Who is this strange little man conversing with our young idealist?
| Human Ecology
“No, that’s not what I meant,” the campaign worker said and then glanced down at the table that he was seated in front of. Both of his forearms had been resting on the table, but now he suddenly moved his right hand up to his mouth, clenched his fist and pressed the index finger to his upper lip while propping his nose on the middle finger, his head slightly bowed, his right elbow pressing down hard on the table top. He raised his eyes a bit and stared intently into space, and his already slumping posture worsened yet. With a keyboard and a computer monitor two feet in front of him on the table, for a few seconds, in profile, he looked a little like a slouchy internet age parody of Rodin’s The Thinker. Just as suddenly as before the right hand plopped back down on the table and his left hand flew up to his face; he rested that side of his face on the left palm, tilting his head just a little bit to the side and puckering his lips slightly. The self-professed anarchist did not notice any of these movements; indeed the only visual impression he had retained of this seated young fellow was the large “Change” button that he wore on his cheap, blue button-down short sleeve shirt. The anarchist seemed to have suddenly acquired a fascination with the reference books on the shelves just behind his thoughtful interlocutor. He was short in stature, and was prone to fixing his stare intently on whatever object held his attention at the moment, even if it is was merely the vacuous air; because of these traits and his dark hair, mustache and goatee he actually bore a stark resemblance to Leon Trotsky. The campaign worker knew nothing of Trotsky and Bolshevism, so he did not make a connection. He just thought that the guy was a bit of a Bohemian, and that was cool.
“No, I meant that if you take the wolves out of Yellowstone, then the elk population explodes because their greatest predator is gone; but there are also unintended consequences, like the reduction of the beaver population due to the larger elk population corrupting the riparian environment by eating the young willow and aspen saplings. So, naturally, if you want to restore the ecosystem, you have to bring the wolves back.”
“And the alley cats?” The anarchist queried.
“That was another example of the same type of phenomenon. When the feral cat population grew in the alley and field behind my house, the rodent population diminished, and that was good; but the songbird population tanked as well, and, just as bad, the mating pairs of quail never manage to get any of their brood to adulthood anymore. So the quail in the neighborhood are really in trouble now.”
“So, your saying get rid of the alley cats, but bring back the wolves. That doesn’t make sense. Just leave well enough alone in both cases and nature will take care of itself,” he said as he picked up a large volume of Who’s Who in America for the years from 1931 thru 1940.
“No, you’re missing the point. Humans killed all of the wolves to protect their livestock. So I’m saying if you don’t have laws to regulate human activity, then they throw everything out of balance.”
“Just eat more elk. Sell more beef and wool, and I understand elk meat’s pretty tasty.” The anarchist was starting to find the discussion amusing.
“As matters stand now you have to manage the elk population, and find some way to revive the beaver population. So you see, it would have been easier to just control the humans upfront, and nature would have stayed in the unspoiled state that we found it in.” By now the campaign worker was sitting up a little straighter, and he had twisted his torso to the right so that he could see the anarchist with his peripheral vision.
The anarchist took the Who’s Who book and placed it on the flat top of the book shelves, which came up to the level of his chest, and started thumbing through the last quarter of it, beginning at about 1937. “So, you think that you can get it back in balance now with corrective action, and then from this point on you can control it with regulation and police force? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Something like that, but I don’t know that I like the idea of ‘police force.’”
“Well of course you’re going to need police force. You might call them rangers or wardens or all-around-great-guys, but at the end of the day they are forcing people to obey the law. If they had no power to do so, what’s to stop the ranchers from shooting the wolves again, or the old pederast two houses down from feeding the alley cats, for that matter?” For some reason this last comment struck the anarchist as particularly witty.
“How did you know that I have an old pederast living two houses down the alley from me?”
“Oh, I’m just full of secrets.”
“Well he’s old, but he’s not a pederast, at least I don’t think so. Just an ancient fellow with no family anymore, but he does feed the cats sometimes. How on earth would you know that?”
“I didn’t,” the anarchist said emphatically. “It was just a guess. And what else would cause the alley cat population to grow beyond its natural limits. Softhearted people have to feed them. Furthermore, don’t you ever make the connection between Nature and human nature?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the same laws of nature that apply to elk, beavers, and wolves in Yellowstone should apply to us humans in human society, shouldn’t they?”
“I suppose they should. I don’t see why not.”
“So if you bring a bunch of dangerous or violent or greedy and exploitative people into a community, like feral capitalists, for instance; then the quality of life for their victims, the laboring classes figures to deteriorate. Their population may even diminish as well, like the songbirds. Don’t you agree?”
