Landscape in my Head

Landscape in my Head

There’s a landscape in my head

It comes from the national zeitgeist.

The combined will of everyone

How every last sentiment is priced.

I’d like it to be compassionate,

Outward looking, caring and true.

But Brexit unleashed the nastiness

The racism just grew and grew.

Now we’re isolated on our own

With the ‘Little Englander’ mentality.

Blaming all the foreigners

For the blunder that is our reality.

It empowered all the nationalists

Who crawled out from every crevice.

Snarling their xenophobic slogans

Like bulldogs full of menace.

It’s not just the wealth we’ve squandered,

Greedily snatched by profiteers;

It’s the friendships that we’ve shat on

Built up through many years.

The landscape that I now live in

Is made by ugly bullying pigs.

Created by arrogant Brexiteers

And a bunch of Tory prigs.

The England that I crave

Is tolerant, outward and true.

The one that welcomed the Huguenots,

And stood up for the Jew.

An England worth fighting for

Not narrow-minded arrogance.

I’ll strive for a better vision

Worthy of taking a stance!

Opher – 11.4.2021

For me it isn’t just the money that’s been wasted or the nasty little profiteers who saw an opportunity to make millions. It’s not even the monetary costs that will throw millions into poverty and cause decades of austerity. It’s not the loss of jobs or the firms going bust or fleeing into Europe. It’s not the masses of red tape and the curtailing of my liberties.

No.

For me it is the emotional impact – the change from an outward looking country full of tolerance, cooperation and friendship to an isolated nation viewing the ‘foreigner’ as the enemy. The rise of xenophobia and racism is just the expression of this unpleasant nationalistic fervour. It’s empowered the fascists, racists and scum.

I’m not suggesting that all Brexiteers are racist fascists. But by voting for such a damaging outcome they have unleashed and empowered the worst slimy breed.

It’s going to take decades to undo the harm.

England is so much the less.

Farm 703 – The Human Project

Farm 703 – The Human Project

 

Farm 703 where humans are controlled by bacteria.

Farm 703 where we are a project created by the Farm Manager.

Farm 703 where there is a move to terminate the human project …

703 where Head Office will decide on the fate of humanity.

They are allowing me to write this story.

They do not think you will believe it.

Extract

Foreword

A long time ago I read an article in a magazine. It said that in a healthy human being ninety nine out of every hundred cells in our bodies were bacterial. I have since seen other articles that put that number a bit lower, but they all agree, the majority of cells in our bodies are bacterial. Even in our own selves we are outnumbered!

That article set me thinking. Are we being farmed by bacteria? Is all human history dictated by bacteria? Are we being controlled?

I thought that there was a good Sci-fi story lurking in there but I could not figure out how to write it. There were so many stumbling blocks – one being that bacteria only live for a matter of seconds – less than a minute – before they undergo fission.

The thought stuck around in my head but went no further. Then I had this idea – I could have continuity if, when the bacterium underwent fission, there was a primary and secondary organism produced. That way the primary bacterium could live forever. It set me off. I had my continuity.

The next problem was intelligence. Could a bacterium, possessing no brain, be intelligent? Well scientists do not really understand how intelligence works. Consciousness is still a mystery and this is Sci-fi. I can make my bugs highly intelligent if I want. So I did. Bacteria are highly intelligent.

This then is Farm 703 – planet Earth – a place colonised by intelligent bacteria that have created all other forms of life.

Farm 703 – a world where evolution of other creatures has been engineered in order to feed and house bacteria.

Farm 703 – a farm where all that matters are the statistics on productivity – the holding capacity, the biomass, the number of bacteria housed.

Farm 703 – where the Project Manager, Zane 1, has deliberately created an intelligent form of life – human beings – as an experiment – a long-tern project to protect Earth against an extinction event.

Farm 703 – where human beings are proving difficult to control and are busy wrecking the place.

Farm 703 – where Head Office has become involved and is deliberating, in the interests of efficiency, whether to replace the project manager and eradicate humans, or continue with the experiment.

Farm 703 – a farm where the project manager in waiting is doing everything in her power to destabilise the farm and undermine the established project manager.

Welcome to Farm 703. This is where we live. They are allowing me to write this story. They do not think you will believe it.

It’s a bit weird, a bit like a surreal movie, but it’s what is going on in your head.

Ron Forsythe – 8th March 2020

Chapter 1

‘Are you certain nothing can be done?’ Zane 1 asked in exasperation, her membranes blue with anger, her flagella dangling listlessly – a symptom of her extreme annoyance.

This should not be happening,’ she thought to herself. ‘They should have exerted better mastery over their beasts.’

‘They are just not susceptible to any control,’ Cadg 777654 replied in a highly agitated manner, on the verge of panic. ‘This bunch of humans never have been from the start. When they get all hyped up like this, we are completely helpless. It’s as if we aren’t here. They get into this emotional state and take no notice of us at all.’ There was open horror in her voice. She was jabbering. Life as a manager at any level was extremely precarious. There were always a trillion others pressing to take your place. For a division manager to be accessed by Zane 1, the Project Manager of Farm 703, was harrowing enough at the best of times. To have it happen when you were in the midst of a crisis, when your human subunits were completely out of control, was nothing short of terrifying. It usually augured replacement and being cast back into the mindlessness of the masses. To be mobbed was every manager’s greatest fear. She knew it was about to happen to her. It filled her with despair and dread.

