- Obulus Augustulus – Emperor of Mercedes pro Ludere
- Valeria Spolia Opima – Empress, Consort-in-chief
- Senex Bis Puer – Augustulus’ sub-emperor
- Miles Politicus – a faithful general
- Contra Bonos Mores – chief Imperial adviser
- Medea Culpa Maxima – Imperial oracle-in-chief
- Varus Origo Mali – progressive dedevelopment specialist
- Hostis Humani Generis – progressive dedevelopment specialist
- Quintus Socius Criminis – Imperial law specialist
- Gnaius Particeps Criminis – Imperial law specialist
- Timeo Danaos and Dona Ferentes – visitors from the realm of Lubrica de Palma, exegetes of The Ultimate Economic Policy
- the Duces – a sports team
- various artists
- imperial post rider
The Imperial Court of MERCEDES PRO LUDERE. The action is set some time in the near future, although it could well be in the past. Actually, it could be right now!
An opulent throne room, with a row of gigantic Dorian-style columns across the back and a water fountain at both stage right and left. OBULUS AUGUSTULUS and VALERIA SPOLIA OPIMA are hosting TIMEO DANAOS and DONA FERENTES, economic exegetes from faraway LUBRICA DE PALMA, who are advocating the wildly successful Ultimate Economic Policy developed by Ponzius Pilatus, the leading economist of the PALMI LUBRICI. This is more a party than a focused discussion because OBULUS is busy with a graphic op with the DUCES, his favorite sports team. Masons and various assistant chiselers swarm everywhere with inkpens, papyrus, mallets and chisels, trying to capture the group in marble. The sound of incessant chiseling is prominent. OBULUS is posing in the midst of the DUCES, laughing and high-fiving with them. Several leading popular artistic personages are waiting in the wings, eager for their chance to commune with OBULUS and VALERIA.
DONA FERENTES: …it brings untold prosperity to the deserving masses by shifting all expenses to the undeserving today and the rest of them to the future, a scheme that can be carried on indefinitely as long as…
VALERIA SPOLIA OPIMA: That’s wonderful! How much goes into the Imperial…
LEADING GRAPHIC ARTIST: (to Obulus) If your Imperial Majesty will move still more to the left…
TIMEO DANAOS: Unlimited flow, Majesty, unlimited!
D. FERENTES: The VAT aspect of it is one of the best…
SENEX BIS PUER: The what?
T. DANAOS: The VAT, Your Inframajesty. The Venal Acquisition Tax measures that your Imperium has already begun to implement so successfully. It’s like frosting on the cake.
S. BIS PUER: (with a quizzical expression on his face) Ooh, I see. Of course. Ah, ahem.
OBULUS AUGUSTULUS: (to the artists) Let’s be done. We’re getting weary here. Besides, We’re extremely busy. You’ve got Us, which is the important thing. You can fill in the others later. Good day!
Leading graphic artist bows and backs away, the other artists and the Duces do the same. There is a rush for the door, stage right. They find it locked, then finally read the prominent sign EXIT ONLY POSSIBLE STAGE LEFT. They rush to the left and out.
OBULUS: (grinning, walks over to Valeria and the others) They think We’re really cool. (Plops down next to Valeria) Ah, Timeo Danaos et Dona Ferentes. (grins still more, pleased with his Latin quip. The others laugh politely until Obulus’s grin abates.) What’ve you got for Us today?
T. DANAOS: We’ve been outlining to Her Imperial Majesty and to His Inframajesty…
D. FERENTES: …the benefits of the ultimate economic arrangements in Palma de Lubrica…
S. BIS PUER: (eagerly) It really is a big f***ing deal!
OBULUS: Right, We’ve read something about that in last week’s Imperium Orbis Obulis. It calls for a very progressive tax-and-acquire policy, doesn’t it?
D. FERENTES: Yes, Your Imperial Majesty. Internally…
T. DANAOS: …and internationally. Continuous acquisition through vigorous expansion is the only guarantee of adequate inflow…
OBULUS: Good, good, because even now Our best general, Miles Politicus, is campaigning against the Homini Glacii who’ve been illegally hoarding and investing profits from their own work.
VALERIA: Dreadful, shameful habit. At some point you’ve just made enough money and you have to share.
