Wednesday, 8 October 2014

It couldn't happen here....could it?

12:19:00 Posted by Sheilagh Dyson , , , , 1 comment

by Sheilagh Dyson

Good morning from your new Wednesday woman on the blog. It’s been a while but, unencumbered by academia as I now am, I’m delighted to have the opportunity once more to write for the Dead Good Poets.
I barely recognise the Britain I grew up in and spent most of my life. Slavish adherence to ‘free’ markets, emphasis on remorseless consumption of things we don’t need, demonisation of the poor, widening gulf between the super-rich and the rest of us, dismantling of the welfare state, the NHS and everything else that made us a compassionate and civilized society – the neo-liberal narrative seems all-pervasive, driven by the multi-national corporations who now run our country and dominate the policy ethos and direction of all the major political parties. Since when did it become our patriotic duty to buy things?    
In despair at the madness that has taken hold of Britain, I wrote this short story some time ago. It is set in 2028 and offers a dystopian view of one logical conclusion to the remorseless pursuit of consumption and growth.

A Merciful End

Just another day. She blinks wearily around the bedroom. She watches the motes dancing about on the sharp shaft of sunlight that fans out from the narrow crack in the curtains. All is stillness and normality. The bed creaks as she adjusts her position. She looks at her clothes on the chair, laid out ready for the day as always and wonders if she can be bothered to struggle into them. She lies and ponders on whether to switch on the radio or read her book – she is into the last chapter.
From outside there is a continuous hum of traffic on the main road two streets away, punctuated by the random shouts of schoolchildren scampering, jostling and laughing their way to school.  A delivery van screeches to a halt at a nearby house. A dog, straining at its leash to go faster and further than its elderly owner wants, yelps intermittent disapproval. A wheel hub, kicked by a desultory youth, clatters on the pavement. Just another day.
The bottle is on the bathroom shelf, along with a specimen bottle and other paraphernalia of old age – packets of tablets, prescribed to prolong life, creams for arthritic joints and aching bones,  a bottle of Angel perfume, still cloyingly sweet,  a glass containing false teeth, a long discarded set of ghds. The bottle contains clear liquid and its label says succinctly ‘To be taken no later than 6pm on 20 November 2028. Not to be given to any person other than Eva May Hanbury’.
Eva May Hanbury turns over in bed with difficulty and looks at her alarm clock. 08.53, still some time to go. This is the way it is done now - civilized, in your own home, at a time of your choosing.  Choice is an important element of the ethical dimension to the Process.
There are two tests annually for everyone after the age of seventy five - one to establish ability to mobilise and one to confirm ability to live independently and within own resources. Failure in both tests prompts a retest after three months, to allow some time for improvement. Failure a second time activates the Exegis Process. A bottle of liquid, clearly marked with the latest time and date by which the liquid must be drunk is dispatched by the Department of End of Life Protocols exactly two weeks before the final date. This gives adequate time for any domestic arrangements and farewells to be concluded. A key must be handed over to the Authority to enable removal and disposal. Death is quick and painless.
The Exegis Process has proved popular with taxpayers. Indeed, there is growing talk of its extension to the economically unviable, those whose consumption and therefore contribution to the growth of the economy is below the threshold for a period of six months or longer.
Eva May Hanbury struggles to the bathroom. She grasps the bottle, she knows what must be done…… exhaust backfires noisily outside, a seagull squawks and wheels overhead. Just another day.’

It couldn’t happen here……….could it?
Thanks for reading,


Christo said...

Like this a lot, Sheilagh - very 1930s intellectual in conception and tone. I'm just involved in pieces about Mass Observation and Auden and Co. So it is apt for me.
The vivacity of what "ordinary life" sounds like and feels like whilst fitness is more predominant than decline is very clearly stated - thank you.
Your Liberal friend !