Cadg 777654 could not be more desperate. She’d only been a human manager for fifty years and had already worked her way up to cohort responsibility. She had been made responsible for hundreds of human subunits in a fishing community on the Faroe Islands. The problem was that this latest project was impossible. Her subunits were not very responsive at the best of times. No matter what she tried she could not seem to influence them in the least. This assignment had seemed such a good one; a promotion, but it was really a death knell. She’d known almost straight away, the day her capsule delivered her to her new subunit, that it was going to be extremely difficult. These human creatures simply did not respond well to their commands at the best of times. They had their customs and traditions and took great pride in them. What could she do? No matter what she tried they did not take any notice. It was like riding a wild beast. When they got something in their heads there was no stopping them. It was frightening.

Then, in the midst of total disaster, at the worst possible moment, Zane 1 herself tunes in. What could possibly be worse? Cadg 777654’s whole team were helpless. They were all mere passengers. It was useless. They were totally ineffective. What would Zane 1 think? Well what could she possibly think? Being a passenger was the worst thing you could be for any Bacc. There was no hope.

Cadg 777654  knew that she was bound to get mobbed, sent down to the mindless mass – they all were. Her whole body was deep blue and her flagella flailed about hopelessly. She was certain she was doomed. She sat in the cortex of her host and helplessly watched as he completely ignored all her promptings and gleefully waded out into the bay to commit murder, his mind rampaging in a storm of electrified anticipation, her shrill commands brushed off without so much as a thought.

Out in the bay the flotilla of fishing craft was expertly herding the large pod of dolphins into the shallows. The terrified creatures were churning the waters, attempting to escape, their clicks, blows and loud whistles were rising above the threshing of the water created by the beating of their tails.

Already the army of eager men, women and children, dressed in waders, armed with gaffs and long knives, were wading out into the midst of the frenzied creatures. In a thrall of excitement, oblivious to any inner voices of reason, they began gaffing the creatures with their barbed hooks and sawing into their bodies with their honed knives. The stricken beasts lunged and bucked in terror and agony as they tried frantically to escape. Their whistling shrieks rose above the general noise of the pandemonium.

The waters turned blood red. The bodies piled up in lines on the beach. The thrashing and squealing became less as the last of the dolphins were butchered alive.

Zane 1 watched the scene right up to when the victorious group of human subunits, young and old, all covered in gore and full of exhilarating hormones, all utterly out of control, posed on the beach in front of the hundreds of dead mammals, for a photo. They looked so proud and gleeful without a thought for the creatures they had so cruelly killed. It was part of their heritage. They considered it a right. It wasn’t about food. There were many more dolphins on that beach than the humans could possibly need. But it had been another successful hunt in the Faroes, a tradition that went far back into the forgotten mists of history, a tradition that united the fishing community in blood and one that spelt doom for their bacterial controllers.

Zane 1 tuned out in disgust. In her view it was just another wanton destruction of valuable real estate. Trillions made homeless. It was symptomatic of so much that was going wrong in Farm 703. What was the matter with these people, these humans? Why were they so difficult to control? What filled them with such cruel blood lust? It was yet another failure. Even though she could appreciate the difficulties, particularly with that group of humans, she felt that things could have been done better at an earlier stage. That team of Baccs should have gained far better control of their subunits.

 She tuned into Jugo 66543. She was always waiting to carry out Zane 1’s instructions.

‘Divisional manager,’

‘Yes PM,’ Jugo 66543, her operational manager, promptly replied in the most deferential manner, assuming a pleasing orange colour, her cilia waving in attractive patterns. She had been waiting patiently in the wings. You were always at your most responsive when you received a tune from the PM.

‘Have Cadg 777654 and her whole team mobbed,’ Zane 1 instructed, flashing a wave of green across her skin and waving a single flagellum to signal her disgust at what she had just witnessed.

Putting that unpleasant business behind her she tuned into Tun 888954 for a more upbeat experience. Tun 888954 was someone she’d been following for a while – a rising star. After that poor start she felt that she needed something to give her a bit of hope and brighten up the day. Her integument had stayed distinctly green following that first tune.

‘How are things?’ She asked, without introducing herself, consciously changing the colour of her membranes to a more pleasing orange. Tun 888954 would instantly recognise the aura. She had no need to introduce herself.

‘Very good,’ Tun 888954 replied brightly, flashing back a confident red. She was the leader of a small cohort who were currently controlling eight humans – a militant bunch of environmentalists. ‘We’ve broken into the compound and are doing as much damage as we can.’

Tun 888954 seemed jubilant. Her human subunit – Millie Tong – was a fearless combatant of the first order, very susceptible to control. She was leading a small group who had already successfully sabotaged a number of environmentally damaging corporations.

Right now, they were in Brazil, taking on an illegal logging company. The target was a compound in which the company kept their equipment – delimbers, feller bunchers, log loaders and trucks.

When all the loggers had left the group of saboteurs approached and, with wire cutters quickly cut through the perimeter fence. Having broken into the compound they were setting about wrecking the place, breaking into the huts, smashing up chain saws and systematically destroying the vehicles and stores. Armed with their bolt cutters, knives, sugar and petrol they aimed to put the operation out of business. The lorries, tractors and heavy plant vehicles were being targeted. They were pouring sugar into petrol tanks, ensuring that everything was either cut up or covered in petrol to be set alight. They intended to show that there was no profit to be made from destroying pristine rainforest.

