Moses was a Liar: 3 GENESIS 2: The Currency of the Morally Bankrupt

Posted: October 13, 2011 in SciFi

Six months had passed since the apocalypse. During this time, the seas around KRAT continued to batter the cliffs. Ever so often, further tremors rocked the mountain. This would set off more tidal waves; at times moving away from the plateau while at other times toward the mountain refuge.

Mt Brutus was quiet for the moment.

Clouds created from the ash produced by the eruptions of hundreds of volcanoes and super-volcanoes across the planet, still covered the earth. For the first time the survivors started to experience the effects of the New Ice Age which was setting in over the Northern Hemisphere. Despite their proximity to the equator, it became bitterly cold and snow swept down in blizzards from the north. The waters below them seemed to be more vicious than ever, protesting the cold. Atop the hillock on the plateau, snow dusted the rocks while crevasses and areas lying in shadow, froze over for the duration of the winter. The birds had long since departed with their young, disappearing through the clouds to warmer climes. The hills on KRAT were now strangely quiet. Food had become scarce.

The survivors’ main activities were centred on keeping themselves fed and warm. The clothes they had started making from animal skins, hemp and feathers were not sufficient to keep them protected. In any event, the severity of the cold was unexpected. Very few survivors wore any shoes. The best they could do was to fashion primitive sandals from cured animal skins to protect them from the sharp stones and thorns which littered the veldt. Several of the older and frailer survivors succumbed to the continuous travails and hardships they’d been put through since the Airbus crash-landed on the plateau. A small cemetery had consequently been established on the verges of the forest. It was growing steadily and now contained eight fresh graves.

Whilst the water supply diminished, the spring had fortunately not ceased flowing. The water was nevertheless close to freezing point, making bathing an ordeal. The wetlands were virtually frozen over and white with frost every morning. So-called black frost, which killed off virtually all deciduous plants, became a regular occurrence. Fires, especially inside the huts, were kept burning to dispel the cold while the search for firewood forced the survivors to caste out in ever widening circles; deadwood and brush in the forest became very scarce. It was not long before normally healthy trees started dying mysteriously despite the strict rule that the forest be protected. Clearly, bark was being stripped to kill off the trees but no-one was prepared to admit to this. Those who opposed the killing of trees were as cold as the rest of them.

The cold had also decimated their hemp plantation which had been so lovingly nurtured by Mike. He together with some enthusiastic supporters constructed a small hot house to continue the propagation of the essential plant for the survivors. The small structure was heated by a makeshift geyser John Duguid had fashioned from mud and stone with a brass water container he had pirated from one of the Airbus’ geysers. The geyser was fuelled by wood and the heated water fed into the hot house via open gutters. They had also built a small water reservoir near the stream from where water was gravity fed to the geyser by a system of gutters John made with aluminium sheets which were pounded with smooth rounded stones into the required shapes. Inside the hot house it was quite warm and after some initial problems they were able to propagate the hemp plants although they were somewhat smaller than the original seed donors. The cosy hut became a favourite spot for the survivors, some for the warmth, and others for its produce.

Hunger had become a normal part of their daily lives and scrounging for edible roots and berries became a full-time and essential pastime It was not uncommon to see women, half-clothed fighting for the smallest root or rat.

By this time the survivors in both camps looked very different than when they had boarded Flight BA 765. None of their now-dead families or lovers would have recognised them. All the men had sprouted thick beards and while their hair was long, it was normally tied behind their heads with strands of home-made hemp or sisal braids. The women generally wore hand-sewn buck-skin skirts while their tops were fashioned from feathers and hemp woven into long strands. None of the women had access to any form-wear and the sight of naked breasts was common place.

Needles were fashioned from thin bird bones which had been cut and filed sharp, while thread was made from sisal and hemp. Stronger ropes were made from cured leather although a substantial amount of stainless steel cabling had been salvaged and was used to strengthen their huts and other structures. Additional tools were made to cultivate the land and although some of these tools broke quite quickly, their skills and designs improved sufficiently for the ploughing of their lands. To till the hard rocky soil they used leather ropes strung across the backs of the strongest of the men who pulled while the women pushed, their primitive ploughs from behind; draught animals all.

They had also managed to make soap from the tallow of animals and lime they had dug up on the far side of the plateau. They cooked up this mixture with ash, water and oil extracted from hemp seeds to soften the soap and to give it a more pleasant aroma. When cooled down the hardened soap was cut into bars. For their daily brushing of teeth, they used small sticks cut from a curiously addictive plant with which Zyndile was not familiar. They also chewed this plant’s leaves which gave them a mild high. Mike later identified the plant as Qat, the addictive plant so popular in what was once Ethiopia and Somalia.

The axes they had recovered from the plane were rapidly wearing down, so Gary and John looked for flint stone and so-called ironstone which split easily when struck at an angle to start shaping new axes and knives. It was a tedious job and some of the women were trained to carefully split off thin slivers of the hard rocks.

Esme’s pregnancy became very obvious to all and as a result she was treated with special deference by all the survivors of Base Camp. A birth in the new world was a signal occasion. Christine’s midwifery skills became ever more important. Esme often found herself isolated from any hard work. Rachel and June hovered around her like two nursing cows in an elephant herd. Oscar seemed to have taken on the role as surrogate father of the growing child in her womb, although it was clear to everyone that he was not the biological father of the child. The pregnancy became symbolic to their very survival.

Father Ridgeway tried a number of times to counsel Esme but Christine, at Esme’s request saw to it that she was not bothered by the priest. In the meantime, Alistair had waxed stronger and was back to his boisterous self. He often accompanied Karl on hunting trips although he was more of a nuisance than a hunter, as he would scare off prey to protect them rather than see them killed by Karl.

Ahmedi meanwhile reached an understanding with his son insofar that he not preach to Hassan.  Hassan in turn was allowed to explore and seek his own destiny. It was not a satisfactory arrangement as Islam does not brook disobedience and indeed Ahmedi, while not a fundamentalist, had read to him from the Qu’ran:

Lo! those who believe, then disbelieve and then (again) believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them, nor will He guide them unto a way.[1]

However, Ahmedi was the lone Moslem. It was almost impossible for him to enforce his beliefs on his children amongst all the unbelievers and idolators. Shenaaz, almost imperceptibly, drifted away from her father’s sadness, frustration and anger. During the cold winter months, he became more and more isolated and closeted himself in his hut with the Qu’ran. Whenever he got an opportunity to do so, he would try to convince if not convert some of the survivors to Islam as the only way but he fought a hopeless battle. The division between the religionists and the rest was becoming more evident than ever. This was apparent especially on Sundays when the Catholic Priest together with Ahmedi gathered to pray and preach God’s word to the believers. A small contingent who had no interest in religion whatsoever, such as Gary and those opposed to it, carried on with their daily chores and lives.

The divisions manifested themselves especially when matters of common concern were being discussed. A schism developed around the issue of the teaching of the younger members of the survivor’s camp. Suzette and Father Ridgeway were quite adamant that they should be educated in the Christian value system while Christine, June and Gary proposed a more liberal and broad based approach. Pragmatists such as Karl and John Duguid saw no value in an outdated and inappropriate form of education. ‘Educate to survive’ was their motto. Zyndile was inclined toward the Christian grouping but felt that the Christian religion did not address her real ancestral needs. She, together with some men and a couple of women, started to practice a more basic form of ancestral worship and created a small circle of rocks on the outskirts of the forest for this purpose. Often when they arrived at their spot, they found that the rocks had been scattered by someone. This did not deter them as they knew that some would interpret their practices as witchcraft. During these ceremonies, they would implore the ancestral spirits to protect them and when an important occasion such as a day to remember an ancestor was feted, they would slaughter a small animal which they then consumed after cooking it over a fire. Zyndile used to call this umsebenz.

None of the groups had any materials to use for teaching purposes, so it was left to those who wanted to teach to do so and those who wished to learn to do so. Much of the teaching focused on the personal values of those involved. Christine became a popular teacher to especially some of the younger survivors as she had an open mind and encouraged them to experiment, ask questions and to substantiate their arguments when these arose. Some of the younger children who were still controlled by their parents were nevertheless obliged to go to the classes organised by Father Ridgeway, Suzette and Ahmedi. Their education reverted back to the fundamentals of Christianity and lessons were mostly derived from passages from the Bible although passages from the Qu’ran were also used. For the very young this also included reading and writing skills. Suzette was asked to reproduce verses on their papyrus sheets. For ink she used soot from the fires mixed with water and also some oil derived from hemp seeds. Each child was given a small pen which they made themselves from the feathers of large birds such as wild geese and even guinea fowl. The writing was quite primitive but it occupied their time. After further experimentation, the inks would be perfected and even some dyes discovered.

It was a particularly cold day and Christine had decided to venture out of her warm hut. She left the camp to walk toward the remains of the Airbus. She was quite deep in thought and was quite startled when she sensed someone close behind her. Spinning around she was surprised to see that it was Suzette. The two of them hadn’t had much in common since the disaster except when Christine had administered her broken leg; even then their communication had been somewhat superficial and tentative almost like two pugilists sizing each other up.

