by Bill Kowaleski
In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.
part 1: The Truth
John Chester served Gates Enterprises not only as an expert video technician, but also as an instructor who taught the performers history and political science. Immediately after John’s lecture on the Great Troubles, Jiri found himself alone with the Gates’ video technician in the editing room, updating older videos. Jiri was full of questions and couldn’t wait to get John in an environment where he would be more willing to put aside the official versions of events and speak the truth.
“John, is it really true that the wealthies had no choice but to move the jobs to China and India? Didn’t they know that the rest of us wouldn’t be able to buy anything if we didn’t have money?”
John laughed. “In all my years here, nobody has ever asked me that. It is, of course, the flaw in the whole offshoring argument. If you move all the jobs away, then you just end up killing your market, and you lose along with everyone else. Unless...” He paused a moment for maximum effect.
“Unless you can sell your products somewhere else. And that worked for a long time. The wealthies sold their products in countries where people still had jobs.
“Meanwhile, the United States just kept going downhill. The wealthies were trying to drive down the standard of living until it matched that of the lower-cost countries. Unfortunately for them, it took longer than they’d planned, and the poor revolted.
“That’s when my lecture begins, with the first revolt. Officially, we have to say it was Marxist extremists who stirred up the people who caused the Great Troubles. But...” — he craned his neck to look into the hallway, then lowered his voice — “the real cause was the relentless lowering of wages, the loss of purchasing power, the resulting collapse of housing values.
“The wealthies were covered; they just moved their money to other countries where things were better, but everyone else was screwed.”
“So why did the wealthies really win?”
“Because they managed the media. They had their propagandists tell everyone that the rioting was caused by Marxists and, as the rioting continued, most people just wanted it to end. They were willing to put up with a police state.”
“But we don’t live in a police state; we have elections.”
John laughed. “Elections, yes, but if the outcome doesn’t please the power elite, they just announce the result they really wanted. Look at Bain. He had no chance against Durbin in the last election, then he did those absurd ads where he put his sins onto his opponent, accused Durbin of bonking boys. Hah, what a joke. But — and don’t tell anyone I told you this Jiri — he still lost.”
“Really! Why is he still governor?”
“That’s what I want to know. I worked on the campaign. I didn’t have much choice if I wanted to keep my job here. I saw the numbers. With 99% reporting, he was down a million votes, yet he was declared the winner. They swore us to secrecy, said we’d regret it if we told anyone.”
“I won’t tell a soul, John. You and Lea are my only friends now. You can trust me.”
They went back to work, but all Jiri could think about was how Bain was a fraud, how the man he hated more than any other person on Earth was not even the man he claimed to be.
Jiri burned to learn more, to understand enough so that he’d know how to set things right, to even the score with Bain. Later in his life he would remember this moment, the moment when he knew that he couldn’t just live for material gain, the moment when he first felt a true sense of purpose, the moment when he became a revolutionary.
Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski