Minotaur: Sixth Chapter (Sunil Sharma)

Minotaur (Sunil Sharma)

Chapter 6

It is difficult for me to recall everyday details of a 20-year-old regime. It is not humanly possible! I can, at best, give a brief summary of the top events, touching upon the broad contours of my governance only. Running a country as vast as New Land is not a joke. It is a sprawling country with varied geographical features. North is mountains, rugged barren and hostile: with extreme variations in temperatures; the South less hilly, more plains and fertile, a pleasant temperate climate and conservative people. It is the size of Russia or a mini-Australia. It shares common features with an undeveloped African nation or a Latin American nation. Mass poverty, general lawlessness, hold of organized  religions and rituals, feudalism and superstitions- all these elements of this vast country had fused together to create a volcano that can erupt at any moment. There are 350 ethnic groups living in 25 states under a general federal structure. The North has been always volatile. People are hardy and temperament. They are friendly but very fiery. The North speaks 5-6 tongues, all local dialects. The lingua-franca is Spanish, followed by English and French. The country, north side, is surrounded by 3 countries ruled by puppet regime of C.I.A. the South is surrounded by the Pacific on one side and the Atlantic in the other. Such variegated landscape is difficult to find in our smaller neighbors. Our land was ruled for hundreds of years by the Spanish, then the French, and finally the British. More than a history of 500 years, you can say. The powerful succeeding colonial had systematically destroyed the nation: its indigenous culture, rich heritage, religion and native languages over a period of time.

A few thousand foreigners could rule the natives for hundreds of years with the tacit support and cooperation of the majority of the colonized people and make them feel utterly inferior and small. How our ancestors and us tried to imitate these foreign masters! This servility was infuriating to a minority. These native sons and daughters, over a period of 500 year, put up resistance to the foreign rule and got punished. Their cumulative efforts paid off in the year 195-56. The Reewario government was installed then. Post-independent country- under the dynamic leadership of Ferdinand Reewario who was half-Indian-half Spanish Christian and a product of British and American school system- was in a buoyant mood. Nationalism was at its peak. The nation had lustily cheered this 45-year-old son of a leading banker of the capital. He was financial advisor to an American bank and a successful businessman. His political connections were deep in the National Congress Party led by his uncle. His father had financed the party for a long time. When the British left the country, they handed over the keys of the nation to this largest political party. The interim government was headed by the uncle of Reewario. Polls were held and the party won handsomely across all 25 states. Democracy had finally arrived. The uncle ruled for 3years. He had appointed Reewario as the interior minister. The government was pro-American and pro rich. Within 3 years, there was a general disillusionment with the first government of the nation. The average man felt betrayed as he had no voice or representation. Mismanagement and a messy economy created havoc. There were food riots. Harsh winter and hot summer complicated things. No jobs, no food, no clothes for the middle-class and the poor. Crops failed. The crony capitalism helped the clique around the president. Anger started building up in the North. Reewario’s uncle was shot dead by an assassin while he was on a state visit to the Northern province, hardly 300 km from the capital Anaconda!

Reewario immediately took over the reigns of the nation. He rode on a sympathy wave. But later on large-scale violence and social rift prompted him to declare a state of Emergency. And that was the end of democracy! Reewario disbanded the vocal opposition by banning them and introduced the military rule. Of course, to please the Western masters, he held elections and always won. There was only one opposition party where the retired generals and friends were accommodated. All this totally destroyed the fledgling economy. The primarily agrarian North and the industrial South both suffered on account of his short-sightedness. Once his closest friend told me that Reewario never trusted anybody, the masses the least. “He hated them from the bottom of his heart. He could never like them. He thought they were the burden on the earth, these multiplying hordes. That is why he never created a proper infrastructure for them. Keep them half-starved. They would, this way, never rebel. They will keep the bastards preoccupied. That was the philosophy of Reewario.” Of course, it did keep hungry masses busy providing meals to their families. They had no time and energy left for anything else. As the hunger and poverty deepened, resentment also became intense against the dictatorship of the Reewario government. Opposition, especially armed opposition, began. He countered it by more state violence. Thus the real issues were sidelined and the spiral of violence began. When I took over, the whole nation was in total ruins. No agricultural or industrial development, no, nothing! We were still in the 15th Century! Vast countryside was barren and desolate. 3 million out of 40 million people were dead or missing. No fresh jobs were advertised for last 12 years. Only vacancies that existed were in military, paramilitary or the police. Agriculture was dead. Industrial production was limited, geared to meet the basic requirements of the armed forces.

The major arms were supplied by the Americans, the French and the British. There were heavy commissions paid to the top brass of the armed forces and the Reewario administration. In fact, all these people were related to the dictator in one way or the other. Thus he had collected millions of the slush money out of the arms deals and the arms delivered were used against the innocent civilians dubbed as the enemy of the state. This sorry state of affairs can still be seen in many of the African republics, and, South Asian and Latin American dictatorships. And all this was done in the name of socialism: Reewario had called himself a socialist on hundreds of occasions. If Hitler can be a socialist, why not this poor Reewario, the servant of the people? He had asked jokingly an American editor. When I took over, I stumbled upon various classified document and some private papers handed over to me by the state archivists an top bureaucrats and the generals.

