Unconquerable | Samuel Martin
On the side of the road, stood a man. Tall, young, and slender he was typical for an officer in the Royal Space Exploration Corps. What was not typical, however, was his countenance. Contrary to his prim and proper uniform, a dashing cobalt blue adorned with gold trimmings, which you could tell he wore with a mixture of ambivalence and embarrassment, his hair was scruffy, dirty, and blonde. The patches of hair on his face, which barely resembled a beard, flickered a warm orange, refracting the evening rays.
Approaching him, a man of noticeably different form. Short, bespectacled, and older, with neatly combed greying hair, he was clad from head to toe in a tightly wrapped black trench coat. He gripped a staff of twisted iron which he used as a walking stick, although he almost certainly could stand without it, and his boots made a distinctive click as he walked, rhythmically interrupting the otherwise silent atmosphere that had beset the dying lights of London.
The Elder stopped short of the Younger, and a tense silence ensued. At last, the Elder decided to put an end to the awkwardness.
“I’m surprised they let you go on looking like that”, he said in blunt disappointment, unimpressed with the Younger’s unkempt appearance.
“You wanted this for me, did you not?”, retorted the Younger.
“I wanted you to make an effort”, the Elder scolded.
The awkward silence resurfaced before both agreed that it was time to get going. The graduation parade was over after all.
Turning a corner, they ended up at the foot of The Mall. To their right, a statue of Lord Nelson stood guard, staring blankly into the reddish hues of the horizon.
“Nelson was once Britannia’s God of War, and still should be so…”
“But the tide is turned. There’s no more to be said of Trafalgar, ’tis with our hero quietly inurned”
“Oh, so Byron has not been forgotten just yet then?” quipped the Elder, pleasantly surprised that the Younger still remembered the words.
“Such irony” the Younger said dismissively, “Imagine if Lord Byron found out that Lord Nelson had literally become Britannia’s God of War”
“All the more ironic, imagine if Lord Byron found out that he had become Britannia’s God of Love” the Elder responded, pointing at the statue of Lord Byron, a few feet further down the Mall; staring with the same blank expression.
After a rudimentary, holistic education, those deemed to be Of Spirit would attend military colleges. Their motto: Honour is Might. It is here that soldiers, sailors, pilots, police, and voyagers are trained. Nelson was more than an officer and a man of war, he was beloved by those who he fought with, and courteous to those he fought against. Likewise, Byron was not only a poet, beloved in many different ways, but a soldier and liberator as well. The juxtaposition of Love and War obfuscates that one will often drive the other. As such, those Of Spirit are not only learned in the art of conflict, but are well-acquainted with civilising forces, such as poetry and music of the highest standard.
“Why does this nation detest reason? We are not beasts. We possess rationality. Why not use it to its fullest extent? Total waste of human potential if you ask me”, the Younger snarked.
“Nor are we machines” replied the Elder, “Am I supposed to rationalise why I shouldn’t poke your eyes out here and now?”, tapping his staff against the palm of his left hand.
“I would hope not”, reacted the Younger, slightly caught off-guard.
“Well quite. Does a father require a cost-benefit analysis to decide whether he should protect his child? Of course not. Likewise, if I see a piece of litter, I consider it my duty to dispose of it”
“Understandable, but why not leave it? There is good chance that another passer-by will see to it” snapped the Younger.
“Only if said passer-by retains a spirit of civic duty, unlike the version of myself which you propose who does not. Should everyone think like this alternate self, would duty be executed at all? At least not to a sufficient extent for society to function?”
FOREVER LAW ONE: HUMAN EMOTION INSTIGATES AND INHIBITS HUMAN MOTION
When man knows love, honour, and duty – more than just his primordial self-interest – he will achieve self-governance. The state needn’t restrain him when he can restrain himself, and the state needn’t deprive him of his liberty, when he knows that the liberty he enjoys is predicated on the fulfilment of his duty. Passion has driven man to disgrace and embarrassment, it has also driven him to perform feats of bravery and acts of kindness. Human Emotion is an art to mastered, not a plague to be exterminated. There is virtue in instinct. A reason, do you always need one?
The two men attempted to continue their walk home but were soon distracted by another pair of titans of Britannia. After a few moments silence, the Younger spoke up, hoping to turn the creeping tides of inferiority that had begun to stir within him.
