Our misapprehension of ourselves as we look upon our finery is the notion that we conquered this place, riding through thundering rivers of blood to subdue the less powerful. Perhaps not us, but our forefathers, so long ago, gained their nobility by strength and savagery, trampling aside the lesser peasantry and taking hold the land upon which to establish reaching mines, elaborate estates, sprawling vineyards, fields tilled with the ground bones of our ancient enemies' children.
Such a noble lie, in more ways than one. We look upon what we have now become as a descent. A fall from grace. A taming of our raw, virile, bestial natures, which still lies dormant in our blood. Fleshy, pale, and weak, we look upon our lies and machinations as a reduction in the quality of our old raiding. How could we have stooped so low, to have put aside the honest cruelty of the sword for the poisoned slyness of the pen? Staring at our fat faces in the mirror, we confess the sins of our forbears with a quiet, guilty pleasure, relishing the taste of our dreamed greatness; dipping ourselves in the oily satiation of the imagined exploits of the barbarian horde, the knight, the temptress, or the drunken cavalry soldier chewing rotten hardtack and weevil eggs to keep his body going through the motions of driving bayonets into yet another Arapaho papoose.
We love these fantasies, however we claim to loathe them. In the mirror of truth, though, we see only the same fat, pallid, blubbering face. There were no strong warriors in our lineage. We are rich because we lied. We are rich because others carried out the conquering and dying. We are rich, and we are here, because we tricked them. Bravery was never in the blood of the powerful--only the same creeping lies that we now fancy are recent developments. The boardroom, the salon, the adviser's table: these were our habitats. It was only centuries later that we began to delight ourselves with the thought that our greatfathers had been the ones to ride on ships and subjugate the fey children and the clans of the green hills.
In a thousand years, our descendants will be the ones who, with guilty pleasure, imagine themselves in plate steel or battle dress uniform of jungle hue, begging forgiveness of the mirror, with secret satisfaction, for having been so powerful.
* * *
(What--did you really think the king got to be king by leading the charge onto the pikes?)