Our Drum, Our Rhythm

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flm
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Our Drum, Our Rhythm

Postby flm » Mon Feb 04, 2019 4:34 pm

In Flamaguay they like to count. When you are born, you are given a number. It used to be that a stout man with a thin moustache and small spectacles sitting in a big office with a lot of other stout little men would give you a number, but now a machine gives you a number. This number follows you all your life. Some complain that as far as the government is concerned, the person follows the number. This number is not like the number someone may receive in a Dumani or Prekovar prison, noting the order until execution, or the number someone may receive in Senland or Questers, recording just to what extent your life is owned by another. In Flamaguay, those that complain that to the state you are a number do not fully understand that your number gives you identity. You have a number because you are recorded, and because you have been recorded you may count yourself as being able to participate in society. With your number, you can vote. With your number, you may demand an attorney. With your number, you are guaranteed a place in school. It is very useful to have a number, if you don't have your own number, you won't get very far in Flamaguay.

In Flamaguay they have to count. Every grouping of more than a dozen Flamaguayans is bound to consider themselves infused with an independent culture and dialect. From the smallest municipalities, up through the communes that mark the day-to-day life of the typical Flamaguyan, the regions that bind these and the Marches that, for the longest time, could claim the highest price of loyalty from its inhabitants. Much like anything else in Flamaguay, a piece of land and its people is sortable into carefully designed categories. One would be hard pressed to find a square centimeter of Flamaguay over which someone cannot claim ownership and responsibility, and who would fail to sustain such a claim with a comprehensive volume of deeds, maps, and licenses.

In Flamaguay, they hate to count. A poem is made up of verse, which may be broken down into patterns, a song composed by series of notes with rhythm and reciprocal relationships. One may replicate a map of the footsteps required for a dance or of the exact chemical mix necessary to put a specific colour upon canvas. Ultimately all pointless, however, as art should reflect the yearning and the pains of the soul. Speak to the pining masses of writers, musicians, painters, and other various artists that Flamaguay generates. They describe the world as Flamaguayans experience it, reflecting its secure place in an uncertain setting, and the subtle maddening feeling of necessary revolt.

In Flamaguay, the like to count. They have counted all the other peoples of the world, and found some friendly and some quite hostile, and others totally indifferent. They have counted all the tanks and planes that Prekovy has, and they have gained a rather fearful respect. They have counted all the proper hospitals and well-funded schools in Prekovy, and then they got a bit sad. But its not too bad to live in Prekovy, after all. It could be worse, one could live in Crataea. One could count all the petty little satraps that make up Sukaria, or the overly posturing men of the Dumani Senate, or all the interchangeable warlords in Sharfland or Motappaland or Gzhelkastan. All of these are very depressing exercises in addition. The Flamaguayans have counted all the people in the Taihei Tengoku, a land which has always offered many interesting things for the Flamaguayans to count. They should hate Taihei Tengoku, a wretched despoty of Aíjotei fanatics, but they find it oddly fascinating. Some Poláček would call them naive Occidentalists. The Flamaguayans could count all the academics in Poláčekia noting to take better care, but they think that whatever the figure theres too many anyway. They have tried to count all the dollars in the Commonwealth, and tried to count all the tanks and planes that they have. They lost count somewhere over Questers, but they are impressed nonetheless. They count all the Embreans, to the north, they count them all as their little brothers and sisters. They count all the Zegorans, to the east, but the Flamaguayans know they can't count on the Zegorans to stay still should their moment arise.

Above all, the Flamaguayans can count on the most important thing of all, being able to live in Flamaguay. In Flamaguay, one's life makes sense. There is order and there is progress, there is safety and there is security. Flamaguay stands tall, stands alone, and stands for what is right, the course of civilization as far as it can be measured.
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flm
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Re: Our Drum, Our Rhythm

Postby flm » Wed Feb 13, 2019 2:28 pm

Countries have institutions, some countries have many important institutions, and in some places, such as Praetonia, institutions have countries. Institutions are usually a generally very imposing sort of thing, like a central monetary authority, courts of law, or a military. Flamaguay has quite a lot of these institutions. Certainly, it has a central monetary authority, courts of law, and a military, and it has other institutions in addition to those. A very important Flamaguayan institution, however, may not be so rapidly apparent to a foreigner. A venerable redoubt of Flamaguayan culture, it is the common street-side kiosk

