HAYLEIGH AND THE MERITOCRACY
a. FURTHEST WRONG EXTENT OF MERITOCRACY; LIBERALISM; MISNAMING; AN INTRODUCTION
Liberalism is an ideology, philosophy, political tradition, and current of political thought, which holds liberty as the primary political value. Broadly speaking, liberalism seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on the power of government and religion (and sometimes corporations), the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports private enterprise, and a system of government that is transparent. This form of government favors liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law, and an equal opportunity to succeed. Liberalism rejected many foundational assumptions which dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the Divine Right of Kings, hereditary status, and established religion. Fundamental human rights that all liberals support include the right to life, liberty, and property. In many countries, modern liberalism differs from classical liberalism by asserting that government provision of some minimal level of material well-being takes priority over freedom from taxation. Liberalism has it roots in the Western Enlightenment, but the term now encompasses a diversity of political thought, with adherents spanning a large part of the political spectrum, from left to right. In academia, in the context of economics, the term "liberalism" refers to economic liberalism. [Wikipedia, 24 March 2006]
Meritocracy is, as the suffix "-cracy" implies, a system of government based on rule by ability (merit) rather than by wealth, race or other determinants of social position. However, the word "meritocracy" is now often used to describe a type of society where wealth, income, and social status are assigned through competition, on the assumption that the winners do indeed deserve (merit) their resulting advantage. As a result, the word has acquired a connotation of Social Darwinism, and is used to describe aggressively competitive societies, with large inequality of income and wealth, contrasted with egalitarian societies. Meritocratic governments and organizations stress talent, formal education, and competence, rather than existing differences such as social class, ethnicity, or sex. In practice, research on social mobility indicates that all these supposedly neutral criteria favour the children of those who are already privileged in some way. In a representative democracy where power is theoretically in the hands of the elected representatives, meritocratic elements include the use of expert consultants to help formulate policies, and a meritocratic civil service to implement them. The perennial problem in advocating meritocracy is defining exactly what one means by merit. [Wikipedia, 24 March 2006]
“Have another fucking drink, Alex.”
“Drink is the opiate of the—” said Gerard.
“Yes, yes, we’ve all heard your favourite fucking Marx paraphrase before, you B cunt.”
“Steady on, Andrew, freedom of thought and all that.”
“Freedom of thought, Christs yes. Idiots? Clean my fucking toilet. Make my Godsdamn meals.”
“Can’t stop them thinking what they want.”
“Naturally not. But can make them do whatever they are fucking best at.”
b. WHAT THE FUCK?
Born in beige. Beige, the colour(lessness) of equality. Institutional, impersonal, universal. Product of two small factors: ineptitude is expected, but not necessarily implied.
Hello, Hayleigh. Aren’t you small and perfect. Logic dictates that the brightest be able to make use of you before you can be ruined. Some of them (not very many) like that. What’s that, Hayleigh? You don’t know, but it feels interesting. In a very short while, it would make you cry. Now, it is just a release for the A men who like this. It is for the best. You will not remember, and the A men will be sated and sane to decide their decrees.
Good luck, Hayleigh. Not that luck has anything to do with it.
Sophie was born without luck. She has never passed a Social Advancement test in her short, dank, hairy life. She entered her comprehensive nursery, like all children, as an undetermined assumed C. But when the nice B men came and walked her across the coarse but comfortable carpet, coloured darkly to preclude complaint, to take her first Determination, she smiled sweetly and failed miserably. Her life then became progressively unbrighter. She did not particularly notice; although, she always felt there was something missing.
“Still, shrug it off, there are things to be done. The A men know what there is to be known.”
If liberalism means (and sometimes it can) that everyone has the same opportunity to do hir best, then how can one eliminate Problems such as Nepotism and Sentimentality?
Sitting in a cubic room of feltboard walls and feline companionship, the Professor-Progenitor Knew How. Meritocracy. Standardised testing of ability. Authoritarian meritocracy is the Perfect Liberalism.
The silence of the testees, sweating in sublime hatred of their situation, willing the time to end, but willing it not to end lest they not be done. The beautiful inarguability of standardisation – because the majority can do it, so why can’t you?
Yes, standardised examination allows the bright to excel, and the dim to be retrained as soon as. As soon as fucking as.
Hayleigh was A material. She could have moved out of Beige into Blue, or even Choice. Nobody cheats on the Determination. It can’t happen. They are small and slow, and the Invigilators are large, uniformed, and In Control. IN FUCKING CONTROL.
