Friday, 1 May 2009

Technido - Early Short Story

This story produced in the early Summer of 1987 when I was in my third year of studying 'A' Levels (I had failed in 1986) is another dystopia. This one sees a Thatcherite future but with Britain heavily influenced or possibly bought out, by Japanese culture. Nissan had opened a large car manufacturing plant in Sunderland in 1986. A 'daimyo' was a provincial ruler in medieval and early modern Japan; 1902 was the year the Anglo-Japanese alliance was signed (in our world the group is known as the 1922 Committee); the suffix '-do' in Japanse means 'they way of' as in Aikido or Judo; ironically in the 1990s Channel 4 actually began to show sumo wrestling bouts. Sushi was a rarity in the UK at the time, but has become far more common in British towns in the past 22 years, though as yet has not replaced fried fish and chips as a Friday evening treat.

Reigate is a town in Surrey currently about 30Km from central London, so suggesting the city has expanded greatly. In the original version of the story, it was Dover, which is on the Kent coast, 135Km from London and I had seen an advertisement about the importance of the green belts around London, showing a picture of a sign with 'London borough of Dover' on it saying something like this 'do you want this to become real?'. I included a Tanzanian company because of the lyric from 'Radio Africa' (1985) by Latin Quarter which goes 'Tanzania should be stepping up a gear/ Instead they've got to put on the brake'. The Co-Prosperity Sphere is what Japan called its empire in the 1930s-40s. In the 1980s people were increasingly retiring early though of course that trend has now reversed.

The story again reflects on the enduring perception of so many people living in my area in the 1980s that the 4 million unemployed were without work simply because they were lazy whereas in fact it affected lots of hard working people often on an arbitrary basis. When the story was written only 6% of British 18-year olds went to university compared to 42% now, so for a young person to have a degree was very rare.


Technido

"I'm home." a man walked into the hall of his house.

There were a few murmurings, then a boy came down the stairs.

"Hello Dad. Guess what."

"What?" his father replied in the usual routine.

"John's Dad's been elected Daimyo, for this area."

"Well, good for him, at least we'll get decent services round here now." he paused, then continued, "Where's your brother? Stuck in front of the telly again, as usual."

Father and son went into the living room, where a youth stared at the television.

"Not sumo on again." the father picked up the remote control and flicked to another channel.

"... today Graham Southburn, the MP for the London borough of Reigate, committed ritual suicide over allegations of corruption and immoral behaviour in his constituency. The leader of the backbench 1902 committee said that he saw his death as regretful but necessary ..."

"Go to the Job Centre?" the father inquired.

"Yes." the youth replied.

"Anything?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Why do you think?" his elder son retorted, "You either have to be unskilled, or have a degree."

"You had a job. You should have gone to some good British firm, like Nissan or Sony; not that Tanzanian multi-national."

"... now financial news. The British yen today gained five points against the Rupee, but fell to 1.42 against the Peso ..."

They sat in silence as the television continued.

The mother shouted from upstairs. "David can you go and get the sashimi, there's a 10 Yen note on the kitchen table."

"Why do we always have raw fish and seaweed on a Friday." The younger boy complained as he got up.

"It's good for you, not like the high fat stuff my family used to eat; it's cheap and traditional. Now get off down the shop before it gets busy." his father replied.

The elder son gazed blankly.

"Look, there are jobs about, we're in the South East where unemployment's low, just 31%. Anyway the situation's picking up, now we've fully joined the Co-Prosperity Sphere."

"It's alright for you, you're 45; only 5 years to retirement."

"You're just lazy, all your generation are. You won't work, sit around all day draining the country's resources." his father was becoming increasingly angry.

The young man bolted out of the room.

His mother entered with a letter. "What's the matter with him?" she asked.

"Usual problem." her husband answered.

"This came for you, from work."

"Why didn't they give it to me today? Must be official." the father opened the envelope and read the typed letter.

"Dear Mr. Grey, we hereby officially announce that due to falling orders we have been forced to make you redundant. In line with the current government guidelines we are unable to offer you any redundancy payments of any kind."

Mr. Grey read no further. The letter fell to the floor.

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