Thursday, March 3, 2011

World Domination, part 1

Hey ... did I ever tell you about that time I took over the world?

It all started when a bunch of us were sitting around at the pub - I can't tell you the name of it - there are some secrets that still need to be kept, after all - it's a legal thing. So, let's just call it "The North Mountain Tavern" for purposes of the story. It was a basement pub somewhere in or around the campus area, and that's about all I can tell you without violating the terms of the settlement.

Anyway, a bunch of us were sitting in this basement pub, knocking back some cold beers. Aside from me, there was Jerry, Vicki, Gary "the Pro", Crystal, and Mumbly Joe.

I guess I should tell you a little bit about these people. Also, I should tell you that their names have all been changed in order to protect the guilty parties.

Jerry liked computers. He'd been playing around with them since he was a kid, and already had is undergrad degree in some kind of computer-related field - Computer Systems Engineering or Information Tech or something like that. He already had a full time job in the IT department at a local company but was working on his Master's.

Vicki was the real brains of our group. Most people think it would be Jerry, because he was so good at dealing with computers, and was good with numbers, and had that egghead look about him. Don't get me wrong, he was brilliant in his way, but Vicki was smarter. Like, real-life smart. She could look at any situation and get to the root of the matter without batting an eye. She was the only one of the group who beat me at games far more than she lost. Any games, too: board games, video games, puzzles, chess - you name it, she'd beat me four out of five times, easily. Oh, and she was a Journalism Major of all things. Of course, back then you couldn't swing a dead cat on campus without hitting a Journalism Major ... or three.

Gary was about ten or fifteen years older than the rest of us. He'd been attending THE University* since before most of us were in grade school. I don't know if he just had a hard time making up his mind what he wanted to do with his life, or if just ... like ... everything interested him and he thought he could learn it all. Maybe he just enjoyed being a student so much that he couldn't bear the thought of graduating. He'd changed majors at least half a dozen times, too, so he was the quintessential "Professional Student" - which is why we all called him "the Professional". He pretended that it bothered him, but you could tell he really sort of liked it. Probably because it made him sound cool ... like he was some kind of assassin, or something.

Crystal was fortune teller. She read palms, worked out horoscopes and did card readings and such. She was majoring in Social Work with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition, and was pretty much exactly what you'd expect a Fortune Teller to be like - at least on the surface. She always smelled of sandalwood or patchouli and wore loose-fitting blouses and flowing sashes, floral-print shawls and hoop earrings, and long colorful skirts with sandals. She believed in peace and free love and would smoke just about anything other than tobacco. She loved to get high and listen to the Dead and Phish and just dance and spin around. She was the total mystic-hippie package ... apart from the violent outbursts.

As for Mumbly Joe, well, he was a vampire. How he became a Creature of the Night was a long and twisted story unto itself, so I won't go into the details here. Suffice it to say that he grew up in West Virginia about a hundred years ago, and that the night he was turned, he'd been in a bar fight which left him with a dislocated jaw and part of his tongue bitten off. (You see, whatever condition you're in when you're turned, you're stuck with it for the rest of your unlife.) Between those facts and his archaic hillbilly accent, most of us only understood about half of what he said - and that was on a good night. So, you can guess why we called him Mumbly Joe.

Finally, there was me. Well, you already know all you need to know about me, so ... moving on:

As I was saying, we were all sitting around in this basement pub, drinking beers and people-watching, when the idea just came to me in a flash: We could solve the whole world's problems. In fact we had already solved most of them over drinks during the course of the last couple of years. What we lacked, however, was the proper leverage ... some method by which we could implement our solutions. So while the others were discussing the merits of the oatmeal stout produced by a local micro-brewery in relation to Guinness, I hit upon the first part of the plan: the six of us needed to take over the world.

"Hey guys," I said. "Everybody shut up a minute."

They all stopped and looked at me. Crystal's eyes narrowed, but the rest of them seemed ready to hear me out. Mumbly Joe just drooled a bit.

"I have an idea, and I think it's a good one. So I want you to hear me out."

"Well, get on with it," replied Jerry. "What's so earth-shatteringly important?"

"I think we need to take over the world."

"Wait ... what?" That was The Pro. "Why would you want to do that?"

"So we can fix things."

"Fix things how," asked Vicki. "And what things, exactly?"

"Everything," I said. "So we can fix everything."

"What ... " began Gary. "You mean like poverty and disease and ..."

"And war and world hunger. Yes ... all of it."  I leaned my chair back against the wall and folded my hands behind my head. "That's right. You heard me. All of it."

Vicki chimed in again. "O.K. So let's assume you actually manage to ..."

"We," I interrupted. "Let's assume we manage it."

"All right, fine. Let's assume we manage to take over the world. How would you actually fix everything?"

"Just think about it," I said. "How long have we all known each other? Wait ... I mean how long have all six of us been coming to this bar and drinking and talking together?"

"I'd put it at twenty months, a week and two days." That was Jerry again. He always knew weird shit like that. It was like he had a calendar, clock and stopwatch inside his head. He could also usually tell you the temperature within a degree or two. He was Rain Man, but without the fake movie autism or the freak-outs.

"All right, almost two years." The others nodded. "And in that time, we've had how many conversations?" 

"Jerry, I meant that rhetorically," I held my hand up to stop him from giving me the answer. "The six of us have had many discussions ranging from the deepest philosophical topics such as the nature of Thought, Existence and Truth to the most trivial, such as wondering just exactly at what point George Lucas had the idea to make Leia into Luke's sister. And in each case, whether the topic was metaphysical, economic, political or just nerdy-as-all-hell, we always manage to come to a reasonable consensus."

"So what," asked Crystal. "Just because we all finally came together on a decision that D&D 4th edition is clearly inferior to every edition that came before it doesn't mean we're qualified to solve the world's problems."

"Right, Crystal. Absolutely. But think about it a minute. Why is it the six of us, with such differing backgrounds, can manage to find common ground, when the legitimate socio-political structure of this country can't seem to agree on the freaking temperature outside the damned Capitol building?"

"For starters," Vicki chimed in, "politicians are too busy trying to score their own political points and never actually listening to what anyone else has to say. Well, anyone who either doesn't agree with them already or doesn't have a large campaign contribution at the ready. And absolutely never, do any of these people take the time to actually understand the others' points of view."


"Also," said The Pro, "that old saw about there being 'two sides to every issue' is total bullshit."

"Yeah. There are usually as many sides to an issue as there are people considering it," added Crystal.

"Usually, though it boils down to somewhere between three and five major opinion groups," said Jerry.

"And the only reason people believe the two sides narrative," continued Crystal, "is because that's what the two parties and the corporate media servants want the public to believe."

"It's easier to control the public mind, when you narrow the debate down to false dichotomies," put in Vicki.

I held up my hand again. "You're all one hundred percent correct. But how do we get past all of that?"

"You'd have to change public opinion," said Jerry.

"Or bring down the mainstream media." A wicked smile was growing across Crystals face.

"Or, I think what he's getting at," said Vicki, "is you just bypass it altogether, and set up a new system."

"Right." I nodded. "And in order to do that, we need to take over the world."

*Some people will understand the reason for the special emphasis on the word "THE" and what it means. Anyone else ... doesn't.

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