“Kill that dog!” I slam my hand hard to the table. It smarts terribly, and I almost wince. The judges jump in their seats. Even the man from the Corporation jumps. The pain travels white-hot up my arm into my shoulder, but that pain is well worth the reaction. The man from the Corporation covers a smile with his hand. He seems impressed. I am as well, at having caught them all by complete surprise. Sentinel must be furious!
“I beg your pardon?” The man from Police gasps.
“If a man uses a dog to keep you from what is yours, kill that dog!” I assert the words of Malcolm X.
“I don’t understand,” says the woman from Security.
“Violence!” accuses the Man from Efficiency. “The very reason humanity did away with race and religion. The inherent violence of human differences was always its supreme liability. And there you are, at the end of your argument. All that is left is violence.”
The Woman from Reproduction concurs. Her face puckers, as if she smelled something awful. I betray a satisfied smile before continuing.
“Violence is the last domain of the downtrodden,” I assert.
“Certainly was an attention getter,” remarks the man from the Corporation.
“A subversion,” I say.
“A small victory,” he smiles respectfully, though with some sympathy.
“But a victory nonetheless.”
“Indeed,” he agrees.
“But to what end?” asks the man from Entertainment.
It is impossible for me to refrain from a smart-ass comment. “I thought you of all people would recognize the value of theater!”
“It’s the concept of violence, which you seem all too ready to employ, that I wish to explore,” the man from Police rubs his forehead and looks over notes.
“I don’t think he was really advocating…” the man from the Corporation begins. I abruptly cut him off.
“Indeed I was!”
“There you have it,” woman from Security wags her finger knowingly.
“Power concedes nothing without demand,’ said Frederick Douglas. “There is an implicit power behind any demand, or it has no value. The only true power of the powerless is violence.”
“Or the potential for violence,” adds the man from Efficiency.
“The same,” I say.
“So you admit to that predilection?” says the man from Police, as though uncovering some hidden motive in my words.
“It must be a possibility when power is unbalanced,” I say. A warmth rushes through me, as though I am being cornered. It is much too late to retreat, and especially before this bunch.
“You must understand, that when your power overcomes reason and justice and mercy, that I may rise against you, and that our very existence becomes part of the negotiation.”
“I’ll caution you about threatening the court,” the woman from Reproduction scolds.
“I have threatened no one,” I say, “Instead I have merely pointed out that your power resides in the size and force of the state, and that I am at the mercy to your penchant for fairness. My power, all that I have in the face of the Corporation, remains, if pressed, defiance.”
“May I ask,” the woman from Security begins. Her tone is softer, almost sympathetic. She even leans as far forward as possible. “May I ask, to what purpose? Why defy and resist? Why disrupt the precise order of the society?”
Is her question a trick? She must know what I have seen. All of them surely know that I have been to the Low City, that I have seen the nightmarish scenes in the Reclamation Center. They must understand that I know the hypocrisy of the Corporation and the refuse it pretends as solid foundation. Do I argue for my existence against all that, or does calling forth their shame and infallibility only make it easier for them to get rid of me? The assertion of one’s freedom always creates greater opportunities for their destruction, leaving the oppressed and ignorant ultimately free in their limited fate. Oh, what a conundrum!
But then the judges make a mistake, and I am saved again, at least for the moment.
“Show us a single benefit to your existence,” says the man from Efficiency.
Even the man from the Corporation realizes the impossible nature of that question, even though it is at the heart of all this. Sweat beads across my bow. I brush it away with my fingers, watching where the drops fall fat and wet and round upon the floor.
“Be fair!” the Corporation Man scolds. His hand pounds the desk loudly causing the judges to cringe and exchange nervous glances. He appears frustrated. “I have not sought to intervene, but the question is unfair, and, I dare say, unanswerable.”
The woman from Reproduction presses the issue. “In the view of the court the question is fundamen…”
“It’s a fool’s question!” he snaps in quick reply. “One only a fool would ask.”
“Not sure I follow,” says the man from Efficiency.
“I could ask each of you the same question,” The man from the Corporation’s tone is belittling.
“Are you an observer or a participant?” asks the man from Police, annoyed. His words are poorly chosen and harshly delivered. I can see that he already regrets uttering them, though it is far too late to call them back. His eyes narrow as he cowers from the blistering response from the Corporation Man.
“Perhaps we might do with one less judge!”
“No, no,” I reply, with a casual wave of the hand. I nod to him respectfully. It is genuine, even if it becomes another opportunity for dividing the judges further. “I will answer the question, if the Court will permit?”
“I can hardly wait,” scoffs the man from Efficiency, drawing an unequivocal glance from the Corporation Man.
“The court will not interfere,” he says sternly.
I would reach out to the man from the Corporation. I want to exploit the friction among the judges as much as possible, but not if it means condescending, groveling, or appearing to curry favor. Nor would I dare be obvious and arouse their natural suspicions.
“If I may,” I scoot onto the table. It is thoroughly theatrical. The man from the Corporation seems to be the only one to recognize the gesture. “The question is definitely an impossible one. It is, for one, impossible in that no man can adequately proclaim his right to exist to another. Do I have a right to exist in this society? The question is fully one of perspective, and perspectives are, by their very nature, biased and limited. It is those biases and limits that become the essence of my defense.”
“Go on,” says the man from the Corporation, covering a smile with his hand. The man from Police glances in his direction before shrinking from his stare.
I am not speaking to the judges now. Their views are well known and unchangeable. The character of their arguments is combative. They are skewed and devoid of compassion, or any pretense that they desire for any understanding beyond their own. But I have the attention of the most powerful man in the room, and with that perhaps his favor