2084

John Smith felt strangely light. It was a most unusual day, the first in his life that was not scheduled. He knew that this happened occasionally where the system simply did not schedule someone for a day or even a week. At other times interference near scanners registered the wrong microchip number in the deceased’s neck and a living person’s identity would be temporarily sent to archives, but not for long. The next scan of that living person would reveal the mistake and that would be corrected in days if not hours.

This free day for John Smith was a system mistake. The AI had forgotten him for one day. It was the thirteenth of October and the regular hour time chime chimed thirteen on the internet screens that are mandated in front of every home and business in the city. Everyone else in America had to be someplace and doing something on the thirteenth hour of the thirteenth day of October, but not John Smith. Of course, his chip would register him walking down the street as he passed the scanners hidden in every internet screen. Just walking, with nowhere to go.

As the clocks struck thirteen, the great seal of America came on the screen in front of a shop where John Smith was passing and the ubiquitous digital announcer announced: “We have done it.” The words were then displayed on the internet messaging banner across the street. “We are what we wished for, completely isolated and self-sufficient,” were the next words out of the faceless speaker.

All imports are now prohibited regardless of necessity. Exports are permitted, but few countries want American goods. Besides, it is difficult to get goods past American borders because any personal contact with other people stokes terrorism fears.

As the message finished, John Smith nearly panicked because normally he would have had to be somewhere at thirteen O’clock. He saw others hurrying to reach a required location in time, or close enough not to trigger the AI deviation routine. Consistency and timeliness are the two antiterrorist watchwords which every child learns virtually from the moment the child can understand words. AI has become quite sophisticated in identifying persons not meeting consistency or timeliness standards, but personal anonymous reporting of infractions is encouraged. Personal reporting brings purported infractions right to the top of the scrutiny list.

However, when the system matched his number with his schedule it would find nothing wrong—just nothing. Eventually this would register as an anomaly, but he was free to do what he wanted for at least this twenty-four hour period. They would catch up to him and he would be called in and interrogated. He knew he would probably be put on high surveillance status, perhaps with his own personal watcher for a time, but if he did nothing untoward, odds are he would not do any reconditioning time. That is what he hoped.

John Smith looked up into the orange haze that hung low over the city. Coal had replaced other fossil fuels because oil was no longer imported. To mask the smell in the air, he sprayed some freshener on his face mask.

The idea of scheduled time came from counterterrorism experts. They reasoned that if everyone’s time is scheduled to the moment, each person has implanted from birth a unique identifier chip, and surveillance covers all permitted places of occupancy and travel, terrorism acts could immediately be detected as diversions from the lawful schedule. Surveillance ScanDrones® patrol the national parks which means that these places of wonder can still be visited by lawful Americans if the schedule authorizes them.

Silicon Valley geared up its AI and predictive analytics divisions to provide a balance of work and recreation that the medical community today lauds as helping reduce the incidence of high blood pressure and non-hereditary heart disease because stress from overwork has been virtually eliminated.

Early critics at the time of the scheduling rollout complained that this was unconstitutional because it denied people freedom to act on their own. The medical community and psychologists convinced Congress and the courts that such scheduling efforts would keep people from making bad decisions. Authorities reasoned that scheduling plus permanent and pervasive surveillance would catch pending addictions and other deviations such as shoplifting and even murder much more quickly. In fact, the initial increase in arrests for deviations worried many supporters, but once people got used to being scheduled, these deviations from the norm dropped to unprecedented levels. It solved the undocumented immigrant problem because only citizens and legal aliens could get chips. Those who did not get chips triggered scanners and soon the unchipped were deported in huge convoys that went on for miles. Chips are made with counterfeit countermeasures, and few illegal chips fool scanners.

The business community initially groused that the limit on work time would ruin productivity. In the end, the organizational psychologists were right and studies have confirmed that happier employees maintain and in some cases, improve productivity. The increase in virtual reality and internet connectivity means that people do not have to leave their homes to perform most work that doesn’t involve active manipulation of equipment. They have more time for other things such as work and play. Notwithstanding this evidence, industry continues to turn jobs over to robots at an ever-increasing rate.

