Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 695, November 4, 2012

"The coming week may well change the course of
history, for better or worse. In my lifetime,
it has always been worse. 2012 my prove to be
America's last good year, the beginning of a
slide into a new Dark Age."

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The Last Good Year
by L.Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

For the past decade, I've had a story in my head but have never gotten around to writing it, for reasons that will be apparent later on.

The story, which would be called "All The Trimmings", arises from the sad fact that, since I first became politically aware, at the age of 15, back in 1962—50 years ago—there has never been any good news.

No matter how hard Productive Class folks may work at trying to put good people into office, people who respect the Bill of Rights, as well as our dignity as individuals, every single time, we end up with a non-choice between two sets of rapacious gangsters, government parasites and their corporate lookalikes who, differing only in the excuses they use to justify it, see us only as cattle, to be herded, branded, milked, and slaughtered. On the rare occasion that someone decent pokes his head up—Barry Goldwater, Ron Paul—it's cut off by the socialist mass media, pack animals who give prostitution a bad name.

Beyond the palest shadow of a doubt, the game is rigged, with people who actually work for a living assigned the role of perpetual losers, expected to bow down to Authority no matter how ludicrous its demands, required to observe the letter and the spirit of the law no matter how often, or how outrageously it's flouted by the insatiably power-hungry. Those who object—especially if they get together to air their grievances—are labeled rednecks, racists, or terrorists by the socialist mass media, depending on what's in fashion at the time. The truth has no place in this process, only the virtual reality created by the socialist mass media at the behest of their thuggish clientele.

To make things even worse, members of the Productive Class find themselves in the role of shuttlecock in a game of political badminton that has been going on for two centuries. Fed up with the failures and excesses of, say, the Republicans, voters will replace them with Democrats, only to be reminded, in short order, that Democrats suffer failures and commit excesses of their own. Four years after that, experiencing political amnesia again, they put Republicans back in power, when what they ought to do is dump "both" major parties (which are really only one entity, the party of endless lies and coercion) altogether.

Of course the excesses of both parties never go away. With each year, Americans have less freedom and fewer choices until nothing is left.

Which is where "All The Trimmings" begins ...

It's the day before Thanksgiving in the not-so-distant future. A man walks across town, elated at some secret triumph, but fearing desperately that something will go wrong at the last minute to spoil it.

He's a former college History professor of late middle age, tall and thin, the skin of his face stretches tightly over his bones. [He could be played by Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck, Kurt Russel, or James Caan.] His stride is strong as he continues across town, informing us, in flashbacks, with his memories. In one hand, he carries what appears to be a hank of household electrical "zip" cord with a big yellow tag attached.

The town—a small city, really—used to be the site of a state university, now shut down. It could be almost anywhere in 21st century midwest or western America, but several things are wrong with it. For one thing there is practically no vehicular traffic in its broad streets. Everyone is afoot, or riding bicycles. The few cars or trucks to be seen all have government license plates or corporate insignia painted on their doors. One out of every two automobiles is a police cruiser.

Roughly two out of every three policemen is a recent immigrant, from Mexico, Central or South America, Southeast Asia, or the middle east.

Everyone he sees about him—including himself—is dressed shabbily, in faded, worn-out clothing that's either dirty or too harshly laundered. It's an unseasonably warm Fall day, and everybody he passes in the streets smells sour, as if they don't wash very often.

No one he can see is using a cell phone, iPod, iPad, personal computer, or any other kind of consumer electronics. There is no music to be heard in the air. Occasionally, loudspeakers blare orders. The majority of storefronts are naked and vacant. Many have official- looking notices attached to the glass. No one stops to see what they say.

At one point, a police officer stops him, demands his papers, inspects the tag on the cord—which our protagonist tells him is simply for tying up some branches from his yard, in order to take them to the recycling center—then cuts off the electrical plug on one end.

"We can't have ordinary people playing with that much power," the cop tells him. "When they did, they overheated the Earth. Besides, electricity it's just too dangerous." The cop also searches him for weapons—including the tiniest pen knife—or any other kind of contraband.

As he's searched, the professor thinks about his wife, who is, in some ways, the main character of the story. She, too, was a professor—of Romantic Poetry—at the state university, a lovely human being everyone adored, and who seemed to grow even more beautiful with age.

