Excerpt from Mark Tier’s new book, Trust Your Enemies (Hong Kong: Inverse Books, 2012; available on Kindle for only $0.99), from chapter 42.
(Context: Alison McGuire is political adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Royn. Derek Olsson owns the small but growing chain of country newspapers, the OlssonPress, whose material is syndicated in city papers.)
What turned out to be their last weekend together, in the Sandview Hideaway Hotel, had been idyllic — until Alison commented, “You know, nobody in Canberra likes your newspapers.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Olsson replied. “But I’m surprised that anyone, other than local members, read them.”
“It’s mainly Karla Preston’s column in the Mercury. She’s considered a real pain in the neck.”
“That would make a great ad.” Olsson laughed. “You, or even better, your boss, saying that on TV.”
“Oh, be serious, Derek.” Alison’s voice was scalding.
“I am being serious.”
“You’re impossible,” she grinned. “It’s one thing to take potshots at politicians—and God knows, some of them deserve it. But this latest series, pushing drug legalization, that’s just too much.”
“How can you ignore the terrible damage drugs cause?” Alison stood, her muscles tense, leaning over Olsson, her eyes ablaze. “The lives destroyed. Pushers turning young kids into addicts — who end up as petty criminals and prostitutes just to make money for these murderous, soul-destroying thugs. It’s got to be stamped out, not made freely available for anyone to try. Your so-called cure is worse than the disease.”
“All these drugs were legal once, and —”
“I’ve read all your arguments,” she snapped.
“Drugs are illegal all around the world. Yet, wherever you go, they’re easy to get — despite the decades-long ‘War on Drugs.’ Another government program that’s been a screaming success. Why? Because drugs are illegal they’re extremely profitable. That money corrupts the police and the courts which are supposed to protect us from criminals, not co-operate with them. That’s the real scourge, Alison.”
“You’re starting to sound like that Karla Preston woman,” she spat.
“Maybe,” he said thoughtfully. “She certainly makes a lot of sense. And there’s no doubt that I’ve come to despise government and everything it stands for. Remember my Golden Rule, as you call it? No violence — except in self-defence? The foundation of government — every government — is based on breaking that rule every day of the week. It’s obvious in places like Thailand and the Philippines. There, government is simply the means for politicians and their cronies to steal money from the people to line their pockets — and everybody knows it.”
“Not here? You should know better than that, Alison. What do you think a licence is, for, say, a casino or a TV station, but the monopoly grant of a stream of cash, protected by a government threatening violence to any would-be competitor willing to compete on a free and open market. What are lobbyists except groups trying to get special favors from the government? Which the government can only give by denying those same rights to everyone else? What is corruption if it’s not an under-the-table, unofficial licence for an exemption from the law that’s enforced against everyone else?”
Tears in her eyes, Alison protested, “But government is a force for good.”
Olsson shrugged. “Sure, it can do good things. But the Mafia has its own welfare program you know — does that turn them into saints?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. How can you compare government with the Mafia?”
“How can you not? They both have the same foundation: violence. How many taxes would be paid if they weren’t backed up by the threat of being thrown into jail? How many of your ‘good works’ could the government do if it didn’t, first, extort the money at gunpoint to pay for them? At least the criminal is more honest: when he steals your wallet he doesn’t try to make you believe he’s doing it for your own good.”
“So you despise me, do you?”
“Oh, no,” said Olsson, shocked at the idea. “Quite the opposite.”
“You just said my employer and the Mafia are the same. You just said you despise everything I do — how can you not despise me as well? What else do you expect me to think?”
“That … you’re mistaken.”
“So you just think I’m dumb?”
“You know I don’t think that.”
But Alison was beyond hearing. “So you started your newspapers to fight me and everything I stand for.”
“No, Alison,” he pleaded, “never you.”
“How can I stand to be with you? All this time … the man I thought I loved has been my worst enemy . . . and I never knew it.”
“No, that’s not true.”
“You’ve just had a rare attack of honesty,” she said coldly. “Don’t spoil it.”
Five minutes later she walked out of the suite and called for a taxi.
This time, she did not look back.
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