map November

by Andy Betz

Published in Issue No. 241 ~ June, 2017

Today I became November. The vote was five to four with one abstention; January always abstains. For no requirement forces his lack of action in voting; only custom. January rules by custom. Today was no different. A few of my predecessors campaigned for and against my ascension. I believe without my detractors, I would be October, possibly even September by now. I paid my dues and bided my time. I knew what the others wanted without becoming an obsequious quisling such as many who occupied this chair before me. Politics aside, I am the right person for this position. And if I have to dazzle all before me, I will. Not outlandishly, but quietly. I have always been determined to avoid those whose sole goal is to undermine November. No, I will precisely word the previous sentence. I am not going to avoid such contrarians. Now that I am November, I will destroy them.

We gather when necessary. Even then, it is rare. Most of my work occurs well in advance of this meeting. Such is the case of November. As December, I confirmed facts and alleviated suspicions entirely with field work. When gathered, I never spoke aloud once. Never. Not once. I could have, but I chose differently. For this is the new precedent I established; as December, I listened. As December, I chose no sides. December offers nothing to any faction. December can only aid with well researched, timely provided facts. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And I was a great December. I eclipsed the memories of those who sat with the multitude of previous Decembers that brazenly grasped the office without the credentials it required. My efficiency became memorable with the Eleven. So much, that four of them desired my attendance as December in perpetuity. The years passed and the opportunities became fewer. Had it not been for the unfortunate demise of the previous November, my stagnated advancement might endure forever. So serendipity opened the door and I walked through. Yesterday, I was December. Today, I am November.

April always opens and directs our meetings. He sets the agenda, follows the rules, and demands strict adherence to the order in our charter. April is not the chair. April is the whip. April voted against my promotion.

“Before we begin, is there any remaining unfinished business?” No one answers this question. To do so recognizes a failure from April. Since April is the master of order, April never fails. Thus, the question is necessary to ask, superfluous to answer. A predetermined five second pause, then a continuance. “As there is no old business, I open the meeting to the matters of new business. As per our rules, I now transfer control to February.”

February is the Chairman and the power of the group. He will decide what is addressed and who will answer. February is power. He answers to none of the Eleven. Technically, January is his elder, but the records indicate no single documented point of contention between the two since our founding. February, hesitatively, voted for me.

“The Chair recognizes the ascension of November (brief drumming of fingers on the table, as is our custom) and asks is he fully prepared for the duties associated with the position?”

Reservedly, I say yes. It is the first word I have ever spoken here. It will not be my last.

“Unfortunately, November, your promotion leaves us with an empty chair reserved for December. Since you so recently departed that title, and we have not nominated a replacement. . .”

I knew what February wanted and allowed him to save face. I interrupted with, “Yes, I am quite capable of attending to the duties of both December and November for the duration of this meeting.” I sounded somewhat bold with that statement and others detected it also. I opened the door for a reply.

It began with June. “Quite a brash beginning, November.” June always has a disdain in his voice. Reading a transcript of his comments reveals none of the contempt listening to the same comments has. June led the charge against my November promotion. June attacked my December hiring. “Perhaps November can demonstrate the duties of his new office. For the record, please state the duties of November.” This sounded deceptively easy; actually too easy. Always smoke from a distant fire with June. “November is the Devil’s advocate. Since November cannot vote, November’s purpose is to force the Eleven to fully embrace and implement the decisions of the Eleven. November asks, what if? November offers alternatives. November tries to persuade the Eleven (or as many as he can) to November’s way of thinking. In doing so, the Eleven cannot decide without knowledge of consequences, cannot calculate without exposure to reality. In short, the presence of November forces the best from the Eleven.” More drumming of fingers on the tabletop meant I was correct. Satisfied, June withdrew his reservation and returned control of the agenda back to February.