After the unchipped were deported the cost of food skyrocketed because wages had to be raised to attract American citizens to work the fields. Industry has worked hard to develop new mechanical pickers and other assorted tools. Hotel prices also soared initially, but since there is now very little need for people to travel, the hotel industry has collapsed. Lawn tractor sales spiked early on and have remained steady for many years now. Lawn maintenance is part of the schedule for those who have lawns. Unfortunately, AI has not developed routines that correct for weather.

Private passenger vehicles have been banned because they are no longer needed. If one’s schedule permits travel there is local bus transportation and high-speed rail. However, there continues to be much political rancor over the cost of transportation, and budgets are never enough to maintain an efficient public transportation system. This encourages critics and naysayers to call the transportation system a failure and this further depresses or delays necessary repair and maintenance efforts. Infrastructure spending is at a new low by design.

While one can request changes to the schedule, AI quite often rejects such changes because they unnecessarily disturb the work-life balance. Certain changes such as extended school field trips are often permitted, though students no longer go to real classrooms. By law and, all schools are in virtual reality classrooms. Yellow school busses are now a distant memory of the elderly.

John Smith walked, peered into shops, walked around the fountain, and ate some ice cream, none of which he was supposed to do. Well, it wasn’t prohibited, it just wasn’t scheduled…He realized that it is so complicated when your everyday isn’t yours and then it is. He had another motive for just walking other than recreation. His two boisterous sons aged fourteen and fifteen were, by schedule, practicing their drums and would likely now be beating on each other had been the case since they both could walk.

This bit of freedom also gave John Smith considerable anxiety which he tried to push back into the recesses of his mind. Still, his hands shook a little from the adrenaline that was coursing through him. He smiled when he needed to and didn’t speak to anyone other than to the clerks in the stores. All were registered, anyway, and dutifully wore their right to work badges, certainly now an archaic regulation, because the chipless were deported long ago. However, the clerks and others he interacted with would be called to account when John Smith was discovered to have escaped into non-routine, but neither surveillance nor these workers would have anything untoward on him. Perhaps one would have an agenda, trying to get back into the good graces of the system for this or that infraction against the schedule, but he felt that the recordings of their conversations and him browsing the stores would reveal the true innocence of this venture.

John Smith was not a terrorist. However, his inaction in alerting authorities to his scheduling anomaly would put him under suspicion as, at least, susceptible to terrorist propaganda and manipulation.

The final stretch of The Wall had been completed the year before John Smith’s unscheduled day and it girds all the borders of the country, even Alaska. The walls are high and electrified with acres wide minefields inside. All the harbors have been mined and the coastline and beaches patrolled day and night by robotic flying and surface drones that have only one order, shoot to kill. Beaches and borders are off limits to all humans. There is one warning only to a trespasser and then bullets will fly. By law, trespassers, border-jumpers, and ocean swimmers are presumed to be terrorists and subject to the harshest defensive action, with no questions asked.

Only American naval operated transport vessels travel from Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and other island possessions of the US. These are permitted passage through the port of Long Beach and the port of New York. Security is tight at the renovated Ellis Island in the east and the new Trump National in the west that process citizens and the few remaining legal aliens.

John Smith knew that fear of terrorism had driven INS, NSA, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the other surveillance and control organs of government to be wary even of our own people, because the islands are not seen as secure as the mainland. There is little need for people from the islands to visit the mainland with the internet and virtual reality, so all are treated with suspicion and given extra scrutiny and surveillance while in transit and during their time on the mainland. Special schedules need to be devised and deployed, and permission for such deviations from normal island routine require extensive negotiation and planning with the local representatives of INS and NSA. Few schedule modifications are granted, and those only for compelling reasons where there is no alternative but to travel e.g. medical conditions that can only be performed on the mainland. Few desire to leave the mainland for the islands because that puts them into a category of permanent suspicion, and nobody wants that. Virtually no one who leaves the mainland ever returns. Even congressional representatives from Hawaii rarely travel back home, preferring to conduct local business through the internet and virtual reality. This simply is the way things are done.

Immigration has been closed to America for years. However, The Wall is touted as being one of the most important accomplishments in America’s three-hundred-year history. Some even give The Wall equal weight to the Declaration of Independence because, like that document of liberation, the wall has liberated the country from foreign terrorists.

