Johan Milford stood at the lecture dais wearing a comfortable polo and blue jeans. Blue jeans, that ancient style of clothing, was currently in vogue on Epsilon, and Dr. Milford was a very popular, and hip, professor.
Milford was proud to boast ancestral blood from four continents on Old Earth: North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. He had a nice blended look, featuring light brown skin, dark brown hair and eyes.
He stood five foot nine, or 175 centimeters, with bushy brown hair and a bushy brown beard. He carried too much weight from lack of exercise, good food, and copious amounts of beer consumed on the weekends.
In short, he was a very typical university professor, looking every bit the part. He stepped out from the podium and waved a hand around the lecture hall, filled with undergraduate students hanging on his every word.
Most professors preferred teaching small and intimate gatherings of graduate students, and the lighter grading load such classes entailed. But if Dr. Milford held such a preference, he kept it well hidden. He remained one of the most popular professors at Epsilon University, consistently scoring high on social media surveys. Students loved him, and his classes always filled to capacity.
Today he taught the 400 or so undergraduates in a stadium-style classroom for his Philosophy 101 class. Most in the class were 16-year-old freshmen, although a few older students were mixed in, particularly those who were unable to attend when they were freshmen themselves.
Unlike other lecturers at the university, Milford worked at making his time on stage entertaining. He danced around, gesturing wildly, varying the cadence of his voice. He included amusing anecdotes and used all the techniques of compelling oratory. Holos of his lectures were very popular, even among non-academics, and had racked up millions of views.
Several students were in fact recording him right now, their neural implants storing optical and aural sensory input as they watched him on the stage. Most recorded his lectures for their personal benefit, ostensibly so they could re-watch them before tests. In actuality, parties and personal relationships interfered with studying time for many of them, and the holos were never seen again.
A handful sold their recordings to companies looking to capitalize on the professor’s fame. This practice was officially frowned upon by Epsilon University and was grounds for dismissal if caught. However, it proved too lucrative for some to resist.
One student recorded the lecture for an entirely different purpose. He was registered as a sophomore under the name Ben Fernando. Fernando was an agent for State Security and Intelligence.
SSI had kept tabs on Dr. Milford for years. In fact, SSI monitored almost everyone at Epsilon University, students as well as professors. The hard sciences were watched for developments that could be appropriated by the state, or that might be used against the state. The soft sciences and humanities were monitored for political adherence, although less stringently. Everyone knew liberal arts and the like were mostly useless from a practical standpoint.
However, the war changed things and SSI slowly began to realize the true meaning of a liberal education. Liberal arts and social sciences taught students how to think. And if students learned to think outside established orthodoxy, that could be a problem.
Director Munk himself realized the error in their lax coverage of the humanities late in the war. He had since performed due diligence, including learning about the history of university education.
The liberal arts always rebelled against orthodoxy, it seemed. There may be times when professors adhered to the status quo, but invariably their politics shifted to the opposite side of the spectrum from which they were governed.
Therefore, capitalist societies produced professors who championed socialism. Socialist societies produced professors championing freedom and capitalism. The pattern held true for centuries.
Since the Star League was an authoritarian tetrarchy, it only stood to reason that her universities would produce freedom loving capitalistic professors. So, Munk increased surveillance on the humanities, and Fernando found himself signing up for various classes in liberal arts.
Fernando had to admit, Milford was a very good speaker. He found himself entertained, and often spent time afterward thinking about what the professor said. If it were not for the fact Fernando was an SSI agent, loyal to the state in every way, he might have been influenced to think the wrong way sometimes.
Philosophy was a broad topic, and Milford spent much time going over the classics. But the way he presented philosophical movements, ideas, and opinions always left his students with the notion that more freedom was better for individuals than what authoritarian governments typically allowed; that people flourished when government largely left them alone; that the right to be left alone was to be cherished and sought out whenever possible.
In short, Fernando increasingly grew to realize that Milford was extraordinarily dangerous and spreading seditious rumors and half-truths to his students. He grew increasingly alarmed as the semester advanced, and his reports back to SSI HQ became more strident in tone.
Today Milford expounded upon the philosophies underlying the American Revolution, and Fernando remained particularly alert. These ideas were poison to the League, especially in their ongoing war against the Republic. The Republic was in fact founded on the same ideals.
The Republic even thumbed its nose at the League by naming their most powerful spacecraft after American founding fathers.
So Fernando paid close attention, sitting front and center in the auditorium for a good view, and recorded it all on his neural implant.
Milton paused dramatically and said, “Somebody once said a democracy is like two wolves and a sheep voting what to have for dinner.”
Everyone in the room chuckled. All these students, Fernando thought, had been taught from an early age the evils of capitalism and democracy by state-approved schools and teachers. The notion had been pounded into them relentlessly.
Milton continued and said, “Somebody else said a representative democracy is where the sheep has a gun.”
A girl in the back of the room said, “Oh, no!”
A few turned around and looked at her. She clapped a hand over her mouth and her ears grew red.
Milton nodded sagely. He said, “Of course, it doesn’t have to be a literal gun, although in the case of the United States it certainly was with the Second Amendment to the Constitution. But the weapon in question is really the electoral process. You see, in a representative democracy the people’s weapons are elections. If the people don’t like who is serving them in government, they can have a revolution at the ballot box and vote the scoundrels out of office.
“This is why representative democracies are the most stable and longest lasting of all governments. Their ‘revolutions’ occur every four years or so. The people in charge change, while the underlying framework within their constitution carries on.”
Fernando heard some mutterings, a couple of “Hmm’s” and “Aha’s.” He looked at the students sitting near him and noticed some eyebrows raised.
Milton had made an excellent point, and his ideas were shaking the carefully entrenched attitudes toward government these students had been indoctrinated in almost since birth.
Milton had also, Fernando decided, signed his own death warrant.