Some of them were conversations taped secretly by the cautious friends. They were pure dynamite! One of the transcripts of a taped conversation clearly showed the diabolic nature of this man. Afraid that his mild-mannered and righteous uncle might not promote him in the administration but appoint his only daughter as the successor to the throne, a fear that was true to a great extent, Reewario ordered the killing of his own political mentor and Uncle! The assassin was found the same day and shot dead by the security forces! Then there were plots galore where the forces would create minor disturbances in the countryside and arrest the main opposition leaders for waging a war against the state. Army soldiers, in civil clothes, looted and torched government go downs and other properties and pinned the blame on the opposition! Nobody stood a chance, in court of law, to prove their innocence. It was simply a one-man administration. As the slow but steady armed rebellion spread in the volatile rugged North, the armed forces unleashed pure terror there, turning the entire north into the killing fields. It was soldiers Raj! They maimed, raped and killed. Looting was rampant. Extreme poverty and misery were everywhere. It was hell! And, all the time, Reewario and his cronies swam in luxuries, building villas and palaces. This saddened me a lot. My beloved country resembled the France of 1789, on the brink of chaos and a bloody revolution. All the human rights violated were soft pedaled by the West since Uncle Sam was openly supporting this pro-American dictator! Since the New Landers were colored, ethnic, non-white, they did not matter much to the Western T.V. audiences and political leadership. They were the third world garbage to them! My country replicated the identical historical experience of the other poor, developing nations- sliding back into chaos, and grim poverty under the leadership of their own countrymen. Exploited by the former colonial masters, they gain suffered the same fate in their post-independent nations. Naturally, they turned inwards, revived old faiths and practices, getting superstitious and fatalist. Uneducated, very poor, insecure, juts existing at basic level, struggling to survive, the dumb masses got dumber and dumber. When they finally erupted, they scorched everything on their way. As a leader of this new resurgence of popular wave that swept off the old and paved the way for the new, I understood the power of the people very well, like a romantic mantra. That is why we called ourselves Friends of the People. I understood the elementary lesson of the world history that revolutions can be guided by the so-called exceptional leaders but the real hero of the revolution is always the common man. This much underestimated common man, together with the other common men, can create such a big people power that can dismantle the most rigid, the most stubborn structure and systems in a minute. But this was a lesson I, too, was to forget soon! Power, a seductress and unfaithful mistress, can make you forget so many of the basic lessons, common sensical things of life. In my country, spread across 8,000 km, there were 2 dominant religions: Christianity and Islam. There were other ethnic groups. A tension had always existed between these various groups. Uniting them under a secular banner was a challenge. The interim government set up by me had some of my pals like Diazo Lopez, the second-in-command of the friends of the People, and beloved of my deceased friend Romareeo. The top 5 generals were also given relatively important positions. My practical problem was that I had no previous experience of governance. This made me depend upon the existing bureaucracy for day-to-day running of the government, at least for 4-5 years at a stretch. Bureaucracy helped me a lot in understanding the finer points of the governance but as a powerful lobby of civil servants, they had a strong vested interest in clinging to power and maintaining the status quo. These two things- bureaucracy and religion-proved to be my undoing, in the long run, as they have for some other administrators everywhere. Even today I feel that civil society’s twin evils are a top-heavy bureaucracy and religious bureaucracy with sky-high ambitions to share power with the duly elected or popularly-supported government of the day. Be it the early Mandarins of Chinese Court or their modern-day avatars, the arrogant bureaucracy had always retarded progress and complicated the things for the rulers. At best, they are the necessary evil!

Straightening the messy economy was hell. Coffers were empty. Inflation was high. Jobs were scarce. The nation was like a dilapidated palace. The administration of Reewario was, I tell you, pro-American. They gave large debts in order to purchase weapons from them. These weapons were then used to kill the fellow countrymen. Then the country had to pay staggering interests on them. Naturally the civil war kept everybody busy and happy. The various guerilla splinter groups- supported by the Chinese or French governments- got unlimited dollars for waging war against the state. The state got weapons and billions for defending the borders. Part of the money went in lining the pockets of the leaders of the ruling parties and the rebels. A classic third-world story.

Since I was pro-Moscow, the Americans were not happy with me. President Reagan had called the communist state “an evil empire” and shown his hatred of the red states of the world. Four-five months after I had assumed leadership of the new Land and declared it as the Socialist Republic, I got a visitor, the American envoy. He was pretty nice, polite and courteous. “Mr. President, I convey the greetings of the American people and our President to you. It is nice to have a medical professional at the top. A technocrat at the helm of affairs. A fine young person educated in one of the bet American universities, a person steeped in the very best of the American traditions.”

