The professor noted the look of boredom on the gathered students. They stared in any direction but his. An outdoor classroom had plenty of distractions, but he also believed the energy of the air made up for that. If he could get their attention they would learn more out here than inside four walls. And he knew how to get their attention.
“As you may have noticed we have a guest here today. He is a heretic.”
Their heads snapped forward in unison.
“Don’t worry. He is known by the authority and in good standing. I’ll let him explain. But rest assured I would not put myself in jeopardy, much less you, if I was not certain of his credentials.”
With that he smiled at the shocked expressions he saw. Their attention was riveted.
“Thank you professor. Yes, I am a heretic. And it’s obvious to me you all know that heretics are blamed for the fall of the 31 citadels and outlawed by the authority. But not all heresies are outlawed. I am here to explain to you why that is, and how what I believe, while different no doubt than what you believe, is not a threat to the rebuilding, or the authority.”
“Let’s review agreed upon history. Much is lost from the fall, but this much we know. The world was once governed by 31 citadels known as the aggregate. The world was far advanced then both philosophically and technologically. Some of that technology is being revived now. We have electronic slates like the ones you use now. We have batteries. We even have self-propelled carts. But other things have not been rediscovered and some may have never been real. The Web for instance was most likely a real network of slate-like devices. Your slates can send information to each other and to the teacher, right? Imagine that on a much greater scale.
“However, the idea that all human knowledge and instant communication across the world, is obviously an exaggeration or mistranslation. And so we have the same issues with the fall of the citadels. We know there was an uprising and the citadels were torn down. We have physical evidence of that. The professor tells me you’ll be taking a field trip by selfpropel to ancient Ellay to see the site of the citadel ruins. So you’ll see with your own eyes.
“But the story of how the citadels fell and why the heretics rose up is like the idea of the Web in my opinion. The received wisdom of the Authority is that the heretics rebelled against the governance of the Aggregate because they were Hedy and jealous. They were malcontents and psychological deviants who were one of the last maladies the Citadels failed to cure and proved their undoing. The argument runs that the Citadel did such a good job of providing a balanced and fair society, that those who only could be fulfilled by a perversion of the rules, narcissists, antisocials, depressives, we’re driven to pull down the beauty of the Citadels.
“The heretics believe that the Citadels were oppressive and restrictive and their dictatorship needed to be pulled down and destroyed for humanity to progress.”
Here the heretic stopped and looked around at the empty park around them.
“They won. Were they right? Have we progressed now? No. So listen closely.mi am deemed a heretic by the authority because I believe the 31 citadels were impeding human progress. I believe their tolerance of dissent without incorporating it was unproductive. I believe they created the conditions where there was no outlet for protest to such a degree that the heretical uprising was inevitable.
“I am tolerated because I do not think the answer was tearing down the citadels. I do not support the uprising and I do not support the scattering of heretics who resist redevelopment of technology and fear the return of the aggregate. I believe we can rebuild the society the citadels had without making the same mistakes. The authority and I differ on what those mistakes were. However, my sect of heresy has persuaded them of one thing. It was the handling of dissent that was their failing. and so they agree that as long as my heresy does not support the heretics of the uprising, it is important to have a vigorous opposition that can exist in real dissension, and what I hope is productive dissension. Now. I’m sure you have questions.”
As was usual no questions came. The professor came forward.
“Don’t hold back. I know you have questions, how about you Derit?”
The young man looked annoyed and encouraged at once. A unique talent of someone his age.
“Well I just don’t see the difference. Either you’re a heretic and against the authority, or you’re not. The fact that you’re not being carted off by the Authority right now means you’re not. So what’s so heretical about you if you cooperate with the authority?”
The professor raised an eyebrow. The lad had ventured accidentally into dangerous ground.
“Derit, you don’t mean to say cooperation is a bad thing do you?”
Derit shifted in his seat. “No. I just think if you cooperate you support. So how can you be called a heretic?”
That was better phrased and would deflect the censors. The professor nodded.
The heretic took up the answer. “it is a fine point. Let me explain better. The 31 Citadels allowed all kinda of dissent. But they felt confident in their guidance of society. And it wasn’t only dissent. All needs were fulfilled. Most all maladies were cured. Perhaps by using the term dissent I’ve clouded the main point. They took away all impulse to date and advance society. We had no more needs driving us. We had no more great conflicts that drove us to gain a better understanding of ourselves. And those few who were unhappy we’re absorbed and deflected, until there rage overflowed.
“So I do not side with the heretics of the Uprising that the Citadels needed to fall and must not be resurrected. But I do differ with the Authority in their goal of reproducing all elements of the aggregate. I believe we must build in some imperfection to avoid the need for an uprising. The Authority believes they only need to cure the last of the maladies and imperfection will not be necessary. However, until they get to that point, they agree that my way is necessary. So they allow me and my heretics as the imperfections that will stabilize us in the meantime. And hence I’m allowed to speak to classes like yours.
“When, one day, we do solve the last maladies of the aggregate, long after I’m gone I expect, then my philosophy will become directly heretical and a resolution will be necessary. Until then, we aid each other against the more dangerous heresies.”
Derit nodded but then Selmina asked an unexpected question.
“Aren’t you allowing the exact thing you say went wrong by being tolerated? I mean you said deflection of dissent led to the uprising. Isn’t the authority deflecting your own dissent by tolerating you? Why will that not lead to an uprising of its own?”
The heretic nodded. “An insightful question. And the answer can be found in my last comment. Time. Our uprising will not be a risk until the true conflict of our beliefs comes ate curing of the last maladies. Until then it is not deflection, but agreement. In other words, we have vicious arguments my dear! But not about anything currently relevant.”
The young woman looked as if she might not quite buy the answer, but remained silent.
The professor stepped in. “Very good. I would like to thank our guest.” The students responded with polite launching of thank you sounds form their slates. “I am required to inform you that you may seek more info about the authorized heretics on your slates in a newly unlocked section on government service. With all due respect to our guest, I urge you not to do it. It is a thankless life that as our guest admits, will one day lead to an uprising. It is after all hey, if tolerated.”
The heretic nodded as if expecting this and gave the signal of goodbye as he left.
Selmina and Derit immediately called up the section on government service on their slates.