“You can do whatever you want,” said the Bohemian, “as long as you know what you’re doing.”
It was his first night in town and he’d introduced himself at the local bars, this unkempt, slovenly old-school hippie type with his long hair loose and his beard in braids. No one knew where he came from or how he came about the money for his drinks.
“What if it’s illegal?” one man asked him.
“And who decides what’s legal?”
“Why, the government!”
“And who is this government?”
A short silence, and then “The people?”
“And are you not the people?”
This had them scratching their heads.
This was the beginning of the Bohemian’s campaign. He didn’t run for office, but he spearheaded five separate community-driven initiatives: a community garden to grow community food, a clothing donation recycling organization, a shelter for the homeless, a free clinic and finally a small public school that served as a community college.
“But who will pay for all this?” people asked every step of the way.
Every initiative paid for itself through volunteer labor and donations.
People started to become happy. They started to remember what was essential in their lives.
“But what about theft?” I asked the Bohemian one day. “What if someone has what I want and they don’t want to give it to me?”
“Is it a tool?” he asked.
“If they are using it, why should they give it to you? If they’re not, why should they keep it?”
“But suppose they don’t want to give it up when they’re done.”
“If there’s a tool that they have but aren’t using and someone else wants to use it and they won’t let them, that’s just stupid. They pull that on enough people, I say let the government come in and make it a crime not to share it.”
“But why would the government do that?”
“Well, the government is the people, aren’t they? If the people want something, why shouldn’t they pass laws?”
“But what about the man who has it? Shouldn’t he be allowed to keep it, if he wants?”
“This is what I meant,” said the Bohemian, “by needing to know what you’re doing.”
Then one day, the men in suits came.
“Do you have permits for this?” asked the men in suits.
The Bohemian looked around at his neighbors. “I don’t hear anyone objecting,” he said, “Everyone benefits.”
They started with the community garden. “It’s on city land.”
“It’s land we all live on. Would you like to benefit, too? We might eed you to make the occasional contribution.”
“It’s a threat to our economy,” said a man with round glasses.
“It feeds people,” said the Bohemian. “Peop who otherwise wouldn’t eat. How bad can that be?”
“You need to pay your taxes.” This one had a long, white tie.
“Like I said,” said the Bohemian, “You’re welcome to help out.”
The Bohemian and his organization were slapped with citations and fined. He didn’t pay and he didn’t let anyone else pay for him, either.
“Why should we?” This is a local issue. A local solution to a local problem. What do men in suits have to say?”
But in a windowless room inside a large black building, the Byzantine heard these reports.
“What about murder?” I asked the Byzantine. “Are you saying that if enough people want a man dea, they make it illegal for him to be alive?”
“If that many people want a man dead,” said the Bohemian, “I would want to know why. If enough people wanted him alive, they could stop it. And if they couldn’t, well… it might get messy.”
This was why I was nervous when the Bohemian was asked to the capital.
“We can’t have you breaking the rules,” said an entirely nondescript man in an entirely nondescript suit surrounded by endless piles of papers stacked impossibly straight. “There are reasons we do things the way that we are.”
“Those reasons must not be good enough,” said the Bohemian.
“What you fail to understand,” said the Byzantine, “is that this is a system that works. It works because every cog rotates in a specific direction. And you are clogging those cogs.”
“And what you fail to understand,” countered the Bohemian, “is that your system doesn’t work for those cogs. Probably because instead of cogs, it’s people you’re using.”
Sure enough, the Bohemian had an accident on the way back. I knew what had happened. Enough people wanted him dead that they had made it happen.
But I also saw what came next. I saw that the Bohemian had been broken in half like a cell dividing, over and over again, and now, like a disease, he was spreading. No, not like a disease. Like evolution. He was sprouting up everywhere, bringing change, showing people what they could do if they tried.
“Your way is too complicated,” they said to the Byzantine. “There are too many moving parts and we’re tired of moving for you.”
They wanted his land, so they seized it. They wanted his buildings, so they took them, too. They didn’t like his system, so they tore it down, did their studying and their research and built another one they liked better.