We The People

Entry by: Sirona

17th November 2016
Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’ - Isaac Asimov

Lucy chewed on her chicken and pesto sandwich, savouring the taste and texture of the crusty crumbs in her mouth. Mindfulness had been life changing for her social anxiety. Narrow your focus to the here, the now; the flavours, the textures. Experience it. It helped to filter out the noise, the posturing from her colleagues on days, like this, when there was a controversial vote.

Today’s hot topic was access to health care, and what restrictions should be placed on that. All around her, Lucy could hear, if she let herself listen, self-proclaimed experts spouting ‘facts’ that they’d gleaned from celebrities, memes or the posturing of interested parties.

In the past, Lucy had confronted them. She’d asked questions, quietly, politely, insistently until she had shattered any illusion that the speaker was well informed. She had learnt, though, to pick her battles wisely. On days like today, when her opinion ran so counter to the majority, it was better to say nothing. To enjoy the moist, saltiness of the meat fibres as her molars ground them, the sudden pungency of basil and Parmesan, the yeasty lightness of the bread. To trust in New Democracy.


‘What’s up?’

Breathe. Chew. Savour the sudden sweetness of a tomato.

‘Fucking civics. I was just about to level up on Candy Crush! Here, can I use your screen?’

Breathe. Chew. Identify the peppery undertones of rocket.

‘Nope, I’ve been shut out for a week. Fucking civics lock.’

Lucy closed her eyes, swallowed and sucked in a deep breath. The guy sounded desperate, the sort of desperate that would make him feel entitled to come and ask a stranger for their pad. Wiping her fingers on her napkin, Lucy thumbed the screen, offered up her iris for identification and then activated the civics app.

‘Hey, can I use your pad?’ The unwelcome voice was, as she had expected, suddenly much closer, inside her personal space.

‘Sorry. Civics,’ Lucy murmured, hoping he’d imply the ‘lock’. She didn’t even turn to look at the guy. She just waved her screen close enough for him to see which app was open.

‘Fucking civics lock,’ he muttered as he moved on through the cafeteria in search of a free screen.

Lucy had never been under a civics lock. Since the New Democracy requirements had been voted through, she had always ensured that she put aside the designated one hour a week to read and vote on the issues of the day. She quite enjoyed it, if she was honest, but that wasn’t a popular opinion.

The same people who had only stirred themselves to vote when whipped to a nationalistic frenzy, who had shouted that they wanted to reclaim power, to return it to the hands of the people, to take it from the career politicians and ‘the elite’, now resented the time needed to inform themselves and make their choices. To counter that, a vote had been taken to block Internet access of those who hadn’t carried out their civic duty; the civics lock.

The screen offered Lucy the chance to vote on health care access. Lucy began to read, picking up her sandwich again and taking a bite as she scanned the words. She was familiar with the arguments being presented. She knew that many simply scrolled to the end and voted without reading, but that wasn’t an approach she was comfortable with. She believed in the premise of New Democracy, that all decisions should be made for the people, by the people; but if things were going to be done in her name, she wanted to be sure she knew what they were.

Both the sandwich and her lunch hour were finished by the time she clicked to register her vote. A heaviness had settled in her stomach, a weight that came from the responsibility she had shouldered. To Lucy’s compassionate heart the idea that someone would be refused access to healthcare because of their weight, their lifestyle choices, or because they were not genetically ‘British’ was frightening. Injustice was frightening, even when it was not her that suffered for it.

As she left the dining hall, she recognised the voice of the man who had spoken earlier. He had found someone willing to lend him their pad, his face screwed up in concentration as he tried to complete the level. Priorities, Lucy thought, letting out a breath and returning to her desk.

That evening, Lucy kicked off her work shoes and curled into the velvet softness of her couch, pulling a cosy blanket around her. A glass of red wine gleamed like ruby in the dimmed lights of her apartment, all part of the ritual to cast off the busy-ness of the working day.

Reaching out to pick up a novel, Lucy was startled by a sudden, business-like rapping at the door. Lucy’s right to privacy, as a certified introvert, was protected by law; she couldn’t recall the last time she had received an unexpected caller.

For a few, long moments, Lucy stared at the wooden front door, at the way the light caught the grain of the wood even through layers of paint, how the striations glistened. She steadied her breath. The knock came again.

Pulling the door open, Lucy was confronted with not one but two gentlemen callers. They were both wearing dark suits and uniformly smart haircuts, their smiles just a fraction too sincere.

‘Lucy Rawlins?’


‘Good evening, we’re so sorry to intrude,’ said the first man.

Not sorry enough to call ahead, Lucy thought.

‘We would have called ahead but we wanted to approach you discretely,’ added the second.


‘Yes. Ms Rawlins, we represent certain commercial interests. These interests wish to ensure that their Civic Messages are reaching the right ears. We believe that you can help us with that.’


‘Yes, Ma’am. You have been identified as an Influencer, in the
circles we wish to penetrate.’

Lucy cleared her throat around a sudden desire to laugh.
‘I don’t think that can be right. I’m not an influencer.’ Lucy knew of a few Influencers, people whose social media followings were so large they could sway votes. She had little in common with any of them.

‘You’re the sort of influencer we’re looking for,’ explained number 2.

‘Which is?’

‘A person of genuine integrity. May we come in?’

Lucy paused, giving herself the space of a deep in-breath and it’s precisely twice the length outward counterpart. Releasing her confusion, grounding herself in the moment.

‘I’m sorry, have I got this right? You’re saying that, because of my personal integrity, I have become someone of influence. As a result, you’re here, cloak and dagger, on my doorstep representing “commercial interests” in the hopes that I will abandon that integrity and say what they pay me to?’

Number 1 began to bluster, but Lucy focused on the sudden rush of blood to number 2’s cheeks, the way his eyes darted to the ground, away from her gaze.

‘No, Gentlemen, I’m sorry. Integrity is the one thing that you can never purchase, that’s what makes it so rare.’

The door swung closed, settling into the aperture with a satisfying clunk. Lucy turned the key in the lock, hearing the snick as the tumblers secured the entrance.

All at once, Lucy felt the salty burn of tears tumbling from her eyes to chase their way down her cheeks. An emotional reaction to something that her mind was still processing. The wealthy, big business…they had their fingers in New Democracy. Of course they did. She’d known that the big Influencers were up for sale, but celebrity endorsements were easily dismissed. If they’d come to her door, though, could any of her friends opinions be trusted? Was everything tainted?

Lucy backed away from the door, dashing the tears from her eyes, feeling ideas become solid, giving her strength. If her integrity had been noticed by them, it must have been noticed by others. Perhaps there was a way she could use her influence, after all.

Pulling up her pad, Lucy logged on to her social network.

Lucy Rawlins has added a note: When is integrity, not integrity? When it’s for sale.
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