OBULUS: …so We’re going to help them with that. That’s what We’re all about, as you’re aware. Helping others help Us selflessly. That’s the spirit of this truly progressive era.
VALERIA: Anyone who doesn’t see that simply doesn’t have the facts.
S. BIS PUER: (eagerly) We also call it dedevelopment, you know. It lets us profit immensely from the work of oth…
OBULUS: (looks at Senex with a mixture of amusement and distaste) You…okay, okay.
T. DANAOS and D. FERENTES: (obsequiously, all over each other in their effort to agree and commiserate) Yes, Your Majesties…A truly inspired policy, especially when applied to those…horrible Glacii. They really frost…our rulers, too. The Glacii…don’t tax their own…enough…and yet still they carry on. We make…many of our people…go there to exploit their system and…send money home, as is our…inalienable right…. But…would you believe it…the damned Glacii patrol their borders and…send our people back!
VALERIA: (disgusted) Uncivilized. Inhumane. Why can’t they be more like us?
CONTRA BONOS MORES: (enter unexpectedly, stage left) It’s the profit motive. It makes them congenitally unfit for anything but servitude and (rolls his eyes in distaste) physical work. Even our intensive reeducation facilities can’t make a dent in those pathological, dirty, dastardly, devilish folks, as the Augur Leonatus Iefirus justly calls them.
OBULUS: (looks at BONOS MORES, surprised) What it is?
C. BONOS MORES: News, your Imperial…
OBULUS: (irritated) Well?
C. BONOS MORES: (nods toward the Palmi Lubrici) Uh…
OBULUS: We shall continue this at another time.
T. DANAOS and D. FERENTES: (jump to their feet) Of course, Your Imperial Majesty. (S. BIS PUER escorts them out, stage left, leaves with them, shooing the other remaining visitors and hangers-on before him.)
VALERIA: (calls after the Palmi Lubrici) As you know, Our Imperial administration is completely transparent, so drop in any time and We’ll tell you the absolute truth about everything.
D. FERENTES: (exiting) Of course, Your Majesty.
T. DANAOS: (from offstage) Isn’t Her Imperial Majesty gracious?
D. FERENTES: (from offstage) …and she has at least two advanced degrees, too. They all do. Simply incredible. No wonder they never do anything wrong.
OBULUS, VALERIA and C. BONOS MORES alone.
VALERIA: I’m so glad that ridiculous Senex is gone. He’s such a… (confidentially, leaning toward Bonos Mores) You know, some say that he’s one of the Glacii.
C. BONOS MORES: (smiles modestly) Majesty, they can’t all be bad.
VALERIA: (pugnaciously) Yeah? Well, show me one good one. As the Augur Leonatus Iefirus preaches, a single drop of blood is enough…
OBULUS: (wearily) So, what’s the news already?
C. BONOS MORES: Your Imperial Majesty, Miles Politicus…
OBULUS (jumps up) You have news of Our friend Politicus? Why didn’t you…
C. BONOS MORES: (not sure how to approach this) Majesty, Miles…
OBULUS (impatiently) Well, out with it.
C. BONOS MORES: (looks down) Disaster, Majesty. The Glacii…
OBULUS (angrily) We’ll determine what’s a disaster and what isn’t. Never forget that We taught Imperial law…
C. BONOS MORES: (modestly) Yes, Majesty. No, Majesty.
OBULUS (even more impatient) So talk to me already. What’s going on?
C. BONOS MORES: (gestures toward stage left) Majesty, perhaps Politicus himself should…
OBULUS (happily) He’s here? Politicus is here? Well, call him in. (carefully arranges himself on his throne)
C. BONOS MORES: (makes a beckoning gesture toward stage left)
Enter MILES POLITICUS, still filthy and sweaty from his journey. He is followed by the Imperial Oracle MEDEA CULPA MAXIMA and progressive dedevelopment specialists VARUS ORIGO MALI and HOSTIS HUMANI GENERIS. The last to enter are the twins QUINTUS SOCIUS CRIMINIS and GNAIUS PARTICEPS CRIMINIS, both specialists in Imperial law.
MILES POLITICUS: (rushes toward Obulus, kneels to kiss the hem of his immaculately pressed robe) Your Imperial Majesty, I…
OBULUS: (generously) No, no, no, my dear Politicus. Rise. Please do rise and be seated. (turns to the others who are clustering a few steps away) A chair for Miles Politicus.
