Friday, April 15, 2011

Prometheus Chuckled

“Now class, what year did the first Atlan War begin?”

The same two kiss-asses raise their hands. The same two whose parents bug me at every parent/teacher meeting about how their kid got an A on some assignment that they clearly deserved an A+ on. I pretend not to see them and glance around the room, hopeful that someone will just make eye contact. No luck.

I sigh. “Okay, Anne.”

“173 A.M., in March.”

Stupid, smug smile on her face… as if trivia like this even matters.

I force a smile, “Very good. Now, can anyone tell me why?”

As if these kids understand the euphemisms used in history books… ugh, same two hands go up.

“Yes, Ken?”

“The Great Migration.”

“Excellent.” I start to write what has been approved on the board, but I stop. I can’t stand it anymore. I’m teaching these kids about a time that might as well be dead to them. And it’s not like they’re being told the truth

I turn back around. “Does anyone know how the Great Migration influenced the outbreak of war?”

Ahh, it feels good to finally ask something that even the brown-nosers don’t know. Wait a second… is that…

“Daryl, are you raising your hand or just scratching your head?”

“Well, I sort of know, I think. It’s kinda, like, um… so the Elite left to form their own country because they felt that, like, they were being oppressed by governments who took everything from them. Then, other countries got upset that, like, all the talented people left, so they tried to invade.”

“Almost,” I say. “I mean, you’re right, the Elites left and moved away, but we lived here for 173 years before the war. I know what they teach you in elementary school and on the History Channel, but the truth of the matter is… and you can trust me, since I was alive when war broke out… no one missed the Elites.”

Anne’s hand shoots up. I point at her and nod.

“My mom says that all the countries in the whole world were in poverty after the Elites left.”

“That simply isn’t true,” I say.

The classroom is full of murmurs.

“Don’t you ever wonder how everything is made?” I ask.

Anne raises her hand but doesn’t wait to be called on. “Everyone knows the robots build everything in factories.”

“Who built the robots?” I ask.

“They’re made in the robot factory,” she says.

“And who built the robot factory?”

The room is still aflutter with the students talking amongst themselves. I pull down a map of the world in the front of the classroom. “We all know where we are, here,” I point to our small island. “But right this minute, there are people all over the world.”

“Yeah, living like animals,” says Anne.

The class laughs.

“No, they aren’t,” I say.

“Uh huh,” Anne chimes back. “Then how come they’re constantly threatening to go to war with us?”

“No one is threatening us,” I say. “Those are just false reports in the news meant to justify the build-up of weapons. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen the assembly lines at the factories.”

Everyone’s hand goes up.

“I mean actually seen it with your own eyes, not pictures or video on TV.”

The hands slowly go down.

“I was a manager in a missile factory until I retired to be a teacher,” I say. “I’ve seen it. There are robots and machines on the floor, that’s true, but a lot of the real work is being done by people.”

Ken raises his hand. “My dad says the advantage of a fully automated assembly line is that they don’t have to pay wages for human workers.”

“They don’t pay wages,” I say. I glance up at the camera in the corner of the room. “The people working in the factories are slaves.”

The class doesn’t gasp. They don’t say or do anything. They just sit there, the children of the “Captains of Industry,” unwilling to listen. I try for ten minutes or so more to get through to them before the police arrive, but I have an uneasy feeling in my gut that I didn’t even reach one of them. Was it all for nothing?


“Never thought I’d see you again,” a voice behind me says. I turn around and see a drone glancing over at me from his work station. I don’t recognize him. “What are you doing down here, not up there?” he asks, pointing to the catwalk above where the overseers watch like hawks.

“I leaked trade secrets,” I say.

“Tough break,” the drone says.

“Do you know who Prometheus was?” I ask.

“Never heard of him. Does he work on the electronic guidance line?”

“No,” I say. “He was a god, or a Titan, actually, a race that came before the gods. Prometheus helped Zeus win his war against the Titans and become the ruler of the universe. Specifically, Prometheus helped Zeus attain his lightning bolts, the weapon that ultimately defeated the Titans.”

“Why would Prometheus betray his own kind?” asked the drone.

“Hey!” a shout comes from up top. “Quiet down and work.”

Some more time passes and we busy ourselves with our task. After a while, the overseers’ shadow no longer lingers over us.

“So, why did Prometheus help Zeus?” the drone asks me.

“Zeus claimed to be a just god, a ruler much more fair than the Titans, who were a barbaric race of monsters. Zeus promised a better future.”

“Ain’t that always the way,” says the drone.

“Despite the critical support provided by Prometheus, Zeus grew angry at Prometheus when he stole fire and gave it to humans. Zeus did not want humanity to have that power, saying it was reserved only for the gods.”

The drone laughed. “Ah, now I get it. Prometheus leaked trade secrets, like you. That’s why you’re so fascinated by him.”

“In a way,” I mutter. “Prometheus was chained to a rock as punishment, and every morning as the sun rose, an eagle came to that rock and began pecking at the Titan’s gut. The eagle would dig through his intestines to find the liver, devour it, and leave. And every day, being immortal, Prometheus would grow the liver back, preparing himself for tomorrow’s torture.”

“Wow,” says the drone. “Zeus is a creative punisher. I don’t even know what I’d do if I were Prometheus in that situation.”

“I know what I’d do.”

“What?” the drones asks.

“I’d chuckle.”

This draws a laugh from the drone. “Really?”

“Yep,” I say. “Because Prometheus knew something that Zeus didn’t. He knew that one day, Zeus would bear a child who would break the chains and free him.”

We work silently for a bit more before the drone asks, “Did it happen? Was Prometheus freed?”

“Well,” I say. “When was the last time you heard of anyone worshipping Zeus?”

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