“I do appreciate”, I said, keeping the pretence.

“I bring a special message to you from the President of United States of America.”

He sounded a bit arrogant and pompous, the way he pronounced the last sentence. Kind of self-important. After all, being American is considered a privilege in the rest of the world. He was not only an American, a white, a male but also an ambassador and a personal friend of the President of the U.S.A.! Naturally he was raised to hate anything un-American, to have sheer contempt for non-Yankees. He belonged to that school that thought the world did not exist outside America. America was the world, the world was America! I loathed his arrogance, the arrogance stemming from his social position.

“Go Ahead” I said, my voice cold, features composed.

“Well, I am just the messenger.”

“I know.”

“The message is simple. The President is interested in pledging an unlimited aid for the New Land, if there are no changes in the foreign policy.”

“Sorry, I could not get you there.”

“Well, the current government is perceived to be pro-Moscow. This leaning, this bias, I am told, is to be corrected.”

I controlled my rising fury.

“If it is not done, what fate is going to befall on this nation of more than 50 million souls?”

The envoy held my gaze for one full minute, then looked down, smiled warmly, again looked up and said, “I am afraid there won’t be any aid to this poor impoverished nation emerging from a severe civil war. No dollars, no development! There won’t be any reconstruction here, Excellency!”

“Is it?”

“Yes, Sir, Mr. President.”

I laughed loudly.

“Ask your Prez to talk to me on the hotline. I do not deal with the minions. A one-to-one talk. It is called diplomacy, is it not?”

The envoy did not show anything. He made the whole issue sound awfully impersonal. “Right now, the White House is entertaining 10, Downing Street. Nothing else matters.” “Oh, thanks for giving me lessons in real politics. That crap about geopolitics and strategic allies. It is said that Mao had made Henry Kissinger wait for 48 hours in china before the Great Helmsman had designed to give audience to the powerful American. The Secretary of state had to wait on the Chinese soil because it suited the changing American interests at that time. You guy need us more than the other way round. I hope I have made myself clear.”

“Would not Excellency care to change his long-cherished beliefs about the U.S.A?”

I smiled, “nope. I am prepared to go the Cuban way.”

“A lot is at risk, your Excellency!”

“We are a hardy people. We do not mind paying an extra amount for our honor. And here I speak as a sovereign of a big nation. We are going to make a difference”. The envoy’s face blanched.

“You see, Mr. President, your predecessor had enjoyed an excellent rapport with President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. He was part of a nexus of the topmost administrators of the world. He benefited a lot out of this alliance.”

“Well, no problem, Mr. Ambassador. I am quite pally with Comrade Brezhnev.”

The envoy looked at me for long, eyes probing, look thoughtful. I looked back, smiling.

“I told my Prez that this region is volatile. The leadership is also not amenable to reason. Why Allende keeps up resurfacing in various locations, I do not know.”

“I am happy that Joe the six pack is not like you. I have great admiration for an average American. He is kind, nice guy. He respects the viewpoint of others. Have a nice day, Mr. Henry Kissinger. Once I admired you as a little tough guy. Now I know why the rest of the world hates you so much. Bye Bye.”

And that meet with the special envoy sealed my fate forever. I knew I was their latest bogey. Within a month, trouble started brewing. Big, serious trouble for me. The world has always been ruled by the powerful. The modern world is no exception. The Soviet bloc and the American bloc have divided the globe between themselves. The sufferers have been the poor, developing nations. The geopolitical compulsions are such that I had to lean over my ideological allies, especially the Soviets. Most of the neighboring countries were ruled by proxy by the Washington. The rebels were active in the mountains and jungles of these countries, aided by Moscow. Wherever a red regime was installed with the help of Moscow, the C.I.A. played the same dirty games there. The entire region had become a huge chessboard; a volatile, unstable region characterized by bloodshed, civil unrest and increasing violence. A developing post-colonial nation had no choice. The C.I.A. launched an offensive against the New World- propaganda offensive denouncing us as an evil nation, a godless one where the people were denied civil rights and the right to worship. Since there were vestigial power groups inimical to me in the country, they were encouraged to create domestic unrest. Some upper crust army factions, loyal to the earlier government were there. C.I.A. opened up channels with them. Britain and France were the natural allies of the U.S.A. in this game plan. Then, in public rally, I was made a target by one of the dissident groups. A worker, in greasy overalls, threw a bomb at the podium that failed to explode. The alert bodyguards foiled this attempt. The bomb was disposed off; the attacker arrested. Then, a month later, I was again attacked, this time in a factory by a knife-wielding assassin. I was taken aback. I was inspecting a plant when a group of workers came near and started talking. This man suddenly sprang upon me and tried to plunge the knife in me. The other workers were able to overpower him. All this sent out a strong message: yield or die! The Church, the Kulaks, the army factions created trouble wherever possible. Meanwhile, I had confiscated all the private property and begun the nationalization. The rich and powerful were not happy. As the red sun rose in New Land, the neighboring countries run by the puppet dictatorships were also not comfortable. All these factors combined together to produce the most paranoid conditions for me. Overnight, I had become threat for the Western countries and to my neighbors. Washington had stopped all the aid. The West started isolating me. My food was poisoned. My bodyguards were bribed. Hired assassins tried to assassinate me on a foreign soil. In total, there were 9 attempts on my life. I survived. When everything else failed, my neighbor, the powerful Tandruan country headed by a 5-star General, declared war on me. They mounted a land-n-air attack on the northern border. The arms were supplied by the Americans. The Fifth Fleet was parked in the Pacific; some 60 km away from the border were stationed the elite Marines in the Tandruan country.

