I wrote the short story 2066. Beginning the age of correction about climate change and old population in Europe which, thanks to the magazine Cafebabel, was translated in English and many other languages in the spring of 2006. Thirteen years later, the delicate situation around our planet is even worse than I could imagine for this fictional story.
In 2050, 35% of Europeans will be over 65 and there will be 58 million more senior citizens than today. Whereas the current generation over 65 enjoys retirement, the pension system is in crisis. What future for an ageing Europe? In the short fiction «2066. Beginning the age of correction» the working population beginning to think about retirement is called by the state to participate in an ecological mission.Cafebabel.com · Issue (grand)mother Europe http://www.cafebabel.com/en/article.asp?T=T&Id=7224 [Consultation: June 19, 2006]
2066. Beginning the age of correction, by Núria Añó
A land of older people and with the experience finally to be able to decide if they throw out the alarm clock or put it in a suitcase. A nation that will be able to choose what they put in a suitcase. People that will have a choice between bathing suit and a walking stick for the mountain, wearing SPF factor 60 or 120. Hotel or apartment complex. Chalet or camping store. Complimentary vitamins, Viagra, or pills for degenerative osteoarthritis. Private beach club or cosmetic surgery. People that have in their hands their bankbooks and the pension plan because they have been prepared. Congratulations! You are no longer a doctor, or teacher, or labourer, or vendor. Now you are a free person.
Those people that in this moment connect with their families thanks to the technology available in their homes, will discover how their children put their grandchildren in the car, with the only benefit today being that they save on babysitters. At any moment the newly retired person could be the victim of a visit, the charming grandson or granddaughter that will jump on the sofa, kicking and screaming and still wake up with a certain tenderness. Why? Because they are the blood of your blood, and because in some way they are in danger of extinction. People will have to decide between their families or their life. Between having a suitcase or parting with it, between keeping the pension money or sharing it out between the kids. Because if you decide to close the suitcase and leave for another part of Europe, perhaps when you get to your destination you’ll be surprised at just how much everything has changed. And decide to return.
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Happy New Year 2066!!!
Europe, the land of easy mathematics where he who works adds up and he who retires subtracts. The land where the economy gets to stagger all over the continent, opening a great many camps that find themselves in an experimental phase. The chosen ones that were thinking of retiring in 2066 have been called to collaborate in a type of ecological reform. This is if they want to recover their pension, and so for this reason they have entered the camps.
Nicoletta, for example, has wanted to do something like this, but only in a free, non time consuming, way. One hour a day would have been sufficient for her because she is on medication for depression and has spent a lot of time feeling down. The state has been paying for her medication for years, and this is what they told her: «Nicoletta Vlasak, we have noted your work with various NGO’s in Latin America between 2030 and 2040 as well as various trips to Africa between 2041 and 2043. As you have made small contributions during your working life, and have enjoyed a widower’s pension for the last five years, your Social Security number has been chosen for camp mission C: Europe against acid rain. This mission will consist of planting trees during a period of five years. Your house will be rented out and upon completion of the mission your keys will be returned to you.»
Miguel had dissolved three tablets of pork and white rice when his virtual monitor displayed the following: «We have noticed an increase in cholesterol in your metabolism in the last two minutes. Bearing in mind your hypertension and that your weigh 148 kilos, could you confirm if you’re considering suicide?» To which Miguel replied: «Don’t wish me to commit suicide now that I am on the brink of retiring! I have spent one whole life getting up at 5am, all of my life driving a car up and down from one end of Europe to the other, loading and unloading», and added: «I have a hernia and rheumatism. Now what I want most is to forget about travelling and pick up my fishing rod.» Miguel sat there, looking sceptically at the monitor as it replied: «Miguel Pontes, given your sense of humour, we inform you that your Social Security number has been chosen for Camp mission F: Europe returning life to the rivers.»
When Pietro’s housing development opened up a virtual window, it was Elizabeth who pressed click: she accepted an unknown virtual conference, because in the back of her mind she was hoping for a virtual visit from her grandkids. Elizabeth shouted; «Pietro!» and Pietro began to listen, his eyes glued to the screen and corroborated: «In effect, five years that pay for the pension» and he was read the official documents that he had digitally signed. At which point he heard: «Pietro Scheider, we have just renewed your retirement. It is a real shame that you do not wish to collaborate with the cause: Europe converts water into ice. A mission to the Poles.» When that finished, they both heard: «Elizabeth Toderas, three miscarriages, two sons and a daughter. You are retiring in March. We remind you that your mission begins in March in Camp A: Europe. Cloning fertile women.’ We recommend that you prepare yourself physically during this period.»
Jacques, an author, was waiting for a videoconference like this. He turned on the screen and said: «I am impatient to start the mission. Arrest me!» Only his number hadn’t been chosen. Therefore, with luck, he would be able to enjoy all the benefits of retirement. «Jacques Zola, we are sorry to tell you that we haven’t received any mission for you. We are letting you criticise whatever you like, because in reality, there isn’t anyone left who buys electronic books. Besides, your Social Security number has not been entered into the draw because we cannot risk your words setting the cat amongst the pigeons.»
And so, the agents that signed the project Europe against old age have begun to see the first fruits of their labour: suicides, heart attacks, death from exhaustion, natural deaths and intentionally failed flights. Everything ought to be controlled by ex-prisoners running the projects. On the other hand, the ecological reform which was promised has been a complete failure, though this was well known from the beginning. Now the search for habitual planets begins.
© Núria Añó – 19.6.2006 | Translation : Rebecca Caulfield