“Please, Sir may we have some more?” asked the gaunt-faced man as he extended his arms and held up a crumpled black plastic bag with the imprinted gold colored letters UN, to the dispenser spout of the Emergency Food and Water Unit. The MF, as it was called roam throughout the most dangerous and hopeless neighborhoods in America’s famine-seized metroplexes. Emergency food dispensing machines quietly traveled the abandoned streets providing a synthetically produced food given the name EMBER to the dispossessed residents trapped in the dead or dying neighborhoods in most of the larger cities in the world.
The global financial collapse and the resulting economic tsunamis left every village, town, city, and especially the megaplexes in a shamble of dead and dying business centers and neighborhoods. The reality of living in a make-believe world of uncontrolled debt and funny money became painfully obvious as the expected repairs and resumption of business as usual didn’t happen. As a result, much of what was destroyed in the food riots was still and for the foreseeable future was going to stay in a state of disorder and disrepair. The burned-out stores and shops and a public service system largely missing in action made for a bleak, all be it private, existence for the people who survived the carnage but could not or would not escape it.
Ten years after the collapse, some of the residents were still relegated to reside there because there was nowhere else, for them, to go–for more than just a few reasons. Most of it all came about by the peoples’ and their governments’ willingness to live on borrowed money, which they did not really plan to pay back, questionable decisions to buy things which they could not really afford, and especially to use the borrowed money for daily expenses the kind of things which should have been paid for with cash not credit.
Much if not all of the current pain and suffering was because of the obligatory austerity measures, prudence policies, questionable population control attitude, and the environmentalism of the world’s largely failed governments.
Incredibly, some residents opted to live there to escape the “big sister” nanny state mentality and the unassuming rise of the global mind–a vast network of surveillance devices and data centers. The global mind with all of its data-gathering technology, before the collapse, was pretty much every where and in every thing. Accept now, where it had been destroyed during the riots and had not been extended into those areas where was too easily compromised by the RJ’s.
Apparently hoping that the dry, spit-covered HD image of a disinterested bureaucrat, assigned to witness each transaction, displayed from an LCD screen before him would in some practically inconceivable way have pity and give him an extra helping of EMBER, the man asked ” Please, Sir my I have some more? It is for my daughter”
EMBER was the only source of nutrition for people like him or any RJ, the acronym adopted by the seemingly growing population of societal rejects. The crest-fallen man, looking up into the screen through the metal bars protecting it (which had signs of being struck, with a hard object, more than once), spoke once again, “I brought my child’s bag, who is too sick to come herself… and I am too weak to carry here for personal verification.” After a moment of silence he pleaded again, ” You know I have a daughter’ we registered her and my wife…last year.” Almost immediately, “You know the rules!” blared the loud speaker. “No one receives extra! There is only enough”, as the tone seemingly reduced in volume for the last couple of words, “for each of you.”
The man recoiled slightly at the volume. Then realizing what was happening, he said “No. No… Please, please don’t send the Em-Care van.” in a hesitating voice, “She… only… needs a little food and medicine.” His head was twisting back and forth as his eyes darted from one place to another in an effort to see what was happening around him. The haggard man repeated his objection to what would have sounded to a disinterested passer-by as a passionless inquiry from the M-F about the man’s daughter. “Does she need medical help?”
Lowering his head so that the ever present camera couldn’t record his lips mouthing, “My wife never came back after the Em-Care van took her away last month.” Looking back, he said once more, “Please, I only need some food.” The M-F was silent, he added “And some water with some vitamins in it.”
He repeated, “I have her bag…right here…and her water bottle.”
Once again the M-F unit spoke, “Your eye scan only matches the RFID of one of the bags you are holding.”
“EMBER can only be dispensed to the verified bag holder. All recipients must be matched to their food container.” droned the M-F. “Deposit all unused food pouches in the return slot. There must be an accounting of all residents.”