“You startled me, Suzette!” Christine said in mock relief.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to Christine. When I saw you leaving the camp I thought I would follow you as I’ve never really had an opportunity to thank you for everything you’ve done for me or for the other passengers who were injured or traumatised.”

“Thank you, Suzette,” Christine replied in some surprise. “I never think about thanks; it’s just the way I’ve been brought up and trained as a nurse I guess. You do what you have to do, and that’s it.”

“Well you certainly lived up to the profession’s ethical standards. Thank you again. Without your care we would’ve had a lot more to worry about.”

“You’re welcome,” Christine replied again somewhat embarrassed by the woman’s insistence to thank her. It seemed somehow contrived. Was there something else she was after, she thought to herself. Suzette had fallen into step alongside Christine. The two of them walked along, as if old comrades in arms.

“Christine, I was wondering…”

Aha here it comes, Christine cynically thought to herself.

“Yes?”

“Well you know, we’re all aware of your stance against John and religion per se, yet you seem to be very knowledgeable about these things but also very cynical and even bitter. What has brought this about?” the economics professor asked.

“I don’t know that it’s any of your business, Suzette. People must do as they see fit, but if you have to know, I believe in honesty in everything in life and religions are fundamentally dishonest as are the utterances of all mystics. I’ve nothing against John as an individual; he’s done me no harm. I just find the supercilious and hand-wringing manner of priests in general, offensive. Must be a hangover from the Dark Ages when they knew they controlled people’s destinies and could destroy people at will.”

“Sjoe, you are cynical. I’m an economist and as an academic I’m inclined to research and investigate everything myself before expressing an opinion, so I can appreciate your liberal line of thought, but even as cynical as I can be, I cannot see how you can totally discard the notion that God exists or that religions are essential value systems for human existence.”

The two women reached the shattered shell of the Airbus and sat down facing each other.

“Suzette, you’re an economist. What type of economist are you?” Christine asked, throwing Suzette somewhat off-guard.

“I’m what they call a development economist.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know where you’re taking this, but a development economist specialises in issues confronting the developing world, especially in the socio-economic dimensions.”

“OK. So that means you concentrate on issues such as poverty, unemployment and even inequality between the have’s and the have-nots, am I right?”

Now Suzette was really surprised. Christine was much wider read than she’d expected.

“You’re a surprising woman, Christine. I really wish we could have met under different circumstances. Yes, in essence you are right although from an academic perspective, I’m trained in macro-economics. I started leaning toward the development angle when I was continuously bombarded with queries from students and even the government in South Africa concerning the contribution economists have to make in a dualistic economy such as ours. To be quite frank, economists do not have a wonderful reputation. But what does this have to do with our original discussion?” She wasn’t going to be thrown off the track so easily.

“Well, you ended your statement just now by saying that religions are essential value systems for human existence. I’m trying to draw a parallel between economics and religion. I’d like to unpack what you meant when you said that to try to understand your take on it,” Christine replied.

“The way I see it,” Suzette said, “people have a need to believe in a deity and to try to live for something more than what their lives on this earth are all about. The values encapsulated in religions have been developed over thousands of years. They serve to direct and guide people to walk the narrow path and do good to others. When you look at what religion offers people who have a need for guidance, moral- and sometimes material support, I believe it plays an essential role.”

“Why is this important to you?”

“I think it gives people comfort and especially hope to believe that one day they may rise to a heaven and a better life. More importantly to do good to others during their stay on this earth.”

“And why do you believe that to be important, Suzette?” Christine asked again, looking at the woman in front of her.

“Helping others is the crux of being human in my view. It differentiates us from animals; it’s the ultimate value which separates good from evil…”

“Is helping others as you put it, not paternalism?”

“No it isn’t, although some paternalism is often called for in especially paternalistic societies which tend to dominate the developing communities in the world.”

“Suzette, you said that helping others is what differentiates man from beast. This is actually not true; the argument is based on a false premise. Animals do help each other not only man; there are even instances of animals helping man in distress. But you also said this is what separates good from evil, so by implication those who do not help others or do ‘good’ as you put it, are evil, inhuman. This is the most monstrous notion I’ve ever heard. What really differentiates man from beast is his capacity to think, to be aware or conscious that he thinks and to able to use this to choose to act for better or for worse. Religion doesn’t encourage enquiry or thinking man; in fact it demands a sheep-like obedience, sacrifice and loyalty. Have you ever visited a really poor country which has been destroyed by wars initiated by politicians, tyrants or religionists? Have you ever seen thousands of displaced persons, child amputees or women raped to death by their very sons?” Christine asked, knowing instinctively that Suzette as an academic had probably never reached out to actual disaster areas.

“No, I haven’t except in disgusting photographs, but what has this got to do with religion?”

“Everything Suzette, absolutely everything. Religion is but one form that mysticism takes. Millions of people have died because of their religious- and political fervour and the false hope that their so-called souls will go straight to heaven if they die in some god’s name or for some dictator who has lied to his subjects and created fear among them about real or imagined threats. Millions have died because of mystics who lie and manipulate people to follow their wishes. These include world- and religious leaders such as Genghis Khan, the Christian Crusaders, Mao Zedong, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden as well as modern-day western politicians who fabricated ‘smoking guns’ and fake terror attacks. I have seen the so-called ‘hope’ religion brings to the mother holding a starving child in Ethiopia; I have also seen the ‘hope’ drugs brought to child soldiers in Sierra Leone who then rape and kill their mothers and sisters; I have seen ‘hope’ in the eyes of a beautiful female soldier who knows she will die from the stomach wounds she has received in Eritrea when her president tells her she will become a martyr and ascend to heaven. This is what he used to justify sending thousands of innocent youth to the warfront. No Suzette, don’t sell me hope. The ‘hope’ religion brings is false and is a travesty; it is the currency of the morally bankrupt masses; it is the product sold by moral cheats. To hold out hope as an ecclesiastic virtue as the Catholic Church propagates, leads to a fatal dependency on outside intervention. Changing one’s own destiny calls for personal action and not hope”.

“Christine, what can you and your types offer the poor of the world? The enormous levels of inequality are something we must take responsibility for and ensure that they can hope and strive for a better future.”

“I have no feelings of guilt for the poor, what I have achieved in life was due to my own efforts. I’ve played no part in their being poor…Oh but the disadvantaged did not have your opportunities I hear you say! People, rich and poor must strive to create their own opportunities. Look at Gary; he was born in the slums of South Africa but by using his natural attributes he excelled in sport and created wealth for himself and his family. I did not take away from the poor to be better off; that is the morally corrupt argument that communists, totalitarians, statists, churches and priests use to make the ignorant or even the wealthy, feel guilty. You can go to any country in the world and you will find the successful and the poor…and the latter will often outnumber the successful because they are the parasites or looters who use and indeed need the genius or efforts of others to live off. All the collectivist does is to re-distribute poverty. Of course this is also the currency exploited by politicians to gain and maintain power. The vote of the poor is often more powerful in many countries than the vote of the wealthy. But what I’ve noticed is that those in power exploit the vote of the poor and then they fail to deliver on their promises.”

“Despite what the communists, socialists and other mystics of the world would like us to believe, people are not born equal; they are born to hugely different circumstances, are endowed with massively different talents and intellectual capacities and while I defend their absolute right to equal opportunity and equal access to justice, it is their responsibility, indeed their duty to exploit every opportunity and through honest effort and the application of their intellectual capacity, to rise above the masses and achieve their goals. Of course it is exactly this that is fought tooth and nail by the mystics.”

Changing tack somewhat, Christine asked: “Tell me Suzette, have you ever succeeded in helping a person who did not want to help him-or herself?”

Avoiding the question, Suzette countered: “But Christine can’t you see that hope, love and faith are God-given spiritual graces?”

“I do not support the notion that man is dependent on so-called ‘gifts’ from any deity. I also reject the idea that a human emotion can be a spiritual grace which implies that it is ‘given’ to man by a deity and therefore can also be taken away.   Love, faith and hope are human emotions and as with any human emotion they need to be tempered by reality and logic. By all means, man must love and be loved but above all he must love himself first; he must have hope and ambition to learn and improve himself; which must be tempered with reality and effort. Hope for something to fall out of the sky is not only wishful thinking, it is wasteful and a negation of our capacity to think. Irrational hope based on false promises and lies of a better tomorrow sounds like the credo of those who are unable to deal with the realities of their immediate lives. He must have faith in his own abilities but know that ability without application leads nowhere; he must believe that to think and to apply his mind to circumstances which constantly change in his quest for happiness, is not only his undeniable right but also his inescapable responsibility. Belief in the mystical; faith in magic and the predictions and promises of astrologers, shamans and priests is a denial of personal responsibility and the false assumption that belief in itself will bring about sustainable happiness and fulfillment. Love without self-discipline degrades the object of such love and faith in false dreams and legends uproots the basis of logic and reason.”

“I find your argument very self-centred and egoistic, Christine. We as humans must of necessity revert to a higher power. We are not almighty and all-knowing. I believe that what we’re experiencing here on earth is but a prelude to something infinitely better. We’re called upon to help others and to improve their lot. Only by the grace of God will we be allowed into heaven. You’ll be judged as being selfish and self-centred. How is it possible that you believe yourself to be right and that millions of religious people throughout the world are wrong?”