The elimination of immigration, The Wall, the closing to the world of American Internet, and now self-sufficiency from even imports makes the country an island unto itself. In fact, the week-long celebration of The Wall’s completion around all the continental United States surpassed even the tricentenary celebration of 2076. Emigration is permitted, but anyone who emigrates cannot ever return. All diplomatic business is conducted on dedicated vids and monitors not connected to American internet.  

Those who do have relatives in other countries can talk to them in heavily monitored special virtual reality or internet kiosks at special government agencies. Every word is carefully evaluated for the possibility the conversation carries hidden or even overt terrorist messages. None of these locations have any connections to internal American internet hubs so that no viruses, trojans, or secret terrorist messages can enter the now clean American internet system. Internet freedom has been declared accomplished by the FCC.

All American internet is by landline or local wi-fi. Cellphones have been replaced by the ubiquitous two-way vids that are in front of every building and on every power and transmission pole. Satellite receivers and transmitters have been banned and surveillance measures can quickly find the location of any transmitters or receivers.

Internet Freedom Day has been declared a national holiday. New holidays, of course, represent special challenges to the schedulers who must develop special AI processes to perform the complicated rescheduling required for three hundred million people.

When the clocks rang fifteen, John Smith felt that he had walked enough. Too many more places would just increase interrogation time when he was caught for not reporting the day of freedom before the unscheduled day occurred. He walked up the steps of the old five story brownstone that once housed a single family, but now housed ten. There were no elevators and his flat was one of two on the fifth floor. Every flight meant a new surveillance camera and scanner. The light on the scanner vids blinked green. If one had blinked red, homeland security would have been called for an immediate search and pick-up of the unchipped individual.

Chips are implanted at birth and with it comes one’s unique number. Chips rarely fail but can be surgically removed which only means that the person becomes a fugitive and is presumed to be a terrorist. Life incarceration is the sentence for voluntarily removing one’s identity chip.

John Smith reached the door of his flat. On the other side, drumsticks clicked and the boys banged each other into the walls of the flat. John Smith heard his wife Jane yell at them to stop. He stood outside the door fumbling with his keys to try to convince the AI behind the scanner and the vid that he was having difficulty finding his key. He really didn’t want to go in to the bedlam he could hear behind the door. He wanted just a dose more freedom…

He sighed and walked in. Donald and Mike stood in the narrow hallway running riffs on the other’s hardhat covered heads. The drumsticks made a clacking sound that filled the hallway. Neither one looked up to greet their father. Jane, her back to him, was in tiny living/workroom on the internet, fulfilling this or that special order for the gear manufacturer she worked for. She oversaw the team that designed, built, and fulfilled orders for special gears for special projects, things that AI or robots could not do. Once they were built, AI could handle any reorder or remanufacture of the now standard custom product.

Within moments of his arrival, the door smashed inward without warning and an armed team of black-suited Homeland police entered and quickly took John Smith, his wife, and two sons into custody. Hands secured behind their backs, they were rushed down the stairs and each into separate lorries which sped away. Just as the lorry door closed, John Smith saw the dogs and the bomb disposal person climbing the steps to the front door of the building. John Smith then realized, his would be the top news story of the week.

Regrets for an ice cream eaten and for getting his family into this scheduling mess came all at once to John Smith. He felt sick to his stomach and retched. Rather than asking him what was wrong, the two guards in the lorry scanned him, looking for any kind of device or propaganda he may have swallowed just as the security force entered his home.

As the car sped along, he knew where he was going and that was derrogatorilly known as the Gulag. It is where all terrorist invaders, home-grown terrorists, terrorist wannabes, and those expected of terrorist leanings or susceptability are taken for interrogation. Few who enter the Gulag are ever seen again.

John Smith wondered just what had possesed him to risk everything for a few hours of not being scheduled. He hoped that his wife and son were not going to the Gulag, but to the Homeland Security station where their interrogation would still be grueling. Their innocence in all of this John Smith hoped would be quickly discerned. Much depended upon what his wife and boys told Homeland Security. One slip-up…John Smith shivered at the thought.