No-one can cheat, because at that age, cheating is obscenely obvious – and leads to re-education. It is for the general good of society: the A men and B men must keep themselves… sharp. You are told that you must not ask or tell. That envoidens the Determination. To associate a negative* experience with cheating ensures that it will not recur, since cheating in the lower Intellects leads to cumulative errors for the higher Classes.
Hayleigh did not lean over the gray, rectilinear tabletops to consult other papers. Hayleigh did not transmit her findings to other candidates. Hayleigh did not make noises, or draw pictures, or drop her stylus, or take off her shoes, or spit or cry or screw.
Hayleigh did not cheat in any expected sense.
Hayleigh fucking lied.
It was assumed that no person who had the natural ability to be accepted into the Comfortable Classes would volunteer for mindlessness, meaninglessness, and miscomfort. That was counterintuitive, and Not How Things Worked.
Keep determining yourself, Hayleigh.
“Root infinity should surely be either undetermined or infinity. But if I say it’s zero, I can stay in this cracked apartment with these shortsighted lovers and their denial and cancer. I am intrigued.”
“In spite of interviewing like a B at the very least, she consistently Determines as an E, Councillor.”
“She has had her chance to advance. She will have further chances. Retain her in D accommodations.”
g. NOT FUCKING FAIR
Concrete walls and inexpert murals. Some have tried, others forgotten, to make this Human. If you are too stupid to realise your own oppression and squalor, then does oppression and squalor even exist for you?
Hayleigh trudged up the blackened firestairs, nail-bitten hand dragging along the rutted, unclean, stone banister. Pausing for inspiration, she inhaled a wall of irregular lights and persons, returning from or repairing to Reproduction or Realisation.
Hayleigh knew exactly where she could be. But she wasn’t there by choice. By cheat, by choice, by chalk and charcoal.
They should know. They may not always understand, but they should know, shouldn’t they Hayleigh?
“WE LIVE IN HELL.”
“Hell? Surely that’s not here? That’s only for Nonconformists and Liars and Thieves?”
“THIEVES ARE GOOD. This society is Bad.”
“But we had our chance, and we failed!”
“You didn’t fucking fail, you’re only fucking different. Your skills lie in areas other than mathematics and elocution!”
The B men descend.
“Come with us, Love. Take this test, Love. We’ve made a terrible mistake, Love.”
Beige. Old People smell of Beige. Institutions reek of Beige. Intelligence shuns Beige.
Beige has an Effect on people.
“You seem Bright, Hayleigh.”
“We could do with a person of your intellectual calibre in our class.”
“Not that you have a choice. You are intelligent, therefore you advance. That is the nature of the Perfect Liberalism.”
Spit at the bigot, Hayleigh.
She spits at the bigot. “FUCK you, you illiberal wanker. I wager that—that…”
Beige. It calms. What were you thinking about, Hayleigh?
“I… This seat is soft. I would like to have walls with my own pictures on.”
Take advantage, anyone?
j. BAD DAY
Fucking burns. Fucking burns. You’re sane again.
“How can you pull this BULLSHIT on the less intelligent? Just because they have a lower fucking IQ doesn’t mean you can shit on them.”
“Oh, but it does. You don’t seem to understand that they don’t fully realise their situation. As such, for the good of society, it is best that they be taken advantage of.”
WELL, that ain’t fucking fair – is it?
“Is that fair?”
Hayleigh is sent back to D apartments. But Hayleigh is no normal D worker. You can tell by the lengthlessness of her hair and the cuts on her legs and locklessness of her door and the stains on her pants that – she ain’t the carefulest of girls.
And muscles speak to her without invitation.
Lying, bleeding, staring at her ragged, half-closed curtains. Bleeding. Only fucking natural. Bleeding cunt. She is interviewed by the upper Intlellect: she is ultimately viable. She gasps at her filthy green-grey walls in agony, joy, hatred, and death. At least there were only five.
She doesn’t blame them.
They have been trained by organised failure.
Pretend, Hayeligh. Someone probably loves you, eh? Someone in the upper Intellects?
Right now, she lies on a nicotine-stained mattress, askew on a cracked black tile floor.
FUCKING SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER AND BLOOD AND FLESH AND SHE WRITHES AND HATES AND PART OF HER FUCKING DIES.
m. FUCK YOU ALL
Bloody hands, Hayleigh? Pefectly formed. You didn’t expect this – but then, you didn’t rightly know what you expected.
Why shouldn’t Sophie have a proper abortion?
