Monday, 9 January 2012

'I Surrender!'

Not long ago, in one of the world’s most oppressive dictatorships, there occurred a relatively bloodless revolution. One day, in places of work all across the country, employees were leaving their posts, standing up, placing their hands in the air open-palmed, and proclaiming: ‘I surrender!’ Despite fervent accosting, they refused to sit down.

It was at first presumed to be an organised act of resistance. The presidential dictator demanded that it be stamped out instantly. The army was ordered to shoot to kill any citizen caught with their hands in the air and who refused to lower them on command. It soon came clear, however, that this was not the mass act of defiance it initially seemed to be. It was not that the offending individuals wanted to rise: but rather, once standing, none felt able to lower themselves.

Nevertheless, the soldiers, trained to obey every bloody command of the dictator, would aim their rifles at their targets with a full mind to execution. At that moment, the rifle would slip from their hands; hands that would already be above their heads as they themselves found they were crying out to their own colleagues and citizens alike: ‘I surrender!’

Soon, in less than a day, millions upon millions were standing: their arms high, with their declarations of resignation ringing through the air. Classrooms of schoolchildren would rise as one in challenging displays of passivity when commanded to recite their times tables. Housewives across the country would state their abdication, with only their television sets as witnesses. Only the very elderly, infirm and insane remained sedentary; and even then, the obscure sense of demand that affected the well had the power to raise a surprising number of those that could be presumed beyond its call.

Inevitably, there were casualties. Patients died in the operating theatre while the surgeons stood helplessly nearby, their implements falling from open hands. All flights were grounded after the first planes fell out of the sky. And yet, there was no panic, for all understood that the plague that had overcome them was in some obscure way necessary: a purging, perhaps, of the nation’s soul. And as the sewers began to overflow, and fires raged in buildings from which there could be no evacuation, as one the citizens instinctively knew. All hands were now in the air: all who could were now standing. All had surrendered.

All except the presidential dictator himself. He remained firmly seated in his official residence, waiting, no doubt, for some sort of return to normality, as if it were all but a bad dream. For three days and nights, he sat, while his country stood. Silent, immobile, starving, exhausted and soiled: but resolutely resigned, and uncomplaining.

In the early hours of the fourth day he was seen walking out of his residence, his arms in the air, a look of mad desperation in his eyes. ‘I surrender!’ he said to his people, though few save a handful of immobile soldiers of the presidential guard were close enough to hear. As he did so, almost as one, the arms dropped across the country. A murmuring swept over it like a wave, as all waited for further instruction from an undetermined source. None came.

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