A short story by John Richmond
Things had changed. Had they changed for the better? Maybe, but who knew- who could even remember. The only thing that they did know for certain was that the “aged-ones” told stories- maybe they were even tales- of a time when a Permissioner was never needed and the Binders never existed. But, that was then, and this is now. So, how did it happen, who is the Permissioner and what is in the Binders?
It was an “evolution” of sorts; one that led to a new social contract that was forged over, through and as a result of long years of human and cyber uncertainty- and terror; a new way of “managing” society with a new philosophy that believed that rights- human and otherwise- were a function of time, place and circumstance.
Oh, to be sure, everyone retained the same basic, original philosophical rights- “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”- but beyond that, everything that was tangible and real was in the hands of the Permissioner, and he was aided in his duties by the Binders.
Many believed that the mid-twenty-first-century was the turning point, but the antecedents of the change- the turn- were occurring years before. It’s just that 2053 was the year that a critical mass of governments finally said their equivalents of- “enough is enough.”
It was a combination of terrorism, social media activism- run amok- and the Hacker Revolution that resulted in a world-wide state of anarchy. Put differently, people and places were blowing up, cyber-security as regards ALL data became nonexistent (everyone had access to everything) and social media chaos- and the masses it could summon- turned every aspect of governmental functioning- from the local school board to the affairs of state- into a world of perpetual gridlock to the point of absolute dysfunctionality. The aspects of the problems were universally the same- as was the response- differing only as a result of local nuances.
The phenomenon of human terrorism was addressed by the Zoning Laws Act (ZLA) of 2048 which created 10k- 6 square mile- Zones in which one lived and worked and recreated. No one was allowed to exit their Zone without explicit written- and documented- permission. Those who violated the ZLA were punished by the loss of their job, their housing, their food and education subsidies and a minimum of twenty years in prison.
Social media fell under the purview of the Social Media National Defense Act (SMNDA) of 2050 which- among other things- limited social media access to only one employment related page while other feeds- not to exceed five- were restricted to bona fide members of a citizen’s immediate family.
Finally, the Hacker Revolution- and the repercussions of everything being technologically accessible- led to the Internet Access Control Act (IACA) of 2051. The IACA limited Internet access to only pre-approved educational and entertainment websites.
Yet, as regards personal information- of all and any sort- there was still a need to have some sort of repository of data and someone to manage- and oversee- both the data and the repository.
This led to the Permissioner and the Permissioner’s Binder Act (PAPBA) of 2053. In essence, the PAPBA established the Office of the Permissioner and the compilation of the Binders. It was the Permissioner’s responsibility to review any request by those living in his Zone of Authority for travel permission to another Zone. Second, the PAPBA, further, authorized the compilation of individual Binders on everyone in the Permissioner’s Zone. Finally, the Act provided for the establishment of a repository for the Binders.
The Binders were comprehensive. They included everything there was to know about the individual in question. Further, the Act required that the Binders were all “hard copies”- literally binders- that were durable, resilient and impervious to attack, cyber or otherwise.
Obviously, it took some time to establish, demarcate and electronically secure the Zones. It took even more time to collect the individual data and assemble the Binders. The enormity of these tasks resulted in a series of multiple “start-dates,” those points in time when parts of what would ultimately be the entire system would be functional- and permission would be required.
Of course, once a Zone was “operational,” near-to-endless speculation ensued. There were questions like- “Who is the Permissioner?” “Where are the Binders kept?” “Is the repository in the Zone?”
These were, obviously, good, natural and logical questions. They were practical, yet, for all intents and purposes, they were- and always would be- simply rhetorical.
For you see, no one ever met or came before the Permissioner. No, he never saw anyone- and, no one ever saw him- though each Permissioner dealt with hundreds of people each day. Besides, once you were standing there- before the Permissioner’s Zone Coordinator- with your transit request papers firmly in hand, it would have been highly- near-to-bordering-on-transit-request-denied- unlikely to inquire about anything- let alone the Permissioner. Still, in the Zones, curiosity- and rumors- were rampant. It was, necessarily, of the word-of-mouth variety- and especially guarded- but it was pervasive.
Some people didn’t believe that the Permissioner- or the Binders- existed at all. They questioned the requirement of Zone Transfer Permits, but at the same time, no one took it upon themselves to put their belief to the test.
Others believed that there was a Permissioner and that there were Binders, but that they were housed in a subterranean vault somewhere in the Zone.
Then, there was the majority opinion that believed that all of the Permissioners and the Binder Repositories were situated- located- deep in a cavern in a remote mountain range.
Was it mysterious? Yes. Was it sometimes a burden and an hassle to have to get a permit to travel? Yes. Did it require some “advanced planning” so as to coordinate everything? Yes. Did it feel like the government was controlling everyone’s lives? To a person, it was a most definite and emphatic- YES!
But, more importantly, did these measures- did what the Permissioner and the Binders represented- finally impose- for lack of a kinder, more democratic word, a control and stability and a predictable functionality to the world? Oh, yes, indeed.
Actually, the bulk of the population- after the revolts and disclosures and the terrorism- found it “comforting”- well worth the inconveniences and the sacrifices- to know- and maybe more so importantly, believe- that everything and anything that there was to know about them was safe and secure- and accessible to only one set of eyes- the Permissioner’s- in their very own, individual- and private- Binder.
It was in this way, after the passage of a few generations that the world of the hackers, protesters, revolutionaries, and terrorists slid into history; a dimming of a phase that had brought adjustments and had created- a new and different kind of existence- the world as they know it today.