"Proteus" by Morris West
JCT: Weird inspirations pop up any old time. During the 
years I was The Professor at the Taj Mahal Poker Room in 
Atlantic City, New Jersey, I used to go to the Salvation 
Army and buy a couple of dozen novels at a quarter each to 
read between hands. So I really loaded up on them. I 
recently had a few hours to kill during transit and 
serendipitously chose "Proteus" by Morris West ISBN:0-553-
13201-6 (1979) William Morrow & Co., 105 Madison Ave. New 
York, NY 10016. Funny, I started my Abolish Interest Rates 
Project in the same year Proteus was published. Why didn't I 
read this 25 years ago? 
This is the first book report I've added to my home page in 
years. It is a spell-binding novel about John Spada, a Bill 
Gates-style billionaire, whose daughter marries a crusading 
news reporter living in a third-world dictatorship where he 
has investments. She and her husband are eventually arrested 
by the police. She's raped and tortured before they find out 
who she is and El Presidente eventually releases her but 
claims they don't have her husband. Spada busts him out of 
the prison and in retaliation, the bad guys try to blow him 
up and blow up his wife, daughter and son-in-law instead. 
All in all, such a bad week is a pretty good good reason to 
be upset. So he prepares to unleash a biological agent on 
the whole world proclaiming: 
Page301: "Open your jails; let the prisoners out into the 
light; or I, John Spada, who have nothing now to lose, will 
turn your cities, one by one, into cemeteries." 
JCT: Of course, he's emptying the jails but forgetting to 
change the laws that keep putting them there in the first 
place! Going after the symptom, not the cause. 
Page312 "One week before the United Nations General Assembly 
as scheduled to meet, a package was delivered to the mail 
room. In the evening the Security Chief read it aloud:
"The symbol which heads this paper represents Proteus, 
shepherd of the creatures of the sea, custodian of 
knowledge, the elusive god of many shapes. It is also the 
symbol of the organization of which I am the founder and 
which, like Proteus, functions in many places and in many 
"When you read this letter for the first time, you will be 
tempted to say: "This is the work of a madman." I beg you, 
do not yield to the temptation. As you will see, it contains 
no proposition to which you and your colleagues do not 
subscribe, no demand which the United Nations organisation 
has not made, over and over again; the liberation of 
prisoners of conscience, the abolition of torture, the 
restoration of the right of free speech, free assembly, fair 
trial, the right to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of 
"That you have made these demands is a matter of history. 
That you have been unable to enforce them is a matter of 
universal regret. However, now that they are enforceable, I 
beg you and your colleagues, in the name of humanity, not to 
abrogate them. 
"With this letter you will receive samples of the poisons... 
to create a biological disaster...
"At this moment, I know, the familiar words will spring to 
your mind: hijack, blackmail, terrorism. I beg you to 
reflect on another word: sanction. I am placing in your 
hands, Mr. Secretary-General, the one power you have never 
had: the power to impose a decision of the United Nations by 
sanction, by penalty without redress. If you are not 
prepared to use this power, then I shall use it, and 
continue to use it, until my and your legitimate demands are 
"With this letter I send you a schedule, necessarily 
incomplete, of those places of detention where men and women 
are confined, interrogated, tortured, in defiance of every 
principle of humanity. I send you lists of prisoners, again 
incomplete, because secrecy is the weapon of all tyrants. I 
request and require that these places of detention be 
opened, their inmates released, and dispersed to their homes 
within twenty-one days of this date, and that their release 
and dispersal be supervised and confirmed by observers from 
international agencies appointed by the United Nations. 
JCT: Again, he does not address the reason that the General 
El Presidente is putting them in jail in the first place.  
"I further request and require that this demand be made 
known at the first meeting of the United Nations General 
Assembly and that the Assembly invite me, on the next day, 
to plead it before the members. 
JCT: Getting an invite to address the assembly is as easy as 
that? But who has an issue as big as the ego to dare? 
