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Captain Kate on Water

Background: This is the last part of a five-part story, The Holy and Captain K. The Holy sends Captain Kate, the spirit of Katherine of Alexandria, to help the middle-aged narrator get started to build a better world. Kate is 18 years-old, or was when she was tortured, raped and killed during the last great persecution of the Christians in the early part of the 4th century. She’s been studying war (in heaven) for the past 1000 years.


Captain Kate & Waterwork

Everything Kate had said about 6W (War Without Weapons for a World Without War) stormed in my mind. Her words rained and whirled in my head but I couldn’t hang on to any one thought. I couldn’t think. I may as well have tried to catch a piece of the wind.

What felt like hours must have been minutes.
“Kate, your thoughts are appealing, but they don’t console me.”
“I haven’t been trying to console you. I’ve been trying to inform you. I’ve been trying to give you information, give you strength, so that you can do what needs to be done.”
“Despite all that you’ve told me, I feel as though I’m back at the beginning. The Holy said that you would help me, but I still have no idea what to do or where to start.”
“OK,” she said. “Regard what I told you as a prelude. Let’s start. To make it as concrete and practical as possible, Drink water!”

We were on the edge of a park. A row of flats ran parallel to our path on the other side of the street.
“I don’t see any water.”
“Not at this moment, but as a way of life,” she said. “As a method of war.”
“I do drink water. Everyone drinks water. What are you driving at? What has war got to do with it?”
“War without weapons. Drinking water – natural tap water instead of processed and chemicalized water packaged in bottles, cans and plastic containers – can be seen as a tactic of war, war against corporate power, war against the pollution and destruction of nature, war against the culture of unnecessary consumption and false identities. Regard, ‘Drink water!’ as a battle cry.”

I took a long look at Kate. She seemed to have grown more beautiful. Her creamy bronze skin glowed. Her eyes were black onyxes in milk. This is a test, I thought. Would I believe nonsense if it were served lovingly by a gorgeous and sympathetic authority?

“I’m not falling for it,” I said. “I might try to drink the Mediterranean dry if you asked me to, but let’s get serious.”
“The entire process of production, distribution and consumption of bottled water in the USA pours as much hydrocarbons into the atmosphere as 400 000 cars. Every year. To that figure can be added the rest of the bottled-water drinkers in the world. Note that I’m talking exclusively of bottled water, a modest consumption compared to all of the Cokes, Pepsis and other sodas and packaged drinks. Is that serious enough for you?”
“I don’t know what to say,” I confessed.
“Cans of Coca-cola, and only cans, not plastic bottles or any other form or brand, are sold to the tune of 200 million per day world-wide. Even if these cans contained no paint on the outside, and even if each and every can were recycled, that would still amount to very serious consumption of energy. Unnecessary, polluting energy.”
“We can be thankful that they recycle,” I commented.
“Recycling junk, in this case containers for contaminated water, does not constitute a positive impact on the environment. How much energy does the recycling process demand? How much hydrocarbon gets poured into the atmosphere? What happens to the tons of red paint on these billions of cans a year? What’s the paint made of that can retain its luminous integrity under industrial stress and intensive distribution handling? You need not answer, but entertain your imagination with the enormity of the contaminated water industry.”

I had difficulty thinking of the water industry. The expression ‘entertain your imagination’ amused me while the term ‘contaminated water’ confused and disturbed me.

“What do you mean by contaminated water? I don’t understand.”
“Water is a basic condition of life. No water, no life. That rule applies to bacteria, beetles, bears and bald Baptists from Babylon.”

Kate giggled. “Sorry,” she said, “but this is so serious that it’s difficult to take it seriously. It’s so simple and obvious that I’m ashamed of having to rescue it from obscurity. It’s so basic that I feel foolish trying to promote its importance.”

She continued to giggle. Or was she trying to prevent herself from crying?
“Kate?” I asked gently. “Are you OK?”
She smiled at me and nodded. Her moist eyes didn’t help solve the crying-laughing mystery.
“Life needs water,” she said. “H2O. Hydrogen and oxygen. Together with carbon they are needed for every particle of life, whether a building block of protein, the wall of a cell or the links of DNA. You can’t improve water. Whatever you add must be removed by the chemical process of the body to utilize the hydrogen and oxygen. Whatever we do to complicate access to water complicates life. Survival is difficult enough without adding complications.”
“Much of bottled water is nothing other than water,” I pointed out. “No additives and no complications.”
“That’s true,” Kate acknowledged. “Pure bottled water is at one end of the bottled beverage kingdom. It’s the purest species in the family of commercial drinks. Yet even this simple product costs hundreds of times more than ordinary tap water and is seldom better and often worse. The extra cost reflects the extra energy required to get this water to the drinker. We pay individually for each purchase, but we pay collectively for the effect on the environment.”
“Kate, you’re making an ocean out of a bottle of water. There are floods of other problems threatening to drown us,” I said rather proud of my liquid metaphor.