Zane 1 watched the group set about their task. As she observed the way the human subunits, tightly controlled by their Bacc handlers, went about their business her colour turned a deeper orange. Soon, as the humans slipped out through the perimeter wire the way they’d come in, the whole of the compound was a roaring fire. With a final wave and flash of red she tuned out as the whole place was blazing nicely. There would not be many trees cut down by that firm anymore. A bit more of this kind of positive news and she might even achieve a mild red before the day was out.

‘Jugo 66543?’ She murmured, focussing her tune.

‘Yes PM,’ Jugo 66543 answered immediately.

‘When this latest mission in Brazil is complete have Tun 888954 promoted,’ Zane 1 instructed, waving her anterior flagella in a satisfied manner. ‘She’s got excellent control over those human subunits. I want her in a command role, here in the control centre. We need as much experience here as we can muster.

So, the day progressed, tuning in and micromanaging.

Zane 1 always liked to spend the morning switching between tunes, getting a picture at the ground floor of what the planet was about and taking a personal interest in what the Baccs under her were doing. It did no harm for everyone to know the PM was about and could drop in on you any minute. It also did no harm to directly promote and demote – and not leave that business up to your division managers. The personal touch – that was what was so important. Having presence kept everything tight. That was the theory.

A leader had to have full knowledge of how things were and had to have complete control. How else were decisions going to be effective?

Zane 1 had been Project Manager for Farm 703 for over 300,000 years now. You did not get to keep a position like that, for that length of time, without being good at what you did.

But that was then and this was now.

She wriggled her flagella and squirmed, her colour changing to an insipid yellow, as she thought about it. Things had not been going too well lately. Biomass was well down and Head Office, who had been monitoring this for some considerable time, was beginning to take a keen interest. That was not good. But Zane 1 had been through these things before. This wasn’t her first crisis. There had been a number of ups and downs since she took over from Lec 76. She thought she could weather this one out too.

Back in the early days, following Lec 76’s botched host transfer and subsequent loss, she had suffered many catastrophes with glaciations and tropical ages. Those difficulties had prompted a number of Head Office investigations that had all come to nothing. But Zane 1 knew that those crises were not of her own making; this one was. Head Office was likely to take a totally different view of what was going on now, particularly as it had been continuing for some time now and showed no sign of improving.

If only she could figure out what the problem was? She had a crack team, under Suk 83, who had been working on controlling these human subunits for centuries. She had every faith in Suk 83 but nothing seemed to work. It was a mystery. Suk 83 would develop new methods for controlling humans that seemed effective for a time only to find that they all fell apart and the humans were behaving just as bad as ever.

But Head Office wasn’t the only mould in her nutrient, Malco 145 was doing all she could to oust her. Zane 1 knew that. It was the usual thing. Malco 145 was the leader of the main alternative management team. They were waiting in the wings ready to take over control of the farm should it start to fail, and they had been waiting for some considerable time – over three hundred thousand years to be precise, and that was a long time. So it probably wasn’t a surprise that they were eager to get Zane 1 out and were kicking up a fuss with Head Office, spreading rumours and filing derogatory reports.

If Zane 1 was honest with herself she knew that was not a difficult thing to do – given the long-term decline in the farm. Productivity was slumping as the humans increased in numbers and were busy destroying everything in their path. Malco 145 had an easy target and she was going for it. She had opposed Zane 1’s idea right from the start. She hated the humans. She wanted the human experiment to end and was making the point that removing them was the only way to restore the fortunes of the farm. The management team in waiting would cull the humans if they had their way, and Zane 1 knew that Head Office might just agree with them.

But Zane 1 obstinately felt that she had the measure of both Malco 145 and Head Office. She just needed time to bring things firmly under control. She would control the humans, get the farm functioning at a high level and prove Malco 145 wrong. For her the human project was of prime importance.

In her quieter moments of contemplation she had to admit to herself that Malco 145 did have a point; the major problem with the farm was definitely the humans. They were proving a disaster. But then humans had been her pet project. It was up to her to ensure they worked and that is what she was trying to do. She was determined to get them functioning even if it temporarily put the farm in jeopardy.

In the meantime she was striving as hard as she could to keep the farm ticking along efficiently. She did not intend to allow things to slide and she certainly did not intend to be usurped by a low-life like Malco 145.

For Zane 1, living within the nutrient gel of a neuronal cell, the day was conveniently artificially divided into three sections. Quaintly, following the human lead and her status as a humanophile, she called them morning, afternoon and evening. Baccs did not sleep. There was no night. Their whole existence was one of wakefulness.

She, along with the rest of her colleagues in the control centre, lived among the organelles within that cell, simultaneously melding into the entire sensory apparatus of their host and able to tune in to other fellow Baccs, Coccs and Spirs at will. Tuning was a complex psychological mechanism, a type of telepathy. Tuning allowed them all to communicate. It also enabled them to control, or at least exert influence, over their hosts. In that way they dictated the lives of all creatures in the farm. Baccs, due to their size and anatomical limitations, had restricted ability to develop and build their own machines, but had little need. They lived inside cells, supplied by their hosts with everything they required. Their ability to tune enabled them to control their hosts and see the world around them. There was little else that they required. From their earliest days they had organised the evolution of their hosts so that they could optimise the numbers of Baccs. They effectively farmed all the animals in their environment.

Over time they had created the wide spectrum of life on the planet. It was a rich interlacing web of great sophistication and range, providing nutrients and homes for the zillions of their Mic citizens. That was their sole purpose. To ensure the farm functioned efficiently and Mics were able to prosper.

Given the correct nutrition Zane 1, like most other Baccs, fissed every thirty seconds. It was a binary fission of two unequal halves. Her progeny, considered to be of worthy stock were taken off as soon as the split was complete. Zane 1 had become totally used to the team of Spiro nurses that cared for her and escorted her offspring away. She did not even register they were there. Fissing was part of everyday life, like absorbing nutrients or excreting, you did not even register it.

Morning was spent, floating in the fluid protoplasm of their host cell, tuning in to various cohorts all over the planet. She found that a crucial part of the role, if, at times, as with today’s dolphin episode, a tad depressing. The afternoon was spent in planning, meetings and bureaucracy. Here she physically met with, or tuned with, other members of the management team, nestled in a nicely situated area amid the folds of endoplasmic reticulum, putting into effect the lessons she had gleaned from the morning – or at least trying to. Even within their cellular environment the Mics had no need for much in the way of technology. Their resources were mainly expressed through their mental abilities. Those abilities were prodigious. Whatever physical tools they used and whatever machines they built were usually protein based, such as propulsion units used for flitting or spikes used for quantum jumping. If they required any greater technology they simply employed their hosts – but there was generally little need. Within their hosts’ cells they had everything they required. They had no need for advanced technology. Even so, there were times when technology, on a grand scale, was required. That is when their limitations became a nuisance. They had to get their subunits to meet their requirements and they were not always responsive.

Zane 1 loved her work, but it was the evening time that she enjoyed best. She had become something of a humanophile. She loved human culture. It was sophisticated, varied, emotionally charged and thought provoking, like with no other subunit that had ever been created. To have an intelligent creature that enjoyed life was a wonder. They added a dimension that could not be accessed through any other subunit. She could not imagine life without them and felt sorry for anyone else who had to spend their life in a lesser animal. That would have seemed so incredibly boring. As far as she was concerned life without music, art, reading and the enormous variety of taste and experience was hardly worth living. Imagine living in a large herbivore such as a sheep – the thought sent shudders through her integument.

Her command centre had always been set up in a suitable human subunit, a host usually selected for their amenability, importance and controllability, but Zane 1 always added the extra attribute – they had to show taste – to enjoy good food, drink and the arts.

For, in the evening, Zane 1 liked to relax. She, through her own subunit could vicariously read, watch films, go out to various theatrical events, listen to music, dance, visited art galleries or museums, eat well, drink well, dress up and enjoy any of the activities that humans got up to. It was a wealth of experience that most Mics could not even imagine and one that Zane 1 valued above all other.

Zane 1 was in control. She would directly influence her host to choose an experience that she wanted on any particular night. On the occasions when she could not get her host to do something interesting, because they were tied up with some unavoidable work or event, she would be forced to tune in to another human subunit. But that was never quite the same. Tuning in at a distance reduced the vividness of the experience. It was never as good as when it was first-hand directly through your own host. She had even been known to go through the risky business of host swapping in order just to achieve a different set of experiences first-hand. You could not beat direct experience. It was always so much better than indirect tuning. So she chose her hosts with care. The most important aspect concerning all her subunits had been their enjoyment of life.

Zane 1 thoroughly relished her time as Project Manager and was not about to relinquish it for anyone – let alone a usurper like Malco 145, someone who she viewed as a complete philistine, someone who did not appreciate the nuance and wonder of life, of human culture, of the arts. If Malco 145 had her way she would completely do away with humans and not feel the slightest remorse or loss. Zane 1, on the other hand, was determined to control these troublesome wayward creations of hers and tame them and valued the richness of their culture above all else. She had a vision of a wonderful farm in which humans played an essential role in making it orderly and extremely efficient.

But she knew Head Office was getting extremely jittery. Her human project was in the balance. It caused her great distress to think about it. If Head Office lost faith, she knew she herself would likely be mobbed, Malco 145 would take over, and the human experiment would certainly be abandoned.

Everything hung in the balance.

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Sci-fi novel – New Eden – a cure for overpopulation. A lethal virus.

New Eden

 

How do you solve the problem of a world that has been ruined by overpopulation?

What part does a small group of genetically mutated children have in the future of mankind?

How might an eccentric genetics engineer be involved?

New Eden tells the story of dystopian disaster and unlikely renewal …

Foreword

I first mapped this novel out in 1996. It was originally called ‘Ebola in Eden’.

At the time Ebola was a virus that had already been around for twenty years. The first recorded outbreaks were in 1976 in Zaire and Sudan. The disease probably originated in primates, including chimpanzees and gorillas, and is also transmitted by bats.

It is quite likely that the first cases in humans were contracted from the butchering of ‘bush-meat’ by hunters who were killing chimpanzees and gorillas. The logging companies were opening up the interior and putting roads in to extract the timber. The hunters were using these roads to reach deeper into the jungles. They were encountering animal groups that had previously been isolated.

I was looking for a virus for my book that might possibly be used in the way described in this novel. I had a number of contenders but was attracted to Ebola because of the description of its horrific symptoms. A doctor performing an autopsy at the time described the organs of the victim as having ‘melted’.

The destruction of the natural environment, the massacre of wildlife, and the continuing destruction of our forests due to the increasing overpopulation of the planet is a source of great sadness to me.

I write in the hope that the worst may never happen.

Ron Forsythe 5.11.2014

If I had been writing it today I probably would have used the Corona Virus as my weaponised virus.

CHAPTER 1 – Painting the scene

The United Nations building rises up like a great glass slab alongside the East River in Manhattan. From a distance it is fanciful to imagine it resembling the monolith that Arthur C Clarke summoned up in 2001 A Space Odyssey. It too represents the hope for mankind’s future.

This is the organisation that spawned the magnificent document ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in which the optimistic dreams of the world were enshrined. This was the world community’s apotheosis, and all that was required was the funding, power and will to put it into operation.

Unfortunately those ideals were never realised.

Within this building the General Assembly, representing all nations of the planet, meets regularly to discuss the issues and crises that threaten us. Within this building the Security Council also meets regularly. Their brief is to ensure peace throughout the world. They look for non-violent means for addressing conflicts and settling disputes.

It is not difficult to see that the United Nations has limited success when it comes to creating peace and resolving crises. The world has never been more fraught.

Unbeknown even to those members of the General Assembly and Security Council there is another body which also meets at regular intervals. The Strategic Planning Committee – the SPC – has no official standing. It is not recorded in any documentation, reports to no-one and to all intents and purposes does not exist. Yet this body, made up of members of the G7, has a huge remit and great powers. It operates to its own brief – to look for alternative methods for dealing with global issues. It is not subject to the same strictures, operates through clandestine facilities and can deploy a huge budget. It operates under military jurisdiction and protocol.

There are not even rumours of its existence. Yet it exists.

Beneath the United Nations building there is a committee room. It is reached by means of a number of circuitous routes all carefully protected, guarded and sealed, culminating in a single entrance by way of an elevator.

The room itself is extremely ordinary. The round circular walls look dour but conceal the largest array of devices ever assembled. The surfaces are polymer screens for projecting information. The screening devices are exceptional and updated by the hour. Even the seemingly austere mahogany-look table is really an array of extremely high tech facilities but they are only visible when required. The furnishings are almost non-existent, consisting of the single round table of standard dark polymer, with seven comfortable chairs. The purpose of the venue is discussion.

This is where the clandestine decisions that affect the whole world are really made. Above them in the chambers the business is relatively mundane compared to this. In the bubble of their national governments these seven people carry out the day to day intrigues of parochial politics but they all know that the global perspective is decided here. And their instructions come from another higher source.

The group is presided over by President Paul Shank of the USA and consists of the seven Heads of what used to be known as the G7. This assembly was created long ago and shaped by a group of extremely rich and influential figures who have always pulled the strings behind the various governments of the world. They operate globally and utilise their power group to manipulate events and markets. History is largely the result of their various interventions. The fact that the G7 expanded to incorporate Russia, China, India and Brazil to become the G11 has had no impact on this select group. They, or rather their instigators, did not feel the need to expand. Neither is it likely to respond to circumstances should the Arab and African countries succeed in their pressure to be included in the G11. The SPC has a historical basis and is happy to keep it that way. They have no wish to become big and unwieldy and descend into a talking shop like the other bodies. They have no desire to include the others in their deliberations. Especially those they have never trusted. Seven is big enough. Here they can speak honestly and openly without fear of repercussions. Rather ironically they informally called themselves ‘The Synod’ fully aware of the significance of the word. There was nothing religious about them but they made the decisions that shook the planet.

They have the strongest power in the world behind them.

The current discussion had been focussed on the burgeoning world population with the horrific implications now being predicted. The natural world had already been decimated; the last tigers, rhinos and elephants had disappeared from the wild years ago. The chimps and gorillas were only hanging on by a thread through the extreme actions of a dedicated group of environmentalists backed up by the military. The frantic ravaging of the land continued apace. It was a rearguard action that was doomed to fail but that was a side issue. Not that this group cared about such things. They were only concerned with the issues that impacted on world markets, profits or their lifestyle and status.

There were plenty of those. They were busy studying the latest reports, modelling and conclusions.

The figures made for dismal reading. The predictions for the scarcity of essential resources, pollution levels and climate change were looking dire. The economic figures were also on a disaster level. The inevitable conflicts were already getting out of control.

If that was not bad enough, the population was still on course to continue its upward projection. None of the actions so far taken had slowed it down.

The seven of them flicked through the data, graphs and projections delivered to each of them on the polymer screen from the table in front of them.

George Handley was a small man with longish grey hair swept back from his receding hairline and bushy side-burns. His immaculate pin-stripe suit and Etonian tie were anachronistic by any standards but he wore it with pride and considered it set the tone. It provided him with a bearing of historical gravitas, or at least that was how he liked to see it. His voice was measured and conveyed the same message with its cultured tones and paced delivery. It made him sound aloof and superior.

George grimaced with an expression which suggested he was sucking on something vile. ‘There are just too many of them,’ he noted disdainfully as if he was talking about an invasion of cockroaches. ‘Too many by far.’

