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53. EVES

May 20, 2008

Scene 4 – Tears In The Toilet

Wednesday afternoon, March 20th 2030. Park Hyatt hotel, Melbourne CBD.

It is the eve of the World Federation election. Melbourne is hosting it. Additionally, the city has been selected as the chief location for the administrative machinery of the distributed world government. Yay for Melbourne… and the emergence of a unified world order.

Tomorrow is a momentous day. Results will come in from secondary centres all over the planet to be officially announced and noisily celebrated at the MCG. Except for Great Britain which has decided to wait until certain economic conditions are triggered before committing to the Federation… and may impose sanctions in the meantime.

Melbourne was an obvious and appropriate choice. This is a city well capable of meeting global expectations. This is Layla’s city and it shows. It resonates to her tuning fork. They say ‘Fork and Layla Parkin, two choices – like it or not’. Oh yes, most are happy about that, some are rotten.

It’s balmy. Good, it exerts a calming influence on the sentimental frenzy that people are exhibiting. Lots of tears of primeval joy in Melbourne and through-out the world; no doubt whipped up by blanket Stream coverage of the preceding natural and supernatural events. Surely broadcasting a full two hours of Laylaps circumambulating and paying homage to a dilapidated weather board property in the Northern suburbs is overly indulgent? Layla was just a uni student then! Her formative, wilderness years are the most important, the lead Laylap had said. More likely they weren’t allowed access to the city centre high rise she currently lives in.

Layla mixes with a group of gathered world leaders at a private function. My God, she is shockingly attractive. Voluptuous in her mid forties. As the diva moves diplomatically from guest to guest, a polite circle follows her, individual bodies dropping in and out of her orbit.

Thankfully, not everyone is so polite and respectful of her private space. Natasha and Farah are rapscallions, don’t give a damn and are likely to receive enormous support from their Russian and Indonesian electorates. Yes, both of them from both electorates. In the upcoming election, you can also cast a weighted vote for the representatives of others. Experimental. Controversial. Not Layla’s idea, as she said her brain bloats on the detail, but borne on the back of the One World wave that is in vogue.

These two ladies know Layla very well as they worked together on various projects a few years back. Unlike most, they are known to have given her a good ribbing at least once, maybe twice.

[Layla, gently fending]:
“Not for me thanks Tash. I gave up alcoholic beverages a loooong time ago. And you know that too, you stirrer. Don’t let me stop your fun though.”

[Natasha]:
“Oh, too late for that! You must think I’m a proper lush.“

[Layla, in good nature]:
“Of course I don’t. But I take it the Russian media isn’t expecting further interviews?”

[Natasha, whispering comedically]:
“Of course they are. But there have been complaints… I’m letting the side down. They want me looser.

Now, Layla, I’ll be expecting you to say a few words too, right? You’ll be alongside me, right?”

[Layla, hmmming]:
“We’ll see how we go with that.”

[Natasha]:
“And maybe a miracle? A trick of some sort?”

Layla indicates a little teetering over the edge.

[Natasha]:
“Worth a try. Anyhow my beautiful sister, how are you feeling with this auspicious occasion nearly upon us?”

[Layla, exhaling]:
“Oh Soothed. Safe. Warm. It’s like I’m resting my head on a comfortable pillow away from the hailstones, the piercing precipitations going on outside. And the pillow dulls the noise just enough so I can enjoy it.

Oh Tash, tomorrow’s election is such an historic event. It’s more than history isn’t it? It’s a new story.

So, yeah, I guess I feel a sense of achievement… mixed with some fatigue. I’ll probably want to have a little rest now I’ve got such a lovely pillow. I’m a bit spent.”

[Farah]:
“Oh no, no, Layla, not at all. It doesn’t show. You look majestic as always. You know how my husband compliments me? He says ‘Layla would only just scrape in as my second wife’. He’s an idiot of course. [grinning]”

[Layla, bemused]:
“Funny you say that Farah … hmmmm, on second thoughts, I’ll leave that right there. Your husband’s no idiot though, I’m sure of that. He picked the best of wives.”

[Farah]:
“Him? Who said HE picked? But come on Layla, tell us what it’s like. To have gone through all your adventures. Were you frightened ever? What’s God like? Do you have any regrets?”

