We fight for the freedom
It was a marvelously grey and boring spring morning in Azadî, the People’s Republic’s new capitol city. The tediousness filled everything: the park, the streets, the air. A fantastic wasteland. He looked out of his window in this newly built house. The flat was small, practical and neutral with few simple pieces of furniture. All flats were alike. Fantastic tediousness. No fights for apartments, nobody showing off, no braggarts, no bribery, no housing problems. A simple provision for everybody – and they all were alike, they all were the same. Even the clothes had been standardized after the Glorious Revolution.
He looked down at himself, a simple grey shirt, a pair of simple grey trousers, simple black shoes. No colors, no patterns of ethnic groups, no clan or family symbols. He removed a small piece of fluff from his shirt and looked into the mirror. He had to get used to the clean shaved face, but party members had to be role models. Beards represented fashion and individuality. Beards were inconvenient for workmen and farmers and they were a symbol of the old masters and elites. Just like lavish hairstyles. He stroked one hand over the rough stubble that covered his head. It was time to re-shave his head although he had such nice hair, dense, no thinning and still black while he was nearly 45 years old. But that was just vanity. He was a teacher and a teacher had to be a role model for his students who would grow up as the first free generation after the Glorious Revolution. The first generation of freedom.
He left his flat. locking the door was not necessary at all. Everybody had what they needed, there was no robbery, no burglary anymore, another benefit of the Glorious Revolution. The air stood still in front of the high house with its ten storeys. It was not the only building of its kind, quite the contrary. Just after the Revolution, the new leadership had decided to modernize all cities in the country and to tear down the old city center with its narrow streets and old houses, full of diseases, prostitution, drugs, violence and fire. The new government had built huge alleys, new parks, new schools, new hospitals and hundreds of the high houses, every single one with 40 flats, all alike, the same façade, the same staircase, the same flats. No fights for building ground, water or the access to a toilet. tediousness carved in stone.
One should not get this wrong. In fact, he was no boring man. He was a passionate advocate of the revolution – and had been one, long before it had been fashionable. He really believed in the ideals of freedom and same rights. He had joined the Party as a student, motivated by the passionate wish, to end the foreign tyranny and give the people back their voice. Many had shared those dreams and the revolution had been emotional, stormy, passionate and bloody. The governor of the foreign oppressors had tried to put down a peaceful protest with violence, an action that really sparked the flame of the revolution. The civil war raged for years, split families, couples, friends and neighbors. Hundreds of thousands died, even more fled the country. He, his comrades, all people over 30 had have enough excitement for ten year. The tediousness right now was like a good wine, a good book, it was a balm in wounded souls. The young people, who could not understand how lucky they were, rebelled against the tediousness, the uniform clothes, the laws about beards and hairstyles, all the educational seminars, sporting events, party events and the given career prospects. But that would pass. The freedom had arrived in Biharim and now it needed to be defended. The country was surrounded by enemies, from the outside, of course. But as well from the inside. There were people still defending the exploitative monarchy, mostly the former elite who had lost money, possession and influence but some nostalgics, too, blinded by the splendor of a monarchy. Biharim had no need for kings, they had something much better: Freedom. Everybody could utter his opinion, everybody could help to build the new, the ideal, the free state. This is, why the country was called a People’s Republic.
Walking down the street, he met an elderly lady, his neighbor from the second floor. “Good Morning Rêheval!” he said smiling. The old lady looked at him and answered with a face like stone: “Good morning Mamoste”. She used the old title “master”, but he was lenient. She was an old lady, 80 years or more, and she could not get used to her new life. „Rêheval, don´t you want to join me to the city center? We could buy new clothes for you!” Now her stares tried to kill him. The old lady had a colorful scarf around her head, covering most of her long, white head. Her dress was black but adorned with colorful handmade embroidery, the old costume of the salesmen.
„I am not going to wear… trousers!” she said with disgust in her voice. Even the idea of putting her legs into those things seemed to be an obscene idea in her eyes. Inside, he shook his head. All women in Biharim are wearing trousers nowadays. There was no special costume for the female part of society. The women had short hair – and they worked like the men. One should not measure a person’s value by his looks. What counts is the character. And this character shows in fulfilling the duties of a good citizen.
“May I, at least, carry your bags for you, Rêheval?”. “Stop calling me this, Mamoste. And thank you, but no thank you. I am still capable of carrying my own bags with the few things one can buy today at this so-called market. Oh, and this hole they call a flat, when I think of my old house… I should not even think of it!“ Grumbling, the old woman entered the house and he shook his head, walking down the street.
This really was a problem. Many old people thought just like her and they were the center of their families. He stopped and wrote this down on some paper, he always had in his pockets. He was one of the Neighborhod Guardians. On regular base he wrote reports to the local party office and sometimes he made some annotations or remarks. He wrote down “Training for seniors?”.
