The Country/The Country

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The Nooz Does Not Show Them

Some of the shamings were taped. Keel learned this the way everyone did.

Headline Nooz did not show them. Local Nooz, Keel noted, unsurprised, no longer showed anything -- anything real -- of what was happening in the city of Monro. Were they threatened -- the producers and directors of these broadcasts? Were they afraid of finding themselves tied to a post, struggling to find enough sins, enough spoken crimes, or thought crimes, committed against Pig or his supporters to have the confession phase of the shaming over and allow the citizen-beating phase to begin?

They knew about the shamings -- how could they not? Keel asked himself -- because everybody did. You could not avoid them if you turned your TV on for any period of time for entertainment purposes because at random intervals the program would be interrupted without warning for scenes of men wearing broken spectacles and crying and begging and saying bad things about themselves. Pleading to be allowed to make amends. To go back to their classrooms, or their offices, and recant the false, shameful things they had said about Pig and his campaign and his hordes of loyal Common-UZ followers.

Or being hit. On the legs or the bound arms, mostly, by men or women or rigid, frightened boys or crying, nearly hysterical girls, all of them suffering a shaming of their own simply by being forced to take part in actions they abhor because they do not wish their loved ones, or themselves, to occupy the position of the victim, tied to a post on a street corner.

The shamings of the female opponents of Pig were much worse.

Keel knew that without having witnessed any. In some hidden deference to the essential value of their gender, the images of these ritualized torments shown on TV were fewer, and the depictions of them on video were greatly curtailed. A woman is slapped and cries out.

Another woman, one of the Pigglies, tears her clothing.

A man approaches the bound and now hysterical victim.

The screen goes blank

Everyone saw images of this kind if they turned on their television to the network-fun channels. Most people these days also had the electric line-connector machines in their homes, though Keel did not. If you connected you receiver to the line, you would find these images posted (and popping up) everywhere. And if you tried to ignore them and pursue your customary interests on ordinary info-screens, some robotic device seized control of your machine and made you watch these images of the shamings: an old religious man with his beard being tugged by a thick-handed Guardian of Public Virtue until he cried out.... and made you watch them for a specified time (unless of course some upsurge of free will enabled you to tear your eyes away) until control of the machine was returned to the owner.

But the Evening Nooz did not show these images. The networks did not show what happened in a city governed by Pig and his Animal Firm.

The broadcasts showed footage of people, mostly men, smiling as they arrive at city hall for meetings, or merely greetings, with Pig and his entourage. The mayor, viewers are told, has generously offered the campaign the use of some of the building’s many meeting rooms now that Voting Days in the district of Platow are over. Keel is momentarily confused. He does not remember voting. Then he recalls, of course, Voting Day in Monro was the day he went to see Pig at the Dormands instead of to his normal voting place, the courthouse in the square.

He had forgotten to vote. He has already forgotten that he remembered this once already.

And now, he realizes, he has forgotten that he forgot.

He can barely remember the last time the image of the candidate he personally favored appeared in any of the news broadcasts. He can barely remember her name. A matronly woman, whose mother had once been a popular figure, becoming governor of a neighboring district. Who preached the value of education. Who called for an appropriate balance of individual responsibility and social compassion. Emphasized the need for government to play a stronger role in raising health and economic standards.

Still.

Can he blame the campaign? If he, Keel, has neglected to vote, can he blame Pig and the Pigglies? Any day now, the networks tell him, the Sacred Commission will announce the election of a new national leader, the Chief Xec of the Commonhope of UZ.

They also say that ‘most people’ believe it is all but certain that the Leading Candidate Karol Pegasso will be proclaimed the winner of the Voting and the country’s new leader.

Still, he could have voted. Exercised his right, and privilege, as a citizen and registered voter in the District of Platow in the Commonhope of UZ. Behaved like a good citizen. If someone were to tie Keel to a post and demand his confession, wouldn’t this omission be the first thing on his lips? That he had been given the lawfully protected opportunity to vote against Pig and for some better suited candidate for national leader and had failed to exercise his citizen’s responsibility to take part in selecting public leadership.

Keel sat rooted to his chair in the little kitchen cubbyhole where he took all his solitary meals and despaired for himself and the future of his country. If even he could be swayed from his duty, the simplest and most basic of duties under the form of government that long shined as a beacon to less fortunate lands -- he, Keel, a man with no other source of pride greater than his citizenship in a justly founded society -- what hope could he hold for his neighbors? Most probably had better reasons to avoid voting or simply forget about it in the press of ordinary busyness. They had jobs, steady jobs that ate up the greater part of the greater number of their days. Keel could remember, though with increasing dimness, what it was like to be a ‘fulltime’ employee and arranging his time carefully so that during his lunch hour he could go stand on line at the courthouse to cast his ballot. He would not have missed it then.

Yet this year he had been consumed by his mission to make some sort of mind-connection with the Leading Candidate for reasons that hardly bore thinking of. And having endured that contact -- having actually been spoken to by the “Voice That Shook the Nation” (as the promotions for Pig’s candidacy sometimes boasted); and having even, in some slight degree, replied to the queries made by Leading Candidate, though the two at no point had fallen to disputing cases -- had escaped the ‘great man’s presence’ so shaken to his own depths, and mystified, and intrigued (let’s be frank, Keel urged himself) by the tack that Pig had taken in their converse, impressed even by his apparent familiarity with the name and teachings of the great Philosopher of Rule Mac-Velly....

...that he had wandered homeward down Pike Street, head in the clouds, lost in a dream, oblivious of the campaign signs that still blazoned forth from yards or houses (though those for candidates other than Pig had rapidly begun to disappear), and once returned to his domicile had meekly squatted there dumbfounded in his favorite chair until Survy tired of lying across his feet and began whining to be fed and walked, in that order. He complied.

But Survy didn’t care about voting.

Keel, ordinarily, did. He cared about it a great deal. Until he spent a half hour or so in the environs of Pig. Did Pig have that effect on others as well?

On the whole country?

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