Layla reflected. She looked at Farah then over her to the familiarity of the Melbourne CBD and then further out to the darkening horizon.

[Layla, cheerfully]:
“Oh yes! I have one regret Farah. I never got to run out for the Pies? That’s Collingwood… you know, my famous Aussie Rules footy team.

I was good enough but they prevented me from playing with the men. Yeah, would you believe they even had a judge decide that, at about fourteen, boys were on the whole bigger and leaner than women… and something about standard deviations… so there… QED… you can’t play Layla… health and safety would cripple us.

You have to hand it to the AFL… they manage the footy league… they had a lot of balls. [laughs] I suppose that’s natural in their business.

I could change the world order but not their rules. Anyhow, I’ve got my own back now… the footy season is delayed by a week because the MCG is hosting this election coverage.”

[Farah, skeptically]:
“Come on Layla, footy is so important to you? I don’t think so. I’ve seen you in action in Jakarta. It wasn’t a 9-5 job you were holding down. Humour us Layla. Our lives are more limited than yours.”

[Layla]:
“More limited? I don’t think so. Okay, I was being a little flippant but I really do love my footy you know. And I’m still hopeful of a midfield or forward spot at Collingwood.

You’re a very pushy woman Farah. You know I’m not much of a thinker… and my adventures, as you call them, are old news. It’s all on the Stream. And did you see those Laylaps today? [shakes head] So embarrassing.

I do have a bee in my bonnet though. I’m very excited about this new World Federation but I’ve got to tell you that I’m slightly uneasy about the way it’s being represented. By good people such as yourselves no less.”

[Natasha, surprised]:
“Really? In what way? I mean… Farah and I… and I think the majority of the candidates have been at pains to emphasize the benefits of a single world structure.”

[Layla]:
“Yes, I know. That’s what concerns me. It’s lopsided. It’s an elite telling the masses how good the new invention being prepared for them is when the masses don’t understand enough except to nod and wait-see. Same old, same old. You need to engage people more. Active participation… that’s the key. It’s all very abstract and technical at the moment. “

[Natasha]:
“I don’t agree with that at all Layla. There has been enormous effort expended in making sure that the new system of government exactly meets the needs of all people. I’m a bit upset, Layla. We’ve been inspired by you. The importance of the World Federation is not lost upon any of us. We’ve been working every hour available, very productively and there’s been wonderful co-operation.”

[Layla]:
“So you say, but I think you missed a trick when the One World Government debate was smouldering over the past 20 years. And I think you might be repeating the mistake.”

[Farah, coldly]
“This is very late to be bringing up such a sweeping criticism but tell us what we’re missing Layla. Get it off your chest. It can’t be getting much air in there anyway.”

[Layla]:
“Now, now, Farah, no need for that.

Well, you remember, there was the “status quo’ers” who feared that the cost would outweigh the benefits and there was you guys, “the brave new worlders”. Two camps that repulsed each other. The only common ground was the insistence that people had to choose one or the other.

Surely a more mature and balanced approach was possible. Even I accepted that there was some truth in the status quo’ers position. I mean some things happened along the way that I still find difficult to accept. Remember the time I went to Iran to retrieve my friend Sholeh’s body. They… those criminals… had put her through indescribable agony. Like a voodoo doll… they did to her what they wanted to do to me. That was… that’s still taking me a long time to get over. In all honesty, if I had known beforehand how Sholeh’s life would end, I would never have put one foot on this path. I would have stuck to sport. So, I could empathize with them without adopting their position to the exclusion of all else.”

[Farah, with strained sympathy]:
“And I understand Layla. I understand your loss. And many, many of us have been through our own versions of it. It was a heavy cost but the blame, all of it, must go to the old structures of power, influence and self-interest. And that’s where the status quo’ers came from. They were definitely the bad guys. We all saw just how much they were willing to do to hang on to their privilege and status. They had to go. If they got away with it they would have just repeated their actions over and over. You were great, the dirtier they played the more you smashed them.”

[Natasha]:
“Oh they played dirty alright. Do you remember that movement… Pacific Progress? You know, jam-packed with religious leaders and peaceniks. How did their message go? ‘The only way to a full and lasting peace and prosperity is through discussion and negotiation, never force’.

They accused you of being the worst kind of dictator. You were taking away their free will. And you said:

‘Might is still right. I am right and I might.’”