He arrived at the school yard just in time for the morning banner applause and found his place in the row of teachers, mostly party members like him. Singing the new national anthem filled him with pride. Now they were a nation and no longer enslaved people. Freedom, Freedom is the highest good, we defend her with our blood he sang loud and proud. Most of the students only sang because they knew that a refusal would lead to punishment and hour-long reprimands. When the daily ritual was over, the teenagers entered the school building, running, laughing and chatting. He smiled and shook his head. “Look at them. The boys with some bourgeois hairstyles, the girls with braided tails, the shirts are not tugged in… it is a shame. Their parents fought for the freedom and this is how they thank them and us”, a colleague thundered, a thin man with no hair on his head. He always looked like freshly polished. He did not even have the hint of a beard shadow, wore small round glasses on the big hooked nose and his big Adam's apple jumped excitedly when he spoke. He had a hard time, taking his fellow teacher seriously. He was a party member and, just like him, had fought for the Revolutionary Guard. But sometimes, he was just too strict. “Oh, I think it is not that serious, my old friend. We cannot force them to accept the freedom, they have to learn it for themselves. They have to understand that they live in a better, a brave new world. It is our duty to show them that the renunciation of individuality is a small price for freedom and peace. Those are young people, Rêhevalê me, rebellion is part of being young. If we hadn´t rebelled…” he laughed and petted his colleague on the shoulder. The bald teacher was not convinced. “You should shave your head, Rêhevalê me, we are supposed to be role-models, don´t forget that!”
He scratched his short bristles of hair, feeling a bit ashamed. He was right, he knew that, he knew that he was vain and that this was bourgeois behavior, but he just hated the feeling of the freshly shaved head and because of this, he only shaved once or twice a week.
The wide and long hallways of the school were decorated with specially chosen quotes from the “Manifest of Freedom” that should inspire teachers and students alike. He passed “All power to the people”, “Workers and Farmers are the backbone of our new world”, walked along “Possession of land is robbery of the people. All land to the people!” and entered at “The Revolution has to be spread all over the world” his classroom.
The students were still excited, running around talking, but when he entered, they quickly sat down and greeted him. It was the senior year of a polytechnical high-school and today, he would teach Citizenship and Ideology of Freedom. Like in all classes, some of the students had a very relaxed attitude towards the official clothing and hairstyle rules. Only three of sixteen boys had their heads shaved, some experimented with what they called beards. Shirts were not properly tugged into the trousers, some of the girls had tiny braided tails, meaning the hair was too long. The brave girls had earrings, some even a nose-piercing. That was, at least, something good – in a way. In the ancient dark times, those golden rings had been a privilege of nobility. Looks don´t matter, a lesson those young people still had to learn.
He started his lesson with a repetition of the 23 basic rules for a free society. Rule 12: All men shave off their beards, as they are symbols of the old tyranny and a sign of individuality. Rule 15: All men shave off all the hair on their head and keep it like this, as hair is a symbol of vanity and individuality. Rule 17: Jewelry is forbidden as it is a sign of vanity, individuality and the old bourgeois and noble elites. Rule 19: Women wear short hair and no make-up. Rule 20: The uniform is the ideal clothing for everybody.
“Come on, rule 20, why is this rule of fundamental importance? No? Nobody? Ok, so I wil repeat it one more time but you will write an essay about that topic as homework, ok? The uniform clothing symbolizes that all people in Biharim are equal, there are no social ranks or classes anymore. Look at Berfin, she as a nose-piercing. In the days of the tyranny this had been a symbol of aristocracy. If she had been caught wearing one, she would have been severely punished. The young girl looked pugnaciously: “I am from an aristocratic family…” Some students looked nearly shocked, others started to giggle or whisper to their neighbor.
He closed his eyes for an instant, taking a deep breath. “Berfin, there is no such thing like aristocracy. People are not better because they happen to be born into a special family or clan. All mankind is born naked and helpless, equal. Equality is a birth-right, the fundament of your new free society. I’d like to talk to you after school and maybe I should contact your parents…”
A loud turmoil in the hall interrupted his little speech. What was going on? He had no chance against the curiosity of a bunch of 16year old teenagers and they ignored his half-hearted protests anyway. Someone opened the door and they could see that most of the classes flooded the hallway and were nearly running outside. A fire? No, there had been no alarm. Something important was obviously going on outside. He followed his class to the yard. On the street, the turmoil was even larger. A group of Young Revolutionaries seemed to have organized a protest. There were banners, flags and chants but he could not quite understand the words.