Paul Shank allowed himself a reproachful smile. The arrogance of George Handley always amused him. The man certainly had a high opinion of himself. It was all a result of his background and class. Paul himself came from good old American farming stock. His family were wealthy but had none of the pretensions that George Handley projected. His folks were much more down to earth. But that did not prevent him from feeling completely at ease in all company. He was used to rubbing shoulders with the greatest men and women from all walks of life. Nothing fazed him. He would not be in this position if it had.

‘Come now George,’ Paul chided with a light easy manner. ‘Surely we have to have an expanding base? The economy cannot grow without expansion.’

George glowered down at the charts on his screen and flicked it off. He’d seen enough. There was no amusement or lightness of tone in his voice. ‘They are not contributing,’ he pointed out. ‘They serve no purpose. You are all missing the point. You cannot even go downtown without a respirator. Things are desperate.’

‘So what are you suggesting George?’ Pascal Bosco enquired. His dark eyes flashed mischievously. His modern one-piece suit was stylish and comfortable and set the tone for his personality. He was forward looking. He knew how George’s mind worked and liked to bring things out into the open. ‘That we do away with them all?’

‘They serve no purpose,’ George repeated as if this was sufficient in itself. It amply conveyed his opinion. ‘They do not work or contribute to the global economy. They are merely a drain on the financial system. They are unproductive. Their consumption is causing the problem. They do not earn and so are not able to contribute. Not only that, but their very presence is destructive. They are creating the problems we are having to face up to and try to solve. Let’s deal with the root cause.’

Pascal sat back in his chair, laced his fingers and raised his eyebrows, unwilling to take that step despite the fact that he knew it was inevitable. He felt a sinking inside but persisted futilely in focussing on the economic aspect even though he knew it had moved well beyond that. ‘Perhaps consumption is sufficient to stimulate the economy. They provide a need.’

‘They are a canker on the face of the planet,’ George stated bluntly.

‘Come now George,’ Mya Jannot said, reacting to the harshness of his words. ‘There is a trickle down. They, in their own way, are contributing to the global economy. They are consuming.’

‘Not so you would notice,’ George replied huffily. ‘They are parasites. They require eradication. Besides this is no longer an economic issue. You’ve seen the data on climate and the latest pollution figures. It’s unsustainable.’

The room fell into silence as all seven of them reflected on the latest data. The population was spiralling out of control. Drastic action was needed.

‘It is true that we have to do something,’ Mya admitted with a frown. Her hair was unfashionably grey and bobbed. It fitted with the rather unflattering costume she insisted on wearing. ‘The natural environment is all but destroyed and we’re running short of every possible resource. There are mounting food and water issues plus the dire situation with the unrenewables. We cannot keep pace. It we do not take action now we can say goodbye to the last of our wild fauna.’

‘I do not care about the damn fauna,’ Virginie Chauvin stated with Gallic frankness. Virginie was a power dresser with shoulders squared and padded. It set the tone. Everything about her was bold and angular. Her make-up and jewellery was expensive, severe and precise. She was a powerful woman. People normally took notice. ‘I care more about the looming conflict. We are already at each others throats. It cannot go on much longer. China, Russia and Brazil are all vying with each other and the Arab bloc is getting involved. Before long it will erupt. There is not enough resources to go round.’ Virginie surveyed the room with a magisterial gaze. ‘I agree with George. ‘They are surplus to requirements. They need removing.’

These were the thoughts that were normally suppressed in most people and certainly not aired in public assemblies but it was the remit of this group to think the unthinkable.

‘I am not so sure,’ Paul mused. ‘Every social model requires a wide base. It provides incentive for everyone. It is there as a warning. It makes people aware of why they are working so hard. That desperate poverty is something to be avoided. Just having it there is an incentive to all those who work, that they need to work harder so that they do not end up in that misery. They serve a purpose. Perhaps we just need to focus our attentions on the problems the population is creating.’

‘Surely the size of the market has to be the guiding principle,’ Hans Schultz said also reluctant to step into the arena that he knew they must eventually address. The sturdy German had an acute mind when it was applied to the economic considerations. His round face was a little pasty looking and his eyes appeared small and insignificant, his clothing nondescript and bland, but his mind was shrewd. He was happiest looking at the situation in economic terms. ‘We need growth. It is the size of the market that determines growth and productivity. That’s what or friends upstairs want. They want a good return. Having a large body in reserve to call on is a reservoir of cheap labour. It keeps wages down, reduces prices and maximises profits.’

‘But that model breaks down when there is a looming battle over resources,’ Virginie Chauvin pointed out in exasperation. All this beating about the bush was a waste of time. They all knew it. They were going to have to grasp the nettle and the sooner the better. All this circling around the topic was a waste of time. ‘The dwindling resources create a different scenario. George is right. We have moved a long way from economics. This is a global catastrophe.’

They could all see the ramifications

‘It’s more complicated that just the size of the market,’ George stated belligerently emphasising his argument. He saw it as more than the mere market and profits. They had become a side issue. This was spiralling out of control. ‘There is the population’s productivity and wealth to take into account.’ He scowled round at them. ‘It is related to their purchasing power. If they cannot afford to purchase goods then they are of limited value. If their tastes and proclivities are basic they are next to useless. One has to assess their aspirations, determination and willingness to strive for what they wish to procure. I do not see it. It is limited. Their needs are basically just to survive. They are causing a huge emigration problem. Then there is the terrorism. The pollution and climate are becoming apocalyptic. They are out of control. We must deal with them.’

