I Will Own Nothing And I Will Be … Happy?

A while ago I was thinking about the Great Reset and why it appeals to so many.  It promises that all basic needs would be provided, including food, housing, clothing, medical services and other essentials without charge.  These things would be considered human rights – an extension of FDR’s four basic freedoms.  For anyone who has faced the uncertainty of job loss, of large medical expenses, or even of the simple problem of finding affordable housing, these things sound very attractive.


I thought it might be interesting to imagine what life might be like for someone a generation or two down the road if the Great Reset were implemented.  Here is a day in the life of what I imagine to be a fairly average person in their late twenties, single, college educated, urbanite.


The day begins


The sun was starting to shine into my room when I woke up.  I didn’t have an alarm clock.  We were supposed to have one, but my roommate took it with xer when xe left.  I dug into the common clothes basket to see if I could find something that was clean and that fit me.  I found some shorts, jeans, and an old sweatshirt.  Whichever suitemate was supposed to do laundry this week hadn’t, or maybe it was my former roommate’s turn.  I would have to check the work assignment schedule.


I wandered out into the kitchen to see what I could scare up for breakfast.  There was an industrial size box of corn flakes left in the cabinet, with just enough cereal for a bowlful.  The sink was piled with dirty dishes, but I found a bowl in one of the stacks, washed it out, along with a spoon.  People avoiding assigned tasks was common since there was no real penalty for skipping assignments.  I went to look at the assignment list to see who was responsible for dishwashing this week, but the list was missing.  I guess that was one way out of community service.


Looking in the refrigerator, I found a half empty carton of milk that was only two weeks past its expiration date.  It smelled ok, so I poured it over my cornflakes, cleaned off a spot on the table, and sat down to my breakfast. It was a constant problem in our suite to get people to do their assignments, whether it was laundry, dishwashing,  picking up groceries at the community dispensary, or anything else that smelled like work.  Cleaning was a particular issue, especially for the bathroom.  

Many of my suitemates had skipping assignments down to a fine art.  They always had some excuse why they had to be somewhere else when their turn came.


Today was a workday for me.  I had a Master’s degree in Gender Studies, and I had applied at the Central Occupation Clearing Center for work that would use that education.  I guess there wasn’t that much need for people to help others decide which gender they wanted to be.  Too many choices, and no real clarity about the advantages and disadvantages of each choice to really make a good decision.  

Besides, a lot of people liked to change preference frequently just for variety.  In any case, after two years on a waiting list, my education background was becoming a little outdated, especially in a fast-changing field like Gender Studies.  Meanwhile, I was assigned community work in order to make my contribution to the general welfare.


Today I was to work at the windmill recycling facility.  Windmills were still popular for electricity generation, and new windmills were being installed regularly to replace ones that had passed their useful life.  Lots of wind generators had been installed forty and fifty years earlier.  Even though their design life was thirty-five years, most were kept in service until something not easily repaired broke.  Usually that was one of the blades.  Varying wind loads put a lot of stress on the blade roots, and after a while they just snapped.  When that happened, the windmill was decommissioned, dismantled, and shipped off to recycling to recover any useful materials and prepare the rest for disposal.


Windmill replacement and recycling provided a lot of Green jobs that were important community service functions.  My assignment today was cutting up the failed blade into small chunks that could be easily ground up for disposal.  The older blades were mostly made of glass and plastic composites, back in the day when cheap petroleum made plastic a good choice for making blades.  Unfortunately, those composites don’t recycle well, so about all you can do is cut them up into pieces and bury them in landfills.  Today was my day to do cutting.  It was hot and dirty work, and I had to wear a mask to keep from breathing in the cutting dust.  Lots of people got silicosis from the glass fibers in the dust, and it would itch when it got on your skin.


At least it was better than cleaning solar cells.  Most of the solar arrays were in desert locations that were often hot, dry, and dusty.  Dust would settle on the photovoltaic cells and reduce their output.  In order to keep performance up, the cells had to be washed clean regularly.  Sure, you got an electric cart to haul the wash water drum, and a pressure sprayer to wet down the cells.  However, just spraying water on them wasn’t enough, since the dust would stick to the cell arrays.  That meant you had to break the dust loose with a big mop and wash the cells down again.  The mop was heavy when it got wet, and the work was backbreaking.  Not to mention boring.  A day of that work always left me sore and exhausted.


Anyway, I finished my breakfast, put my bowl in the sink for washing, and went to pick up a cellphone.  Most of my suitemates had already left for their assigned work and already picked out the good phones.  Because personal property had been abolished, there weren’t any personally assigned phones.  People just took whatever was available.  Most of what was left hadn’t been charged, and the only working one left had a cracked screen.  I picked it up and called transportation for a ride to my work site.  All transportation was shared, and if your work wasn’t on one of the bus lines, 

Transportation would dispatch one of the self-driving cars to take you to your destination.  It could take up to an hour for a car to arrive, but it could also arrive in a few minutes.  It would only wait five minutes before it would leave, and if you weren’t there when it arrived,  your community allowance would be docked for wasted transportation resources.


