Down and Out in the Old World

3 marzo 2015

Etiquetas: inclasificable

Foto: morgueFile

I lived long enough to lose my mother tongue; to see the destruction of everything I once believed in or was part of; to die over one hundred times, including twenty-three suicides and four executions; to fornicate with a quite acceptable female version of myself. All in less than five years.

I first met Dan in August 2074. He led the committee sent by the Country Formerly Known as USA to promote the Bitchun Society in Southern Europe. I was appointed as spokesman of the Government of the Plurinational Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia, partly because my uncle was minister of something stupid, partly because I was one of the few relevant members of the Party who could speak some English.

Dan never understood Europe, especially Southern Europe. He was actually not even interested in trying to get to know it. I advised him not to use the word "missionary". It was insulting for us. Europe was used to sending missionaries abroad, not to receiving them. But he didn't listen. He just wanted to build in the Old World an exact replica of the Bitchun Society that so wonderfully, in appearance, was working in America.

* * *

Our first meeting took place in Leuven and was a complete waste of time. Dan spoke in English; his words were translated by a human interpreter into Flemish, language that was official in the region, although nobody in the meeting could understand it. The Flemish version of the speech was then displayed on our terminals, through a relatively accurate automatic translation, in thirty-four different languages and dialects (French not being one of them), even there were only twenty-nine attendants. Our questions and remarks, always enunciated in our more or less correct English, followed the opposite process to be finally reformulated in English for the main speaker to answer them. What Dan told us, we already knew.

"Our Society has eradicated death, hunger and poverty. People are basically interconnected among them and with the central server through brain interfaces. The whole contain of our brain (memories, ideas, feelings...) can be backed up in the main server. Once somebody dies, we can produce a grown-up clone and restore on it the last backup in matter of hours. The result is at all effect the original person, in body and mind, or in body and soul, if you prefer." I think I saw something similar to a glow of sarcasm in his eyes when he pronounced these last words. "In other words: he or she is resurrected. People frequently decide to deadhead, that is, to temporally die in order to wake up with a different age or simply in a different place. For instance, the members of this committee deadheaded in New Your yesterday evening and were refreshed in Brussels two hours ago."

Some questions from the participants reflected the doubts and worries of their respective governments. Denmark, for instance, asked if these brain interfaces were open source or proprietary code and if there was a monopoly or a free market in its production and distribution. France stated their concerns about data protection with the whole story of the backups. Netherlands asked if the committee members had gone through passport control and customs after resurrecting. Poland asked, with genuine interest, how could the capital penalty be still executed in Texas, and how many times it was technically possible and legally allowed to kill the same individual. Dan very politely ignored all this questions and went on.

"Money does not exist anymore. Everybody has everything they need. Scarcity simply does not exist in the Bitchun Society. A fully automated industry produces everything, from the very basic goods to the most superfluous luxuries you can imagine. Human work, when present, is always free and volunteer."

I looked around, expecting somebody to ask where the raw materials came from, who cleaned the toilets or what was done with so many corpses. Nobody had questions in this regard and of course I, representing a social-democrat government, didn't want to spoil the moment.

"The main cohesive element in our society is the Whuffie, that is, a non-material value that can be quantified, given and removed. It is a kind of social value, an indicator of reputation in a broad and complex sense..."

"Similar to the Facebook 'Like'?" asked the Italian fellow.

"Exactly".

* * *

Given that the European Union had long ago almost disappeared, holding only some nominal competences in waste management and youth policies, the decision of joining or not, and in which terms, the Bitchun Society was a domestic issue. Lively debates took place in the eighteen Parliaments of the country and twelve referendums were celebrated, of which nine were declared unconstitutional. There was even a referendum to decide if another referendum was to be declared unconstitutional.

The right-wing was attracted by the Bitchun Society because it came from America, but distrusted it because it looked kind of communist. The left-wing was seduced by the communist looking of the idea, but suspected because it came from America. The labor unions spent several months discussing what their role would be in a society without work and finally refused the deal, although nobody had asked them.

The public debate went on a bit longer, but came abruptly to an end on 20th November 2075, when the King Pablo Iglesias III dissolved all at once the Parliament and announced in an emotional speech that he had decided, "in name of the decent people", to impose the Bitchun Society in the Plurinational Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia. He assured that the implantation would be gradual and according to the singularities of every nationality in the State. Early next morning, the army occupied all local and regional administrative buildings, as well as the most influential broadcasting stations.