The man could be seen plodding, slump shouldered, away from the M-F foreseeably going back to his daughter carrying only one bag but holding two bottles of SWAMP juice, empty thought they may be.” This Em-Food unit will be moving to the next dispensing location in 15 minutes.” announced the M-F’s speaker
Food, in general, was in short supply in the bigger cities since the riots. But things had deteriorated so much that almost every city was faced with warehousing the numberless hungry and destitute who either mindlessly roamed the streets or rummaged through the remaining few dumpsters which offer nothing in return. They crowded around and lined up at the Food and Water dispensing units and could be seen staring at a video, moving in sync to the music, or jerking in reaction to a game’s actions on their government supplied mobile PC’s. Not everyone had accepted the free gift from the government because it meant the government knew where you were and what you were doing and even saying.
Soup kitchens in the smaller cities were desperately trying to meet the needs of overwhelming numbers of long-term residents and newly arrived emigrants. The rural roads and state highways had been clogged with abandoned cars headed for the countless small towns within the distance of a tank of gas. Not only was food scarce but fuel was practically absent, not because it was gone, but because it simply cost too much. Everything cost too much in the new world of actual value. At first there were no fresh fruits or vegetables for any amount of ration credits or the generosity of the struggling governments.
Ocean going vessels normally crowding into the bays and ports, ordinarily filled with produce and product, from around the world, failed to sail because their holds were empty. No one was buying anything but the government and the government isn’t buying luxuries for the masses. Even though the natural order of the earth was not out of sync there had been practically no, wholesale, spring planting of crops for years and there would be no justified expectation of a bountiful harvest. The government’s stockpiles of surplus of real food had disappeared within the first year and with practically nothing coming to replace it, the cities faced emptier shelves and critical shortages of everything. Even the earth’s natural bounties failed to supply much more than the wants of the few who were in close enough proximity to challenge the recently assigned caretakers and government authorities to grab either the too green, worm infested, or over ripe and rotting fruit.
Most of the food manufacturing and production plants sat idle because their storage bins were devoid of content and their staffs were spending all day standing in relief lines. The aftermath of the collapse was that supply lines has disintegrated and the transportation system had broken down and was only slowly being re-established not by plan but by necessity. Insecurity and lawlessness complicated the tentative efforts to ship anything. State governments who were broke and ineffective at maintaining law and order or operations were being replaced by the global mind because it managed to get things done.
The representative government with its Big brother tendencies tried one again to get the entitlement majority’s to consent to it becoming the overlord yet again and its agents were anxiously engaged in trying to facilitate the objectives of managed attrition without rebellion and organized insurgencies but the global mind was out maneuvering it. The people were not willing to subject themselves to that again, especially now that the global mind was helping them to see and understand that they had been lied to for all of those years.
Returning to the past, both economically and politically was not an option and had been rejected by the application-generating segment of the society long before this latest episode of hunger and strife. Sustainability means fewer people requiring fewer things. A balanced population, intelligent consumption, and environmental impact mitigation was the order of the day, week, year, or the foreseeable future. That was all possible without some incompetent bureaucrat or fraudulently elected crook, con artist, or clown politician screwing things up.
With each passing day new apps were emerging which mined the vast amounts of data being collected. Each new app identified and analyzed the beginning trends and identified the decision points. The essential process of prioritizing and filtering the information for each person facilitated by the various applications all based on person’s own dynamic profiles. The people gradually became more aware and involved in their own futures. If something was important to a person based on their preferences and values the different applications would bring it to their attention for their response. With each response the global mind became more attune to the values of the populous. Individually people could make poor choices but collectively their wisdom prevailed as their lives proved what was really good and what was honestly bad.
“I can share or even give most of my meal to Lizzie again but without the SWAMP-med I don’t see how she can go on much longer.” the man thought as he trudged along. “I don’t know what to do next. I just don’t know…” His selfish thoughts were diverted by a new sound. “That of the M-C siren” His renewed attention to his surrounding told him. “Oh no the M-F must have alerted the Feds.”
The slogging stopped momentarily. The man turned to face the noise of the approaching EM-Care van for only a second. The RFID embed sack of EMBER was quickly deposited into a dumpster and he took off running to get Lizzie and try to avoid her collection.