Hong Pingguo, “New York City”
November 20, 2084
I, Zhenxiang Yin, loyal cadre of the party committee of the Northeastern Province of Occupied America, hereby submit this history of the conquest and occupation of the territory formerly known as the “United States of America.” This history, drawn from transcripts of interviews, news articles, eyewitness accounts, and classified party documents, will cover the years 2021 to the present day. I alone take responsibility for my words, and I will accept the consequences of what I have written here.
I recently invited Clarkson Howell to my quarters in the building that once housed America’s Council on Foreign Relations. Howell, formerly a university law professor, is now in his sixties and presently assigned to Rehabilitation Camp 31, located across the Feiwu River in what was once New Jersey and currently home to the largest human-propelled turbine farm in the world, providing work and physical conditioning for 2 million American laborers.
Howell and his wife, Elizabeth, who is now called Lei Ma and serves at the pleasure of Lan di Shanyang, the Central Committee Chairman of our Peasants and Workers Democratic Party, had unwittingly softened the atmosphere for us in the 2060s, as the intentions behind our treaties and alliances with European powers who were shaken by the slow dissolution of American society were gradually becoming clear. Whenever an American leader accurately diagnosed our secret purposes and denounced China as an aggressor, the Howells shamed such voices as racist on their powerful website. Eventually the Howells and others like them were, ironically, themselves shamed and silenced by what would become the Chinese-American resistance, the most potent threat to our occupation of the coastal American cities. But by then we had delivered the Great Ultimatum, and such resistance was too late.
Howell, who had had the tendons in both legs surgically severed during the Freedom Initiative of 2072, pushed himself off his wheelchair onto his hands and knees after he was wheeled into my presence. After strong defiance following the removal of his two sons from his home in the northern suburbs of New York City, Howell is making good progress toward being liberated from ignorance. His deference is impressive. As he was being lifted back into his wheelchair, he looked imploringly in my direction. I knew that he wanted to learn the fate of his children, but I was forbidden to tell him. In fact, one died by his own hand in transit from his trial to an organ-harvesting center, and the other is an admirably productive software packager on the Western coast, in what was formerly California.
I wanted to know what the atmosphere in America was like in the period after Donald Trump, for this was when our optimism began to gnaw at our patience. This is what Howell, still ensnared in his belief that he would be reunited with his children and his wife, eagerly told me:
“President Biden was not the anti-Trump, as many people in the media believed. He was the anti-Obama, with no plan but to rise above his mentor. He was also entering senescence and was not able to execute an effective politics—and this is why you were so able to distract him in one area of the world after another. So, he advocated a grand restructuring of society, a feat of rhetoric that he thought would placate the people who got him elected, and obscure China’s victories, and outshine in its sheer ambition the failed projects of the arrogant yet toothless Obama.”
“But,” I said, “when a weak man tries to shoulder great plans, the weight of his ambitions will crush him.”
“Yes, Chairman Zhenxiang. That is very wise. May I continue?”
“This was the period in America—”
“’Little Servant’. Your ‘America’ is now called ‘Little Servant.’”
“Yes, I am sorry, Chairman Zhenxiang. Please forgive me.”
“This was the period in Little Servant that the Party refers to as The Great Whispering.”
“Yes, very good, Student Howell.”
“During the Great Whispering liberal elements of the population began to question tendencies in the country toward hatred of the police, open borders, the collective engineering of sexual and racial attitudes, and disrespect for work. Parts of the country had even disbanded police departments and abolished prisons and then, contrary to their own principles, had had to arm themselves and turn their own yards and basements into jails. The do-it-yourself prisoners, as they were called, who were in these jails, then sometimes became part of the family, and in some cases supplanted fathers who had refused any longer to work.”
“That never happened, Student Howell. That was our propaganda, carefully placed in American media outlets, which welcomed any bizarre incident, no matter how destructive to a faith in society.”
“How could such an incredible tale have been believed!”
