The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
“The Peter Moore I knew was a very private and quiet man. Based on the attendance here, it would appear that Peter Moore was a more public individual than I knew.”
Rebecca meekly raised a hand.
The minister looked at her. “What is it, Mrs. Moore?”
“You’re right. Peter was a very private and quiet man. He wasn’t an outgoing kind of person outside of work, and then he was all business.”
There were murmurs of agreement among the attendees. The Minister stood there looking around wondering what to say now. He looked up at heaven and said a quick prayer for guidance.
“It seems the private and quiet Peter Moore that I knew, was known by others...”
Every other month, just like clockwork, videos, documents, and emails of a corporate and/or political crimes were being released. With each release, there was a statement about how much that particular crime was costing the typical American family. Websites were springing up that documented a kind of running total, and the amounts that were being presented were now getting into extremely disturbing levels. Sure, it was just a hundred dollars here, twenty dollars there, and so on, but the ‘and so on’ list was getting extremely long.
In the off month, just like clockwork, videos, documents, and emails of executive decision-making sessions in which consumer desires were dismissed were being released. So what if there are a large number of consumers who want a small pickup truck. We’re not making that because selling bigger pickup trucks is more profitable. We’re going to practice a form of engineering that forces specific kinds of consumer behavior because it makes it easier to take advantage of them.
Some of these manipulative schemes had a sinister feel to them, although it would be hard to say that they were truly evil. Do you want a new small house with a small plot of land for a garden? You don’t have that option. Over the past forty years, the size of houses has increased by a thousand square feet, almost doubling what the average house size was back then. If you have a lot of money, you can get a large McMansion on a large piece of property. A little less money, you can get a large McMansion on a small piece of property. A little less than that, you can get a town house. Less money than that, you can rent. Of course, there are older homes which are going to require a lot of maintenance. And the smaller places tend to be in neighborhoods that are a little rundown or not so safe.
At the same time, there’s a huge movement to convince people that high-density living is the way to go. A real sales job is being made that you don’t want your own ‘stand alone’ home on a piece of property that is actually yours. What are all of the benefits of not owning? Well, you don’t have to do yard work — there’s a maintenance fee to cover that. The list of benefits contains lots of items like that. You don’t have this problem, but you get a different one. At the very end of the list is where the sinister elements start to show up. High density living is better because ‘they’ can control the energy usage of each individual household easier. What? You mean, someone else can dictate my energy usage so I can be cold in the winter and hot in the summer? I’m old; I need a house that’s a little warmer because my circulation isn’t so good. Sorry.
Obvious crimes tended to irritate people. No one likes to be the victim of theft. However, people really get steamed about being cheated and manipulated. There’s a sense of violation that’s a lot more personal about being manipulated. Why? Well, theft is somewhat opportunistic, but manipulation is intentional. Predatory loans, the practice of lending money to people who can’t really afford the loan to get them in debt for the rest of their lives is an example. It’s like, oh boy we found a vulnerability: Let’s exploit it.
Governmental policies had a similar sinister feel to them. Consider the Currency Transaction Report which deals with cash transactions of greater than $10,000. It was put into place to help detect money laundering, drug sales, and prostitution. That was back in 1986 when $10,000 was a lot of money. In inflationary terms, ten thousand dollars today has the purchasing power of less than $5,000 back then. Of course, we don’t use cash today because ... well ... no wants to carry cash. It is all checks, debit cards and credit cards today. Even vending machines take credit cards now. The banks and the government don’t really want you to use checks, they would prefer electronic transactions. Governments want to limit criminal activities. Banks and businesses want to know what you buy.
Back in the day, it was different. When you bought a tube of hemorrhoid cream, you stood sheepishly in line and paid cash for it. Only you and the clerk knew that you had made that purchase. Now, there’s a complete record of the transaction that traces that purchase back to you and a number of businesses now have access to that information. You start getting ads about hemorrhoid treatments and other such things in your mail, email, and on the web pages you visit.
It’s a kind of loss of privacy that at first means very little. As time goes on, it becomes more and more obvious and intrusive. It’s like having everything you do written on the front door of your house for everyone to see. Ed has erectile difficulties. Jane is having her period this week. Bobby is upstairs watching porn. Susan is pregnant and considering an abortion. Ed lost two dollars at the track last week. Jane purchased a vibrator online. Bobby has attention deficit disorder (except when it comes to porn). The list goes on. When put in those terms, it stops being embarrassing and becomes harassment.
Being robbed, ripped off, manipulated, or having your privacy stolen is bad, but when they are all occurring at the same time, it becomes intolerable. As the scale of just how helpless you are emerges, it becomes a form of Chinese water torture. Drip by drip on the forehead the discomfort increases to be replaced by anger.
Every month, just like clockwork, Peter was adding another drop of water to the forehead. The anger was rising. The public was getting edgy. Their attention was drawn to watching business, banking, and government ever more closely. What they were seeing disgusted them. The light splash of water on the forehead was slowly turning into the pounding of a hammer.
