A Little Blindness

Photo Credit: James McGovern.

See that photograph on
the wall, the miniature, in the copper frame? Take a closer look. Outrageously
ugly, is he not? An “ugly fucker,” to use the coarse slang of your nation. That
convex nose; the weak chin poorly concealed by a sparse beard; the unimposing
stature; those squinting mole-like eyes, much too small, especially considering
the size of his forehead. And have you heard him speak? The voice of a
twelve-year-old, as if it didn’t break properly all those years ago, although
he’s not as old as you might be led to believe by all those creases!

Do not be alarmed. The
secret police are not about to batter down the door; I shall not be carted off
to the Gulags for insulting the glorious leader, for abusing his image. We have
no Gulags. We have no secret police. Our people enjoy not only freedom of
speech but complete freeness to exercise that right; quite an achievement for a
country which is not technically democratic. One crucial thing you must know is
that the Chairman tolerates criticism, encourages it. I can see you are
surprised. Perhaps, I humbly suggest, you shouldn’t believe everything you read
in your tabloids, or even in the broadsheet you work for, that noble rag brimming
with urbane dishonesty.

Forgive me: I must
remember that the flashwar is over and we have agreed to put hostilities aside.

Try a soy-cheese cracker.
Do you recall that this is a vegan country?

Yes, you gleaned this
fact from the propaganda posters designed to vilify our way of life. “They’re
coming for your egg rolls, your steaks, your bacon butties!”

The Chairman pioneered
the concept of compulsory veganism, a radical dietary intervention which has slashed
the incidences of diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Of course, the ethical
benefit is paramount. It is plainly wrong to slaughter animals when vegetable
matter can adequately meet human needs. But people go on eating carcasses.
Decomposing bodies. Empty death shells. Why? Because dead bodies are delicious?
Hardly a reason to murder a living, thinking creature… You do like the

Free food, enough to meet
all nutritional needs, is provided for every citizen. The diet is bland but
wholesome: oat flour, pea protein, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Fresh
produce is grown entirely by automated labour. The automation of our key industries
means most people do not have to work. We spend our hours as we see fit:
reading, playing chess, painting, bodybuilding, swimming. I myself spend much
of my time writing short distilled poems in the style prevalent in China during
the Tang Dynasty. Would you like me to read you one? Oh, maybe another time. We
can afford this lifestyle because we didn’t pass reactionary legislation to ban
robot labour as your nation did: our leader welcomed the machines.

The Chairman is a

He is also a good man.

Although fixed at the top
of the ziggurat, he never abuses his enormous power. Repulsive only on the
outside, he has beautiful inner qualities: patience, self-discipline, honesty.
But his cardinal quality is kindness. You must know his famous saying: “If in
doubt, do the kind thing.” This is no slogan or marketing gimmick. It is a
formulation inscribed on the Chairman’s very heart.

The Chairman is kind. When
you grasp this simple fact, you will have begun to understand our method of

Kindness explains how the
Chairman succeeded where other idealists failed. The Chairman never resorted to
base realpolitik to pursue his high-minded policy objectives because he
recognised the hypocrisy of such a strategy. A utopian government built on filthy
pragmatism would be like a gleaming palace erected on the site of a massacre. I
have noticed that your compatriots often have trouble with our basic concepts; from
birth the reverse is drummed into you – political idealism is naïve; capitalism
is the only economic system proven to work; in fact, it is not even a system at
all but just what a world with humans being humans naturally looks like; any
communistic regime is doomed not only to failure but to mass graves. Famines. Tides
of blood.

I apologise for
chuckling. I’m not laughing at what I assume are your beliefs, or
approximations of them. Actually, I was amused by the fact that you are, from
one narrow perspective, correct. Communism – you see, I’m not a PR man, I don’t
mind saying the c-word in front of outsiders – communism rarely works. Humans
tend to be greedy, selfish and erratic, and leaders of left-wing parties have
historically been no exception (despite what they profess or professed). We did
not fix communism by actioning some transformative change to the underlying
theory; there took place no profound recontextualisation of Marx, Engels, Lafargue.

We made it work because
the Chairman is kind.

Let me give you an
example. This mansion used to be the home of a slum landlord; while his pauper
tenants lived four to a room, this man dwelt in the lap of luxury. After the
Revolution, when we seized his ill-gotten estate, the landlord fled to your
country – probably he’s back to his old tricks, filling draughty houses with the
poor, those with no recourse. The point is: we didn’t have mass executions of
the rightists. We put an end to their wrongdoing but did not persecute them. Most
of them adjusted their outlooks and still live among us, at peace, equal to their
neighbours yet happy as kings. The Chairman has always argued that right-wingers
can be useful members of society: they are often articulate, polite, industrious
people; conscientious, good at managing systems. We don’t oppress them. We even
listen to them, take their suggestions on board.

Not everyone is as
tolerant as the Chairman. For instance, many influential Party members did not want
you, a journalist known for anti-communist articles, to visit our land. They
feared that, rather than showing the world our functional and elegant society,
you would only seek to defame us. But the Chairman overrode all objections.

The Chairman has a knack for
integrating undesirable elements into society, getting the best out of them. He
even blunted the knives of the extremists on his end of the political spectrum.
After the Revolution, when his self-proclaimed Red Warriors took it upon
themselves to round up the left’s political opponents and prepare the firing
squads, the Chairman intervened. “There are to be no executions,” he commanded.
“What is built on murder cannot prevail.” Some of his more hot-headed young followers
were not satisfied with this decision, pointing out numerous historical
exceptions to his aphorism, but the Chairman was unyielding.

The Party still has its
extremist wing, those for whom no social change is ever radical enough, those
who dream of stamping on enemy faces in a blaze (or cloak) of righteousness,
but the Chairman keeps them to heel. Between you and me, the Chairman’s deputy
is one of the bloodthirsty types. A former Red Warrior, he was one of the
loudest voices calling for the executions of the capitalists. Yet his desired
excesses have been subdued by the Chairman’s lofty, far-reaching, all-covering

But I have been talking
too much. Your newspaper will be expecting you to report more than the
ramblings of a petty official. Let us visit the hospital first, where you can
witness how we tailor drugs to patients’ genetic profiles.

Sorry. You have a question.

What do you mean, what
will happen when the Chairman dies? I don’t see what motivation you could have
for asking this question, unless you just wanted to shock me, which hasn’t
worked, by the way.

You imply that the
Chairman’s death will create a power vacuum into which might step the next
Stalin? You fear, or wish to make me fear, that this utopia of ours, losing its
centre, the Chairman who is kind, will crumble and go the way of all other
communist states, corrupting into a police state or merely a rebadged
capitalist nation? That we will devolve into a crude tyranny, ruled by some political
barbarian who salivates over virtue-flavoured brutality?

Ridiculous! This shall
never come to pass. Your question about the Chairman dying is purely academic,
for one fundamental reason:

We simply will not allow him
to die.