His own innocence he now realized was not at all presumed and might not ever be possible because of his temporal transgression. His stomach churned and his hands shook, not from excitement as they did that afternoon, but because of the real possibility that he would not ever be let out of the place they were taking them.

It was as he envisioned the place. In through a large vault door which closed behind and then an other which opened slowly on its own. Gray cement block walls, and narrow empty corridors devoid of decoration.

Strip and invasive search. White lab coats soon replaced black uniforms. He was scanned from head to toe for even the smallest microchip or communication device, or worse, implanted bomb. Stomach pumped and enema given. They said nothing to him other than to bark orders as to what to do next.

He was prepped for interrogation, first with truth drugs, then traditional lie-detector tests. and the more accurate live brain scans to assess whether he was answering their questions truthfully. The white coats all had somber faces and refused to answer any questions, so John Smith stopped asking. He knew what this was, and where he was, and what he was supposed to to—submit. To resist would confirm that he was a terrorist. However, respond only when questioned and not questioning, as was his new strategy, would also brand him as a terrorist with something to hide. There simply was no strategy that would help his cause. He prayed for some indication from all the tests and scans that he had not lied and that the white coats and their handlers would believe what they saw.

Tortuous interrogation of the Spanish Inquisition and elsewhere in mideval Europe was designed to elicit confessions. Those who confessed to heracy would be executed; those who did not were executed. Not confessing was tantamout to lying. Those who did not confess would be eternally damned by order of the Inquisition. Confession and rejection of heretical thinking earned absolution before execution.

Brown coats now administered some of the same tortures. In the end he confessed to having terrorist leanings. No evidence other than his taking an unscheduled day was probably ever discovered, but that, of course, is classified. As a result of his confession, John Smith disappeared from America. The torture stopped.

While his number was not retired, it was incarcerated along with his torture-battered body. He was sent to reconditioning rehabilitation and was a star student. However, even if he became rehabilitated in his own mind, and even though he said he had, and the scans and tests likely did confirm this, conventional wisdom of the Gulag is that his terrorist leanings once again could come to fore in the right conditions—or so say the terrorist scientists who equate terrorist leanings with opiate addictions, which are nearly impossible to eliminate from the minds of even those who have spent years clean.

Addicts and others who can be blackmailed or bribed with money, drugs, sex, or other temptations to commit terrorist acts are accorded the same category as terrorists and are ncarcerated, though only a few, like John Smith who actually have broken the rules of America, are sent to the Gulag for life.

What happened to John Smith’s family, he never knew. Visitors are prohibited at the Gulag as well as are letters from inmates to the outside or to anyone inside, for that matter. When he wrote letters they were sent to analysts and put in his file. This was only more evidence of guilt and his propensity to violate rules, because the prohibition against letter writing is no less aggregious than him deciding not to report the scheduling glitch.

He wasn’t getting out anyway, John Smith figured. He, like all the others who tapped on the walls from time to time were kept apart, in solitary, never permitted to see others through their windowless cells. Escort to the 12×12 recreational room was down the same lifeless corridor that greeted John Smith when he arrived at the Gulag.

Did he ever truly regret his decision to take unscheduled time? He did and worried over and over again about his family. However, he soon became convinced that in the short period where he experienced unscheduled time, he had achieve the American dream of freedom. He wondered why this did not occur to others.

As You Wish

By Christopher Ketcham

Once upon a time there was a handsome farmhand named Westley. Now Westley was like any other hired man who works farm duties; you know, he takes orders from the farmer and, you guessed it, also the proverbial farmer’s daughter. I can tell you some tales about farmers’ daughters…but I digress. You see this farmhand Westley was a polite young fellow. Whenever Buttercup—of course the farmer’s daughter—you never heard of a farmer’s daughter named Agnes or Tallulah or even Naomi, have you…well Buttercup had a habit of bullying poor Westley, ordering him about as a young farm lass who would be princess might her dolls and lesser servants. But of course Westley was in the same category as all the others with whom Buttercup must order about with impunity.

