In the dystopia I'm working on, there is a vignette where the main character's light bulb blows. He can change it because he has a home electrics qualification, which allows him to change bulbs and reset circuit breakers, but he cannot reach the bulb because he does not have a stepladder.
The reason he has no stepladder is that he has no stepladder certificate. It's a three-day course and expensive, he can't afford it, and without the certificate he cannot buy a ladder.
Unrealistic? In Wales, a friend of mine told me of a recent health and safety inspection at his work. There was a ladder. They were told to get rid of it. Why? Nobody at his work had a ladder certificate. The real-life course is two days and costs £90. That is not fiction. It now takes two days to learn how to use a ladder and unless you have a certificate, you cannot use a ladder. It's already happened. The extension of this to home ladder users is only a matter of time.
Back to fiction. The character's neighbour has a stepladder and certificate so he comes round to help. It's only when he's all set up that the neighbour realises he doesn't have a home electrics certificate. So he can climb the ladder but he can't change the bulb. The main character can change the bulb but can't climb the ladder.
Again, unrealistic? Under EU regulations, you already cannot change a light switch or add a socket to your mains supply in your own home unless you are a qualified electrician. All I did was move it one small step further.
We already live in the world I'm trying to write. Nobody believes they can do anything unless someone else has told them they can do it, and signed a bit of paper to say it is so. Nothing exists unless there is a bit of paper to say it exists. Nothing is real unless a committee has declared it real. You can do nothing unless you have been instructed in how to do it by someone who doesn't know how to do it but who has the right to sign the form.
I've experienced this myself. An idiot administrator once tried to stop me recalibrating a balance. She said "You should leave it to someone..."
I finished her sentence. "...who knows what they're doing?"
"Yes." Even as the word left her mouth, I finished recalibration. It took a few moments only, because I was familiar with the machine, having used that particular model for over twenty years at that point. I gave her A Look. I don't know what it looked like but until the day she left the department, she never spoke or even looked me in the eye again. I expect she's in charge of something now.
There is no end to it. You are not disabled unless you have documentation. Really. Removing an artificial leg and falling over proves nothing. If you don't have the right forms, the absence of a body part is not sufficient evidence of the absence of a body part. Unless you have a bit of paper to say it's not there, it is there, you're just very good at hiding it. It's all Paul Daniels' fault.
Tipped by Subrosa in Email - a pub landlady who had ordered 'No Smoking' signs put up temporary signs while waiting for the real ones. The temporary signs said 'no smoking', everyone now knows pubs are not allowed to allow smoking, nobody was smoking on the premises, yet she was fined.
The temporary signs were not of the regulation size and shape. This is what the justice system is concerned with now. This is how deep official smokophobia goes.
This is beyond Orwell. Beyond Kafka. And it's reality.
How are writers supposed to compete with this?