Friday, December 24, 2004


So I would like to tell you all about a magical place that doesn’t quite seem real; one that I like to call Babylon. Babylon used to be a great Empire, and spent some time as a monarchy, and a colony of those effete, tea-drinking flag planters (who in their own right, spent a good amount of time ruling the world). Then Babylon spent quite a bit of time as the mud under the boot of a vile dictator that we the North Mexicans (or Southern Canadians if you prefer) took from power when we landed our big half-assed Imperial Forces in his place as the Rightful Authority.

Babylon is full of Babylonians. The Babylonians cannot be summed up on the whole, any more than any other people can be labeled and tagged with 100% correctness or efficiency. There are of course certain social mores and customs, societal norms that are shared by the majority of the people.

In the last few months, I have had opportunity to chat with large numbers of Babylonians; some have been quite friendly, some have been quite the opposite, but all have had some certain traits that I can speak of. My job, you see, is that of Inquisitor for the Empire, and in our little fiction we are writing here, we will keep in mind that unlike some other Inquisitorial Places, my chamber is free of stacked nude Babylonians, and no chubby faced little miscreants are playing Vanna White with the genitals of bound and blindfolded men. I will not tell you that every Babylonian enjoys their little sessions with me, and sometimes there are those who go to bed with a little sneer and a wish for my discomfort or worse. However, a good Inquisitor can effectively bring out the fears or terrors necessary for certain sessions of Inquisition (and let me please add that such sessions are the vast minority) with a gentle whisper or a furious bellow, and not once do the Inquisitor’s hands and the Babylonian meet.

But it is not of Inquisition that I wish to speak today, but rather as I said of the Babylonians. I have always considered myself to be of open-mind about others. I do not like to consign people to stereotypes or groups. There are however many traits that the leaders of the North Mexican Empire have not taken into consideration in our occupation of Babylon. We, and I do certainly include myself, are generally individualists. There is a concept here normal to Babylon that we do not get, and it is so damn integral to the Babylonian psyche—tribalism. The tribes here are so important. Some tribes have as few as a couple of hundred, and some number up to seven million. They are led by the Sheikh, usually a title bestowed by birth, or sometimes they get the office simply by being the eldest. He makes decisions for the lives of his people. He arranges marriages, treaties, and declares war. Tribal war. Millions will agree to kill because someone’s tribal cousin was wronged.

Which leads us to the next Babylonian norm- Vengeance. The stuff of a thousand hackneyed television plots, the entire reason they made Klingons on Star Trek, revenge. Let’s imagine a convoy of Imperial Humvees riding down a moonlit Babylonian highway. A genuine bad guy with the bad guy weapon of choice (the Kalashnikov AK-47 and its many variants) tries to rid the world of the 19 year-old soldier of the Empire sitting in the turret of the lead truck. Lucky for the 19 year-old, he scavenged from the right trash heap, and has enough armor to stop the lead coming from the Kalashnikov at 600 rounds per minute. Also lucky for him, the South Canadian Empire has given him a .50 caliber machine gun. He returns lead, and his bullets are about three times the mass, and about ten times the destructive power. These go through our genuine bad guy, the wall behind him, the house behind that, and the young Babylonian asleep in that house. This means his brother in the bed next to him has legal and moral right to kill an Imperial soldier. That’s right, the moral right. It is expected to strike back at the tribe that did this thing, and the Forces of the Empire are currently the most powerful tribe. So, next moonlit night it all begins again, but rather than an honest Bad Guy, it is the victim’s brother or cousin with the Kalashnikov. Right now in Babylon, these people are extracting vengeance on the Imperial Forces, on their neighbors, on the members of the former dictators brutal regime, on tribal debts accrued a century ago—the entire nation is a festering pool of vengeance. No one is willing to be the one to put the gun down first. And no soldier, man or woman, is safe.

And speaking of women, don’t we North Mexicans do a great job of trying to equalize gender roles in society? In our businesses and homes, we generally accept women to be humans, probably even equals. There are officers in our Imperial Forces that are women! The Babylonians don’t understand that, and inversely we don’t understand the status of women in this culture. I have spoken to Babylonians who personally killed their daughters for engaging in pre-marital sex. Brothers who have beaten their sisters for talking to a man on the street. Husbands here who have taken two or three wives, and actively cultivated hatred between his two families that he can control. Women are stoned, women are beheaded, women are shot. Rape is a common occurrence. Indeed, I had to share oxygen with a man who had been married for about a week, and by all reports to a very attractive young woman. Then, a whole week into his marriage he and a friend went out to find a prostitute and rape her. Then, he was likely going to kill her, but he got caught and came to me.

Life in Babylon is cheap. Very cheap. Dime a freaking dozen. People are killed for money. People are killed for vengeance. People are killed for gasoline. One of the oil richest nations on Earth, and people are shooting each other for long gas lines. Our new Babylonian Guard we’ve created and some gas station security guards that we hired got in a gunfight with automatic weapons over whether or not the Babylonian Guard had to pay for the gas. And these are the people we want to set up to run this show and make it better than Ousted Brutal Dictator. The Babylonians don’t hate death. They embrace it and define themselves by it. That’s the thing isn’t it?

The right to rule is the right to bestow death. Be it by declaring war, carrying out executions, or deciding who gets the flu vaccine, the Powers That Be have to decide who lives and who dies. There is only one type of person that can be allowed to wield that power— someone who hates death. Only someone who hates death, who hates the gun can have the bullets. And we, the South Canadian Empire, have given the death-loving Babylonians the bullets, and now can’t figure out why it isn’t working. Can’t figure out why things are still blowing up, and mortars are still falling, and rockets are still flying. We expected them to be us, to love freedom and not to want to kill or die senselessly.

Oh God help us, we were wrong.

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