‘Surely we can manipulate that?’ Paul remarked reasonably. ‘It all depends on marketing and propaganda. The scientists can deal with the environment.’

‘Not when it is a battle for such severely depleted resources,’ Virginie Chauvin interjected.

‘Marketing cannot touch the have-nots, don’t-wants or can’t-gets,’ George remarked morosely. ‘I reiterate: there are huge numbers of them out there, billions, who are simply surplus to requirements. They are not consuming and they are not contributing. All they do is generate huge problems and the rest of us suffer because of them. They are responsible for the crisis. That is my point. We are better off without them.’

‘So how are they surviving then?’ Mya Jannot enquired with a petulant tone. She found George’s callous approach hard to take. ‘They must be consuming something.’ Mya knew that in the end it would come down to the economics. That is what upstairs always cared about.

‘They are scavenging,’ George Handley replied with an air of disgust. ‘Living off our detritus. They are not part of any chain of consumption. They serve no useful purpose. They are surplus to requirements.’

George’s phrase echoed round the chamber and set the minds racing. Was it as simple as that? They all knew what George was referring to. He was proposing the extermination of a good percentage of the world’s population. Surely there had to be a reasonable alternative. It was incontrovertible that the population was now raging out of control. The environment was teetering on the brink of catastrophe. They were in the last chance saloon. They had to do something.

‘So what are you suggesting George?’ Mya Jannot asked, looking at ways to address the issue. ‘A huge welfare programme to bring them into the frame so they can be consumers?’ She knew that was not the solution. Indeed it would only make matters worse. If they all started consuming at even a small percentage of the most affluent the resources would be exhausted and the world would be plunged into conflict. ‘A benefits scheme? A massive work programme?’ Even as she voiced it she could see the preposterous nature of the idea. ‘Or are you looking at enforced contraception? Sterilisation? Education for females? Because they all seem to have failed. So what are you actually suggesting?’

The whole room focussed on George Handley. It was quite clear what was on the table but they wanted to hear it from him.

George pouted and tapped his fingers on the table. ‘I am simply pointing out that we have a large rump that is proving a drain on wealth creation,’ George replied, ducking the question. ‘There are billions who are surplus to requirements and of no use to anyone. They are a drain on our resources and serve no purpose. They are having a catastrophic effect that is costing us dearly and will only get a lot worse. We are having to pick up the bill for the mess they are creating. If we do not do something drastic now we will end up paying far more later. I cannot imagine that is what our friends upstairs would want. We have to be decisive.’

They all knew what he was getting at. They had to face it.

‘We could stoke up a few more wars,’ Pascal Bosco proposed. ‘That is always a good way of reducing numbers plus it has the added benefit of stimulating productivity. There’s nothing like a good bit of arms trading to stimulate the economy. There are plenty of fanatics out there in the hinterlands and there’s nothing like religion or survival to focus the mind.’

‘One thing is certain,’ Virginie Chauvin remarked pointedly. ‘Natural processes do not seem to be working as well as they used to.’ She glowered round at them as if it was their fault. ‘Every time we have a natural catastrophe we get the Aid groups wading in. They pull at everyone’s heart-strings and the money pours in. There are too many do-gooders. They rush in and mop up before the natural processes have a chance to work their normal attrition.’

‘Technology has certainly taken the sting out of natural disasters,’ Hans Shultz agreed. ‘There is a rapid deployment of resources and so much more that can be done. Disasters do not reach the same proportions as they used to.’

‘There you are,’ Pascal Bosco remarked triumphantly. ‘That’s where technology comes in. War is more efficient than ever. We can take out millions.’

‘But it’s so indiscriminate,’ Paul Shank argued. ‘It doesn’t just get rid of the ones you’d like to eliminate. It just……’

‘It is too limited in scope,’ George asserted, interrupting Paul in mid-flow. ‘War is too restricted. We need something on a bigger scale and something more general. We have scroungers everywhere now. They’ve become universal. We should cut out the cancer once and for all.’

It brought everyone back down to earth. They had viewed the latest figures and knew a few million here and there was going to do little to rectify the position. They did not like to admit it but George was right. They needed to get rid of a few billion at least.

‘Besides,’ Virginie Chauvin stated fiercely. ‘Those damn weapons keep getting in the wrong hands and you get them coming straight back at you. We have damn terrorists holding everyone to ransom, blowing things up and destroying the economic base. It gets in the way and slows things down. War is no good. You cannot control it well enough.’

‘You could always go for the nuclear option, I suppose,’ Pascal Bosco piped in brightly. ‘Not much chance of missiles getting into the wrong hands.’

‘I wouldn’t be too sure of that,’ Virginie Chauvin muttered.

‘It would get rid of millions as well as stimulating the markets,’ Pascal continued eagerly without pause. ‘Just imagine all those jobs in reclamation and rebuilding. What a boost that would be.’

‘But Pascal,’ Paul protested. ‘That’s so messy. It would make things so unpleasant and as George has pointed out; it would not go far enough to solve the problem. We need something more universally effective. Besides, it would add to the massive pollution problem. Not at all what we need.’