“The aforementioned irony, does it not concern you? We call Newton a God. Unbefitting of a man of science, don’t you think?” inquired the Younger
The Elder smirked, poorly hiding his contempt for the Younger’s sentiment. “If Newton were to take offence at anything, he would take offence that we consider him something divine, and less so lavish his beloved God with praise.”
“And yet Shakespeare stands here as his equal. How can that be? Shakespeare is no Newton”
“But he is Shakespeare. Is it totally unfair to call Shakespeare the Newton of the Humanities and the Arts, or to call Newton the Shakespeare of the Sciences”?
“I suppose not. Irrespective of field, as Shakespeare might say: all things are ready if our mind be so”
“And as Newton may caveat: if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”
Like those Of Spirit, those Of Mind attend the newly and unabashedly elitist universities. Their motto: Make Systems Beautiful. Their eternal patrons: Newton: Superman of the Sciences, and Shakespeare: Superman of Humanities. Both masters and revolutionaries of their main fields and beyond, their status as such spawned the second of the Forever Laws. Various subjects are integrated into and connected around the main intellectual pursuits of those Of Mind. Humanities and Sciences are not only viewed as equals but inspire each other. There is a mathematical element to the writing of poetry, just as an appreciation of aesthetics can go in hand with the study of plants, the governance of a country can be understood through studying the concept of entropy.
FOREVER LAW TWO: REVOLUTION IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF ORTHODOXY
Some will find satisfaction in calling others their betters. Others will contest the superiority of their alleged betters. Statues of Newton and Shakespeare do not to demand undying praise for their works. As established, the interconnectedness of the passions implies that one’s desire to usurp the titles of great men comes from a place of the deepest admiration. The prospect of acquiring the frugal respect of great men and women means far more than their endorsement. In this case, revolution is something developmental and revitalising. Challenge the greats so that you may one day dine at the same table.
“Where does evolution fit into all of this? Hasn’t that always been your disposition?” inquired the Younger
“Evolution has to build on something pre-existing. Revolution does not” answered the Elder
“Hoping for the Old Regime to evolve into something wonderful was like hoping for a cancerous tumour to evolve into something healthy. Inherent corruption makes evolution an impossibility”
“There is a true nature of all things. When the true nature of this country corrupted, what exactly did we have to lose through revolution? Revolution can save orthodoxies as well as destroy them”
“And speaking of revolution…”, the Younger gestured with his head to the statue of Cromwell.
“A man of the soil in more ways than one. Quite unlike his counterpart it must be said” the Elder thought aloud, alluding to Brunel’s colossus.
“A man of iron. So much for your precious soil” replied the Younger
The Elder laughed, “Soil so irrelevant that humanity builds everything it depends on upon it”
The final class of the nation is those Of Labour, who attend the final branch of the tripartite system: Labour Colleges. Their Motto: Fulfilment via Our Fellows. The colleges encapsulate the tension between the countryside and the city. Industrialists build great machines, not at the expense of the countryside, but to be in accordance with it. Trains are built to put on full display the wonders of the natural world, as well as provide a swift form of transportation. Countryfolk saviour the harmony and the feeling of retained purity of the countryside, but only because there is vibrant city from which they can escape after enjoying the nightlife. They are not in conflict or one-in-the same, each is kept in a mutual state of mystical wonder and mindful intrigue.
FOREVER LAW THREE: NATURE IS THE IMMORTAL TYRANT
We may call the paganism of humans past an antiquated absurdity, but there is kernel of truth to it. It is that the environment man was born into is both so violent and so beautiful that it might as well be called God, at the very least be considered something divine. Humanity builds upwards to both secure its immediate existence and its prolonged existence. Overtime, marvelling at their own achievements, enjoying decadence, and ignorant of their ignorance, they will think themselves above, rather than of, nature’s complexities. When castles produce men like Charles, the soil produces men like Cromwell.
“Again, with the irony!” the Younger exclaimed, breaking from the Elder’s side; jumping out into his path like an excited child.
“How do you hold both a slayer of royals and the most esteemed of royals side-by-side in hero worship?” beholding with his hand the statue of Elizabeth I.
“Cromwell was known to cut the head off a King. I have yet to hear anything about him extracting the stomach of a King” smirked the Elder.