The common street-side kiosk is a modest structure. It is no deeper than one meter, and never more than five or so meters across. In Flamaguay one is not allowed to put things on the sidewalk, for they obstruct the passers-by, unless it is a kiosk. Kiosks are situated on the very edge of the sidewalk, leaving as much room as possible between them and whatever shop is placed opposite them (it is always a shop). They are totally open on the side facing the public. These diminutive edifices are small, but are just big enough for inventory to be held behind a set of shelves displaying the items on sale. Almost all kiosks have panels that swing open, adding more area to showcase goods. Some kiosks have glass-paneled sides, as to display even more merchandise. This, however, is not a requirement for a kiosk. There is never more than one kiosk per side of the street per block. Even in the densest of areas, nobody is quite sure if there were more than two kiosks on the same side of the street, on the same block, for nobody has tried.

Kiosks are made up of fairly cheap sheet metal. Kiosks almost universally have a flat roof, with a very small angle tilting away from the passer-by on the sidewalk, so as to deposit water or any other substance into the street. Should anything significant accumulate on the roof, then the small size of the kiosk enables one to get on a ladder and sweep the roof easily with a common broom. The only exception to the flat roof may be found in the mountains. In such regions, the kiosks have shallow canonical roofs, painted in matte black. They're supposed to look like tiles, one would assume. As for the whole structure of the kiosk, it will be in dark green, with a slight sheen to it. There is no kiosk which will not be dark green. There is no law, or regulation, or any other type of ordinance regarding dark green and kiosks, but there are no non-dark green coloured kiosks in Flamaguay. If you see a metal box and it is not in dark green, then you will either find yourself out of Flamaguay or shortly attending the services of an ophthalmologist.

Kiosks are manned by a Kiosk-man. These stalwart individuals are among the sentries of their street, for they always succeed in rising before the sun, and aside from the street-sweepers and the drivers of the delivery trucks, are often the only ones out and about at an early hour. The kiosk-man appears not to have a last name. This, you suppose, is a secret held between him, the office of public records, and perhaps his doctor or banker. In fact, your kiosk-man may not even have a name, but only a nick-name. The kiosk-man did his service as soon as he was mustered, he did it in the army and he did not defer from combat duty, he did his 16 months and mustered out into the reserve. The kiosk-man is your friend, whether you have lived on the same street since you were born, or whether you moved in last week. The kiosk-man will be one of the first on the street to know you, and this is very useful, because the kiosk-man knows everyone. The kiosk-man knows the street so well that if the post-man (or -woman, there are post-women, even if there are no kiosk-women) is lost, then they will inquire with the kiosk-man. This almost never happens, as the post is very well informed, but when it does, the post-man (or -woman) will ask the kiosk-man, and the kiosk-man will tell the post-man (or -woman) if someone has moved, or if there is an error in the mailing information, or whatever else may be the question. Kiosk-men are all the best of friends, in an even deeper way you do not understand. The 78 year-old kiosk-man from your aunt's street will know a lot about the 27 year old kiosk-man on your street, even though your aunt lives 600 kilometers away and neither of the two kiosk-men have either met. They are already friends.

Your kiosk-man calls you "señor" when you pick up your newspaper in the morning. All women are "señorita", until they're almost pensioners, at which time they're "señora". Women in Flamaguay dread the day they're called señora by their kiosk-man, although you won't find a single one that would admit it. The kiosk-men call the children by their playground nick-names, you have no idea how they come across this information.

Sometime in the late afternoon, all the kiosk-men disappear. They will not reappear until just before the sun comes up. You've very rarely seen your kiosk-man away from his post. He has his lunch in the kiosk, he brings it from home. When he gets a coffee, he gets it brought to him at the kiosk by the barman. Your kiosk-man takes his holidays at the peak of summer, when most people do. The kiosk-man and his wife and his three or four children will go to the beach, or to the mountains, or to a lake, or some other setting without the bustle of the city. When he leaves, the newspaper is dropped off directly at your doorstep, either with your door-man if you live in a building, or stuffed through a mail-slot if you do not. Once a year, while your kiosk-man is away, something is delivered erroneously or late. You don't say anything about it.