VARUS ORIGO MALI trots over with a chair.
M. POLITICUS: (practically in tears) Your Imperial…
OBULUS: No ceremony, my dear friend. Tell Us what happened.
M. POLITICUS: (struggling with emotion) Your Imperial… It was dreadful. We did everything right, yet the Glacii…
OBULUS: (sternly) Surely something must have gone wrong, otherwise you would have brought their leaders here in abject dependence on Our administration, to beg for mercy and to admire Our….
M. POLITICUS: They came at us even before we’d had a chance to build a proper latrine trench.
VALERIA: (impetuously – she doesn’t like Politicus at all) How come you didn’t have it built first thing?
M. POLITICUS: The environmental impact statement, Majesty, it hadn’t come yet, and…
The others make sympathetic noises and variously indicate extreme disgust with the perfidious behavior of the Glacii.
HOSTIS HUMANI GENERIS: (interrupts angrily) Just like those Homini Glacii to ignore the imperative to protect Motherly Earth.
VALERIA: (somewhat mollified) Just so. Yet…
MEDEA CULPA MAXIMA: (raises her arms dramatically, speaks in a prophetic voice to the aether somewhere in middle distance) The green earthly and womanly heavenly signs weren’t bundled properly…
VALERIA: (uncertainly – she fears and hates Medea) Yes, indeed. The signs.
QUINTUS SOCIUS CRIMINIS: (soothingly, to mollify Medea) Yet the blame must go to the barbaric Glacii who don’t understand the fundamental precepts of truly progressive civilized life. Why would they be testing us like this so early after His Imperial Majesty’s ascension?
GNAIUS PARTICEPS CRIMINIS: (eager to support his twin’s case) We all know that the Glacii are impervious to any kind of community outreach. We all know they have no ethnic awareness and therefore have no clue that they must respect us, not the other way around.
OBULUS: Stop bickering and shut it, people, or We’re going to kick someone’s ass. We’re in charge here. (to Politicus) What else happened?
M. POLITICUS: We used all the ideologically immaculate conceptions that Your Imperial Majesty had so ably set out in Your many autobiographies to help them acquire true understanding, but it simply didn’t work. They said that they preferred democracy. Whatever that is…
VARUS ORIGO MALI: (sounding tough) Did you send in unarmed envoys who offered a hand instead of a fist, and also unconditional talks?
M. POLITICUS: (emphatically) Yes. They got laughed at. Imagine, Obulus’s envoys, laughed at!
V. ORIGO MALI: (with genuine horror) The Glacii didn’t accept the open hand? Not even with something in it?
M. POLITICUS: (resignedly) Yes, well… The Glacii did take the merces but only said they’d invest it for His Imperial Majesty. They even gave us a receipt. A receipt! Good goddess, what shame. Obulus’s gifts, to be used for filthy lucre! And when we offered to throw the Hebetici under the chariot, they said that they were allied with that horrible tribe and would put their stinking horseless chariots in our way if we tried.
VALERIA: What was their reaction to His Imperial Majesty’s offer of talks with no preconditions?
M. POLITICUS: They laughed again when my envoys made the offer. They practically collapsed with mirth when the envoys made it clear that they, the Glacii, could set the agenda themselves as long as it was exactly what His Imperial Majesty wanted!
H. HUMANI GENERIS: (seeking to sound even tougher than Origo Mali) I wonder, did the envoys do a good enough job of explaining the many benefits of unconditional submission to His Imperial Majesty? The untold perquisites of being part of Mercedes Pro Ludere? And did the envoys follow up with the threat of internationally coordinated sanctions if the Glacii didn’t submit?
