The Universe of the Play

Eismas/Traffic

The universe of the play.

Setting – a dilapidated house the midlands (Leicestershire?) a suburb. Also, a hill, surrounded by flooding, and a brothel.

Date – early autumn 2043

So as I said last week – key to the effect of examining now (though whilst still maintaining attachment) through Science Fiction theatre- is sustaining belief- and as well as well founded characters, this means universe – the play’s entire socio-politcal history needs to be totally solid, and although it may not appear at any point specifically- it is, in essence, the foundation of the world that your trying to get an audience to buy into- thus it needs to be structurally sound. Sorry for all the building metaphors- my brains a bit mushy after all this socio-political thinking… anyway, this is what I have been working on as my next 35 years of history- bringing us up to the date of my new piece- 2043. The following stuff isn’t written incredibly eloquently as its more notes for my purpose than anything else, but I thought it might be interesting for you to take a look at my imagining of the world. Everything here is © me by the way (not sure if I would get to sue the world if it actually happened though). So yes, comments on plausibility would be very welcome!

Political context

Following a very close election in 2010, a Tory government got in with an almost unserviceable majority, the labour party dissolved into disarray and infighting, and the Tory government leant further to the right in the ensuing years. Following their defeat, many new labour supporters left the party, or defected to the Lib Dems, leaving an older, more socialist, and crucially, much more out of touch Labour party to remain. Three terms of a narrow Tory Majority followed, with Labour and the Lib Dems fighting for the ‘second party’ spot, rather than attempting to rival the Tories. During this time the Tories slowly and subtly undermined the NHS; under the guise of ‘more choice’ NHS customers are encouraged to go private for more expensive treatments with government ‘F1rst Aid’ – a system which subsidises private healthcare costs and insurance. At the same time immigration is tightened- but no provision for the training of home-grown medical professionals is made. The standard of NHS care falls dramatically, antenatal services, and GP care suffers the most, followed closely by home-care and disability services, which disintegrates into a confusing system of private companies. The North of England and Scotland suffers an obesity epidemic, and smokers, those with a BMI of over 28, and other addicts (alcohol, drugs) are refused NHS treatment. Labour managed to re-unite and claw back a small majority in the 2022 on the basis of reinstating the NHS, and make small reforms. However the biggest change they implement is to throw their lot in with the EU – and in doing so secure valuable loans from Germany, and much needed power from France.

On the 22nd of July 2015, after increasing terrorist threats, and a small attacks across Europe, a large scale, multi-location terrorist bombing of Europe and Russia, Paris, London, Dublin, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, hits within minutes of each other. Evidence leads much of Europe to accuse Russia of funding Islamic Extremists and the relationship between the UK and Russia breaks down. Following the disaster (and due, in part, to America’s falling status in the world), the UK finally finds solace in Europe, and the EU member states come together to work on a united anti-terrorist, security strategy. This unprecedented close-working marks a coming together of Europe that moves the EU’s focus from trade irrelevancies, to a more global-governance led role. The EU begins to treat the member-states’ prime ministers as a kind of cabinet.

At the same time, growing financial difficulty, low yields in home-grown crops because of increasingly unpredictable weather and three years of devastating flooding across the world 2026-2029, has caused global food shortages. The UK government attends EU talks that consider rationing, widespread famine across Africa goes unaided, and the EU calls to power an emergency meeting of the EU leader-states.

In the UK the flooding and widespread animal disease in 2026-2029 (dubbed the Black Summers) causes the Labour government become unpopular, and the Tories win a general election campaign in 2030 based on the idea that Labour is rolling over to EU leaders, and the UK is losing its place as a world leader. However, because the UK now relies so heavily on German loans and French Power, the UK cannot conceivably leave the EU, instead, in the 2031 emergency meeting to discuss food, healthcare, and housing shortages, Britain takes a leading, and some said, purposefully divisive role in talks. The UK demands that living standards, food, power usage etc, be preserved and suggests a revolutionary, yet attractive solution – a single child policy. The EU states eventually decide to implement a one child policy, uniformly across the member states. Though Greece, Bulgaria, and Slovenia leave the EU in protest of it.

This joint decision cements the EU as a collection of united states, and from this point on, trade, movement, and health provision between member states begins to move towards being considered one and the same.

The one child policy

As it is the women that have the children, it is proposed that a woman, rather than a couple, is limited to one child, to prevent people from being promiscuous or ‘sharing’ families. The single female head of state present (the prime minister of Iceland – now a member of the EU following financial aid decisions made in the 2007-12 financial turmoil) tries to block this but her logic is lost on the other head of states). It also seems logical that a child, more precious in these circumstances, should be able to be provided for to an excellent standard – in terms of education- health, food and welfare- thus the idea of a permit, is reached at. One child per permit-awarded woman. Sterilisation following that child is considered mandatory, and later amendments to the policy included rulings that Infertile couples would not be allowed to undergo fertility treatment, and if a child died, parents are no to be allowed to have another.

