events, etc. are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in the following works of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. Some stories in this showcase contain adult themes, so reader caution is advised.

Biscuit in the Lovespace by Nick Cody

In the summer following the seventh grade I tried to summon a demon. I’d read about the art of conjuration from a book in my middle school library. Its black spine caught my eye one day as I wandered the stacks during study hall while waiting for my turn to play The Oregon Trail.

Fingering through the hardcover tome I thought all of the contents in it were real. The ology of its title, Demonology, must have given me that impression. I was too young or too stupid (perhaps both) to know better. The drawings that captivated me made one thing clear: the horned, smoldering forms rising from pentagrams were not metaphorical. These slavering things with their drool and their fangs were not symbols for something else like ailments, vices, or sins in any sense of the word. These beings screamed agency, and behind their eyes gleamed the spark of intelligence.

Astrology, biology, cardiology: to my impressionable mind these were all equally the study of real things. Ditto for demonology. Here is another example of my youthful acuity at work: once in science class Mr. Giving pointed with his gnarly index finger to a word on the blackboard, ecology, and called on me to define it. I said, “It’s the study of sounds sent out that come back to you.”

So it has been established that I was not too bright. Yet I was content in my dumbness: let the smart kids perform chemistry experiments with their Bunsen burners, I’d thought. For better or worse, a major strain in my character always preferred séances to hard science. After reading the black book and others adjacent to it, I wanted nothing more than to open a portal to another dimension and see what would come through…

To read the rest, download the pdf

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The Karachi by Hamish Spiers

Our By Prescription Only: Themed Writing short story and essay showcase on the theme of Regret continues this week with a piece by Hamish Spiers. Hamish contributed the Trans-Atlantic series of shorts over the summer which I’m sure a great many of you enjoyed. Check out his personal site linked above for a whole lot more by Hamish.

With gusto: The following story is entirely a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, events, etc. are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in the following works of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. Some stories in this showcase contain adult themes, so reader caution is advised.

The Karachi by Hamish Spiers

The orbital docking rings of Keplar 186-F can challenge even seasoned pilots. The world that I’ve called home for the past five years is one of the earliest Terran colonies and its facilities, while adequate, are often antiquated and the docking rings are so much so that they are almost incompatible with modern vessels. As such, most visiting ships’ agents will pay a small fee to have a local pilot dock their precious freighters and transports for them. For the operator with a ready supply of good pilots, it’s good money. Especially when the large freighters come in as so happened that day.

With most of my other pilots otherwise occupied, I sent out Johann, a newer pilot on my staff but a man who had shown a real aptitude for the work. He was a quiet man, always keeping his own company and, for a fresh-faced youth at the peak of his physical health, he seemed oddly withdrawn, eschewing the pleasures and pursuits of others his age. I wanted sometimes to break him out of his solitude – but for his sake, not mine. I never held it against the man.

That day I watched on my viewscreen as Johann brought this particularly large vessel in, hooking it up with docking clamps with deceptive ease. A less sure hand could easily have breached both the hull of the ship and the walls of the docking rings but seeing Johann as he came back into my office to collect his commission, I doubt he broke a sweat. I watched with no small measure of pride as he left, thinking that here was a pilot with a promising future, when I saw another man just entering the office, watching my own gaze and then glancing at the retreating object of it.

To my amazement, I recognized the new arrival and I extended a hand in warm greeting. “Bernard. I didn’t know you were the ship’s agent.”

He smiled. “And I didn’t know you sent the pilot, Philippe.” He glanced over his shoulder in the direction that Johann had gone. “Have you had that man long?”

His tone gave me pause. “Why?” I asked, feeling somewhat on guard. “Was there any problem with the docking? Was he rude to you in any way?”

Bernard frowned and shook his head. “No. No, I can’t say there were any problems. I have no complaints but I do wonder for your sake. We go back to the academy, you and I, and although we’ve clearly taken our careers in different directions…”

“But we’ve both squandered our piloting skills,” I said, smiling.

Bernard’s frown faded for a moment too. “Yes, we’ve certainly let them go to rot, haven’t we?” The levity, however, didn’t last. “But I think you don’t know who that man is.”…

To read the rest, download the pdf

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This Is the Air by Paul j Rogers

We’re back with our latest By Prescription Only: Themed Writing short story and essay showcase, this time with the theme of Regret. To start us off is our own Paul j Rogers with a story fit for a rainy day.

Read this backwards: The following story is entirely a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, events, etc. are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in the following works of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. Some stories in this showcase contain adult themes, so reader caution is advised.

This Is the Air by Paul j Rogers

I don’t give a crap about mushrooms. But people who do will tell you that if you’re after a decent yield then you’ll need special sheds as temperature and humidity (not light, as many believe) are the most important factors. They’re grown indoors because the climate isn’t conducive to year-round harvests. Mind you, the climate in South West England isn’t conducive to anything, except, perhaps, boredom.

Like I said, mushrooms blow and all I do is pick them – button, chestnut, flat, portobello – I’m a part-time harvester, seven-till-seven, three nights a week. Still, it pays pretty well. That’s the only reason I do it. I harvest mushrooms three nights a week in cold sheds so that the rest of the time I can do as I please.