A kiosk is never located further than 50 meters from the entry-way of a cafe. If you do not have the time for it, you pick up your newspaper and you get on with your commute. If you have the time for it, you pick up your newspaper and you head into the cafe. Here, you have a short and strong morning coffee, and you argue about what has been written in the newspaper with the other patrons. The cafe-owner, invariably, will disagree with whomever it is in power now, but the patrons will back different horses and a lively discussion will emerge. It is entirely possible that nobody has read a single word past the headline, but this does not stop anybody.

The kiosk-man is unworried about digital media. The kiosk-man can order you all sorts of things, and keeps on ordering the newspaper. The kiosk-man knows that he has all sorts of publications to offer, and that quite a few people like to turn the page with their hands. The local newspaper likes the kiosk-men, for they sell the local-newspaper and display it first, for in the local market they are still king. The kiosk-man brings you a lot more than just the newspaper, and you hope that the kiosk-man is right to not be worried about digital media.

For any sort of urban settlement to classify itself as such in Flamaguay, it requires a municipal hall, a post office, and just as importantly, a kiosk.
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flm
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Re: Our Drum, Our Rhythm

Postby flm » Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:59 pm

Midnight on the 30th of June is as silent as you will ever find it. Making unnecessary noise, from the dawn of June 30th to sundown on July 1st, is simply considered to be rude. On the last day of June and the first day of July, the Public Service holds its annual exam. The results of the exam are of national importance, for they determine the human make-up of the Public Service, and thus its weakest and most volatile component. As such, it is expected of all Flamaguayans to be courteous to those taking the exam. Not out of a simple politeness for those specific individuals, but out of a respect to the Public Service as the core institution that sustains not only the functioning of the state, but the nation as a whole.

The Public Service Exam is a cherished arbiter. These two days decide the fate of thousands of individuals applying for entry into the Public Service, or for further assignment or promotion within it. There is almost no regulation for taking the Public Service Exam. Anyone may take it, they may take it as many times as they desire, and they need to present nothing more than a valid identification. Nobody will question one as to one's age, or as to one's level of educational attainment, or if one has completed national service, or anything else. All of that will be sorted out later, if needed. The name of the applicant will be noted down, and an exam will be administered. If one wishes to take a higher-level exam, because the intention is to apply for promotion, then a higher-level exam will be provided. All that being said, millions of people live in Flamaguay, and only a few thousand take the exam every year. Only the most stubborn return if they have failed.

A meritocratic arena open to everyone only sees three types of individual present themselves. The first, and by far the largest category, are the bright-eyed young graduates of the National Institutes. Sixteen months in the service, five years in university, and directly into the exam room. These men and women have been in most cases bred from birth to navigate the high-ceilinged corridors of the National Directorates, just as their parents have done. The second group, which is older (but not too old) and smaller than the first, is defined by the fact that there is no common path leading them to the exam. They have almost all gone to university, but they have managed to find the time to engage in other pursuits before placing themselves in the examination hall. They have held a prior occupation, not necessarily outside of the state, but certainly outside of the Public Service. The third group is the most varied in age, composed by those individuals who are already within the Public Service. Members of the third group rarely talk among themselves before or after the exam, and they certainly do not talk to members of the first or second groups. They have years and years in the Public Service, and the rest is between them and the exam.

The exam is grueling, particularly to those who sit for the first time. The individuals that clear the entrance exam are to go into the Public Service's Formation Institute. Weak applicants would not survive the Formation Institute. It lasts six months, which is not a large amount of time. National Service lasts sixteen months, if an applicant is weak, they're better off doing another round of the service in the most unstable municipality in Pitino. The battery of tests administered over two days is designed to leave applicants reeling. Rarely, however, do applicants lose their footing. Opting to take the exam is not a simple decision to make. Those who have previously sat through countless lectures at a National Institute knew that they would sit at the exam before they listened to a single lecture. Those who didn't sit through a single lecture at a National Institute still knew, somewhere within themselves, that they wanted to take the exam. To take the exam is a massive undertaking, and to walk away without a passing grade is to have sacrificed considerable time at the peak of youth.