“As you wish” the hapless lad would always reply to the bossy lassie. “And this is about the most politest thing anyone could ever say,” you might hear that old plantation maven Scarlet O’Hara say in another timeworn classic Gone with the Wind. But wait a moment here. You and I know that crafty Scarlet would probably respond to an entreaty by ole Rhett himself, “Well fiddledeede, as you wish”…and you know then and there that this certainly isn’t the politest thing that anyone could ever say. So let’s return to the hapless farmhand again. What exactly did Westley mean by “as you wish?”

You’re So Vague

Ah, you say, the locus of the problem is that this vague response could be either a polite retort or a snide remark—or perhaps just about anything you or I could want to make it out to mean. And what about the listener, our lassie the farmer’s daughter Buttercup? She believed that when Westley rolled “as you wish” off his tongue, he was saying “I love you”.

Preposterous.

I agree. But read the movie’s script. There’s nothing in there that prohibits “as you wish” to mean anything, anything at all. Are we at a crossroads here where throwaway lines and vague retorts can mean just about anything? Isn’t there a law against such a thing? Shall we consult our Little Big Grammar Book for admonition, prohibition, and rebuke for uttering such a damnable phrase as “as you wish?” It isn’t in our style books either. Why is that? Tell me, why is that?

The As You Wish Code

It isn’t in the code because “as you wish” has become a useful expression of the oppressed. It’s the phrase of choice of the farmhand, the genie who pops out of the lamp, the bully sent to detention, the indentured servant, and, of course, the hassled employee sent by a cruel boss on another dreadful task. It’s what the careworn doughboy mouths, slouched against the trench wall, soaked in sweat and mud as he waits for the sound of whistle to send him over the top and into the meat-grinder of no-man’s-land. It is not the deprecating, “My pleasure” that operators are taught when they transfer you to the high mucky-muck who can’t answer her own phone. No, “as you wish” is a statement of defiance. So, how did Buttercup get it so wrong?

Well, you see, she was to become a princess. Princesses by all accounts are basically clueless. Clueless that is to the conditions their household staff and farmhands like Westley. Buttercup could not possibly have heard the effrontery in Westley’s voice because she had never known anything but the lap of luxury. Princesses as well as other royals just don’t get it. They are so filled with self-righteous power they can’t see through their designer shades or hear through their ears lobed with diamonds—that they are being dissed all the time by the likes of our fair young lad Westley. Dissed—but she and he did hook up—but then he died. Then again the story would have gone much differently if he hadn’t.

But they, royals and princesses aren’t the only ones who don’t get the joke, or miss the deadline to cash in a lottery prize, or in a drunken stupor fall off the turnip truck into the foul smelling ditch. Anyone in power anywhere is equally clueless.

Take Your Brain Out of the Vat

You’re skeptical. I do understand. Let’s try a few thought experiments, the favorite fictions of philosophers who wish to dazzle the unwashed masses whom they think are equally clueless…

We are not amused, you say.

So let’s dispense with all that falderal and show up those in power with a few examples that come not from some philosopher’s brain in a vat but from you, me, and that person over there who has been staring blindly into space for the length of this paper so far.

First is the case of Hannibal the Horrible, as he’s known by his fellow classmates. Hannibal is the consummate bully. He jabs you with his pencil and trips you on the stairs. He steals balls from the little kids on the playground and throws the orbs into traffic. POP! Ha ha. As he’s hauled off for the eleventh time this month to a promised detention, he says to Mrs. Henderson with a wry grin, “As you wish”.

Next, the genie slumbers peacefully in that nether world inside the lamp. Then you come along, an overgrown bumbling oaf. You lost your last penny down a sewer drain and have been known to eat rocks to sooth hunger pains. But out of the bottle like the wisp of smoke he probably is (cannabis I think) he does the usual. You know, the three wishes thing. Your make your first inane wish for a double cheeseburger with fries. And the genie says….you guessed it, didn’t you. Not as dumb as I expected.

Argh, and before the mast we now are, mateys. Why? The lot of us were pressed into to service. That is, we took from the one legged man a free pint of beer just to find a king’s shilling at the bottom which we used to get horribly drunk. And then upon wakening in the rusty scuppers found ourselves in shackles and bound for parts unknown on His Majesty’s frigate. And whenever the first mate shouts his orders to ye laddies, whadday say…Of course. But he can’t hear you, nobody with the rank of first mate can hear the likes of you swabs especially when you say that bloody thing.

