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29 October 2017updated 09 Sep 2021 4:53pm

My manifesto for a better world, by Booker winner George Saunders

To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: we are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you.

By George Saunders

Now it can be told.

Last Thursday, my organisation, PRKA (People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction) orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.

At precisely nine in the morning, working with stealth and focus, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading… no one. At nine-thirty, embarking upon Phase II, we refrained from firing shots down into, or driving a vehicle through, any festive public gatherings. At ten, Phase III began, during which not a single one of us blew ourselves up in a crowded marketplace. No planes were flown into buildings, no unarmed citizen was killed during a routine traffic stop, no migrant families were torn asunder, by us, during this phase of the operation. 

All of this was accomplished so surreptitiously, it attracted little public attention.

During Phase IV, after lunch, our group, in unison, failed to bulldoze a single home. The total number of wedding parties instantaneously decimated by us, via drone-strike, during this phase, was: not a single one. We set, on roads in every city, in every nation in the world, a total of zero roadside bombs which, not being there, did not explode, killing/maiming a total of nobody.

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As night fell, additional operations were completed by a number of part-time members, as well as non-members being considered for membership:

In Boston, a bitter homophobic retired plumber whose grocery bag broke open gave a loaf of very nice bread to a balding gay man who stopped to help him. In Fresno, California, a man sitting at his computer, having a malicious political exchange with a total stranger, stood up, left the room, helped his wife with the dishes and soon, standing there, they found themselves singing “Mr. Bojangles”.

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Who are we? A word about our membership.

Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalise, insisting upon valuing: the individual over the group; the actual over the conceptual; the small, decent act over the sudden violent lunge; the complicated reality of the present moment over the theoretically euphoric future supposedly to be obtained via murder or massacre. Many of us have trouble sleeping, and lie awake at night, worrying about a catastrophe befalling someone we love. We rise in the morning with no plans to convert anyone via beating, humiliation, or invasion. To tell the truth, we’re tired. We work. We would really like some peace and quiet. When wrong, we think about it awhile, then apologise. We stand under awnings during urban thunderstorms, moved to thoughtfulness by the beautiful, troubled, umbrella-tinged faces rushing by.

In moments of crisis, we pat one another awkwardly on the back, mumbling shy truisms. As we rush to an appointment, suddenly remembering a friend who has passed away, our eyes might well up with tears and we’ll think: “Well, I was lucky just to have known her.”

This is us. This is who we are. This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: we are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.

Join us.

Resistance is futile.

Read NS Culture Editor Tom Gatti’s interview with George Saunders here

This article appears in the 25 Oct 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Poor Britannia