Sabina and the Peaceful Nation
An Original Propaganda in Four Parts
By Ness Blackbird
Part the Fourth: In which Aaron finally comes to grips with his knawing dissatisfaction, does an honest day’s work, and truly sees his daughter for who she has become.
For Aaron Levins, work is like a drug. He has meetings, talking to people who are supposed to understand the pieces of the puzzle – financial, labor, marketing. Aaron is the only one with the whole thing. Trying to keep the whole thing alive. It’s a lot of work. It’s harder, and paradoxically more fun than it used to be, but it’s addictive. Lately, he’s been staying too late. So I’m a workaholic, he thinks. I got a right.
But really, it’s just the empty house. That’s what it is. The damned empty house. Who the hell wants to go home to an empty house? Sometimes he wants to put a cot in his office, so he won’t have to go home. But it wouldn’t look good. Damn it. It’s after six, and everyone’s cleared out. What am I doing here? A tear leaks out the corner of his eye. Got to quit crying, just fucking stop it. Time to go home, you don’t have to keep working all damned evening. Go home and get shitfaced in the safety of the living room.
He doesn’t like bars much any more. Can’t stand the company. Doesn’t want to be a maudlin drunk, pouring out his troubles to some other drunk who can’t understand what he’s going through.
He doesn’t see Tamara any more—the call girl. He tells himself he can’t afford it any more since his salary got hammered when the company joined the damned Peaceful Nation. But the truth is, he found himself crying after she left. Not just choking up. Since Noreen died, he chokes up sometimes—you live with it. But to hell with sobbing. He has an image of himself on the balcony, looking out over the valley, tears running down his stupid fat face.
And what’s he going to do about Sabina? Granted, she seems to be “finding herself”, whatever that might mean, in the Peaceful Nation, but at the end of day it’s more like a cult than a regular charity or whatever it’s supposed to be. What’s the deal with calling themselves a “nation” and having elections and everything? Nations have countries. The Jews call themselves a nation, too, but at least they don’t hold global elections.
But Sabina mentioned to him that she’s thinking about running for office in the Peaceful Nation. That’s too much. Long ago, he used to dream of having a son who would get involved in politics, be in the public eye. But not in some strange global peace group.
Since Gustavsen joined the Peaceful Nation, Aaron has been holding the company together with his teeth. True, it has stopped the bleeding in terms of market share, even gained a little. But market share doesn’t help when you’re not making money on your product. All the new regulations imposed by the Peaceful Nation cost money—labor regulations, environment, transportation. The only good news is—ironic pause—reduced executive compensation is saving the company over two million a year.
Great. And the new financial audits—although they probably prevented a catastrophe—brought the stock price down nearly 20%.
At home, Aaron gets quietly drunk and watches TV.
But when he wakes up at 10am, the doorbell’s ringing. What the hell? He looks like shit. He grabs some kind of clothes and stumbles over to the door. It better not be some salesperson. They’re not allowed in the building, and he’s in a mood to call security. He opens the door, keeping the chain on.
“Hi Daddy! Hey, let me in.”
“Sabina? What are you doing here?”
“We’re supposed to have brunch this morning, remember? We talked about it on Wednesday.”
'“Oh God. I’m not dressed.” And I must look as hungover as I feel.
Sabina just waits a few seconds. Even in his current state, Aaron can tell she is being more graceful with the situation than she might have in the past. He reluctantly opens the chain on the door. There’s someone else with her, her beanpole of a boyfriend. Aaron vaguely remembers that they were both coming. Fuck.
They sit in the living room and give him a little time to get himself together. When he comes out, Sabina manages the conversation with a skill he doesn’t expect from her—keeps it light, helps him forget what an asshole he’s been. Noreen used to be particularly good at that kind of thing, but he didn’t realize Sabina had inherited the ability. He can’t help thinking it bodes well for her political career.
They’ve brought a whole brunch feast with them. Bagels, croissants, cream cheese, lox, cheddar, brie, omelets, fruit, danishes. It’ll make me fat.
“Aren’t you supposed to be watching your calories, Sabina?” he asks. Sabina puts down a half a pear, looks at it for a second.
“You know, daddy, losing my mother and almost killing myself has really changed my perspective on things. I’m not afraid of gaining weight any more. It’s just not important. Life is full of much more important things—like living, like having friends and Danny. And you. Being overweight isn’t stopping me from doing anything I really need to do. And you know what? I’m actually losing weight anyway. We go on walks. And I’m not eating compulsively as much.”
