Letter from prison

Dear stranger,

Tell me your thoughts. Are things actually bad or is it just me?

Everybody says this is normal. This is what is supposed to happen. Yet it doesn’t feel normal. It feels like slavery. I am a slave. Worse than a slave. A slave both of body and of mind.

Everyday, I wake up early. Too early, if you ask me. Starting 8am until 2pm I have work. We get 10-minute breaks every hour, yet we can’t really do anything during those 10 minutes. It’s only allowed to go out in the gated yard. They say it’s for our protection.

This is not a job one can quit. Nor one can change. There is no pay for this job. They say the work itself will pay in the long run.

During work time we all have to do what they tell us. That’s fine, I can deal with it. The problem is we also have to think what they tell us. This is what's killing me.

We are micromanaged. Under constant supervision at all times. The supervisor asks us things. This is how they check if we are thinking the things they tell us. They say it’s for our own good.

We’re not allowed to collaborate for the work. It’s the same work for everyone, but everyone has to do it for themselves. They monitor if we collaborate and if we do then our work is annulled. They say it’s for justice.

Some special times we have to collaborate. Then the work is opposite. One is forced to collaborate, even with workers they don’t like. They say it's for society.

In comparison to my coworkers, I have it pretty good. I can focus on the thinking material they ask us and I’m pretty good at the work. Also, I’m terrified when they yell at us. So I only do the things they tell us to do. I don’t even dare to think to do anything else. The cost-benefit analysis was clear: such fear and shame is too much to bear. Admittedly, I'm a coward.

Some workers can’t take the pressure. They either abuse other workers or don’t do the work and the thinking. It usually ends bad. Usually yelling. I don’t mind it so much. Apart from my constantly elevated heartbeat, it also means that we get to have a few seconds off-thinking.

The workers are divided in groups by the year we were born. The thinking and the work are also divided by year. If you’re really bad at the work, then you have to do a whole year’s work again. I had some coworkers that went through that. It’s pretty rare though.

Some special times, things get extra ugly. Maybe a coworker snaps hard and attacks another coworker. Sometimes the supervisors snap. They can’t take the supervising pressure, or just some other random thing in their lives, who knows. They won’t tell us. They don’t tell us much in general; only what we are allowed to know. Only what’s relevant to the sanctioned work.

If during work, one needs to go to the bathroom, they have to ask for permission. Sometimes the supervisors decline. Maybe because of important thinking, or just too many people went to the bathroom. There might be a quota.

Walking around your desk or getting up for a stretch is strictly prohibited. These are activities for break time only.

Our lunch break is 20 minutes. We can’t do much. We can’t cook. We have to either buy from the official store inside the enclave or bring food from home. But we can’t microwave it or something.

At 2pm the bell rings and the guard opens the gates. This is when we get to go home. Home is much better. Much more relaxed, but we still have to do work. It takes a few hours. After that, we are free. Or at least that's what they say.

How can one be free, if the only thing they can control in their life is a few hours per day? Even more, when they have no money to spend.

Slaves get limited free time per day. It is slaves that do not get paid for work. It is slaves that cannot quit.

Yet slaves are free to at least dream of freedom. They are free to think of it. Only a slave of mind is not. What could be worse than that?

It was the citizens of Oceania that had their thoughts controlled and it was with the same techniques: prescribed information to consume, defined language to talk, constant fear of punishment by the authority.

So, how could we ever expect even a remotely balanced person to come out of school?