“I’m glad you asked me that question.” Sitting behind Flash in the rented black sedan, Governor Wheeler’s eyes twinkled at Fletch sitting in the front passenger seat. Sitting behind Fletch, Lansing Sayer had just asked some general question about the “New Reality” speech The Man Who had delivered in Winslow the day before. Sayer had a tape recorder going and also was working a pen and notebook. “I guess I made a rather sweeping statement.”
It was a raw, bone-chilling day with a heavy sky. Flash had the car heater on high.
“Senator Upton says you’re proposing a technocracy,” Lansing said.
“I’m not proposing anything,” the governor said. “I’m simply making an observation.”
Fletch remembered James’s advice that when he thought the candidate was about to say something profound and statesmanlike he ought to stick a glove in his mouth.
“Just observe,” the governor said slowly, thoughtfully, “what technology is getting the major share of the governments’ attention. Advanced weaponry. Machines of death and destruction. Do you realize what a single tank costs these days? A fighter aircraft? An aircraft carrier? I don’t just mean our government. I mean all governments. Some governments are exporting weaponry at a high rate; others are importing at a high rate; some do both. The technology upon which almost all governments concentrate is the technology of weaponry. Advanced bows and arrows.”
It was true: Flash drove slowly. He hugged the right lane of the city’s main street and proceeded at only slightly better than a pedestrian’s pace. Fletch had been in funeral processions that went faster.
“At the same time,” the governor continued, at about the same pace as the car, “over the earth has been spreading a communications system that does or can reach into every hovel, capable of collecting and dispersing information instantaneously. An amazing technology, for the most part developed by free enterprise, private business— particularly the entertainment business.
“Through this technology, the people of this earth are beginning to recognize each other, know each other, and realize their commonality of interest.
“This technology is far more powerful, and far more positive I might add, than the thermonuclear bomb.”
It was hardly noticeable when the car came to a full stop, but, indeed, they were stopped at a red light. The people crossing the street in front of the car had no idea they were so close to a leading presidential candidate. They were all hurrying someplace, to work, to shop. None looked in the car. And none knew what was being discussed in that black sedan.
“Governments lie now, and all the people know it. A government runs a phony election, and all the people of the world witness it. Governments put on brushfire wars now for some diplomatic or ideologic reason, and all the world see themselves being maimed and killed.”
Lansing Sayer dropped his hands, his pen and notebook in his lap, and said, “I don’t know what all this is about.”
Flash had taken off his gloves and dropped them on the seat beside Fletch.
The car oozed forward again.
“I’m talking about the gathering and dissemination of information,” the governor said, “instead of weapons.”
“I don’t disparage ideas at all,” the governor said. “I’m having one, am I not?”
“You said technology is tying this world together, integrating the people of this world, in a way no ideology ever has or ever could.”
“Isn’t that true? We’re all brothers in the Bible. We’re all comrades under Marxism. But it is through our increased factual awareness of each other that we’re discovering our common humanity as a reality.”
Lansing Sayer wasn’t getting much into his notebook.
“Am I wrong to think that most of the bad things that happen on this earth happen because people don’t have the right facts at the right time? It’s all very well to believe something. You can go cheering to war over what you believe. You can starve to death happily over what you believe. But would wars ever happen if everybody had the same facts? There is no factual basis for starvation on this earth,” Governor Caxton Wheeler said softly. “Not yet, there isn’t.”
“It’s the interpretation of facts that counts,” Lansing Sayer said.
“Facts are facts,” said The Man Who. “I’m not talking about faith, belief, opinions. I’m talking about facts. How come most children in this world know Pele’s every move playing soccer, know every line of Muhammad Ali’s face, and yet this same technology has not been used to teach them the history of their own people, or how to read and write their own language? How come a bank in London can know, up to the minute, how much money a bank in New York has, to the penny, but a kid in Liverpool who just had his teeth bashed out doesn’t know three thousand years ago a Greek analyzed gang warfare accurately? How come the governments of this world know where every thermonuclear missile is, on land, under land, on sea, under sea, and yet this technology has never been used for the proper allocation of food? Is that a dumb question?”
“You’re saying, regarding technology, governments are looking in the wrong direction.”
“I’m saying governments are out of date in their thinking. They’ve been developing negative technology, rather than positive technology. You have to believe something, only if you don’t know. We now have the capability to know everything.”
And the governor looked through the car window. “Well… we’re having international meetings on arms control. We have had for decades now, while arms have proliferated through this world like the plague. Translating this observation into policy …” In the front seat Fletch again was amazed at how simply issues were raised and answered on a political campaign, how naturally problems were stated and policy formulated. “… I think it’s time we started working toward international understandings regarding the use and control of this technology,” The Man Who said. “Obviously no one—no political, religious, financial group—should have control of too large a section of this technology. Consider this.” The governor smiled at Lansing Sayer. “Electronically, a complete polling of a nation’s people, a complete plebiscite, can take place within seconds. Where is the time needed for the people to reflect? Maybe there should be an international understanding, agreement, that such a plebiscite is to be used only as an advisory to a government, but does not give a government authority to act.”
The car was going up the hill to the hospital.
“Great,” the governor said. “Easily accessible hospital. Good roads leading to it. That’s good.”
Lansing Sayer took off his glasses and rubbed his forehead.
“Flash will take you back to the hotel,” the governor said to Lansing Sayer, “then come back and pick us up. I have to make a television tape after this.”
Lansing Sayer asked, “Is this what your campaign is about, Governor? Shifting governmental interest from bombs to communication?”
“Bombs are a damned bad way to communicate,” The Man Who said. “Deafen people.”
The car stopped. The governor was leaving the car through the back door.
Lansing Sayer leaned over. “Governor! May I report this is what your campaign is about? Coming to international understandings regarding the new technology?”
Walking from the car to the hospital entrance, where administrators were waiting to greet him, Governor Caxton Wheeler chuckled and said to Fletch, “You know, sir, I’m beginning to want to be President of the United States!”