[Layla, looking oops and sheepish]:
“It was a great line wasn’t it. But it kind of proved their point. It caused quite a backlash until Sholeh unearthed evidence that they were being funded by military manufacturers. That was handy. She was good at that sort of thing.

No, that’s not what I mean ladies. I’ve always believed that the entrenched powerful would have to be dug out. No, it’s the manner in which the brave new world position won out that I have doubts about.

You beat them by trumping their logic. Whenever bad things happened… usually as a result of my initiatives… you said:

‘right, yes well, that was costly – phew, our thoughts are with the families but now that we have suffered the cost, and can do nothing about it, we might as well reap the benefits. It would be an insult to the fallen not to do so.’

Then you’d hold up your neatly pre-prepared package of greater efficiency, equality and security; you’d put a big X through $LOTS and then a big tick against $reasonable. Very manipulative.”

[Natasha, horrified]:
“We did nothing of the sort. That’s outrageous.”

[Layla]:
“Symbolically you did. Your argument was a pile of theatrics. Truth was you never had an idea what the actual cost or benefits would be or even how many of them there were. You were sketchy about what your vision meant in practice, so you focused on discrediting your opponent’s argument. If they lost, you won, right?”

Now don’t be over-defensive Tash. I understood your reasoning. That’s how I felt after Sholeh… it was overwhelmingly painful but I recovered… it pushed me to redouble my efforts in her name.

But it shouldn’t be about tricks of logic should it? That’s no way to bring about a new kind of civilization based on truth and justice. It would have been so much better to have treated people as partners and not passive consumers. More transparency and trust, that’s what was needed. Just think of the number of situations that could have been avoided if the silent majority had demonstrated a willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with you – and in front of me. Many of the dictators, warlords and evil corporates would have capitulated.

All you needed to do was to address the concerns of the status quo’ers more collaboratively and people would have understood that, by getting fully behind your brave new world outlook, the horrible human and environmental costs could be minimized. They would have jumped at the chance. How many lives would have been saved? [tutting].”

[Natasha, confused and hurt]:
“That’s not fair. A World Federation was always the objective. We had to do whatever was required to get there. We had to minimize the risk of losing. I never wanted anyone to be hurt.”

[Layla]:
“Well, that time has passed but here you are doing the same again. You are part of a very tiny elite that is making decisions affecting billions on the basis of selfishly inspired assumptions about what they need and want. It doesn’t matter that you don’t WANT people to be hurt; you have to bring a more consultative approach to your decision making that will ENSURE people are not hurt.”

[Farah, shaking her fanned fingers]:
“There is no need to worry Layla. We are not going to become a totalitarian regime if that’s your problem. The current focus on the government structure is because this is the first time we’ve done it. Once it is functioning in top gear and the benefits start flowing I’m sure there will be universal support and individual liberties and creativity will flourish as never before.”

[Layla, angrily]:
“And you two! Hypocrites. How can you stand for election in this government? You are the chief architects of its administration. Does accountability not matter in your new world order?”

Natasha and Farah stood close together, eyes lowered and humiliated. Their red raw shame was evident in front of their peaking peers. Then Layla broke into a fit of laughter eventually getting one arm off her hips to point at them. “Gotcha.”

[Farah]:
“You bitch! That was nasty. Look at Tash… she’s inconsolable.”

[Natasha, wriggling out of her frailty]:
“Can you believe it Farah? Lectured about exclusiveness from little miss unilateral herself. Lives lost? Who turned Everest into a volcano?”

[Layla]:
“Hold on, that wasn’t me. I just happened to be in the area, passing through.

Oh you two. That was great. Let’s call it even now shall we? I’ll give you Stockholm.”

[Farah, relaxing]:
“I’d say two to one in our favour but let’s not quibble.”

[Layla]:
“Actually, I do have concerns about how the government will unfold but I have the utmost faith in both of you and in the process that you have worked on. Just wanted to light a fire under your arses.”

[Farah, with slight derision]:
“Ah, I know what you are on about. You want provision made for the great transformation that will take place in humanity. You see, Parkin, we’re just not sure how that will manifest. Nobody is. Even you failed to help us define it. So back off a bit. Maybe we should provide sunglasses for the upward gazing populous, eh?