So, you see, it isn’t so farfetched that the delicate Buttercup would find wax so built up in her ears from years of disuse to mistake “as you wish” for “I love you”.  But that isn’t all of it.

Of Grandpas and Grandsons

We must fast forward to the end of the story, that is, the story of the story—the whole premise of the movie, remember? The grandfather is reading The Princess Bride to his grandson. Remember that story? Certainly grumble back at me…and an “as you wish” I’ll say back to you. The child thinks that this story about princesses is going to be a real yawner. But after the tale is told he asks his grandfather to read it again the next night. And what do you think the grandfather says back? You got it. There, it isn’t so hard is it?

But how could this be, he’s the grandfather? You know this: grandsons always have absolute power over their grandfathers…You just walked into the trap, didn’t you? The roles have been reversed. The grandson has become the lord of the story and his grandfather the humble squire who’s tasked with reading it to him. Painful, isn’t it?

You see, it’s verifiably impossible for the person in power to say “as you wish” to the one she commands. Try it. I dare you. See how horrible it feels? It’s a downright inane thing to say, isn’t it?

First of all, you the all-powerful are the one who commands, not the servant who stands before you. When you give the order and respond back to his nod with, “as you wish” what do you think the poor dolt will think of that? He’ll figure that you have gone daft and just stare at you. Worse yet, he will come to despise you. He’ll even defy you and trundle off in a rage, desperate for a real master who’ll boss him around with impunity. He wants to be happy under your thumb not be mollified by some drivelish “as you wish” response. It breaks all the bonds of the oppressor to the oppressed when you the big boss respond to him, “as you wish.” And if you do it again, he’s likely to wander off. He’ll get lost first, then become homeless and later a heroin addict and end up cutting himself again and again with dull razorblades, and then he’ll die from a hot shot with a needle stuck in his arm. You want that, you really want that? Then come off it. Get with it and turn yourself around. Be curt, demanding, and even insulting but never as the boss say “as you wish”.

By Your Command

You want some theory, eh? Ok, let’s discriminate here first. If you recall in the television series Battlestar Gallactica, the centurions responded in their best analog voice, “by your command.” What makes that different from, “as you wish?” First of all, the commanders all can hear “by your command.” It’s the response they expect to hear. They have not wished it, they have commanded it and the proper response they expect to hear back is, “by your command”. But what about the theory of all of this? We’re getting to it.

You see, sociologists have known for years that there are some of us who are in power and some who are not…

Don’t patronize me

I hear you.

But would you believe that people who are the oppressed buy in some measure into the mythology that the oppressors are spinning? The oppressed hear that they are all dolts; they live for siestas; they can’t keep a job. Even if they don’t totally buy into it they question their own abilities. You know the drill of the oppressor: “Got to keep em down where they belong by explaining over and over again to em who they are.” But here’s the thing, while the oppressed may look like they’re buying into it they aren’t. That blank stare and the response, “as you wish” is about as far away from buying into it as you can get. But the trick is, and this is what we’ve been saying all along, the oppressor hears nothing of this, nada, zilch. They’re like the princess wallowing so deep in the mythology of her own power she hears nothing but what she expects to hear… “I love you…. Or, by your command.” Are the sociologists all wrong then; do the people on the bottom really buy into the crap they dish out at the top? What do you think?

Conspiracies Abound

That’s right. There is a grand conspiracy going on in the halls of power. The little people just aren’t buying it anymore. They have adopted tactics like, “as you wish” to defy their deaf overseers with suitable wit and wryness. However, and unfortunately in the end, this is a fool’s venture. Why? Remember the overseers can’t hear the irony in “as you wish.” It comes across as lips flapping and is heard in their power-soaked minds as “I love you” or “by your command.”

We are beyond hope then—hope for a better world? Hope to release the bonds of oppression and like phoenixes, rise from the ashes of our oppression? I’m afraid so. You see, subtlety is lost on the oppressor. They just don’t hear it; they can’t hear it. Buttercup couldn’t hear it and even the grandson who had just listened to the complete story of the Princess Bride didn’t hear his grandfather say, “as you wish.” What exactly he heard we don’t know because the movie ended.

