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07 May 2012 @ 12:16 pm
The Real LJ Idol: "Science And Technology Elimination Department"  
Science And Technology Elimination Department
real lj idol | week 26 | 908 words


Me and Jimmy found something yesterday, buried under the ground where the woodpile used to be.

We didn't know what it was. It had knobs and numbers, and looked like there might've been wires inside. We took it to Ma, hoping she'd know what to do.

You hardly ever see stuff like that anymore, not since the Remaking. The government threw all the machines away, and nobody's allowed to make new ones. Some people say gadgets are still okay—simple ones, anyway—but how can you tell what's a gadget and what's a machine? Most of the pictures and drawings are gone, too, along with the books about science and machines and history. People talk sometimes about the way things used to be, but they keep their voices quiet and they don't seem to know much of anything.

I figure they've forgotten, or maybe it's all lies.

Ma wasn't sure what we'd found, so she had to turn it in. She said that was the safest thing to do. I wish she could've told us something about it, but all she said was, "Curiosity killed the cat, Charlie." I always wondered, "What cat? What was it doing?" Because me and Jimmy were just digging in the yard and playing, and we didn't find that thing on purpose. What's wrong with digging?

They teach us a little about Before at school, but mostly we hear about the Remaking and why the Science And Technology Elimination Department still exists. People got too involved with the technology back then, too involved with their machines. They forgot their duty to God and each other, and the country was messed-up and weak. The government destroyed all the things called computers and all the fancy science, and burned all the information about them.

Some people think computers and science still exist, but only the government uses them. I heard Ma say once that the real problem was that the government didn't like people finding things out.

"What things?" I asked.

But she said, "I can't tell you that, Charlie. It's dangerous to even talk about it."

I hate that kind of answer—it's like when somebody says, "Whatever you're doing, stop it." Usually it's grown-ups who say that, and if you don't know what's bothering them, how are you supposed to stop?

I asked her who decided what to throw away and what to keep. For instance, we still have electricity, but you can't use it all the time. Each family only gets a certain amount, depending on how big the family is, and you have to decide how to use it. Most people use an electric washer to clean their clothes, but just hang the clothes up to dry afterwards. People in hot places sometimes still use air-conditioning, but if it gets cold, most people burn coal or wood to stay warm. We still have stoves and ovens and refrigerators. We have lights too, but hardly anyone ever uses them.

Ma says she was lucky to grow up on a farm, because she knew how to do a lot of things other people didn't—like chop wood and grow food, and make things to use and wear. Life after the Remaking wasn't so different from what she grew up with, just a little harder. We can't imagine how it was Before, she says, where a message could cross the world in the blink of an eye! Telegrams are still pretty fast, but it's not the same.

I asked her if she missed the past, and if she'd like to go back. The past isn't a place you can visit, she said. What's gone is gone. I think she means like Dad, but she doesn't talk about him either.

I wish she would.

I heard Uncle Pete say that Dad used to be a computer programmer. Nobody knows how he disappeared, or at least, they won't tell me. All the programmers are gone, and all the chemists and a bunch of other scientists I don't even know the words for. We don't have real doctors anymore either, just people who give shots and set broken bones. That's Ma's job now, when somebody needs her. She did something else when we were little, I think she called it avertizing, but the government got rid of it. Jobs that aren't services or don't make things aren't allowed anymore. Amusements aren't allowed either—even writing.

Since the Remaking, we all strive toward lives of purpose. That sounds pretty boring to me, but I'm not supposed say that out loud.

I don't know what I'll be when I grow up—maybe a farmer or a teacher, or a carpenter. I don't think they'd let me dig holes for a living, even though I'm pretty good at it. Jimmy says he wants to work for the S.A.T.E.D. That way, he'd get to see what kind of cool stuff people turn in, and then he'd get paid to destroy it. Ma always brings up curiosity and the cat every time he says that, but Jimmy's only six. I think he's just kidding.

None of it probably matters anyway. Deep down, we all know we're not going to have a lot of choices. Better to be a kid while you can, and not worry too much about the future.

When it finally comes, you'll have the rest of your life to learn to like whatever it is you got stuck with.

