Saturday, January 3, 2015


This is a story...of more than a hundred years!

There was once a great big country called Acirema. Over the years it had grown to a large state through enterprise, innovation and hard work.  With the bureaucratic mindset in place and giddy with success the time had come for the country to take even bolder steps to advance the culture and society. The head of state decided that everyone should walk backwards so that people would slow down their rampant desire to overwork and over-consume. And by doing so, they would reap the benefits of their minds better. The prospect was difficult at first, so the state gave bonuses to those who could accomplish the feat first for an hour and the bonuses got higher and higher as one was able to continue on for a day and then days and then months, until it became commonplace. The logic was carefully controlled by a mechanism of news cycles that determined the value of “Walking backwards.” The articles in the magazines were replete with health benefits, longer survival, better communication and more time for meditation. These articles were the fodder for the enabled television and the holographic media. There was a certain intransigence to logic as the megaphones of propriety sounded off in the distance and complete degeneracy of reason took hold.

Pretty soon everyone was undertaking the journey to gain the financial windfall from the head of state and his Ministry of Well-being and Reform. The herd mentality blossomed and just like the Colors of Benneton were everywhere for the moment, the limpid pastels of shallow thought showered irrational exuberance into the flag-waving mushed-out minds. The tragedies and accidents from such a mandate on ambulation were conveniently buried deep in the stacks, never to crest in the news. The accidents and loss of life from misadventures by some by falling in gravel pits, open manholes, walking into a street lamp or into oncoming traffic being driven backwards, caused the Steering Committee to mandate that everyone buy a set of “electronic eyes” for the back of their heads. That was their intelligent solution! The contract for the “electronic eyes” was given to the man who had proposed the initial concept of “Walking Backwards” to the head of state. A large order was outsourced to the cheap tech company in Anihc. The orders were delivered soon thereafter and the Steering Committee of the House Body declared it a monumental success. The accident rate decreased minimally and the media rejoiced. The news banners from all services used buzz words like “gravitas,” “meteoric,” “exuberance,”   simultaneously, to show their extreme intellect and know how.  Soon the thrilled adoring population was holding rallies in town squares. Life was a daily affair of worship of words and unquestioned obedience.

Corporations held meetings in large rooms where everyone was facing outward towards the walls with their electronic eyes directed at their CEO, who dutifully looked at the painting of the founder on the wall. All paintings of former CEOs and founders were changed and a set of electronic eyes were painted to conform to the zeitgeist. Photos from these meetings were place- held on front pages of the holographic news sections, on the digital universe and some old-fashion disappearing and appearing prints seen only in the town of Hogsmeade, but in color.

One day the newest member of the Steering Committee was walking backwards in the park carrying his 3 year old child. The child did not have the “electronic eyes” on, since the mandate began after the age of four per state decree. The child asked why daddy was walking “that way?”

“Well…” the father began and then stopped.

“Yes, why am I or are we walking backwards?” And without hesitation the answer erupted in his brain, because that is the law of the land! Indeed, we are followers of the Law! His logical mind followed through. The questioned remained and continue to prick his conscience. By then the human anatomy had morphed and the calf muscles had become fully developed, the buttocks had shriveled and the thigh muscles were grotesquely hypertrophied. The human bodies in Acirema could easily be differentiated from those in the Eporue Empire to the east across the “pond.”

“Daddy,” cried the toddler in his arms, “if we walked where our eyes are, it would be so much easier!”

The Steering Committee member thought about that all night, lying awake in his bed, tossing and turning. What to do? Maybe he would propose a change, but he was afraid for losing his important job. If you did not follow the commandments of the head of state then you were considered dispensable.

At the annual Steering Committee meeting held in the large caverns of the public building that spread over ten blocks, the 10 members started to get seated and the squeals of the chairs being pushed around over shiny marbled floor reflecting the enormous crystal chandeliers overhead, echoed across the hallways in all direction magnified by the volume of unused space. Soon the waiters brought the food and with especial dexterity they would pour the wine and serve the food. Being a waiter required special skills, balancing food and wine without “electronic eyes” and walking backwards was a feat in itself and thus the pay was very good. When everyone had been fed and the clink of glass and silverware had ceded to the hum of quiet, the head of state got up. He was a portly man with a bushy waxed mustache that tapered  symmetrically at both ends, like the one on Terry Thomas, an English actor in the movie "Tom Thumb." He puffed through his thin lips that underlined the graying hair of his mustache on delicate “S” shaped pipe periodically exhaling billows of smoke curdling the aseptic air of the room from a small O shaped stab-of-a-mouth.  After a preliminary yet effusive speech on the state of the state that was holographically-projected in front of him that only he could see with special codes n all, and that would later be edited for public consumption, he ended with his usual flair to the thunderous applause that 9 Committee members could muster with reddening palms and the echo chamber effect of the surroundings. As the applause muted to his choreographed palms-down gesture, he asked about the revenue stream for the past year. The Chancellor of Budgetary Advice got up slowly and with his back to the back of the head of state mumbled to no one in particular except the enormous columns around the seated guests and the large inanimate paintings on the walls that the revenue had shrunk by another 20%. “Sir,” he began, “the world seems to be reluctant to take the lead from us at the present, but we are constantly making headway slowly with the hierarchy of the rest of the world body and it appears we might have found a road in.”

