by Chris R. Morgan
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This is Evening Information, a semi-weekly forum of the most interesting ideas and people of the day. Here is your host, Visiting Professor of Conceptual Theology at Bennington College, Greg J. Arvin.
Host: Good evening. Our guest tonight was extremely difficult to book. Though he is a prominent government official, he is a very peculiar kind. Christopher Morgan is the Secretary of Culture and Information for the Central Prairies Republic, one of the smallest of the new American nations created in the wake of the dissolution of the United States. It is also one of the most impenetrable, having little to no active relations with the surrounding nations, let alone any nation the world over. Its borders are rigidly protected, with few people going in or out, and needless to say it has long been a source of controversy and speculation. Secretary Morgan, it is a privilege to have you here.
Secretary: Thank you, Professor.
Host: So, how does it feel to be the Secretary of Information for a country of which there is very little of it?
Secretary: I wouldn’t say that there isn’t any information, only that the information is not usually requested.
Host: Do you deny the term “hermit kingdom”?
Secretary: That is associated with us?
Host: Generally, yes.
Secretary: I suppose it’s preferable to “hipster kingdom,” which we heard a lot just after the founding.
Host: Yes, how did that come about?
Secretary: Well as you know the secessions and the expulsions that came one after the other created quite a mess.
Secretary: A mess that required redrawing of borders based on new nonaggression treaties. California, Texas, the Midwestern Alliance all made separate pacts with the prairie regions after much of it had basically been blighted by all parties involved.
Secretary: And so out of that there was somehow a cluster of counties from South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming that were not included in the any treaty.
Host: So they were …
Secretary: Essentially just left there. But they were sort of no man’s lands, ghost towns, refugee camps, torched farms, and what have you. So the CPR wasn’t founded proper. It’s kind of a political headcheese. And it was a magnet for the cultural press. The overturned and smashed headstones VICE had dramatically shot were taken in our region. We’re in the process of repairing those.
Host: But that’s where the early reputation comes from?
Secretary: Somewhat. But I think disillusion generally had caused a migration of the young to places where they might not have considered going before. I mean, the young have always been moving west but seldom converging on this particular spot, let alone to try to make a life there. And it didn’t work for a while. People came in droves and set up camps, but the camps never became homes proper. There were a lot of experiments in living that kind of went nowhere; commune living, variations of organized anarchism that just gave way to disorganized anarchism. Many of them moved on, to God knows where.
Host: So what made you and others want to stay?
Secretary: I think there’s a difference between, say, those who see everything—including society-building—as an aesthetic experience and those who, having been adrift in the previous order and unsettled in the ensuing chaos, see this as an opportunity to create their own ideal of an improved order. So the Central Prairies Republic has settled into a modest population of a little over 300,000 people, with a median age of 36.
Host: Predominantly white?
Secretary: Yes, predominantly.
Host: But you’ve stabilized the country?
Secretary: No country, new or old, is ever truly stable. But yes, in a short span of time—some might say record time—we were able to put some sort of structure in place that would sort of streamline what needed to be done. No more shanty communes, no more debate club governance, no more artisanal economics. We operate simply: laws, rights, infrastructure, and rules of order. Fair, but ordered.
Host: How do you define your form of government?
Secretary: It’s in the name.
Host: Yes but, North Korea is a “Democratic Republic,” Congo is a “Democratic Republic,” so …
Secretary: We’re not a one-party state if that’s what you’re getting at.
Host: I wasn’t trying to insinu—
Secretary: I am a member of the Liberal Republican Party. We are the majority party in the National Council, which elects the Secretariat. The Presiding Secretary is a member of my party. However, we are coalesced with, in order of popularity, the Green Democrats, the Republican Front, and the Black Rose Party.
Host: What is the Black Rose Party?
Secretary: A demonstration of our tolerance.
Host: So what precisely does your party stand for?
Secretary: All parties broadly stand on the principles of dynamism at home and austerity abroad. The technical details get hashed out in committee sessions, which are not open to the public, and a good day is usually measured by how widely we can distribute the disappointment.
Host: Let’s talk about austerity abroad. The CPR has resisted involvement in the United Nations, and has been fingered by surrounding nations as a stumbling block towards a continental federation.
Secretary: Federated bodies do not interest us.
Secretary: As they clearly don’t interest most people in North America these days. Unless, perhaps, they’re Texas or California or any other “new country” that’s just a holding place for federal government apparatchiks looking to reconsolidate power in the wake of seismic shifts that weren’t in their favor. The only indication of Americanism in the CPR is its ambivalence with the metric system.
Host: You’ve also been hostile to human rights groups who want to assess your country.
Secretary: We haven’t been hostile to them, we just haven’t permitted them entry.
Secretary: We get entreaties from these groups with some regularity; to which we reply uniformly that the Central Prairies Republic is a stable, just, and free society with regular elections and a robust but restrained majority female civil service, and they’re going to have to take our word for that.
Host: You don’t see how that dissatisfies these groups, and the world?
Secretary: Of course we see that, it just doesn’t particularly matter. I think we’re beyond that world where the ideas of rights and humanity are so consistent across the board that we need to preen ourselves for a stamp of approval.
Host: But it’s very clear that no one knows much about your country. You are its Secretary of Culture but we know nothing of its culture. We know you have a military because they guard your border fence. But we don’t know its wider capabilities, if any. We don’t know what resources you have, if any. There’s been testimony from original residents—
Secretary: The original residents left on their own cognizance and their understanding of the CPR is not informed by recent developments.
Host: Are they welcomed to return?
Secretary: Even if they wanted to they wouldn’t recognize their country.
Host: But immigration is …
Secretary: We don’t make that an appealing possibility.
Host: Are private citizens of the CPR welcomed to leave?
Secretary: Not presently.
Host: Are you in a state of emergency?
Secretary: We’re vigilant.
Host: You’re effective at cloaking your activities. Even your achievements aren’t known.
Secretary: We’re not obligated to boast.
Host: But the secrecy is … off-putting … to say the least.
Secretary: Secrecy is our policy and our right. And I believe it better assures stability within and without our borders as a landlocked region, a third of the size of Switzerland, surrounded by formerly belligerent behemoths. Look at the State of Jefferson. The human rights community seemed deeply concerned with its national health and character.
Host: I don’t understand; the war crimes in the State of Jefferson are well documented.
Secretary: Yes, I was being facetious, Greg.
Secretary: Mass grave, the whole lot of it.
Host: It’s unfortunate.
Secretary: Live-streamed for all to see.
Host: Yes, I understand, Secretary.
Secretary: I don’t think you do. We are living in inconvenient times; deeply fractured times. There’s no such thing as a big nation proper anymore, just a smattering of weak and strong small nations. If the weak small nations seem paranoid it is in some way related to the tendency of the strong small nations to be petulant. The Central Prairies Republic and its people would love—love—nothing more than to open its collective arms to an accepting world in which to share our culture, which exists, I assure you, under my stewardship. That world needs first to exist. And to say that it does when the opposite is more evident does not endear trust toward any decent nation.
Host: Well, if you’ve revealed one thing about your country, Secretary, it’s that you’re very good at watching the world around you as you conceal yourselves. That seems unfair.
Secretary: That kind of arrangement is supposed to be.
Host: You’re less of a hermit kingdom than a voyeur kingdom.
Secretary: It’s your show, Professor.
Host: And it’s a show that must end, alas. I’d like to thank Secretary Morgan once again for his forbearance and wish him safe travels.
Join us next week when James and Dave Franco talk about the documentary they directed of their attempt to attach Guillermo del Toro to their race-reversed sign language rendition of Othello.