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

cindytsuki_no_bara on May 7th, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC)
this is kind of bleak but i like the bits of worldbuilding and i really like the narrator's voice. he sounds like a smart kid. and i LOVE how creative you got with the prompt.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 7th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
It seems like something you could see a government doing, though, doesn't it? Deciding that people have too much access to information, and that the technology isn't worth it in the larger sense, so... back to the Industrial+ Age!

This was a prompt that called for creativity, because I not only did not want to write something about the obvious (and practically only) interpretation of it, I knew other people probably wouldn't want to read about it either, not with some 40+ entries to get through! Urgh.
similiesslipsimiliesslip on May 7th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is so creative! I wonder why I never get ideas like this for the prompts!

It does seem sometimes that governments feel more and more threatened by their inability to control what we can learn through technology. Some countries restrict the internet more than the US and some religions (like Amish and Mennonite) live a lot like your entry.

I wonder if the US will ever go this far, "for our own good" of course (I'm sure that is what they would say.)

Thank you for making me think!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 06:42 am (UTC)
Some countries restrict the internet more than the US
Oh, yes-- China sure does (access to specific sites, and incoming content), and several countries in the Middle East want to avoid modernization altogether.

This setting combines those tendencies with some of the more awful parts of history, like the Cultural Revolutions in both Russia and China. Those made scapegoats out of certain groups of people, while in this story, the victims were all the people who might have been able to re-create the science that had been deliberately destroyed.

"for our own good" of course (I'm sure that is what they would say.)
They all seem to, don't they? Whether it's doing bad things unobserved or imposing certain values on others, governments and individuals alike seem to find it easy to rationalize doing very wrong things.

Glad this got you thinking! It's a kind of cautionary-tale in many ways, so that's good news to me!
devon99 on May 7th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
I liked this a lot. Very thought provoking and as always, nicely written.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC)
Thank you! This was actually one of the toughest prompts of all, so it was nice to get something unexpected out of it. :D
medleymistymedleymisty on May 8th, 2012 01:21 am (UTC)

So scary. I could not live in that world. It terrifies me.

I also have to agree - very creative use of the prompt! :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 06:47 am (UTC)
I could not live in that world. It terrifies me.
Can you imagine a place where writing and other arts are prohibited (ostensibly because they are not "necessary", but in the case of writing also because they can get people thinking)?

The things societies have done in the name of "betterment" throughout history include some really horrifying incidents. Just think of all of the "decadent" artists that were imprisoned or killed in the former Soviet Union, or how much easier it was for governments and individuals to get away with wrongdoing before the Internet age-- and what temptation that realization might spawn for some of them. :0
(no subject) - medleymisty on May 8th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
notodettenotodette on May 8th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
What an amazing use of this prompt. The thing I love best about your entries is seeing the original ways you come up with to tie to the subject at hand.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 06:55 am (UTC)
Sometimes the creativity is a measure of exactly how much I hated the prompt, usually because it feels like the prompt demands a single approach and I find that I don't want to write that. Once in awhile ("Twitterpated") I'll write it anyway, and sometimes I'll even take the really literal approach and make crack out of it (Quarks!)

I've seen people resort to acronyms and acrostics before, out of frustration, and as soon as my husband and I started kicking acronyms around, we quickly hit one where I thought, "Now that I could write about."

What's interesting is that it also wound up being useful in addressing the concepts of "enough" and "satisfaction" in roundabout and subversive ways. Sated and content are often the same thing... but sometimes, they really, really aren't. Just as "mush" will fill you up, but might make you long for absolutely anything else. :0

Thanks so much for reading and leaving such kind comments! I very much appreciate it. :)
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 06:58 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I also liked how SATED was an organization in this one!
Just the phrasing of "Science And Technology Elimination Department" makes me shudder. It goes against everything I believe in!

But you can sure see it growing out of repression disguised as "social improvement", along with the idea that the government will decide what is 'enough' for you, and will destroy everything else that you don't 'need.' That entire line of thinking begins a very slippery slope...
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on May 8th, 2012 07:37 am (UTC)
Poor kid. *hugs*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
There's such a difference in growing up in a time when those are the only known possibilities, and growing up knowing that there used to be more-- so much more!-- but that it is now off-limits to you.

