Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dystopian Future Paranoia (or how The Handmaid's Tale made me the town nutter)

I broke down and purchased a cell phone in June because I needed to be able to stay in touch while dog-sitting in July.  I decided to go with VERIZON because the store is near my home.  I chose the cheapest phone, which was still expensive in my opinion, and the cheapest pre-paid plan, $30, which seemed reasonable.  

The cheapest phone meant limited storage, so I could only choose one extra app and the winner (or loser) was Twitter.  The cheapest pre-paid plan meant limited mobile data, which has been sufficient until this month.  My plan is due on the 14th and I was tweeting a lot over Thanksgiving weekend.  So, I've been rationing out my remaining mobile data over this week.  

Since its December, the month where we celebrate the beloved birth of consumerism, I decided to give myself a gift.  I was going to upgrade my phone plan to the next tier, which is only $5 more, so I'd gain more mobile data.  In my deranged mind, I rationalized it as a business investment.  If I tweet more about my books, maybe I'll consistently find new readers.  Well, it sounded plausible in my head. 

The morning that I walked a few blocks to the VERIZON store, I had finished listening to THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood.  It's a brilliantly stark, bleak novel that makes the Hulu series seem melodramatic and overly satirical with its goofy music choices.  Anyhoo, the novel really made me reflect on how we are inching closer to some version of a dystopian future.  This was fresh in my mind as I entered the store.

I sat down at the counter and inquired if there would be additional charges if I changed my plan to the next  tier.  The woman behind the counter informed me of the obvious, because I must look like a complete moron, that my monthly payment would increase.  I told her that I knew that, but I wanted to make sure there were no extra fees.  She said there wasn't, so I asked for my plan to be upgraded to the $35 tier.  

She then informed me that the $35 tier was only for customers who have an automatic payment system set up.  The next tier for someone who comes into the store to pay would be $40.  I declined to upgrade and then stated that it's crappy to punish people who pay cash.  That's how I was paying and the clerk knew it because she was there last month and had, at that time, off-handedly stated how she has all of her bills set for automatic withdrawal.  Now she responded with how it's difficult for them to do cash transactions because that means they have to go to the bank and worry about counterfeit bills.  

"I guess The Handmaid's Tale is really going to happen." 

The potentially crazy, conspiracy theory words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them.  She made a confused noise and this inspired my lack of self-censoring to continue. I said that's how it begins.  Forcing us into a cashless society so they can control access to bank accounts on a whim.  

The clerk didn't respond further to my potential crazy.  So, I paid my usual amount and left feeling like a nutter.  This didn't stop me from imagining the clerk as a future Aunt Lydia, believing she knows what's best for everyone.  She would work in a brainwashing center, extolling the virtues of her personal automatic payment beliefs onto the perceived moronic masses.  

As of writing this post, I'm listening to the sequel, THE TESTAMENTS, also by Margaret Atwood.  I probably should have taken a break in between because I slipped down a paranoid rabbit hole when telling my sister about this recent experience...and she didn't disagree and added her own views.  We carried on about our nearing dystopian future, where we will be forced to go cashless and then we will be maneuvered into a single government or corporation banking system.  How would this happen?  It's already started.  

AMAZON is currently silencing the voices of low income individuals.  Customers can no longer leave reviews unless they spend a predetermined amount per month or year with a credit or debit card.  While you can still use AMAZON gift cards, they don't count towards the predetermined amount.  Much like my cell provider, this is how it's going to be accomplished.   Punish the consumer in small, legal ways until we are forced to fall in line.  In a cashless society, stores and sites could start adding surcharges or placing limitations if you're not paying through this bank or that system.  The excuse will be that the stores and sites are protecting our accounts and making payments through a single banking entity would be more convenient for all of us.  We will comply because there will be no choice, having, over time, systematically and freely given up our little freedoms and control to the big corporations.

Crazy talk, right...or is it?  Maybe my concerns are based on a burgeoning reality.  Maybe we are careening towards The Handmaid's Tale future.  Maybe I'm turning into a conspiracy theorist.  Maybe I need to listen to a light, fun e-book.

In conclusion...
I know we can't go back, but we should be more aware going forward. 

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.  If I fall silent after this post, you will probably find me on the Wall for either being a gender-traitor or a payment-traitor.  Just sayin'. 

Freak Out, 

P.S.  This is not my first future paranoia post...
My books (which are hypocritically available through AMAZON) & blogs (which are through GOOGLE)...


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, John. This sort of reminds me of lyrics from an old ABC song: "I've seen the future. I can't afford it."

    1. You're welcome, Barry and that quote is spot on!!