With his students, he crossed the yard now could understand some words like “Traitor” or “Counterrevolutionary”. That was not very good, he had a bad feeling. The atmosphere was electric and full of anger. Finally, he saw that the pioneers had formed a ring around several persons. One of them was his old neighbor. The people were tied up with ropes and everyone spit at them, threw mud and even more disgusting things at them. The long white hair of the elderly lady had been shorn off, her dress was torn down and her face was dirty, but her eyes shot arrows of hatred. A second woman was basically naked, and one man had been shorn so brutally, his head was bleeding. He, as a party member, wanted to know what was going on here. He asked one of the Young Revolutionaries. “Hevâle ciwan, what is going on here?” The young man, he was around 18, only reluctantly turned away from the unworthy and brutal spectacle. "It's a public self-criticism, Rêhevalê me. These subjects are counterrevolutionaries, followers of the old superstition. They refuse to be dressed according to the rules and thus plant discord in the neighborhood. Today, we give them the unique chance to publicly confess their misdeeds and become good citizens! "
He could barely take his eyes off those "criminals." Now he saw that the full names and addresses of those on display were written on posters, hanging from their necks, as well as their offenses such as "counterrevolutionary wearing of prohibited clothing" or "spreading of the superstition causing the decomposition of public health ". He was outraged. You could not deal with fellow citizens like that. It was unworthy and against the law. One should report misconduct, that was not a denunciation, but a kind of help. Sure, somebody needed more than just a gentle push and sometimes some months in an educational camp was absolutely necessary. Yes, and there were the people who could not accept that they now lived in a new world. This opinion was wrong and stupid – but did the freedom not include freedom of speech and thought? Somebody who committed a crime had to be punished, out of question, but punishing thoughts, no, that was going way too far. Nobody had the right to humiliate another human being publicly in this way, nobody! He wished to avoid any conflicts and started to collect his students, bringing them back to the classroom. He would write a letter to the Party Office to complain about this degrading spectacle.
He needed some fresh air back in the building and so he left the door open, realizing the strange atmosphere amongst his student. “That’s unfair! The rules are not laws!“ „Yes, exactly!“ „Religion is stupid, true, we all know it is just superstition, but, let´s say my granny prays before bedtime, there is nothing bad about it. She is a farmer and had been a supporter of the revolution right from the beginning.” Every student needed to express his feelings and suddenly, he was very proud of them. Yes, two or three (the guys with the shaved heads) thought that a public shaming like this was a good idea, but the majority said that one should be lenient, especially with the elderly. The discussion went on till lunchbreak. „You understood the ideas of the revolution even better than you might think. I am very proud of you!” The day ended in a concentrated and constructive atmosphere. Most of the students had to visit an eductional center, a sports club or some other activity, the party had chosen for them.
Outside the school building, only a few remnants were left from the turmoil but to his dismay, he saw pamphlets with the names, addresses and crimes of the humiliated. No, more names, so many more names. And there was a call to inform the Young Revolutionaries about all counterrevolutionary acts and suspicious behavior. He shivered. Something bad was going on here. He needed to contact the party office, no, better the central, as soon as possible, maybe he should walk down there right now. He scratched his head. Damn. He needed to see a barber first. There were some on his way to the new party central in the city center.
Walking down the wide streets, he saw more pamphlets, wallpapers, huge banners hanging from houses inscribed with texts like “Down with the Conterrevolution”, “Our blood for the freedom” “Fight for your nation” and “Defend the People’s Republic”. Those were phrases, he taught his students, too but here, today, they made him shake.
He saw a woman sitting huddled on the street, crying. When he came closer, he saw that she had a nasty looking black eye and there was blood on her dress and her face, too. “What happend here?“ he asked and tried to help her, pressing a handkerchief on the bleeding wound on her head. The women only whimpered in fear and pain and pointed to a small smashed wooden cart, surrounded by vegetables and fruits. Right next to the cart he saw a banner “Down with big businesses. Death to the merchants! “ Those boys couldn´t be serious!! This woman obviously was a farmer who sold some fruits and vegetables at the local market, things from her small private garden maybe. How could the Young Revolutionists attack a farmer? The woman was still sobbing and clinging to him. Only now did he realize that she was a Sooraj and not a Gêl. That was getting worse and worse … He tried to calm her down and helped her to her feet. He only had some money with him but he gave her what he had. “Leave the city, and stay away for a while, that’s better right now,” he said. She nodded, took the money and left.
Only now he realized how empty the streets were. It was a part of the city with a large Sooraj-community. He passed two destroyed shops, one a tearoom the other a small tailor. Both were smeared with words in red paint: „Don´t buy from the Sooraj, mother Revolution’s traitors!” He was filled with ice-cold anger. This morning, that had been a tawdriness, a degenerated prank, this here, right now was disgusting, terrifying, loathsome.
In the city center, he saw more smashed windows and destroyed shop, more phrases from the Manifest of Freedom smeared on walls, more banners, more pamphlets. The streets looked like after a heavy fight and something was burning just in the middle of the broad and wide alley, garbage as it seemed. But when he stepped closer, he saw that it was a fire made of books. They were piled up close to a small, destroyed and looted bookshop.