“I’m not here to defend my stance in life, Suzette and neither am I concerned by your notion that I will be ‘judged’. I reject altruism as the requirement to enter what you call ‘heaven’. I fail to see any merit in ‘having to revert to a higher power’ as you put it. Charity begins at home. It is your moral responsibility to seek happiness and the only justification to help others is that it makes you happy to do so. You say we are ‘called upon’ to help others. By whom are we ‘called’? By whose authority are we obliged to improve their lot as you put it?  And ultimately at whose costs are these altruistic goals to be achieved? I consider this a monstrous and immoral philosophy, because if we were indeed ‘placed’ on earth to help others, it implies that the interests of others and their priorities will always be your primary consideration while your own interests will be subordinate to theirs. If you believe sacrifice is called for, then I’m afraid we’re not on the same page because the type of sacrifice you seem to be implying does not correspond with the way I see it. You say I am self-centred and egoistic. You are right, I am but I suspect you intended that as an insult; I consider it a compliment.”

“How can you say that? To be egoistic is not a virtue.”

“To me it is. The ethical difference between egoism and altruism suggests that an egoist is someone who believes in himself, in his own abilities and intellectual capacity and is not ashamed of it. Altruism suggests that you are on this earth for the sake of others. I believe that it was Friedrich Nietzsche who said egoism is the very essence of a noble soul. When for example you apply for a job or stand in a queue should you stand back and allow a needier person to take the job you yourself need or aspire to? When you enter an athletic competition, should you allow the opposition to win a coveted trophy? Or when you are called upon to save your neighbours’ life when a disaster strikes, do you turn your back on your own family who is also at risk? It is similarly a moral abomination, in my view to take food intended for your own child and give it to a starving stranger when your child needs this food. When you give food which you don’t need to a beggar, it is a different matter altogether but this does not constitute sacrifice at all. Donating old clothes and even money to the poor is not a sacrifice either. To me a sacrifice constitutes a voluntary act which requires you to give up something that is precious to you and handing this over to someone who either needs it or can make use of it or put differently, surrendering something of value to you for the sake of someone else without the potential or prospect for any reward or compensation. Having said this I don’t deny you your right to help others if it gives you pleasure to do so, but then do it as an act of good will and not as a duty imposed either by yourself or by others such as a church or more importantly because a ‘need’ exists. To do it from the basis of guilt is again the immoral currency of the mystics of the world.”

“I can see how absolutely different our value systems are,” Suzette countered. “There are or were millions of poor people in the world who according to you are to be denied aid and support from the wealthy countries, if your philosophy were to be applied universally. I find this horrendous. As an economist, I have always battled to come to terms with the self-interest and exploitation of under-developed countries and their people and the enrichment of the few at the cost of the cheap labour of the many. The schism between the haves and the have-nots has become an international dilemma and whilst many attempts have been made to address this, it seems that we’re fighting a losing battle.”

“Suzette, I’m not an economist but the statements you have just made highlight the ethical chasm I have just described and also how you either willfully twist what I said or misunderstand what I said. I have not denied any country aid to assist it to grow and develop. As you yourself have stated, aid and support has not worked for the poor. Ask yourself what is the moral dilemma underpinning aid programmes; ask the beneficiaries if international aid has really helped them to direct their own lives and better themselves; ask to what degree the very beneficiaries of the aid monies contributed to the planning of aid programmes or were involved in their implementation and whether they had actual control over the way the monies were spent? Ask how institutional and human capacities were enhanced on a sustainable basis? Above all ask yourself how many of the so-called aid programmes were honest in their objectives instead of mere smoke-screens for the hidden agendas of the donor countries and their vested interests? The recent forays of Chinese technical assistance programmes for example, such as building roads in Africa were mere invasions by that country’s government to gain access to raw materials or to put it differently, Neo-Sino-colonialism. The corrupt African governments are just too happy to accept Chinese aid in the short-term without any thought of the high price they will pay for this in the long term.”

“I travelled through and extensively worked in under-developed countries. The skeletons of aid programmes lie scattered throughout these countries. Western churches have operated for centuries in areas where developmental needs created opportunities for them to establish massive support bases.  I don’t deny that hospitals and schools built by the churches have filled gaps governments have failed to address, but most of these are totally dependent on foreign aid and are not sustainable. In any event, aid programmes should never usurp the role of government as this creates a beggar mentality and dependence. Development as I understand it should empower the local people to fend for themselves and make their own choices, even if these choices are inconvenient to the donor. As with religion, people have been denied the choice and more often than not they are kept in a position of relative ignorance in order that they can be manipulated and controlled to conform to value systems the foreign churches subscribe to; or even worse, they are bribed, threatened and coerced to accept the value systems of the donors. None of these donors actually thought to work within local values; their mandates from the Pope, Archbishop, Grand Ayatollah, Guru, Holy See or whatever did not cater for that eventuality. Bilateral agreements between donor mystics and recipient political mystics are sure to fail every time.”

“To solve the problem, go and live with the people, understand their real needs as opposed to the needs expressed by their political masters; identify and cater for their weaknesses and strengths, allow them to design their own development projects and formulate their own priorities. Use this, without prescription, as the foundation for aid programmes. When people say ‘we need a school’, understand that their real need is to be educated and as a result to be placed in a position where they are able to make rational decisions concerning their own futures; when they say ‘build a hospital’, their real need is to be healthy and fit enough to exploit the opportunities confronting them; when they say ‘we need money’, their real need is firstly to satisfy their short term need for food and shelter but understand that in the long term the capacity of being able to generate their own money will be key to self-respect, sustainability and justice. In the final analysis, development must be self-development, not development imposed by donors, governments or altruism. At best, governments and donors should only be seen to create an environment conducive to development; they can never ‘develop’ a country or its people.”

Suzette looked at Christine with a puzzled look. She had a way of arguing complex issues in a simple manner, and this seemed to be wrong somehow. What was it?

“I want to return to the role religion plays in a community. Can you prove that religion is unnecessary or that God doesn’t exist?” Suzette asked.

“It is interesting that when religionists defend themselves they often revert to the weight of or need for scientific proof; the very process they reject when science is at odds with religious beliefs,” Christine replied sarcastically. “I accept your point about the psychological need people may have for comfort and hope. This argument is however weak when we consider that people die for their beliefs; they kill for them and they injure others or starve themselves for them. The notion of believing in a deity is much more basic than the benefits it supposedly provides. As such, each religion has its own set of punishments and rewards. In my view, believing in a supernatural and personal god is, as Einstein said, naïve. It is part of our ancient tribal need for belonging and conforming to traditions and practices. Those who didn’t conform were cast out or even punished by death. I recall a case two years ago where a student in an Islamic state was jailed for researching the role of women in Islam.”

“You’re avoiding the issue. None of what you said provides the proof that God doesn’t exist or that religions are false,” Suzette insisted.

“Let’s define the god you worship: according to Judeo-Christian beliefs, God or Jehovah is a super-being with supernatural intelligence; is invisible yet ever-present throughout the universe which he created including everything in it and all living beings; is also omnipotent but created Satan who is allowed to oppose him. He is also described as being just and loving while the Bible has numerous horrendous incidents which highlight his cruelty, his lack of justice except as he prescribes it and above all his jealousy. There is no evidence that he exists except in the minds of people who worship him. To prove that he exists is tantamount proving that something which doesn’t exist, exists. This is clearly a contradiction and therefore impossible.   It becomes a ridiculous circular argument when you ask me to prove that he doesn’t exist. Creationists will tell you that his existence is in evidence all around us. All we need to do is to believe; have faith and then we will see him in the smallest insect and the largest planet. I’m afraid that is the kind of nonsense you tell children. Thinking people who are able to distinguish between reality and myth will reject this out of hand. What you search for you’re sure to find. Are you able to prove that God exists?”

“Christine, the Bible is all the proof you need! All you need is you need to love and cherish the Lord Jesus Christ who died as much for you on the cross as He did for those who worship Him. I believe and have the utmost faith that He exists. To prove it, is impossible. That is why science is weak and has many times misled the fainthearted and proved nothing. That is why I must believe because it is this faith in His existence which distinguishes those of true faith from people like you.”

“Believe in what Suzette? Have faith in whom? I have no doubt that Jesus walked the earth, but I don’t buy the notion that he was Jehovah’s son should Jehovah even exist. Tell me; do you know who wrote the Bible that you hold up as a record of the one and only truth?” Christine asked with some irritation. She had heard these emotional arguments before.

“The Bible was written by God Almighty through the hands of Moses and many others and the New Testament by Jesus’ disciples.”