“Sir Drake had more stomach than Elizabeth” the Younger scoffed
“Sir Drake knelt before Elizabeth as both great man and humble servant. The two are not mutually exclusive. Just as Commoners, in their maintenance of their communities, await the return of Supermen, Elizabeth, in the maintenance of her kingdom, awaited the return of her best man: with great expectations”
The Common Men are not to be confused with The Commoners. The Common Men are people born outside of the hereditary aristocracy. The Commoners are Common Men that are not Supermen. Supermen are Common Men, but there is nothing Common about them. Commoners make decisions via a “communitarian democracy”: a limited number of locality-specific policy areas, as decided by serving Supermen and granted at the discretion of the monarch, over which people in a locality can deliberate and make decisions. On the other hand, Supermen are Common Men deemed by the monarch and his advisors (most being Supermen themselves) to have astounding qualities, demonstrated by a life of personal ambition and national loyalty, of individual flair and interdisciplinary competence. They operate in the Lower House of Parliament, where Commoners had before.
When Supermen are called, instead of taking the high-speed rails which have become near omnipresent, they are transported on slower trains dubbed “Chariots”. Weaving throughout the most magnificent parts of the country, they force Supermen to look out the window. It is to imply “You are one of the great few upon which these lands will depend. You will set an example for the nation’s children. You will recognise that you are duty bound to your countryfolk. You are powerful, and with that comes your duty”.
“Elizabeth is our embodiment of Near. Sir Drake is our embodiment of Far. The Rooted and The Adventurous. The reverence of the Warm Home is the end goal of those who dare to go Murky Afar” declared the Elder
The Younger, not wanting the Elder to rant any longer decided to take point, progressing down the increasing dark Mall.
FOREVER LAW FOUR: LIFE IS HIERARCHICAL
This law has two components: people are not equal, and society requires an elite. The first component entails the reality that some people are smarter, faster, stronger, more beautiful, more moral, more creative, more dynamic, more capable, and stronger willed than others; supermen. The second component entails the reality that society inevitably produces hierarchy for the purposes of leadership and order. Therefore, it should be the purpose of the political system to locate of these supermen, and have their innate prowess integrated into the pursuit of national interest. In this context, supermen are not the same as a credentialed technocrat, nor are they an underexperienced jack-of-all trades. Rather, they are modern polymaths, they are renaissance men.
NOBLE MAN AND DIVINITY
Finally reaching the end of the Mall, the awe of the two men slows them to a gradual halt. Before them sat Britannia. Upon her mighty throne, trident in right hand and shield in left, her eyes were set ablaze with tiny rubies. To Britannia’s bottom right, stood King Alfred. Hand on sword, looking up at Britannia, like a son seeking favour from a fastidious mother. To Britannia’s bottom left, stood Queen Boudicca. Clutching her robes, also longing for her mother’s attention, and finalising the National Triumvirate.
The Younger swiftly pivots, surveying the road which he felt he’d spent a lifetime walking down. The claws of the night sky were visible now, trying to prise the rapidly weakening red horizon open. He pivots back around to face the Elder, who is looking at his watch. He is clearly wary of time too.
“How does this idolatry feel so Christian?” the Younger asked, his dark brown eyes fixed solely on the presence of the Elder.
The Elder snaps his silver pocket watch shut, his icy blue eyes lock with the suddenly rather anxious Younger.
“Is it un-Christian to have statues of Alfred the Great and Boudica?” he asked calmly
“No, but to hold him to the height of a God” fretted the Younger
The Elder let out a sigh, although it was not one of disappointment and contempt, rather it resembled a mixture of understanding and remorse.
“We do not treat them as Gods, we treat them as the best of Us” the Elder explained.
“And what of Britannia? She is not the best of us! What has she done to be in that position?”
The Elder, with a face like stormy hell, stepped towards the Younger, who’s face was of a man preparing for the worst.
“She is us. All of us. ” growled the Elder baring his chipped teeth, as if about to tear out the Younger’s vocal cords.
Realising he was coming across more aggressive than he would like, the Elder straightened up, about turning, and sitting on the marble steps leading of Britannia’s throne. The Younger’s eyes still fixated on the old man. After a moment’s silence, trying to find the appropriate angle from which to approach this matter, the Elder spoke.
“Families together make communities; communities together make a nation…”
“What about the individual? He is a unit of one. Surely, he is the building block of society. Why is he not of upmost importance?” lashed the Younger
“Apologies, I did not realise you fell from the sky” snapped the Elder
The Younger, half-disgusted, half-embarrassed retaliated, determined not to let the old man score another one.
