The People Thang
A Diatribe in One Act
Stage directions. The setting is a public park, a forum, or agora. The main characters can be dressed in contemporary street clothes while extras (or mocking bye passers) are dressed in tunics or togas of classical bearing (or, perhaps the other way around). The casting should be multi-racial and non-cisgendered. Actors may adapt street dialects to their preferences.
(Thrash and Warlord are playing chess)
Thrash: So this bitch tells me if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?
Warlord: No way? That's check, by the way.
Thrash: Oh yeah. So I looks at her and says if you’re so rich, why ain’t you smart.
Warlord: Forked that interview. Checkmate, bro.
Thrash: Word. AW MAN! Should have stood my ass up and walked out right then . . .
Warlord: Don’t look, but here come Sox and he got Fatback and Fairy in tow.
Thrash: Those two again?
Warlord: I gotta talk with Sox.
Thrash: Wait in line, bro. I got unfinished business with that cat. Yo Sox! Yo Sox! (Thrasymachus dashes towards an old man or woman gingerly settling himself down on a soapbox by the fountain)
Sox: Thrash, my friend.
Thrash: Yo. Hey, my main man! Hey "Little Dudettes Two" too.
Fatback and Fairy nod amiably but warily at Thrash. They smile at Warlord.
Thrash: Yo Sox. Why ain’t you down with the people man? The people gotta rule.
Broad shouldered fatback grimaces and rolls an eye at Warlord.
Sox: The people? People like you?
Thrash: Yo, I’m a people. Warlord’s a people. The little dudettes is people. We’s all people. Even Warlord’s old fella who made his pile selling jellcaps to them Zulus off 125th St. He's people. We’re all people, man.
Sox: And all people can rule themselves?
Thrash: Who else gonna rule them gramps? You? Fatback? The philosorap king of his choosing?
Sox: Boy, ifs all peoples can rule their own selves than why don’t they? Why don’t you?
Thrash: Ain’t nobody but me rules me. But don’t pretend you don’t know the problem, man. The Man is the problem, man.
Sox: The Man? Uh huh. Here we go now. Just who, by the freaking way, is this "the Man"?
Thrash: You know what I mean. He be evicting whole buildings to build a parking garage. He be closing factories when people already don’t have jobs. He be shooting us down in the streets. Leaving us to bleed out on the pavement like he wouldn’t do a dog. He give us Bantu schooling too, yo.
Sox: And what Bamtu grade did you finally manage to finish?
Thrash: Yo Gramps. I dropped out as soon as I knew how, and that was the only thing to do. I wasn’t learning nuthin’ there. I’m an autodidact now. And I’m a teacher too. Ain’t I, Warlord? (Warlord grins and shrugs.)
Sox: You an auto sumthin’, alright. You think anyone can quit school and keep reading and learning like you do? (Socrates puts air quotes around “learning”.)
Thrash: Maybe not man, but I ain’t the only one. But we’s all gots our strengths and weaknesses.
Sox: Sure enough, but can peoples rule themselves without learning?
Thrash: Well, I grant you some peoples gonna do more learning than others gonna do.
Sox: Did you answer my question though?
Thrash: What is your question, old man? There’s ruling oneself and then there’s democracy where we rule each other.
Sox: Breakin’ it down, now. That’s good. That’s good. . . . Ok. Ruling oneself? Can everyone rule his or her own self?
Thrash: Sure. Why not? We makes our choices and takes the consequences.
Sox: And are all people equally qualified to understand their choices and the consequences of those choices? Do all people even know what all their choices are?
Thrash: Yeah. I got you. I feel you, Daddy. Everbody needs some guidance now and then. That goes without saying.
Sox: And all people need the same amount of guidance? Some don’t need more and some don’t need less. And who’s qualified to be a guide?
Thrash: Well you know that all depends. If I wanna know how to fix a bicycle, I ain’t gonna ax you. If I wanna put on a skit, I won’t ax you. I’d ask Warlorgathon, here, the son of Tisamenus But I know where to find you if I wanna learn some highfalutin BS Mr. Interlocutor jujitsu.
Sox: So you’re saying that it all evens out. Everbody gives and receives the same amount of guidance in their personal lifes?
Thrash: Yeah, I’ll stick with that. It all evens out over time. Sure. You just gots to look at the la-onnng run, grampoops. The long run, yeah.
Sox: Is you including or excluding simpletons, the heartbrokens, small children, dreamers, old age dementeds, juicers, crackheads, regular crazies, and the criminally insane?