I went downstairs to wait for the car to arrive.  It wasn’t raining today, and the temperature was relatively pleasant so standing by the curb to wait wasn’t so bad.  

The car arrived after about half an hour, but when I opened the door to get in, it was obvious that someone had vomited in the front seat.  Normally, when a car returns to the central garage each day for recharge and maintenance, it is supposed to be cleaned and inspected, but it looked like this one hadn’t been cleaned for a couple of days.  I was tempted to call for another car, but unless you had a very good reason to decline a ride, you would be docked a portion of your citizen’s allowance.  That allowance was what gave you credit for discretionary activities and items that weren’t part of the basic allotment.  A declined transportation hit was a significant part of a monthly allowance, and would also show up on your social credit score. 


The car stank badly, but I didn’t want to take a hit on my allowance, so I sat in the back seat and kept the window down.  I did take time to call in a report with Central Transportation, but you always wonder how much attention they pay to complaints.  All reports are made to an answering machine, and you have to wonder if a human ever listens to them. I finally got to my work site, and happily let the car go.  Funny how such little things contribute to happiness.


Cutting up windmill blades for recycling wasn’t exactly how I had envisioned my life going.  But to continue getting all the free housing, medical care, food, and everything, we all have to contribute.  The government will assign work to everyone based on what skills and abilities you have.  I guess they figured that I didn’t have much in the way of useful skills, in spite of my graduate degree. 


In school, they taught us that this is a much more equitable system than the old Capitalist system where a few people had all the wealth, and the rest had to work at miserable jobs for minimal income just to survive.  At least now we get an allowance from the government in addition to having basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, and all provided.  Seems much better than that crazy confusing system of wages and prices and some people being paid more just because they had more skills or were more productive.  Now everyone is equal.  Still, though, I wish I had better work to do, maybe even something indoors.


Finally my shift ended.  There was a bus to take us back into the city.  It dropped us off at the central terminal where I could get a car to take me back to the apartment.  At least this one smelled better, even if the upholstery was torn in spots.


As soon as I got back, I logged into the suite internet terminal.  There was a notice waiting that I had been selected for crèche duty this evening.  In the old days, people had to live with people called parents who owned you and could abuse you as they pleased.  We are much more progressive.  We no longer have parents that way.  Some people with X chromosomes and the necessary genitalia are selected by lottery to be biological incubators, otherwise called “bios”.  Others who have Y chromosomes are selected to be genetic donors.  When the bios produce a new citizen, they are given a special allowance and are exempt from the lottery for five years.  The new citizen is placed in a crèche like the one I have to report to this evening. 


All the staff at the crèche are mandatory volunteers.  You can decline duty there, but anyone who declines will lose social credit points and forfeits a week’s allowance.  

The work isn’t too hard, but you have to be alert.  Some of the younger citizens can be difficult, and if you harm one of them you can get in serious trouble.  Mostly, though, you just have to keep them from hurting each other, and making sure the older ones are paying attention to their online lessons.


One of my previous roommates was selected for bio duty.  She wasn’t all that happy about it despite the better food and shelter allotments she got, as well as the special allowance.  I was kind of sorry to see her go as I thought we were starting to develop a special relationship.  Probably just as well that she was chosen, though, as that sort of thing can lead to feeling like the other person belongs to you.  That is the root of private property ideas that led to all the evils of the old society where they would kill each other and even have wars in order to acquire more property or to defend what they felt was theirs.  When we got rid of private property, we eliminated all those problems. 


I still miss her at times.  We could talk to each other for hours, and we liked to give each other backrubs and stuff.  I know, those are dangerous thoughts, and I should probably go for some counseling, but I really don’t want to be accused of antisocial thoughts and attachments.  Maybe I will be assigned another roommate with whom I can share some common interests. 


It was late when I finally finished my crèche duty and got back to the suite.  Someone had cooked chicken and noodles, and there was some left over.  I ate the leftovers and headed off to bed.  The assignment sheet was still missing, so I didn’t know who would be doing laundry tomorrow.  It didn’t really matter, though.  I was tired from a long day and didn’t care if the sheets hadn’t been changed for a month.  At least the pillow was fairly soft and I happily fell asleep after a long and tiring day.


By any other name


Not so long ago, there were groups of people who were provided with everything free.  They were given food, shelter, clothing, education and medical care without charge.  They were protected from violent crime.  They never feared unemployment.  

They were provided with fairs, festivals, and other free entertainment.  They owned nothing and by many accounts, were happy. 


They were called slaves.


By David Robb


David Robb is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative and a practicing scientist who has been working in industry for over 50 years. One of his specialties is asking awkward questions. A large part of his work over the years has involved making complex scientific issues clear and understandable to non-specialists. Sometimes he even succeeds.


Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

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