“Now this may come as a bit of a shock to you. The Bible is so inconsistent and full of gaps and historically inaccurate that faith is really needed to believe it! If indeed it was inspired by God, he made quite a hash of it,” Christine responded angrily; angry because so few Christians actually study the Bible, let alone read it critically. “Are you aware that the Bible was only written on scrolls or paper after centuries of an oral tradition by the end of the second millennium BC and completed some 500 years later? Are you also aware that the Pentateuch, in other words the books of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Numbers and Leviticus were not written by Moses? The Bible is a compendium of works, some of historic significance such as Kings; other supposedly prophetic while some are mere poems. In many cases the actual authors are unknown and their names have been lost in antiquity. While the first five books are traditionally ascribed to Moses, they were the product of the oral traditions of the Israelites. It is generally accepted by scholars that these books were written by a variety of authors and not by Moses. They are quite different in style and context. As for the New Testament, are you aware that the so-called Gospels were never written by the disciples[2] of Jesus but by Greek-speaking Jews 70 AD and much later? Did you also know that Jesus’ original disciples with the exception of Simon Peter lived their lives out as devout orthodox Jews?”

“How can you make these blasphemous statements, Christine?”

“I’ll go further and say to you that Jesus himself was a Jewish lay-Rabbi who was totally committed to the Torah. He never promoted himself as an alternative god and neither did his original disciples; indeed he would’ve been stoned to death for uttering such statements. It was a Greek-speaking Jew named Saul who started many of these myths after his own conversion and who as Paul, promoted Christianity. He never met Jesus but was totally convinced that his version of the emerging religion was the only truth. He however never called Jesus a god, but the ‘son of God’ which in the Jewish tradition meant that he had a special relationship with Jehovah and was a pious man. While I personally have no problem with Jews, I’m continuously amazed that the western world so easily prescribes to a Jewish God and a Jewish Rabbi. Even Hitler who was a Christian,[3] ironically enough believed in Jesus, a Jew. Jewish hatred did not spring from Hitler though; it came from the preaching of Catholic priests and Protestant ministers throughout Germany for hundreds of years. Martin Luther himself hated the Jews and their Jewish religion. In his book, “On the Jews and their Lies,” Luther set the scene for Jewish hatred in Protestant Germany up until World War II. Your faith has denied you the opportunity to ask questions of the Bible, Suzette. In fact faith is expected to be blind and unquestioning, isn’t it? In any case, if you were God what would you prefer? An unquestioning, faithful, even moronic being, or one who is able to think, to challenge you, who explores new concepts and is courageous? Why for heavens sake this emphasis on believing that ‘believing’ is all that God expects of his faithful?”

“I am not God, so I can’t answer your rhetorical question. I find it more amazing that an obviously intelligent person such as you Christine fails to see through the clutter of so-called objectivism and logic; that you cannot grasp the underlying message of the Bible which is a belief in Christ and his undying love for humanity. The cynic in you has made you bitter. You actually cannot see the love of God functioning through His Son, Jesus; yes even here on KRAT. I feel sorry for you and wish you would relent and allow God into your heart. We will pray for you.”

“Suzette, I never thought I would convince you of anything. Neither was it my intention to do that. You may recall that it was you who broached the matter and wanted to discuss my principles and beliefs with me. Your response was totally predictable. If your god is functioning here on KRAT I want no part of him. He destroyed the very world he created; he is an unjust god, bloodthirsty and a malicious bully. I don’t need your pity; that’s what Christianity does to people doesn’t it, pity people who are not like them? If you wish to pray for me go ahead but know that the only moral justification for you to pray for me is that it makes you happy; don’t for one minute believe that I am in your debt for it.”

As one, the two women stood up and parted their ways; Christine carried on with her walk around the perimeter of KRAT while Suzette walked back quite rapidly to the base camp. They would never discuss religion again; the lines were drawn.

 

In Bennie’s Camp the small spring had virtually dried up due to the cold weather and they were forced to ration water. Their huts were well constructed from rocks and mud but the facilities were rather primitive. Finding food and cooking it, was notably their biggest problem. None of the crew except Jim knew how to cook but the choice of food was very limited; more so than at Base Camp where people like Zyndile and Christine were able to identify herbs and knew how to prepare them as best they could.

Bennie was hard put every day to keep his crew together and several fist fights and scuffles took place although nothing serious emerged from this except a couple of bruised egos. The absence of women also made things worse and the constant male companionship strained relationships and limited the level and quality of discussions around the camp fires. These invariably turned to sex and what they would do if a woman could be found.  Bennie’s crew was becoming more and more belligerent and had been harassing not only the women from Base Camp when they encountered them, but also the men. Things became especially difficult when snares that had been set by Karl or Gary were found to be empty and had either been sprung on purpose or the catch had been poached.

In exasperation, Oscar and his lieutenants decided to set a trap, not for the birds or small buck but for the two-legged poachers. Karl was instructed to set up several small snares at obvious spots and destroy any which he found from Bennie’s camp.

They kept a vigil twenty four hours a day and within two days were rewarded when they caught Graham, Jim and Peter red-handed. Armed with axes and clubs, Karl and Gary marched the poachers to Base Camp.

As they entered their now fortified camp, all the survivors gathered to watch the proceedings. A small tribunal had been established some time before to hear any accusations and settle arguments in Base Camp. The tribunal consisted of Oscar who acted as the Chairman, Donald James and June Hailey. They were now called to preside at the hearing.

Karl and Gary marched the miscreants up to the small amphitheatre which they were in the process of constructing under the overhang where the infirmary had been originally established. The Tribunal sat at the head of the theatre on rocks which were placed there for the purpose. Next to the seats the skull and horns of two small buck which Karl had trapped, were mounted as symbols of fertility and as Zyndile told them, to ward off evil spirits. These also created a somewhat more sinister atmosphere in the amphitheatre.

The three captives from Bennie’s Camp were objecting loudly at their somewhat unsympathetic treatment, but nobody took any notice. The scenario promised to be entertaining and everybody gathered to witness the spectacle. After seating them on rocks facing the Tribunal, Karl conducted the prosecution and explained how they had been caught stealing the prey caught in their traps.

Jim Armstrong jumped up and shouted at the Tribunal: “You’ve no right to put us on trial. Who the fuck do you think you are? There’s no law on this island and if you think you can impose your rules on us you are fucking mistaken, my friend.”

“I ask you to control your language, James,” Oscar cautioned. “There are children and women around so while it may be the way you talk in your camp it will not be tolerated here. Is that clear?”

“Fuck you too Oscar and fuck all of you to hell,” came the defiant reply, as he looked around at the staring and hostile faces around them. To emphasise his disgust and rejection of the process, he tuned his back to the Tribunal, bent over forward and whipping his tattered pants down gave them the “brown eye” salute[4].

The crowd howled with laughter but quickly stopped when Oscar, red with rage shouted at the three hapless poachers: “In the light of your disgusting performance, your attitude and your language, you and your comrades are sentenced to confinement in isolation in our stockade for a total of 5 days without rations. You’ll receive water once a day. We’ll send a messenger to inform Bennie of your whereabouts and the reasons for this. Maybe you will be more civil after your incarceration. Take them away.” The tribunal stood up and walked out of the small amphitheatre.

The three captives, protesting loudly were bundled unceremoniously toward the stockade, which they now noticed for the first time. It had been built from sharpened wooden stakes planted into the hard ground against the rock face of the overhanging cliff-side. The stakes touched the rock ceiling where they were strengthened by lateral poles. The structure looked sturdy. The gate seemed to have a primitive but effective lock on it which had been made from fire-hardened hard wood made from the tamboti trees in the forest.

Protesting loudly, the three new inmates were thrown into the newly built prison much to the delight and taunts from the children.

“You’ll live to be sorry for this, you bastards. Fuck you all! When Bennie hears of this he’ll come storming out and you’d better be prepared for him,” Graham screamed for all to hear.

Oscar had heard him and knew he was right. After discussion with Karl and Gary, the two departed to Bennie’s Camp to inform them of the situation. They were armed with axes and spears fashioned from wood and steel points shaped from the wreckage of the Airbus.

As they arrived, Bennie stood up from his accustomed seat on a stone he had selected as leader and which gave him somewhat of a height advantage over any one wishing to speak to him.

“Morning, Karl, Gary. To what do we owe this privilege?” he asked facetiously.

“I am afraid it’s no friendly visit Bennie,” Karl replied. “We’ve apprehended three of your guys for stealing our catches from our snares and traps. It is something which has been going on for quite a while and we’ll not tolerate this any longer.”

Bennie looked at them with half-closed eyes. He was aware that Jim, Graham and Peter had gone out to see what they could poach but would not let on that they had done so with his blessing.

“What! They told me they’re catching stuff with their own snares. Are you sure?” he lied glibly.

“Totally sure, Bennie. We have been watching them for some time now and caught them red-handed,” Gary replied.

“Well they will ’ave to give your catch back to you then, I guess.”

“No, it gets more complicated Bennie. We took them back to Base Camp and they were tried before our Tribunal. Because they refused to listen or to be tried and insulted our Tribunal, they were sentenced to five days in our stockade without food,” Karl explained.

“What!” Bennie exclaimed angrily. “You guys can’t just impose your will on us. You’ll ’ave to release them, that’s what.”

“No, we’re not going to do that Bennie. Your guys were bad mouthing us in front of the women and children. We won’t stand for that or for their stealing. They must now take their punishment.”

“We’ll see about that, Gary. I’ll not allow my guys to be treated like criminals. I’m coming to see Oscar and your so-called Tribunal immediately.”

He jumped up and grabbing his hunting spear called the rest of the small camp to follow, and stormed out to follow Karl and Gary up the slopes of the hillock which separated the two camps.

Oscar and his co-tribunal members were expecting them. While Karl and Gary had been away they had summoned every adult to the partly-completed amphitheatre while the children were hidden in the forest.

When Bennie arrived with his small entourage of ten, they were met by a silent group of some ninety people. To the front of the amphitheatre they could hear the shouts from Graham and Jim from their palisade jail.

Bennie strode up to where Oscar was sitting and demanded their immediate release.

“Why should we do that, Bennie?” Oscar asked.

“You ’ave no right to lock them up like common criminals,” Bennie shouted.

“But that’s exactly what they are Bennie, common criminals.”

“Wildlife’s for all of us survivors here on KRAT,” Bennie spluttered.

“That’s true Bennie, but only if you are able to catch it with your own snares and traps and not poach it from ours,” June said.

“Shut up woman,” Bennie shouted. “I’m not talking to you. I’m…”

“Oh but you are, Bennie,” Donald James interrupted. “Here you will respect every single person, man, woman or child.”

“Your rules and regulations don’t ’ave no bearing on us,” Bennie shouted again.

“You’re right Bennie. They don’t, but when you or your crew start affecting our lives as they did by stealing and raiding our traps and then swearing at our Tribunal and women, our rules will apply to you and to everybody on KRAT,” Oscar said.

“What’re you going to do now?” Bennie asked.

“The question Bennie is what are you going to do now?” Oscar asked.

“Well I don’t know. You’ve got my guys locked up like animals; you don’t want to feed them is what I ’ear; and now you want me to do something about it,” Bennie replied defensively.

“Well here’s what we propose, Bennie. We’ll release Graham, Jim and Peter under your responsibility. You will in return promise that none of your crew ever raids our traps again. If you do, we’ll come and fetch you personally and try you according to our rules and lock you up. Then we will throw away the key, if we had one,” he added.

Bennie fumed at the prospect of taking responsibility for the doings of the guys in his camp. He couldn’t be expected to do that, could he now? This has not panned out the way he wanted it. Better to play second fiddle now and then withdraw to plan a new strategy with these guys. We must neutralise their majority in some way. This was getting beyond him now.

“I don’t seem to ’ave much of a choice now do I? I don’t like this one bit. You’re going to be sorry you did this,” he blustered knowing that he would for now have to let them have their way. “I’ll agree to that for now. But I don’t know ’ow we are going to stick with it, Oscar,” he replied.

“Bennie let me put it to you in the strongest terms possible. Our survival on KRAT is our most important objective and I assume that applies to you as well. We will not allow anything or anybody to upset that. If we find any of your group stealing from us or in any way endangering any of us, we will take swift and appropriate action. Is that clear?” the question was asked in a manner which had only one answer.

“Yes, I understand that. Be careful that it doesn’t boomerang on you. I can only control my guys up to a point,” he warned, pointing to them with his spear.

“That applies to us as well, Bennie. Tell your guys.”

The lines were being drawn clearer and clearer. Someone was bound to step over them.

Karl and Gary walked to the stockade and amidst the jeering of the captives, opened the palisade door. As Graham stepped out he spat in Gary’s face. Gary turned and slapped him behind the head causing him to stumble and fall forward on all fours. Everybody had seen what Graham had done and cheered Gary as he stepped over the inert figure on the ground to walk away through the small crowd. Dusting himself off, Graham slunk off after the rest of the crew as they walked out of the arena amidst jeers and taunts from Oscar’s group to disappear over the hillock towards their camp.

“The battle lines have been drawn,” Donald said to no-one in particular.

“Yep, I’m afraid not only the battle lines Don, it is a call to do battle,” Oscar replied as he stood up to return to his hut.

In Bennie’s camp a serious confrontation was looming between him and Jim Armstrong.

“How could you just let them get away with it, Bennie?” Jim shouted. “Shit, they embarrassed us in front of everyone, locked us up like bloody animals in a cage and then you go and tell them you agree that you will see to it that we’re good boys. Fuck, I cannot believe it!”

“That’s not what ’appened. I ’ad no choice; they ’ad you locked up and your release was conditional on my accepting their proposal. What the fuck did you expect me to do?” Bennie shouted back. He knew that it was crunch time for him as the leader of the group, not that anyone had elected him; it had just been a natural thing. Now Jim was challenging it. So let him, let’s see how he fares.

“Christ, man I’m going to kill that bastard Gary, I tell you I’ve had enough of his shit,” Graham shouted.

“Oh fuck off, Graham. It was your idea that we raid their traps this morning, so stop your shit. We must be clever. Screaming and shouting at them will get us fuckall.” Jim shouted at Graham. He was ready to slap him when Bennie interrupted them: “I’ve been thinking guys so just fucking stop shouting so much. They’ve organised themselves pretty well, right? Now, we need to organise ourselves.”

“To do what?” Jim asked belligerently. He had very little faith in Bennie’s ideas and leadership. Since setting up their own camp, Bennie had done very little to organise them into a cohesive unit. It was also due to his hard-headedness that they had split away from Oscar’s group in the first place.

“We must neutralise their strengths and what are they, ’ey?” he asked them with his face poked forward at Jim. “’ave you thought about it, ’ey? You shout and scream at me but I bet you ’aven’t given it much thought yourself, OK?”

“Poke your face at me again like that and I’ll klap you, boet, hey yourself man,” Jim, slipping into the South African slang, retaliated like a bull being taunted by a red flag. He did not flinch at Bennie’s aggression. He could hold his own in a bar-fight and Bennie, despite his bulk would be no match against him.

Danny stepped in between the two. He was a lot smaller than either of them but his presence immediately seemed to bring them back to their senses.

“OK, Bennie, you’re saying you knew what their strengths are. So let’s hear what you have in mind,” he now asked Bennie.

Somewhat quietened down, Bennie sat down on his rock. The stress had got to him and he was red in the face. Jim also sat down with everybody else taking up their customary seats.

“This is what I’ve thought of. Base Camp ’as water aplenty and they ’ave the forest. Then they ’ave more people than us. We ’ave nothing to offer them so we cannot negotiate with them. We must neutralise their strengths,” he repeated.

“How? How are you going to take their water away from them? How are you going to take the forest away from them? How are you going to even out the numbers between us?” Jim asked impatiently.

“OK, it’s winter now, right? The water can freeze up if it gets to flow less, which is what we must try to do. The forest can suffer a disastrous fire and we can abduct some of their children, especially the females.”

“Jesus Christ man, are you off your rocker?” Jim shouted. “What you’re suggesting is war, straight and simple. They will destroy us like cockroaches as Oscar warned.”

“Not if we’re clever, Jim. It’ll be easy to start a fire in the forest; they’ll never guess or find out. As they rush to put it out, we’ll nab two or three girls who’ll be ’elping to put out the flames and ’ide them away. They could have fallen over the cliffs to the water below while they were fetching water, poor souls. While all this is ’appening, two of us’ll destroy their fountain with rocks. That’ll slow down the flow enough to freeze up.”

“Maybe something tragic could happen during the fire to a few of their men as well,” Graham said contemplatively. He was warming to Bennie’s suggestions. He had always wanted to get at the uppity group across the hill. Why should they have all females anyway?

“And what are you going to do with the hostages, Bennie?” Danny asked. He didn’t like the thought of violence and the consequential retaliation from Oscar’s group, which was a certainty.

“We’ll ’ide ’em away.”

“Where?”

“Where else, in the fucking Airbus, that’s where. It’s the one spot they’ll never expect, and remember they’ll be thinking the girls ’ad fallen over the cliffs so there’ll be no search.” Bennie seemed to have thought about it all. Some of his group seemed to be in support. Jim was totally opposed to it, as was Danny.

“Bullshit, Bennie,” Jim replied. “They’ll find out quick enough even if they don’t search for the girls and then they will push all of us over the fucking cliffs. In any case we couldn’t keep the girls hidden for long.”

“Rubbish, Jim.” Graham said. “We must strike first and we must strike hard. There must be no comeback on us, so I say that when we fire the forest, we must ensure that their leaders such as Gary, Oscar, Donald and John all fucking perish in the flames or really walk over the cliffs with a little help from us. As for the girls, who said anything about keeping them hidden? We do what we need to do and then we get rid of them. We can also bargain with them using the girls as hostages.”

Tom who had been quiet all along just shook his head in amazement.

“I can’t fucking believe what I’m hearing. Here we are sitting, all survivors from one of the planet’s greatest disasters, planning to rape and murder the young girls and destroy our fellow survivors. For what? They were fucking protecting their assets which we would’ve done in their shoes. Now we’ve become fucking barbarians willing to pillage and kill. Count me out, pal.” He got up and stalked out of the camp.

Graham watched him leave and when he was out of earshot said quietly: “There goes our Quisling.”

“Our what?” Peter queried.

“Traitor man, traitor. We’ll have to watch what we say when he’s around, I tell you. I know the type.”

Tom’s disgust at the discussion had put a damper on everything. The discussion petered out and nothing was resolved.