I was then honored to be appointed by His Majesty as Undersecretary of Bitchun Affairs.

* * *

From that time, I remember Dan advising me against the possible threat of religion.

"We had a lot of that stuff in America. Religions, all religions, are always against progress. Obviously, once we are able to store the full personality of a human being in a hard drive and restore in on a new body, it is clear that there is nothing like a soul. There is no place for spiritualism in the Bitchun Society."

"I wouldn't worry about that, Dan," answered I. "In the Plurinational Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia we have an official religion, National-Catholicism, since 2038, short after the Third Vatican Council. The head of the Church and the King are the same person. Islam is recognized in the Basque Country, for historical reasons. But we don't need to be afraid; Muslims have always been collaborative. The Regla de Ochá is tolerated in the South, but they don't have a visible leader. Of course, Buddhism is strictly forbidden and persecuted, just like in the whole of Europe."

"What about Judaism?"

"We expelled the Jews from the country back in 2043. Nevertheless, the main European synagogues joined the Hare Krishna movement a few years ago."

* * *

During the following days the whole country enjoyed a frankly festive atmosphere, although there were some pitiful misunderstandings. Having being proclaimed from the rooftops that the country was from now on part of the Bitchun Society, and therefore nobody could lose their lives anymore, around half a million people died in the celebration, by joyfully killing themselves or by well-intentionally exterminating each other. Once again, the rudimentary Spanish people didn't quite understand that a political resolution needs to be backed by material resources.

Dan, as Commander-in-Chief of the Bitchun Mission, was the maximum responsible for these material resources. He was urged by me, on behalf of the King, to set up as soon as possible the necessary equipment to effectively implement the promised wonders. As part of the agreement between the Plurinational Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia and the Country Formerly Known as USA, the latter would provide, through a limitless credit line, all necessary human and material resources to ensure a successful transition. Obviously, nobody asked how, when, who or if the credit was going to be repaid.

The next months were a continuous coming and going of American guys installing servers, network devices and backup terminals. There was a significant delay because the former state-owned Telefónica claimed that the installation be put out to a tender. After a legal battle, the conflict was solved on 23th February 2076 by renationalizing the company.

Nearly 80 million people needed to get their brain interface installed. A team of three million male Mormons especially came from Utah knocked door after door installing the gadget with the aid of a simple syringe. It was basically an intelligent microscopical device that would connect itself to the central neural system of the host.

Once the device was installed, people were permanently interconnected. It was possible to get information of a person, object or place just by thinking of it. Images, sounds, smells and sensations could be recreated directly in the mind of the subject. Facebook, Amazon and Angry Birds were installed by default. Three days later, a non-authorized app allowing free downloads of The Big Band Theory episodes became viral.

At the beginning of November 2076, the King solemnly announced that he would become the first Spanish citizen in deadheading, that is, he would temporally die and get refreshed in a new body from a backup. This would happen during a public act on 20th November, exactly one year after decreeing the adoption of the Bitchun Society.

The King deadheaded at 12:00 and was refreshed on a previously force-grown body (rather more athletic and somewhat twenty years younger) at 12:46. To his great surprise, in this 46 minutes three doctors and a notary called by his beloved firstborn Pablito had certificated his death and the Prince had been coronated, under the name of Kevin Pelayo I, by the Bishop of Sigüenza-Guadalajara, in a quick, but emotive ceremony, exclusively aired by Telecinco.

The new King was kind enough to designate me as Minister of the Bitchun Society.

* * *

Once the deadhead-and-refresh system was widely available, it quickly became very popular. Taking advantage of the legal loophole around deadheading, people killed themselves for the weirdest reasons. Around one and a half million guys hara-kiried to get their live insurance paid or to stop repaying their mortgage. Over two hundred thousand teenage-in-love couples killed themselves to re-create the popular romance of the Lovers of Teruel. Many others shot themselves systematically every morning if they woke up with hangover, or even, as a preventive measure, before going to sleep, if they had drunk a Cuba Libre too many. Finally, Russian roulette became very popular in secondary schools and had to be vividly discouraged (although not forbidden) by many school principals, tired of starting the day with twenty-four students and ending it with barely half a dozen, some of them with serious brain damage, often requiring a coup de grâce. Considering that the backup was performed typically only weekly (generally on Sunday after the Holy Mass), teachers complained that many students forgot almost everything due to the fact of being dead.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística conducted, at my request, a fascinating research about the most common suicide methods. Shooting oneself was of course the preferred one, especially since guns were freely distributed in every local church by missionaries of the American Rifle Association. Throwing oneself under the wheels of a train was also extremely popular, to the point that the railway company scheduled empty trains just to run over honest citizens. Major cities decided to limit the number of people who could jump under trams, to avoid breakdowns in the locomotive, and regulated some places of cultural interest, near the cathedral or other emblematic buildings, where one could only get smashed after paying a special tax.