Kate tilted her head in recognition of my speech, but didn’t seem impressed.
“File that thought. We’ll return to it. In the mean time, remember that pure water is at one end of the range of bottled drinks. At the other end, we have the sweet poisons, the dangerously contaminated sodas. These so called soft drinks should be labeled with health warnings as on cigarette packages.”
“Now you’re trying to equate the dangers of smoking with drinking sodas!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, I am equating the hazards of smoking with those of drinking water that has been carbonated, colored, synthetically sweetened, artificially flavored and spiked with a cocktail of chemicals. Cokes, Pepsis and the hundreds of their cousins are all basically water contaminated with unhealthy ingredients. Also equivalent to cigarettes, the soft drinks affect the body out of sight over a long period of time. No one runs much danger of getting lung cancer from smoking a cigarette or two now and then. The same can be said about the sodas. Persistent usage over a period of time is another story. A story involving serious bodily damage.”

Kate went suddenly silent. Something triggered her off switch.
“For someone who’s supposed to help me you come with a lot of difficulties,” I said softly and lovingly.
“I’m not going to discuss the health hazards of sodas,” she said matching my tone. “I leave it up to you to research the effects of aspartame, fructose and the other ingredients in these drinks. I believe that several of these ingredients are deadly; get sick, suffer for a long time and die deadly. You should not take my word for it. You should research the available material and come to your own conclusion. If you don’t, you are not going to accomplish anything anyway and you may as well return to the herd and await your fate.”

Despite the usual loving voice, I felt as though she had kicked me in the balls. I stared at her in shock.
“What is it?” she enquired to my pained expression.
“What is it!!?” I shouted. “How can you be so insulting? ‘…return to the herd and await your fate.”
“I didn’t mean to insult you. I presented a conditional statement and I believe in the validity of the conditions. People who are not willing to explore claims about a life-or-death determining behavior, cannot be counted on to influence the course of events. Where is the flaw in this thinking? What’s insulting about it?”

Now it was my switch that clicked off. She looks like a goddess, but hits like a devil, I thought to myself.
“The idea of drinking tap water as a tactic of war owns legitimacy even without the health aspect,” said Kate. “Bottled water in all forms is largely unnecessary while wasting enormous resources and polluting the environment. In this process it exposes individuals to chemical attacks on their health. The beverage industry helps corporate commanders maintain their privileged positions and keep the citizens tied to the injustice of the prevailing order.”

OK, OK, I got it,” I said. “But I have to get back to that thought you asked me to file. You are right in one way. It’s better to drink pure water than commercially manipulated and expensively distributed water. On the other hand you must have had some liquid trauma. You’re giving this much too much importance. A tactic of war! Yeah, right. Put your perspectives in order! We’re talking about drinking water.”

“Typical,” said Kate as though admitting defeat.
“Not typical, practical,” I said. “Or logical. You told to be aware that authorities can make mistakes. Can’t this be one of your mistakes, Kate?”

I enjoyed the silence this time. I was proud of myself for opposing Kate and assumed that she was reconsidering her position.

“Would it necessitate much effort to abandon the usage of packaged water?” asked Kate.
“No, none at all. It would require less energy than ‘is necessitated’ to digest some of your expressions,” I answered mimicking her in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“Well then,” said Kate smiling victoriously. “Why this opposition to a tactic that requires so little effort?”
“It’s not so much a question of opposition to the tactic as to the importance or dignity that you put on it.”
“Do you think you could convince two people – within a month’s time – to adopt this pure water policy?” she asked.
“If you made a determined effort; selected eligible individuals, arranged meetings or got together to discuss this specifically, followed up on it and so on, what would be the chances of getting two people to join you in promoting a pure water behavior?”
“Better than 90%,” I answered.
“If each of these individuals repeated your efforts to enlist an additional two individuals within a month’s time, in less than three years no one on the planet would purchase packaged water and the entire commercial water industry would disappear.”
“Things don’t work that way,” I said.
“No, they don’t. You are right. I’m trying to illustrate a principle rather than paint a prophecy. We are talking about a tactic, one single tactic, one tactic that requires very little effort. It’s up to you to create and implement some of the other tactics. There are thousands of them. The point is… here’s where you should get ready to make a notation. I’m going to deliver a sound bite, a talking point, and a hook upon which you can hang an ideological orientation. Are you prepared?”
“Shoot!” I said. “I’m totally in the receptive mode.”