“The first order of business is the status of the individual retirement accounts. Over six trillion in assets exists in these accounts. Each day that passes, the accounts grow at a pitiful aggregate of less than 1% per annum. The chair is open to discussions concerning better uses for these funds.” As per our rules, all awaited January’s abstention. February, March, and April campaigned for seizure of assets and absorption of former account holders into the Social Security system. May, June, July, and August voted in unison with the elders. September and October reserved their time to voice their opinions until after mine. The chair permitted this irregularity and I was now in the spotlight.

“Seizure of private assets is both illegal and unconstitutional. Assets are earned in exchange for time. Seizure of assets is seizure of time. This is akin to forced employment without compensation, thus slavery. In addition, due process and eminent domain laws restrict and prohibit such actions.” Not a bad reply; part December, part November.

Back to June. “The 13th Amendment permits both slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment of a crime. We charge all that do not cooperate with the crime of obstruction and then seize their assets. Thus, the punishment fits the crime.” More drumming of fingers on the table top. My reply did not wait for the drumming to cease. “In fairness to the Eleven and to the 13th Amendment, the exact verbiage states, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. Without a conviction, a charge is only a charge. My initial declaration stands. Spin it any manner you wish, seizure is slavery.”

Rarely does a pause in the proceedings pass five seconds. This one did. The exact count may have approached eight seconds. Whether eight seconds or eight days, a record is a record. Before June could comment, February changed the topic. “The national debt rapidly approaches eighteen trillion dollars. This does not count the scores of trillions in unfunded liabilities. Without a single balanced budget in its history, how does the government expect to pay the debt?”

July was the expert in all things fiscal. This question was for him to answer and for me to counter. Whatever July replied, I was to immediately contradict as November and support as December. I awaited July’s serve. “The debt is manageable and of little consequence if the economy grows faster. The appropriate metaphor is the college student burdened with fifty thousand dollars in loans. These are trivial compared to an increased initial salary and access to a lifetime of promotions and raises. If the debt supports such growth, it is a necessary evil.”

I was not the only one to notice the brief nature of the answer. Even January mouthed the word “and” only to await the void that passed for an addition. I awaited no further delay and pounced. “The national debt is designed to never be repaid. No Congress will ever authorize such an action. No President will ever pay little more than lip service to that idea. The national debt serves one vital purpose.” Now I had the attention of the Eleven. “The national debt is a pathway to tyranny. Not instantaneously, but in increments. The debt forces both electors and elected to forward this problem to future electors and elected. By doing so, this generation forgoes another opportunity for rescue in exchange for another day of leisure. Each day that passes without confronting this behemoth, is a day that the populace will sacrifice another small amount of freedom or a fraction of liberty. With fewer choices, the population will convince themselves of how bad their life could be instead of how good it could be. This lack of action defines soft tyranny. Alexis de Tocqueville coined this phrase in 1835. Without hope, an entire generation will succumb to the overwhelming obstacles they face. Without hope, insurrections, extremism, and division abound. The national debt is the thief of such hope. It will drive the sheep in search of a shepherd. The sheep will accept any shepherd under any conditions. The current flock will convince the next generational flock of the benefits of surrender and the protection it offers. The national debt is the scary monster in the closet that allows children to sleep, as long as no one ever opens the closet door. As longs as a national debt exists, the possibility of totalitarianism exists. The best type of totalitarianism; the type the people beg for. The type they deserve.”

In retrospect, this is where all of my troubles began. Not that I advocated for a system so horrific; if it was only that simple. My troubles began with the ease at which I advocated for such a system. If only I knew then what I know now.

Without recognition, October spoke aloud. A nod from January and the membership permitted this action. “Who benefits? Who are the shepherds? What of the sheep?” It was not the articulate prose normally exposed from this reserved individual. I do believe he forced himself to action without his customary editing.

None-the-less, November replied. “Shepherds are those who have the courage to accept their circumstances and lead. They provide the necessities of life for the flock, but at the cost of all the flock have to offer. The shepherd offers food and shelter. The shepherd shears wool and butchers meat. The sheep pay for their lodging with their extended lives. If you have the courage, not to be elected, but to seize power, you are a shepherd. So sayeth Machiavelli, so sayeth The Prince.”