People know if someone takes the exam. People will know if someone passes or someone fails. There is no shame in failing the exam. The exam is, after all, grueling. If someone fails the exam, there are a lot of firms that will take an applicant on. One could even try to become a lawyer, and one would not do too badly in that field. If someone passes the exam, they will be congratulated, but not too much, they're not a Public Servant yet. Almost all who pass the exam, however, pass the Formation Institute. Just as much as the Public Service does not cater to the needs of the weak, it cannot be seen to select applicants who cannot overcome the Formation Institute. But when an applicant is congratulated for passing the exam, they're never congratulated too much, because one never knows.

On the second day of July the usual sounds return.
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flm
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Re: Our Drum, Our Rhythm

Postby flm » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:26 pm

In Flamaguay it is illegal to walk on an escalator. There are exceptions, of course, such as if one finds oneself in a situation in which there is fear for one's safety, or for a paramedic, or police officer, or the like. Escalators are conceptually simple machines, and are not particularly complex from a mechanical point of view either. A lot of the mechanical complexity in an escalator comes from features which aim to improve the safe operation of the escalator, as well as its reliability. When a person walks on an escalator, they distribute their weight in an inconsistent manner across steps. This is a situation which is further compounded by the custom, in some countries, for one line to stand still to one side of the escalator while another line walks up or down the escalator. Over time, this places great stress on the escalator, and greatly increases the likelihood of a mechanical breakdown. This phenomenon is most typically expressed on transport. The economic cost of the damage to transport companies is small in comparison to other expenses, such as maintenance on trains or payroll. The reason why it is illegal to walk on an escalator is in order to avoid lost time to commuters. A single escalator breakdown, even assuming a speedy maintenance reaction, will affect thousands if not tens of thousands of people. The disruption caused by such an event may have extensive consequences in terms of lost time and increased stress.

Nobody in Flamaguay is arrested for walking on an escalator. One could stand at the top of the busiest escalator in the most frequented station in the entire country, and one could ask each person that they come across if they have seen someone even be talked to by police for walking on an escalator. People would say no. The human need to belong is regarded by many schools of psychology and sociology as one of the most critical, if not the absolutely most important, human need. If one were to walk up (or down) an escalator, one would not belong. Children are taught this early on. They will be told by their parents, or a sibling, or even a teacher on a school excursion. They may not even need to be told in the first place, as there will be no adults walking on the escalators. Foreigners do not belong. And yet, they would not be able to walk on escalators either. They would find their way blocked, by people who are standing on the escalator. Any foreigner who would dare to be insisting would not be met kindly. An error due to ignorance will be happily corrected by a Flamaguayan, one due to brashness will not.

Nobody is told explicitly why they are not allowed to walk while on an escalator. However, it is easy to arrive at a suitable explanation. If people congregate on one side of the escalator, expecting to keep a clear aisle on the other, then the escalators capacity is being under-utilized. People walking up the clear aisle will do so inconsistently, and during peak hours congestion will be created at the boarding area for the escalator. But, even if one is incapable of reaching this conclusion, it is clear that the system works. Living in Flamaguay, if one wishes it to be, is a tranquil experience. Things work. Considerations have been made to strengthen the nation as a whole, and for the vast majority of people that means that their day-to-day existence is facilitated, perhaps without them even being aware of that fact.

This is why, in Flamaguay, a sense of duty is drilled into every little boy and girl. To live in ignorance as children would mean to live in complacency in adulthood. Little boys and girls are taught in school that they have been very fortunate to be born in Flamaguay. That they represent the latest link in a bio-evolutionary chain that stretches to time immemorial, that has infused them with a unique genetic architecture. An architecture much like that of society as a whole, intricate and sophisticated. An architecture shaped by the countless men and women in public service, who through direct and indirect means ensure that civilization, and its biological stock, are safeguarded.

In Flamaguay there are many actions which are illegal. Some at first may seem odd, like the law against walking on an escalator. But there is most assuredly a reason. Observe in Flamaguay any such thing which may indicate or nudge one's behaviour, and one will begin to tug at a little string which will, almost certainly, lead to the office of a concerned bureaucrat.
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Re: Our Drum, Our Rhythm

Postby flm » Fri Jun 28, 2019 6:27 pm

The little girl raised her hand, “Teacher, are they allowed to go out and play?”

