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April 15 - A View on Taxes from the Future

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Message Khanan Asherov
"Who decides whether the speed limit is a small sacrifice or not? Airport searches? Sales tax? Phone fees?"
"I can choose to travel below the speed limit and not pay the fine. I can choose to not travel by plane. I can grow my own food. I can e-mail instead of phoning. But I can't stop thinking and working!"
"What you are doing to me is direct extortion, and I am not your property or slave!"

Another example (from chapter 'Pesach'):

"You think it is possible to have a simple test of who is free and how is not?"
"Listen," said Ariela, "I thought about this. If I sit in my house, drinking wine and eating matzoh, and somebody comes in and tells me that the government has decided that I have to do something 'because it is extremely good for all of us', here is my test. I tell this somebody to go to hell. I tell him that  I can decide myself what is good for me or for my country. If after that I am still sitting here drinking my wine and enjoying my life, I am free. If, on the other hand, I am in jail, or killed, or thrown out of my house, I am a slave."
_____________________

Two of my favorite characters – Josh and Sarah – survive in the book, and unlike other characters whose personalities are fixed, they go through 'the arch' of personal transformation. For Josh, many of his beliefs are changed dramatically, and although he gets to keep his mind, his face isn't the same. For Sarah, the transformation is even more profound. Running away and on the brink of death, unexpectedly she discovers a secret place, "which was by all accounts the crib of human spirituality", becoming one with what she yearned for her entire life, and realizing her ultimate purpose.

As a reader, I also went through a 'paradigm shift'. I realized that although I thought I was free, it was an illusion.

You know what I mean?

It is the same kind of feeling you'd get while watching 'The Matrix': you know that even if machines have won, they wouldn't need to use humans as source of electric energy; you know that the virtual world they'd create wouldn't be so elaborate; and yet, looking around at how media and the government are already controlling our minds, it is easy to see how, in a way, we already live in the Matrix!

Like that film, 'Publicani' is filled with religious and philosophical symbolism; though, instead of the "red pill" that would remove us from the Matrix, we get to participate in a new thought experiment providing the same "abortive action". It makes you think outside the box and see that, although we like to believe that our rights and freedoms are guaranteed by laws & the constitution, they are but temporary privileges that can be taken away at any moment.

 (By the way, it's April 14th. Have YOU filed your taxes already!?)
_____________________

An ongoing theme throughout the book is the moral choice between Law and Freedom.

In the beginning, both Josh and Moschetti are showing a strong preference for the Law:

"...for most of his life, despite occasional doubts, he had been able to stick to one simple principle: follow the rules, whatever they are."

"...the most important passion in his life was obeying the law. Ever since he was a child, he had realized that all people's problems came from evading the law; and all his life observations confirmed in him the simple thought that if everybody just obeyed the law, life would be fair and happy for all."

The theme reappears in 'Job interview' between an old rabbi and a younger man applying for his post:

"What is more important, the law or freedom?"
"Both are equally important. There should be a balance between individual freedom and societal stability."
"Who should be making the decisions about such a balance?"
"The society itself, through its elected or selected leaders."

After the interview the old man is dismayed: "All wrong. I am failing miserably." He looked at another job application: "No tragedy, no purity, no strength. No sense of destiny. Where is their thirst for freedom?"

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Currently, a systems support specialist in a financial company; a student; positive psychology enthusiast.
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April 15 - A View on Taxes from the Future

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