This last series of answers visibly disturbed October. And September. And August. The thinly veiled poker faces the others displayed mocked their neutrality. Whether each agreed or not, November did his job.

May seized the initiative without January or February recognition. He seemed ready to fight, but calmed himself with ease. Perhaps this was just a display for the members, perhaps just for himself. Two deep breaths and he spoke. “Why even take any action? Whether the debt or immigration or the flavor-of-the-month social issue, the Eleven have always profited from an incognito approach. We are Adam Smith’s laissez-faire invisible hand, not Niccolo Machiavelli’s prince.” This time, all but January drummed their fingers on the table. January remained aloof from any physical response. He always listened and he rarely acted.

I did act. My response was harsh but apropos. “Since you cite The Prince, so shall I. If you do not declare yourself, you will invariably fall prey to the conqueror, to the pleasure and satisfaction of him who has been conquered, and you will have no reasons to offer, nor anything to protect or to shelter you. Because he who conquers does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial; and he who loses will not harbor you because you did not willingly, sword in hand, court his fate. In essence, neutrality is certain death. These lukewarms are easy prey to the assured action of the confident.” I watched for any reaction and found none. So I offered hope instead. “However, you spoke of the invisible hand. On this metaphor, we are in agreement. On its use, we are not. The hand, like an eagle, performs best when its prey does not detect its presence. The hand must be invisible; before it strikes and as it strikes.”

February called for a brief intermission.

On his return, February asked the next series of questions. He spoke of immigration, of open borders, of low-cost labor and such. Surely, based upon supply and demand, the excess of this mobile and inexpensive capital could only benefit the economy. Since I am now November, I had to contradict the statement. I did not have to attack the premise or the conclusion, just the statement. And of course, I had to be correct. “The introduction of excess labor into an already beleaguered economy dilutes the value of all occupations. What once had a certainty of success now becomes only a chance. Permitting an open border permits an invasion. If this is the purpose, then so be it. If the archer’s aim is higher than mere mortals may see, then allow me to speculate.” February allowed such a diversion. “Open borders are the onset to unification, not invasion. The amalgamation of population, culture, and languages enforces adherence to the current and subjugates those with ties to the former as deniers, racists, or fringe elements. None of this has to be true. It isn’t the charge that need be proved. It is only the seriousness of the charge that all must hear. For success on this level, you will require an accomplice. The media has easily proven themselves time and time again worthy of that assignment. By, allowing specific members of the media to propagate a single lie as truth, telling each lie as frequently as possible and eliminating all opposition to the new truth makes short work of the opposition’s credibility and thus, the opposition itself. Decrying all who oppose this unification as unfit to speak against it is only the beginning. To fully reap the harvest of such a plan, constant distractions are required. An attack on A from B must be met with and attack on B concerning C, D, E, and F. Should B spend his time defending against C, D, E, or F, label him without credentials to speak on A. Should B continue to speak against A, label B unfit to speak on A because he cannot control the attacks from C, D, E, and F. Logic need not apply here, nor justice. Just a constant source of slogans for the masses, a singular message in all media outlets, and a regular array of unknown knights ready to defend the new truth against all onslaughts. These knights need not be proficient in the new truth. They need only keep others from becoming curious. As before, the concept of immigration is but a tactic in the war on intelligence, the war on thought, and the war on logic. As per George Orwell, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.” I spoke more than I should. So I took a sip of the water brought to my place at the table during the intermission. While doing so, I noticed a smile from January. Not much of a smile, but a smile. He was pleased. I was pleased. I am enjoying being November.

Soon, it was more of the same. First August, then September asked about the social issues of same sex marriage, abortion, and legalized drugs. Each met with my contrarian nature. “Same sex marriage, pro-choice abortions, and the legalization of drugs are but a mere smoke screen covering legislation and regulations permitting increased government power. While the low information voter argues the semantics of pro-choice versus pro-life, the entrenched bureaucracy subverts another layer of Constitutional protections. While the crowds gather to call for the abolition or establishment of marijuana use in this specific case, at this specific time, or for this specific reason, the professional politician has enveloped himself with layer after layer of insulation from the constituency he claims to serve. Continue to offer the bread and circuses to the masses, but do not cast your pearls before the swine.”

March wanted a moment to comment. “As of now, every response you offer is diametrically opposed to that proposed. What if I recommend an increased level of political correctness? What if I devise a plan to ban dangerous books? Rewrite history? Or force participation in correct thinking? What if I had the endorsement of the oligarchies and the political class to seize power and establish re-education camps? Does November have a comment to oppose such actions?”

Now both January and February moved ever so slightly closer to hear my response. I thought for a moment, finished the contents of my water glass, and began as November must. “Do you ask because Chairman Mao was unavailable for comment? Did Stalin himself close the library stacks on this topic? If you wish to exercise control over all aspects of life and thought, then finish the job you started. Monopolize all education and brand it public education and not government education. Tax the willing participants. Tax the resistors more. Create new legislation recognizing intent as more than motive. See it now as evidence. Establish hate crimes. Popularize slogans such as micro-aggression. Confiscate personal property on the sole basis it may fund a drug culture, not that it ever did. Erase from public access all information contradictory to the new thought. Herald the collaborators as heroes and destroy the opposition as counterrevolutionary. Change the objective to the subjective. Make science a religion. Make math a cultural variable. Give the lazy an excuse for failure. Give the entrepreneur a new tax bill. Destroy the cult of the individual. Allow dissention only for the new oppressed, only as the new oppressors. Define the narrative and change definitions frequently. Above all, establish a moral relevancy with no fixed parameters. Remember, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.” Obviously, I am fond of that novel. From what I witnessed, no one else is.

It was at this time, that January slowly stood, displaying the physical feebleness of his advancing years. The other rose out of respect. All I heard him say was the order to clear the room. He meant everyone but me. The gathering of the November and the Eleven came to an abrupt conclusion. I expected the private meeting with January to prove advantageous to my burgeoning career. I was wrong; so very wrong.

“In retrospect, I should have listened to your predecessor more. Prior to his demise, he explained the futility of your promotion.” These confusing words clouded all of my judgement except that which required me to listen. “Do you know how the previous November died? Of course not, how could you? I do remember asking you to remain external to the meeting as your last official duty as December. Do you remember honoring my request?” Yes, I did. “As such, I ask one more of you. If I offered you your previous position of December, the position you excelled at, would you accept the offer?” I wanted to immediately answer, but January raised his hand to interrupt. “Before you answer, do not listen, just think. This will be the singular exception to your position. I ask you to think.” Now, I found myself in a quandary. January asked me to accept a demotion back to December. Why should I accept it? I am November. I look forward to being much more. December means returning to a position where I will be until my death. This was my last chance. Today, I am November. Tomorrow, I am November. I respectfully declined January’s offer.

As did he of mine.

The Eleven rarely experience changes; definitely not the Draconian, rarely the subtle. I am a change not to be experienced. November must be good at his position. November must never be great at his position. January explained this to me as the sedative from my water glass took effect. For voting, the Eleven can diverge. My ascension proved this. For action, all must be united. From my cell, June explained the rest while I waited what awaited me. Today, I convinced more than I should. Today, I became more than the Devil’s Advocate. Today, as November, I campaigned successfully to divide the Eleven. Today, as November, I will pay for my crime.

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With degrees in Engineering Physics, Chemistry, and Fire Science, Andy Betz has tutored and taught mathematics, chemistry, physics, fire science, and CPR for 30 years. He collects occupations (the current tally is 91) and currently teaches high school (during the day) and college (during the evening). Fairly new to writing, he embraces each opportunity each publication/editor/contest offers. Married for nearly 25 years and currently diverting his kitten from his computer, he enjoys the color green, bad puns, and the entire catalog of the Beatles.