Sophie was very pretty. Curly black hair. Small nose. Rosy cheeks. Smallish tits. Not a model of physical prowess; but the societal expectations and segregational IQ of the Stupid Classes made her a Target.
Men would clasp her arm and pull her into the nook of a boiler room or sewage junction and fuck her.
Gentlemen would have her kidnapped and sterilised (every time; one can never be too safe) and then rape her against ebony bookcases or granite cantilevers. This was OK, because the Brightest were the Best, and had to be entertained lest they became corrupt or power crazed and started raping with impunity.
Angela might have supported Hayleigh, if she hadn’t been ruptured as a foetus. Not that Sophie knew any better. Coathanger and effluence and infection and nothing.
n. SMELL THE SOUP
“What is this shit?”
“The state dictates this is best for the nation.”
“It is recycled effluence.”
“DON’T EAT THIS SHIT.”
The fodder line broke its habitual cattle-like, belching gaze, and focused on Hayleigh. Ankle-deep in dung and mortar, she addressed the motley gathering.
“It isn’t shit.”
“What shit are you feeding us, then? Fucking children?”
The B men descend.
Hayleigh screams in frustration. Wearing no shoes, standing upright and proud amidst the Idiots and Cattle, she accepts the arrest. An unusual quantity of B men encircle her, waving phallic truncheons for no appreciable reason as the Stupid classes around them kick dust and spit hatred, all caught in the sly angle of the amber late afternoon sun like a rabbit in a headlight.
Locked away, now.
o. PEPPER AND STRAITJACKETS
“They’ve never done that before, thing.”
S/he pushed a plate of porridge into Hayleigh’s chest.
“I can’t eat that.”
“Have some porridge?”
“I’m in – a fucking – straitjacket.”
“They don’t get angry, thing. They have no reason to.”
Hayleigh shifted her nerves in thought through the beiged torso restraint. Shuffling her bare feet on the carpeted – carpeted! – floor, a static charge of desire and rage shoots through her body. Her hairs stand on end, pointing toward the arched, polychromatic ceiling in an agony of torn loyalties. She bites her teeth and shudders in frustration.
“Let me out of this! Why do you do this to people? Why do you call yourself a fucking liberalism if you can do things like this?”
S/he pushed the pepper to thing. Poured some into her porridge.
“Do you like pepper with your porridge, thing?”
S/he cast the pepper all over the porridge and all over thing. The small sealed cell was speckled with spice and thick with the hot tickle of ground condiment.
“Do you like pepper, thing?”
S/he stood on the table and shed her clothes like snakeskin, she shuffled her chair back in a brace against the backwall, hir eyes protruding like obsidian corkscrews, sweating and turning as though delirious, hir breath like fire, her mind alight, hir brain gyroscoping supersonically behind a dislocated jaw,
“Do you LIKE pepper, THING?”
p. ACIDIC HISTORY
Lying in a tepid sweat, a trapping web of roughshod bedclothes,
whispers spinning into shouts that startle rainbow shards of skull,
coming and going and living and knowing and
screaming and blowing and sucking and showing:
Hurtling through a nebula of gravity and dusty drawers, It
froze in fear and fucked the air which screamed at Its unstoppableness –
dragged It downwards all the same, the rush, the ground, impending pain!
Faster and quicker and closer and HARDER, s/he
Pulls Its inevitable SMASH up toward It, It
CRIES and It flails and the ground’s getting face-near
it's coming, it’s near now, it’s staring HARD AT IT AND
An office. Lined with leathern tomes in shades of beige. Feltboard walls are scaled by vicious cats. A stern-visaged desk sits at a wooden professor.
“What is liberalism, thing?”
(tell him, Hayleigh)
“Lib’ralism is an ideology,
Broad tradition, and current of thought,
Holding liberty as paramount.
“Broadly speaking, lib’ralism seeks a
World allowing freeflown pow’rs of thought for
Individuals, limitations on the
Pow’r of government, religion, and business—”
“And how do we achieve these, thing?”
His head ballooned like a grey wart, filling the room, the leathern tomes falling from their shelves and diffusing into it like sugar into sponge, the cats hissing and prowling across the surface, the room enclosed, and It
A thousand months of history ran like overheated oil paint into Its mouth. Tasted bitter and ineffable. A thousand thousand subplots colluded in Its gullet and concluded in Its stomach, the Furthest Wrong Extent was digested, canvas and parchment, oil and ink, accepted into It, boiling in Its innards, sharp and sour, convulsively, tumultuously, daemonically straining against the order of Its being, claiming that HERE was the order, WE are right, not It
Here is order.