“Elizabeth had no children. What family did she maintain? Alfred the Great was hardly the great warrior. What makes his triumph so special?” barely hiding his sense of triumph.
“Hardly the norm, which is exactly the point. Boudicca had two daughters and shed the blood of Romans when they were taken from her. Alfred’s predilection for the study of the humanities over the art of war was suspect, and yet he led his people to military glory. Great men and women are hardly shaped by welcome experience and things they are comfortable with. They are faced with trial and yet they remain. Not just for themselves, but for others” calmly replied The Elder.
The Younger, on the verge of explosion, conceded to the Elder’s point.
The monarch is mostly a figurehead, but is also tasked, not only with the appointment of Supermen, but the Prime Minister. The hereditary aristocracy, like the monarch, are largely ceremonial. However, as individuals with ties to the land, they are expected to serve as the King’s representative during local deliberations. They cannot hide from their obligations to the people, they must confront them. In both cases, the aristocracy, and the monarch embodiment the aesthetical element of the state, that satiates the human desire for the otherworldly.
FOREVER LAW FIVE: THE NATION AND RELIGION ARE ONE
The ultimate mistake of modernity was that religion would vanish, and that humanity could liberate itself from ideals. This can never be the case. It is the instinct of humanity to ascend to the heavens, to escape death. The Christianity of past bled into the soil from which Britannia has grown. Ask someone if they believe in the 10 Commandments and they will respond as if you have asked them if they possess common sense. The heroes of their nation, ever being added to, exemplify not only the country’s fascination with a sense of a higher good, but gives them their chance to escape death and live on. They are not pagan, but they worship heroes. They are Christian but they may not necessarily know it. The nation is not governed by tyrannical bureaucracy of increasingly overcomplicated regulations on social behaviour. They are governed by a sense of national spirit, unique to them and only them. In the discovery of the interconnectedness of everything, the importance of absolute knowing has been done away with, and instead have mastered the ability to understand. Britainnia has accepted what it is, and it will not hesitate to celebrate what it is.
Darkness has prevailed. The flickering warmth of the sunset has been replaced by an oppressive grey. Before declaring that they really should get going, the Elder stops himself, noticing the Younger is counting on his fingers.
“It’s half-past eight if you’re wondering” the Elder said.
“1… 2… 3… 5” replied the Younger, half-paying attention to the Elder.
“So, you know Byron, but not basic arithmetic. To be noted…” the Elder quipped in his typical nonchalant fashion.
The Younger let out a hearty laugh. Regaining his composure, he responded: “On the contrary old man, I know my arithmetic well. 1 King (Symbol of the Divine), 2 Lords (Of Common Man and Noble Man), 3 Classes (Of Spirit, Of Mind, and Of Labour) and the 5 Forever Laws. That is not a full set. What of four and four of what?” the Younger said, embarrassed at the anticipation in his voice.
“That would be the four seasons” replied the Elder
“What relevance is that? They are surely nothing special. The seasons touch every civilization”
“Precisely! Every civilization is touched by birth and death. We are no different. That is the nature of organic things”
The Younger, out of arguments and feeling rather pathetic – and especially not in the mood to discuss the notion of death – loaded his final shot in the form of a sulky murmur in the Elder’s general direction.
“So, we build cities from scratch, we build magnificent railways, create a culture of heroism, duty, and love, we send our countrymen to discover the depths of space, and a well-rounded self-governing populous, where the baker quotes Carlyle and the politicians understand particle physics… and we are still destined to eventual failure, why bother?”
The Elder was taken aback. He was not used to seeing his son this way.
“Things are not lost forever. Who do you think we’ve been discussing all evening? Things will ‘die’, but they won’t die per se. Look at us. We fly the old flags, we sing the old songs, we worship the old heroes, we convene in the old parliament, and we hail the old crown. But our heritage does not end with them. There will be new flags, new songs, new heroes, new supermen, and maybe new kings and queens, and more than that they will be ours” responded the Elder.
“But still why? Why try if after all of this, we are destined for eventual failure?”
The Elder, rising from his seated position, slamming the end of his twisted staff of iron onto the ground, looked over his shoulder down to the Younger and had the final word:
“It is not enough be alive, we must prove we are”