Aaron looks at her darkly, doesn’t say anything. Sabina gracefully changes the subject. Aaron finds himself talking about his father.
“My dad was a carpenter in the days when things were done by hand. There’s a skill to sawing and hammering. If you’re good enough, it’s almost as fast as using a machine, and the results are often superior. Machine-driven nails are weak. When it comes to framing—work that needs to be strong—you should really drive nails by hand.”
“Did you learn a lot about carpentry growing up?” asks Danny.
“I never had the talent for it. I’m all thumbs. That’s why I went into business,” Aaron snorts. “Any asshole can do it. The whole trick to business is, it’s a game. You have to want to win badly enough. Nice guys finish last. You have to get the gold before the other guy.”
“Right,” says Sabina. “Which is why we need government intervention to keep the game under control. The advantage of the capitalist model is that it can drive people to work harder for greater gain; the disadvantage is that, without careful supervision, businesses will act for their short-term interests—that’s how you win the game—and forget about longer-range interests and the interests of society as a whole. The Peaceful Nation exists to take care of those interests.”
“OK, sure,” says Aaron, “But we already have a government here in the US—what the hell do we need another one for?”
“Well, regular governments, like the United States, which belong to a piece of land, are out of date. With the global economy come global environmental problems, global labor problems, and the need for global regulation of businesses. A local government like the US can’t hope to effectively regulate transnational businesses. Increasingly, rather than regulating them, local governments have been bought by them.”
“The US government is not out of date! And it’s not a ‘local government!’ You think your cockamamie global cult is going to do a better job of controlling world business?”
Sabina holds her ground. “We’re doing a better job of controlling Gustavsen.” Aaron, again, finds himself looking at her with a combination of frustration and wonder. Where did this person come from? This is not the daughter he thought he knew.
“You know, Sabina, you’ve really changed…you just seem so much more…grownup than you used to be. Even though I don’t agree with everything you’re saying—and I certainly don’t agree about the Peaceful Nation—I just wanted to let you know…” Dammit, he’s choking up again. This is all it takes any more.
“Thank you Daddy. I love you too.”
And then he’s crying again. Goddammit. This is not happening. “I’m sorry,” he chokes. “I just…”. Poor Danny is just sitting there like a deer in headlights. Aaron feels like such an idiot.
“It’s OK, daddy. Really.” And she walks around the table and puts an arm around him. He just sits there like an ugly fat caterpillar and cries. He can’t stop.
…And somehow, later that day, Sabina has gotten him to come along to a Habitat For Humanity house-building gathering. There are fifteen or twenty people there, about four people who know what they’re doing, and the rest are mostly fetching and carrying. They’re working on three different units in a development. With that many people working, things go remarkably quickly.
The lady Aaron is working with most of the day is a skinny hippy type about his age, with saggy breasts and no bra. She smells of patchouli.
“I love building things,” she enthuses. “It’s like a great big toy, a Lego set or something, like my kids used to play with. And I love doing it with Habitat, because when you’re done at the end of the day, you can go home. My husband spent our entire twenty years together building our house. I never lived in a finished house until we broke up.”
“I like it too,” says Aaron, just to be saying something, and he finds it’s true. He spends most of the day bemusedly listening to her while they staple up Tyvek and hang sheetrock. The flow of words is peaceful; he doesn’t have to say much. Her name is Benny, short for Benicia. She runs a sort of vegan catering service. She talks about her kids, her cats, her neighbors, her customers.
When they finish, she asks for his phone number. He’s too surprised to do anything but just give it to her; and it occurs to him that the build is also a kind of singles event. Another Peaceful Nation program, no doubt. Sabina might have told him. But actually he kind of hopes he’ll hear from Benny again. She’s so different from the people at work, it’s kind of a relief.
Walking to the car, Aaron watches his daughter with a new appreciation. His work has given him a sense of people. Well, she doesn’t scan like she’s been indoctrinated by a cult, he thinks, she scans like a politician. I always wanted a politician in the family.
Ness Blackbird lives in the Portland, Oregon, USA district of the Peaceful Nation. Since realizing the “USA” is an outdated concept (a fact understood by multinational corporations), he has devoted his time to global democracy. Ness is the webmaster of peacefulnation.org, which makes free online systems for nonprofits. Please visit the website, sign the declaration and become a member. Ness Blackbird is President of Willow Mountain Consulting, Inc., 503.281.0236, [email protected]