Sunday 10 October 2010

This Mundane Slavery

From my chair I can see the Arkanon’s war machines, two of them. If I get up and go to the window I know I would see a third off to the east; it blocks the early morning sun. They tower above our highest buildings, the robots of science fiction’s early dreams: the blocky, functional machines, not the later, aesthetically pleasing, oh-so-alien wonders of curves and gracefulness. The Arkanon have no use for beauty.

They have a use for us though.

While other people allow television to sooth their subjugation, I sit and watch our unmoving overlords – or their devices at least. I don’t believe, as some do, that the tv signals contain pacifying subliminals, but the censored channels are thoughtless, mindless, pointless: a consuming distraction.

I have come to the conclusion that these beings are not dissimilar to us, showing force to ensure that everyone else conforms to their ideas of justice and rights. Defining – justifying – the lawful oppression of other peoples by the terms of their own freedoms.

They decided office jobs were not for them. But still they need the paperwork processed, they need customer service, and not even with their advanced technology has any AI lived up to the promise of imagination; sentience exists only through biology and evolution.

I remember the abuse a tele-operator in India would get because they weren’t on the same continent. The short tempers because English was not their first language. It was nothing compared to the reaction we get when one of them finds themself put through to Earth...

They try to crush the very memory of freedom from us. They are as adept at memetic manipulation as Orwell’s Ministry of Truth ever was. ‘War is peace.’ ‘Freedom is slavery.’ ‘Ignorance is strength.’

Not that many remember Orwell now. Sedation is entertainment.

My eyes flick to the chest of drawers, with their false bottoms. My modest fourteen books are more of a library than most cities have. I don’t dare let my gaze linger. I look out of the window once more, waiting until I can close the curtain without rousing suspicion, until I can read.

My books are contraband; most of my thoughts, illegal.

I watch the flocks of birds that wheel through the city, indifferent to tower block and robot alike. Despite the Arkanon’s best efforts they settle on the robots, nest there, stain them in dirty streaks. Pigeons and starlings and gulls cannot be manipulated so easily. They cannot be so peacefully oppressed.

They are freedom, in front of our eyes, every day.

(author's commentary)

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