"If and when the prisoners are released, I undertake that 
all supplies of the cultures and the toxin in the hands of 
the Proteus organisation will be destroyed forthwith. I 
shall, immediately afterwards, give myself into the custody 
of that country of which I am a citizen and accept, without 
contest, all the penalties of its law. If the demand is not 
met, the serial disaster will begin; and you must be in no 
doubt of its magnitude and its continuity. 
"Let me now make disclosure. I belong to no party, either of 
the left or the right. I have no affiliation to national 
causes, only to the cause of those who cannot speak because 
they are deprived of the right to do so. 
JCT: But would the people who have no say be happier if he 
asked to stop the laws that fill the jails? I would be. 
Though I have some say. 
"I have no personal ambition. Once I am in custody, I shall 
have no human future; but this I am happy to accept in order 
to accomplish what I have set out to do.
"Immediately after the first session of the General 
Assembly, I shall telephone your office to hear the 
decision. If the decision is affirmative, the Assembly must 
guarantee my immunity from arrest within the confines of the 
U.N. building. If the decision is negative, then there is 
nothing more to be said. Action will follow as certainly as 
night follows day. 
"I am, my dear Secretary-General, With profound respect, 
Yours sincerely, 
The Secretary-General asked: "Can you sum up please?" 
"It is clear that Proteus is aware of how the United Nations 
organization functions. He writes formally to the Secretary-
General, who is obliged to bring the matter to the attention 
of the General Assembly, which alone can consent to his 
appearance in this place -- as it did to the appearance of 
Yasser Arafat."
JCT: So Yasser Arafat's appearance is the precedent for John 
Spada's quest to save the world from those sad symptoms of 
the as-yet-unknown cause of oppression. 
Page317: They will respond by strict adherence to protocol. 
The Secretary-General will refer the matter to the heads of 
delegations to the General Assembly. They will advise their 
respective governments and seek instruction.
Page327: The first disclosure was made, according to 
protocol, by the Secretary-General to the plenary conference 
of correspondents accredited to the United Nations... Each 
correspondent received a copy of the letter of demand, the 
schedule of camps and inmates, a photograph of the vials 
containing the legal material. 
The Secretary-General deposed briefly: "The documents in 
your hands speak for themselves. The material has been 
inspected b y the experts and has been identified as a 
culture and a toxin, capable of wide dissemination and 
lethal results. Faced with this threat, all delegates to the 
United Nations have been instructed by their governments to 
vote in the General Assembly, which will commence at ten 
tomorrow morning. The purpose of this session is to hear the 
views of all member nations and to determine, by vote, 
whether the person who calls himself Proteus shall be 
admitted to address the Assembly or whether we shall refuse 
to receive him -- with all the consequences that may entail. 
I have only brief comments to make. "I have a question which 
you may feel disposed to put to your readers and viewers. If 
you sit where we shall sit very soon, how would you choose? 
Page 330: Everywhere, the authorities had expected a panic. 
There was none. It was as if mankind were satiated with 
horror, drunk and numb after an orgy of violent images 
thrust at it hour after hour without respite. There was no 
place to hide. There was no board on which they could read 
the odds for or against their personal survival. There was 
no enemy to provoke their fury -- not even Proteus himself, 
because the very magnitude of his challenge touched some 
chord of elation, of desperate sympathy, deep within them. 
The issues of good and evil were too closely entwined to 
distinguish them clearly. There was no appeal to the law 
because the law was plainly impotent against this 
thunderbolt intervention in human affairs.  
After the first welter of sensational headlines and hastily 
prepared commentary, a tone of cool, if desperate, sanity 
began to make itself heard. The end proposed by Proteus was 
good. It was not beyond human accomplishment. It had been 
urged for years by wise and compassionate people -- yea, by 
us, too, of the Fourth Estate. If our urgings went unheard, 
it was because... and here the reasonings became diffuse and 
contradictory, the sovereignty of states, commercial 
considerations, political expediencies. Still, if the end 
was good, could not a good means be found to attain it? 
