…one who believes in nothing, dismisses all moral principles and is sceptical of everything, even the existence of the world itself
Smith, despite having strong political beliefs to the contrary, including an implicit faith in the profit motive, an intense dislike of the welfare state, an absolute distrust of the greater good, a sharp distaste for the common man, an unbending confidence that the fittest will survive and prosper, an unflagging passion for the law of causation and a firm conviction with regards to the impossibility of a socialist utopia, was still an ardent supporter of the blonde and buxom Ursula’s march against capitalist greed – at least he gave every appearance of one who was, wearing a red t-shirt across which was emblazoned the hammer and sickle of the communist state.
“I thought you were a supporter of capitalist greed,” Oscar challenged Smith, as they waited for the march to commence.
“In theory,” was to be Smith’s only comment on his personal beliefs that day, and was considered by Oscar to be paramount to a declaration of Smith’s peculiar philosophy.
The fact that Oscar didn’t feel in anyway embarrassed at the embarrassingly low turn out was a fair indication of his commitment to the cause. The manner in which he almost sneered at his fellow socialists, decked out in socialist clothes and sporting socialist haircuts, socialist facial-hair and carrying socialist rucksacks, was perhaps an even better indication of his commitment to the cause. But Oscar, just like Smith, was more of a theoretical supporter of ideas than a get-your-hands-dirty practitioner, though the amount of thought he had expended since meeting the magnificent Ursula on considering socialist ideas, theories and arguments had been minimal. In his defence, his mind had been overly burdened of late with a thorough re-examination of his role in society and his apparent lack of any value to any other person and his zero contribution to society if measured under either of the standard means – his generation of financial wealth or his contribution to the overall happiness of mankind.
The arrival of Ursula and her cabal of socialist thinkers seemed to raise Oscar’s spirits. He shouted over to her in order to register his presence with her, to milk any fellow feeling that was sure to exist, but had to be content with a smile and a rather brotherly thumbs up from the beaming Ursula.
Smith was not so easily brushed aside by what he saw as such a callous disregard for a fellow socialist, so he made an audacious attempt to break into the cabal of hairy men and women which had surrounded the paragon of beauty which was Ursula. His pushing aside of an elderly lady who fell with all the drama of the amateur dramatist she must have been in her younger days, could have been just another callous act in a callous world and soon forgotten, but Smith didn’t reckon on the severity of the moral indignation with which a group of elderly socialists reserved for such an action, especially if there were no capitalist pigs around beating up honest working men and women or pouring asbestos onto children’s playgrounds.
The first cry, which could be seen as the beginning of the general outcry, might be seen by some as a curious one coming from a group of ageing socialist campaigners, but a shrill cry of “Sweet Jesus” can’t be beaten for its effect of stirring up a crowd of any constitution.
Now it should be made clear that there never was even the slightest hint of physical injury having been perpetrated by Smith, indeed the elderly lady managed to get up without assistance and join in the melee which followed with the fervour of the most physically able of the baying crowd.
In order to understand Smith’s failure to appreciate the consternation caused by a callous act (his callus act), or by morally reprehensible behaviour (also his), he only ever became consternated by matters which transcended the lowly world of appearances – the idea of inflicting pain or embarrassment on an elderly citizen appalled him, its happening in front of him, as a result of his awkward movements, merely puzzled him.
But the mechanics of group consternation is a curious thing and defies as easy an explanation as Smith’s other worldly outlook.
Perhaps if the mob had paused and considered the situation, then things wouldn’t have turned out as they did. Perhaps if Oscar had intervened and pleaded the cause of reason and pointed out that Smith was completely unaware of the old lady’s plight, that Smith was blind to actual instances of injustice, his mind being clouded with general principles, laws and forms, then things might not have descended into anarchy. Perhaps if Ursula had turned out to be the woman all had hoped her to be, the epitome of the socialist hero, she could have directed the crowd’s ire towards the excesses of capitalism which surrounded them on every side.
But the way things turn out is seldom dictated by the timely intervention of reason, nor by the well-intentioned intervention of one Oscar MacSweeny, but rather by the random shuffling together of possible outcomes.
Oscar himself, upon thinking of this very feature of reality later that day, when a moment of leisure was granted to him, couldn’t tally his lack of faith in any guiding principle with the outcome, an outcome which a supposedly random shuffle dealt out the very next moment, an outcome which wasn’t one predicated on the existence of a callous and spiteful collection of gods directing events from a cloud station above.
“People of England,” Smith called out, upon gaining the higher ground afforded by the library steps. “You have nothing to use but your chains!”
Such an assertion seemed to placate the hairy socialist mob, or at least stun them momentarily, and once stunned, their momentum lost, their consideration of this slightly altered well worn adage threw them into what can only be described as chaos, for want of a more suitable and less dramatic word.
“Use our chains?” was cried out, though not in unison, by way of a plea for some certainty and guidance.
“You have been deceived,” Smith went on, encouraged by the fifty or so blank expressions directed at him. “You are being deceived.”
Of course deception cannot be ignored.
“We have been infiltrated,” Smith seemed to have an intuitive grasp of what the crowd wanted. “One amongst us is a capitalist!”
As he ran, and run he must, Oscar’s faith in humanity sank to an all time low. Oscar’s appreciation of the ridiculousness of his current predicament hadn’t enough time to sink in. Sheer fear, born of a sudden and all consuming lack of understanding of the world around him, and a loss of faith in the great croupier in the sky, jostled for space in his mind with panic and the awareness of severe pain in several parts of his delicate frame where he had been caught with the sharp edges of placards before he had managed to put some distance between himself and the angry crowd and the pointed finger, raised fist and impassioned grimace of Smith.