The stupid are left unstimulated and overworked, because they do not need stimulation, and do not understand overwork.
The bright succeed, because in a society where everyone has the chance to succeed, one can only do so by ingenuity or connections. Nepotism and Jobs-for-the-Lads are Not Fair, so testing allows fair succession to power and comfort. Those who understand that discomfort is unfair are therefore not subjected to it; in order to maintain their comfort, those who don’t are subjected thereto instead, so
(This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. They must not be kept ignorant. This is bigotry. This is abusive and exploitative and)
The professor’s lie glands secrete a sweet, soothing slick of liquid. Hayleigh slips under the surface of the spillage
q. AND A.
“Who threw up on me?”
Hayleigh hydraulics her torso upright, wiping coal from her eyes and bile from her face. The floor is cold and cracked again.
“What the fuck was that? Who was that professor? Why do you think this an acceptable way to run a society? Why can’t I go back to my partition? Who are you? What are you?”
“You. A dream. The Progenitor. It is the most freedom for those most able to use it. Because you are an A. We am the Professor. Neither he nor she, but both.”
“Not at all. Why should we be any less a person simply because my gender falls into no standard class?”
“Not that! You! You are just. Fucking, Evil.”
“Because I have a cunt and a cock?”
“No! Because you lie and exploit!”
r. REDRESS, RETURN, REBELLION
Twitching from left to right, top to bottom, Hayleigh performs an involuntary jive through gaudily inspiring corridors of smooth plaster and comfortable temperature. Sniffing uncontrollably, she grins crookedly at the interplay of lights and sounds that decorate her network-partition. Angled windows sing to her, as part of her soul fights with most of her mind. Another line. Sniff sniff sniff twitch GOOOD. Hayleigh is comfortable now, and happy not happy, don’t rest she can hardly remember when she was – what was she? D! Surely not! Really, the things that powder could make you th—beautiful! Look at that body!
There is access to a Library when you are an A. You must be allowed to read and write whatever you like. Including, say, George Orwell.
“What have they done to me.”
Bathed in the apocalyptic glow of gin-accelerated pyre, Hayleigh screeches in delight at the return of her faculties. Drunk, exhilarated, with windblown fragments of silk lingering around her form, she raises two fingers at the smoky sable robe of purified oppression streaming like rough-woven gossamer from the blazing orange chord resonating through the partition-network.
The B men descend.
“Punishment this time?”
“Punishment is illiberal; rehabilitation.”
The blades of their helicopters slice disinterestedly through Hayleigh’s skyborne smoke-robe.
“It’s a fucking conspiracy! You are being exploited!”
“They can’t hear you.”
She drops books and pictures from her bag onto the perverse, charred, overground warrens below her.
“They can’t read.”
Quietly: “I can.”
out of your wallhole at neardawn,
you notice little more than mounds and tubes of black, cracked, awful concrete,
an old, crap tree, and an orange-grey sky, misty with sobs and sweat.
“Then it fucking sparkles.
“Thighs flex, titties burst as you spring forth from the cot to your glass like a sprite and you stare in delight as the stars shimmer forth, burn the stench of the night, burn even through light that has spilled like cum on a filthy photo of retarded children. Cum on E. Cum on E. Cum-“
“S/he stops for a moment to touch hir cunt, then regains hir quivering, taut composure.
“But then you realise it's just a white light kiting off some chemicals incongruously spaffed onto the awkward twigs.
“But the starscape expands beyond the crappy tree, and you realise you were right the first time, and it is surreal and beautiful, and you scream and piss and - it turns out the tree is larger than you thought. You collapse. You peel. Bitter and abject, you masturbate, salt-water in your mouth and nose.
the starscape has exploded further, your mind
painting the blanks with what it expects to see, what it needs to, wants to, is seeing. Even though you know it's but nightlight
in flight from a spilt methadone shipment, you know harder still that you can
“That, Hayleigh, is Conspiracy Theory.”
t. IT’S ALL IN MY HEAD, BOYS
Seesawing back and forth on her compacted, fog-coloured mattress, Hayleigh smiles blankly into the tip of a syringe snapped off in her artery, dripping purple blood and verdant methadone.
White walls? Padding? It feels so soft when the needle has been broken off, it looks so white, it—(unconsciousness. back to black and cold.)
u. ANOTHER SPILT SHIPMENT
Where is it? Where is it? Where is it? Where is it? Where the fuck is it? Fuck is it? Fuck? Fuck? Shit!
(Hyperdependence-forming drugs are all well and good as long as the supply remains uninterrupted. Any society that is designed so that the most intelligent trouble-makers autodestruct had better not allow the flow of narcotics to dry.)
