The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
The Minister frowned. He wasn’t used to having a service interrupted in this fashion. He looked across the audience paying a little more attention to individual faces. He had known about the Washington contingent and the group from the Governor’s office. That had been a surprise, but the significance of their attendance hadn’t really established itself in his mind.
Now he began to recognize others in the audience. His hand trembled at the power represented in the room. These were the movers and shakers, the people whose merest word was noted and analyzed. After the destruction of the Democrat and Republican Parties, it was the voter coalitions that had stepped into the power vacuum.
He spotted Paul Burgess, the national head of Consumer Advocacy. Every presidential election, there were individuals representing that group in every state on the ballot to serve as an elector. Almost without exception they were selected as electors who helped determine who became President and Vice President.
Over to the side was Dan Green, the national head of Corporate Watchdog. That group was about as powerful as they came. Executives of large corporations were continually trying to get the laws which constrained them changed. Most states had members of Corporate Watchdog make it through the selection process as electors. A few states even elected three or four members of Corporate Watchdog to serve as electors.
Then there was Martin Phillips along with his now aging bodyguard Franklin Jones. It was often said that Reverend Martin Luther King had a dream and that Martin Phillips delivered it. It was strange to think that a man who ran a dozen marijuana shops in New York City had national politicians by the score stop by his store to discuss issues of race and economic opportunities.
The minister took a breath and said, “Many in this town wished that Peter would take a greater interest in the local government. He was asked many times to serve on the town council or as mayor. He always claimed to be too busy and that there were others more suited for the job.
“It might come as a surprise, but all of the men he recommended to serve as mayor were exceptionally successful in leading this town to economic success.”
Someone said, “That’s not surprising.”
A number of people laughed.
The conference center was structured along the lines of a private lakeside resort. It had thirty rooms for guests, a large conference room, several smaller workrooms, and a dining room. The dining room and kitchen were in a building separated from the main conference area. For entertainment after meetings, there were a number of lounge chairs along a large patio where people could look out across the lake. A small bar was there so that people could have beer, wine, and limited mixed drinks.
Built in the early 1960s, it had originally been a small lakeside motel with a handful of cabins and a dining facility that provided breakfast, but nothing else. It had fallen into disrepair and had to close. The current owner had come across it and thought to reopen it for use as a location for business retreats to take advantage of the new trend of having business meetings away from the workplace. He had refurbished the cabins, built the conference center, and landscaped the patio.
The owner had discovered earlier that large businesses didn’t want his people hanging around the conference area when they were meeting. They would staff it with their people. He and a few others would stay in the old office of the motel on call in case of equipment malfunction. This was fine with him.
The current group to rent the facility for a full week was a charity by the name of Soul Searcher Charities. He had never heard of it and when he looked it up, there was almost no information about it. The website he found didn’t say what kind of charity it was. It looked like a fake charity.
The people in charge of it were the most careful people about privacy that he’d ever had. He had a list of names that were obvious fakes: Jane Doe, John Doe, Jack Doe, and a number of Smiths and Jones. A crew had come out in the morning and inspected the conference room from floor to ceiling. They had swept it for bugs. They had disconnected the Internet, removed telephone handsets and security cameras. They had even set up their own satellite link.
Working in the office while people had checked in had been eye opening. Never had any group been comprised of such contrasting types of people and personalities. He had been blown away to meet the authoress, Ann Randal. She was as charming and polite as the stories about her said she was. She’d even signed his copies of her books. Shortly after she had finished checking in, Samantha Wilder, the former porn actress, had arrived. She was followed by a couple of people who had to be university professors.
Then came the two Black men. They were hard looking individuals, which he was ashamed to say made him think of gang leaders. He didn’t hide his reaction well enough and the look they gave him was enough to make him want to pick up the phone and dial the police.
A Hispanic woman arrived after them. She had skin that had been exposed to too much sun and hard tough hands. Much to his shame, he had taken one look at her and thought, ‘Illegal alien migrant worker.’ Her English was passable though. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so embarrassed if he had learned the truth. She was an illegal alien and she was a migrant worker.
He didn’t know what to think of the woman who showed up wearing a hoodie. She kept the hood up so that her features were hidden from view. It was hard to say what she looked like since she wouldn’t look up at him. Her piercings kept distracting him from seeing the flesh beneath them. She had signed in as Jane Doe.
