A trashy novel really makes a holiday. Last week in Cornwall I didn’t want to go for anything too complex so took along Blind Faith by Ben Elton.
The background to the story is a future dystopia run by the temple (organised religion). The population is encouraged to be open and share all their thoughts and feelings (through blogs!) and privacy is frowned upon. Elton takes many of todays cultural anomolies and leads them to their most extreme negative conclusion – constant video streaming, distrust of vaccinations, fat, unhealthy, naked people. The protagonist is Trafford Sewell, a pretty normal chap who starts to rebel against the Temple by allowing his child to be vaccinated.
It was an OK read, though lacked any real depth. However one idea that caught my eye was the concept of Fizzy Coffs:
Fizzy Coff was short for ‘physical office’ and meant that it was a day when Trafford’s personally adapted work structure required him to attend his actual workplace, as opposed to the virtual version which existed online and which he could get to without leaving his bed. Fizzy Coffs were a statutory requirement; the law expected each person to spend at least 25 per cent of their working hours in the company of real, physical colleagues in a real physical space. It was intended at some point to increase this proportion to 50 per cent and the transport system was supposedly being updated to cope with the extra travel hours, but Trafford doubted that it would ever happen. All future planning for the transport system seemed to him to focus on the modest ambition of preventing it from grinding to a complete halt.
It’s interesting that Elton sees these days as a reaction to a point in time when everyone did work from home.
Fizzy Coffs were a relatively recent development. Twenty solstices previously, when Trafford had first entered employment, he had not been required to go out to a physical workplace at all. Few people did, except those whose job was serving food and drink or lapdancing. That had been in a time when the virtues of the virtual had gone unchallenged. The public health advantages of keeping people apart had been obvious and it was generally assumed that at some point all work would be done at home. But the growing trend towards social dysfunction had alerted both the Temple and the government to the human need for Face Time. Care workers and spiritual counsellors had concluded that people who dealt exclusively with virtual individuals tended to be at an emotional disadvantage when confronted with the real thing. Unable to relate to fellow members of the community, they were awkward, tongue-tied, and would occasionally shoot at random as many people as they could before turning their guns on themselves.
It had also become clear that it was impossible to meet a series of sexual partners while sitting alone in a tiny flat in front of a computer screen surrounded by pizza boxes. This had of course brought the Temple into the debate. With one in two children dying in infancy, the first and foremost spiritual duty of the people was to produce more children and you cannot produce children without sexual partners. The High Council of the Temple had therefore let it be known that the government must enable the people to interact more regularly, and so Fizzy Coffs became mandatory. It was therefore principally in order to produce children and to prevent them from developing into deranged killers that Trafford found himself picking his way through the emotionally charged litter of a permanently traumatized society in the burning heat of a stinking Sagittarian morning.
So be warned, those of you at home all day may well turn into lonely, friendless, emotional disadvantaged outcasts who can’t interact and end up doing something really dangerous!
Good job it’s only a book!