It seems so claustrophobic and confining, just because of the context of extra knowledge. *sigh*
nodressrehersalnodressrehersal on May 8th, 2012 12:45 pm (UTC)
Well done, especially the last line.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

What a grim world these people are living in now. It's frightening to have a government embrace Ludditism when it knows how very much more is possible, but I can sure see the possibility of deciding that it's the best way to limit the public's knowledge of what you're really up to. There's always a way to spin something that self-serving into a lie that most people will buy, too.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
sarcasmoqueensarcasmoqueen on May 8th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this concept. I mean, I loathe the idea of a world where absolutely everything must serve a purpose, but the concept was intriguing. Nicely told.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
No, I know what you mean! It's an interesting idea (and seems just possible enough to be scary), but nobody who knew better would want to live in that world. :0
Myrnamyrna_bird on May 8th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
I absolutely LOVE this. I played with using an acronym for my own entry but came up empty so I am so glad to read yours! Charlie's voice is endearing and his perspective is believable.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
Yay! My husband loves to invent fake acronyms, and he mentioned this with "Education Department" first (meh). Then he said "Elimination Department" and I thought, Wait. I could write that one! Because that idea is so wonderfully wrong, and I could see a government doing that to its people.

So glad you liked this, and thanks for the kind comments!
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on May 8th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
Niiiice - your take on the prompt was so creative! I never would have thought of that.

The world you built here is chilling and believable. Sometimes I think we really aren't too far from ending up somewhere like this. Very nicely done.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I think we really aren't too far from ending up somewhere like this.
It's a scary thought, isn't it? But if you think about a shift like that being primarily about withholding information from the public, you can all-too-easily imagine a government opting to do that. After all, things were much easier for the ruling entities when it was harder for the public to find out what they were up to. :0

Thanks for reading!
A Sentient Being: Libraryalien_infinity on May 8th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
I loved your take on the prompt; it was very creative! I like dystopian fiction a lot. The world you created is downright terrifying. I so would not want to live there and don't think I could survive it. No writing? *shudders*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 8th, 2012 07:08 pm (UTC)
No writing? *shudders*
At first, I thought of "No journalism" instead (which would have been awkward to explain). But then I thought, you still have the problem of people who remember the ideas of before, and the government wanting to suppress that. And even if they solved that short-term, all it would take is one Jules Verne and you'd be halfway back on the path toward the return of technology.

Eliminating all writing, under the guise of removing "amusements" as being 'frivolous', takes care of that problem. o_O

I think I'm scaring myself with my own creepy capacity for tyranny. :0
the_day_setupthe_day_setup on May 8th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
The beauty of your acronym is that you used it to flip the topic: a future where *no* one is really "sated" with their lives.

So what happened to bring on your quasi-Orwellian scenario? That's what I want to know. Unless you're describing North Korea as is. :)

Dug it.

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 9th, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
a future where *no* one is really "sated" with their lives.
Except that they're told they "have" to be, which doesn't mean sated as much as... compliant.

Much of this story came out of that acronym-- as soon as you imagine an agency eliminating Science and Technology, you can be immediately imagining why they might want to and what lies they'd tell the public to excuse doing it.

Other parts come from the Cultural Revolution, and societies that choose to avoid modernizing (Amish, some Muslim groups, etc.). And I've been reading a book set in the early 1900s, where it's hard for the larger state or country to know what's really going on in some remote area if the locals lie about it and there's no broadly-available press to report it. Turn that around the other direction, and you can see how a goverment might find that secrecy useful. :0
A Karmic Sandbox: French Maidkarmasoup on May 8th, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
Wow, such a strong and frightening statement. Well done.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 9th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! That acronym was just irresistible-- you can so easily imagine a government running with that idea and just wreaking havoc on the idea of modernization or free-thinking. :0
basricbasric on May 9th, 2012 12:19 am (UTC)
I can see a world where fanatics got control and destroyed all technology and scientists. Would make a great book. Well done. Great idea.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 9th, 2012 06:35 am (UTC)
Thank you!

It's scary to think of a goverment making those tradeoffs-- not just of freedom and advancement, but smaller details such as, "Let people die from things that need surgery, but vaccinate them against known diseases." I.e., that it's worth losing a few people to take such a giant step back in medicine, if that change will keep the pursuit and spread of knowledge down. How incredibly cynical and self-serving.

But to gain sheer, uncontrolled power, people will do a lot of evil things. :0

Thanks for reading!