A highly impoverished agrarian nation, ravaged by the civil war and killings, was being attacked by the most sophisticated high-tech weaponry of a highly-advanced country of the world. There were no protests, no outcry in the U. N. no nation came to support us. I then did what I was always good at: turn back and fight. The lower strata of the army, the poor, the villagers, all of them were with me. I addressed meeting and roused a bleeding nation to defend its territorial integrity and national honor.” This nation does not belong to me. It belongs to all of us. We will die an honorable death fighting the honor of our motherland than just yield to these forces”, I thundered. The nation rose as one.

Then U.S.S.R. intervened and changed the face of the war. The regional balance was now in our favor. The Soviets sent their tanks and weapons, food aid and rubles. And finally, missiles!

Two major foes, separated by different philosophies, faced each other, in a less developed corner of the earth, for purely hegemonic purpose. The missile crisis, confronting the two superpowers, could have easily triggered off a nuclear holocaust. The tempers cooled off and the adversaries pulled off from the brink. The war, also, was stopped by the West. Already, our armies had routed the enemy and given them a lot of setbacks. This adventurism proved very costly to the Tandrua. It won us international popular support and Western popular approval. The mass media lauded our heroism. Six months later, an engineered coup replaced the 5-star general with another general, backed by the hawks in Pentagon. Some Asian and African nations came out in our support. But the pressure was constantly maintained. This gave me a practical lesson: the world has been governed by the powerful and the mighty throughout its long history except some early stages. In order to survive, both at micro and macro levels, at individual and international levels, one has to get powerful either by becoming powerful oneself or get strong friends who can standby. In a way wealth and weapons have come to define nations and people. At that critical juncture, I came to appreciate that ‘survival of fittest’ of Darwin was appropriately appropriated by the Huxleys of the West as a social shibboleth, a credo that acutely reflected the jungle law of the industrial world, a philosophy or a social truth that exactly mirrored the west. I wanted to survive at any cost, both as a nation head and as a person. I started on a journey through the minefields of history. Repeated assassination attempts, the war hysteria, the collaborators of the West in the country made me a hard person. Revenge became my mantra. I began hitting back. I raised loyal troops and paid handsomely for loyalty. I raised secret police and made a hand-picked person its chief. My brief to the Security Chief was simple: eliminate suspected enemies and do not bother about consequences. Gorilla did just that.

It was a classic kill-or-get-killed scene of a pop flick or novel. Hollywood has made this formula into n art. When I was being attacked from all sides, I had to hit back. No morality here. No ethics. Only pure survival instinct. Only sheer individualism. Another important lesson I drew from my experience: changing the fate of the toiling masses needs lots of political will, maturity and guts. Marxism, as an ideology, is different from Marxism, as a political and state practice. Political and state Marxism relies upon a bureaucracy, an army, a technocracy and an oligarchy. All these, separated from the masses and their material conditions, operate in a higher, privilege sphere. And they become- these desperate elements who never can declass themselves properly- the final undoing of the entire apparatus. The U.S.S.R. of 1992-93 is the best illustrating example. 70-year-old dream of humankind collapsed. The union disintegrated. Chaos followed. Everybody was a loser. In my own country, given her low levels of literacy and abysmal poverty, things were more complicated and worst.

