‘It’s an everyday story of everyday folk,’ I snapped back, in a rapier-like riposte. I was the hero of the coffee break, I was a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. I was a lone voice crying out in the wilderness of the hospital canteen. ‘Okay,’ I roared belligerently, warming to my theme, ‘suppose we do socially engineer a society made up entirely of self-cherishing narcissists the way everyone says we should do, what then is the overall output of this society going to be? What are we going to achieve by this strategy?’ As usual, I was sitting all alone at the table. As usual, I was engaged in a complex, multifaceted debate in the privacy of my own imagination. ‘It’s an everyday story of everyday folk,’ I stated again, gesticulating grandly as I did so. My whole life was over in a flash – I never saw it go. My mind was elsewhere at the time. It was otherwise engaged, although not with anything good, not with anything worthwhile. The Hero Consciousness existed within me – I knew that much – but I was having difficulties bringing it out, I was having difficulties in expressing it. I’ve hit the nail right on the head with that observation, I realised dourly. I had hit the nail on the head fair and square. ‘You couldn’t hit the nail on the head more fairly and squarely than that’, I told myself with grim satisfaction. I wondered then if I deserved any acknowledgement at all for that feat. Surely there is some kind of merit to be had in making such a remarkably accurate and ‘to-the-point’ observation, I thought, and not without a trace of bitterness either. Seeing reality can be a bitter thing, it occurred to me then, and not for the first time. Not by a long chalk. Certainly not for the first time. It was only the latest in a very long sequence of such thoughts. Identical thoughts, in fact. The guy sitting across the table from me was a ‘systems man’ through and through – his position was that all enemies of the system should be eliminated forthwith, and without any further ado. His approach was certainly a straightforward one and I could appreciate that. His approach to any problem always came down to exactly the same thing and there was – in some sense – an admirable consistency in that. From the point of view of a systems man, it is of course entirely reasonable to take the position that all obstacles to the proper functioning of the system should be eliminated (and furthermore, without any regrets on the matter). In the light of what I’ve just said, my protagonist’s confidence was quite understandable, therefore. I know that some people would make a big deal of saying that this guy sitting across the table from me isn’t real, that he is – in some way – a mental projection of mine representing some part of me that I have yet to make conscious, but I have little patience with this type of irritating psychobabble. Why can’t people just admit they know nothing and leave it at that?