M. POLITICUS: (emphatically) Yes, yes. As before, they got laughed at. Oh, the shame of it! (covers his face with his hands and sobs)
H. HUMANI GENERIS: (trying to keep from laughing hysterically) Oh, Politicus, we all appreciate your getting in touch with your outer – I mean inner – feminine, but let’s not waste His Imperial Majesty’s time…
V. ORIGO MALI: (shocked) They weren’t afraid of international sanctions?
M. POLITICUS: (shaking his head sadly) No. Even less than of His Imperial Majesty’s displeasure. They said that they understood international law and our own Imperial law better than His Imperial Majesty and all his advisers. Oh, what is to be done? (cries again, gradually slips out of the chair onto his knees)
C. BONOS MORES: Buck up, Politicus, you’re among friends here. We all understand that this is a failure of the previous Emperor. We all know he had some Glacial blood in him. After your envoys came back empty-handed, did you yourself go…
M. POLITICUS: (so shocked that he stops crying and gets to his feet) Myself? Myself? Why, of course not. Such…
OBULUS: (rises, speaks sternly) Enough of this. My friend Politicus practices Our kind of diplomacy, on Our orders. We Ourselves don’t ever need to go anywhere because We have complete control right here. Does anyone here question the absolute success of Our progressive and enlightened leadership style? (sits again) Didn’t think so. So, Politicus, how did it finally end?
M. POLITICUS: They came at us at the most inconvenient time, at one AM. We were all asleep or studying advanced social work texts. Before we knew it, they’d stolen our ceremonial spear and all the cutlery. Then they rounded us up in the middle of the encampment, put all our fuel on the central fire…”
Q. SOCIUS CRIMINIS: (puts his hand to his mouth) All of it? Dreadful. The environmental irresponsibility…
M. POLITICUS: …and in the light of the fire they told us that they’re tired of – what was their expression? – messing with us, that time is money, and that we should go home.
OBULUS: H-m. Messing. Messing. Isn’t that Austrian for “brass?” Never mind. No message for Us?
M. POLITICUS: None.
OBULUS: (simmering) None?
M. POLITICUS: Indeed, Your Imperial Majesty, none.
OBULUS: (ready to blow) No message for Us. NO! MESSAGE! FOR! US! They wasted such an opportunity to ask the right kinds of questions of Us. We…
VALERIA: (soothingly) Your Imperial Majesty, they are only Homini Glacii. You know how they are…
OBULUS: (sits down, calming himself) Yes, yes, yes. They desperately need an infusion of blood of the Homini Solis to make them more human. Until then… (turns to Politicus again) What did they do with your encampment?
M. POLITICUS: Your Imperial Majesty, they plan to turn it into something they called a factory for advanced technologies. Whatever that is. I’m told a factory’s a large-scale manufactury. By the time we’d marched away – with dignity, of course, and in perfect order – they already set monstrous yellow self-moving machines to flattening the ground. None of us had seen Motherly Earth despoiled like that, without any exhaustive studies to protect rare vermes or…
OBULUS: (shakes his head as the full import of the impertinence of the Glacii finally hits home. His eyes mist over as he thinks of the poor vermes.) Devilish. Satanic. I should…”
H. HUMANI GENERIS: (indignantly) …mobilize masses of righteous community organizers, give the Glacii a deadline to surrender and if they don’t meet it…
V. ORIGO MALI: (with determination) …demobilize again and report them to the international community. Then mobilize public opinion through a barrage of truthy stories in the information provider systems, begin to work behind the scenes with various humanitarian organizations like your favorite HAMARSE to infiltrate them, then worm our way into their societal and governmental structures, and ultimately bring them down.
OBULUS: (gratefully) Just so. Just so. Yes! Let it be done. If it’s done like that, it’s sure to be a tremendous success for Us. Under the weight of properly incited public opinion, the Glacii and those awful Hebetici will soon enough collapse like a house of cards. Bonos Mores…
C. BONOS MORES: I’m on it, Your Imperial Majesty. (exit stage left, running)
IMPERIAL POST RIDER: (runs in from stage left, sweating and panting. Nearly collides with the exiting C. Bonos Mores. Kneels before Obulus.) Your Imperial Majesty, disaster in the salt mines of Colonia Carolinae Braunae. Many dead already, and the damage is spreading fast. The entire Keister River began to drain into the mine system…
OBULUS: (severely) How could this happen?
IMPERIAL POST RIDER: The vanguard of the Shaft Employees’ International Union had voted to dig much closer to the river than is usual because one of the shaft workers, a Laborina, thought she’d seen the endangered desert kadiddlehopper in the ecosystem farther away where they would have normally dug. The mine ceilings gave way because the miners, ever environmentally responsible, heroically refused to use the protected arsch wood for overhead support. They used the softer but very common pooplar instead. The waters are already gushing out of the ground more than a hundred and fifty miles from the big shaft of Carolinae Braunae.