It was really extraordinary to learn how many citizens enjoyed being killed by animals, especially lions, in the zoo of Barcelona. After a couple of weeks, the lions were so full, that they couldn't literally eat anyone else, some of them dying from dyspepsia. Folks who couldn't get themselves eaten by lions were so frustrated that tried a luck with tigers, elephants, penguins or zebras, with different levels of achievement.

Dan looked worried.

"What's up?"

"I never saw something like this before. These guys simply love to be killed. Do you know that we've produced more clones in three weeks than we planned for two years? We are running out of budget."

"Budget? I thought that the Bitchun Society had no pecuniary problems any more."

"Don't be so naïve, Leopoldo." Dan always called me Leopoldo, although it is not my name. I never really cared. "Do you know how much an adult body costs?"

"To be honest, I've no idea. But we have plenty of corpses out there. Can we not do some recycling?"

"Fuck off, Leopoldo. Fuck off."

"But Dan, you didn't tell us. You showed up here promoting deadheading as the coolest way of life. What did you expect?"

"The system has been available for twenty days now. Please tell me, how many times did you deadhead?"

"Thirty-nine. But six of them were just tests and once it was because I didn't want to meet my mother-in-law."

"Shit! That's so irresponsible! Look at me. I deadheaded only twenty-three times in fourty-five years!"

"But I'm a Minister! And you're not married!"

* * *

At the beginning, nobody wanted to talk about it. But it very quickly became an open secret: a big part of the male Spanish population felt uncomfortable with their new bodies. The riots started short after New Year 2077.

"Why are they complaining?" asked Dan, astonished, pointing at the enraged crowd through the window of my office in the Ministry.

"They miss their foreskin."

"Their what?"

"You know, the skin at the end of the penis. To be honest, I miss mine too. Why are these clones always circumcised? Is it to save some raw materials?"

"No! It's just the standard way. You know, most people prefer it..."

"This is not America, Dan." I was very serious. "We like to have our glans warm down here."

At the beginning, Dan was reluctant, but he soon understood the meaning of thirty million local men displeased with their penis. After a few telephone calls, the system was reconfigured, leaving the foreskin as a user option.

* * *

Once the basic deadhead was commonly accepted, by the middle of March 2077, a major update was released: one could now decide to be refreshed in a modified clone. It was possible to chose the age and physical condition, or to correct physical defects. It was said that, in America, some people became kind of freaks with eight arms and seven legs. But in Spain, basically bigger penis and tits were requested. Personally, I got both of them and was quite satisfied.

Some people started thinking that, if it was possible to die and then to be restored on a clone, it should also be possible to be restored on a clone without dying. I spoke about that with Dan.

"Why should anybody want to do that?" asked him.

"No idea. Maybe they're lonely. Or they want to have someone to chat with their wives."

"That's no way! Immoral! Playing to be God!"

"Really, Dan?"

The idea of creating multiple clones was gaining popularity. An Ethical Committee composed by the Church, the Royal Family and the Confederation of Saving Banks was appointed to discuss whether the technique should be allowed or not. After a short deliberation, the Bishop of Barbastro announced that they had no objection.

Clones proved to be an excellent system to optimize the productivity. It was a pity that, once work had been abolished, productivity didn't have a use anymore. The national population grew from 80 to 390 million in three weeks, to the annoyance of Dan and his team.

One of the most curious trends in this time was the so-called clone-self-sex, or sex with a clone of oneself. Most of the times, but not always, the selected clone was a version of oneself of the opposite gender. For some months, I had a female version of myself as companion, and my wife, a male version of herself. It was very satisfactory. Unfortunately, we never had group sex, because my wife, I have to tell, is very conservative.