The survivals of the past; the grip of fatalism; the appeal of rituals and deeply-entrenched religion, the poverty and no development in the countryside created great resistance to any new change. New Land, encircled by the hostile powers, isolated from the world, facing danger from rich peasants and the wealthy, put up huge resistance to my rule and political restructuring. The Western media portrayed me as a mass killer, a psychopath, a dictator. I had no means of defending myself in the world. My job was to defend my dream, my country from the hostile forces inimical o us and the social experiment carried out. Let me tell you, dear reader, I had never felt as terribly lonely as I did during those early years of presidency. The trouble-makers razed old churches and blamed security forces. They burnt people alive of a tribe and set off ethnic hatred. It was difficult controlling the nation, badly divided by the regional, linguistic and religious hatreds. Then I acted tough. I asked the one-eyed, scar-faced, 6-feet-2-inch tall Mike, better known as Gorilla, to raise Hydra and stamp out the opposition at every level. Mike was my discovery. Raised as an orphan, Mike had lived off the streets, boxing his way up in the small group of street-smart thugs, and, later, a motor-cycle gang of a poor precinct of the capital. He had a terrible reputation and an elephant’s memory. Revenge was his second name. I had spotted him in two-three rallies organized by the Friends of the People. I asked for a background check. He fitted perfectly. No permanent job, no family. No emotional liabilities. He was loner. A bitter, disillusioned man. I made him undergo intensive arms and ammunition training. I made him the chief of Hydra. Afterwards I sent him to Moscow for the ideological training. I gave him status, power, money and a home. He became my slave for life! My strategy was simple: raise an army that owed you everything. Tribal loyalty mattered a lot during those early dark days. I raised entire divisions from among the hardy youth from my father’s village. Hydra and Royal Guards were staffed by them. They were extremely loyal to me and my cause. Those were the desperate times and needed desperate remedies. Gorilla went about his job systematically and delivered the goods. Then I collectivized farms. I banished religion and private property. This earned me the goodwill of the dispossessed and hatred of the rich. In the process. I also lost touch with the reality. Gorilla isolated me from the masses. My alienation had started. Insecure, I started living in luxurious villas and dachas, surrounded by the Chosen Ones. Looking back, that was blunder I should not have made. Power has its own ways of corrupting. I grew smug and complacent. Army looked after the security. Philip Congo, better known as Chimp, supervised the treasury. A Harvard Professor, Philip brought about radical changes in economy. He was a financial wizard. He industrialized the country. As comparative pace dawned on the troubled and torn nation, all of us became ensconced in state luxuries. That undid us all. 20 years is not a big period to undo all the evil effects of long colonization. And the cult of the Great Leader completely offset all the gains made by us. I grew in mythic stature and no longer felt the pulse of the nation. It had happened with leaders earlier also. I started believing the myth created around me. And, myths, dear reader, have their own way of self-destructing themselves. By the time, I realized all this, it was too late!  History’s brutal logic applied to me. Those, who get themselves installed on a pedestal, come down quickly by a mere breath of wind. I, too, was knocked down. The process was simple and fast. Alienated from the masses, inhabiting a world of power and wealth, I failed to see the signals, 10km away from the palace; the supermarkets had no food and other items. Bread loaves were in short supply. Sow as the meat, vegetables, grains. Consumer durables were also in low supply. During the bitter winter morns and evenings, there were long queues of the hungry people outside superstores, all state owned. These ration queues were reminiscent of the Moscow of the 1970s.

Like a concentration camp, the food queues had thin, empty-eyed people waiting for their turn patiently under a harsh drizzle of a December overcast sky. The snow or the hard rains could not prevent people from joining 2 km-long queues. These pictures were displayed prominently in the Western media wit catchy heading: “The Gulag of the New land”; “The Food at the Auschwitz”; “Famine at new Land.” These pictures, of course, were censored at home. The state-owned media never ran these photos and stories on food and other shortages. The reason was, behind the acute shortages, the sluggish economy. The national energies were diverted towards containing an arms race in the volatile region. Defense and arms race had gobbled up the precious resources like a giant. The huge expenditure, the most unproductive drain on economy, sucked the nation dry. We were faced to divert our money towards defense deal. Developmental funds were channeled in this useless direction. A classic case of bleeding a country white by this strategy. Naturally, the results were dismal, negative. We piled on weapons of mass destruction and starved the millions. Economy stagnated. Production came down as harvests failed. Food aid was difficult to get from the West. Their embargo was still in force. This led to scarcity and hoarding. And near riot-like situation. It was living in Somalia or Ethiopia. The food supply got rationed. Food items disappeared fast from the food shelves. The command economy offered little consumer choices. The cloth fabric was coarse and variety limited. People wore identical blue or grey clothes, rode bicycles or trams, watched state T.V., drank cheap liquor, fought and died in state hospitals, neglected. It was very grim situation. There was nothing exciting anywhere. People just lived, their bare physical needs met by the Sate. Mass literacy, mass-housing, subsidized, homogeneous culture. Looking back, I think we made a big mistake there, although let me hasten to add that our choices are historically made. Within 10-15 years, we could feed more than 20-25 million people, that itself was remarkable achievement. What we forgot in hurry was that the people did live by the bread but not for the bread only. Higher aspirations did matter. We had to muzzle the press. We had to dictate to the writers, artists and film makers. Newspapers fed lies. Dissent was not welcome. People were given bland literature, cinema, and arts. There was no scope for original works, cinema, honest journalism. State had robbed the masses of initiative and enterprising spirit. Everything stagnated. Hospitals did not bother about workers. If you were a party worker, things moved immediately. This dualism in social structure undid us all. We lived in villas, got the best meats, liquors, books and magazines, watched foreign cinema, went abroad for health care facilities, smoked the Havannas, dressed up in Seville Row suits or Armani’s; the masses lived in different, almost jail-like regulated conditions. Although we had censored the airwaves, the foreign broadcasts told the masses on their radio sets about the plush life of the Western nations. This ruelled their deep anger and frustration. Hydra agents picked up people at random and killed them. The resentment levels were rising. We, in our dachas, were oblivious of all these warning signs. We thought, God is in Heaven, everything is fine with the world. The way the top leadership had insulated itself from the public ultimately paved the way for their downfall.

