Once upon a time there was a wondrous land called ‘Prosperity’. It was green and pleasant, with rolling pastures, blooming flora all the colours of the rainbow, beautiful fountains and clean air. Everyone who heard about this magical place dreamed of making it there one day. Legend had it some children were lucky enough to be born in Prosperity, and by virtue of their parents could spend their lives happily there.

The rest of the population lived below, in a world which, though on the whole still beautiful, was being degraded slowly, though the reasons for this were debated so long and hard by opposing factions that nobody was really sure what was happening. Some argued that the people living in Prosperity’s actions were causing this degradation, while the people living in Prosperity, or their paid cohorts, declared that this was a natural phenomena. The people living far below Prosperity were told that there was a method for them too to reach this promised land. Despite their great distance from the heady altitudes of Prosperity, there existed an enormous ladder, from which people below could begin the long climb to the top, where Prosperity lay.

If they were to train and study they could become useful members of society such as doctors, engineers or teachers. This would enable them to climb many rungs on the way to the apex of the great ladder, though this meant potentially climbing over those also attempting to scale its heights. Unfortunately, there were only so many of these positions to go around, and so most others had to perform menial and often unpleasant tasks in order to make others further up the ladder better climbers. Although they were told working harder and harder would see them progress up the ladder, those working for others sometimes saw that the harder they worked, the further up the ladder their bosses progressed, much further and faster than they could ever hope.

The reasons that any individual could not simply climb from bottom to top were myriad. Each rung, particularly close to the bottom, had many, many people clinging to it. In fact, near to the bottom it was darn right perilous, with many people so desperate they would even hurl competing people off the ladder in order to stay where they were, let alone get ahead. Those close to the bottom often found they could not move at all as the decades passed, and grew frustrated and angry, lashing out at those around them. Some were confidence-tricksters, who persuaded those one rung above to give them a hand, only to stand on them on the way to the rung further above. Some used threats to get to rungs above, while keeping those around them down. Others, who fell off the ladder entirely, were forced to subsist in the subterranean zone, where they were mostly ignored and had to feed off scraps which fell from the great ladder. A fair portion of these luckless souls would never see even that bottom rung again, dying in the subterranean zones as broken souls.

If any lower-rung individual were to complain at their lack of prospects at progression, the clear, derisive message from those above was that they only had themselves to blame. Try getting stronger, or smarter, or just working harder damn it! This scornful polemic kept the majority in their precarious place, whilst also reassuring those on higher rungs that they were, by virtue of this very argument, more worthy of a place in Prosperity than any of those below. Occasionally, a thoughtless child of a lower-runged parent would question why they had begun their journey at the bottom with little support for climbing, whilst the offspring of those on higher rungs seemingly began their ascent on the same rung as their parents. There were times when the collective body which oversaw this perennial ascent/descent would attempt to engineer more movement from the lower levels with climbing lessons or artificial boosts, but when times got tough these were quickly removed, even from people falling from the bottom rung.

Some like-minded souls from the lower regions debated the idea of sawing the ladder legs in order to bring the whole system crashing down, but there were never enough to be able to complete it, and the collective body overseeing the movement would physically prevent them before they’d built up any steam. The people on higher rungs would scorn those who dared to attempt this, and write them off as lazy and self-interested wasters. Some on higher rungs were rendered curious, and even supported some of the ideas from the ladder vandals, but didn’t dare trek down to join in, for fear of losing their position in the higher echelons and chance of ascending to Prosperity one fine day.

Others did not support the sawing through of ladder legs, but still extolled the notion of there being another way of living for all of those miserable souls aboard the great ladder. They did not want to see all of those on the ladder, no matter how unpleasant or selfish they may be, crash to the ground and destroy each other in the aftermath, with those inhabiting Prosperity blissfully unaware. Rather, they saw through the illusion. Prosperity was not a paradise set in the sky which people must fight to ascend to. It was part of the world they already lived in, stolen away and hoarded by those with privilege. If only the hordes below could be made aware of this, then Prosperity could be pulled down from the Heavens and its bounty shared equally.

It was then that Prosperity was revealed not to be floating at all, but in fact propped up by four mighty pillars at its corners. These pillars had their titles carved into them. One was called ‘Religion’, another was called ‘Nobility’, a third was titled ‘State’, and the Fourth was ‘Media’. The ‘State’ column; symbolic of the will of the majority, had been worn terribly, but the other three pillars bore its weight suitably, even as the power of the other pillar crumbled. Thus, Prosperity could never seemingly be returned to whence it came. Those on the ladder grimaced, but continued their Sisyphean task inexorably, knowing no other way.

  1. This scornful polemic kept the majority in their precarious place, whilst also reassuring those on higher rungs that they were, by virtue of this very argument, more worthy of a place in Prosperity than any of those below

    And also leading those on the lower rungs to believe this.
    I like your story.

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