Page:Conventional Lies of our Civilization.djvu/161

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THE LIFE OF AN AVERAGE CITIZEN.

147

in his possession, a long and tedious process of red-tape must be gone through with, into whose details I need not enter, to procure a certificate signed by certain persons, recorded and stamped, to prove satisfactorily to the authorities that he was born. The boy is finally duly admitted into the school, and leaves it a few years later to enter upon his business career. His tastes and inclinations impel him to assist his fellow-citizens in their suits at law, with counsel and mediation. But he is forbidden by the authorities to even attempt anything of the kind until he has procured the permission of the State, set forth in various diplomas. While on the contrary, he is perfectly free to make himself useful in the world by making shoes for instance, although a badly made shoe is sure to cause more suffering than a foolish piece of legal advice. He is now twenty years old and would like to finish his education by travel. This he is not allowed to do. The time has come when he is obliged to serve out his term of military service, give up all claims to his own individuality for several years, which is even more painful than the loss of his shadow was to Peter Schlemihl, and become an automaton with no will of its own. Very well. He owes this sacrifice to his country, which may be threatened some day with invasion. During this time of military service, my Hans — I will call him Hans for convenience — finds leisure and opportunity to fall in love with some young woman. He is a high-minded young fellow and scorns to make love to his sweetheart in the kitchen, according to the usual convenient garrison style. He wishes to get married. Very well again. He wishes to, but he is not allowed to. As long as he is a soldier he must remain a bachelor. Surely it would not interfere with anybody's rights, nor diminish his ability for bearing arms, nor injure any one far or