In order to generate the energy that the Continuum required for the narratives it delivered to the Collective, energy for the great dramas and the intrigues the Continuum incessantly devoured, energy for the stories that provided meaning to the disembodied consciousness of the Collective’s membership, the Continuum became an adept, it became an artist at developing the experience of discontent.
Throughout the million worlds of the Empire, with its trillions of people, only a tiny fraction enjoyed lives of peace and relative security, the majority were in a perpetual state of uncertainty, of uneasiness, fully occupied with the desire for a better future.
There was a constant steady pressure derived from the experience of lack, of having nothing, and from the felt need to protect what little resources they had, resources that were always in a state of depletion, this pressure drove the narratives forward.
Discontentment was energy.
The people had ambitions, most of which were centered on the simple desire to live out their lives and raise their families, to see them advance and to experience some joy in a state of relative peace and security.
That prospect was always under threat.
Happiness is what the people desired, they were conditioned to believe that it could only be found in extrinsic things.
Access to those things was under the constant control of the Empire through the Continuum, down to the very basics; including food and water.
Everything and everyone was owned by the state, there was no such thing as private property, or privacy of any kind.
Most of the people living in the Empire had nothing, they accumulated no wealth, received no inheritance, passed nothing on to their children. They lived hand to mouth and had little thought for the future beyond the endless search for safety and the hope for a good night of sleep.
They were the dispossessed.
Even those in the lowest class of citizens treated these people, the people who comprised “the masses,” they treated them contemptuously, mocking them, mocking their frailty, calling them names mocking them as “Food of the Gods.”
Those without class had no rights as citizens, they were outcasts, untouchable, they did everything they could to avoid the notice of the Empire.
They were the fools of the universe, wholly owned by the state, they were less than slaves, their lives had no value, they could be hunted for sport, and often were.
On some worlds they were even cannibalized in ritualistic feasts.
They were never educated, they were forbidden to learn to read or write, to calculate numbers, though there were always some among them who possessed such knowledge and passed it on.
Not every outcaste was born in their condition, some were sentenced to it, stripped of their class and caste for their crimes against the Empire, for the amusement of the Collective.
It was a great source of drama to watch a disgraced and fallen member of a higher class, suffer the outrages that were visited on the low. To watch them try to protect their children as they were sent with nothing but some rags on their back to find their way in the world.
The lives and deaths of the outcastes were meaningless; unsung, unremembered and unknown, they were in the absolute majority on each and every world, and they were regarded as if they were nothing at all
Privacy was a luxury, inasmuch as it was an illusion. A person could only make pretenses for privacy, knowing all the while that there was no escaping watchful eyes of the Empire, or the watchful presence of the gods.
The common man and woman lived secretive lives, they did not share their resentments or their hopes with anyone. This was the closest thing to real privacy they could manage. They hid their pain and their fears inside of themselves. They hid their true feeling even from those closest to them.
The revelation of such things was the most profound expression of love a person could issue. They performed rituals around their disclosures hiding them in secret codes, rituals which they had to invent in order for their intimate partners to receive the message and comprehend it.
In these covert expressions they showed their absolute devotion to one another and found their place of belonging.
A tap, a touch, a blink of the eyes. The common person developed profound abilities in the art of concealment; it was non-verbal, intuitive and unconscious.
The oppression of fear clung to the people like a moist heat, robbing them of the air they breathed. They dared not complain about it, speak a word about it, if they did they could risk the loss of everything.
Only those who had nothing already, had nothing to fear.
The Continuum delighted in exposing these secret systems, at directing children to betray their parents, at sewing dissent among families.
When it was able to coerce a loving couple to betray one another, to surprise each other by the ease with which they gave up their most cherished secrets, in those moments the Continuum was ecstatic.
There was no greater drama, nothing more piquant for the voyeur’s table.
Rebel cells were intrinsically xenophobic. They had to be for the sake of their survival, not just for operational security.
Those who harbored rebellion in their hearts had to be conditioned to see every other person or group as an enemy. This was not hard to accomplish, the more difficult task was getting any citizen of the Empire to trust anyone else, even for a brief period of time.
