December 15, 2093.
What a laugh! I have been transplanted a hundred years into the future, by no choice of my own. Perhaps it was something in the Los Angeles water? No matter, here I am -- a very different here than any I have known before. How very different things are, but how very much the same.
For the benefit of modern readers who may someday enjoy this journal, let me first apologize for what must sound peculiarly rigid in my form of language. I have not yet grown accustomed to the changes in language over the past century, but from what I have already learned, I should be at least somewhat intelligible, even if it takes references to understand my connotations. Imagine, having to translate my own words with a modern-day Oxford English Dictionary!
As to my whereabouts on this brisk December day, I am not precisely certain. I believe this city is still called Los Angeles (a misnomer, in my humble opinion, today as it was a century hence.) I have been given a small room with a sort of cubicle for a bed, a kitchen, so it seems, with many technological gadgets I have yet to fully comprehend, and a bathroom with a shower stall. No doubt you are familiar with this setup, so I won't bore you with details. My room is, at present, guarded by what seems to be some sort of modern FBI (that was the Federal Bureau of Investigations). No word as yet on plans for my future; the current government, which fortunately seems to be the same United States of America that I knew and loved, seems to be deliberating on what to do with an unexpected time traveler.
Though I am curious to explore this strange realm, I suppose I have had my share of excitement for the day. The guards at the door are eying me strangely as I write in the notebook I brought from the past, and I grow weary of explanation. Will write again tomorrow.
December 16, 2093.
I still have not left my cell (not that I compare it to a prison; it has many astounding conveniences of which the modern reader is no doubt aware.) I have been entertained today by the television set the guard named Winston brought in -- an extraordinary device. I left the 20th century a computer science major, but I cannot comprehend the engineering behind this device: virtual interactive reality. I watched -- or should I say, I was -- two programs, and when the second ended I could scarcely believe nearly the entire day had passed.
Feeling a bit strange, I struck up a conversation with Winston. He's a nice fellow; not exactly bright, but he filled me in on a lot of recent history. Winston's 73 but refuses to retire -- I guess social security benefits aren't exactly what they once were, and he seems happy enough.
With a brief introduction, I was instructed in the nomenclature of today's world. I confess I was shocked, but having come from such a distant past, I hope I'll be forgiven.
"My name is Winston Thurgood," he said, "to you. I don't see much importance in family names, but sentimentality dies hard. For everything else, I'm 707-82-3291W. Much more efficient."
I paused to take this in. "What's everything else?" I asked.
Winston smiled a forgiving smile. "Oh, that's my DIMCard number. Used for all my transactions. As I said, terribly efficient. No need to prove one's identity at all, just show 'em the DIMCard." He pulled out a small plastic strip with the number he had recited before printed on it and a long magnetic strip.
I nodded in understanding. Even in my time, digital identities were becoming a natural possession. On campus, my USCard provided easy access to all of the university's records regarding myself. President Clinton was working to institute a health care plan that would give every American a card which would provide access to his or her files and medical records. This was simply a natural progression. I inquired as to the origin of the 'DIMCard'.
Winston shot me a big grin and closed his eyes ever so slightly. He had a story to tell.
"Ah, DIMC. Let me tell you," he began, "I looked forward to the day when DCA merged with IMC. I don't know if those two conglomerates ring a bell for you or not. They were the Degital Corporation of America and the International Media Corporation."
I frowned, admitting ignorance, but he went on. "No matter. Together, they are now commonly known as DIMC, of course --- the Digital International Media Corporation. But it seems a bit redundant to tell you the entire name; DIMC is simply DIMC, pronounced 'dim-see' or 'dimc' depending on the context -- DIMC checks, DIMC tellers, DIMCards, DIMC time, and so on. DIMC breakfast cereal in the morning, DIMC toothpaste to wash it off.
"But I digress. DCA merged with IMC on January 17, 2040. Even before that, though, the two corporations were remarkably similar, so why not merge? As any textbook now explains, competition (like in the free market of old times of strife) was but a necessary evil."
He looked as if he were reciting from memory, biting his lip to procure the details. "As production and consumption increased so that the international community sought the same goods, competition logically met its demise. What was once called a 'monopoly' became the only way to go. Personal opinion, based on subjective whim, had been eliminated, and competition just made no sense anymore. So, voila! One world, one corporation."
"DIMC?" I asked, hearing the name roll smoothly off my tongue.
"DIMC," Winston affirmed triumphantly.
Right now, Winston is playing cards with the other guard. Some things never change. The cards are made by DIMC. So is the virtual reality television. So is the refrigerator in the kitchen -- in fact, everything seems to have been made by DIMC. I guess it's taking me a while to comprehend the idea of a monopoly that huge.
Winston explained how the one world, one corporation setup worked. "There's no more wars anymore. Not anything major at least. Sure, it's in human nature to be possessive, we all know that. That's why we've still got capitalism, you see. So we can choose what to buy."
"But isn't it all the same, all made by DIMC?" I asked.