Thrash: Well, little kids gonna grow, and the old seniles had their day. You know that. But I’ll grant you some people ain’t so right in the head. Some people born less damaged. Some people more. Some people get damaged or damage themselves. But most of that’s not even damage, that's just normal variation man. Sometimes the extreme is where you gotta be. If all crazies didn't have something to say once in a while, nobody'd be listening to you! That's for sure! But mostly the lunatics stay on the fringes and don't even know about each other and wouldn’t have nothing to do wit each other if they did.
Sox: Ok. Ok. Ok. Fair enough. But is you saying that everyone else who's not off the hook is the same in their mental capacity to take care of themselves?
Thrash: They’s differences. They’s differences. I said that, ole Man. But in some ways that don’t matter. And in some ways it’s a plus even. We all learn from each other, bro. Even mental defectives. Like I said, even they got something to offer if we only know how to look.
Sox: Admirable. Admirable. Like “The Fool on the Hill.”
Thrash: That’s right. That’s right. “He knows they’re the fool.”
Fatback and Fairy sing: “And the eyes in his head see the world spinning round.”
Warlord chimes in: “Well on the way, head in a cloud. The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud.”
Sox: Ok. What about democracy now?
Thrash: Well it’s almost the same thing, isn’t it? Everybody does their part. And no one gets too big in the head.
Sox: You finally starting to interest me, boy. Now how do you suppose we prevent anyone from getting too big in the head?
Thrash: By paying attention man. If someone doing wrong and talking shit, we shout em down or turn away. And if someone doing right and making sense and maybe even seeing a little farther down the road than the rest of us - we still got to pay attention, ask questions, criticize, keep him on his toes and we keep on our toes. Cause he may be a genius or he may be crazy, he may be good or he may be evil, or it might just depend on the day, the dice, or the weather in Flatbush.
Fatback: Sox, I like that. I like that a lot. I’m gonna start a 'Cademy someday and teach people how to do like what he’s saying.
Fairy: I’ll be your first pupil, man. That’s for me. But after a while, I’ll found my own 'Cademy.
Fatback: Oh no you won’t, fool. You can’t call it a 'Cademy. That’s mine. You gots to call yours something else, man. It’s only fair.
Fairy: I’ll think on that, bro. It’s all about keeping track of what’s being done and what’s being said. If there’s a lie or lies, peoples gotta know how to see em. You can’t call out lies, if you can’t see em.
(With wide big grins Fatback and Fairy high five and fist bump.)
Sox: Well my, my, my. . . My son, you're getting universal endorsement and acclaim. You should be getting worried jest about now. So, for a democracy, that's all you need? Vigilance?
Fatback: And the education and training to be able to know what to pay attention to.
Fairy: And the practice and guidance to be able ask questions and make points effectively.
Fatback: And patience and courage when lots of people are sucked in by bad, every day a bad hair day, bad dudes.
Thrash: Well, if only we had that. If we had that, that might be all we needed. I mean everything else might just flow from that. I mean if we had that or most of that, we could probably build anything else we need. Everything else! So the question you should ax now is, why don't we have that. Why are we so far away, man?
Sox: That there is a very good question. So, why are we so far away?
Thrash: That's the Man, man. He just want people to be smart enough to follow orders and mind the machines. He don't want nobody knowing how to think and asking questions. He don't want questions about why he makes 1000 times more than somebody humping his butt when he don't work at all - or if he do, he sure don't work 1000 time harder. Not even 10 times harder maybe. No, he just want them to be able to read the instruction manual and to believe your Big Lies.
Sox: My Big Lies?
Thrash: Oh yeah! Don't be saying that you don't be preaching that everyone should know his place and love where they're at. And don't you two be nodding your heads, or I'll be raising a knot on the both of them. Cause that's what you'd deserve and justice is everyone getting what they damn deserve.
Sox: Do I say that we have justice here and now?
Thrash: No, I know what you say. I know what you say. You say justice and perfection is just somewhere outta reach in some upsidedown fifth dimension green pastures of perfection somewhere else anywhere but here.
Sox: Do I say we shouldn't be working towards justice even if it's always a guiding mirage?
Thrash: Who knows what you say? Have you ever noticed most people can’t make heads or tails of you? Some people say you got wisdom. Other people think they know better. I heard what your old lady told ya the other day.
Sox: Zan got a lot of opinions and she ain’t shy about saying ‘em.
Thrash: She tear you a new one every other day!
Sox: Well I like to think I deserve her. At least I try to.
Thrash: So we back to justice now?
Sox: Well, I think we should be talking how the guiding myths of a people should guide them toward justice.
Fatback and Fairy: No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace!
Sox: How does a people get closer to peace and justice? Can they do it by following leaders?
Thrash: That’s a part of it.
