You must be a philosopher, said Quintus,
To initiate reasoned dialogue
In the anteroom to final oblivion.
And you're lucky indeed sir to have posed
This question to one who has the answer
And can grant you some small satisfaction
To take away into the lethal mists.
For was it not this administration
That created Nineveh Lottery Corp
And skillfully used a belief in luck
To increase State revenues fivefold?
And who better knows than I, a monarch,
What awaits a people who would trust in luck,
In luck alone, to manage their affairs.
Recall, if you will, Babylon's despair
When each of her investments proved unsound,
Her rulers brought low by speculation.
They placed their trust in luck, gambled and lost.
The place is completely uninsurable,
Rife with crime and bad debt, frought with risk,
And subjected to the democratic whim.
They rely now on the vox populi,
Majority rule, as if ninnies in mobs
Choosing ninnies to lead was a godsend,
A stroke of genius sent by ninny gods.
What payoff will voting machines bring?
Random number generators would serve
The fools just as well in making a choice.
They select their damsites by drawing lots,
Manage traffic by just letting it go,
Fight foes only after taking polls
Or sneak-attack distant enemy fleets
After watching how yarrow sticks fall.
They arbitrate conflicts by flipping coins,
Design integrated circuits in jets
By random selection, the best one wins
And taxis down tarmacs in triumph,
Worst take nose-dives, kill all aboard,
And melt loser chips in white-hot flames.
Babylon is chaos, noise, a circus,
Governed entirely by contingency.
All this came from lack of prudent skill,
All due to unreasoning trust in luck
And any market force that then prevails.
Such trust is invitation to ruin,
For law and order can be only upheld,
By the skill of an educated tyrant.
And God's law and order must be preserved.
With it, we're strong and secure and wealthy,
But without it, without those benefits,
We all dissolve into Brownian movement
In the cloud chamber of our fate's dim eye.

That last line was nobly said, oh king,
But nonetheless it was a trifle obscure.
Still, I perceive your position on the matter.
Therefore, I urgently request that you place
Your money, so to speak, where your mouth is.

What? Do you wish me to stab you in a rage
Rather than the calm and almost kindly
But surely humane fashion I intended?

Absolutely not. I propose a bet.
First, I bet I'm more lucky than skillful,
And, second, that luck's superior to skill.
Third, sir, call your elkhound off please,
That leg's not attached quite as tightly
As one might like in so large a limb.

Why should I accept your wager? he replied.
Your payoff, clearly, will be your life,
But what is mine? Your sackcloth, your sandals?

I have the good fortune, I said modestly,
To have a fortune concealed to human sight
Implanted inside me by divine intent.
Part I'll reveal, part will remain hidden.
I'm a certified Prophet of the Lord.
I came to Nineveh at the Lord's request
To deliver unto its King a message.
God believes Nineveh deserves a chance,
A chance to repent mistaken convictions,
Misguided paths, mismanaged actions
So adroitly and so skillfully pursued,
But I disagree; I'd like to see it trashed.
The message still remains undelivered.
If I go now into the lethal mists,
It will be with unrepetant Nineveh
And its hapless monarch following my tracks.

Previous Page
Next Page

Previous Caput
Next Caput

Liber Jonae Contents