Germer (Thursday, 2011 November 3)

November 3, 2011

[Note: my fridge is doing nicely since I can’t cook at the moment. Also, I read a review of Cory Doctorow’s newest book; sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?]

In all honesty, my little Sumi training manual is an amusement, a project I work on when I’m too angry to work on anything else. It’s a little soothing to compose Sumi triplets to explain technical concepts, and with a little poetic license some of those triplets are just the synthesized names for Earther technical words which don’t have indigenous equivalent. Mental exercise, which I hardly get any more. Mostly it’s just waiting. Example: fuel cells for my stove are sold out everywhere within a hundred kilometers. I’m promised that more will be delivered "by the end of this week, and if not, surely by the end of the next one." I therefore took the liberty of acquiring a handheld convection coil, runs off the power grid, when I was in Highest Gardens today, which (I will admit) does a pretty good job of heating my bath water. That should at least make the waiting a little easier.

Even Revolutionary Committee stuff is simmering, proceeding mainly based on obstinancy and patience. In all honesty — which, as I’m sure you’ve heard, is hard to find on this planet — it’s probably that which is making it so hard for me to focus. I was at a meeting last night with Jamie and one of the administrative staff at my school, a sage little Zhenae named Utkeu. I had been hoping to talk him around to our side, provide some kind of memetic strategy for the kinds of public messages we needed to make, so we all went out for drinks and grilled skitters. I was plying Utkeu with a line of reasoning about the need for change.

"The corruption part is the worst," I’d said. "No Zhenae wants need to change because the whole system, straight up to the Planetary Counsel, is just as bad. And even the Zhenae who denounce corruption still perform it themselves, when they can."

"True," said Utkeu, deigning not to notice that my awkward phrasing had included him as potentially corrupt. "It is a problem with deepest roots. Hope that they will wither and be replaced."

"That’s the thing," Jamie said. Jamie’s Sumi is serviceable, but with very English sentence constructions. "The tree is sick. Don’t you want to replace it?"

"Replace? With an axe?" Utkeu did the Zhenae equivalent of a snort at a funny joke. "Not wise. Its fruit may be poison, but its branches still provide shade.. and shelter. Zhen is a peaceful planet."

"Very peaceful." I said, with a glance at Jamie. "But I ask myself, if this were my world, would there not come a day when I thought peace was no longer enough?"

"No longer enough," Utkeu repeated. "No longer really enough. I understand what you say. But this tree is very big, very heavy. If it were to fall, it would crush. Pups are like you, too young to remember. There were many stories during the Zhenae struggle for independence. Some things happen to a family before one’s eyes, and they never really see correctly again." A pause, and then Utkeu fixed me with a suspicious stare. "We are just talking, correct? Hypotheses?" We’d agreed beforehand not to say anything incriminating, just feel him out, but Utkeu was dancing dangerously close to a true question, and if he asked it, I didn’t know if I could bring myself to lie to him.

"We are Missionaries," I dodged. "We are not political. We ask to understand better." I chewed on my skitter, not trusting myself to make eye contact, but I could sense his unease bordering on anger.

"Children should be careful when playing with sharp tools," he said softly. "Have the best night." And then he walked off.

I’m dwelling now on this conversation. Utkeu’s not stupid. Is this just a cultural misunderstanding? He can’t really be willing to spend his life in a broken system with no possibility for getting better, can he?

My faith is what helps me in times like this. My being on this planet, or coming at the same time as Jamie, or the whole affair with Morgan — these coincidences are all part of a greater plan. I can feel that in my bones. We’re going to be the agents of progress. All we need to do is apply a gentle pressure in a few tender areas, and we’ll see if this place doesn’t squeal. I think Utkeu will be pleased once the dust clears, pleased to see the same potential, the same wide-open canvas that we’re used to having on Earth.

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