When I first started, they taught us about the different species and how to de-stalk them with a mushroom knife. My shifts were pretty haphazard back then, mostly covering people’s sickies. After that, I worked one day on, one day off. Now, though, after a year of sliding along aisles on a trolley in the dark, my week is nicely blocked. Sunday to Tuesday and then I’m done. In a neoliberal society that couldn’t give a toss, it’s the best deal you can hope for.

Which is why I always leave home in plenty of time before a shift…

To read the rest, download the pdf

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Back with the BPO

Our thanks again to Hamish Spiers for a very fun and very thought-provoking series of shorts. The last installment really pulled them all together well and left me with a nice block of linked ideas to consider. Thanks Hamish!

Our latest By Prescription Only: Themed Writing series will start in October, this time with the theme of Regret. You can check out all our previous BPOs here, or by using the category button to the right. Here’s to happy reading, and the end of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, but the same sentiments go out to you Southies).

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TRANS–ATLANTIC, Part 8: A Year in Utopia

This week is the final installment of “Trans-Atlantic”, and a big thanks to Hamish Spiers for the last eight weeks. You can read more of Hamish’s stuff on his website by clicking on his name (above). We’ll be back some time in late September/early October with our next By Prescription Only, which has the theme of Regret


By Hamish Spiers

Part VIII. A Year in Utopia


The article on Marakaz that Bob gave me deserved a wider circulation than it received. But, with the author’s permission, I am able to reproduce an excerpt here:


“The governing principles of life in this place seem to be contentment and happiness. They do what needs to be done. They share their labours. And they enjoy their lives.

One day, my host told me we were going to the farm. As it turned it, no one wanted to be a farmer in this part of Marakaz but since food was something everyone needed, people pitched in, taking it in turns. Most people did about five days of farming each year.

Sometimes, my host told me, when a job needed to be done, the community would welcome all hands and many people would volunteer. Other times, people couldn’t participate unless they were specialists. With some jobs that only a certain few people could do, those people occasionally did them in exchange for getting out of other things.

Joyce, the lady who ran the fish and chips place by the beach wasn’t required to do anything else she didn’t like. She loved making fish and chips and since she made the best damn fish and chips in town, everyone was happy to cover other jobs for her so she could go on doing it.

It was the same with Mike the garbage collector. He liked getting up early, he enjoyed driving his truck, and if he could be guaranteed no other duties, he’d be happy to collect the garbage every week of the year. And since no one else wanted to collect the garbage but everyone thought it was essential that it was done, they all agreed it was a fair arrangement.

When I got to the farm, it wasn’t that bad. There was a good sized crowd there. We gathered corn and we talked and laughed. And most of the difficult work was automated. There were some very efficient labour saving devices all over the country; due to the constant rotation of people working the farms, a number of engineers and robotics experts had seen how they were run and had made a few inventions to improve them.

Actually, despite some misguided ideas in the media about the people of Marakaz living like the Amish, they’re quite innovative. Anything that can save time and energy is gladly adopted throughout the country.

Their education programs are worth a mention as well. In school, kids focus on whatever role they’d like to play in society when they’re older. The fact that they won’t get paid for whatever work they ultimately decide to do, whether it’s specialist work or just lending a helping hand in a range of tasks whenever it’s needed, seems to have little effect on their motivation to pitch in and help out. When everyone has a roof over their heads, plenty of food, entertainment and lots of free time to do with as they please, they don’t need to be motivated by money.

When things need to be done, people do it. When enough people want things to be done, they get done. And everyone does things in the most efficient way possible. Rather than cutting costs by heaping work on fewer and fewer shoulders as is the norm in so many parts of the world, the case in Marakaz is just one of many hands making light work. Then those many hands knock off for the day and go to Joyce’s for fish and chips.

At one point during my stay, I wondered whether the locals ever wanted to see big international movies and how, if they weren’t participating in a monetary society any more, they could do that. As it turned out, they weren’t missing out on any of these things either.

I learned that there are communal funds that come from the profits that are made from selling the country’s excess products overseas. And once a month, everyone’s invited to put in their requests for little items they might want.

Nobody asks for much but it seems everyone can get a few little imported luxuries each month. Fancy clothes, toys for their kids, CDs and DVDs and things like that. They put in their requests and a handful of people order the goods. Then, as they come in, people come and collect their orders.

At the end of my stay, I was a little sad to leave but my host told me that even though the people of Marakaz keep their population small so everyone’s needs can be met, they’re not adverse to some migrants joining their community. But perhaps, rather than flocking to them to enjoy their way of life, it may be better in the long run if we look at changing our own.”


“Well?” Bob asked when I had finished reading the article.

I put it down. “I think those people get it.”

“And I think the man who wrote that got it too,” he said. “If you want to enjoy a piece of Marakaz, you don’t need to move there. You can make your own piece of Marakaz at home. Need someone to fix your gas oven? See if you can do them a favor in exchange. Your neighbor’s destitute? Put an extension out the back of the house and put them up. Have a barbeque every weekend and invite the neighborhood.”

“And just leave the corrupt elite off the invite list?” I suggested.

Bob smiled. “Exactly. And as for the rest of the details, I think people can figure them out. If they want to.”

“If they’re not disconnected, you mean.”

Bob nodded. “If they’re not disconnected.”

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TRANS–ATLANTIC, Part 7: An Interesting Call

“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.

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