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The Brown Crayon and the Burden of Free Will

The Brown Crayon and the Burden of Free Will

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Published by Devon Pitlor
A young boy's solution to a problem changes the world.
A young boy's solution to a problem changes the world.

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Published by: Devon Pitlor on Jan 19, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/20/2013

 
THE BROWN CRAYON AND THE BURDEN OFFREE WILL
by Devon Pitlor, MA Econ.
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into theworld, he is responsible for everything he does.” 
--------
 Jean-Paul Sartre (from L’Etre et le Néant, 1943)
I. Old Tremsy addresses an advanced group of young citizenacolytes."Years ago, people used to cast ballots," said Tremsy. "Theyused to vote on things."The citizen acolytes, a mixed collection of dazed looking boysand girls, had all heard the story twice before---and always fromTremsy, as stated in the rules. His next utterance would be"They were all unhappy and worried. Voting presented themwith too many choices, and most were not prepared to getinvolved enough to know what they were voting for."Old Tremsy was a prime superannuary, one of the very elder ones, who had actually been there at the start, one whom theAdministration had kept around on artificial life support toremind people of how bad things had been before the advent of the Dynasty. Tremsy wanted to die, but he had an assigned jobto do. People needed to know from an actual living humanbeing, if one could still call Tremsy that, what life was
really 
likebefore the Dynasty. So for all the required gatherings, and therewere several each day, Tremsy told his story again and again.It was a simple little tale the way Tremsy told it, and it more thanexplained why things like group decisions, committees,participatory democracy and voting had once put such apsychological burden on everyone. "Every second person useda drug called Prozac in those days,"sighed Tremsy, the wordsfalling out of his mouth mechanically with a dull metallic ringechoing from somewhere deep inside his false and jerry-riggedinnards. "People were nervous and insecure. Then came Jeff 
 
Bonner."The story would always start in the same place. Tremsy madesure of that. He was talking about an event that had happenedway over two hundred years ago, but of course he was there or reasonably nearby. He never exactly said which. No one ever interrupted Tremsy. It was kind of a loose ordinance, but no oneever dared to anyway. So no one ever asked exactly whereTremsy himself was two hundred and thirty years ago when Jeff Bonner, age ten, arrived in the famous Miss Rintangle's famousfifth grade class at the famous Orion Elementary School in theequally famous Melvinhill, Indiana. One had to take some thingson faith. There was not a single photograph anywhere to befound of Miss Rintangle, her fifth grade class or of Jeff Bonner;that is, until the latter was about 85 years old, and in charge of everything and was spreading the claws of the Dynasty over theentire North American Union. Likewise, Melvinhill, Indiana wason no map, either historical or contemporary, and surely at leastone of the acolytes must have thereby doubted its existence.Jeff Bonner, Orion Elementary, Miss Rintangle, Melvinhill,Indiana---they may have all been fictional for all that anyoneknew, but Tremsy and his ilk were all over the Union spreadingthe gospel of these immortal beings and hallowed places bydroning their dull leaden tones into the ears of each succeedinggeneration of citizen acolytes. For full citizenship in the Union,it was requisite to sit through at least three of the narratives andthen take a test afterwards. You didn't get a social passcarduntil you did that. Without a social passcard, you amounted tovery little. With one, you were free and clear for life.So Jeff Bonner and his class of nameless, phantom childrenlived on and on for each succeeding era. If you wanted thebenefits of partial life extension, you had to be a citizen, and if you wanted to become a citizen, you had to be schooled in Jeff Bonner lore among several other things.Tremsy coughed.Mechanically he blurted "I want to die!" He always punctuatedhis tale with that. He could not control it. It was a glitch in his
 
life extension system, a system which was starting to get as oldas Tremsy himself. When it could no longer support his life,Tremsy might have the chance of actually dying. But thereremained the possibility that the Administration would justreplace it. They had perfected much better hardware sinceTremsy’s time. And they still needed him and his firsthand story.Tremsy coughed again. He failed to burble out his signatureflaw line and just went on with the story.For this group of citizen acolytes, it was the third and terminaltelling. The test, reputed to be easy, would be next. Thensomething about falling backwards off a steep cliff into a totallyinvisible safety net--which on occasion was removed suddenlyand not even there, in which case the citizen acolyte would bedashed headlong onto the rocks below, die, and others wouldunderstand that an slight error in standard deviation wouldalways doom a certain number of happy and contented citizensto a sudden and unexpected death. But the details of that trialare not the subject matter of this story.II. The Jeff Bonner test.It was taken on an electronic device which had not even had aname when Tremsy was a young man. But it was still just anold-time Q and A thing about twenty or so questions long.The general idea of most of the questions would be leaked to thecitizen acolytes in advance by one of the monitors. Things like:summarize the brown crayon story; explain why Miss Rintangleceded total power to Jeff Bonner; why were the fifth gradershappier in April than they had been in October? And, of course,why did Jeff Bonner go on and found the Dynasty, which nowspanned the entirety of the North American landmass?The answer to the last question was "because he made so manypeople so happy and they asked him to."That was the cheat answer.

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