THE DIARY OF A GEEK IN OXFORDSHIRE


Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dystopia: Chapter 1

The insistent screaming of the alarm clock dragged me from my dream.

It was a good dream, too - warm and comfortable, interspersed with hazy memories of good food, good wine and our trips abroad back in '08.

The sheets were gritty against my skin, embedded dirt that repeated washing in cold water simply couldn't shift. With the energy shortages, possession of a washing machine was frowned-upon - and anyway, wasting energy could lead to a prison term.

The electricity wouldn't be switched on for another hour, so I washed as best I could in the trickle from the shower, and, dressed in the cleanest clothes I could find, headed downstairs. The thermos had kept last night's coffee lukewarm enough to be drinkable - for values of drinkable, of course.

My bicycle was ready to go, and as always I looked longingly at our cars and my motorbike, sitting untouched and unloved, tyres flat, cobwebby and with weeds growing up against the wheels as if the land was reclaiming them.

(I remember driving, back before the fuel taxes made it unaffordable. Then the oil wars added insult to injury, and the Government's energy policy finally made driving a car financially impossible. Of course, you were still allowed to OWN a car - you just weren't allowed to drive it during normal working hours, and even if you could you wouldn't be able to afford to fuel it. You still paid tax on it though, even if it was sitting in your drive becoming a wildlife sanctuary.)

Heavy-legged, I turned the pedals and started on the 10-mile ride to the Volunteer Centre in Oxford. The Credit Collapse of '09 had resulted in the complete destruction of the private sector, and those of us who had been employed were now required to attend the Volunteer Centre every day in return for our Credit Vouchers.

Another day loomed of walking the streets, canvassing for the Labour Party, handing out leaflets explaining how The Leader was steering us through these troubled times, how they were just 'getting on with the job'.

Pedalling through the streets, joining the throngs heading in the same direction, my mind again wandered. Was this really what everyone, across the world, was going through? The BBC certainly told us it was - but with the Web now censored and access limited to only what you could get on the terminal at the Volunteer Centre, who could tell?

(I remember information. Back before the BBC were funded by the Labour Party, back when you could turn on your own PC and check the facts. Cross-reference. Back then, you could read and learn, and make your own judgements. Before the Terrorism Act made personal computers illegal.)

Riding past Retail City at Botley, seeing the rubbish and human detritus spread across what had been a thriving business park and was now a shanty-town for the homeless. The barbed-wire fencing and police made sure that we were kept a good distance away - doubly important since the rumoured Typhus outbreak - but still the smell hit hard. Thousands of people with no sanitation, no fresh water, no Credit Vouchers, no help and no hope.

This is England. December 14, 2019.

As always, the cycle racks outside the Volunteer Centre were already full. Still gritty-eyed from fatigue, I made the mistake of leaning my bike against the railings of the next-door Labour Party Re-Education Centre, and turned to head inside the Volunteer Centre.

"Excuse me, sir - is this your vehicle?".

I turned to look straight into the eyes of a Community Cycle-Parking Support Officer. Perhaps twenty years old, drunk on the power of his civic responsibility. Barcode scanner already in hand, the red light on his bodycam showing that I was the star of my own personal CCTV movie.

"Yes, Officer. Sorry, Officer", I replied, trying for humility and hoping against hope that this supercilious child had already reached his penalty-allocation targets for the week.

"Your ID card, please".

I handed the worn piece of white plastic over. He took his time perusing it, comparing the ten-year-old photograph of a smiling, well-fed, employed individual against the careworn, grubby and sweaty citizen in front of him.

(I remember the days of trust. When a man was who he said he was, before the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Revised) 2010. The days when you didn't have to carry your biometric ID card everywhere, where not having identity papers didn't mean you were a terrorist. The days before you could be detained for up to 120 days without charge simply for not proving who you are.)

There was a 'beep' as the CCPSO scanned my ID card. It sounded like the clang of a cell door.

"I'm fining you 80 Credit Vouchers for parking a vehicle in a proscribed zone, in contravention of Section 14 of the Vehicles In Terrorism Act 2011", he said. "Now move it, or the bike will be destroyed and you'll be arrested on suspicion of aiding terrorism.".

"Yes, Officer. Sorry, Officer". Keeping my expression humble, grabbing my handlebars. Trying to avoid eye contact. 80 bloody Credit Vouchers. Half a week's 'salary'. Not that it actually buys much, but it would have put some food on the table.

Leaving the bike leaned against the racks as best I could, I rushed into the Volunteer Centre. After that fine, I couldn't afford to be late - I'd be fined again for lateness, and a second note on The Database in a single day would attract the attention of the Police.

The main hall of the Centre was already thronged with people awaiting their assignment for the day. I grabbed a copy of the newspaper - the Labour News - found a chair, and settled down to read the headlines before the 'working' day started.

As usual, LabourBank were trumpeting that they had brought inflation down to just 0.1%. Strange, though, that they never explained why a litre of milk was doubling in price every week.

An Army spokesman was quoted as saying that they were close to catching William and Harry Wales, who were both wanted by the Government for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds. Following the death of King Charles III in a helicopter crash, and the dissolution of the Monarchy under anti-corruption law in '14, these two had been on the run. The Army believed that they were somewhere in Zimbabwe, and alleged that they were being protected by President Tsvangirai and the UN.

There was some sporadic coverage of the trial of someone called George Osborne, who had been a politician but was subsequently arrested and charged with sedition and terror offences. His co-defendant, David Cameron, had apparently died in custody while resisting arrest.

(I remember reading. I remember lazy Sundays with four different newspapers, each with their own spin on the news. I remember reading about the world, not just England. I remember 'all the news that's fit to print', not 'all the news that the Labour Party says is fit to print'.)

Around me, the hubbub and clamour of 300 people was starting to die. Our Community Volunteer Centre Co-Ordinator stood in front of us, glaring expectantly over the rims of her glasses, regulation cardigan wrapped around her corpulent frame, prissily buttoned to the neck. I put down my paper and tried to look as attentive as I could.

"Good morning, Volunteers" she said brightly. As always, her voice was fingernails down the blackboard of my soul. She could *afford* to be bright and cheerful. She was a Public Sector Worker, with automatic Labour Party membership and all the benefits that entailed.

"Today, you will be distributing copies of the latest announcement from the Information Minister, Mz Toynbee", she said, waving a handful of the despised missives in one pudgy fist. "And this week, the five most successful Volunteers will be rewarded with.....", she said, her harpy's screech rising to a new level, "....Membership of the Labour Party!".

There was a collective intake of breath, a moment of shock and awe at her pronouncement. Labour Party membership meant the chance of a Public Sector job. Real work. A real income, the chance for us to provide for our families again! A pension. Rumour had it that Public Sector Workers these days were even allowed to own their own homes!

As we filed out of the Centre clutching our messenger bags, each heavy with the latest lies on recycled paper, I looked back to see our Co-Ordinator. She was chatting with five younger people, all of whom were showing her what were clearly foreign ID Cards. I knew what that meant - they would be the Chosen Five, the Reverse Discrimination Act of 2010 ensured that no white English person was permitted to interview for an available role if there was an immigrant available to fill it, regardless of skillset.

(I remember working. I remember the alarm going off for worthwhile reasons, the joy of using my intellect, the pleasure of a paycheque for a job well done. Before the drudgery, before Credit Vouchers. Before now.)



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3 comments:

Henry Crun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry Crun said...

Dungeekin, a truly frightening vision of the future. But rest assured that, over many Labour dead bodies, would never come to pass.

Bishop Brennan said...

Why is this labelled 'fiction'? :-(