"Well, sure. DIMC means quality. I wouldn't trust anything that wasn't made by DIMC. But I've still got choices. I can choose what kind of breakfast cereal I want to have. There's dozens of choices. Oat bran, granola, rice flakes, corn flakes." He paused and looked at me questioningly. "Oh, I see. You still can't get it out of your head that you can have choices under a monopoly. Well, stop using that 'M' word right now. DIMC means quality, and DIMC means choice. Back in your time, I'll wager, you could never be assured of quality. You had to shop around. Take breakfast cereals. You had all kinds of different companies, trying to get you to buy their product, but not giving you a dime's worth of assurance that what you ended up buying wouldn't be just so much crap. Like I said, DIMC means quality, assured by the government."
I told him that back in the 20th century, though there were regulatory institutions like the FDA, it wasn't nearly so strictly monitored.
"But don't you see how much better it is now?" he asked. "No need to worry." Seeing the cringe cross my visage, he hurriedly launched further into his diatribe. "Look, back in your time, you expected the government to protect you, right? Well, I say -- and so did the government, 50 years ago or so, what's the difference between protecting you from nuclear war or communism or anything else foreign that could hurt you, and protecting you from consumer exploitation? Both of 'em will mess you up in no time at all, given the chance. So, you see, it's natural that the government would make sure no one can get hurt. People trust DIMC. I love DIMC, really I do." Winston sighed, lost in reflection.
This seemed to make sense, and I knew he could talk forever on the subject of DIMC and its holiness. I deftly steered the topic back to wars.
"Oh yeah," he began. "So, sure, people get pushed out of shape, try to conquer this, ruin that, and so on. The United Nations comes in and fixes things right up. Say you've got an unruly dictator in the middle east. Presto, shut down DIMC support in that area. What's he gonna do, starve? Fixes things up every time."
I reflected that this, too, was but a continuation of 20th century trends of putting economic sanctions on foreign nations like Iraq.
"There's no blood anymore," Winston said. "Everybody just gets along."
December 17, 2093.
"What about the government?" I asked Winston earlier today.
"What about it?" he replied, then apologized for his gruffness. "It's the same as it always was. It's still a democracy, you know. Voice of the people and all that."
Curious, I asked, "Who's president?"
Winston paused for a moment. "Lessee. Martin's president. President Martin, what a clean-cut guy. Not at all like that other fool candidate, always stuttering and messing with his hair. No, Martin's got pizzazz, that's the word for it. But there's not a lot to the job anymore. No wars, no trouble. People are happy, you see. Back in your time the president had a nasty job indeed, trying to make people happy and get 'em off each other's backs. Nowadays the president just makes sure everybody stays happy."
"So everyone's happy?"
"Everyone who's anyone, so to speak. All the misfits gets shipped off, put to work. If they can't be happy, then they might as well work for us. They're building the underground sectors where all the new roads are going in."
I looked up. "You mean you've still got --"
"Of course we still got cars," Winston said. "Freedom of choice. Everybody wants their own car. I do and you do and I bet everybody back in 1993 did, too."
I had to agree. "Pollution?" I asked.
"Well, it ain't killed me yet," he said and coughed heartily.
Later on I watched another program on the reality-TV. It wasn't quite as fascinating as it was originally. All my desires were fulfilled electronically, I'll be honest. It was the most erotic thing I've ever experienced. But something was missing, somehow, and when I emerged from the screen I felt a little hollow inside.
Winston has informed me that I'll be merged tomorrow -- merged into society, that is. I'm a little apprehensive, but it can't be too bad. I suppose it's my ego talking, but a hundred years doesn't seem to have changed knowledge so much that I won't be able to find a thing to do.
December 18, 2093.
I'm at home now, not that it's a lot different from where I was before. Another DIMC shower, another DIMC sink.
I've been assigned to do social work for the DIMC corporation. Welfare's still a booming business, I guess, but everyone gets enough to scrape by, as I suppose I will too. Still, I wish I could be doing something I preferred more.
"You'll get used to it," Winston said as he led me out of my 'cell'. The words keep echoing.
As we walked outside for the first time, I gazed at row upon row of housing exactly like that which I had just exited from. Amazed, I slowly said, "But they're all the same."
Winston looked at me almost pitifully, then spoke with fervor. "Listen. Let me give you a lesson in beauty. You may not think this is beautiful, but you're wrong. Your society looked for beauty in difference. That was wrong. Where did it get you? Endless racial strife, hatred, riots -- you know when the last riots were? 1992. We figured it out, finally. We're all the same. We're all equal. You know about the Declaration of Independence, right? All men were created equal. It's just that sometimes that gets skewed. Here in L.A. a century ago, you had rich folks and you had poor folks, all hating one another just because they were different. You call that beautiful?
"This is beauty. Everybody's equal. Everybody's got the same. You ever look up at night and see the stars? They're all the same, they're all just little specks of light. Just like people, you see? Now everybody's happy. You'll get used to it."
I stood there for a long time. "But what can I do?" I asked finally. "What can I be?"
Winston grabbed my hand, but his flesh was cold. "Just be happy," he said. "It's more profitable that way."
"Are you happy?" I asked.
I thought I heard a chuckle, but when I turned to face the man, he wasn't even smiling.
"Of course I'm happy," Winston said after a while. Then once more, desperately, "Of course I am."