Then came the woman with the weird hairstyle, flamboyant clothes and biting attitude. Her hair was long on one side and short on the other. She was accompanied by a guy who was as queer as a three dollar bill. The guy had even tried to arrange a date with him. They had laughed while leaving the office, apparently having enjoyed his discomfort at dealing with them.
He had recognized Paul Metzer, the activist who was trying to restore the ecology movement back to a non-violent footing. He had even joined the organization. Paul had commented on the small framed certificate of membership that hung on the back wall of the office.
After a while, he began to lose track of the different kinds of people who showed up. At the end of the day, he decided that he had just been introduced to forty of the most unique individuals he had ever met. What were they doing there? He had no clue. Not one had dropped even the smallest hint.
“Good Evening everyone. I’m Ann Randal and I’ll be your hostess this week.
“You have been called here because you have each submitted your vision for the future to Peter. I have incorporated your visions into my next book, The Reset Manifesto. The purpose of this book is to pave the way for acceptance of what you have envisioned. I am your John the Baptist, the wild man of the wilderness who speaks of the coming of the savior. In this case, it is saviors — plural. If I am to lay the proper groundwork, then it is important that I have the ideas correct in my mind.
“Most of you do not know each other and now would be a good time for us to introduce ourselves. Some of us are recognized public figures and will introduce ourselves by name. Others of us live in the shadows and shall only give a pseudonym. Some of us can walk freely among the authorities without fear, while others face prison, enslavement, or even death should they ever be captured. All of us want the same thing: to live free.”
The tables in the conference room were arranged like in two ‘L’ shapes, reflecting back on itself. The long arms of the L ran the length of the room. The small arms covered the narrow part of the room with a small gap between the ends. The large open end was at the front of the room with a big screen. Off to the side of the projection screen was a speaker’s podium. Ann stood at the podium looking at everyone looking back at her.
Leaving the podium, she walked into the open center and stopped at the corner of the nearest table. She gestured to the people to her right.
“We have a contingent that has struggled to put together a vision for our rights as humans. I’m speaking of an end to slavery, not the slavery of picking cotton, but the enslavement that happens to those who are at the lowest end of the economic scale: poverty, ignorance, abuse, harassment, racism, and imprisonment.
“It is easy to control the poor. All society has to do is label what they do to escape their poverty a crime, even if it is for just a minute or two, in the embrace of substances. As a criminal, you are at the mercy of those in authority. Vagrants, drug addicts, and alcoholics are easy pickings. What are they really? People who have given up everything, those who escape life through the ephemeral dreams found in a crack pipe, and men and women lost in a bottle. They aren’t to be criminalized, they are to be helped.
“Then we have the next contingent of people who have put together a vision of what it means to be a productive member of society. I’m talking about those who labor to do, to grow, to make, to create and to think. Too many people are embarrassed that they labor. They feel uncomfortable saying, ‘I am a mechanic, ‘ ‘I am a taxi driver, ‘ ‘I am a janitor, ‘ ‘I pick crops from the field, ‘ or ‘I give blowjobs.’
“Yes, I include those who engage in the oldest profession as productive members of society. It is a job like any other. Labor is exchanged for money. In talking with Samantha, I have become convinced it is perhaps the hardest form of labor there is.”
Samantha nodded her head to acknowledge the comment.
Ann moved down the length of the table a few more steps. She came to a stop in front of a couple of men and women who were dressed somewhat more conservatively than the others.
“Now we get to ownership. There are few desires more common than the desire to hold something in your hand and say, ‘This is mine.’ Yet ownership has been under attack. ‘This is mine’ is becoming replaced by, ‘This is theirs, but I get to hold it for a while.’ We should be able to own our car, home, and, even telephones. That which we do own is so poorly made that it breaks as soon as the warranty ends. Warranties which were once for twenty years were reduced to five years and now are one year. That isn’t ownership. It is a rental of a different kind.”
She walked to the short length of the ‘L’. She stood for a moment looking at the people seated there.