Paranoia was paramount in the hearts and minds of everyone.
For the rebel, even members of their own cabal had to be seen as potential threats, to be treated as such, because it had to be assumed that anyone could turn against you at any time.
That was reality, betrayal was a way of life.
There was no middle ground, the understanding was always this: you were either with us or against us.
Dissent would not be tolerated, fidelity to the organizing principle was more exacting than the faith of the Imperial cult.
Revolution is a zero-sum game. You either held the esteem of the rebel, like holding ground in their hearts and minds, or you did not.
Ideologies were constructed with the expectations for crime and punishment built into them as inherent features.
Justice was uncompromising.
There were never any surprises.
Everyone had a breaking point at which they turned against their own.
Everything was negotiable, even morality.
In the mind of the revolutionary killing was not murder, not even assassination, anything was permissible if it served the end toward which they were moving.
They gave no thought at all as to whether the crimes they committed were actually in furtherance of the ends they sought, they only had to believe that they were in order to feel justified in committing them.
Violence was always self-defense; every murder, every assassination, every moment of coercion and torture, the story was that the crimes were committed for the sake of self-preservation, always, for the safeguarding of the movement, always in defense of the cause they served, not their person.
Ethics were transactional.
In the heart of the revolutionary even the innocent could be killed, if their murder could be justified as an attack on the systems of oppression.
For rebels engaged in the struggle against the Empire, there were no innocents, everyone was complicit, you were either with them or against them.
In the view of the common rebel, almost everyone was against them, because no one was altogether for them and they could not trust people beyond their immediate relationships.
Everything was situational
Alliances among rebel cells were tenuous at best.
The revolutionary cycle is predictable, dependable and measureable. The Imperial conditioning guaranteed this, but even that was only an augmentation of the natural tendencies that every descendent of the Ancient People carried within them.
Violence generates its own cycle of violent reprisal with as much certainty as the orbit of a planet around its parent star.
Revolution is a turning of the wheel, oppression generates aggression, just as repression generates resistance, as suppression generates expression, and as depression generates a desire for change.
The pattern of the revolutionary cycle was Newtonian, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
While it is true that Newton’s observations did not bear themselves out in the study of physics, they were much more reliable in the observance of the human condition.
The agents of revenge often seek satisfaction for the principle of it. While they may desire that their actions redress a wrong, balancing the scales is not necessary. They are prompted to vengeance merely to satisfy a need, like hunger or thirst.
In this way revenge is like gluttony, it is an appetite that can never be satisfied, and while seeking to satisfy it, the agents of vengeance ultimately destroy themselves.
Revenge leaves the person unfulfilled and it invites a similar response from those targeted by its agents.
The victim of oppression lashes out and creates more victims.
In this way the cycle is perpetuated, and the society within which the cycle continues, no matter how big or small, the society is caught up in it, until the community is finally destroyed in its entirety, like a person drinking water to the point of toxicity.
Life is competition, it is a perpetual state of striving against others for the stuff of life, whether that be clean air and water, food and energy, or social status and recognition.
Revolution is conflict, it is conflict without end, and every person is caught in the midst of it, whether they are active participants in a rebellion, or not.
A person may be in power, or in the opposition, or just a bystander. Regardless of the individual’s position, there is no escaping the forces of revolution.
The rebel must be hungry for it, must thrive in it, they must live with the desire for change burning inside them, smoldering with a steady-quiet heat, until the moment comes when they explode into action.
There was no avoiding it.
A person either had to lead or follow, or get out of the way. No matter which side of the conflict they were on, or whether they were interested in participating or not.
What is paramount for the revolutionary is that they cannot know that the conflict they are engaged in never ends. To keep their commitment to the cause high, they must feel that the justice they are seeking is an inevitability.
This is what actualizes them.
They must see that their sacrifice matters, or they will not accept the suffering they will be called on to endure.
If they believe it, they will sacrifice themselves and everything that they love.
If their faith falters, they will fail, and one weak link in their chain is liable to shatter the work of the entire movement.
This is the most common outcome.
Part Six (a), Rebellion
Appendix Chapter Eleven, Continuum
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
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