Unfortunately, due to budget restrictions, clones were first restricted to three per family, then finally banned and massively destroyed on 28th December 2077.

* * *

At the beginning of 2078, Third Year of the Bitchun Age, mind implants were made available. That is, one could get installed a piece of knowledge, a memory, an experience or a feeling. This was always done through the subtle method of killing someone and refreshing them in a new, expensive, ordinarily uncircumcised body.

The most obvious applications of this technique, like learning languages or acquiring a wide culture in a few minutes, were not always the preferred ones. After all, not having to find a job anymore, few found it useful to be able to speak several languages or to know much of anything. Instead of learning, citizens of the Plurinational Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia found forgetting much more attractive.

So people showed up with enthusiasm at the refreshing centers, run mainly by the Social Security (except in Madrid, where an arrangement with Grupo Quirón was made), asking to forget the most disparate things: an old boyfriend, am embarassing moment with one's brother-in-law, the latest corruption scandal of one's favorite political party or the last season of Real Betis Balompié.

It is worth to mention the linguistic and nationalistic issue. On 12th October 2078, Jordi Pujol IV was the first one in purposely forgetting his Spanish and French, keeping Catalan as his only language. The initiative was widely celebrated and inspired the beginning of a new era in language policy. Aragon was pioneer in making it compulsory to have, in every refresh, Aragonese (variant Ansotano, Cheso or Patués) implanted as primary language. The previous mother tongue of the subject could only be preserved as a foreign language, with the level of a recurring tourist at the most. Soon Catalonia, Andalusia, Basque Country and Valencia (Mallorca had long ago became part of Germany) followed the example.

I happened to be in Manresa at the time visiting some old relatives. I accidentally died in the course of some experiment involving cocaine, orujo and Prozac. When I woke up, all I could say in Spanish was "Dos cervezas por favor" and "Viva Mexico cabrones!". I got so frustrated, that I decided to reset the area of my brain commonly used to store the mother tongue and fill it with pictures of Samantha Fox instead. Since then, I am one of the few guys out there who don't have a mother tongue. Of course I can communicate reasonably, but not naturally, in the most spoken languages in the world, English and Pashto.

I have been often asked why I never got Spanish reinstalled as mother tongue. The answer is simple: it would be a standardized Spanish, or the Spanish of someone else. The language of my family, my childhood, is gone forever. Now that I think of it, most of my past, my roots, seem to be gone for good. When I try to evocate early memories, I project half-naked holograms of Samantha Fox instead, up to 20 meters away, to great consternation of my friends and acquaintances, including felow members of the Government.

* * *

By Christmas 2079 the Bitchun Society was running reasonably well. People did basically what they wanted and got everything their needed. As a result, the whole coutry fell into a deep depression.

"This Bitchun thing is terribly boring," I complained. "How do you spend your time in America?"

"That depends. Of course, the masses essentially do drugs and have empty sex. But the elites are pretty creative. They paint pictures, compose symphonies or design new attractions in Disney World," was Dan's answer.

"Are you kidding me?"

"Don't you have a Disney World here?"

"Not anymore. We just have a Santiago Segura theme park in Los Monegros. But it's a bit demode."

"What do you do then when you're bored?"

"We depose the King."

* * *

My first pronunciamiento took place on 23rd February 2079. The King understood it as it was, a supreme act of historical boredom. He was indulgent with me; I was executed by firearm on 3rd May, in the course of a wonderful party. After I was refreshed, he huged me and named me lieutenant of artillery, "in reward for your loyalty", he said.

Still three coups d'état followed. All of them failed, of course. There is nothing as ugly, from a historical point of view, as a successful coup. I was respectively hanged, crucified and beheaded, and respectively appointed Prime Minister, President of the Conferencia Episcopal and Viceroy.

* * *

Dan announced me, in perfect Galician, that his Mission was ended.

"You are a mature country now. I have nothing else to do here."

"I will miss you."

"Me neither."

"What will you do now?"

"I'll got back to a backup from early 2074 and stay away from you and your country forever."

"Before you go, the Plurinational Kingdom of Spain and Catalonia will celebrate a great party in your honor."

Dan and his Committee were burnt in a touching thank-giving ceremony, before being refreshed in their homeland. It was 4th July 2079.