JCT: Not if you don't know what's causing the symptom.
Proteus was wrong to hold the world to ransom like a 
highwayman... They had not dropped the emotive words: 
terrorist, blackmail, hijack; but at least, in response 
either to instinct or directive, they had begun to introduce 
qualifications that admitted some possible goodwill. 
Page331: At three in the afternoon, by a narrow majority, 
the General Assembly voted that: "In the hope of a speedy 
removal of a monstrous threat to humanity, we agree to 
invite the person called Proteus, under guarantees of 
immunity, to address the members of this Assembly in an 
extraordinary session and permit full news coverage of the 
occasion by all the media."
Page334: In the great chamber of the General Assembly,
JCT: I sat in that same chamber twice, with my "The 
Engineer" hard-hat on!
John Spada faced the delegates of the nations, the press of 
the world, the privileged audience of the potent who filled 
the public galleries. They were silent, grim-faced, clearly 
hostile to this interloper in their midst. They had not come 
to hear testimony, but to look on the man who as to give it, 
to measure his strength, his resolution, his nerve as a 
gambler. So be it then. He himself must prove them: whether 
they would know a truth when they heard it, stand for or 
against a right when they saw it plain. But he must look 
beyond them, speak over them, to the world outside, where 
his image and his words would reach hundreds of millions 
who, even if they could not enforce them yet, would make 
their own judgments on the witness he was about to give. 
The Secretary-General's introduction was brief and bleak: 
"...We are here under duress and under protest. The man who 
will address you has no right to be in this place. 
Nevertheless, we have granted him immunity, guaranteed his 
security, while he is among us. In a forum held to ransom, 
we will grant him a free hearing. Ladies and gentlemen, this 
is the man who calls himself Proteus: Mr. John Spada. 
As he stepped down from the rostrum, they applauded him. 
When John Spada took his place, the applause died instantly 
to an eerie silence. Spada arranged his papers on the 
lectern, adjusted the microphone and began to speak, calmly 
and persuasively. 
"It is true that you are here under duress; but you are 
here, in comfort, in your own place, free to come and go at 
will, to debate openly, to eat well, to demand immunities in 
your persons and your houses. There are others, tens of 
thousands of others, in prisons, in detention camps, in 
torture rooms, in psychiatric institutions who are not free, 
whose simplest human rights have been abrogated. It is for 
them that I have come to speak. It is for them that I have, 
temporarily and very mildly, abridged your very great 
freedom. I remind you that, in a public document, I have 
permanently surrendered my own."
They had expected something else -- threats, exhortations, a 
tirade perhaps. They were not disarmed yet, but yes, they 
would listen. He began now to reason with them.
"I stand before you, one man, alone. You are many. Behind 
you there is the serried might of nations, great and small, 
their wealth, their armies, navies, air forces, their 
police, civil and secret. You have, in short, a mandate of 
enormous potency. I, it would appear, have none. 
"I claim that I have. It is a mandate from the silent to 
speak for them, from the imprisoned to plead for them, from 
the tortured to proclaim their wrongs, from the dead to 
write a decent epitaph. This is the meaning of the name I 
assumed: Proteus, the shepherd of those who live in an alien 
element; Proteus of many shapes. When you look at me, I want 
you to see many other shapes and faces: the schoolgirl raped 
and bleeding on a table, a great scholar reduced by drugs to 
mumbling lunacy, a journalist beaten to a bloody pulp, a 
long line of detainees, inadequately fed, inadequately 
clothed, working in sub-zero weather... You ask who gave me 
my mandate. They did. 
JCT: A mandate to tackle the symptom of the unknown cause? 
The hands that first offered it to me were the hands of my 
own daughter,tortured to an extremity in Argentina. Then my 
wife, my daughter and my daughter's husband were murdered... 
What more motive is needed for the action I have taken? Is 
your own patent of authority so sound? Should you not accept 
mine, as I do yours, de facto, and ask, now how it was come 
by, but what use, good or bad, is made of it? 
