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Of The Universal Colour Bill

From: Flatland

But meanwhile the intellectual Arts were fast decaying.

The Art of Sight Recognition, being no longer needed, was no longer
practised; and the studies of Geometry, Statics, Kinetics, and other
kindred subjects, came soon to be considered superfluous, and feel into
disrespect and neglect even at our University. The inferior Art of
Feeling speedily experienced the same fate at our Elementary Schools.
Then the Isosceles classes, asserting that the Specimens were no longer
used nor needed, and refusing to pay the customary tribute from the
Criminal classes to the service of Education, waxed daily more numerous
and more insolent on the strength of their immunity from the old burden
which had formerly exercised the twofold wholesome effect of at once
taming their brutal nature and thinning their excessive numbers.

Year by year the Soldiers and Artisans began more vehemently to
assert--and with increasing truth--that there was no great difference
between them and the very highest class of Polygons, now that they were
raised to an equality with the latter, and enabled to grapple with all
the difficulties and solve all the problems of life, whether Statical
or Kinetical, by the simple process of Colour Recognition. Not content
with the natural neglect into which Sight Recognition was falling, they
began boldly to demand the legal prohibition of all "monopolizing and
aristocratic Arts" and the consequent abolition of all endowments for
the studies of Sight Recognition, Mathematics, and Feeling. Soon, they
began to insist that inasmuch as Colour, which was a second Nature, had
destroyed the need of aristocratic distinctions, the Law should follow
in the same path, and that henceforth all individuals and all classes
should be recognized as absolutely equal and entitled to equal rights.

Finding the higher Orders wavering and undecided, the leaders of the
Revolution advanced still further in their requirements, and at last
demanded that all classes alike, the Priests and the Women not
excepted, should do homage to Colour by submitting to be painted. When
it was objected that Priests and Women had no sides, they retorted that
Nature and Expediency concurred in dictating that the front half of
every human being (that is to say, the half containing his eye and
mouth) should be distinguishable from his hinder half. They therefore
brought before a general and extraordinary Assembly of all the States
of Flatland a Bill proposing that in every Woman the half containing
the eye and mouth should be coloured red, and the other half green.
The Priests were to be painted in the same way, red being applied to
that semicircle in which the eye and mouth formed the middle point;
while the other or hinder semicircle was to be coloured green.

There was no little cunning in this proposal, which indeed emanated not
from any Isosceles--for no being so degraded would have angularity
enough to appreciate, much less to devise, such a model of
state-craft--but from an Irregular Circle who, instead of being
destroyed in his childhood, was reserved by a foolish indulgence to
bring desolation on his country and destruction on myriads of followers.

On the one hand the proposition was calculated to bring the Women in
all classes over to the side of the Chromatic Innovation. For by
assigning to the Women the same two colours as were assigned to the
Priests, the Revolutionists thereby ensured that, in certain positions,
every Woman would appear as a Priest, and be treated with corresponding
respect and deference--a prospect that could not fail to attract the
Female Sex in a mass.

But by some of my Readers the possibility of the identical appearance
of Priests and Women, under a new Legislation, may not be recognized;
if so, a word or two will make it obvious.

Imagine a woman duly decorated, according to the new Code; with the
front half (i.e., the half containing the eye and mouth) red, and with
the hinder half green. Look at her from one side. Obviously you will
see a straight line, HALF RED, HALF GREEN.

Now imagine a Priest, whose mouth is at M, and whose front semicircle
(AMB) is consequently coloured red, while his hinder semicircle is
green; so that the diameter AB divides the green from the red. If you
contemplate the Great Man so as to have your eye in the same straight
line as his dividing diameter (AB), what you will see will be a
straight line (CBD), of which ONE HALF (CB) WILL BE RED, AND THE OTHER
(BD) GREEN. The whole line (CD) will be rather shorter perhaps than
that of a full-sized Woman, and will shade off more rapidly towards its
extremities; but the identity of the colours would give you an
immediate impression of identity in Class, making you neglectful of
other details. Bear in mind the decay of Sight Recognition which
threatened society at the time of the Colour revolt; add too the
certainty that Woman would speedily learn to shade off their
extremities so as to imitate the Circles; it must then be surely
obvious to you, my dear Reader, that the Colour Bill placed us under a
great danger of confounding a Priest with a young Woman.

How attractive this prospect must have been to the Frail Sex may
readily be imagined. They anticipated with delight the confusion that
would ensue. At home they might hear political and ecclesiastical
secrets intended not for them but for their husbands and brothers, and
might even issue some commands in the name of a priestly Circle; out of
doors the striking combination of red and green without addition of any
other colours, would be sure to lead the common people into endless
mistakes, and the Woman would gain whatever the Circles lost, in the
deference of the passers by. As for the scandal that would befall the
Circular Class if the frivolous and unseemly conduct of the Women were
imputed to them, and as to the consequent subversion of the
Constitution, the Female Sex could not be expected to give a thought to
these considerations. Even in the households of the Circles, the Women
were all in favour of the Universal Colour Bill.

The second object aimed at by the Bill was the gradual demoralization
of the Circles themselves. In the general intellectual decay they
still preserved their pristine clearness and strength of understanding.
From their earliest childhood, familiarized in their Circular
households with the total absence of Colour, the Nobles alone preserved
the Sacred Art of Sight Recognition, with all the advantages that
result from that admirable training of the intellect. Hence, up to the
date of the introduction of the Universal Colour Bill, the Circles had
not only held their own, but even increased their lead of the other
classes by abstinence from the popular fashion.

Now therefore the artful Irregular whom I described above as the real
author of this diabolical Bill, determined at one blow to lower the
status of the Hierarchy by forcing them to submit to the pollution of
Colour, and at the same time to destroy their domestic opportunities of
training in the Art of Sight Recognition, so as to enfeeble their
intellects by depriving them of their pure and colourless homes. Once
subjected to the chromatic taint, every parental and every childish
Circle would demoralize each other. Only in discerning between the
Father and the Mother would the Circular infant find problems for the
exercise of his understanding--problems too often likely to be
corrupted by maternal impostures with the result of shaking the child's
faith in all logical conclusions. Thus by degrees the intellectual
lustre of the Priestly Order would wane, and the road would then lie
open for a total destruction of all Aristocratic Legislature and for
the subversion of our Privileged Classes.

Next: Of The Suppression Of The Chromatic Sedition

Previous: Of The Ancient Practice Of Painting

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