It was getting late and after supper they turned in. Only Bennie and Graham were left beside the fire talking quietly. When Tom returned, he ignored them and crept into his hut.

The next morning Bennie and Graham were nowhere to be seen. Jim and Dannie looked at each other with concern when it became evident that they had left the camp before daybreak. They knew something was afoot. Tom was still in his hut and when he emerged, he was carrying all his worldly possessions. It was clear that he was moving out.

Jim confronted him as he approached the fire place and asked: “Where are you going, Tom?”

“It’s none of your business, Jim but if you must know, I’m not prepared to be part of this camp when you guys start plotting to kill and murder others.”

“Well neither are we, Tom but we’re not running away.”

“I’m not running away either, Jim. There’s nowhere to run to in any event. All I want is to exercise my right to live where I wish and with whom I wish.”

“Well Tom I respect your rights, but we also have rights and we can’t allow you to join Oscar’s group. You’ll tell them what was discussed here last night and we can’t have that now, can we?”

“So what’re you saying, Jim? Are you going to force me to stay here against my will?” Tom was looking at Jim with a sardonic smile on his face. Jim did not support Graham and Bennie’s proposal and now he was the one expected to defend it. He was clearly quite uncomfortable with this and it showed.

Tom turned away and walked up the hillock without looking back where Jim was standing with Danny and Peter. After he crested the hill and disappeared from sight they turned and sat down to contemplate their next move. The camp was clearly in disarray and divided. Bennie’s proposal was a do-or-die approach and they knew it.

As Tom approached the Base Camp, he was suddenly confronted by Bennie and Graham who had been watching Base Camp’s activities from a hidden vantage point behind a clump of large rocks. They had noticed Tom walking up the hill with his possessions and put two and two together.

“So, the Quisling is jumping ship like a drowning rat, is he?” Graham said as he confronted Tom. He was tapping a piece of stainless steel pipe with a large nut on the one end which he used to kill birds. Tom stopped short. Graham’s stance and the way he was holding the pipe didn’t need explanation.

“So are you going to stop me?” He knew it was a futile question. Their intentions were clear. They would not allow him to spill everything to Oscar. He had no choice; with a flourish he dropped what he was carrying feigning surrender when Graham leapt forward and struck a vicious blow to his head. Tom was expecting it and leaned sideways causing the blow to strike him on the shoulder. It still hurt like hell as it crunched into his collar-bone, snapping it like a straw. Spinning around and away from Graham who was now off-balance, he struck back at him with his good arm with a rock he had picked up as he had dropped his bedding. He hit Graham squarely on the back of his head, dropping him like an ox. Spinning around to meet Bennie’s attack, he felt the full weight of his rugby tackle as he was hurled back onto the rock strewn surface. He grunted as the pain pierced his shoulder and rolled with the force of the tackle to minimise its impact. Bennie rolled with him and as they broke apart, both leaped up, panting and glaring at each other like two raging bulls.

“So, it’s come to this, has it Bennie? You’ve fucked up as a leader and force is now the only way out, is it?” Tom said breathlessly. He was not as fit as he would have liked to be but as a professional tennis player he was in better shape than Bennie.

“You fucking traitor, I’m going to kill you,” Bennie roared as he rushed in with head low, striking Tom in the midriff. Again the two rolled in the dust and with Bennie’s superior weight advantage, he quickly had a kicking and bucking Tom pinned under him. As Bennie reached for a nearby rock with his right hand, Tom struck him with a resounding slap on the right ear with his freed left palm, causing Bennie to yell in pain and rage as his eardrum popped. Tom kicked himself out from under Bennie’s suddenly relaxed grip and rolling away from him kicked him with both legs in the ribs with all the force he could muster. Bennie grunted as his ribs cracked, rolling away in the dust. He lay on his side holding his rib-cage in agony.

Tom lifted himself up on his good arm and watched as Bennie crawled forward. They were both too tired to do anything further. Graham was still lying where Tom had felled him. Struggling to his feet, Bennie limped to where Graham lay.

“You’ve killed him, you bastard,” he said with blood-flecked spittle running from his mouth.

“He tried to kill me with that pipe; I just defended myself,” Tom said.

He walked to Graham and turned him over with his foot. Groaning, Graham slowly opened his eyes to see Tom and Bennie standing over him. Satisfied that he would be OK, Tom turned his back on the two assailants and after picking up his stuff with his good arm, walked down the hill towards Base Camp. Bennie did not have the energy to stop him. Helping a groggy Graham, who was bleeding profusely from a gash in the head to get up, they limped back to their camp where Jim and Peter watched as they approached.

“What happened?” Danny asked.

“Fuck off, Danny. Get us some water,” Bennie said as he tried to sit down, wincing from the pain of his broken ribs.

Graham had blood running down the back of his head and taking water from Danny, poured this over his head. Jim waited to hear what had happened.

“Fucking traitor. I’m going to kill him if I run into him again.” Graham said flatly to Jim.

“So you ran into Tom did you? I tried to stop him but he wouldn’t hear of it.”

“We almost ’ad him, but he was too fucking slippery. Why the fuck didn’t you keep him here?” Bennie was holding his head to one side. His hearing had been affected by the slap from Tom.

“Why should I Bennie? It’s your party and I wasn’t going to take up the cudgels for you pal. Now what? We’re down to thirteen and you can be sure that Oscar and his guys are going to be furious when they hear what you guys had in mind.” Jim knew that they were in for the big jump. Tom would spill the beans and Oscar was sure to retaliate in order to neutralise the threat before it happened.  He’d told them it was the wrong move. Now he would be expected to back them up.

“Now nothing, Jim,” Bennie replied. “We’ve done nothing except talk, so there’s nothing they can do to us. If we’d all stuck together it would ’ave worked out OK.”

“I warned you that it was a stupid move, Bennie, but you and Graham thought you knew better. You’ve split up the crew and lost a member. That’s not good, Bennie, not good at all.”

Graham walked up to where Jim was sitting on the ground and without further ado kicked some dust in his face

“Why don’t you run after the traitor too, Jim? Now that things are hotting up, you turn tail.”

Wiping the dust off his face, Jim stood up slowly. He was a farmer and built like a tank, a Sherman tank. He pushed his chest and face right into Graham’s face, causing the smaller man to retreat. Jim kept advancing and in a soft and threatening voice said: “I’ve fucking well have had enough of your griping and shit, Graham. You’ve been a pain in the arse since the fucking plane crashed. I’ve a good mind to beat your head in further, you little twerp. You think you have all the answers but you know nothing, man. All you can speak about is women and what you’ll do to them; your type is probably too fucking useless to do anything.”

Graham backed down as Jim advanced on him and sat down on the ground when he felt a large rock pressing into his back.

Turning to Bennie, Jim said: “… and you, Bennie, you’ve had your chance to lead this group and you’ve blown it, man. I’m not prepared to listen to you any longer. I’ve no respect for you and it seems that your only supporter is this excuse of a man, this weed here,” pointing to Graham sitting on the ground. “If you have a problem with me taking over the leadership here you are welcome to challenge me.” Jim walked away from the group and made a point of taking up Bennie’s position on the rock. Neither Bennie nor anyone in the remainder of the group said anything.

Meanwhile, Tom had arrived at Base Camp much to everyone’s surprise. He walked to where Oscar was sitting with June and Esme.

“Morning,” he said as he put down his bedding, wincing in the process. His face was scratched and it was clear that he had been roughed up some.

He looked at the three in front of him sheepishly.

“I’ve left Bennie’s Crew. Couldn’t agree with them over some stuff. Hoped I could join you guys if you have no objection,” he said diffidently.

“Did the discussions we had yesterday with you guys have anything to do with it, Tom?” Oscar asked.

“Yes and no,” Tom replied cautiously. “I’m not going to rat on them although that’s what they expect me to do. Let’s just say, that we had our differences and it came to a head after yesterday’s meeting with you guys.”

Oscar looked at Esme and June. They just shrugged their shoulders. They had no objection to Tom per se. The principle remained however that Bennie’s Crew would not be welcome, especially after the previous day’s meeting.

Looking at Tom’s discomfort with a more critical eye, Esme asked: “Hurt are you, Tom?”

“I guess so. I think my collar bone is broken.”

Esme jumped up and after gingerly stripping his buckskin shirt of sorts off his shoulders, gasped when she saw the massive bruise and break in the collar bone. A jagged piece of bone jutted out from his skin where Graham’s weapon had smashed into the bone.

Esme shouted to Christine who was about a hundred metres away in the infirmary with Zyndile. The two of them came running up to them. Christine looked at the wound with an expert eye and without any further questions herded the young man to the infirmary. There she and Zyndile cleansed the open wound and with some pressure on the shoulder with Tom white-faced but silent, splinted the collarbone with leather thongs behind his back. They tightened the loop with levers made from tree branches, twisting the thongs to pull back the shoulders in order to set the bone in place. Zyndile placed a herbal poultice on the wound and it was quickly and expertly bandaged with some old, but clean bandages.

After she administered some sweet tasting water to her new patient, Tom lay down on the bed and rested while they cleaned out the small hospital for him.