"I will not insult you with any of the catchwords of 
politics: the right, the left, the center, capitalist, 
communist, revolutionary, deviationist, dissident... You 
have heard them all, too many times, in this place and 
elsewhere. These are labels, hung on mannequins. I will use 
other worlds: man, woman, child; and I will show you what 
has done to this man, that woman, their child." He sensed 
their restiveness and he challenged them sharply: "You are 
bored -- or embarrassed? You know it already? Then why have 
you not risen in revolt against it? You did not do it? Of 
course not! There are always vicars, deputies, surrogates to 
do the filthy work and leave you free in conscience 
afterwards. You will sit! You will be silent! You will 
He read the catalogue, country by country, figure by figure, 
detail by sordid detail, until he had cowed them again into 
silence. Then he tossed the papers on the floor of the 
chamber with gesture of contempt. 
"Challenge it, if you dare! Refute it, if you can! Prove me 
a liar. I would welcome it... You cannot. You know it. So 
what do you do?  You say:  we are delegates only, puppet 
voices, puppet figures. Blame our masters, not us. I blame 
them -- dead loving God, how I blame them! But I blame you 
too, because  you hide behind their skirts like  lapdogs, 
whimpering at their anger. And this is why I threaten you, 
put you under duress: to show you that for every monster 
there is a mirror image, for every terror there is a 
response of terror, throughout all ages of ages, Amen!"
His voice was a thunder rolling through the domed chamber. 
After the thunder came a silence, and after the silence came 
a passionate plea. 
"Look! Listen! Take heed, I beg you! These are your brothers 
and sisters! Their blood is your blood, crying, not for 
vengeance, but for an end of this long iniquity. What are 
you? Savages dancing around the fire, chanting while your 
victims burn? Medieval inquisitors wrenching irrelevances 
from dying men? If you are, then the terror which I hold 
over you is less than you deserve. If you are not, then, in 
the name of whatever gods you worship, make an end of this 
monstrosity. Remember, time runs out." He stood for one 
silent moment, dominating them, waiting for the questions 
they dared not ask. 
JCT: How about "What would you have us do to stop more 
oppression while we empty the jails?" 
Then he walked out of the chamber to the room they had 
provided for him, threw himself on the bed and lay like a 
cataleptic, staring at the white ceiling...... 
JCT: Then the book goes on to what happens after that. Once 
they agree, he will go on international TV to call off his 
fishes from spreading the toxins. It's a great read and I 
won't tell you any more about it for at least a couple of 
weeks so visit your local library and find out how John 
Spada uses his one opportunity to plead for those who have 
no say. I can only say that if I ever pulled a Proteus move, 
I'd know about the root cause before claiming any mandate. 
Proteus demands a remedy that really changes nothing for 
long. Must be related to Alan Young. I'd demand the end to 
machine that creates poverty which is the raison-d'etre of a 
military-police establishment to keep the debt slaves down. 
Maybe I should make a Proteus demand? Not "Proteus versus 
the symptoms of oppression," but "Proteus versus the cause," 
During the Millennium year, I sent emails about UNILETS to 
every politician and government with an email address on the 
whole planet. "Dear Sir, the UNILETS Engineer is trying back 
at the UN again 3 years later?" Har har. 
What with LETS in 54 countries around the world with online 
connections, what with 90% of the world's politicians 
knowing what I'm about, what with the international LETS 
conference going on in Montreal next week from whence all 
the little fishes could go back to their nations and push 
for UNILETS from the bottom up while I push their 
politicians' emails from the top down. Is this too 
serendipitous to expect success so why bother trying? It 
might be time to raise UNILETS at the United Nations once 
again. No one helped the last time when getting on the 
Millennium Declaration seemed such a quixotic venture, maybe 
some will will help now that's getting on the Millennium 
Declaration makes it less so. 
What else do I possibly need? 

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