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The Hudson River
The Hudson River

 

 

 

 

Cloistered in the dark towers overlooking the Hudson, the nationals sipped martinis and lent half an ear to the colonel who briefed them on the latest troop movements of the insurgents.

“They seem to have no plans to storm our battlements.  They are content to go from village to village spreading their message of freedom of speech and forging alliances with tribal leaders,” the commander said.

“So we are in no immediate danger?” one of the executives asked.

“Not in the sense that they will beat on our doors with axes and shovels,” he replied.

“In what sense, then?” Harold, a VP, asked.

“They are eroding our base, winning over the hearts of the citizenry,” the colonel said.

“We have this game sewed up,” Mort, a national sales manager, said as he finished his drink and re-filled his glass. “They can’t compete with the infrastructure we have built over generations.  They will wither and die if we just ignore them and continue to operate as usual.  They are nothing but a flash in the pan.”

The other men around the table humphed and nodded their heads.

The colonel looked around the table, walked over to the map and surveyed it.

“They aren’t starving.  This is a different kind of army. The insurgents live off the land.  They work undercover disguised as shop owners, mail men, nurses, car salesman, retired persons, even a handful of lawyers,” he said.

One of the men who had not spoken before chimed in.

“It has always been a good strategy to kill a snake by chopping off its head.”

“That’s another problem,” the colonel said. “There is no snake.  We can detect no central command, no lone rebel leader who speaks for them all. At best, we have found only isolated tribes.”

“What kind of tribes?” Mort asked.

“Many are small.  Maybe a few hundred or a thousand people who communicate sporadically and support each other’s efforts.  Some of the tribes are larger,” the colonel said.

“How much larger?”

“Some have tens of thousands of members; others, hundreds of thousands; a few, as many as a million or more.”

“Life is politics.  In those big tribes, someone must be vying for control. We just need to set them at odds with each other and let them self-destruct. Human nature will take it from there,” Mort said.

“That’s just it.  They are appealing to the best aspects of human nature.  They applaud the triumphs of their tribe members, console them when they fail. They rise early, work all day, burn the midnight oil. They seem not to sleep,” the colonel said.  “It is as if they thrive on the game itself, hoping against hope.  Apparently they know they are fighting a losing battle.  So any small victory invigorates them.”

Writers at Work
Writers at Work

Harold stood up and walked to the map.  He checked the locations of the pushpins that indicated a sphere of insurgent control.

“No one can sustain a movement like that for any period of time. I give them six more months before they throw up their hands and quit.  We will be the ones still standing at the end of the day.

“I’ve heard enough about these skirmishes.  Let’s hear the financial reports.”

An accountant passed out reports to each person at the table.

He began his presentation. “E-books are approaching forty percent of total book sales,” he said.

“What?” Mort said. “The last I heard they were hardly five percent of the market. What’s going on here?”

All the men looked at the map.

The colonel stood at the window, pressed his binoculars against his face and scanned the other side of the river.

 

 

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