mr. r. s. braythwayt,
esquire


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What I've Learned From Failure
What I've Learned From Failure


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The Survey

iPad

I’m on my iPad, the screen glitches, and suddenly, I’m in a videoconference.

“Sorry to interrupt,” an attractive young man says, “But I’m doing some research on early 21st century oppression, and I wonder if you could spare me a few… I think you called them minutes?”

There’s something uncanny about his perfectly symmetrical face. And his English phrasing is “off,” like it’s his second language. But I’m busy wondering how these damn survey people hack into my browser, and I’m looking for the DevTools menu instead of cutting him off.

“Did I say that correctly? Do you understand me? I haven’t had any trouble with my Type II Standard English before,” he says, nonplussed.

This is weird.

Strange Creatures

I decide to keep him on the line while I figure out if it’s a con or a prank.

“Where are you calling from?” I say, buying time. He pauses, then says “Earth, of course, but I’m not supposed to talk about me: It taints the validity of your answers.”

Earth, of course.

I am getting the feeling he’s here to service my Swibble. “What’s the date where you are,” I ask. He doesn’t hesitate. “It’s 2106, but nobody will believe you if you tell anyone I called.”

I summon my will and put my brave face on. “Yeah, well, that’s my problem. Your problem is that I don’t believe you, yet, and if I don’t believe you, I won’t answer your questions.”

“So.”

“Tell me something about the future.”

The Future

He smiles. “Certainly, but let’s stay on-subject. What would you like to know?”

I get the feeling that it’s a trap, he doesn’t want to ask me questions, he’s actually recoding which questions I ask.

Damn.

Double-damn, because prank or not, I have to ask, I need to ask. “Do you still have racism?”

Anti-Segregation Protests

He smiles almost imperceptibly. “Can you be more precise?”

And now I’m convinced he’s profiling me based on my questions. But I’m hooked like a trout, and I might as well jump into the boat.

“Like biasing academic entry based on skin colour, or it being more difficult for black women to raise money than white men.”

He shakes his head.

“I’m sorry, but that didn’t get fixed in your lifetime. But it did get fixed. Nobody is subject to that barbarity, and nobody ever will, ever again.”

Africa Day 2010

I’m depressed. And relieved. But I want more, and that’s when I make the biggest mistake of my life,

I should disconnect. I should quit while I’m ahead.

But no, I open my mouth and utter the word I’ll regret forevermore: How?

One word, three letters, and that’s all it takes to change my world forever.

“Oh,” he says airily, as if it’s trivial.

Micah Baldwins DNA

Everyone is genetically profiled from conception.

“There’s no need to overcome primitive superstitions based on skin colour or gender, when your productivity potential and behavioural profile are instantly available to every corporation and institution in the chronoverse.”

And now I realize that this struggle–our struggle–is just the prelude, and that the struggle to end all struggles is coming.


inspirations

Philip K. Dick’s “Service Call,” on wikipedia, and a good review.

The movie GATTACA, on wikipedia and imdb.

An essay on genetic profiling, How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics. It’s mostly debunking the idea that race is useful for making assumptions about people, but its implications are chilling.

An essay of mine, Racism is Socially Engineered Injustice.


If you liked this story, you may enjoy How Raganwald Lost His Crown, and A Woman’s Story.