“Economics. We get paid for our labor. We pay taxes. We save for our retirement. Yet it seems like everyone wants to take our money from us without giving value in exchange. I do not mind paying someone to paint my house if they do a good job. I’ll even tip when someone does an outstanding job. I do mind when extra charges are added as taxes and it bothers me that the man who paints my house loses so much of his income to taxes. It bothers me even more when I see our leaders spending our hard earned money frivolously.
“The economy is an amazingly complex problem. It can’t be solved with little patches to an existing framework, it has to be torn apart and completely restructured. Our money is being minted by a private firm. We have investment firms manipulating the stock markets for their profit at our expense. Billions of dollars are wasted every day by the government. We have a deficit that is an anaconda so large that it could swallow King Kong whole.”
“My hat is off to these folks for having tackled such a difficult problem.”
She crossed the gap between the Ls. She held her hands apart as if gathering the people seated together into one bunch.
“Our executives and politicians are out of control. Executives don’t own companies; they are hired to manage them. Somehow those individuals have come to believe that has translated into a right to grab as much money as possible from the company at the expense of the employees, the customers and the investors. Politicians spend money like it’s an infinite resource. They sell their votes. They view the people as sheep. A man holds a public position that pays a hundred thousand a year and is worth fifteen million dollars after ten years. There is something wrong. These folks have a framework that will change all of that.
She moved along the longer side of the L.
“There are three things that should not be the subject of profit: our safety, our health, and our education. Our military/industrial complex has been in the business of creating wars to make a profit. Our healthcare revolves around money rather than health. Education costs have skyrocketed, yet the quality of education is continually sinking. That’s got to end and these folks have amazing ideas on how to end it.”
She was now in the middle of the long end of the L.
“All of the other things are meaningless if we destroy the world around us. Pollution, use of natural resources, and the diversity of life in the natural world all impact us in ways both obvious and subtle. The energy policy of this country has eaten away at our earnings, our environment, and our standing among nations. The plants and animals of this world are truly treasures to be nurtured and cherished. We can’t pollute our environment and expect to remain healthy. These few folks are working to keep our species from becoming extinct.”
She moved along a little up the table.
“Last, but not least is these fine folks who are concerned about our freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom to love, and a freedom to knowledge. Of everyone in this room, they are the most likely to be killed or enslaved. Jane Doe, whose sole interest is privacy, could easily end up a prisoner of an alphabet agency sentenced to a life of violating people’s privacy, freedom of speech, and access to knowledge.”
With her hoodie still over her head hiding her face, Jane Doe raised a her hand with a little wave in acknowledgment.
“John Doe is focused on freedom of speech on the Internet. He’s spent years stamping on attempts to censor what is posted on the Internet and to expose what our leaders are trying to hide from us. His activities have earned him powerful enemies who want to see him dead and buried.”
She moved back to the podium and then turned to face everyone. She took a quick sip of water to clear her throat and restore her voice.
“Peter once told me that he had no idea what everyone would produce. He explained that the best he could do to protect himself from a life of slavery was to find good, honest, moral, intelligent and thoughtful people to tackle the problems of the world. He found you and gave you a mission. He then stood back to watch what you would do. He set you free and provided you with any resource you needed.
“Only a handful of us have seen all that you’ve done. I have to say that the one thing that impressed us the most was how cohesive the results were. None of you knew what others were working on, yet the solutions that you found interlock with a precision that couldn’t have been accidental. I think there is an underlying understanding of what is truly wrong with the current situation.
“Let me give you an example. We had a suggestion for a basic minimum wage and compensation package that allows someone to actually support a family in today’s world. It tore apart that official distinction of part-time and full-time, to one of basic employment. A person working two part-time jobs is working full-time. That was from a person concerned about people being productive members of society. On the other hand, the person dealing with controlling corporations pinned the total compensation of an executive to a maximum of 200 times the wage of the lowest paid full-time person in the corporation. Notice that was compensation for the executive, not just salary so that includes stock options, bonuses, and additional benefits. You couldn’t ask for a better fit in policies to assure that wages at the lowest level of a company are brought up to, and are maintained at, a reasonable level.
“I’m sure you can hear the screaming now. Surely an executive deserves to make more than four million dollars. Why should his compensation be limited by what the janitor makes? There will be temper tantrums.”
Everyone chuckled. They could just imagine how executives would react to that.
