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Section 9. Of the Universal Colour Bill

Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926)

Section 9.  Of the Universal Colour Bill

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 fell 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 had

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 his 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 like 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 the 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 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.






    /       \ - C_

  /           \||   -  _

 |             ||         -  _

A|- - - - - - -||B- - - - - -_-+(> (Eye)

 |             ||      _  -

  \           /||_  -

    \ _____ / - D

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 of 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 Women

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 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 Women 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

its 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.

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This World Wide Web document is a personal research project motivated by the following claim: "Truth is the object of Knowledge of whatever kind; and when we inquire what is meant by Truth, I suppose it is right to answer that Truth means facts and their relations, which stand towards each other pretty much as subjects and predicates in logic. All that exists, as contemplated by the human mind, forms one large system or complex fact, and this of course resolves itself into an indefinite number of particular facts, which, as being portions of a whole, have countless relations of every kind, one towards another." (The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman, 1801-1890)

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