Sox: But it’s not enough, is it?
Thrash: Like I say, it’s gotta come from the people themselves.
Fairy (quoting): “If I could lead you to the promise land, I wouldn’t do it. Cuz someone debs could come, turn you around and lead Gene right back out again.”
Fatback: The thing is: the right kind of myth is a guidance that stays inside people, guides them, and helps them guide each other.
Thrash: But, the Man! The Man gets ahold of the myths and twists them so they lift him high and push everybody else down.
Warlord: Yes. If he can, he will. A scorpion is a scorpion. A frog is a frog. A lamb is a lamb, and a lion is a lion.
Fairy: But if he can’t, he won’t.
Thrash: What gonna stop him?
Fairy: The people paying attention.
Warlord: There really ain’t no one “the Man”. Big shots don’t like other big shots getting too big headed or playing them.
Fatback: The Big Myth can help stop him. It might help him stop himself. It might help the people stop him.
Thrash: Ain’t no myth that The Man hasn’t hijacked - if he didn’t make it up himself in the first place.
Sox: Do think some evil tyrant or wannabe can make a myth that’s gonna live and grow inside people?
Thrash: They can make people feel scared, or small, or weak, or shameful, or alone. That’s some mighty mojo.
Sox: Well do you think that if people are bound to cherish that kind of myth with no escape, that they are fit to rule themselves?
Thrash: Well, they do. A lot of them do.
Sox: So won’t those people then be ruled by others?
Thrash: Well, yeah. But only for a time. I mean that won’t last.
Sox: It won’t last? It seems to last. Why won’t it last?
Thrash: Because it’ll explode. Or the air will just leak out over time. Or people will just shrivel up and die. But they won’t. They won’t. They want to live. They want to be good. They want to be free. They want to be good and good to each other.
Sox: Do they?
Thrash: Well. Little children. Look at them.
(They all turn towards the sounds of children playing just a little way off from them.)
Sox: They don’t kick and hit and bite each other? Take each others’ toys and lollipops?
Thrash: They gots to be guided.
Sox: What if those thats guides them believe they are alone, and weak, and shameful, and must be led by the better and the best?
Thrash: Nobody’s gonna teach that to their own sons and daughters!
Sox: No one?
Thrash: But that’s why we gotta smash down the myths. It’s only myths make people believe crap like that so they teach it to their kids.
Sox: But you already said that without myths, people gotta rely on leaders and teachers.
Thrash: (flustered) Did I say that?
Fatback: I think you agreed that people need myths to help them guide themselves from inside.
Thrash: But the myths get twisted and hijacked by the Man.
Warlord: Or by the people themselves.
Fatback: What is there in this world that can’t be twisted or perverted?
Sox: Who do you really think makes these myths?
Thrash: Well teachers and leaders play a big part.
Sox: And who plays the other part?
Thrash: Ok. It has to be the people themselves.
Sox: And who perverts these myths more? The leaders or the people?
Thrash: (Grudgingly) Yeah they both do.
Fatback: So you just said that leaders and teachers together make myths - and together, in their own way, they fuck ‘em up.
Thrash: Yeah. I said that. I’ll say that.
Sox: Do you wanna give up on this “people rule” jag now?
Thrash: No Sox. I can’t do that.
Sox: How can you not give up?
Thrash: We can build better and better myths over time.
Fatback: (eagerly) And teach other to think, and share ideas, and ask questions
Fairy: And to watch over each other and to know lies when you see ‘um
Warlord: Even you telling them to yourself, man.
Sox: Can a people do that, Thrash?
Thrash: Not today.
Thrash: Maybe tomorrow.
Sox: Maybe tomorrow?
Thrash: Tomorrow isn’t just a day. It might take many tomorrows.
Sox: And will you live through enough tomorrows to see the day?
Thrash: I don’t have to. I just gotta do the best I can to get us all closer.
Sox: But isn’t that your myth?
Thrash: It may be a myth, but I don’t have to believe it.
Sox: You don’t?
Thrash: No, I just gotta do the best I can.
Sox: Even though you don’t believe?
Thrash: I got no other choice. WE got no other choice. All the other choices are worst.
That's all folks
Thrash finally angled himself into a comfortable sinecure at the Heritage Institute where he reads Nietzsche and drinks too much coffee.
Warlord (aka Agathon), after winning many acclaims for his staged performances, now dresses exclusively in woman’s clothes and relies on the kindness of strangers.
Fatback went on to found his renowned Academy.
Fairy graduated from the Academy and promptly set up his own Lyceum.
Sox was one day sentenced to death and refused many open opportunities to escape that penalty by exiling himself from his native land.