Peter looked over at the clock. It was nearing time for him to leave. He broke the feed from the conference center. He shutdown the computer at the far end of his connection. He was about to shutdown the machine on his desk when an alarm sounded. He looked over at the monitor and then relaxed. He finished shutting down his computer.
He got up from the desk to answer the door. Chuck Sims beat him there and started knocking on it.
“Hello Chuck, what’s up?”
Holding up an envelope, Chuck answered, “I brought over your share of the profits from the farm.”
“You didn’t need to come out all of this way.”
“Yes, I did. You saved my family farm and I owe you.”
Chuck handed over the envelope with a broad grin. “That check is for twenty thousand.”
“That’s real good.”
“I’m going to make improvements around the farm. I’m going to lay a fresh bed of gravel along the road and add a green house next to the barn. I plan to grow a few vegetables during the winter. I figure nice fresh tomatoes about December sure would taste good.”
“Are you going to grow any lettuce and carrots?”
“I’ll have to stop by and check it out.”
“You know, my grandfather would have laughed his ass off at the idea of raising mint for tea. He was a firm believer that the only crop worth planting was corn. This has been the most profitable year ever in the history of this place. I’ve got you to thank for it.”
“I figure you deserve most of the credit. I was just lucky to come across the idea on a website. You were the one who saw it through.”
Chuck frowned. He didn’t quite remember things that way.
“You were lucky to catch me here. I was just heading out to take Rebecca to the doctor.”
“Is something the matter?”
“We believe that she might be pregnant. She appears to have most of the symptoms.”
“This will be your first, right?”
“I remember going through that. My wife tended to have large emotional swings. It’s the hormones, you know.”
Looking very worried about the possibility of mood swings, Peter said, “We looked up the side-effects of pregnancy and the article discussed that possibility. We have questions about that for the doctor.”
When Peter got out his key fob, Chuck realized that he wanted to get out of the building. He stepped back from the door. Peter stepped out and pushed the button that would start the car. He then turned and locked up the office door.
“We are rather concerned about the pregnancy. Neither of us has been pregnant before so we don’t know what to expect.”
“She’s the only one that can be pregnant, but I know what you mean. Don’t worry too much about it. All you need to do is be supportive. From the father’s perspective, it isn’t until after the delivery that things get exciting.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll have the baby crying in the middle of the night. Changing diapers is a lot of fun, particularly when the odor is strong enough to require a gas mask. You can’t leave the baby alone for a minute. It will be like packing for an expedition every time you leave the house. You’ll have a stroller, diaper bag, pacifiers, and bottles.”
“We read about that.”
“Reading and living it are too different things.”
“Not for us.”
Chuck followed Peter over to the car. He watched Peter check the car for explosives. Everyone in town had gotten used to the sight of him checking out his car all the time. His wife was just as careful with her car. People would have made fun of him, but they remembered the foiled attempt to plant explosives in his car back when he had angered Newton.
“Do you need to check your car like that?”
“It’s a habit. Considering it saved my life once, it is a habit I don’t want to break.”
“I can’t blame you.”
Hugh Abbott was a professional in his chosen field, although it would be hard to describe exactly what that field was. He was a fixer. If you had a problem that couldn’t be dealt with using usual methods, you would call on someone like Hugh. He could rough up someone if that was required. He wasn’t averse to performing a little breaking and entering if something needed to be retrieved. He could even handle a disappearance or two.
This was an unusual assignment, perhaps the most unusual of his life. A very wealthy man had gotten in touch with his agent. He was hired to find any material that some authoress was basing her books upon. He’d been surprised to learn that the authoress was Ann Randal, the current queen of science fiction. He had read her books and had been surprised at how accurately she had pegged what was happening in the world. He figured the client wanted any notes about what was going to happen next so that he could use the information to get even richer.
Wearing a plumber’s outfit and carrying a bucket with tools sticking out of it, he walked directly to the apartment door. He picked the lock on the doorknob in seconds. The deadbolt was a different story altogether. His lock-pick tools wouldn’t go in any deeper than a quarter of an inch. His first thought was that the key must have broken off inside the lock. That would be a problem from several perspectives. If he did manage to get it open, they would know he had been there. His investigation of the mechanism proved otherwise. The deadbolt cover was a dummy. That had stumped him. After having spent too much time trying to figure out the deadbolt mechanism, he packed up and left. He would have to do some research and return.