He reflects [individual writers, producers, and directors will likely vary on how much of this material is disclosed directly and how much is left as backstory] on how the relatively free country that he was born into came to be the way it is now. Like a majority of college professors, he and his wife were Democrats who voted faithfully every year for Democratic candidates, and made fun of public figures, rare faculty members, and especially students who were not politically correct.

But just as liberals were proven right about fascist, warmongering conservatives, non-liberals were equally right about liberals wanting to control every moment of every individual's life. The paternalistic right wanted everybody disciplined, and the maternalistic left wanted to "help" everybody whether they actually wanted to be "helped" or not. Neither was interested in ending the foreign wars they waged as a distraction.

Between the two, they eliminated more and more individual freedoms every year, steadily increasing the power of the government until it had tightened like a noose around everybody's necks—everybody, that is, except for those in power, who stayed warm in the winter, cool in the summer, possessed excellent personal transportation, always had more than enough to eat, and enjoyed imported liquor, tobacco, and chocolate.

In time, virtually everything people liked was illegal, because it represented a threat to "national security", its production generated too large a "carbon footprint", or people might hurt themselves with it.

Then, suddenly, when the university was closed, his wife was drafted into the Sustainable Agriculture Corps and taken out into the countryside with a busload of other draftees, presumably to labor in local onion or beet fields. He hasn't seen or heard from her for a year. Somehow he endured it until the day that her wedding ring was found in one of the big stew pots in the communal kitchen where he lives.

With bitter chagrin, he remembers the way that he and his wife used to agree enthusiastically with the United Nations that the Earth's human overpopulation needed to be reduced by at least nine tenths.

Now he's determined to do something to make it right. Inspected and frisked a dozen times in as many blocks, he finally gets home, a place near campus where he and his wife once lived comfortably by themselves.

It's been divided and subdivided into tiny compartments in order to warehouse some of the thousands shipped into the city from the suburbs to the south, which he hears are being bulldozed, to "return the land to Mother Gaia". This city, among the first to be politically penetrated, has become a model for the United Nations' "Agenda 21" program. The "arcologies", vast concrete structures a hundred stories high where they all will live eventually, are rising slowly from the foothills west of town. But they won't be ready for residence for another couple of years, according to the unions—or perhaps for decades.

Out in the front yard, old women are laboriously stirring huge pots of stew he won't touch now, in preparation for tomorrow's feast, the fourth Thursday in November, which has become "Thank the Leader Day".

That individual, and his wife, will appear on television—for some unfathomable government reason, personal television sets are a thing of the past, as is TV entertainment; but the community has one in the dining room that they will all gather around—to celebrate a dinner at the White House for homeless people, and carve the roasted tofu.

Inside, he walks past his own cubicle to a hall closet he's been thinking about for a long time. It reeks from the filthy bedding of some transient—absent just now—assigned to it by the local block commander.

What it conceals is a way out that nobody predicted. There's a large painted pipe—upstairs sewage—crossing through the back of the closet at waist height, and another near the nine-foot ceiling. He climbs onto the lower pipe, tosses his doubled-up electrical cord over the upper pipe, ties it off, puts his head through the loop, and steps off into space, triumphant that he has finally escaped the police state.


As most of my readers know, I'm accustomed to solving problems in my non-fiction, rather than wallowing in them, and creatiung happy endings in my novels. You can see why I haven't finished this story. If I did, I'd probably be sick for a week, as I was when I had to kill a couple of very attractive characters in my books to energize the plot. I've never made predictions I've wanted less to come true than these.

On the other hand, I feel very guilty that I didn't go ahead and bite the bullet, finish the story, and get it into circulation well before the election we're having now. I might even have pulled off a Harriet Beecher Stowe. Most likely, though, it would have had no effect, but who can say? It's certainly too late now. I apologize to America.

The coming week may well change the course of history, for better or worse. In my lifetime, it has always been worse. 2012 my prove to be America's last good year, the beginning of a slide into a new Dark Age.

So try to have a happy Thanksgiving while you can.

Next year it may be "Thank the Leader".

And by the way, don't eat Soylent Green.

L. Neil Smith is the Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE, as well as the author of 33 freedom-oriented books, the most recent of which is DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis:
[ dead tree]
[ Kindle]
[ dead tree and Nook]
DOWN WITH POWER was selected as the Freedom Book Club Book-of-the-Month for August 2012

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