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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

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Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 15: Military Subversion

“And the only chance that the common person has is to completely, I repeat, men, completely destroy the ruling class. Oh, they will try to compromise, throw you crumbs, give you a little more money but, meanwhile, they still own the bakery from where those crumbs came. They can just debase the money they tossed your way, and you’ll end up poorer than before. Hayek, Chapter 7, tells us all about this and should be you reading for this—”

The door at the far end of the long, narrow barracks burst open with a crash, and three men marched in: the Company Commander flanked by two military policemen. Captain Perry shouted in his thunderous voice, “This is an illegal meeting and will stop at once! Arrest this man!”

His arm shot out, parallel to the concrete floor, pointing down the long aisle of bunk beds to the opposite end of the narrow barracks where Emilio Cruz stood, leather-bound copy of Hayek in hand. As though on command, seventy soldiers jumped from their beds and stood along the aisle, all staring at the MPs. Cruz smiled, lifted his hand and turned his palm in a gesture of welcome.

“Captain, please, have a seat. It’s past time you joined us. There is so much for you to learn.”

The MPs stood rigidly, heads immobile, eyes nervously flickering from side to side, sizing up the men arrayed against them. The one to the right of Captain Perry touched his rifle.

“Oh, I wouldn’t try to raise my rifle if I were you, soldier,” warned Cruz. “Look about halfway down the aisle on the top bunks. Do you see those two men pointing their rifles at you? You won’t get that thing aimed before you’re dead.”

“Men!” shouted Perry. “I order you to return to your bunks and let these MPs do their job. Obey, or you’re all going to the brig!”

Nobody moved. Cruz again gestured to the Captain. “Now, Captain, right now, in the fifteen other barracks on this base, someone like me is leading a discussion just like the one you’ve chosen to join. It’s just some citizens discussing politics, behavior protected by our constitution and military law. Won’t you join us? We’d love to get your perspective.”

“My perspective is that you’re all a bunch of traitors who need to be locked up! If you continue to obstruct—”

“So sorry for interrupting, Captain, but it seems I need to pass on some information to you. The soldiers on this base are united. We won’t take orders that hurt the cause of the laboring class. If you give such orders, we cannot guarantee your safety.”

Perry’s face reddened and tightened in defiance and rage. “No army can survive without unconditional obedience. If the troops don’t follow orders, an army cannot function!”

“Then come, sit down, and discover how to regain control of your men, Captain. We’re willing to follow you if you understand the new order of things.”

The men standing along the aisle nodded, Perry sighed and sat on the nearest bunk. He looked at the two MPs. “You guys can sit also if you’d like.”

Soldiers climbed back into their bunks, and Cruz, smiling in triumph, walked to the center of the aisle. “Captain Perry, you came from an enclave outside old Detroit if I remember correctly.”

“Yeah, Inkster Enclave. And I’m never going back to no goddamned enclave! The army gave me a way to have a respectable life. It could give that to all of you, too. Why don’t you take advantage of it?”

“Do you call seventy-five dollars a week respectable, Captain? Do you call putting your life on the line to protect the assets of the ruling class respectable? We lost two thousand men and women in that action inside Russia last year, and why did they die? To protect our supply of titanium! And for what purpose? So the wealthy could have high-speed comms! So the wealthy could have lightweight engines in their cars! That’s what we died for. Once the laboring class takes over, we’ll use the army to benefit all the people, not just the two percent that rule this country now.”

“You’re naïve, Cruz. When your bunch takes over, it’ll just be a different elite, using us for their purposes. Nothing will change for most of you. ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss’.”

“Maybe you’re right, Captain. Let’s say that you are. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join us. You see, we’re winning. The West Coast is already under our control, and we’ve got Hayek cells in every post from Hudson Bay to Chiapas.”

“You’ve got no command and control, you’ve got no leadership...”

“No, no, you’re wrong. We’ve got leaders, we’ve got a way to communicate. Why not be one of our leaders, Captain? Think about what happens if we win and you’re still fighting for the wealthies? Where would that leave you? I don’t think you want to be on the wrong side of history, do you?”

Perry stood, took another look down the aisle, making eye contact with several men, and said, “You’ve persuaded me that this is not an illegal meeting. Soldiers have the right to discuss politics in the barracks. Carry on.”

He turned on his heel, pushed open the door, and marched wordlessly into the moonlit night.

Proceed to Chapter 16...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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