Friday 20th March
Janek Smith continues writing his secret little journal, unaware that it is being read all the time by our second narrator….
“And it is always possible for a very limited few to rise spectacularly up the strata, in highly publicised ways, via some special talent or other (socco players, karaoke singers, porn stars and the like). There is always the possibility that, mediocre as you might be, fame might descend and scoop you up (cameras rolling, please) and place you in the firmament of the stars. And so, sterile as our lives are, some sort of ridiculously helpless and hopeless hope still feeds into the young and their enthusiasm is securely directed into maintaining this new but ever evolving cornucopia of a status-fucking-quo.
Some might say ‘Hasn’t it always been this way? Haven’t the levers of power always been in the grubby mitts of the few?’ And that might be true, but it doesn’t stop it from being fundamentally wrong. Not that I want to be one of them, one of the faceless rich, the ones controlling everything. I watch the History channels and see that while we may have gained stability we have lost something too, something almost un-definable, maybe simply the chance to fail. Not that anyone wants to, but as long as you behave there is no chance of failure even. It is all just too perfect. But is my disillusionment, my understanding that the system, ‘perfect’ in so many ways, is utterly devoid of a whisper of compassion, of old-fashioned humanity, enough to bring me into danger of becoming a reb? Why am I becoming a potential crim by writing this stuff down on a non-com unit? Why, in short, am I so unhappy?
Maybe it is all just a personal thing with me; maybe everyone else is contented really. Perhaps they just moan a lot about everything but are secretly okay with it all. But I doubt it. I have learnt to quietly observe them, not to look away when I see beyond the blank confident expression everyone wears, but to see that flicker, that hint of depression in their eyes, that moment of hesitation as if they are aware that they are constantly being watched as well as being eavesdropped on. Spying is everywhere, and you must never betray yourself by telling the truth. Screens are everywhere and they are all linked, and just as we watch them – they are silently observing us too.
We have had to reluctantly accept now that this is both necessary and to a degree comforting. Comforting? Did I just write comforting? Am I going soft? But for many people it is comforting, just as all that religious stuff used to be comforting. The thought that you aren’t alone, that there is some huge safety net waiting to catch us if we should fall, is comforting. Unless, like me, you see the net as pinning you down, as one that stops you from flying at all. We are constantly told that the rebs are everywhere, and while we are all used to survcams on every street and alleyway and public place, are we so very sure that we aren’t being watched, even in our very homes. I have long suspected that we are, and I will soon find out of course, as if I am being watched here in my own home where I am writing this, I won’t be writing for much longer, that’s for certain.
If this is the last entry made on this diary and you are watching it on a screen somewhere as yet another despicable reb is detected in our midst, you will know that I was not just being paranoid but utterly realistic.
But of course that won’t happen at all, will it? If I am caught I will be detained for a few hours and questioned and when they are sure I am working in isolation and not as part of some reb-org or other I will simply be taken down a few strata and watched ever more closely. I might even end up being clagged, though that is usually reserved for the hardened crims, the recidivists who cannot be controlled by inducements or punishments but who are not so dangerous that they have to be euthenased completely.
We will see.”
-[Janek quietly powered down and closed the lid of his ancient laptop. Glancing quickly over his shoulder he slid it back into its hiding place. He was hiding it from his wife of course. He was under no illusion that if indeed as he suspected he was being watched in his own home any attempt at secrecy would suffice. (Let me just point out, for the record, that he was not being watched; if we had any suspicion of subversive activity then we could have watched him; that goes without saying. We have of course subsequently backtracked and observed him, but in real-time back then he was not being tracked). But just in case he was unobserved Janek was almost as terrified of his wife finding out. The fact that he was putting their whole lifestyle at risk was constantly on his mind. Janek wasn’t stupid, but he knew that what he was doing potentially was. But somehow this hadn’t stopped him.
What is it about people that they constantly put themselves into such dangerous situations? It is as if there is a ‘reckless’ gene somewhere in the human genome, a self-destruct ‘hidden’ part of the programme that cannot be engineered out. We have to constantly be on our guard. We can never relax. Even though our prime objective is the sustainability and beneficial safeguarding of the human species we have come to understand that it is actually a deeply flawed life-form. The greatest danger to humans has always been from themselves. From the first time they swung down from those African trees and loped along on their short bandy legs they were the one species that would sooner kill each other than another animal. Strange, that with this deep psychological fault they should have achieved so much and in only a few thousand years too. And yet despite all their progress they are still less than capable of being truly happy.
Happiness is such a plentiful and desirable commodity, all it requires is the relaxing of a few synapses and learning to live in the moment, but despite all the drugs available, despite the stimulants, despite syn, which is by all accounts far better than old-fashioned coupling, despite a world of information at their fingertips; despite all of this and anything else we have managed to devise, happiness still remains the most elusive of all human conditions. And the hardest to measure, as soon as you ask someone if they are happy and they stop to think about it, that moment is gone. Think it, kill it – seems to sum it up.
And yet Janek had no reason to be ‘unhappy’. He even had a fairly interesting job. Where most people’s employment was fairly unnecessary, he at least had the knowledge that the ‘work’ he was doing was in that rare category of being intuitive, of being somehow beyond the capabilities of computers; Hypercom or simpler programmed machines. But, as has been observed by psychologists down the ages, lack of a specific reason not to be happy is no guarantee of contentment. Almost the opposite is true in most cases.