OBULUS: (to the post rider) Calm yourself. We’re firmly in charge, and will not let anything bad happen. You’d better go back and tell them. We’ll manage everything perfectly from here. They have nothing to fear.
Exit imperial post rider. In his confusion, he tries to go stage right but H. Humani Generis catches him in time and redirects him to stage left.
VALERIA: (confused) Isn’t the kadiddlehopper just a fictional creature from a comedy routine by some Glac…
M. CULPA MAXIMA: (bellows) A member of the Shaft Employees’ International Union had seen it, therefore…
Q. SOCIUS CRIMINIS: (uncertainly) But the post rider said that she only thought she’d seen it…
M. CULPA MAXIMA: (shrieks) I repeat, it was reported by a member of the Shaft Employees’ International Union, a Laborina no less. Wise Laborinas see the ultimate, higher truth, the way things should be, not the way they transitorily are. Do you dare dispute it?
Q. SOCIUS CRIMINIS: (cringing) No, of course not. (Hides behind his twin. M. Culpa Maxima watches his distress with satisfaction.)
OBULUS: (turns to the others who are now clustered together, except for M. Culpa Maxima, who stands apart, smirking) Those Shaft Employee workers – they’re so dedicated. How I admire their sacrifices… (sighs) Well, another crisis solved. Shall we go play a round of mankala, dear Valeria, and then have some of that yummy arugula soufflé? By the way, it’s been over two weeks since your tour of Our province of Herspania. Aren’t you ready for another break from this burdensome business of governing?
VALERIA: (rises) Masterfully done, best beloved. I’d love to play mankala. And yes, We need another trip so We can allow the masses the extraordinary privilege of gazing upon Us. Maybe the poorly developed sections in the south of Mercedes pro Ludere where so many of our people still suffer from having glacial blood… They could always use a teachable moment or two. Will you be coming along?
OBULUS: (thoughtfully) Very possibly. Depends on the workload, as you know. (Hugs and kisses Valeria)
VALERIA: Oh, and after mankala, I really want You to call back those two clever Palmi Lubrici, Timeo Danaos et (giggles) Dona Ferentes. Their economic theories about allowing the deserving to enjoy prosperity now by shifting the monetary burden to today’s undeserving and to future generations sounds perfect for Us. What was the name of the originator of the system? Oh yes, Ponzius Pilatus. Genius, absolute genius. By the way, about Politicus…
OBULUS: (smiles at her lovingly) Ah yes, him. Send a few of your twenty-three personal community organizers after him and let them give him some reeducation.
VALERIA: (laughs, then gestures to M. Culpa Maxima, who disappears stage left and is heard shrieking orders to catch up with Politicus) You’re so brilliant! What level?
OBULUS: (also laughs) Why, the chariot wheels. What other kind is there when someone fails Our Imperial Majesties?
All laugh heartily even as the rumble of wheels turning and screams of pain emanate from beyond stage left.
Some helpful information:
- the Homini Glacii – the latest eternally über-evil people
- the Homini Solis – an eternally über-good people
- the Hebetici – the original eternally über-evil people who desperately cling to their gutter religion and their guns (also to a tiny sliver of land that is universally known to be, but is never acknowledged as, their ancestral home)
- Lubrica de Palma – a faraway realm that is the vanguard of a new economic policy invented by the brilliant Ponzius Pilatus
- Palmi Lubrici – residents of Lubrica de Palma
A brief primer of classical and new Latin:
- contra bonos mores – against the best interests of society
- culpa maxima – maximum sin
- homini glacii (new Latin) – ice people
- homini solis (new Latin) – sun people
- hostis humani generis – enemy of the human race
- lubrica de palma (new Latin) – grease the palm
- mercedes pro ludere (new Latin) – pay to play
- merces – money
- miles politicus (new Latin) – political soldier
- origo mali – source of evil
- particeps criminis – partner in crime
- senex bis puer – second childhood
- spolia opima – the best spoils
- socius criminis – criminal man
- “timeo danaos et dona ferentes” – “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”
- for the classical Latin: Ehrlich, C. Amo, Amas, Amat and More. Harper & Row, New York, 1987.
- for the new Latin: the reader’s imagination.
© 2010 Michael J. Kubat