The product-placement war was still ongoing after all of this time. It had ebbed and flowed, but it was nowhere near a conclusion. Staples like sugar, flour, and rice were all on the bottom shelves while excessively flavored substitutions, salt-free, sugar-free, and slow-selling products were within easy reach. The holiday season was approaching and in some circles that meant baking pies and making cookies. A little old lady, suffering from osteoporosis, bent down to pick up a five pound sack of sugar. After grabbing it, she couldn’t straighten up. The pain as a disk slipped was horrible. She screamed loudly and she cried a bucket of tears. In her agony, she made a scene.
In a world of cell phones, someone was bound to make a video of it. A video of her agony was posted on YouTube. It went viral. This wasn’t one of those videos that showed a cat doing something funny, a person doing something stupid, or any of those common causes for a video to go viral. This was a raw portrayal of human agony. For what? To manipulate the public into purchasing sugar-free substitutes (which make lousy cookies).
Nothing would have happened as a result of this video if it wasn’t for a second video that appeared shortly thereafter. A disgruntled secretary used her cell phone to capture a meeting in a large food company where the topic of product placement was the only item on the agenda.
It was a single diatribe that got posted:
Who the f•©k cares about that old bat? People have to buy food. We sell it. They have to play it our way. They can’t do shit about it.
It was probably the first and last sentence that triggered the firestorm. It seemed a lot of people cared about ‘the old bat.’ It seemed that a lot people felt they could do something about it. You see, someone had demonstrated in a spectacular fashion that something could be done by ‘bitch-slapping’ five very large corporations who had thought they were untouchable.
Within twenty-four hours of that video being posted, hundreds of grocery stores were in shambles. Unlike what some people might expect, these weren’t stores in impoverished neighborhoods. These were stores serving every economic stratum. None of them had been burned down. It was just that the middle three shelves of products on every row in the store had been dumped onto the floor. Police were called out. People were arrested, including soccer moms, grannies, old men, teenagers, and single men and women. Store owners were crying over the loses this represented. The press was having a field day. It didn’t do anything to relieve the anger.
It was the beginning of The Time of Riots.
Peter sat at the conference table deep in thought. Things were moving along at a fast pace, and the real issue was keeping things under control. If things exploded, they couldn’t be put back together again. That was not what Peter wanted.
Professor Bowlings, Ann Randal, Alan Barton, and Gale Roberts were watching him. Peter slowly reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a thumb drive. He handed it over to Alan and said, “Run this query.”
Alan practically ran out of the conference room. He was just as curious as the others about what Peter had in mind.
“Ann, it’s time to publish An Anger Directed. We have to start putting a brake on people’s actions. We need them angry, but not destructive.”
“I’ve been waiting for the word.”
Gale said, “I’ll make the call.”
She left the room to start things in motion. The printing press was to be started, the web site turned on, and an advertising campaign had to be launched. Everything was in place. They had just been waiting for the word to start.
Professor Bowlings said, “The elections are coming up. You can’t do a repeat of the last little trick you pulled.”
“I know. That’s what Alan is working on.”
“What am I working on?”
Peter looked up at Alan. There was an unusual, but complementary, relationship between the two men. Alan was a wiz at getting into places that were off limits, but he didn’t know what to do once he got there. Peter was a tool user and could only accomplish whatever his tools were capable of doing, but he had the vision that Alan lacked. Remarkably, both men wanted exactly the same thing: a life of freedom.
“Did you look at the query?”
“Of course I did. You’re looking for families that fit a very specific profile. Parents or grandparents who have been arrested and fined for protesting. Children who are in the top one percentile of their class. Moderate political leanings with nothing too extreme. You’re limiting the results to specific parts of the country.”
“Exactly. I’m limiting it to places where the candidates of both parties can easily be shown to be corrupt. I’m going to use the person who was arrested for protesting as a spokesperson for the rest of the community. The kids, they’re going to use social media to circumvent the system.”
Professor Bowlings scowled. “You put a lot of faith in social media.”
“Not really. I put a lot of faith in people’s anger. Social media is just a way to communicate. If they pull it, I’ll find another way for the message to be spread.”
“What do you mean, if they pull it?”
“I mean that certain people are trying to censor the Internet. They want to make using the Internet as a means of organizing protests a crime. They are concerned that people are using it to incite riots, which is a form of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment.”
Professor Bowlings recited, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Peter countered, “I find it interesting that the government is taking a rather psychotic view of the Internet. In an environment where nothing is real, there can’t be physical violence. All assemblies are peaceful, yet they want to ban that. In an environment where anyone can put up a blog and become a source of news, it is interesting that the government wants to pick and choose who and what is the press. Using the Internet to ask for redress of grievances is now viewed as an attack against the government.
“In many ways, the Internet is the living and breathing manifestation of the First Amendment and the government is doing its best to kill it. They say it is for our protection, but it isn’t. It is for their protection. Without a way to expose their misdeeds, they can do anything they want.
