For All Nails #222: Robots and Empire
by Johnny Pez
Cook Park was a rectangle of tastefully landscaped greenery that extended half a mile south from the grounds of the Governor-General's Palace. It had been built in 1920 to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Captain Cook's first voyage along the east coast of Australia. Due to its proximity to the country's center of political power, the northern end of Cook Park had quickly become Melbourne's counterpart to Speakers' Corner in London. Today there were over 100,000 people gathered there to protest the Governor-General's war policy. They thought it wasn't aggressive enough.
From across the broad expanse of Croyden Street, and the even broader expanse of the South Lawn, Governor-General Myron Loy could hear the chanting of the crowd.
"What do we want?" demanded a young man with a bullhorn.
"A second front!" the crowd bellowed.
"When do we want it?"
Over and over. Sheer madness. And politically motivated, of course. Vanderkellen and his gang in the Australian Renewal Party were behind the war rally, though they denied it.
"Spontaneous demonstration, my maiden aunt," Loy muttered as he stared out the window at the demonstration.
"So what are you going to do about it?" wondered George Cazalet from his seat near the Governor-General's desk.
Officially, Cazalet had retired from public life after leading the Conservatives to defeat in the 1969 Grand Council elections. Unofficially, he still had a number of devoted followers in the Party, especially among the progressive New South Wales nabobs. If Loy wanted peace within the Party, which he assuredly did, then he had to consult with Cazalet, and consult he did.
"I can tell you what I'm not going to do about it," Loy said. "I'm not going to open up a second front in New Granada."
"Then," said Cazalet, "you'll be handing the Harpies a stick to beat you with in the next elections."
Now Loy turned to face Cazalet. "Are you suggesting that I should allow them to dictate my foreign policy from the opposition benches?"
"Given that we don't have a foreign policy," said Cazalet, "we might as well borrow theirs."
"Our foreign policy," Loy said coldly, "is to avoid being sucked into yet another fruitless war. That has proved unfortunately impossible thanks to that Mexican madman and his vendetta. Nevertheless, now that we find ourselves in such a war, our policy now is to minimise its impact upon our society and withdraw our participation as soon as possible."
"A laudable goal in the abstract," Cazalet observed, "but as a practical policy, impossible to implement. The days of Australia's isolation are over, have been over for thirty-five years, and are never going to return. We are now entangled with a world that grows more dangerous with each addition to the roster of the atomic powers. Until some sort of stable international order is established, we are going to find ourselves constantly engaged in conflicts of greater or lesser degree with other nations. What the Party need to do is arrive at a bipartisan foreign policy that will leave us free to pursue an independent domestic policy. Unless we do so, we are going to find ourselves shut out of power permanently after the next elections."
Loy was familiar with the argument -- it was one that Cazalet had been making for the last fifteen years. The need to fully mobilise Australian society in the 1940s to fend off the combined attacks of the Germans and Mexicans had dealt a death blow to the country's century-old colour line. Over half of the country's robots, the descendants of Asian indentured labourers, had gained full citizenship as a result of military service during the Global War, and informal bars on the employment of robots in the cities had collapsed in the face of desperate labour shortages. Since then, it had been a truism of Australian politics that an active foreign policy went hand in hand with support for full robotic equality. That was why half the participants in the war rally in Cook Park were carrying the rainbow banners of the National Equal Rights Association.
"So what you're saying," Loy clarified, "is that you want us to sacrifice our foreign policy for the sake of our domestic policy."
"What I'm saying," Cazalet answered, "is that we can survive with one or the other, but both will kill us. I assume you would rather let our foreign policy go, but it works just as well the other way."
"Suppose we do try this," said Loy, "and it doesn't work. What then?"
"In that case," Cazalet said, "we'd be no worse off than we would be if we hadn't tried it. Either way, we find ourselves voted out of power by a coalition of roboticists and imperialists. If we try it and it does work, then at the very least we'll find ourselves with some of the imperialists in our camp. At the most, we may find ourselves in a coalition with the imperialists, leaving the roboticists alone in the political wilderness. And that, I assume, is the preferred outcome."
Thinking about it, Loy had to admit that Cazalet had a point. If there had to be an empire, better it should be an empire without robots.
Forward to FAN #223: You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello.
Forward to 18 April 1975: I Heard the News Today.
Forward to the American War: Houseguests.
Forward to Australia: Ghosts Appear and Fade Away.
Return to For All Nails.