“I’m not sure. I guess, maybe; but it seems like there’s a difference. Like you’re comparing apples and oranges,” the campaign worker offered cautiously, his slump becoming pronounced again.
“Look, are you trying to tell me that there are not classes of people that exploit other classes in this society?” The anarchist said after leaving his book, turning around and staring hard at the young man slumping in the chair behind the table with the computer on it.
The campaign worker was starting to feel very uncomfortable as he replied: “No I’m not saying that. I know it is true. That’s why I work for Senator X; he’s going to change all that when he gets to be president.”
“So, tell me, do you know what the Russian Tsars did after they conquered the Crimea, which is part of the Ukraine now.”
“No, why should I know that?”
“You want to change the future, and you ask why you should know history! Well, I’ll tell you what they did; the Russians drove out the Tartars and settled ethnic Russians in the region. They did the same sort of thing in a number of different places in Europe and Asia. So did the Chinese in Tibet. One sort of balance is lost, and a new one emerges. Are you a Christian?”
“No, not really, we quit going to church when I was about ten; but if you are, I can respect that.”
“Good. I’m not and I don’t and you shouldn’t. So you may not know the Bible story about Jerusalem being conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. It’s historical; it really happened. Little Judah was an eyesore for the king, over there on his western frontier, always siding with his Egyptian rivals, and blocking his army’s access; so finally he decided to take care of them once and for all. But merely defeating them wasn’t enough because then he’d have to govern them at a distance and almost certainly deal with constant conspiracies, uprisings, and betrayals. His final solution to the problem was to break up the Temple and the city walls, and to relocate the middle and upper classes to Babylon itself. That way he could keep them and their activities in close view and use them at his pleasure. This event is known as the Babylonian Captivity, and I’m sure that even you have heard of it. Well, after an extended period of lamentation some Jews actually did pretty well in Babylon; and when the Persians conquered the Babylonians seventy years on, these Jews had become a force to be reckoned with. Cyrus the Great decided that it might not be such a great idea to have such a high concentration of an influential and upstart minority so near the nerve center of his empire, so he adopted his most elegant tone and chose his most honeyed expressions and spoke. ‘My dear Jewish friends, I feel your pain; your God has spoken to me and told me that it is time for you to return to your beloved homeland and rebuild the Wall of Jerusalem and God’s Holy Temple.’ Of course, the Jews could hardly believe their good fortune. Some did not want to part with the bourgeois comforts of their lives in Mesopotamia, however; but many did return home.”
“So I don’t get the point of these stories,” the seated fellow said. “I thought that you said you were an anarchist. You seem to be saying that it is quite natural, even alright, for a government to force people to move around for political reasons.”
“I am an anarchist,” he said. Once more he had turned his back on the young man, and he was looking at Who’s Who, thumbing through the 1940 part. He saw something that caught his attention and said “Hmmm,” then turned slowly to the next page, holding his gaze on that entry as the page turned. “I’m not saying that at all,” he continued, turning slightly to his left as he spoke. “Governments will do that, by one method or another, so long as there are governments.”
The young man could now see a bit of the anarchist’s face again; and to his dismay the goatee appeared to be gone, the mustache had shortened considerably, and the hair was now combed to the side instead of up. ‘Am I imagining this,’ he allowed himself to think.
“You see anarchy is a necessary stage in the evolution of human societies. It is the stage of development that must come next. There must be a breakdown and chaos so that the right people can finally come to power. But you’re right. Senator X is my man too. He will hasten the collapse.”
Suddenly, ominously, a sound of creaking footsteps began to grow from the staircase by the adjacent room, just a few meters away from the men. The campaign worker turned back around in his chair to face the form of an emerging mature adult female. She stopped ten feet in front of him, prim and proper, with erect posture, her feet close together, and announced: “The library is closing in ten minutes. Please finish your session on the computer and check out any materials that you need to take home with you at the desk upstairs.” She started to turn, and then she looked back at him somewhat perplexed. “Is there anyone else down here?” she asked. “I thought that I heard voices.”
The young man looked behind him and saw nothing but vacant air between him and the bookshelves. A rather large book, Who’s Who in America for the years 1931 thru 1940 lay on the flat top above the top shelf; it was opened to a page near the end. “No, I guess not,” he responded.
“Well, wrap things up please,” she commanded politely while starring at him with about as much curiosity as it was appropriate for a professional librarian to reserve for a mere brick and mortar human. She then turned to ascend the rickety old stairs.
The campaign worker sat motionless and stared vacantly into the empty air. ‘I’m going to have to get up and move before too long,’ he thought, ‘but I still have a few minutes left.’