It was a sensible question, coming from a child. This school was broadly much like her school, the layout, the size of the classrooms, the offices for the staff. But it was also very much not like her school, there were clear windows from the hallway into each classroom, the doors in the hallway were closed, not always open like at her school. The school-building itself was surrounded by walls, instead of the hedges that limited the ground that she was accustomed to play in. The ground had less things in it. When they had come in, there had been a pair of men at the door, like police to help at the school, the teacher had said. When they had met the children, all the children they were meeting had been closely looked after. A level of accompaniment that was not normal. To the little girl it seemed like all these children had been punished. A whole school of children being held back from recess. Some of the kids had been poorly behaved, of course, but not all of them. The little girl was confused.

Ms. Monzón gave a slightly chuckle. “Yes Clara, the kids here are allowed to go out and play. These kids have to be a bit more careful. Do you remember why?”

“Because they’re not as capable, miss.” Clarita answered back, beaming assuredly in having provided a correct response.

“Exactly. They do not have the same strengths that you do. It is not their fault, but that is how it is. Pietro, why is it important to know if a child is capable, or if they are not capable?” Ms. Monzón

“Miss, because If a child is not capable then they can’t go to regular school. They need to come to a special school, like this one.” The teacher thought that Pietro had not been paying attention, but he had at least clearly absorbed one of the salient points of the lesson.

“That’s right. Remember that if they went to a regular school, like ours, it would mix you and them. This would be more confusing for you, and for us teachers. You would learn less.”

“And it would be expensive.” A girl with cropped brown hair, tall for her age added. Always eager to prove herself, Gabriela often spoke out of turn. Schoolchildren were all made aware at an early age that the state did not have the money to save every problem.

“Correct.” Ms. Monzón cut off Gabriela quickly, as she often had to do. The class hadn’t quite reached the part of the unit that dealt concept of the financial burden on the state. Gabriela must have read ahead, or her parents said something. Of course, the children were far too young to understand the negative externalities and increased schooling costs of sending all children to the same schools, but the concept was introduced early on for it to be more thoroughly expander in the curricula of later years. “Education is an important priority in our country, and it is important that we do not waste money or time when it comes to education. It is very important to take care of you. Just like how it is very important to pay attention in class.”

Pietro, who was now more obviously paying attention, raised his hand and the teacher nodded. “Miss, in other countries they don’t have schools?” he asked.

“Of course they have schools, you i-“

“Gabriela, Pietro asked nicely and waited for his turn, what did we say?” Gabriela skulked, much in the way someone might do for having been caught offside. Ms. Monzón continued, “Yes Pietro, In other countries they have schools, but not like here. In many countries children do not take tests to find out what school they will get to go to. In other countries if you only go to school if your parents pay money to the school. In some countries, anybody can say that they will open a school, and nobody checks if the children are learning. Imagine how much time we would lose if the schools were not organized, or if we had to share a class with one of the children from this school? If you went to school number one and you learned totally different things than the children from school number two, then you would not be able to work together in an adult job. You would not understand each other.”

The class took a moment to think about the teacher’s question. “Miss.” Pietro raised his hand , “In other countries do they have many kids like this then?”

Ms. Monzón smiled. “Yes, other countries have many children like the ones in this school. Here, the state takes care after all the children, much like how your parents look after you, or how the other teachers and I look after you. Taking care of children begins even before a baby is born. In other countries, they don’t take care of children very well. Anybody can simply have a child. Nobody checks if they are fit to raise a child. Imagine if nobody checked if your parents were good parents? Then your parents may not send you to school, or allow you to play sports, or to participate in the youth societies.” Ms. Monzón was no longer smiling, and her tone had gradually shifted from the positive approval of welcoming a student’s question to that of a sombre warning. Slowly but emphatically, she continued. “In other countries, there are many children like the ones at this school. People are not only not checked to see if they would be good parents, but they are not checked for genetic problems or for disabilities. Some issues are still very hard to detect, or they are generated by accidents once the child has been born, that is the case in our country. In other countries, you could have disabled parents giving birth to as many children as they wanted, with absolutely nobody to check this.” She paused, and offered a question as summary. “And what would happen if there were a lot of people, children or adults, who were stupid or infirm?”

“Society would falter.” The children provided, in unison, the expected reply. Gabriela added, “and it would be very expensive to look after all of them.”

“All very true, children.” Ms. Monzón smiled even more, “All very true indeed.”
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