I watched in the capitol today as Node Jacobus stared into her papers and the din in the chamber simmered to a hush. She lifted her face with a slow blink signaling that the many long days spent in session are finally wearing on her stamina.
“We’ll start the proceeding if Hub Alexson has no objections.”
A rested looking Alexson looked up from his booth and motioned for her to begin. Jacobus moved to the podium as the view screens in the chamber all switched to the camera on her. Her voice was a bit hoarse.
“Mr. Alexson, and this may be the last time I call you that if we actually make it through this proceeding—”
Laughter panned around the room starting with Alexson who smiled warmly at his colleagues. Jacobus connected her fingers in a signature tip-to-tip contemplative pose. Her face relaxed into a somewhat weary grin.
“As I was saying, Hub Alexson, I’m ready to lay out the party’s proposal for Community language standards. Hopefully we’ll have time today to hear objections, if any, and vote the will of the people into law.”
Hub Alexson stood and pointed to Jacobus.
“The floor recognizes Node Jacobus from Washington state. Proceed.”
With a burst of unexpected vigor, Jacobus launched into a rapid relay of her proposal.
“Owing to the past month’s debate, and recognizing the overwhelming sum of node sentiment tallied and analyzed over the past four years, I propose the Community Language Standards Update Act of—”
“This entire proceeding is an outrageous joke. To say that there’s a sum of node sentiment supporting this act is demonstrably false!”
A din returned to the chamber, this time with a hostile tilt in it. Hub Alexson rose and pointed to the source of the outburst, node Adewole. Her speech was cut short as the Hub ordered her mic muted. Unfazed, Node Jacobus side-eyed Adewole briefly and continued.
“I propose the Community Language Standards Update Act of 2108 move forward with the following inclusions and exceptions.”
Another outburst from the chamber, this time from Node Lin.
“When will you release your tallies, Node Jacobus? As the node for the state of Florida I represent nearly 37 million inputting, productive citizens, well more than half of which are against this act and the overwhelming majority of which want to know where you’re fictional numbers are coming from.
Jacobus looked to Hub Alexson while he gestured vehemently to the audio moderators. They couldn’t seem to mute Node Lin, who continued, spit flying from his mouth as he raced to make his point.
“And I have the analytics to prove Florida’s people are demanding you show your numbers. Unlike your state, our sentiment tallies are a matter of moment-to-moment public record. You, on the other hand, feel its sufficient to merely say what your people want on their behalf, people who were, let’s not forget, mostly relocated by this government to your state after the earthquake—”
His mic was finally cut.
I’m amazed he went that long. I’ve sat through every one of these meetings over the past weeks and I’ve come to hate the system that builds Community. Before I post any daily report to my feed I have to throw it to my editor. Not strange, standard protocol. And she passes everything I say. My videos go straight to feed, no cuts. Because Anaan Hadaad says what’s easy to say. I’ll tell our audience:
“There was a heated debate on the floor of the senate. Nodes from Florida and Arizona were paused by the Hub but both managed to make the sentiment of their populations crystal clear. With objections noted, the senate passed the act with a confident majority.”
Then I’ll show you I’m concerned about the meaning of the act, its unknown future consequences. I’ll add phrases like new paradigm, unprecedented seizure of power, something about civil liberties.
But then, after that mildly fair assessment, I’ll modulate my tone, talk about he voice of the people, and how if this is what the people want, it’s a vote beyond reproach. I’ll pepper in a platitude about how the people can reverse this law if sentiment changes just as easily as they approved it. I’ll say that’s the reason we elect hybrids to be our node representatives in the first place. I’ll have to figure out how to say that without sounding patronizing, or like someone’s mother.
Huh. Mother. Wonder if that word will be in use much longer.
Anyway, I’ll wrap my report there and turn it in. There’ll be no edits, it’ll hit the feeds during prime viewing cycles, glide unchecked through the social nets, and get aggregated across the continet for the whole day. I’ll get my deposit at the end of the week, pay my bills, renew my subs, upgrade my body tech maybe, treat my girlfriend, although I don’t know what I’ supposed to call her now. Genofriend? I dunno. Anyway, comfort will be maintained, all because of what I told you.
