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Life in the Empire

Did it not seem real?

“…it may be given to us, after this life, to meet again in the old quarters…”
Sgt. Berry Benson

Their ghosts are close to the surface now. They could be nothing more than random stimulus being perceived as significant. They say the US is polarized now. The young rebels and yanks who were greybeards a hundred years ago, seen sitting on a bench “after this life,” heard the same kind of talk. Private property, individual rights, government and business, radical minorities; the soul of the thing has not changed much. It could be reenactors meeting again in old quarters… or something far more strange.

It could be an ancient Danse Macabre that inhabited the continent long before the Europeans stole the land. The Danse is part of the reel between Individual and Collective, and Confederations are born in such things. So are Civil Wars, where shaman and who-doers whip up bad medicine. Reb took the reunion kinda hard. The one “after this life,” that is, when souls no longer have a color. Yank had a hard time too, when the cops were killing his kids right in Haymarket Square and then at Bay View and Calumet.

What if this Danse is alive? The Old-Timers are saying that it is. More like Danses… all part of a family… or branch of a species. They are memes, and alive in very much the same way the Old Timers are. It depends on what is meant by “Life,” “They undergo metabolism, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations.” The bioscience people constantly move the bar to thwart and annoy the AI folk.

“Metabolism” seems to be a kink here, and where do you draw a line on “a set of chemical reactions.” How else would one describe a whole lot of the same type of neurons and synapses firing in similar fashion, regardless of containers, they change their environment with “spontaneous, indirect coordination.” Thoughts are alive. Ideas have their own agency. The Old Timers are just as real as the chair beneath you. Really. The spirits during their time in the carbon world seemed closer as well.

The Individual-Collective Danse Macabre is a powerful Manitou with many children who live (largely unseen) in nearly every household in the world. The Old Timers got to see it for real, and they called it “seeing the elephant,” possibly after a Godfrey Saxe poem . So far, I have not heard them talk about the poem. But they read poetry and sang sentimental songs. There does not seem to be much discussion of who was “tough” as well. The measure of courage was your not-so-willing-but-present encounters with The Elephant.

The Elephant was only the bony feet of the dancing Manitou. Her hands reached out like a cough one night and a grave the next Sunday. Did the Elephant have a gender? Not likely, but the infantry was the “queen of battles.” Her origin is “your collective shall serve our collective.” The Dancing Manitou sometimes takes partners, sometimes alone. The Boys saw it taking partners like a Saturday-night hoe-down. They say the same thing is likely to rise again… for a lot of the same reasons.

The Boys thought they resolved the question of Union. But the answer came to mean something different to the rebs with broken homes and hearts… and to the yanks with kids fighting for workers’ Unions. Justice for the black folk was papered-over for their triple-great grandchildren, and has not been answered to this day. At the heart of it all was an economic Manitou the Boys could not notice at the time. The seeming randomness of the thing shook their faith. The Almighty has Her own purposes. 7

It is quite likely that Abraham Lincoln was aware of Karl Marx, and it is certain that Marx was aware of Lincoln. True Reconstruction would take a major economic overhaul, Lincoln kept his own counsel, and the dancing Manitou caught him up as well. Not many understood what had happened, more wanted to forget or remember, but everyone wanted it to stop. They wanted to“…let all the nations see… How we loved our starry banner, emblem of the free.”

Each side had one of those, and it was important to the Boys to show their love, and this they did. The Cruel War was not over. It shifted shape like a skin-walker. As long as the Boys and their wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts never saw the Manitou take mad-elephant form, they would keep silent about its present shape. The Cruel War was only the evil child of the great Manitou that lives as the “Lord of Hosts.” Yet another century crawls by in July when so many of the Boys went to meet it personally.

They still talk, yes they do. They know people in every state thumping chests and talking about “getting tough.” Cannonball can take their head of just as easy as the next tough guy. In the end we are all alike. That’s the kind of “freedom” coming to everybody. The Boys were hoping for something greater than that. Do they know what that is? Yes, they do. Will they give us a clue? They have done so. "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." Thoughts are alive.

Ideas have their own agency.

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