Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Smoke Wars - the fiction version.

Parties are over, it'll be at least another week before anyone even mentions any lab work so it's back to writing for me. I'm concentrating on the dismal world of Panoptica because I want to get that finished before real life nicks all my ideas.

It's called Panoptica after the Panopticon, a circular prison where the guard can see the prisoners all the time, but the prisoners can't see the guard. No guard could be looking in all directions at once so the chances of him looking at a particular prisoner at any one time are slim.

However, since the prisoners cannot see the guard, they have no way of knowing when they're being watched and when they're not, so they soon behave as if they are being watched all the time.

The world of Panoptica isn't a prison in the walls-and-bars sense, and the main character is a CCTV operator so you'd think he's one of the guards. So does he, at first.

Nobody knows who the guards are, not even those who think they are the guards. CCTV is a distraction because everyone is watched by actual people at ground level. Dodged the CCTV? Maybe the guards saw you anyway.

I've been thinking up backstory components to slip in here and there to explain how this terrible world came about. Some of these will take the form of "The War On (insert anything enjoyable here)", how the Coalition (all parties in power all the time) pretends they won those wars and how they convince the population that they did.

 Some of them are easy. The War on Guns was won by coming down like a ton of bricks on anyone caught with anything even remotely gun-like, while any inter-criminal gun crime is Winston Smithed out of the news. Likewise drugs and knives. The criminals learn that as long as they keep the violence out of the public eye they can get away with pretty much anything. The public are by now so scared of guns and knives that only a total psycho would bother to use one - the sight of one is enough - and the Panoptica Coalition are more concerned with keeping the weapon out of the news than catching the criminal.

I had a 'trauma treatment' set up to deal with this, in which memories of traumatic events can be deleted from the mind. The entire event could be erased from history so effectively that even the victim would not remember the knife. It was a psychological battering, including hypnosis. I didn't think anyone would believe it could simply be done with an injection.

Obesity has been solved. Everyone must weigh themselves in the morning and their bathroom scales are connected by WiFi to the local health centre. Anyone have one of those that transmits from the floor platform to a readout on the wall? You're only one step from Panoptica's solution. The weight determines your permitted calorie intake for the day, and that's what the readout shows you. Not your weight, but the precise types and quantities of food you are to eat that day.

One of the wars 'won' by the Coalition was the War on Smoking. Real people don't smoke any more because anyone caught smoking, or suspected of it, has their embedded chip disabled. Other 'crimes' cause this too, and there are more than even Labour thought of. With no chip they become 'ghosts' and are not permitted anywhere near real people, have no bank accounts and no official homes.

How did they win this war? They banned it from everywhere and put the fines and penalties on those responsible for each area rather than on the smoker. You don't own anything at all in Panoptica, but you are responsible for many, many things.

Those who would get fined soon became unpaid enforcers and unpaid informants. Nobody knows when they are being watched so turning a blind eye to the smoker in the corner is likely to get you fined and maybe ghosted too.

Of course, they didn't really win any of these wars. Those whose weight persistently strayed outside official limits, those who smoked or who drank more than permitted, those who used too much salt or sugar, those caught practicing any religion, were simply deleted from databases and excluded. They did not exist, they never existed. They live in poverty in ghettoes and the Coalition doesn't care as long as they stay there. They are out of the economy, which is doing quite well for reasons too unpleasant to talk of here.

There are parallels with '1984' which is inevitable because I was heavily influenced by that book. This is set further ahead, where doublethink is the norm for everyone and the 'proles' of Orwell's book are not visited by the citizens because nobody knows they exist. It's the pure, clean world Orwell's 'Party' was aiming for. In Panoptica, they have done it.

Real life is getting closer, which is why I have to write faster. That tobacco template is moving ahead on many fronts now and it won't be long before restaurant owners will be fined if they allow you to use too much salt, off-licences and pubs penalised for selling you too many units a week and transport cafes closed down if you put two spoons of sugar in your tea. They will comply and they will enforce the rules because the penalty will fall harder on them than on you.

They'll never know when they're being watched.


Mag01 said...


Sorry, but in the eugenics tradition, they’re a little ahead
of you.


“In an
effort to keep health-care costs in check, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio took a hard line to improve the
health of its employees, The
Washington Post reported earlier this year. It fired physicians who refused
to quit smoking. It eliminated almost all fried foods, sugary sodas and trans
fats from its campus. It offered free fitness and stress-management classes to
its workers. And it began keeping track of its employees’ blood pressure,
lipids, blood sugar, weight and smoking habits. If any of these are “abnormal,”
the clinic requires that a doctor certify that the employee is taking measures
to control them or else they don’t receive an insurance rebate.”

Subrosa Blonde said...

Over the holiday the subject of salt arose in conversation. In the past year or so four people had experienced restaurants where salt was not provided on the table. Three of them thought it was an oversight but were informed it was management practice not to provide it as the chefs thought their food was seasoned adequately. They were not impressed.

The fourth had a slightly different experience. Along with his 3 male pals, they received a lecture about the dangers of excess salt and no cruet was forthcoming. When asking again for salt they were told the chef would bring it to them.

Rightly furious the 4 men decided enough and was enough and left the restaurant. Later they enjoyed a supper in a Leith fish and chip shop.

All of the restaurants were expensive eating houses.None will be revisited by these ex-customers of their friends.

Clarinda said...

Some years ago either Iceland or Finland (can't remember which) embarked on a health 'education' experiment to improve their shocking record of heart disease due to high fat diets and ......... smoking. The control group continued as usual and the research group was required to alter its life style habits. Interestingly the control group had less heart morbidity than the 'healthy' group where heart disease appeared to increase.  This was thought to relate to the additional stress and unhappiness from changing life style habits.
With the fad of reduced salt in many food products resulting, to my palate at least, in banal and unappetising food - (seasoned food does not mean salty tasting food) - I wonder how many punters now add more salt at home than would have been in the original seasoned product.
I must admit as I enjoy and take pride in my cooking I might be offended if a guest poured salt or pepper over a dish where I have taken care to balance the seasoning - one of the marks of a good cook - if the chefs were proper professionals I'm not surprised they were upset!

Legiron said...

*sigh* This book idea is fast turning into a losing battle. It'll be a documentary when it's finished and Davy Antibugger will probably narrate it.

Sod it. As long as I get paid...

Legiron said...

There is no consideration of the possibility that some like more salt than others. The clone mentality is spreading.

I put a lot of salt in things and I'm not dead yet. My father still salts everything and he's not dead yet.

It'll be illegal for us both to be alive soon. At least he'll have less time to suffer it than I will. Well, unless they enforce a cut in my salt...

Legiron said...

Well... I don't like too much pepper but I like salt. Some I know like extra pepper and not so much salt.

No matter how well you cook, people are different and what is perfect for you might need more salt from me or more pepper from my friend.

For me, add chillis. Fresh ones. Lots of them. I'll deal with the salt.

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