He headed over to a diner to decide what his next course of action would be. He ordered a chef salad, once again reminded that his mother used to refer to salads as roughage. He had discovered that she was wrong, but the term had been planted in his mind as a reference to salads. His mind slid back to the task at hand.
Well, he had tried the apartment with no luck. Until he figured out the deadbolt system that was used, it wouldn’t be of much use going back there. There was the office where she was said to do most of her writing. He would have to wait until later this evening to check it out. He didn’t want to hang around the entrance of the building in the middle of the day where he’d be easy to spot. He didn’t want to do it late at night where his car would stand out. Late evening was the best time. He could park across the street so that a single car in the parking lot wouldn’t be noticeable. In the late evening, the overhead light at the office wouldn’t be that noticeable since the other businesses in the area would be open with their lights on. He figured that he could have an hour or two to search.
George Ackerman returned home from work after stopping by the grocery store. He was carrying three plastic bags with groceries in one hand and his keys in the other. When he walked past Ann’s apartment, he glanced over at the door and noticed several light scratches around the keyhole of the deadbolt. He didn’t react in any visible way, but continued to his apartment. He unlocked the door and entered. Once the door closed behind him, he dropped the bags to the floor and pulled out his cell phone to make a call to Alan.
There were times when he was convinced that he had become some minor character in a spy novel. The role wasn’t that of a spy, but of the guy at the checkout counter of a hotel who serves as a drop point and information source for the real spies. This was one of those times.
He had a dozen different numbers to use in contacting Alan and Ann. He was to call a specific number if he noticed anything suspicious around the apartment. It had been explained to him that the number not only informed Alan of the problem, but also activated a response team if necessary.
To be quite honest, he had concluded that Peter and Alan were paranoid to an extent that was unhealthy. They were particularly protective of Ann, although he could understand that. She was a national treasure. Seeing the scratches around the deadbolt had called his conclusions into question. Perhaps they did know things that he didn’t. He dialed the number. When the answering machine told him to leave his message, he reported his observation of scratches around the deadbolt of Ann’s apartment.
He then went on with the business of putting away the groceries. He had to pick up the kids from the after school program. The life as a single parent was no fun at all.
“Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby.”
The doctor looked at the couple seated across from her. The wife was seated on the examining table and the husband on a side chair. She’d had a lot of couples in those same positions, but none of them had reacted with such a low-key response to the news she had just delivered. Some couples danced for joy, others looked like their lives had come to an end, and still other reacted as if pole axed. A calm, “okay,” was way out of the normal set of reactions.
“I’m sure that you have some questions about what is going to happen over the next few months.”
Peter and Rebecca looked at each other.
“There is one thing. We searched around the web, but couldn’t find any place that answered the most pressing question that we had.”
“What’s the question?”
“We read that pregnant women have mood swings and tend to be somewhat emotional.”
“That’s true,” the doctor said.
“I’m not comfortable with emotions. Will that affect my baby’s development?”
The doctor had to admit that she’d never been asked that question before. Usually it was a question more along the lines about morning sickness and concerns about having sex during pregnancy.
“You may experience mood swings and find that you exhibit emotions more easily than in the past, but your comfort level with emotions won’t have any effect on the baby.”
“That’s good to know.”
The doctor held up a brochure, “I have this brochure that...”
“We read that last night.”
“I have this one on...”
“We read that last night.”
Hugh Abbott pulled the hoodie over his head. He turned on the IR LEDs that were sewn into the interior of the hoodie. He checked the image on his cell phone to make sure that the LEDs were on. All the camera could see of the volume where his face was inside the hoodie was the bright white glow from the LEDs.
He crossed the street to the office building. There was only one way into the building and that was through the front door. All of the other doors opened only from the inside. The small windows had bars over them which he thought was pretty odd. He walked up to the front door. There was a single camera there. A quick blast of black paint from the small spray can took care of that. The single light bulb over the entrance was extremely dim and barely lit the lock.
He quickly checked around the door frame for any sign of an alarm system. He had a small homemade box that contained a magnetometer. It would let him know if there was a contact sensor on the door. There wasn’t.