It didn't take them long! The local and regional Connie apparatchiks sneaked their congratulatory mails through our filters, wishing me well for the future, and looking forward to our maintaining our high standard of 'casting: In other words, we'll be watching you. The lairy buggers even offered the services of a Media Liaison Assistant at no cost to ourselves if we could find some space within our organization for one; just to make life easier for everyone concerned... Of course I politely acknowledged their best wishes while declining their kind offer; the sooner we get Maggie up and running the better! Bippin, who has been busy helping to create her, claims she will be an utter bitch to crack. I hope so; anything that makes the lives of the Connies more difficult is fine by me.
I wonder though, for how much longer these supporters of the Consensus government will remain merely an irritation? Theirs is an authoritarianism that eschews mass public rallies, intimidating parades and worship of one leader. They do however swear allegiance to a new ideology bereft of old traditions and wear their uniforms in public, as well as displaying their symbol wherever they can with obvious pride. Yet their party remains a cloistered enigma; its organisation and gatherings hidden from public view.
Instead we live under a far more subtle, intimate form of a dictatorship. One which like its supporters is becoming more deeply insinuated into the fabric of public life through their community work and infiltration of public organisations. Connies have an ardent determination, bordering on the messianic, that theirs is the only way forward. There's no point in trying to argue with them; they're constantly training to deflect your arguments like those pesky religious doorknockers who used to call at the most inconvenient times; the ones you don't get any more. In fact I can't remember seeing those earnest, sombre suited young men since before the Crises. I wonder what happened to them? Perhaps they realised they were up against some unbeatable competition? Or like many others they thought it prudent to leave the Fed while they were still able to.
The Connies are starting to become more than an annoyance: They are determined, insistent, relentless; allowing nothing to interfere with their goal of moulding the Fed and it's people to conform to their way of thinking. In theory you can still express your opinions more or less freely; as long as you don't fall foul of the continually shifting bounds of the law, or influence others to question the prevailing orthodoxy or act against it. Provided you don't publicly demonstrate your opinions, or risk actually changing things against the Consensus' vision of the common good... Yes, the freedom of speech and expression that we once took for granted still notionally exixts, but as what is deemed acceptable is ever more narrowly defined I wonder for how long we will be able to express dissent in a meaningful way?
There is something more that I find unsettling about them. Whenever I see Connies; either in the flesh or on 'cast I get the feeling that there is so much more to them than meets the eye: That they have barely started on their process of social transformation, and they are becoming increasingly impatient with anyone they see as delaying or obstructing their mission. I wonder for how much longer they will be able to contain their zeal, and what will happen when they feel impelled to increase the pace of change and carry their ideology and sense of ownership still further into our lives?
I find their whole ethos - what I can understand of it - and their modus operandi creepy. No, sinister. And what makes it worse is knowing you are the object of their obsession; they want to change your life for the better, as defined solely by them, no matter what your wishes are.
It's not a personal thing; they want to intervene in everyones' lives. They regard personal affairs as both public and political. A few years ago they would have been told to do one; but such has our world been turned upside down, so great has the shock to our collective senses been since then; that what would have once seemed incredible or unacceptable is now so routine as to be unremarkable, things having changed so far so quickly. Not only have people become grudgingly accustomed to these previously unreasonable impositions upon their lives; some of them have become so conditioned as to actually welcome them.
Another day; another war scare. It's understandable given our recent history proving they are crazy enough to Drop It; but just when we're getting almost insouciant about the thought of war there's another attack of the jitters fuelled by another maritime incident. Of course, living near the Portsmouth naval base as we do, we wonder if we could be the ones who would suffer the Alban wrath; but most of the analysts still think that if the latest spat ever escalated that far it'd be London that would be Target One for a squadron of elderly Typhoons tearing south at low level on a one-way mission armed with the former Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea's most notorious export.
We know that the Albans have working nukes thanks to their detonation of a Hiroshima sized warhead - delivered by a sea-skimming cruise missile which was concealed in a launcher disguised as a container and fired from the deck of a DPRK cargo ship - over the North Sea not far from the Sizewell nuclear power stations. Fortunately there was little damage apart from a few scorched and broken blades on the wind farm below, as well as some minor EMP problems, but the implied threat was obvious.
Despite the claim that it was a 'demonstration' shot, there are many who still believe that Sizewell, or even London itself was the intended target and it was only due to a malfunction in the missile's guidance system we escaped a greater disaster. The Albans threatened to explode further warheads with even more disastrous consequences, but by then with His Majesty's Dissolution decree in force, the creation of the Transitional Council, and the recalling of the special forces, it was clear Scotland - as it was then known - had won it's independence by some outsourced nuclear blackmail; regardless of whatever the rest of the union, or the forty-eight percent who voted against independence in the Second Referendum, thought.
We're still adjusting to living with a new, unpredictable, and sometimes belligerent nuclear-armed next-door neighbour; as are they. But with the fearsome power of the Bomb comes responsibility. We can but hope the new Sino-Russian axis can bring their influence to bear, as they did in the Gulf. Even the EU and the US - though both greatly reduced in stature - have offered their good offices to help soothe the current spat to a prickly but workable relationship.
We need only look at the Gulf, Israel, or reunified Korea for a sobering reminder of our fate if the leaders get it wrong. There are practical reasons for realpolitik optimism as well. In our interconnected world there are multinational interests in keeping the hydrocarbons flowing, and our nations are still too conjoined to allow our legacy infrastructure to be disrupted by war. The international community may have shafted us by recognising the fait accompli and tacitly supporting the renegotiation of the energy treaties; but at least our allotted trickle of oil and hydroelectricity still gets through. The poor old British Lion; emaciated, mangey, impotent and toothless, just has to adapt to the changed circumstances.
This latest scare isn't making our lives any easier though. No doubt there'll be yet more reams of reporting 'guidelines' from the OMS, and we'll need to rebalance our output to reflect our audiences' concerns away from the parochial to the international. We'll be taking from the national streams rather than contributing our own content to theirs; that'll cost us ViewCred as few people outside the area actually give a monkey's about the problems the gardeners of the Moneyfields allotments are having in stopping the latest outbreak of veg theft, or their opinions on the current war scare. Besides, vox-pops on sensitive issues such as these are discouraged. It's a good thing most of our local and regional packages aren't too time-sensitive; we can always run them later.
Fortunately whoever was at fault it was only an exchange of warning shots this time. There was no damage, and more importantly no injuries on board the trawler. In 48 hours the diplomatic protests will have been filed and dismissed, the gunboats will hopefully have stood to, and we can return to a sullen stand-off again. But the price of fish, already unaffordable, will rise still further as we realise that what was left of our North Sea fisheries are now swimming beneath the keels of the truculent Alban navy.