Naysayers call the union of the connected world a whitewash. They mean it in both senses of the word, a cover-up (with white paint) and a total defeat in which the loser scores no points. The loser in this case is the individual in the Single System System.
N0sayers claim this incorrectly frames our relationship to the SSS. It works for all. We have N0 more Isms or divisions and work on ties that bind instead of details that divide. Everyone was always angry before, pointing out distinctions, offended and offensive. Seeing difference created resentment. We just couldn't focus on the prime directive, growing GUP!
The universal society needed a common sense. There is no such thing without cultural conditioning. So social engineers now emphasize sameness with global education on the interwebs. Teachers were super sore at first but they were ignored.
I'm from the last old-skool text-lit cursive generation. We studied publicly, with people, and went out on the streets before age 18 (there were no Virtual Certifications!). Authorities bullied, corrected and directed us. They filled us with shame to make us good but not great, a feeling that haunts us and is compounded by the fact that the world changed just as we were to take it over.
Now connected kids learn onscreen; their avatars exchange in emojis and everyone's a genius. Learning's like gaming. EdCorp worked with Pro Con on the transformation, and the data shows this has grown universal universality and confidence.
MoreCorp is a model for the new system so it's celebrated not only in the corporate art on campus but in an array of eliminated races working here to represent sameness. Of course not everyone's represented but it would be impolite to point out who is absent. Suffice it to say, it looks pretty multi-X-kulti, especially if you haven't been anywhere.
Still, changing systems didn't change history, experience, facts or faces. We're not all coming from the same places yet. And maybe that's why for all the talk of collaboration at the world's friendliest corporation, work exchanges are electronic and socially people split into like groups along all the old lines. They stick to their kind.
But Wolf and I are Magix. We're not going to gain allies as ourselves. So he's disguised as civilized and seems to really be convincing our colleagues. Meanwhile I try to act assimilated although I'm an alien. Unlike my true love, I'm failing.
We're seated on a bench at a large plastic butcher block in Meat-Up, having lunch with dudes from TLDR. Beside me is my Team Lead and not-boss (because not contractually) Ampersand Matrix. We’ve never talked. "Ellipsis," he begins, batting blue eyes as if thrilled to finally meet though I've been here weeks. "You're punctuation, just like me!"
"Well, no," I say stupidly. "You're a logogram. I mean, not you, your name, the symbol. But yeah. We're the same."
"Right." Ampersand is startled. "No. Yeah, sure. Right."
Correcting him was a mistake. Trying to flip the script, be positive, I say, "Ampersand Matrix is amazing though! Colored Pills rules. It's a classic."
He's named after the dashing lead of a flick so popular it plays even now on one of the giant screens in Meat-Up. The fictional Ampersand Matrix looms overhead wearing shiny black leather, bravely fighting an e-virus barehanded with godly fingers.
The real life Ampersand wears jeans and a hoodie and looks like an average Joe with just a touch of plus-cute, not well-suited for management. Matrix seems to know this though and, to his credit, appears uneasy with the happy accident of leadership. Yet here he is, obviously some kind of genius. So I ask, "How these lofty heights attained?"
He looks down, focuses on bountiful plate, rosy cheeks puffing. I glance around at the rest of the table — there’s Chip Brew, a bunch of guys I don't know from Review, and Wolf. The fellows are taken with my fellow. He's pops for his knowledge of pop culture, which they debate loudly. Their roaring fills in the silence between me and Ampersand.
He toys with his food, mute, reluctant to recount past glories. Or maybe it's me. Did I speak in an eliminated tongue? I try again. “Like, being Team Lead's awesome! That's hot dot com!”
"Thanks." Ampersand understands, humbly dismissing the compliment. "It's no big deal."
But Chip Brew has a competitive relationship with his boss (because contractually) and can’t resist adding color to Matrix's modest spin. He breaks away from his ribs for ribbing. “Oh yeah, this star! He tried for Special Corpses. But they wouldn’t take him cuz he's alternatively-abled. And now he's in charge of all of us!”
“Perception problems, hearing,” Ampersand explains quickly. “Not an IQ issue.”
“Of course.” I console, “Anyway, those guys! They have to do some nasty stuff supposedly.”
This excites Ampersand and he waves a gnawed bone in my face, eager to explain the inner workings of Special Corpses Human Resources even though he's TLDR's chief Secret Keeper. “Totally! Like, they asked at an interview if I’d racial profile and I was like, whoa, would I? Y'know?”
He stops, surprised to be saying so much, finishes haltingly. “So I’m kinda glad now that I failed, like, though I didn't know it then...”
“Yeah," I agree, pleased by the philosophical turn our talk's taking. "We never know what’s luck or not. It depends where you are on the timeline looking at a thing.”
“Huh?” Ampersand's confused.
“Blah blah,” Chip explains. If we managed to have a moment -- I-thou, me and not-boss -- it’s now lost. Chip will stand for no more chatter. It’s time for meat and metrics. He taunts Matrix. “Those pig-ribs-in-synthi-syrup are dope but you’re gonna have to barf before the weigh-in or you'll lose again today! Your numbers are not good, brah. Not good at all.”
“When it comes to greenies," Ampersand smiles slyly, "my numbers beat yours any day! Bro...”
“BOOM!!!!” The men around the butcher block all stand and shout, applauding the assertiveness. Chip particularly cheers the return to familiar modes of exchange. Then he shoots me a dirty look as if to say it’s totally rude when new people come in and talk about weird shit.
The whole reason the SSS works is that we're the same, which means, basically, not strange. Nothing is taboo but you’re supposed to stick to certain subjects. It’s an unspoken agreement. Regrets, fortune, philo — race, for Founders' sake! — these are topics to take up with a life coach or a spirit animal. Not at lunch! Everyone's supposed to know that. Why don't I?
Now Chip's curious and our covers could be blown. Wolf and I are two odd birds he’d like to kill with one stone. Seeking to bond with the male socially, just two kool kats sipping artisanal ales and chewing the fat, he pings Wolf with weekend plans after everyone’s back at the Clubhouse.
He tells me about Chip's interest on the drive home. “I guess that's okay but be careful,” I say. “He’s gross, and possibly also dangerous. Where are you guys meeting?”
“The cabin. He’s coming by.”
“Are you nuts?! You'll what? Seat him on a tree stump? Plus one device! He'll say we have no buy-drive!” I panic, though it’s not just because our room's furnished with forest refuse and minimal tek. Something stinks. Maybe Chip? We don’t know him and shouldn’t expose our lives to insiders, people who hi-5. I ask Wolf, “Why'd you invite him?”
“I didn’t. He invited himself and I said it was kool.” He sounds worried too. “What could I do?”
All week I dread Chip’s visit. But on 4-day we get a lucky break. “Oh,” Chip tells me, licking porkojusifat off his fingers at lunch. “I got invited to a hi-5 party on an auto-pilot cruise ship. Free fun 'til Funday so I’m booked now. Can’t come by. It'd be super to see your place though, another time.”
“Yeah, that would be great. We'd love to have you,” I lie, hoping it sounds genuine. But even if not, there's no worry, not about that. Chip can't tell the difference and is already busy taunting Ampersand about baco-beefy-kreme-kakes. We don't distinguish between real and fake. In the hyper-real, it's all the same -- equal, just like the people.