“So I’m going to use the Internet as weapon while I can.
“A soccer mom is going give an impassioned speech about how she feels so helpless when her life is being controlled by politicians who are puppets of political parties who don’t care. Her kids are going to send that video to their friends. Their friends will show it to their parents. Word will spread.
“At the same time, the candidates for office in her voting district are going to be exposed for sexual improprieties and illegal acts. A vacuum will be created which the political parties will attempt to fill with whoever they can, but it will be too late for them.
“Then some bright person — I don’t know who — will suggest that they write-in the soccer mom for the office. Word will spread, but it won’t be that insistent. It will not be something that people consciously think about, but it will boil in the back of their minds.
“The one thing that we can count on is another set of crisis events that will anger people. A kid getting killed by a policemen. A vicious rape or a beating by some gang. A politician will say something really stupid. A company will screw the wrong customer. There are so many little things that are at the flash-point, that it won’t take much to start the wildfire.
“The anger will be released, but how can they make something happen. I know! Vote for soccer mom. Get her enough power to screw the people who have been screwing us for so long.
“It will take us to the tipping point in a couple of states. We’ll be able to change election laws in the direction you have suggested. That will change the whole name of the game.”
Alan whistled. Professor Bowlings inhaled deeply and exhaled loudly. Ann grinned.
In Cleveland, Ohio, a policeman shot and killed a young Black man. In the officer’s defense, the young man was acting in a very irrational fashion under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Despite the aggressive stance taken by the young man, the police officer wasn’t in any real danger. The individual was so out of it that he was having a hard time just standing. He staggered in the direction of the officer after being told to get down on the ground, the officer felt threatened and he fired several shots. The kid died.
Racial tensions had been high for a long time. General anger about the state of the country had been high for a long time. The shooting was another spark that launched riots. The riots progressed along predictable lines. Large groups of angry young men took to the streets releasing their anger by striking out at their physical surroundings. Windows were smashed, shops were looted, cars were overturned, and trashcans were lit on fire.
Before anyone gets too judgmental about their actions, it’s important to remember that people who feel like they are entrapped in poverty and are being exploited without any means of recourse will strike out at whatever they can. It isn’t a matter race or even economic circumstance; it is about perceived abuse and feeling helpless. Those feelings were at an all-time historic high, fed through months of news reports of racial injustice.
After the first night of destructive riots, things calmed down a bit. Protesters were lined up one side of the street. Cops in militaristic-looking riot gear were lined up across from them. Standing between the protesters and the cops was the press and the reporters, who were swarming around the more radical protesters and broadcasting every word from their mouth.
A kind interpretation of the press’s actions was that they were trying to report real grievances by those who dared to speak what they really felt. A less kind interpretation was that the press was trying to create a climate of fear. A paranoid explanation was that someone was orchestrating an excuse for declaring martial law right before an election.
The protest signs came out and the press focused in on the most racially charged signs there: “Kill Whitey!” “Death to Cops!” and “Slavery Part 2” Two phrases were broadcast repeatedly, “It’s time for a White genocide.” and “End White Privilege.” The result was an instant polarization across racial lines in every large urban area in the nation.
There was a predominately White neighborhood adjacent to an area where the riots were the worst. The people in that neighborhood didn’t feel like there was anything like White privilege. If there was, none of them felt like they had been the recipient of any privileges of any kind. Unemployment in that neighborhood had been high for so long that most of them had forgotten what it had been like to have a job. They were insulted at the charge. They believed that there was a real intent to kick off a White genocide.
The result was that the police suddenly found they were stuck between two huge groups of angry young men intent on hurting the other side. It was never determined if a shot had been fired or not, but a sound remarkably like a gunshot served as a trigger. The two groups charged each other, running over the police in the process. The press, now standing off to the side, was joyously broadcasting every blow exchanged in the melee. Commentators were describing events with orgasmic glee.
Martial law was declared. Within an hour the National Guard showed up, which was odd since it should have taken them longer than that just to get to the area. Guardsmen swarmed through the streets. Protesters on all sides fled. It only took a half an hour for the area to look like an armed occupation camp.
Ann Randal’s book, An Anger Directed, was released amidst a period of extreme social tensions. Print copies disappeared as fast as they were printed. EBooks were downloaded at unprecedented rates. It was, without a doubt, the number one selling book in America. It didn’t appear on the New York Times best seller list, at all.
Her first book, Seeds of Discontent, had captured the spirit of unease that existed in the country. Despite the fact that it was in the science-fiction section of the bookstore, people read her book marveling at how accurately it captured what they were feeling. She was praised for her commentary on current events.
Her second book, Corrupt to the Core, was basically prophetic in terms of fictional expositions of corruption paralleling actual expositions of corruption. People read the book and then watched as life mimicked fiction.
By this time, she had a loyal fanbase that would have bought anything she wrote. Even if she had just written the word ‘pizza’ fifty thousand times, she would have sold a million copies and someone somewhere would have read it from cover to cover.