Think happy thoughts … or else

In the not-so-distant future:

Still dark but morning. Winstona Smith pulled back the grubby curtain over her cot and tried not to think. The room was quiet. Winstona often rose early to use the toilet before it filled to the brim, to try faucets for a drizzle of rusty water.

She refused to feel thirsty.

She sat up. The room smelled thick with sweat and, today, dark ripe feces.

“What the …” she started to think but stopped. You never thought a bad word in this place. Profanities set off alarms. Citations were issued for unpleasant thoughts. Foul-brainers lost meals and water privileges. Repeat offenders were doomed to graveyard shifts emptying putrid potties across the Bech-Mart campus.

Winstona shifted to a well-worn mental mantra.

“I love my job. I love my life. I love my country. I love my god.”

The words hummed in her head as she tip-toed across the barracks, packed with dozens of sleeping employees. “I love my country. I love my god.”

Once you got used to the device implanted in your forehead or hand, it wasn’t bad. Most people felt better, thinking happy thoughts as they labored away for 12 or 16 hours then headed back to the barracks.

If Winstona had risked a memory, she might have recalled a time when her mind was her own—before the United Planetary Corporatacracy took control. The good old UPC, the final free-market frontier, global political and corporate power fused into one efficient mechanism that operated, really, for the best of everyone.

Not that long ago, Winstona’s parents had been untroubled by the trends of multi-national corporations to manipulate the political process.

“What’s the big deal?” Winstona’s mom had wondered when a Texas congressman was indicted in 2005 for illegally funneling corporate contributions to political candidates in his home state.

“Hey, corporations mean jobs for the people,” Winstona’s dad said. He’d lost his job when Microloft moved its licensing department to Niger.

A few pesky critics argued against the big business agenda, endlessly bitching and moaning as the U.S. Supreme Court was stacked with free-enterprise lackeys. The Court quickly abolished minimum wage rules, labor protections, environmental safeguards and trade controls that obstructed the god of Profit. It was unconstitutional, justices argued, to interfere with a company’s money-making ability.

Before it disbanded itself, the Court handed down its final decision in Bech-Mart v. ACLU, supporting the company’s use of employee-tracking microchip implants. A handful of civil-liberty nuts had been outraged over employers monitoring the actions, words and even thoughts of workers, but the Court ruled 8-1 in favor of Bech-Mart.

Years earlier, the Court had outlawed birth control and abortion, to the joy of many. Between contaminated ground water, increasing poverty and air thick with pollutants, few children survived to adulthood anyway.

Winstona had been pregnant five times. Her fourth baby lived. She had held the warm, round-faced bundle for a few minutes before he was taken to the McNursery. He had his mother’s eyes, dark and full of questions that he’d never ask—never think. Best few minutes of Winstona’s life.

She refused to think of this as she squatted over the toilet. The sound of splashing urine woke a woman sleeping nearby. The woman looked up at Winstona.

“G’morning, Mom,” Winstona said, moving to the faucet.

She turned the handle. Nothing. Another dry day.

Winstona headed back to her cot, her fingers grazing the lips of a marble bust, some former president, in the room’s center.

She thought loudly, fiercely, deliberately.

“I love my job. I love my life. I love my country. I love my god.”