“There are so many things that need to be done. Don’t let that stop you from doing what you can.”

“OK,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
“What will you do?”
“I’ll stop buying packaged water.”
“And what?” I asked. “Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?
“Yes, and work to get other people to do the same. View it as a military campaign.
“The military again,” I said implying that she was nagging.
“We can call it the H2O Campaign or the Aqua Association or Hydo Initiative, whatever. Let’s say Waterwork. OK?”
“OK,” I agreed.

“The Waterwork Campaign,” said Kate. ”
1. is relatively easily to implement.
2. allows everyone to participate.
3. promotes the economy and health of the people.
4. will relieve significant pressure from the environment.
5. can sink a flagship of the corporate empire.

“Can you repeat those five points?” she asked.
“Number 1, it’s easy,” I began…
“You don’t have to,” she said cutting me off. “I’ll go through them one at a time.
“Number 1. Waterwork is relatively easily to implement.
Yes, it’s easy. You don’t have to climb a barricade, travel to a demonstration, write to a government official, confront police or even rearrange your weekly routine. It’s concrete as well, not an abstract cry for action. It’s doable, as opposed to many idealistic but unlikely or impossible campaigns. People do not have the resources or the inclination to engaged in enterprises with doubtful chances of success.
“Number 2. Waterwork allows everyone to participate.
This second point conceals an enormous power. Allowing and including everyone in the campaign cuts through a sticky and tricky web of special interests and ethnic bindings. A foundation of a global community forms based on universal needs.
“Number 3. Waterwork promotes the economy and health of the people.
All too many idealistic actions involve sacrifice and costs. Waterwork does the opposite.
“Number 4. Waterwork will relieve significant pressure from the environment. It is workable and powerful part of the environmental movement in general. It could develop into the most effective environmental improvement of all the individual endeavors.
“Number 5. Waterwork can sink a flagship of the corporate empire.
The corporate empire, the ruling force in today’s world, follows the demands of profit. The tyranny of money reigns. The needs of people are subordinate to the rules of economic demands stipulated in corporate policy. Corporations have no morals. Or to quote from Joel Bakan’s book, The Corporation is a Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. Pathological!
” Waterwork can win a great battle against the corporate empire. It would be but one victory, not the conclusion of a war, but war is won by a series of victories.
“Number 6,” said Kate and paused.

It took me some seconds before I realized that there were only 5 points to be explained.
“There is no number 6,” I said.
“There was no, I just appended the list,” she said with laughing eyes.
“OK, let’s have it!” I said submitting to her mirth. “What’s number 6?”
“Number 6. Waterwork is not instead of or in opposition to any other action. Joining Waterwork permits people to continue doing what they have been doing, or to initiate other actions while promoting Waterwork at the same time.”

“OK, give me the contract. Where do I sign? You’ve sold me, Kate. I hereby,” I said and raised my hand as though taking an oath, “vow to pursue a pure water policy in defiance of commercially packaged beverages.”
“And attempt to get other people to do the same,” added Kate.
“And attempt to get other people to do the same,” I repeated.

Kate threw her arms around me and embraced me. I felt as though I had won the war or whatever it is that I was supposed to win.
“Just one more number,” whispered Kate.
“Kate,” I exclaimed somewhat desperately as we parted.
“The last one. I promise.”
“Do it!” I said.
“Number 7. Waterwork integrates with many other tactics. Remember that Waterwork is only one tactic in a War Without Weapons for a World Without War. Waterwork is the one I suggest to get you started. There are thousands of other things to be done to create a world oriented to the needs of people, a world for the people, by the people. Thousands. You must, for example, develop avenues of communication to supply each other with information. Corporate information, the mass media, cannot be trusted. You must find ways to help the people in every way. The goal is to secure the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, communication and work for every single individual on the planet. That’s not a utopian fantasy. It is a prerequisite for Homo sapiens survival.”

“Is that all?” I asked with a tint of sarcasm.
“Almost,” answered Kate. “Please close your eyes and think for a minute or so about everything I’ve said. Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything. The important thing is to try so that as much as possible can sink in.”

I followed her instructions. After a couple of minutes, I open my eyes.
Kate was gone.

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