George was heartened by what Paul had said. It wasn’t often that the man sided with him. ‘Something drastic has to be done,’ he tapped hard on the table in emphasis. ‘Our growth is stagnating. Upstairs is not happy. We cannot go on like this. It is becoming desperate. There are far too many, billions too many. They are like leeches sucking our industrial blood. Something has to be done!’

‘We need some way of removing the ones we do not require,’ Teruo Yamada stated softly. He had remained quiet and thoughtful. Now he was ready to speak. He had worked it all out in his head before saying a word. He knew exactly what was needed.

‘We cannot go rounding up millions of people,’ Paul remonstrated allowing his mind to ruminate on the solution they were all talking about. ‘Hitler and Stalin have tried that. Imagine the scale of the operation. We would need to eradicate billions. Selecting them and rounding them up would be a night-mare. Think of the logistics. You could not keep an operation on that scale secret.’

‘Oh I wasn’t thinking of anything so pedestrian,’ Teruo Yamada said chidingly. ‘There would be no covert secret police or crude archaic methodology. We have the means to be much more clandestine, effective and subtle than that.’

There was silence in the room. The polymer screens shut down and the table resumed its former mahogany appearance. The blank walls had no focus for the eyes and nobody wanted to meet anyone else’s. They were all looking down at their hands.

Seven ageing individuals speaking a language developed in an obscure Northern European archipelago, were about to determine the future of mankind. This was the way things had been done since the dawn of civilisation.

Without speaking they were already in agreement.

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What do you think the amount that is being lost to the treasury from fraud actually is??

We see huge headlines in the Tory Press about benefit fraud. All those scroungers who are taking the system for a ride.

It undoubtedly happens. There are some who are scamming the system.

The cost to the treasure of benefit fraud was £6.1 billion!! That’s a lot of money!!

Of course, much of that fraud comes from organised criminals and not hard-up people on benefit!

What the Tory Press do not seem to be concerned about is what is happening at the other end. The wealthy millionaires and billionaires are using tax loopholes and fraud to avoid paying the taxes they should be paying. the cost of this tax avoidance and fraud is an eye-watering £35 Billion!

So the wealthy are scamming the system 6 times more than the poor – but nobody seems to care about that. They’d rather blame the poor. The rich deserve to be rich. For them tax is optional.

If we looked at all the legal loopholes that these people are squirrelling billions away into the cost would be even greater.

We’ve had twelve years of Tory austerity, a huge hit from Brexit, another huge hit from Covid and now the cost of living crisis. Who picks up the bill for all this? We do – the little people! In the course of these twelve years of Tory rule the wealthier have never had it so good. They have gained from austerity, Brexit, Covid and the Cost Of Living Crisis.

The Tory Party was inaugurated to look after the interests of the wealthy. That’s precisely what they have done.

Aren’t you shocked by how these wealthy people have been accumulating vast fortunes while working people can’t earn enough to eat, kids starve and food banks are proliferating?? I am!

Poetry – The Hope Machine

The Hope Machine

I’ve got this little hope machine I always carry around.

When I want some hope I lay it on the ground.

It conjures up the hopes and dreams of the whole wide world

Of every man and woman and every tree unfelled.

The hope machine is built of dreams

Of how the world might seem

For every man, woman and child

And everything that’s wild.

If only our politicians could access my machine

They’d create a world not half so mean

A world in which all had a place

And no web is left unlaced.

So share with me my hope machine

Together we could love and dream

And put the world to right

Our hopes would set the universe alight.

Opher – 21.5.2020

It is not difficult to devise a fairer system, one of greater equality that rewards hard effort.

It is not difficult to find a way of living in harmony with nature so that we live sustainably and are not pillaging the planet.

It is not difficult to banish poverty, war and disease.

It is just that those in charge have vested interests in maintaining a system that grossly favours them.

But I still have hopes.

Patriotism – the last refuge of Scoundrels.

Nationalism and patriotism divide people, cause problems between nations, encourages racism and xenophobia and is used by cynical politicians in order to get themselves elected.

People, all the world over, are the same. The differences between them are the result of cultural brainwashing.

You can take a baby from any race or culture and bring them up in a different culture and they’d be the same as the others in that culture.

Roy Harper: Every Album, Every Song (On Track) Paperback

by Opher Goodwin (Author)

4.7 out of 5 stars    45 ratings

A 5* book on Amazon with 45 ratings and some outstanding reviews. Great to see such an important singer/songwriter being recognised!!

As a writer, I am so heartened by all the positive likes and reviews. Thank you everyone!!

Roy Harper must be one of Britain s most undervalued rock musicians and songwriters. For over fifty years he has produced a series of innovative albums of consistently outstanding quality. He puts poetry and social commentary to music in a way that extends the boundaries of rock music. His 22 studio albums 16 live albums, made up of 250 songs, have created a unique body of work. Roy is a musician s musician. He is lauded by the likes of Dave Gilmour, Ian Anderson, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes and Kate Bush. Who else could boast that he has had Keith Moon, Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Chris Spedding, Bill Bruford and Steve Broughton in his backing band? Notable albums include Stormcock, HQ and Bullinamingvase. Opher Goodwin, Roy s friend and a fan, guides the reader through every album and song, providing insight into the recording of the songs as well the times in which they were recorded. As his loyal and often fanatical fans will attest, Roy has produced a series of epic songs and he remains a raging, uncompromising individual.