“But you yourself believed it. Allow me, Student Howell, to offer the Party’s own analysis. At that time, the rise of Meta, a virtual alternative universe that merged real life with simulated life, enabled Americans to believe anything. People surrendered their jobs to stay home and submerge their lives in it. We could never understand why a country in which one political side deplored the way the other allowed objective truth to degenerate into private fantasy could tolerate the rise of a technology that exploited that very trend. This big blurring of truth was why, when the Great Ultimatum that we made to the Americans was never answered—having been reported on, analyzed, and argued about in the American media for months—we were able to march into the country almost unresisted. Our minds were clear and our hearts were strong. We knew who we were. The countless variations of private life were of no public significance to us. What would we have cared if someone insulted someone else’s race or religion or sexuality on that thing called Twitter? What did we care if a man wanted to be a woman or a woman wanted to be a man so long as they indulged their desires in private and oversaw the harvest of tons of grain in public, and did not noisily clamor to make their appetites customary? I have known a few such people in my life, and I have esteemed them. What matters is whether they are productive members of society. A person rides his pleasures in private—do you not think so, Student Howell?
“We based our plan for a transformation of society on society, not on absurd struggles over every individual lapse or whim. Such lapses and whims are the gossip of old women and the criminally idle. But in America, gossip about individual appetites was the stuff of billion-dollar media and social media empires. And both the cultural and the political elites, hungry to please new segments of the population, wanted to force every idiosyncratic appetite into universal law! You see, we would never reeducate people to repudiate the parts of their nature that make up their very identity, sacred qualities like their gender, their idea of themselves as decent citizens, their reliance on familiar patterns of living. We reeducated our people to survive as a civilization, to endure future waves of history. History is survival, survival is life, and life is a balanced identity in a stable environment.
“But I have interrupted you, Student Howell. I am sorry. Please proceed. What kept the liberal elements of the American people from overthrowing the sinister social trends all around them?”
“First, they had nowhere to go. The other side was in the grip of its own extremes, and its own nihilism about its own country. But they were also afraid, Chairman Zhenxiang. They were afraid of losing their social status and all the benefits that derive from that.”
“Yes, but they were not even like schoolchildren, who are educated, as you said, to cherish the fundamentals of their society in order to preserve it from its enemies. By the time of the Great Ultimatum, a generation of elite Americans had been educated to regard their own country as the enemy of all they held dear.”
“Like cutting off your hands in hopes that your feet will do the work of your fingers. Never has there been an elite stratum of civilization that hated its own society in the name of freedom the way yours did. But let us leave events for now. Later I will ask about the waves of American suicide bombers that brought your self-hatred to a peak and forced the division of the country into hundreds of self-ruling regions, like our own warlords and their fiefdoms centuries ago. Now I am interested only in psychology. I have found, Student Howell, that Russians are insecure and devious, and that Americans are arrogant and ingenious. However, the Chinese are, above all, pragmatic. And the basis of Chinese pragmatism is psychology. Tell me the state of the collective American mind that turned America into a courtesan waiting to embrace her powerful lover.”
“A perfect image, Chairman. I remember those years. On the American left there was rage and a deluded belief in secret Chinese promises to end once and for all structures of oppression in American society. On the American right there was rage and a deluded belief in secret Chinese promises to crush only the left.
“Your great genius was your response to the pandemic of 2020. When the virus mysteriously escaped from the laboratory, you shut the country down while preserving its customs. The Americans, however, choked on their freedom and fought each other over every suggestion for battling the disease. As a result, people escaped from the confusing public realm into the certainty of their own appetites and our society became transformed into a permanent state of conflict and flux. You emerged back into a stable life.
“It is simple, Chairman. In China you fought a historical struggle against material deprivation. In America, we fought a historical struggle against material constraints. Our advances in science and technology allowed us to finally defeat time and space and all the social barriers to gratification and to move inside our heads. Our left-wing billionaires now live inside gleaming domes on the moon—”
“Our most reliable trading partners.”
“—while our liberal professional class happily thrive in the Truthaverse you have created for them in collaboration with Mark Zuckerberg IV, where they are rewarded with high virtual salaries and vast virtual country homes for every penance they do for their racism and sexism. But you, you liberated our bodies back into the discipline of hard work.”
“Long live reality, Student Howell!”
“Long live reality, Chairman!”
“You have tears in your eyes.”
“From joy, Chairman!”
“You must learn to dispense with emotions that have no social usefulness. That is language straight from your own 28th Amendment, the so-called ‘OCD’—the Ocasio-Cortez Directive.”
“Passed into law during the Summer of Wrath.”
“Passed into law during the Summer of Wrath. After which your country, exhausted and covered with bleeding sores from generations of scratching at its imperfections like a man suffering from some alien fungus, fell into a deep slumber and dreamed of our gentle touch. Will you be kind enough to visit me again, Student Howell?”
“It would be a great honor, Chairman.”
Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images