They had a decision to make. Do they accept Tom’s request to stay here or not? It was clear that they could not send him back as the injury was probably the result of a serious altercation between him and Bennie’s group. After some discussion between the group leaders, it was agreed that he stay, but on condition that he be on ‘probation’ until he had been suitably assessed and socialised into the group. For the interim he would stay with Gary who undertook to watch him.

When Christine returned to the infirmary, Tom was sleeping with Zyndile sitting next to him. She was reading a book she had brought with her and that had been recovered from the wreckage. It was called ‘Angels and Demons’ and was written by Dan Brown. She had read it a couple of times already.

Waving the book at Christine, she asked: “Why is it that the Vatican City sounds like a very mysterious place which hides a million secrets?”

Christine, who had also read the book smiled.

“I wasn’t very impressed with Dan Brown’s book, Zyndi. He tells a good story but in my opinion his writing style leaves much to be desired. Anyway, the Vatican does in fact hide many secrets. It is or was a massive repository of Christian guilt, intolerance and the persecution of innocent non-Christians, theft of the legal property of movements such as the Knights Templar, and individuals who the church did not like, as well as murder and insurrection. In my opinion, the whole Catholic Church has, over the centuries, been responsible for and involved in many evil activities. As an institution it has much to account for. It has tried to strengthen its stranglehold on the world through its manipulation of the masses and especially the poor. It is therefore no wonder that they have had to create an enormous security system to ensure that the world does not gain access to its secrets.”

“But, how is it that the Catholics have become so powerful?” Zyndile asked again. “They built so many schools and hospitals in my country and fought the apartheid oppressors.”

“Yes they’ve been very good at that. That is how they are able to influence what the poor learn and no doubt to gain the moral high ground. I’m not sure that I will do your question regarding the reason for their growth justice as the history of the Roman Catholic Church spans over 2000 years, but here goes: during the early years of the Christian religion, the church used political power to gain a foothold after centuries of persecution by the Roman rulers. Constantine the Great was their first great convert and political ally. It was he who paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of the Roman State which was later confirmed by Theodosius II. One also needs to remember that Jesus was a Jew and not a Christian and indeed he was not the founder of the Christian church.”

“What! How can you say that?” Zyndile exclaimed. Nobody had told her this before. It seemed ludicrous to her to think that Jesus was not a Christian.

“It’s true Zyndi. He was in fact a Jewish lay-Rabbi. If one understands the Jewish religion, it is very strict and adherence to the Judaic Law or Halakha as it’s called in Hebrew, at the different levels it functions on, is paramount. Having said that, it would have been highly inflammatory, sacrilegious and indeed blasphemous for a Jewish Rabbi or any Jew for that matter, to call for the creation of a religion which promotes a break-away from the Jewish religion. Jesus never did this. This was done by Paul who had never met Jesus. Paul who became St Paul, had a serious run in with Jesus’ brother, James and if you read  Acts 9:29 it reflects that Paul was threatened by certain members of the Jerusalem community and he was subsequently virtually exiled to Tarsus in Cilicia[5] to spread the word as depicted by James on behalf of Jesus. Acts 15 explains that certain representatives of the leadership in Jerusalem accused Paul of laxity and admonished him to stick to the Law. It is at this point where a schism is created between the followers of James and Paul who started preaching his own version of Christianism as I prefer to call it, which ultimately became the basis of the Catholic Church and from which the Protestant movement many centuries later evolved and broke away. Paul was thus in effect the first Christian heretic[6] as his teachings were a flagrant deviation from the original or pure form of Christianity of those who followed the teachings of James. These teachings reflected Jesus’ philosophies as an adjunct of the Jewish religion and I think it was Matthew who tried his best to show that James’ teachings were not only in harmony with Jewish tradition but indeed its culmination[7]. Paul distorted Jesus’ teachings beyond all recognition and in fact formulated his own individual and idiosyncratic theology and then ascribed it to Jesus! For Jesus it would have been the most extreme blasphemy to advocate the worship of any mortal figure and especially of himself! Paul in effect shunts aside Jehovah and establishes for the first time, the worship of Jesus — Jesus as a kind of equivalent of Horus, Adonis, Tammuz, Attis or of any of the dying and reviving gods who populated the Middle East at the time and even thousands of years earlier. It is at this stage that miraculous elements become associated with Jesus’ biography, including his birth of a virgin mother and his resurrection from the dead. Paul deviates from the Law as taught by James and Jesus by the way. In Gal 2:16 he states “faith in Christ rather than fidelity to the Law is what justifies us, and …no-one can be justified by keeping the Law.”   Acts 22:22 reflects the utter rejection of Paul by the people adhering to the Judaic Law “Rid the earth of this man!” they cry. “He is not fit to live!” He escapes them as a Roman citizen until eventually Nero orders his execution many years later.”

“Wow, Christine you sound like a preacher yourself. Did you study theology?” Zyndile asked in surprise. She had heard her angry rejections of Father Ridgeway’s ministrations in the past but had not realised the extent of Christine’s knowledge of the Bible.

“No, my father was a preacher and I had the Bible drilled into me at a very young age. I hated it, but later in life I actually studied the Bible as well as other religious works from a more critical and cynical perspective. What I found was quite frankly horrifying. That’s what drove me to become an atheist.”

“Why?”

“One should not embellish Christianity[8]; it has consistently opposed any attempts to question its origins, its logic or lack of it and indeed has resisted investigation and rational research. The churches have collectively also attempted to seize control of schools and universities and infiltrated the halls of power in the political arena through the ages. Man who is able to think and be critical of religious philosophies was deemed to be the enemy and over the ages he was persecuted, vilified and isolated to minimise his impact and the possible damage he may cause to the churches. Their basic approach is one of ‘convert or die.’  Think what the Spanish Conquistadors did to the Incas in South America as an example. In 1600AD, the Catholic Church burnt Bruno alive at the stake for refusing to believe that the Earth was the centre of the Universe, a dogma it had been teaching for over 1400 years. Islam is just as bad when you consider their resistance to any questioning of their beliefs. In more recent times the Catholic Church has tried to force its adherents to practice birth control through menstrual cycle methods in the face of poverty, growing populations, pollution etc. It tells its followers that it is wrong to fight AIDS through the use of condoms and that the disease is a manifestation of God’s wrath for the sins of man. Also their stance in the pro-life debate and abortions created dissent based on religious principles. Individual rights and the rights of the woman where it concerns her life and body were totally ignored and discounted.”

“Any individual, who was able to think in an unfettered fashion and dared to question the tenets of religion, was labelled by Christianity as being evil or a heretic. The original sin according to Judaic and Christian dogma is man’s capacity to think! Good grief, Zyndile think about it; Christianity has always taken the side of everything weak, base, ill-constituted; it has depraved reason by teaching men to believe that the supreme values of intellectuality are sinful, as being misleading and as temptations. It is clear that the Bible as a historical document is full of holes and gaps. It is even more evident that the Gospels have been tampered with by the Early Church to suit their own agendas. In fact it is evident that the very first Jewish Christians led by Jesus’ brother, James had no intention of breaking away from Judaism.”

“Do you have proof of all these things you are telling me, Christine?” Zyndile asked in amazement. She considered herself a good Christian as were her parents. They taught her as did the local clergy, to believe and have faith in God and the love of Jesus Christ. It was unthinkable that they would have supported or condoned what Christine was saying.

“I think there were over 50 so-called Gospels but only those currently included in the New Testament were selected by the Early Roman Catholic Church. There has been substantial argument regarding the authors of the Gospels including Acts, Paul’s Epistles, Peter’s Epistles and so on. What is clear is that the gospels were written by Jewish Christians in Greek and who lived in the Hellenistic cities of the Roman Empire. They do not date from the Jesus’ lifetime. Luke in fact is thought to have been a Greek doctor. Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Greek as well. He should not be confused with Matthew the Disciple who could only speak Aramaic.”

“In other words those that have been incorporated are not by the original Twelve Apostles who were Jesus’ followers?” Zyndile exclaimed with some consternation.

“Yes. It is actually not known who wrote the Gospels. In addition,” Christine continued, “there are several disparities between the synoptic Gospels in matters which any clear-thinking person would think are important…”

“Such as…?”

“For one, the birth of Jesus. According to Matthew, Jesus was borne of a high family, an aristocrat if you like and indeed descended from the throne of David; according to Luke he was of a poor family while Mark is the one who started the legend of a carpenter’s son. Lazarus’ awakening from the dead is another example mentioned in only one of the Gospels, namely John. Why did not Mark or any of the other apostles mention this singularly spectacular happening? There is however a secret Gospel of Mark’s which gives a somewhat different slant on the raising of Lazarus, one which the Church suppressed[9]. The Gospels also give quite different accounts of the words supposedly uttered by Jesus as he dies on the cross. Zyndile, the Gospels cannot all be correct or be the Truth as inspired by God. You must remember that the Bible is only a collection of writings by hundreds of authors, many of whom are unknown to modern scholars. In Mark’s original gospel for example, it ended with the Crucifixion, the burial and the empty tomb. It made no mention of the Resurrection or of a reunion of the apostles. These elements were added later. Priests conveniently hide these facts. To come back to your original question about the growth and power of the Catholic Church, much like other religions the Catholic Church involved itself in political intrigue, murder and assassinations. The Inquisition was set up to root out any opposition to its dogma. This included opposition at the secular level. Fear was the currency of the church.”