He had to vomit; for the owner, hung up in front of the shop, an elderly, stocky Sooraj with a gray mustache, his face now purple and swollen, with bulging eyes and a thick, dark tongue. "Sooraj capitalist sow" had been written on his belly.
Terrifyied, sad and angry, he passed through the chaos that got worse every second. He saw more dead bodies but forced himself not too look too closely. He had seen dead people before and he was not totally innocent in the death of some, but that had been the Revolution, the Civil War. This was slaughter, a massacre, a crime. He missed his boring morning.
There were small groups of young revolutionaries standing in the big Square of the Revolution that dominated the city center, smoking, drinking and talking. He was so angry that he wanted to confront the men right here, but he controlled himself and walked swiftly toward the huge party building that occupied the north side of the enormous square.
Some of the young guys looked at him and whispered, pointing at him. He nearly ran into the building, regretting that there had been no time for a stop at the barber. It was now already 12 days since his last proper headshave and his head was covered in a soft carpet of black hair. Maybe this was enough to make him a target today…
Inside the large hall, he breathed in relief. Normally, he looked at the monumental mosaic “The Glorious Revolution” with pride, but today he had no eye for it.
He walked over to the reception. A single young man was sitting here in the titanic entrance hall. He explained, as quietly as possible, that he had to speak to the regional secretary. The young man explained, his voice bored, that all important party members were celebrating in the Hall of the People but that he could leave a note. He sighed and came closer to the bored young man. “Rêhevalê me, this has to stop! They are looting and destroying half the city, killing innocent people and attacking farmers, my friend, come on, farmers!!
The man behind the stone counter leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Rêhevalê me, is it possible that you missed quite a lot?" The truth hit him like a blow. That had been no madness, no uncontrolled outburst of juvenile violence. Suddenly he remembered a communique, something he had received several weeks ago. The Great Leader had announced that the flame of revolution was about to die. Therefore, the fight for the revolution had to be fueled again. There were enemies everywhere, in the state, in foreign countries, but even in the party.
The Young Revolutionaries were the tool of the party leaders, he understood that here and now. They were chosen to find and destroy all enemies of the Revolution. He saw a single pamphlet on the floor, not one of those he had seen before. This one had been printed in the party central, it had the official seal of the Great Leader on it. The Sooraj had been declared enemies of the Revolution… an entire group under suspicion. He felt sick. He couldn´t accept that, never, it was too much. This was the real treason here..
He turned around and saw a groups of Young Revolutionaries entering the hall. The man behind the reception desk just nodded. They came to get him. What had he done? Why had nobody informed him properly? Maybe he had committed a crime without even noticing. It must be his fault….
He sat at a small table, the sun was shining. Around him, life was wild and loud. People laughed, chatted and did whatever they did. The small restaurant with its many tables in the spring sun was crowded with people. He drank from his wine with fruits in it and scratched his totally hairless skull. The hair had just stopped growing. One year he had been in a camp, a year of hunger, torture and deprivation. They had depilated his head, his beard and even his eyebrows and lashes with strange smelling chemicals until no hair came back. He had nearly starved to death, skinny and terribly aged. He had been tortured in the most sadistic ways. He had to stand in the corner of his cell for hours, had been thrown into dark holes, he had to recite the Manifest for hours. He had to clean the toilets, carry heavy stones or do other hard work. They had beaten him up, tortured with sports and endless recitations. He had lost many teeth during that year, several times he had thought about suicide. But he had survived, he had kept his head down and even repeated the disgusting phrases about the so called Sooraj-vermin, dying a bit inside with every phrase.
But in the end, it had been over, he had been called rehabilitated and he got a new job in one of the large factories. His co-worker avoided him, many had seen him on the streets, naked, with a bleeding head and smeared with dirt and shit. He had been shown to his shocked students, who suddenly all obeyed to the dress-code. His own students had to critize him, and he had seen the triumphant grin on his skinny colleague’s face. He found out later, that it had been his bald fellow co-teacher who had denunciated him of being too lenient…
Now all this seemed like a nightmare. Terrible but far away. Like a different person’s life. True, his hair never came back but he had gained some pounds again, he was healthy – and he had fled Biharim. That is a long, a different story. But now, he is sitting the sun of Llerída, far, far away from Biharim and the People’s Republic. Above him sits the royal palace, a huge and beautiful building. For a second he has to think about him, helping to tear down the old castle in Biharim, with pride and driven by the fire of revolution. To his feet lays the beautiful city, with its palaces, town houses, temples, narrow streets, hundreds of restaurants, shops and markets. The people don´t wear uniforms. Everybody can wear what he wants, and he can speak his mind. There are elections here and every citizen had a vote! There is no tediousness here but culture, art… life. In Biharim, freedom has died.
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