Social effect of one child policy

Despite mass protests to the one child policy (citing article 16 of the universal declaration of human rights as being in violation of it) vast campaigning on the lines of sustaining current living standards, the damage done to children who cannot be properly provided for, and a generous system of tax cuts, a (very leading) national referendum passes the decision.

Following this success the Tory government redistributes the money ploughed back into the NHS by the old Labour government as mandatory birth control is put in place. The permits begin to be distributed and are at first voluntary- acquiring a permit and only having one child is rewarded by tax breaks and substantial money off education and healthcare, likewise, families that have more than one child after January 2032 receive no benefit or tax cuts, or even students loans. By 2038, the NHS is almost unrecognisable, its main focus is birth control, likewise the small service charge (similar to that of an ID card or Passport) on a C1-permit has risen to reflect ‘rising shortages in basic welfare provision’ and, it was argued in the last election, to prove, in basic outlay, that a family can provide for said child to an ‘adequate degree’ a C1-permit now costs upwards of €20,000, which (it is argued) is all paid back in terms of free health care, education and nutritional benefits.

However, as often happens, many aspects of the real effects of the policy aren’t realised until they happen – the focus on caring the utmost for the children that are had, and the free reign of birth control and inability to afford permits separates the working and middle classes more than ever before. A working class life is largely without children, and consists of raunch culture, tabloids, careless sex, drink, and poor nutritional habits, as well as a huge demand for prostitutes which increases trafficking (primarily from Eastern Europe) to an un-policable level. Manual labour is much in demand in a new world of home-grown food stocks but UK residents not keen to work the land. It becomes much more common for working class men and women to join the armed forces, or to become homeless, ill, or severely depressed. Race becomes less of an issue as religion becomes more of one, though many ethnic minorities are much more likely to be working class. A middle class life takes one route for men, and one of two for women. With a return to traditional foodstuffs, and thus lifestyle and spending/saving, the ‘man of the house’ and ‘the housewife’ makes a resurgence- it is important to be seen to care perfectly for valuable children. Middle class women who do not choose to have children are generally looked down on as ‘not natural’ – and their difficult ascendancy into the workplace and academia since the turn of the 20th century begins to be more and more undermined. Likewise, the single child policy has a devastating effect on relationships, the placing of the permit on the head (or womb) of women means that men will go through several wives in order to secure an heir (male usually desirable). Likewise, financial pressure on men to be the best earners- and therefore the best potential fathers causes widespread depression, middle-class alcoholism and break down. Out of the desperation of couples desperate for a child, or women, desperate to keep a husband, a black market in babies emerges – hand in hand with the new surge in prostitutions. ‘Baby farm’ operations begin to emerge in the largely deserted East of England (Lincolnshire, parts of Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire) – some women trafficked into the sex trade in cities are kept off birth control until pregnant- when they are not accepted by punters they are retired to baby farms (in large operations, or just another house in smaller ones). Here they wait to give birth, whilst the pimp secures a buyer. If a child is born with a disability, an illness or abnormality, a girl, or a desperate mother wants to fake a pregnancy (perfectly possible amongst the new, privatised healthcare system) they can secure a replacement child at a cost.

Economic context

During the global economic crisis 2007-2012 due to the impact of 80s deregulation, bad debt, and bad bets on the part of brokers, the world market near-collapsed. Countries hit 1000% inflation, there were runs on banks, hundreds of thousands of people world-wide lost jobs and homes, and western countries had to borrow a great deal to shore up financial systems built on previously shoddy foundations. The US particularly took out trillions of dollars worth of loans, primarily from the People’s Republic of China. The new hope invested in the country’s first black president quickly dissipated as it became clear he was not a panacea to the nation’s ills- his unprecedented and earnest calls for a change in habits of spending, and a return to more traditional savings principals fell on deaf ears and he could only watch as the national wasted itself away. Meanwhile Russia hiked its threats to build nuclear bases threatening to US positions, and renewed debating of the position of Georgia and South Ossetia, this time allying itself with China. China had hitherto not sought to influence much outside its own interests, but as its power and unassailable economy, built on the broken backs of its nation, began to outgrow simple prosperity, China began to take an interest in effect world events in order to secure more sway over others. During the second South Ossetia conflict in 2013 the US was on the front line of peace keeping troops, or intended to be, however China called in some important debts, and marked, for the first time, the US’s capitulation to a superior world power. Throughout the Decades the US began to fade as jobless, homeless and sick people at home demanded more attention. And natural disaster after another affected crops, and lost people their homes. The Democrats held onto power for two terms, but then were ousted by a Republican campaign driven entirely by the extreme religious-right – a return to ‘traditional values’ was put as a solution to the US’s economic woe, as it was inferred that the troubles of the past decade was a kind of punishment. Once in power the Republicans put in a highly questionable tax system that left state services hideously underfunded and relaxed taxes on the rich, they put most of their time into revoking a great deal of equal rights legislation under the guise of ‘tradition values’ and the country sank into quasi Christian-fundamentalist squalor, with a super rich and a struggling super-poor majority, manual labour kept food supplies up and the great, new, working class were kept in place by the fear of the church. Many Americans left in this time, and were welcomed in Australia, New Zealand, and for a while, Europe. Despite a greater prevalence of religious extremes and attacks, the UK, especially following alliances with secularised countries such as France, retains its secularity, and faith, in any area of public life becomes frowned upon.

