Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pacifica, An Imaginary History

And so they were pacificists -- pacifists along more practical lines, who, though they never would attack another nation, would all tenaciously and vigorously defend their island should it ever be invaded.

It was written into their constitution. Like the pure democratic Greeks of antiquity, every citizen was an arrow in the communal quiver, a spike up on the battlements. There was thus no need for that bane of freedoms, the standing professional army.

An invasion seemed unlikely most of the time, but the islanders were wise enough to know the world did not share their ideals. That wolves still prowled, and that a nation with offshore drilling capacity could not flaunt its defenselessness and survive for long.

The idea of self-defense was taken very seriously. Monthly drilling was mandatory. This caused some difficulty at first, since the pacificist constitution specifically forbid "coercion of the individual" for any purpose, but after some debate a clever jurist found a soft spot in "of the individual." The council were not impressing citizens into the drills as individuals, but collectively, and such collective coercion was not outlawed.

Loyalty was highly prized. Spies or double agents or saboteurs were jealously watched for in high positions, and accusations frequently hurled. A people's defense would fail if such traitors were permitted to freely plot and sap.

Along with loyalty, bravery was prized most. Or what they called bravery, which was not on the whole equivalent to the thing we mean by that word. It had no stoic or patient quality; it seldom referred to anything but fighting. The islanders were careful to let the world know they were a fighting people. Their bravery might come closer to what we call bravado: A need to prove to peers your toughness and readiness to defend.

It was an edgy, brawling place, with more pistol ranges per capita than even Texas.