Yesterday, today and tomorrow
You lie down, skin peeled and naked, according to the policy of your government, and it’s international — erm ... advisers - and expose yourself to global overheating.
Legs spread and your nutrients draining, you are asked, quite politely, to wait for the thrust of foreign investment and the caress of money markets.
Even on the day your city burns, and drought makes you beg for food, Paris Hilton manages to make her way to the forefront of your consciousness; suntanned, legs wide, teeth gleaming like the Nobel prize for globally successful people.
A dollar for your day lands in your lap, and you think: hmm. I am cold today. Let me go inside this shop and buy one giant fake silver US dollar medallion. International Monetary Physics has told you that the reflection from this light blinging around your chest as you sit naked, will provide some heat.
Life is banned, the community hall closed. You are asked to shut down all brain activity that does not have to do with the market that is coming in 2030, when the road arrives.
Primary school is a giant slot machine. You thrust your children inside, like coins, 10-million of them, and there is room in high school for 10 000. Ten of them will see the Promised Land by becoming members of Parliament, the highest earning people in your country. I was once like you, said one last year. Just stay there, in the sun.
To belong to a civilisation is to take all your nation’s bodies and ready them for the open market. The open market comes in at a profit of 3% a year, rises to 6%. Then every 10 years or so, five years of progress is wiped out. This is the only way to live. While all of this is happening, you may occasionally need to eat our Swedish-designed supernutritious soyadriedfishpowdered milk gruel, out of a tube, while you wait for the annual 3% to trickle down. Your cut is disbursed by your elected officials, every five years during election time, when a panga is given to you, a fist of shillings and you are told, by the same guy who told you to lie down naked, that you are oppressed, and you need to act. Ha. This you know. You watched Rambo.
You live in Kenya, or South Africa—the lands of the future tense.
You hear that in some distant places, some distant pasts, people wore clothes and did things. They lived in the present tense; they worshipped something unresembling Paris Hilton. They were not content, they were even often hungry; but they got up every morning and did things, and became expert at things, even just making a drum speak metaphors or a sax speak numbers. Today people somewhere in Senegal or Kyoto spend whole days mastering a string instrument, mastering it, until their fingers strum air when they are sitting on the toilet, until your new music fills your head, when you are lying in the sun waiting for IMF.
For life is not about waiting to produce things to consume, and life is not lived in the future tense; and those who lie about this are waiting for a terrible Armageddon.
You have heard that in some places this sort of skill, built upon from the local pasts of people, from skills from other places, is taught in schools and community centres. Because it is a human thing to do.
Those places have refused to give up their present tense, for a future civilisation. If both are not possible, it is not worth our time, they say.
They are not just waiting to become international consumers.
You have heard even, that these skills—all just a part of community life—bring some countries millions of unplanned dollars. For a bleak rich world craves the human civilisation those strings offer—like you, they find they cannot feed their soul on the market, even when they have Paris Hilton in their grasp.
Those countries do this, because to care for the present tense has been said to be a good thing for sanity, for dignity. It has been said, too, that this sort of thing separates animals from human beings. Those countries do this, because they listened to their wise men, their artists and spiritualists as much as they worshipped the dictatorship of the technocrats, who aimed to mimic rich worlds they saw, by applying numbers to the problem.
So it worked! You are now Middle Income.
It is 2020 and 42% of your country is now eating McDonald’s regularly. One day you smell the grilling burger at a location near you. Your head fills up with white heat and you and another 58% find yourselves running up and down your capital city. Paris Hilton is pouting from a neon billboard and you feel strong. You take that light and heat in your head and spread it around, and watch your investments overheating—it catches flame, the supermarket, the buildings, the Christmas trees on January sales, the plastic beard of a red Santa Claus that smells bad. You feel supernutritious, and when the guns and batons fall, and you hear the flames screaming outside, you will be happy because it is the only music you know.