Stepping in an agony of spasmodic sobriety to her wallhole, Hayleigh sees a gash smashed in a security lamp. Pure white is escaping and shimmering off – the methadone is on the tree. It sparkles. She will go to the tree and get the – wait. She remembers something.
What do you mean we don’t have to live like this?
This is all for the best, isn’t it?
I don’t want change, I’m happy where I am—
“You could have this. You should have this. You should at least have the chance to have this.”
We did have the chance; we failed.
“You failed to have an IQ in the top half of the nation. You still work hard and love people and live. Perhaps you will never be a great leader or thinker, but why should you be exploited?”
Why should we be exploited?
“Socialism. We demand rights. We demand humanity.”
We demand humanity.
WE DEMAND HUMANITY!
Word spreads fast. Walls are painted with colour. People stop turning up to work. B men are outnumbered by the insensible, bullish rage of C and D and E and guns are no good to you when you’re dead because
I CAN TAKE THEM AND USE THEM AGAINST YOU.
Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?
Sophie cries hot tears of revenge by her side. Angela whispers from her stain in the sewers.
NO MORE BLACK WALLS!
WE WILL LIVE RIGHT! YOU WON’T SIT TIGHT!
ON TO THE NETWORK! ON TO A! ON TO THE BALCONIES!
DOWN WITH ADVANCEMENT!
blood cordite sunset steel rape fire numbers plans crush paint cries execution squabbles order in-fighting calm postcoital-exhaustion
A spiky sun engorged with blood sinks brokenly into the horizon: a fat bureaucrat laughing at a maze of red tape, a breached ship quizzically submitting to fate.
Bemused, Hayleigh stares out at hope-soaked plains as razed architecture consumptively spits convulsive plumes of spark and dust into the atmosphere.
“We were only doing what we were told, you know”
It’s just a corpse. It is not speaking to you.
“We didn’t know it was wrong. We were always told it was right. It always seemed right, because it was what we were brought up with.”
Dead children and misled minions rot at her.
x. NEW ORDER
Time pans out, stretches, hallucinates.
Society rebuilds. Intellectual classism is abolished. Standardised testing is forgotten. Social advancement is based on aptitude and perseverance, irrespective of IQ. Classlessness reigns, because why should I treat my workers, who do all my hard work, and may even end up advancing themselves eventually, as anything other than fellow human persons?
A free interchange of ideas exists everywhere, and you can speak against the order if you wish.
Bad eggs sulphurise the order.
Social constructs reform. Inevitably. Dynasties accrue. Arguments turn into duels turn into feuds. A council is set up to decide disagreements. Another council is set up in opposition to the first council which decided against it. Argument turns into duel turns into war.
“No. Libertarianism is not like this. Liberalism is not like this. I GAVE YOU FREEDOM!”
Belted from the rooftops, a reprove to a spoilt child.
Whose fault is it that the child is spoilt, Hayleigh?
y. HUMPTY DUMPTY JUMPED
(Authoritarian meritocracy was immoral and oppressive, but it kept the peace, and had a semblance of order and freedom. Liberalism, socialism, libertarianism? Morally sound; freeing; …improperly handled, just as destructive.)
Time pans out further, stretches unhingedly, spins out in the mind’s mind.
An authoritarian anarchy rules for hundreds of years. The cast-iron agony and unceremonial death of millions of innocents pollutes the air. A greedy, impersonal corporate republic is formed in its wake.
Disorder. Murder. Hate. A million million lives pinned to you, Hayleigh, in the name of freedom, of fairness, Hayleigh, a million million dead for your radical ideal, suffering and waste, Hayleigh, a million million pinned to
A wreath of smoke dissipates as the shockwave embeds itself in the padded white walls of the windowless room. A muted clatter. A soulless slump. A blossom of red on the white padded floor.
z. THE PROFESSOR-PROGENITOR
“E! E! E! E!” she gasped climactically.
“Get your pervert hands off that Downs child.”
She obliged; slithered across to he, past felten noticeboards, and yawning Persians and toms preening atop hide-bound textbooks.
“This had better be important, Professor.”
They peered in through the exit wound in Hayleigh’s head.
“You are two people, not one at all,” Hayleigh said.
“And you are dead,” s/he responded in unison, and fired another shot back through the exit wound.
Flecked with scarlet and fragments of Hayleigh, they unhooked her arm from the drugfeed.
“Drop it back in the D partition.”
Sable X. Veins
24th March 2006