Upgoer 5 is a description of a Saturn 5 rocket created by xkcd.com artist Randall Munroe.
For this, he uses a vocabulary that consists of no more than ‘ten hundred’ words. The following piece uses no more than that vocabulary, except for the words ‘Europe’ and ‘racism’.
There was a terrible war that finished more than three twenties and ten years ago. After the war, some of the countries, which were made very tired and poor after the war, and who had to spend lots of money building the houses back and filling the holes in the ground, started thinking that it would be a good idea if wars in future could be stopped from happening. One of the reasons that they thought wars happened was that people from different countries didn’t trust each other, and each thought the other was always trying to steal land and other stuff which belonged to them. One of the reasons that the last war happened was that a bad man became the leader of one of the countries which had been made less strong because some countries made it pay for all the bad things of the war before that. They saw that actually, no good comes of thinking of other countries as bad, because when bad things happen to them, that usually has knock on stuff for the other countries. It would be better, they thought, if countries tried to think about all the things that they agree upon. It would be better, if instead of seeing other countries as something that would hurt them, they tried to see the chance for good things to come from them.
So some of the countries got together into a kind of law-group and agreed that they would have some laws about how they would do-buy-sell with each other, but it was a strange kind of law, because it meant that the countries could be told off for not doing what they agreed, not people. But it worked, and even though all of the countries got stuff wrong, and got told off for the stuff they had done wrong in their do-buy-sell, it meant that all of those countries in the law-group got good things, because usually when a country changed because it got stuff wrong, it became better, and all the countries started to be more and more like each other. They still had people speaking different languages, but now they could go and live and work in other countries without people stopping them, and they could even have all the good things that people in that country got, even if they didn’t have those things in their own country. Some people in those countries didn’t like this. They said ‘But this is our country! Why should people who don’t even speak our language or know what it is like to be people like us get to have all the good things that we have, just by moving here?’ The other people said ‘Because this is what we agreed to when we joined the law-group of countries.’ But the people who didn’t like it didn’t always agree that they had agreed to it.
Because so much of the hurt from the last war came from the bad man and the way he made it seem as if one group of people in his country were the cause of all the country’s problems, the children who grew up in that war learned that doing that is very bad, and it often happens when people look different or speak different, or have different clothes and ways of doing things. They made a word for doing that, so that they could tell everyone how bad it was. The word was racism. At first it meant being very bad to people for no reason other than that they are different. But it has begun to be used against all sorts of people who aren’t actually bad, but just don’t talk like the people who use this word of them. It has also been used to mean any kind of wondering whether the different people actually are different in a way that matters. Some people started acting in a very bad way that made people scared, and they said that the reason that they were doing this was because they were different in a way that mattered to them, so the people who were scared thought that it probably did matter that they were different, and that maybe not trusting them wasn’t racism after all. But lots of the other people who were like the scare-people said ‘it’s not our wrong that they pretend to be like us. Don’t be scared of us just because of that,’ and they were scared too.
Then, in another country that wasn’t in the law-group, a terrible war broke out, because there was a bad man leading them. People could not bear it any longer, so they started the war. But he had very big guns, and killed lots of the people and blew up lots of houses. The other countries of the world said ‘you must stop doing this, you must listen to the people’ and he said ‘it is none of your business. I don’t come over there telling you what to do, do I?’ So the war carried on. The people in the other country were very afraid. They could see that there was no future for them in this terrible country, and that it would be better to get together all the stuff they needed, and go to another country. Most of the other countries were like the first group of countries had been before their wars, they did not like people from other countries and they would not let these walk-people in.
So they said ‘Let us go to Europe. It is very near, and they are kind to people from other countries, as they have been kind to each other for a long time.’ So they did. But many hundreds of hundreds of hundreds wanted to come. They did not all get to Europe. Some of them had to stop in another country. But still many of them landed in Europe, and asked for kind acts from the people they met. They got kind acts, but they wanted to be allowed to begin new lives in Europe, and many of the people of Europe said ‘Look at what they have done to their own country! What will happen if we let lots of them live in our country? They will make it like their country. Being kind to people from other countries is one thing, but this could make all that much worse.’
And at about this time, one of the countries of Europe was getting very tired of the whole idea. Its leader said that he would give everyone a choice whether the country should stay in Europe or not. He wanted it to stay. Other people, even those close to him, did not. Lots of people in that country did not know what to do. They could see that there had been good things about being in Europe, but they didn’t know whether they would continue to be good things, and they also didn’t know why the leader said that things would get very bad if they left, when he had no way of actually knowing what would in fact happen. At the same time, they didn’t want to be thought not friends to people from other countries, especially the walk-people. They certainly didn’t want to be thought racists.
They didn’t know what to do.