Russia and China thus rose as substantial economies, Russia with oil, gas, land for power stations, and China with produce, a work force. The solidifying of this partnership was instrumental in also solidifying the EU member states into one, and soon, the EURO was the accepted currency throughout the whole of Europe, relationships tied by previous heavy loans existing between EU countries, shoring the economy from within. In 2017 The EU changed tax policy so that countries were encouraged to source almost all of their produce from within the EU and dietary and living standards changed as a result of this- as more regional and traditional foodstuffs made a comeback- for example Rabbit and Mutton became popular meats because of their eating grass and not labour and fuel intensive grain. By 2023 each country was required to have a Ministry of Food from which food trade was dealt with directly, and eventually, often without direct monetary involvement, as the EU strove to become self sufficient, as well as a rival economic power to the Russo-China (later joined by India) alliance.

Environmental context

The three year floods and devastating livestock disease epidemics of the Black Summers have been the most obvious environmental impact of the past 35 years. During the floods, large swathes of the east cost, Cambridge, Peterborough, and parts of London were submerged for months. The Labour government (during a brief move of the houses of parliament to Birmingham) struggled to reclaim the land with insufficient resources, and when the Tory government of 2022 come to power, one of their main policies was ‘prioritisation’. What this amounted to was abandoning a large amount of the north-eastern coast and inland flood plains, concentrating on reclaiming and re-enforcing the ‘key economic and cultural/industrial sectors’ of the more southerly areas hit. Though waters receded, much of the land is no longer used for agriculture, and very few people still live there, favouring much larger cities, or the new agricultural heartlands of Wales and the South West.

UK weather has become much milder and wetter during the long April-September summer with plunging temperatures and snow in winters from October to March.

Power provision for the UK largely comes from France’s nuclear facilities the UK closes its last coal-fired power station in 2037. Some few nuclear power stations are owned by the UK government, but most (located in Scotland) are owned and run by France.

Many, many people die from flood and famine across Africa, and without aid from countries no longer rich enough to help others and rising temperatures and great bushfires, vast swathes of the continent become deserted.

Technological context

Great advances have been made in computing power and connectivity, wifi is available to all, free, and everywhere. Mobile phone signal is blanket cover and companies are EU-wide. Screens and mobile device technology are vastly more powerful and lighter, and advertising has become more significant –and often involves moving image. A revolution in battery nano-technology (batteries made of organic matter than reproduces) in 2032 has made landline phones defunct and portable technology much more flexible. Transport is largely electrical, though poorer people who cannot afford new electric cars but need transport continue to pay through the nose for petrol. Porn and online communities have played a large part in quelling the unfulfilled needs of the lower classes.

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5 Responses to “The Universe of the Play”

  1. Lucy Ann Wade November 17, 2008 at 3:56 am #

    Hello! There’s a bit of a flaw when they are agreeing on the one child policy. I know it probably serves your story, and your political ideology to have this one woman head of state the only voice of reason, but I thought I’d point out that governments don’t work like this (especially in a democracy). Namely, heads of state don’t make policy, civil servants do, committees do, and for this to work as you’ve implied, then all the EU member states (aside from Iceland) must have male only committees, politicians, civil servants etc, which isn’t believeable. Also, I take slight offence at the idea that woman = good and reasonable, and man = selfish and bad. That’s a dangerous stereotype, and one that I don’t think feminism would support (it’s closer to misandry than anything, and really, there’s way too much hatred in the world as it is).

  2. Hannah November 18, 2008 at 6:34 am #

    I dispute the idea that opposing the 1 child policy is good vs bad, 3 other member states headed by men leave in dispute of it, plus the 1child policy is necessary and in essence a needed (good?) plan- jus the implementation is taken in a rushed and purposefully driven moment.

    The female head of state disputes the implementation of it – not it’s essence and in a context where she is the only remaining head of state objecting of course she would be ignored.

