Monday, January 04, 2010

Jailed for what?

America has changed dramatically. It's 2010, a year that I thought would never come, and it's the summer. The president of the country has let his true socialist colors show, and has elected officials who have taken their power to extreme measures. The common people of America were jobless and homeless. They could resolve neither problem because of the country's messed up policies towards the jobless and homeless: you could only buy a home if you have sufficient means, and you can only get a job if you have a job, or if you have 10 years experience in the field, something rare among the common people. Meanwhile, they were also punished for being jobless and homeless. In other words, they were punished because they were unable to follow the rules that were designed to exclude them.

Secret police were everywhere. Government property was not clearly marked and had become entirely private. National parks were closed to visitors. A handful of public trails remained for "entertainment of the masses". This was one of the few entertainments that they had left, as the bourgeoisie had taken everything of value. One of them had reopened perhaps only 0.5% of what had been public property for the benefit of the 95% that weren't them. From this reopening of the 0.5%, he had scored the benefit of making himself appear to be the true benefactor for the lower classes of people. By his one act of kindness, he was the self-appointed messiah to us all.

Of the 95% of people outside the bourgeoisie, a full 50% consisted of the jobless and homeless. The other 50% that had jobs and homes were forced into sharing small homes and dead-end jobs. We were monitored everywhere for the maintaining of "happiness".

Well, I was one of the fortunate ones who had a job: it wasn't much, but it was a job, and I lived in a small but comfortable home. My dreams of being in the entertainment industry had closed, as now only members of the elite could even think of pursuing it. Schooling was extremely expensive (thus, only the 5% could afford it), and if you couldn't show a certificate to back up your talents, you couldn't get in. But if you could show a certificate, you had full access anywhere, even if you had no talents. Thus, true musicians, actors and entertainers hated the entertainment industry, because they were filled with people with no talent, who bought their way around. It was a "You need money to get money, and if you don't have money, you can't get any more money" situation, perfect for a revolution. You could feel that all people were steaming, but not brave enough to do anything about it. They also couldn't tell what needed to be done: they only knew that something had to be done.

Anyway, that's the setting for the story. As I stated before, I was one of the lucky ones who had a job, but it was a dead-end job, and I had hit the ceiling by being hired. As such, I needed to get out quite often and go exploring the little bit that was left to us. I decided to go hiking alone, and hit one of the public trails. I was just thinking and walking and the direness of my situation (or our collective situations) was smoothing itself out. Soon enough, I stopped thinking and looked around me. I was completely alone, surrounded by wilderness. Apparently, without trying or thinking, I had stumbled upon a land where no one else was. Thinking that this was really cool, I looked around to see if I could find a good vantage point. I was on a mountain, so I began climbing it, in the hopes that I could find a beautiful vantage point, or some direction so that when I needed to go home, I could do so.

As I climbed, I discovered a mineshaft. My curiosity got the better of me, so I went exploring, thinking that I wouldn't go too far: I'd just go in a few hundred feet and see what's in here. It looked pretty well abandoned, but the path was lit by cold lights, so I could just keep going. I found rooms full of crystals, minerals, precious metals -- it looked to be a miners dream. Everything was just there for the taking. A little too easy, it seemed to me. I got uncomfortable, as I felt that someone was watching me, so I left everything well enough alone and just kept exploring. I ended up coming through to the other side of the mountain, and as I stepped out into the sunlight, I was very quickly surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team bearing automatic and melee weapons. They arrested me as a criminal for trespassing and for theft.

Fast forward in time one full year. The judge had found me innocent for theft, and had been crazy with anger for not being able to charge me with anything but trespassing. He had thrown the book at me, but had only been able to keep me for one full year in prison. I was, after all, a working member of society, so I did have a couple rights left to me. Believe me, he did search the books to deprive me of them, too. The best he could do is throw me into prison for a full year. At the end of it all, I was released, but before I was actually let go, they put me into a small room at which point they said that they were going to erase my memory of my crime and my jail time. Why would you do that, I asked, and they told me that it was for my own happiness. After all, if I remembered that I had discovered a forbidden trail, a forbidden mine, forbidden treasures, and had experienced forbidden freedom to be put in jail for a full year by order of a judge who had tried to take everything from me, I wouldn't be happy.

"Trust me, it worked the last time we did this to you. It'll work again."

With sudden shock, all my old memories came back to me. This had happened before. No wonder the judge had hated me so much: I was a repeat offender, but I didn't know it. I could never learn from my past, because the system was set up to keep me blissfully ignorant of my past "crimes" in the hope that I would never discover them again. The system of judgment was set up in such a way that "crimes" (even repeat ones) were considered accidents when committed by anyone low in the totem pole. Thus, while they were guilty, they weren't always responsible for their actions. The rulers had effectively decided that we were all cattle who roughly knew the law but could never understand it. They had also figured that we were innocent and happy, and were just thrilled to work for the upper class when given modest stipends of freedom.

As my memory was flashed, a bright light filled my eyes. I found myself back at home in my bed waking up from a long nights sleep. Then I realized that I was actually awake, and not waking up in my dream. Ironically, today is my first day back to work following my week-long vacation.


I was in attendance at a Mass, at a church which was a slightly larger version of St. Phillips Catholic Church, my first parish in Texas. Before Mass, I'd assisted the sacristan (who was crippled) in setting up the altar and laying out the vestments. In the short time that we had to set everything up for the new pastor, something had slipped through the cracks. When the priest arrived to say Mass, the congregation was all in attendance, and the church was packed with people. He immediately noticed what we had missed and had stormed out of the sacristy, leaving both of us wondering what was wrong. He drove his scooter over to the other sacristy to see if we had left something over there that needed to be in the main sacristy, and in the time that it took him to leave, the new pastor had come back into the sacristy. He was in a bit of a tizzy, and demanded to know if I was the head sacristan. I said that I was his assistant, and before I could get out anything else, he glanced across the altar through the open door leading to the sanctuary and demanded that the sacristan drive his scooter across the sanctuary and "Get back here now!". I got a small adrenaline rush, and was filled with anger towards this new priest, because he wouldn't let me explain that it was I who had set up everything and it was therefore not the sacristan who needed correction. So as the sacristan had to climb steps in his wheelchair to follow the priests directions, it took him longer than if he had taken his normal route.

Suddenly, the priest left the sacristy and announced to the entire church that this man (pointing at the sacristan who was now at the center of the sanctuary) was the reason why Mass would be starting late. My rage kicked into full gear as I heard the announcement, and I then stormed out of the sanctuary, grabbed the priest by his collar and slammed him into the wall. I yelled at him that I was the one responsible for setting up everything, and not the poor head sacristan. He said that it didn't matter: as the head sacristan, it was the crippled man's responsibility to see that everything had been taken care of, and since it wasn't, this was the best way to make sure that nothing like this ever happened again. I was at a complete loss for words, so I released his collar and slapped him across the face as hard as I could. I was seeing only red, but through this, I could tell that had an effect. Whether it was the desired effect or not was a different matter. The red subsided and I then saw that my action had not had the desired effect, as the priest was only madder than ever, and was preparing to leave the church altogether, thus denying the congregation the Mass for which they had all gathered.

I quickly apologized to the priest admitting that I was wrong in striking him, but following that up with a "but you shouldn't have...", effectively weakening the apology. The end result was we both got sent away from the sacristy, and the new pastor had to fend for himself. No lectors, acolytes, deacons, ushers -- no one wanted to work for him, and no one would step up to take the place of those who stepped down. He had killed the parish by stepping into it.