This is your Baha’i background coming out. Believe me; we have it all in hand, leave the political theory to the experts. My husband is right; he is certain you have a strong connection to the top brass in Haifa. Tell them from us, stick to their prayers. Their church will thrive under the World Federation.”

[Layla, firmly and mildly irate]:
“I’m sure your husband is wrong, Farah. I may have a couple of Baha’i friends but I have absolutely nothing to do with the religion. Of course, it must influence me – after all, it is a large part of my background and culture. But my drive for world unity is innate, that’s what Pippy says. I have nothing to do with that Baha’i world.

And I hope you have it in hand Farah. I’ll be taking a keen interest to see how it develops.”

[Farah, perturbed by the refrosting of relations]:
“Okay, that’s fine Layla. I’m not implying anything underhand. It’s just a throw-away comment. Of course you aren’t religious; you’ve never shown any signs of it. It wouldn’t matter if you were.

My husband is your number one fan. He has gathered an enormous amount of information on you in the last couple of years. All kinds of trivia. For example, he says you have an unusual belief… that we really are just one soul experiencing and adapting to an almost infinite variety of situations.

He explained it to me… my life carries the stamp of this big soul and my death is just the end of one ‘experiment’ so to speak, causing ‘me’ to return to the collective with the new knowledge.

It’s why bad things happening to good people is not so bad… because it’s kind of happening to me too and it’s for a greater longer-term purpose…”

[Layla, brusquely]:
“Farah, Farah, that’s enough. Look, I might have held something akin to that opinion at one time but God… or meaning of life… theories, I’m not really into them. Your husband sounds a bit obsessive. He’s not one of those Laylaps is he? You should make sure you know what he gets up to on the Stream when you go back to Jakarta.”

[Farah]:
“I teased him about that soul interpretation. I never heard you say anything like that when we worked together.

Oh it’s cute and harmless, Layla. He’s a man… we know what motivates them. Anyway, as long as I don’t invite you for dinner, you’ll just be a fantasy. They need their fantasies don’t they? Everyone’s a winner right?”

[Layla]:
“If you say so Farah. Still, I’d like to remain blissfully unaware of the tendencies of my work colleagues’ husbands.

Oh Farah, how could I ever come to dinner now?

Hold on. [beaming] Are you setting me up again? You nearly had me.”

[Farah]:
“No, this is actually true. But forget about it. I told you, he’s just an idiot.

I mean, he has this ridiculous theory about your supernatural abilities. He says it’s like a game of poker. You always hold a pair of aces and, although you’ll probably win, sometimes you don’t. If someone wants to beat you they have to keep playing and playing and at some point you’ll lose.”

[Layla, curtly]:
“How bizarre. Tash, Farah, look, it’s time for me to move on. It’s always weird and wonderful talking to you. I’ll get in touch very soon. Good luck to you both for tomorrow.”

Layla gave Natasha a hug. Then she embraced Farah very tightly and whispered distinctly into her ear drum.

“Ssssshhhhh, shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up. Please, shut up. Stop listening to your husband, counsel him to stop doing whatever he’s doing and, Farah, never speak about this nonsense again. For your own good.”

Layla released the shocked Farah and, comporting herself with rigid grace, proceeded directly to the bathroom. It was empty. She was relieved she was alone. She became intense, faltering and curled herself into a cubicle to sob.

“Pippy, is it Joel? It must be Joel.”

Trembling, she began to nod slowly and knowingly. Soon produced two large, clear tear drops. They wobbled, they were buxom tears, but if you said that you’d be dead. Keep away, she is enduring a calamitous distress as silently as she can.

———————-

[Mr Enayati]:
“Bizarre indeed. Well, it proves one thing. She can bleed like the rest of us.”

Mr Underwood, very uncomfortable, and signaling as much, indicated his wish to speak.

[Mr Thompson]:
“Yes Joel. You have something to share?”

Like a lighthouse on a moon-lit night, Joel, blinking, looked around at the other eight men and their wonder-what faces. They hadn’t realized! How could they not? Did they think there was another Joel? Best to keep schtum. Except he was off and running without a ball.

“Oh, I just wanted to add that the lady… Farah… her husband, the Indonesian general, was found dead two days later at their residence in Jakarta. Suicide.”

Men nodded in agreement, afraid he was right. Yep. Gulp. And back to the movie.

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