    I chose her to interject becasue Iceland is one of the foremost coutnries with regards to their equal treatment of men, women, and children ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/18/iceland )and think that they would have the sense, but not the power to object- plus a female prime minister because I read soemthing in the paper about ICeland thinking that their current problems caused by ‘greedy men’ and they wanted female politicians to take hold ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/02/iceland-recession though that’s not to say women wont be greedy- it’s just soemthing i read about the coutnry) I didn’t have her object because she was a woman, but because Iceland is one of the most developed country in terms of gender roles, but they couldn’t just leave the EU because of the loans made during the 07-12 financial crisis. I also think in a rescinding of familial and traditional values as countries sturggle for food and electrical power and face serious terrorist attacks, ‘traditional’ gender roles would reassert – as they did in america following 9/11 ( http://www.amazon.com/Terror-Dream-Fantasy-Post-9-America/dp/0805086927 )

    With regards to the decison making – the implication is that these are extreme circumstances where the EU is heading towards beign a united states style governance system- and the heads of states are treated like a cabinet- it would then be taken back to the member states’ countries and put to a vote – hence the talk of the uk referendum which is won by a widespread advertising campaign focussing on sustaining a way of life, which is won by a small majority.

    I really don’t think I am anti man any more than a black person is ‘anti-white’ yet I still aware of the injustice, and ongoing injustices done by those with power against those without, the comparison isn’t brilliant, and I am by no means comparing beign a white middle class female, to being black. I do understand how the quick way I typed this thinking, and the bracketed (only female prime minister) needed more explaining…but I think you also tend towards protecting men in the post-80s apologist style and that has couloured your reading…

    Gender roles hurt everyone, men included, but that they exist has to tackled by both men and women, and I don’t include women so much in that problem as I believe more see the problem and are ready to tackle it, it is men we need to convince.

    Though I could, of course, be wrong. but then perhaps I spend too much time around people who fit my surmisal. So thank you for challenging me :-)

  3. Lucy Ann Wade November 21, 2008 at 4:24 am #

    I don’t think I’m protecting anyone, just trying to keep ‘equality’ in mind, over ‘man-bashing’.

    Also, I think, whilst you’ve done a lot of research here, your plays do often suffer a lot from unnecessary exposition that drags the momentum of the play, and I think if you try to work all of this into the dialogue of your latest play, it will really hinder the final piece. So be careful.

  4. Hannah November 21, 2008 at 9:52 am #

    Thankfully I think that’s something I’ve learnt to curb through the MPHIL! my last draft of Being Someone Else had the right balance I think – and by no means is any of this ‘history’ going to be in the new play’s plot- that wont be what the piece is about- but it is (I think at least) absolutely imperative that the universe of an invented world be entirely secure and known of- because I’m not writing about contemporary people in a future setting- but future people – products of their future society.

    My past(ish) problem was heavy exposition through dialogue- rtaher than context actually demonstrating itself through character’s voice, fears, attitudes to others, reaction to pressure etc. So basically, yes, totally agree this is not what the play should be about, but I do still think it’s key character work. And the Royal Court man said that I should write a very thorough future history, so homework too!

    But, y’know, still don’t think i’m man bashing by highlighting current and very probable changes and problems in society! Almost everything I’ve written is exemplified now (granted by liberal lefty newspaper articles, news sources, and books alike), I am by no means saying that this is what I believe society will come to- but that it might be possible- I think that being able to suggest differing degrees of dystopian future is valid and valuable social comment, Ala 1984/Handmaid’s tale etc. (though I am in no way comparing myself in quality to either of those writers!)

    I’ve since run it past 4/5 man-friends with your concerns in mind and they’ve not thought it offensive. (But then again, they may be less sensitive to it, and they are also my friends and so not a thorough objective, or random sample!) I also wanted to defend myself with I honestly don’t hate men, all my friends are men, but that’s a little too comically close to the racism-defence so I left it… :-p

    I had hoped that my explanation would clarify, and I have considered it carefully… but I think agreeing to differ on my man-hating semi-dystopian future history may be a good idea on this occasion :-)

  5. Linda November 21, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    HI
    It seems pretty balanced to me. I think working class women would probably go back into domestic service and there would be a resurgence of the “deserving poor” aspects of poor law. It might be the only way they would be near a healthy child.
    The terrorist bit came out of the blue a bit.
    I think it would be likely that motherhood would be aligned with sainthood and women with a child would be propaganda led back to the home (as after the war). Women who are married without a child would be tethered both for their own protection (rape of someone elses wife would be a deep injury), to ensure the blood line and to toe the line would be their ticket to motherhood. Some of us would take revenge or to the gin! ( there and I tried really hard not to rise to it!). I remember a friend in the 70’s taking a politics course at uni saying women were taking the political decision to be lesbian. Interestingly she now live in Canada with her husband and children

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