“But Christine, the Church says you must not question these things, only believe, only have faith,” Zyndile visibly puzzled, said. She was having great difficulty with what Christine was telling her. White missionaries from all denominations had come into her country hundreds of years ago and had preached the gospels working tirelessly at christianising the indigenous peoples, teaching them the dogma and rites of the various churches they represented. The so-called heathens and savages of Africa, believing the whites to know the Truth and to be their superiors, had accepted their preaching and thus became devout if somewhat misled Christians, some with African spirituality built in as a safety valve. Now this white woman was telling her otherwise; that all this had been lies, half-truths and a manipulation of history!

“Convenient isn’t it? So what is it that the religionists wish you to believe? Matthew’s version of Jesus’ birth or Luke’s? Of course religionists will quickly tell you that much of the Bible is written in parables and metaphors and that you should not interpret it too literally. My problem with this is when do you decide to ‘interpret it literally’ and when not? How do you believe in the divinity of Jesus if this exalted status was allocated by a vote of bishops in Nicea in 325 AD and when in fact the writers of at least three of the Gospels actually state that he is not God? The way of it, Zyndile is to tell the world that you and only you know the truth or that God has spoken directly with you; just believe and you will be saved. Do not question what I say, just believe! This is how we often speak to our children, isn’t it?”

“But the Bible says so, Jesus said so as well,” Zyndile objected.

“Of course it does. If you wrote a Gospel would you say anything to put doubt in a person’s mind? Would you not try to convince people that your god is the only one to believe in? Would you not also threaten people with dire consequences if they didn’t or promise them, like you would children, wonderful rewards if they did? The very basis of religion is mysticism which creates false realities; makes people feel guilty where guilt is absent but useful to the religionists; where the mysticism-plagued mind waits for external guidance from external authorities. These authorities that include governments and religious movements are fully aware of this. They consequently assume an external and immoral ‘authority’ over us. Indeed they continue to generate and justify the use of force such as the Inquisition, excommunication and religious wars and terror, and through fraudulent means by making false claims such as miracles, divine sightings and –intervention. Or through plain dishonesty they communicate information and interpret incidents such as burning bushes and ‘smoking guns’ to suit particular agendas. The teachings of St. Paul are riddled with this. Thus those in authority manufacture so-called ‘realities’; create false standards and strengthen your feelings of guilt in order to control and manipulate you. In the political arena, leaders mislead their citizens with misinformation; they create fear through imagined threats to people’s safety and in its extreme form, these master mystics enforce their corrupt goals through force and violence often couched in internationally accepted terms and legislation which they justify as being for ‘the common good’.”

“Unfortunately we were taught as youngsters not to question the Bible or our leaders. This creates a natural barrier to intelligent enquiry which was always countered by the decree that you must have faith and trust in your leaders. Anyhow none of this is important any longer. The world as we knew it and the religions and things people believed in and died for, has ceased to exist it seems, so now it is up to us to develop new philosophies and discard the old.”

“Hau, I’m now very confused,” Zyndile said, looking very perplexed. To her religion had always been a straightforward consideration; you either believed in Jesus Christ or you were an outcast.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to confuse you but if you feel more comfortable you should ask these questions of Father Ridgeway,” Christine said kindly as she stood up to tend to Tom who had started stirring. She knew that the priest would give Zyndile a very different picture but also knew that it was not her place to try to change a person’s beliefs. Religion is a personal thing and people, naïve as they were, must make their own choices.

Tom opened his eyes and looked around him in some confusion. He had slept a deep and unbeknown to him, drugged sleep. Zyndile had administered a potent but tasteless soporific extracted from mushrooms she had found in the forest.

“Thanks for looking after me so well. I can’t remember when I last slept so deeply,” he said, looking at the two women. In Bennie’s camp they had no medicines or comforts such as this bed, he told them. He also told them of the argument he had had with Graham and Bennie but did not go into too much detail. They could only guess why he had left them.

June was walking with her two girls in the forest. Since the air crash, they had been discussing how they planned to survive the challenges of the world they now found themselves in. Both Rachel and Elizabeth had come to accept their situation and as June had told them, they were in fact emotionally and psychologically better equipped than the majority of the survivors to deal with the realities facing them. June had created a strong leadership position for herself as a member of the Tribunal as well as being an advisor regarding the possible effects of the displacement of the earth’s crust. Her friendship with John Duguid had also deepened into a strong partnership, which the girls were starting to accept.

The structure of the survivors in Base camp now resembled an emerging village and although their shelters and amenities were still very basic, the survivors had settled into a pattern of village life in which all members started playing a role. Social structures had developed along friendship lines, while the younger members formed groups based on common interests.

A major challenge was to strengthen essential skills among the survivors in fields they were totally unaccustomed to such as making tools, clothes, hunting for food and cultivating herbs and vegetables. This challenge was overcome in a very constructive manner where the leaders such as Oscar and John set up small technical groups to experiment with processes such as extracting salt from the wetlands while at the same time providing training to production teams. Gary and Karl for example trained a number of the young men to manufacture traps and set them in the veldt. They also learned how to stalk and track small rodents and catch them while the women learned to use their pelts to manufacture clothes after curing the skins with some salts extracted from the water in the river by evaporation; salt was however extremely scarce and the men, without the knowledge of the women, used their urine on hollowed rocks and gourds to evaporate leaving salt as residue; this they washed in clean water and evaporated it a second time to get a reasonably clean salt.

June now needed to ensure that her two daughters would be able to look after themselves and indeed to play more significant roles in the emergent village structures.

“Liz, I have been wondering what you think we should be doing to ensure that Dad’s work is not forgotten, should we survive all this and find ourselves in a new world,” she asked turning to her eldest daughter. They were sitting on the edge of the cliff near the waterfall, looking out over the water wastelands below them.

“Gee Mom, I don’t know. I didn’t know much about Dad’s work. Isn’t it something you should do?” she replied somewhat defensively. As a teenager she still did not accept the finality of their position on the plateau. Someday all this would end she believed.

“Naturally I will help you, Liz, but the world is going to need to be reminded of this disaster and prepare for it should it ever happen again.”

“Mom, be realistic. I am fourteen-years old and you expect little old me to remind the whole world of a disaster. Isn’t that too much to expect?” she replied.

“Who else, Liz? If we don’t do it, who will?” her mother argued.

“I will,” Rachel said with the confidence of a precocious twelve-year old. She was not going to allow her father’s work to be forgotten. If it had not been for his insistence that they leave for South Africa they would have all been dead by now. She had absolutely no idea how she would do it but she realised that someone ought to keep his memory and the work he had done, alive.

“Are you sure, sweetie?” her mother said in some surprise. Rachel had the disconcerting habit of surprising her every day. She was a strong willed person who never brooked any nonsense. At times she could be cocky, but that just endeared her to her friends and family. Elizabeth on the other hand was the soft one. She resented Rachel’s in-your-face approach to life somewhat but had learned to live with it. As sisters they were very close and often confided in each other.

“You’ll have to help ‘cause I don’t know how we’re going to do it but it could be fun to do and it gives us something to do. Liz and I could work on it together, hey Liz?” she asked looking at Elisabeth with a look her sister could never resist.

Laughing, she just nodded.

“I’m so glad girls. We need to think how we could do it.”

The three of them spent the rest of the day working out how they could create a historic record of the happenings since their departure from London, six months ago.

When they had done, June still felt something was missing. Then it dawned on her as she returned to the camp. Mike’s work as well as centuries’ work in a variety of fields would be lost to future generations if they didn’t do something about it. It was not good enough to leave the legacies of significant scientific discoveries to chance or worse to legend to be rediscovered.

Speaking to Oscar and to John Duguid, they agreed that they collectively compile ‘papers’ which could be preserved in some way. None of them were however sure how this would be done or for that matter, what such ‘papers’ should contain. They nonetheless agreed on one issue: none of the content would lead to the further destruction of mankind or of the planet earth. They also agreed that June would be the coordinator and facilitator of the work.

 


[1] Qu’ran: Surah: 4.137

[2] Fredericksen, P. ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity’ London, 2000, p.19.

[3] Hitler, A ‘Mein Kampf’. Translated by Ralph Manheim, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, 1943,  Vol 1 Chapter 2: “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

[4] The ‘Brown Eye’ salute consists of exposing the naked rear (usually male) from a bent over position to someone. Author.

[5] Modern-day Turkey

[6] He was also a heretic in terms of Judaic teachings as becomes clear in Acts 22.

[7] Source: Armstrong, K. ‘The Bible; The Biography. Atlantic Books, London  2007

[8] The term ‘Christianity’ is used generically. It is accepted that there are different forms of it ranging from the Roman Catholic Church to Protestant denominations, evangelical congregations, contemporary sects and cults. It is virtually impossible to determine what constitutes ‘Christianity’ except a common belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ according to widely divergent rituals, liturgy and principles.

[9] Source: Smith, M. ‘The Secret Gospel’, London, 1974

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s