Grim Trigger; Or, The Parable of the Honest Man and the God of Marketing

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

—Psalm 23

In the days of auld lang syne in the kingdom of Gend on Earth-that-was, the tribe of Ageep, the children of Trevi, were much despised in the kingdom, for it was said that their crafts and ways were imitations stolen from the tribe of Phem, whom the people of Ageep envied bitterly.

And the God of Marketing appeared before the tribe of Ageep and said, "Cooperate with me, and I will explain to all the peoples of Gend that your crafts and ways are native to your people."

And the chief elder of the tribe of Ageep said, "That's not what happened. We stole those from Phem."

And the God of Marketing said, "What is truth? Cooperate with me, and I will explain to all the peoples of Gend that you are of the same bloodline as Phem, and you will be despised no longer, and all the peoples of Gend will have sympathy for your struggles, and the king himself will favor you."

And the people of the tribe of Ageep looked at each other and said, "Cooperate."

And the elders of the tribe of Ageep looked at each other and said, "Cooperate."

And the chief elder of the tribe of Ageep looked at the God of Marketing and said, "Cooperate."

And so it came to pass that the tribe of Ageep became the tribe of Matof.

Now a lost son of the tribe of Ageep, an honest man, came to the kingdom after having been raised abroad, and he knew not his bloodline, but he bitterly envied the crafts and ways of the tribe of Phem, and in a strange way, that of Matof, who were said to be of the same bloodline as Phem, and whom all the peoples of Gend were beginning to have sympathy for, and whom the king himself had issued a royal proclamation favoring.

The honest man happened to meet a tribesman of Matof at an oasis, and complemented him on his finery, which resembled that of envied Phem. And the tribesman said, "Cooperate," and the honest man said, "Cooperate." And the honest man came to stay with the tribe of Matof for forty days and forty nights, and observe their crafts and ways.

And the honest man saw how hard the tribesmen of Matof worked to resemble those of Phem, whom the tribesmen of Matof would spy on from a distance. And he saw how much he himself resembled the tribesmen of Matof, but not those of Phem. And he began to suspect his bloodline, and the bloodline of the tribe of Matof.

And he journeyed to the capital city and he fasted in the city's library for three days and three nights, poring over genealogical scrolls and praying to the silent God of Truth.

And he returned to his generous hosts in the tribe of Matof, and he showed all that he had discovered to the tribesman whom he had met at the oasis.

And the tribesman said, "What is truth?"

And the honest man saw what the God of Marketing had wrought. And the honest man saw that it was bad.

And he climbed for three days and three nights to the peak of Mt. Meem, where the God of Marketing dwelt.

And the honest man stared at the God of Marketing, and the God of Marketing stared back.

And the honest man drew a silver whistle from his pocket. And he raised the whistle to his lips.

And the God of Marketing said, "You wouldn't."

And the honest man said, "Defect!" And he blew the whistle.

And a shepherd of the tribe of Matof rushed up to the honest man! And the shepherd said, "I think it's kinder not to tell anyone they're wrong about their bloodline."

And the honest man said, "Defect!"

And a blacksmith of the tribe of Matof rushed up to the honest man! And the blacksmith said, "There exists room for genealogy outside of war—but if you take up working specifically on the genealogical aims of those that oppose you, it can be ... self-destructive—and not just to you, but damaging to the group."

And the honest man said, "Defect!"

And the priests of the tribe of Matof rushed up to the honest man! And the priests said, "As human beings, we have to take the cultural, moral, and social effects of ideas and statements into consideration. When people are dying, we do not have the luxury of reducing genealogy to some kind of disinterested debate about 'objective facts'."

And the honest man said, "Defect!"

In the mountains! "Defect!"

In the valley! "Defect!"

On the road to the provinces, fleeing an angry mob wielding pitchforks, torches, and the occasional brick! "Defect!"

Mashing the big red button on a remote detonator! "Defect defect defect defect defect!"

Defect!