“Very well, Mr. Chancellor, I expect the “Blue Economy” that I outlined at the Union of Empires meeting early in spring will excite the outlanders who have weak economies and this measure of incentivizing their lot will bring them into the fold.” He pulled at the cuff of his shirt sleeve from under the finely tailored suit, revealing the gold and diamond studded cuff-links that held together the sleeve against the bulge of his bulbous arms.  The word “Blue” he regurgitated as if clearing his throat was meant as an opposite to the “Red Economy” that the Anihcanc lived by.

“I hope they will see the clear reason, Sir.”

“They will, they will, Chancellor they will, once they see the benefits that we are seeing.” The head of state chortled.

“What about our manufacturing status?” The head of state directed his question at the Ministry of Manufacturing and Creativity. “Sir, the manufacturing increased its error rate by 10 fold in the last year and that is still 2 fold lower than the benchmark we established the previous year.”

“Good!” the head of state chuckled. “Now tell me about the Ministry of Health, Ekezuber?”

“Sir,” the wise old member, who was one of the initial architects of the “Backward Society,” had dutifully followed and perpetuated the mandate for the last several years, got up slowly and said, “Our population health has never been better. Our population has diminished by 8%. The older members of our society are no longer living past 75 years, meanwhile the productive members numbers are stable. We are having trouble with procreation and are developing mechanisms to mandate artificial insemination to avoid sexual procreation after appropriate DNA testing is complete. Sexual procreation has been difficult to manage for the positive selection we have hoped for. Besides with the 100% Social Media immersion there is little need for the sexual procreation these days. But going forward, we should have a very strong productive and highly tailored force by the year 2230. Our projections are that Acirema will be, from a health point of view, self-organizing, time-limited, revenue neutral within the next decade. ”

“Very good, Ekezuber! We can always count on your expertise to advance the health and welfare of our society,” The head of state paused for a moment and then with his thumb and index finger poised delicately on his chin said, “we can always increase the marketing budget if you need more incentives to get the right mix of numbers.” He paused a moment and then chimed in as delicately as he could, "You will be 75 years old this year, Am I correct?" "Yes Sir." Ekezuber replied quietly with his eyes squarely on the column in front of him. "Since we value your incredible work and diligence, we might make an exception for you." "Thank you, thank you your excellency, my family will be ever so grateful." Ekezuber could not hold back his delight as a tear rolled down his left cheek.

“Thank you sir! “ Ekezuber replied with an exaggerated diffidence. He let his eyes take in the enormous columns and the 30 foot walls around him and said quietly but self-assuredly for maximum impact, “We are developing a mechanism to eliminate poverty also!” He was going to show his worth to his sovereign.

“Excellent!” the head of state satisfied with the response that reached his ears through the echoes in the chamber. The single clap of his hands thundered through the cavernous room and caught everyone by surprise. He was clearly elated with that news.

“Any other reports from the Steering Committee?” his “electronic eyes” encircled the group.

“Your excellency,” the youngest member of the Committee slowly got up. “I was walking in the park carrying my 3-year old and she asked if we should walk forward? Of course that option I feel is totally ridiculous but thought the humor in that question was worth sharing with the Committee. She said, “if we did, then we would not need the “electronic eyes.” There was silence and then finding some courage he advanced his late night sleepless thoughts, “it might be more productive, less expensive, more efficient and possibly increase the revenue stream in taxation from the productive citizenry.” He let his splayed fingers of his hand brace the shiny mahogany table and ended with, “It might be worth investigating?” His heart hammering inside his chest felt like a unbalanced clothes dryer, he sits down suddenly overcome by the weight of his conviction.

Hark! the state of nature had raised a hand against the nature of state. Silence was deafening, even the ventilation system lost its hum momentarily. Rousseau had challenged Hobbes and something was going to go down, and soon. And came immediate and on cue...

“Might I remind this Committee that no questions against the mandate can ever be entertained? But given this statement, and the way you posed it, I suggest we take a vote whether you should remain a member of this Committee in the future?” If anyone could see his eyes, the pupils had constricted as if the entire bottle of Pilocarpine had been fed them and the lids constricted to slits in real anger that not enough light could reach in. But no one could see any of this in real time. The head of state had spoken.

There was an immediate unanimous vote to remove the offending member and the meeting was formally adjourned and declared a success. The statement was scrubbed by the “scrubbers” that recorded all conversations and declarations of the Committee members, absent any untoward comments by anyone during the meeting. The vacant post would be filled immediately and the 10 members would remain as 10 since the names of the Committee members were never made public in the first place. And the nature of state was never out of peace.

Years later a movie was made by the Anihc movie industry, then the largest in the world, called the “The Fall of the Backward Mandate.” It was a soaring success with millions of viewers lining up in virtual theaters across the world. The “Backward mandate” was used in Schools everywhere as a Business Model Review of how not to do things. Anihc had supplanted Acirema as the world’s greatest power a decade before. The Little Red Book became the bible for all “organized societies.” 

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