But what if I told you everything? What if I added my opinion, and like a node, I based it on the feedback I received from my audience? All those comments and emotional metrics my audience sends, the ones my editor’s bosses say are just fringe groups tweaking the comment system. They’ll insist the negative backlash is from a small group of people controlling a large number of accounts to produce false public sentiment.
That’s true sometimes, but what my editor doesn’t know is that my girlfriend—sorry, genofriend, is a hybrid just like those congressional nodes now. She had her last surgery a year ago, but it wasn’t sanctioned by Community. She had black market tech installed in her and she’s been telling me the truth about sentiments since then. She’s a more ambitious news influencer than I’ve ever been, I’ll say that. She could get sent to CAT or worse, Tether, for using unsanctioned mods to tap into sentiment feeds. But do you know what would be even riskier than getting some black market mods implanted in me?
I could go live on Replikatr and tell you not only how the rest of the congressional session went, but that Jocobus and the other states pushing for this language law don’t have anywhere near the sentiment they’re claiming. I could show you my genofriend’s data, stolen from the government feeds, and you’d see this bill has roughly 8% of the continet’s approval, and that the overwhelming majority of people don’t want their language policed yet again. I’d go live on Replikatr, it would multiply my words into the world’s feed faster than the government could control it and we’d get at least 8 hours before it was all shut down. Then, while the world was ablaze with my exposure of the corruption, my video would be shown to be a deep fake, expunged from all feeds in its original format, replaced with new versions of the video with other news influencers providing fact-check commentary explaining how I was hacked or that I’d gone fringe, or whatever. Then they’d say that hateful rhetoric is still alive and that we’re not doing enough to ensure love and inclusivity are enforced. Can’t believe how we use the word enforce now. Or love. Anyway, that’d be the last risk I ever took. Each report I gave after today that would be a deep fake. I’d be in Tether.
Best I can do is write this stuff down using the last box of pencils I’ll ever own.
Pencils. I’m going to miss them. I’m ashamed of the report I allowed myself to make when graphite was banned. They called it the Keystroke Environmental Act of 2106. What better way to monitor what everyone has to say then by getting rid of pencil, paper and ink. One day they’ll put a sensor in your house to know if you’ve brought home an unsanctioned paper product. I’m not paranoid.
Anyway, here’s what I can’t say on my feed. Something I can only say in pencil in my journal that, if you’re reading let me just say, I’m either dead or in prison and you should burn this paper after you read it. But I’ve found I start to go a little insane if I don’t write these things down.
As of today’s passing of the bill, these words are forbidden under Community doctrine:
Woman, Lady and all slang variants, archaic, derogatory, or otherwise.
That means broad, chick, ho, bitch (in female context only), some others I can’t remember.
Girl and all variants, gal, girlie, girly, so on.
Man, gentleman, and all slang variants, archaic, derogatory, or otherwise. So that means guy, bro, dude (in male context only), stuff like that.
Boy and all variants.
You can’t say things like unmanned vehicle now. Unpiloted is proper. Boyfriend and girlfriend are certainly out.
These and many other words and phrases are now unfit according to Community love guidelines. From now on the words genovarian and nonovarian will be used respectively when, and only when sex must be determined in a rudimentary or medical/scientific sense.
Pronouns are still permitted because the committee that wrote this bill couldn’t find an easy workaround for them and they felt that pronouns have adequate alternatives that either avoid or accurately describe gender. I think they just knew they themselves could never get through their long speeches without tripping over more pronoun rules. They did, however, increase the federal penalty for misgendering someone publicly to include new subright restrictions and another 40 hours of Community service. No penalty yet for failing to use nonvarian and genovarian. Magnanimously, they’ve included a half year adjustment time for Communitarians to get their speech right.
I can’t believe they’re doing all this even though we’ve just ended a war that’s bled the country’s coffers and left our data storage systems on the verge of collapse.
With any luck, they will collapse and we’ll start making pencils again.