February 20, 2088
There have been another spate of power outages here, or else I’d have sent this off before. Of course the Mission has generators, but Dieter sent a burner out about keeping ‘non-essential power usage’ to a minimum, etc. As Director of Mission he can do that, but it had more to do with his being German and not getting on with Sofia in IT, who definitely is not. In short, I couldn’t use my Book until today.You can sense my eye-rolling and exasperation — imagine me! I’m sorry you’re not here to see it.
Gilbert found a book in a downtown stall about the denazification of Germany after the Second War. Amazing how close their methods were to our own. The entire adult population completed a questionnaire about everything they’d done, a full CV. All cross-checked against other documents with fair accuracy, in less than a year, without computers. Any Nazi was tossed out of any position of authority or influence and possibly sent to prison. Blubbety boo hoo.
We’ve done much the same, but found that in a country having gone through as much as New Zion / America has, paper is more resilient than digital. We do everything online in the Mission. So much information was in cloud storage that turned out to be surprisingly simple to wipe. So the same vetted local contracts we or the NPO hired to assist us are doing data entry, paper to digital. Sofia says it’s Gutenberg’s revenge, and while the irony is lost on Dieter, he agreed (“Too bloody right”).
The book Gilbert found was stamped ‘New York Public Library’ — it was part of the old main branch library, protected by the citizens (picture New Yorkers in front of the big stone lions, with guns) after the old FedGov collapsed and before most state governments bowed to the evangelicals. Definitely before the civil war. Over the library stamp was another, ‘Restricted Collection’ — after New Zion was born, possessing any book would have had you in a camp, Spotto. No one was allowed anything secular from The Time Before. This book of history was part of a library very few could have used, and even then someone would have wanted to know why.
Hani, you can’t fathom how people are motivated to harm others until you come to a place like this. And the book Gilbert found pushed me to think about parallels, the history. Germany had a great, deep culture (always have — just ask Dieter!). The political right was always saying how evil their central government was. It was corrupt; Germany and Europe had their own uberrich – but the majority of people just wanted to live their lives. They were getting by. Then came their Crash, and when people were broke and hungry, the Nazis rose. Most people just wanted to get by – so, Hitler.
Here, America participated in creating the global financial dream-world. At the same time their FedGov became a joke. Then, the Megacrash, terrorism in Washington, and there was no central government. The states tried to hold, but one morning people woke up and on the vids were The Five. People were living in muck and hungry and frightened, and they wanted to get by. So, New Zion.
But those aren’t the similarities I see. There were pictures in Gilbert’s book of people walking through bombed-out cities, people running for a tram, trying to sell or barter, or line up for rationed water and food. There’s not much damage to buildings around the Mission compound – and nothing like Germany’s cities after that war — but every day I see the same people in those photos.
They get by – but they’re broken, Hani. The things they were forced to do by the creatures they let in forced them to split their souls and there aren’t enough psychiatrists to put them back together again. The Mission’s counselors, group sessions and community outreach, do what they can, but it will take decades. The broken generations may be beyond psychotherapy. Solzhenitsyn, quoting that proverb Leo likes so much when he talks about Zion: “only the grave cures the hunchback.”
It wasn’t just the making of the religious police state, or the labor camps. Not even the executions of anyone the new order decreed was ‘in rebellion against God’. It’s what I see in those faces in the street — what the people did to deform themselves, just ‘to get by’. In Manhattan, the steel gallows frame is still bolted to the granite walls of Rockefeller Center. Our National Prosecution Office for the East Coast chose to put their HQ there, I think, because of it. No one’s moved to take it down.
My caseload increased since Martin went on Breaveleave. I’ve temporarily taken on his five Middies. My normal lot are clerks, a few Neighborhood Eyes, a Captain in the Guardians. Martin’s are Class Threes, politicals, middle management of theocratic repression, but evaluated to be capable of resocialization. They stay here in the compound in their own wing of Mission housing. They can’t stay outside. Most Class Threes are in prison and lucky not to have been sentenced with the Class Twos.
It’s the same routine: talk talk talk to the Doctor. Four men and a woman. The men are all similar: corpulent, even on Mission calories; middle sixties; local Council gladhanding types. One moment they’re trying hard to impress you with their intelligence, their candor in self-examination. And in doing that, they’re reminded that once they had real power — regional Deacons, serving those who were close to The Five. There are flashes of anger, self-justification, and even arrogance before they catch themselves, trying to become drab and little.
One was a physician too, and tries to engage me in abstract discussion of my ‘diagnosis’, like two colleagues conferring over symptoms. I think about the enforced drug-and-electro treatments of gay men and women the ‘doctors’ in Zion practiced, but he’s already passed through the hands of the NPO and been adjudged clean of any direct criminal acts for which a charge could be brought, clean enough for being salvaged, to help rebuild what they helped to soil.
Truth is, Hani – to one degree or another everyone here participated in supporting the state. There was no choice, but there were few resisters when New Zion was in control. So we face the same issues the Allied powers did in Germany: when everyone participates in a crime, even passively, do we prosecute the entire population? Some wanted to do so. The NPO created degrees of involvement and potential guilt – One through Five, just like the Allies. But for those who were evaluated by prosecutors and other physicians as fit for our Resocialization programme, the classifications aren’t supposed to mean much.
Then I dealt with one lady, and however impersonally her Class Three designation is viewed, as an individual she is chilling. (I’ll call her Teresa, because she reminds me of your aunt, but you are forbidden to tell her.) We can’t take a hard line with any of them — first, do no harm — but she was a regional Archite for over a decade in the middle North American West. The religious politicals couldn’t do away entirely with the American civil court system. They kept most of the judges in state courts and allowed them to hear cases, and juries of citizens would determine guilt or innocence – and, guided by the Archites, did the sentencing. The Archites were True Believers of a different order.
I think of the pictures smuggled out, showing people at hard labor, cleaning toxic waste dumps, the ones that pushed Gwynham to make his speech in the Commons that led to the Coalition. Over twelve years (just as many as the Nazis had with Germany), Teresa must have helped juries send thousands of people to death one way or another, and very likely to places like those in the photos. Just for being born as we are, love, you and I wouldn’t have even made it that far. She would’ve sent us to Bedlam, or worse.
There’s real hatred still for the True Believers among the public, the Class Threes and above – The Five certainly found that out when the Coalition landed. There aren’t that many of them in freedom now. And because they all bear the mark, and because people still check for it, it’s almost impossible for them to evade detection. The local vid occasionally reports some ex-pastor or former Warden was done for in broad daylight in a public toilet or right on a street, with not one witness to be found.
Part of me would like to walk Teresa to the main door of the Mission and push her, very gently, out. But I can’t. This work tests my values, Hani; I have to reach deep for real patience and compassion, and to be better with them than they were with the population they victimized. I have to, because I won’t allow my hatreds to define me, as theirs did. And they do all have some level of honest contrition — even Teresa, otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed here. I hold to that, and quote Fowles to them: “Whole sight, or all else is desolation.” Teresa actually looked stricken when I said that. Good.
It’s late; I only had forty minutes to punch this in and spent it rambling away on all this shite. Paul has taken up a seat nearby and is making harrumphing sounds. I kiss you (and more than that; imagine me!) — kiss the Hatchlings, tell them to write more often themselves damnit and send more drawings and I’ll write again as soon as Dieter will let us.
Count the days ‘till I’m done here — then England; Land Of Hope and Glory, and You.