Have you been to this country?
A vast jumble of haphazard development comprised of forbidding industrial warehouses; rabbit-warren like apartment buildings with boxlike rooms, peeling paint, and no personality; crumbling roads; erratic utilities; and homeless people on every street corner. The stink of garbage is strong since trash is collected just once a month, but is virtually unnoticeable by the denizens who live with it all the time.
Cops are few, and those that can be seen, avoid tangling with the organized crime syndicates that rule the streets. Everyone carries a gun and murders are commonplace. Schools are battle zones with metal detectors, barbed wire fencing and burly security guards with machine guns. State-run hospitals are in severe disrepair and more people go there to die than to live; private healthcare is beyond reach. Public transport consists of a handful of broken buses and unreliable subway trains, all riding on a rapidly collapsing infrastructure. Courthouses are crowded but no justice is to be found.
The fancier restaurants have wrought-iron grilles on their doors and are manned by ex-military guards with orders to shoot anyone who disturbs the carefully protected lives of the rich patrons inside; but these are few in number anyway since most eating places serve only chemical-laced and obesity-friendly fast foods -- the only type of nourishment affordable for most. Inside fancy nightclubs, expensive vodka washes down heaps of caviar; while outside, people die of thirst and starvation. Gangs of urban youth prowl ferociously in the dark hours, preying on anyone unlucky enough to have an income but not lucky enough to afford protection. Ethnic refugees huddle in slums and makeshift encampments, afraid as much of the secret police as of the gangs.
In stark contrast to all this are scores of tall and majestic skyscrapers, their polished steel-and-glass bodies gleaming proudly in the misleadingly cheerful sunlight, summoning their armies of soldiers every day with unattainable dreams and sexy corruption. Men and women in immaculate business suits march faithfully through revolving doors every morning and return disheveled and empty late at night. Occasionally they glance up and see the helicopters of the oligarchs rising above their heads against a canvas of smog-ridden skies. They stand to attention and salute their masters, for the oligarchs run their country. Each soldier hopes that one day he or she will be in that helicopter, rising above the pollution and leaving the filthy masses below...far below. It is the vision that keeps them going, gives them tragic, terrible hope. Their salaries are high, their taxes are low, but the light in their eyes is dull and slightly unsteady, like flickering fluorescents. They are the walking dead, racing on the corporate treadmill all the way to the penthouse but without the faintest notion of beauty or the life that they are wasting in the pursuit of a false happiness.
Government is non-existent. Sorry, that is not true. It does exist but is a joke; its primary purpose is to rubber stamp the wishes of the oligarchs. Laws are written by and for the rich and the criminal, and enforced brutally by the government that is bought and paid for. Corruption is brazen and rampant. The government's budget for actual governing is meager but that is all right (since it does not need to be otherwise: there are no real public services or welfare of any kind). The only expenditure is on national defense, and that is immense, but that too is fine. Oil and weapons are two of the biggest industries in the country. There is a leader but he is a mere figurehead in a country run by the captains of industry and their armies of tube-light soldiers. This is what a private sector police state looks like.
But the oligarchs lead a good life. Private jets, mansions and fast cars are just some of their indulgences; the ruthless wielding of power and the emasculation of government are others. The oligarchs are untouchable and in total control. Those who dare to confront their wealth-fueled power are dispatched quickly and efficiently; either through moral corruption or, if that fails, financial ruin. You go along to get along.
The press is ostensibly free but strangely never seems to hold any views except those of the oligarchs. Talking heads with small brains and big mouths monopolize the airwaves, touting the merits of private ownership as if it was a new religion and glancing nervously out of the corner of their eyes at the corporate gangsters standing close by to ensure their compliance. In the event a journalist dares to go off script, microphones are pulled, airwaves go dark and careers are ruined. The system works.
Finally, there is a movement in the country. It is loud and raucous but is also strategically contained. Like a vicious pit bull that is useful for attacking one's opponent but must be kept on a leash, this movement is kept on a tight leash by those who are behind it. They call it the "people's" movement but really it's not. In fact, it's the exact opposite. The movement, which uses the threat of violent revolution as its primary weapon, is carefully orchestrated theater used by the oligarchs to put pressure on the little government there is and to bend it to their greedy will. In this game, "freedom" is merely a cover for the dark intent of the powerful.
So which country is this post-apocalyptic Orwellian nightmare? If you guessed Russia, you were paying close attention. But you would still be wrong.
It's not Russia or China or the set of 'Hunger Games', and it's not even today.
It could be the United States of America, without a President who is willing to fight for the people, sometime tomorrow.
Sanjay Sanghoee is the author of two thriller novels, available at Amazon on the links below. His new book, PORTRAIT OF MALICE, is available at a special promotional price of $1.99. Please Visit his website at www.sanghoee.com
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