In a way, the destiny of the New Land is the destiny of many liberated nations, the post-colonial states of the Africa, Latin America and Asian nations. You may find echoes of the modern 20th century history in New Land. This nation mirrors Moscow and Pecking as well. At least, strong resemblances are there. And, now, about that bastard General Oscar Wee Wee, the current impostor in Anaconda. The most ungrateful guy. A snake! I told you, dear reader, this guy Oscar who had served the earlier president warning bell about this man. If a man can betray his former master, he can do so with the next one also, without any sense of shame. Macbeths can be real also! Oscar was a greedy unscrupulous man. Greedy for power. Over the years, I had placed the Royal Guards under the overall command of Hydra. As security chief, Gorilla controlled all operations. Oscar had to report to him directly, a fact he resented. In fact, Oscar hated the one-eyed giant. Gorilla, plain man, returned the compliments. Gorilla was a formidable man. A terror for the enemies. A ruthless Gestapo man, you can say. He was a soldier who obeyed and expected to be obeyed. He had sensed trouble in Oscar. “This chap is dangerous. He is snake. Beware of him”, he said to me. I ignored his rants. Clever as Oscar was, he rarely left any tell-tale signs of his treachery. Gorilla started surveillance of Oscar. His phones were tapped. Movements watched. Nothing substantial to pin him down. Then I got a message from Moscow: your security chief at the palace was mixing up with CIA and plotting against you. This set off a warning bell in my head. I tightened the screws. One day, he collapsed in his office and was rushed home. He recovered gradually. Then he withdrew totally into himself. Then, a few months later, he expressed his desire to meet his ailing mother who was staying in a neighboring country. His brother was there in that country, running business there. I took the bait. He was sent there as a private tourist. My agents followed. He went there to visit his ailing mum. He spent 12 hours there and on his way back to the airport, he suddenly asked the chauffer of his brother’s car to change the route and went straight to the U.S.A. embassy. My agents watched in horror as the embassy staff took him immediately inside. They were already waiting for him. Everything had been fine-tuned over the last six months through codes, cables, secure lines, and letters. He had used mum’s illness as a ploy to leave the country. I had to pay a costly price for ignoring my own warning bolls for so long. Oscar Wee Wee was granted political asylum in America. He launched a frontal attack on me and my regime. He gave what C.I.A. wanted. He cooked up things, distorted facts, and called me a psychopath, a womanizer, a mass murderer, a destroyer of basic freedoms. Called me an atheist. Worst than Stalin. It pained me a lot. Gorilla told me in hard voice, “If you had needed me, this punk would have been sleeping under the coffin by now. He can create lots of problem for us.” Of course I had no answer. Over the last couple of years he became a rallying point for my enemies, this self-styled General. He prayed in the Church, quoted the Bible, did community work, incited countrymen via Voice of New Land and assembled an army of the rebels that enjoyed the full American government’s support. The rebels mounted rocket attacks on our forces, infiltrated the hilly Northern terrain, killed villagers near the border. They were camped in the forests of the arch-enemy, the Trandua nation. The game plan of the C.I.A. was simple: destabilize the whole region and install your puppet regimes. Trandua, a stooge of the Reagan Administration, obliged gleefully. High-tech arms were pumped into the region and millions of dollars were poured. Oscar Wee Wee, that wine-guzzling fat arise, benefitted immensely. He gave inflammatory speeches, denounced us, asked the countrymen to rise against the government. In a manner, his propaganda united the frustrated divisive forces. Young farmers, students unemployed youth joined his underground movement. Meanwhile, the Western media played up the communist card and whipped up hysteria against me. Things were getting out of control. Decisions taken in a historical context were being distorted and projected. Murder of Democracy, media claimed. Dissidence was increasing. Rebels were pounding at the borders. The underground was coming over ground. Naturally, I had to act tough again. All my efforts, dreams were being undermined by this concerted onslaught mounted by Oscar bastard and his masters abroad.

