She is sitting at her desk staring out at the bright spring day, noticing the passers-by laughing and waving hallos to each other. She is thinking that on days like this everyone looks healthy and happy. The park across from the classroom is buzzing with joggers, yoga classes, children in their playground, young couples kissing and older couples laughing in their continued love. They all look so happy and carefree. Healthy. Is this really heaven?
She hears her name being called and slowly turns to respond. She smiles and turns slightly to look at Ms Eleanor.
‘Sorry Ms Eleanor …I was daydreaming…’
‘Yes Claire I know. Can you please outline for to the class the basis of ’The Cincinnatus Effect’? When you’re quite ready, Claire. Thank you.’
‘Certainly Ms Eleanor. Let me see…yes…well…Many modern historians have identified ‘The Cincinnatus Effect’ as the primary reason for th….’
‘I am sorry Claire. I am referring to less recent history. Can you elaborate for the class?’
Ms Eleanor was old fashioned and liked her facts stacked straight like building blocks. She was old, the oldest person Claire knew, certainly more than fifty years older than anyone else in the classroom. The students were sitting in a variety of arrangements. Some lay back on large beanbags – solo or with a partner or two. Some shared the comfortable sofas whilst others preferred, like Claire, the more traditional desks. One or two sat crossed legged on the floor. Others stood. The room was large, clean and comfortable. Books and art works were to hand. Some doodled on their pads sending each other notes or drawings to the printer or poems to their blog. Some were not listening but most seemed to be.
Ms Eleanor’s light, clean spectacles framed her bright blue eyes calmly anticipating a response. Claire was conscious of the whispers she had heard that Ms Eleanor’s grandfather had some involvement in AR2 as she began her response to the old lady’s question. She stared out the window again. So many happy people
Cincinnatus had twice been made Dictator with supreme power in The Roman Empire to manage a war on one occasion and to put an end to the kingly ambitions on another. He had been a wealthy and powerful aristocrat but had lost his fortune helping his son who had been sentenced to death. At the time he was first asked to be Dictator he was a farmer. He held the post for 16 days whilst he personally led and fought alongside the Roman army, winning and preventing the subsequent slaughter of the defeated troops. On the day his task was complete gave up his post and returned to his farm. And he did the same a second time when asked to protect the empire from an ambitious man who wanted to be king. He gave up absolute power of an empire once he had completed the work he had been assigned twice. This was over 3000 years ago and his story although remembered was never really taken seriously by any human system of government until AR2.
Of course, over the centuries, millennia really, there had been attempts but history had shown that, when it came to power, the new precisely replaced the old with predictable exactitude. No exception until AR2.
‘Yes. Yes. Claire. I am sorry to interrupt your fond review of not so laudable ancient times but can you please tell the class…Can you just get to the point?’
Claire exhaled gently. She was more used to this than most other 17 year olds. She could be out there enjoying that sunshine with any one of her many admirers, male and female, but it was her choice to be here. She turned to face Ms. Eleanor and smiled. She brushed her fringe from her forehead and looked around at the other eager and not so eager students waiting for her to speak.
‘The point is power Ms Eleanor.’
‘Yes! Yes! Go on!’
‘Even thousands of years before Cincinnatus humans knew there was something amiss with how we managed power. But it didn’t really matter because we lived in much smaller groups, families really and power then really wasn’t…well very powerful.’
‘Hurry up Claire the class is nearly finished!’
‘OK! The real meaning is that power can never be held for very long by a single person, group or entity. Allowing power to stay still means everything eventually stagnates and then decays. The point is humans in power normally want to stay in power and leave it to their children. That is human nature. But power demands a higher reasoning and that is the point. Or rather the question…’How do you
The bell started to ring and the rest of the group started preparing to leave.
‘The question is!’ Claire continued. ‘How do you ensure ‘The Cincinnatus Effect’ is the entity default? How does a society engineer that all the time? Well?’
‘By scaring the fuck out of them, Claire’ replied Ms Eleanor. ‘By scaring the living fuck out of them.’
‘Yes Ms Eleanor. By scaring the living fuck out of them. That message was finally received and will never be forgotten.’
The rest of the class were now leaving, laughing and applauding Ms Eleanor’s answer. Three of them waited for Ms Eleanor. Sandra, Ellen and Robert grouped around her. Robert put his arm around her waist and bent to kiss her on the neck and then passionately on her lips. Ms Eleanor’s left leg rose slightly off the ground as she rested her body into Robert’s. Sandra and Ellen smiled at each other and then Ellen tapped Robert on his shoulder saying ‘Come on you two. We’re waiting.’ The couple stopped kissing, shrugged at their friends and walked out of the classroom. Leaving Claire alone for a few moments before her next class arrived.
‘I love teaching those old fuckers!’ she whispered to herself.