What a World

Published 21 March 2022

Before my eyes, with the uprising completed, the most powerful people in the world gathered in a room, the newcomers still chafing within power as in ill-fitting suits. I saw these people, some resigned and most eager, sign the documents relinquishing their hard-won might in a promise that they would never go to war again. Thus the gates were loosened, all gates, I saw, that the power the people now tasted might issue forth. In the streets I saw people dance and embrace, scattering flowers. I saw demilitarized zones dissolve but not into renewed hostilities. Where once barbed wire fences loomed and artillery thirsted for blood, flowers again could blossom and all could pass in freedom. The borders dead men had drawn on maps, carving the world like flesh of a roast, had divided parent from child and brother from brother in a competition whose losses, I heard people murmur and wonder how they had been so fooled, were tallied in lives and wins in money. But now I saw these long-parted friends and family embrace, kiss each other’s cheeks, and begin to piece together intelligibility from their formerly alienated worlds. I heard them sing and laugh.

I saw men and women and others openly weeping. They grieved, I heard the eloquent and ineloquent say alike, the lives wasted in these generations of the poor dying to defend the riches of the thieves who ruled them, these rulers whose power meant manipulating the worst parts of the people’s characters and the weaknesses borne of their immiseration to drive ordinary men into hateful frenzies against an enemy whose grunts were also victims. They grieved, I heard, these millions of years of life tormented and squandered for the greed of monsters and their byzantine deals and treaties that meant if some stranger somewhere shot some other stranger who had never wronged him but whose president disagreed with his, everyone everywhere might just have to die. They grieved, I heard, all the potentialities that had been lost with their shot, burned, and bayonetted loved ones. I saw people openly weeping from joy as well in the knowledge that no more would human hearts and souls be duped into slaughtering their siblings and demolishing their infrastructure and so wasting their sacrosanct opportunity to think, to feel, to exist. I saw them weeping from joy in the knowledge that they could finally live without fear hanging always above them and filling their breasts with dread. I heard and saw such shocking changes and ideas that my tears, too, began to trickle.

I saw that old wounds would heal. The hatreds would die out through exposure to difference and through the gradual deaths of the incurable who had known the world before. The very sun smiled down as tanks were disassembled, nuclear warheads disarmed. I saw the billions once funneled toward murdering foreigners instead directed toward feeding the children starving in even those countries deemed developed through the material that the wars had kept flowing always to the powerful and ever from the weak. I heard that no longer spoiled on war for the benefit of the financiers, this wealth would from now on be used to alleviate hunger, treat disease, educate the ignorant, give shelter to the bereft, warn the young against the bigotries of old, and push the frontiers of science. There would be challenges, I heard people seem to agree—but so long as we remained wary and prepared, we could strike down any attempt by the pernicious to resurrect the evils of the warmongers and bigots and other cowards who would send children to die on their behalf—for, I saw so many understand, those liars were few even in the old times, and we were many—we, I heard them say, could learn to be better after all.

Formerly, those who even gestured toward nonproliferation I had spat at as fools. The war of all against all was but the natural condition of our states that exist to prevent the war of all against all. So I had believed. The human had to be entrusted with the power to mobilize thousands and millions to slaughter others, for no other method could prevent these rotten, selfish animals worse than apes from murdering each other. I wondered how any could dare believe that anything in the universe could be better or even different from how the news feed had always promised me it always was and always would be. The mere shadow of such hope and possibility as then I saw and heard, I had never before imagined. The wind itself, instead of smoke and tear gas, seemed to carry optimism, this same air all people shared, as they shared the same waters and the same Earth, so vast and green, blue, yellow and alive. And so I wept indeed.

I awoke in a cold sweat. Wiping the tears from my terrified eyes, I grabbed the remote from my bedside table and turned on the flat-screen television. I saw a choir of children and heard them singing, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” The nightmare would not end. Desperate to awaken, I changed the channel and saw different children, limbs splayed and others severed fully, in the blood-splattered smoldering ruins into which a shelling had transformed a school. They were abroad, I heard the anchor announce. They were not kids like my family’s, not kids who had real emotions. Their country must have already brainwashed them anyway, bringing another generation of fanatics into the world, so this, sadly, was best for those children. Besides, they were no loss of future recruits and labor for our good fight to spread freedom. The news cut from this feed to an advertisement for fried chicken. Sighing with relief that my hard-earned position, then, was secure, and my dinner with the senator still on, I called the butler to bring me my morning martini and breakfast in bed on a silver tray. I’m a defense contractor.