Gorilla launched an offensive against the internal divisive forces. Large-scale arrests were made. Protestors and suspected saboteurs were thrown into the jails. Dissidents were sent to work on the farms. Thousands of people got killed or disappeared without any trace. It was a bloody purge of an epic-scale. At this point, let me share a fact with you, dear reader. For many years I was not given the proper details, the full picture, by my colleagues. Deliberately I was fed false information and kept away from the grim realities by the subordinates. A clique had formed around me that denied lower-rank party officials and army officers direct access to me. They did not want me to see things from my own eyes. They flattered me, dined and wined me, kept me in good humor. I had also grown smug and complacent. As any leader would vouch for me, the administration of my nation runs with the cooperation of all the ministers. No single individual can run a country on his own. This clique raised me to a high pedestal, surrounded me in an atmosphere of luxury, and just played Yes-man. In a way. In a way, they made me blind and vain. I had lost touch with reality of my nation. Ensconced in power, grown flabby, I too had become deaf and dumb. And opposition just rattled me off. Whenever bombs went off in Anaconda or any other part of the country, I panicked. I was getting paranoid. I wanted to rule, without any trouble or dissident voices, a thing that is not possible in any era. Opposition is bound to be there. I hated opposition as it threatened me. I wanted to cling to power, whatever be the price for it. This fear of the hungry masses, this increasing insecurity was capitalized by the clique for their onw selfish reasons. In a way, they were also at one remove from truth like me. When the people finally rose in rebellion, all of us went down together in that fast downward spiral. A house of cards it all proved to be!

Today, surveying the past, I can say I made some mistakes. The foremost being a weak alliance between workers and peasantry. Second, I could not win the complete trust of the toiling masses. Third, I relied upon Hydra and a bloody revolution to do my job. Fourth, I had ignored the recurring warnings about the tide that would sweep me off my feet, the great tide of History that follows its own inner logic and does not spare anybody- however big or small. Whatever decisions I made, let me remind, I made those decisions in a historical context. I do not know how posterity would judge me but my intentions were always noble. Now I know revolution and social transformation stake a long time to germinate and flower. My country, enslaved for hundreds of years, did emerge from colonial rule but in a bad shape. Feudalism and grim poverty are not the ripe soil for socialism. Material conditions were not yet mature for socialism there. I also learnt that once things started getting out of hand, there was no stopping the spiral. Like forest fires, once started engulfed everything in its blazing trail of destruction. I am sure there is no tank or gun that can stop people’s juggernaut from rolling down. No earthly power, for that matter, can resist people’s combined power. In the final analysis, they are the last arbiters of the political systems and power. We can ignore them at our own peril. In my case, all those factors- food riots, sluggish economy, state censoring of basic freedoms, political leadership twice removed from masses, the feudal infrastructure and a colonial past among others- collapsed into a giant fireball that scorched down everything in its wake. 20 years of my regime lay scattered in the resultant debris. Roughly 40 years later, an independent New Land was on the brink again. 40 years of post-colonial history is a grain measured against Time. The first 20 years were a bloody waste. During my presidency, I can say, I raised the living conditions of the poor and made them self-reliant in many years. Education, health care, housing, employment we managed well. At least, I am happy with my own track record. Ours was an isolated island in an ocean of capitalism. Our days were numbered form the beginning. We tried to change the world. This, in itself, was a rewarding experience for me. It is a dream worth dying for.

I know I am a clumsy writer. I am a leader, not a writer. I wrote whatever I felt strongly about in plain, unadorned English. I cannot write like the pots-moderns. Or my buddy Marquez. Even otherwise I strongly feel that one should write in a simple, direct language, he way Americans do. Here I have tried to unravel a lot of personal and historical details, unknot the complex knotted heads of individual and social. Personal is historical. Historical is personal. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything has got its historical context. Regarding my own role in the history of my own nation, I would hasten to add that my limited role was scripted by the historic forces. I do not believe that charismatic heroes are thrown up by history. Individuals do matter in the scheme of thing but they are products of the circumstances prevailing at that precise time. Be it Allende or Castro-my heroes whom I met often-all of them have been influenced by history of their own countries. I am not as big as my heroes. As driven like them is not possible for mortals like us. They are exceptions. Their vision and genius, I want to repeat, has been influenced by their time. As I told you, I made mistakes, costly mistakes, and paid for it. I got demonized in the west. My protégé now occupies my throne and palace. When the world is divided into spheres of influence by the two superpowers, the weak have to go. I, too, had no permanent defense against the might of Capital. The combined budget of C.I.A. and Pentagon can run many developing nations of the world. My poor country and I had no chance against the onslaught of this scale. I lost the chance. A dream died. So did a part of me. It was a military strategy of a kind where we got out flanked an finally defeated. Oscar Wee Wee runs New Land more ruthlessly. He has ‘dug-up’ evidence against me and my government. He wants to exorcise old ghosts but in my country, old ghosts refuse to be exorcised. They keep on coming back.

I am writing to straighten things us for me. Long solitude on this island, my long walks in the woods and introspection near the river Kan Kan, have helped me a lot. These lonely meditative sessions, in the middle of a rich virgin forest, have given me a certain grip over the events that have the peculiar trait of sliding over each other. Recording this flux of time needs a superior literary talent. I am a plain man. So is my narrative. I am concerned with the facts. Basics. Like a historian or writer, I have also made artistic selection.