It seems that we were built with this switch in our head. Even if we’ve been lucky enough to have risen from poverty and oppression and now become the oppressor we’ve lost that ability to understand, to hear, to even recognize the sly remark back to our urgent commands, the “as you wish.” We must perform experiments, you say to find out what switch in the brain triggers the loss of sensibility when one assumes the role as master, overseer, and yes oppressor. It’s a monstrously devilish problem to which we might even consider applying alien conspiracy theories to. Who put the power switch in our brains?

And yes, it goes both ways. The mighty sometimes fall and with it the switch goes back, resets, the current reverses and guess what comes out: “as you wish.” Ah, you say. I have an idea. What if we were to start a movement, a movement to ban, “as you wish” from the language, any language, even the dead ones (in case they rise again)? If there are no more people who will say, “as you wish” then there are no more people who are oppressed. But who will start this lobby to ban the hated phrase? Not the oppressed for it’s a salve to them. Not the oppressors because remember, they’ve never heard it. It’s up to you and me, the faithful fans of The Princess Bride.

Paper the House

So we scheme some more. What if we record our message on every cable channel so it plays more often than It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas. Will they hear it then; will they begin to get it? I’m afraid you have more faith in humanity than I do. I think not. Even if we tack on subliminal commercials that petition for the elimination of the phrase or hire credible film critics to introduce the show and explain the problem in a clear way—we run into the same problem. Switch on—don’t hear it; switch off, don’t want to stop saying it. But, you say it’s the cause of oppression–the fundamental cause of oppression. It must be stopped. And we can’t stop looking for a cure to this horrible malady. Stop the phrase…stop the phrase.

Paste this chapter on every billboard from Istanbul to Detroit—not Detroit, nobody lives there anymore—Minneapolis, then. Take it out as an editorial in the local paper, start blogs, hire hackers to create virus pop-ups to explain the problem. Switch on; switch off. Even with massive efforts the situation is futile. We can’t change what’s been wired into our brain.

Turn the Damn Switch Off

But you see now don’t you. You hear the phrase, “as you wish”. Guess what that makes you? You see how it is? How many times have you tried to speak truth to power and gotten squashed, fired, pushed aside, or lost your case against the smooth talking accuser’s lawyer? Switch off.

So you’re thinking drastic measures. You want to lock all the oppressors up and do to them what they’ve done to you. You want their switches off! But what does that do to the phrase, “as you wish”? It’ll be no fun to say it any more, will it? You really want that? Don’t you get at least some satisfaction from saying, “as you wish?” Aren’t you showing your distain for the big guy even though you’ve bought into the oppressor’s story just a bit? Come on, admit it? You have a little bit of loser in you simply because you don’t drive a Bentley. And if we don’t have the oppressor to boss us around we won’t do anything, right? The whole place will go to hell and society will crumble, all because we will no longer have any fun saying, “as you wish.” How are we to live with ourselves knowing what we now know, that no matter what we do we can’t ignore the importance of, “as you wish” and what it means to us?

And, of course, there’s the little matter of the switch in our brains. It won’t go away and as soon as someone starts getting a feeling that they can boss, shove, or push someone around they’ll do it. You won’t believe how quickly the world will slide back into its own oppressive ways again. Millions of switches will turn like dominos in a long line. Dum dum dum dum dum.

Can’t We Stop Them?

This is horrible, you say. And why then did they make The Princess Bride? To torture us, to make us slaves to the switch? You didn’t know that about the movie, did you? Packaged as a comedy, its sinister plot is to laugh at you, laugh at your ‘O I’m oppressed’ ways. The joke is on you and me, not in the story of The Princess Bride. The only line in the movie that matters to you and me now is, “as you wish.” Damn the directors, you say! It’s they that should be locked away, not the oppressors. We must ban the movie from ever being shown again. We must stop this evil conspiracy. We must petition the studios, the White House, even the Pope to prevent another remake of The Princess Bride!

From their embattled studio where hundreds of pickets daily gather to protest the remake of The Princess Bride I can hear the director saying, “as you wish.”