I have selected some events and omitted others. I have highlighted those incidents and events that have direct bearing upon my individual destiny and upon the nation’s fate. I had never thought that one day I would become leader and guide my country through a difficult phase. I had led an upper-middle class bohemian life and here I was, thrust upon the national stage, leading a country towards an old dream dreamed by Spartacus and Uncle Tom or every slave. I dreamed about an equal world. A most unlikely candidate, I was chosen by history to captain my country’s ship on the choppy sea. And I was thrown in the dustbin of history! What can you say? Destiny? Fate? Force of circumstances? I have to figure out all this and more. I have dealt with the history of ideas.

Is history all about Ideas? Is it about greed for power and wealth? Is it governed by pure impersonal forces? Or is it a combo of personal and impersonal? In my way, I have grappled with these questions. My esteemed reader can also draw his own inferences from this narrative. Do we really need history and literature? Yes! They tell us a lot about life and the world. They enrich our cognition of the world, our understanding of it; they are special methods of cognition. They are very valuable aids for us. My narrative is heavy with ideas. Some might like it, some might not. It is a heavy stuff for those who want to know the world. But it is a rewarding experience. Because I, Constantine Caesar, represent history with a capital ‘H’. Some call me a Minotaurch. I do not mind. I am half man, half bull. Like majority of humankind, I have both the sides co-existing within me. I think Minotaur is the best myth conceived by the ancient mind to explain the bestiality existing within man. The bull represents power, masculinity and an irrational streak. Picasso has used this wonderfully in his Guernica and Minotaur series. Werewolves just pale into insignificance before Minotaurch. During my presidency, I came to know about this side of human personality. Huge power, unchecked, vested in a single individual can bring out the best or the worst, depending upon the circumstances. This sense of power over fellow individuals, this controlling the others, a collectivity, entire nation- this exhilarating idea can be very dangerous, if not tempered with a concomitant sense of direction, purpose and goal. Many noble-intentioned politicians have come to develop an exaggerated sense of self-importance over the passage of time and fallen off from their pedestal. From Caesar to Stalin, and many more, have either been assassinated, deposed or just thrown out. Those survived were kicked in the butt by history. Power is an unhappy mistress and like unhappy people can most ungratefully betray you at any time. Where does Minotaur fir in? Well, well…. You are ruling uninterruptedly for decades, blind to warnings. Then one day opposition surfaces. You panic. You decide to deal with the legitimate opposition in your own way. Then the bull appears in you and goes on the rampage. You kill right and left under some lofty ideology. In fact this sudden deafness and blindness makes you very vulnerable. Trapped and cornered, you attack and get maimed and killed in the counter violence. My buddy Marquez has written about all in his inimitable style. In my case, I could escape. I was lucky. Many in the Central America died in most wretched conditions. Dictatorship is like cricket. You do not know what might happen next. By the time the realization comes that history and masses are greater than an individual, howsoever mighty, it is too late for making amends. Surviving ousted heads of state just carry the bull intact within them- and lots of bitterness, frustration and anger. It is like a fully active adult- I mean sexually active- finding himself overnight without his libido and larger appetites, an impotent. This feeling can be worst than any slow poison or killing.

My beast has found a new sanctuary in this primitive island full of barbarians. I am another barbarian. Flesh is in plenty. Human, female flesh. I enjoy it the most. The sex without any modern hang-ups. Unorthodox. Free. Without guilt. My encounter with the savages here is liberating. Normal time and norms do not apply. They live to eat and make love. They have their own laws. Women pick up partners and are very generous. It is a commune of happy, precious overgrown children. Amidst bountiful nature. My bull roams freely. I am not answerable to anybody. I am the only Lord and Master. They are my subjects. These poor heathens! Once again it is my destiny to civilize them, these semi-naked illiterate barbarians, with primitive gods and culture. I would civilize them to a certain point. They should not become a threat to me. Barbarians, if civilized totally, can be equally dangerous! Hey must know the basics of the language, our language in order to transact the daily business of living but should never be allowed to master the language of their governing masters. Language are the social instruments of change. They are the keys to awakening. Once awakened, the primitive mind can be equally destructive and destabilize the status quo. That is why, in ancient and feudal societies, the higher languages were not taught to the lower order of the people. Those were the preserve of the elite that suffice. Another example is religion. Spread religion among the natives. Make them feel inferior. Religion can be the best social cement for keeping together warring classes- and keeping your colony safety. Christianity can do what the bloodied swords could not do. It can win consent in a unique way by blunting the oppositional consciousness. It can make a man modest, humble, other-worldly, and passive. So do the other religions. Of course, all this is a conjecture of an idle man. Where the deadly resistance can come from, that nobody can say or predict. Wee Wee sprang upon me in my own country. Here the ghost of Mark Livingstone haunts me and the primitive island.

I have this gut feeling that mark is not dead. He is alive and waiting. I have a feeling I am fated to meet him again. Sooner or later. People like Caesar and Mark never die. Their spirits repossess new bodies in every age.

Caesar is the quester of power. Mark, the resistance. He is Brutus to Caesar.

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