In the aftermath of a continental civil-war, nation-states have collapsed, the European Union™ holds on, preventing anarchy.
Bastian Balthazar Bux is a leading member of The Federation®, the European network of civil society and local governments. Bastian has just been unexpectedly dumped through an app, the BreakupShop™ service. Heavy hearted, he just wants to drink, get on with work and forget his romantic woes.
However, he discovers that Nathan Ziggy Zukowsky is planning to sell Plebiscitum®, a dating-style app that is meant to replace elections with a simple swipe, at the same conference he is invited to attend in Chile. Haunted by the ghosts of his recent relationship, he finds himself without his all-important Morph® phone, just a few hours before embarking on his trip to try to save democracy.
Will he make it to his conference on the other side of the world? Will he stop Zukowsky from selling his app? And will he ever find a way to deal with his breakup?
‘He must be kidding. This logo is a joke,’ I heard a voice behind me say.
It was Nathan, Nathan Ziggy Zukowski. The alleged illegitimate son of Roman Polanski. Everyone knew that. Born in Paris, raised in Krakow. A real shark but very much beloved because of his personal history and his manners. Sandra insisted on inviting him to Thessaloniki. He had initiated a set of new projects that I had not yet understood.
I could again feel my pleura screaming. My left lung was pushing it, following my accelerated heartbeat.
‘Bastian likes old Soviet Pioneer badges,’ he continued.
I kept staring at my Morph®. Motionless.
‘This guy is turning The Federation. into a kolkhoz,’ he kept going on. ‘What will he do next? Establish a Politburo?’ He was blowing full steam ahead.
I took a deep breath, turned to him and said, ‘Firstly, Soviet iconography has been de-ideologised by younger generations in post-communist regions.’
‘Man, we finally get to meet again.’ He smiled.
‘Secondly, what counts is not what you think about the logo,’ I said, cutting him short.
‘I thought you were hiding or something,’ he continued and tried to hug me.
‘Nathan, you have no idea…’ I stared at the pinball table beside him. The petals of a rose marked points for the winners. A tattooed girl was painted on the top of the rose as the final prize, a reminder of the gender-biased past I had thought completely finished. She had black curly hair, and the images flooded in.
Nevertheless, I continued. ‘The League™ is changing politics and will help us all move towards a solid postwar democracy.’
‘Democracy, as you know it, is doomed,’ he replied.
Holy Mary-Inanna, I thought, he’d transformed himself into another populist who would recite some bullshit about destroying political parties, getting rid of the elites, online voting, and so on. I was sick and tired of those people.
‘My new app, plebiscitum. , will allow anyone to express their opinions anytime, anywhere, and will include geolocalisation systems,’ he replied.
‘Basically Tinder. but for politics,’ I said.
‘Exactly, you’ve got it. Politics will be as easy as swiping. Likes, dislikes, matches,’ he said.
‘Fucking bullshit, Nathan,’ I replied.
‘And poof! Magic. No need for elected representatives,’ he continued.
‘Must I always remind you that you have no sense of strategic understanding, Bastian?’ He was smiling, calm and happy like a sheep peacefully grazing among orchard grass.
‘What we need is neither fewer parties nor fewer politicians,’ I said.
‘We need parties mobilising the people and being mobilised by the people.’
‘Sure. Like some wannabe politicians in this bar tonight,’ he said.
‘And why wouldn’t people blame them? They caused a major part of the mess and the war.’
‘You won’t get me over there, Nathan,’ I said.
‘One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government,’ he replied.
‘I refuse to throw politicians in your technological trash bin just because some of them caused a mess,’ I said.
‘Man, you are just a cheap idealist full of passion. When it comes to controlling human beings, there is no better instrument than lies. Because, you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. The power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts.’
‘I might be full of passion, but you are full of shit,’ I said.
‘Calm down, be Shinto, man. You will tell me if I’m right or wrong when the moment comes,’ he said.
And he left me with a sense of fear and anger I could not explain. I would have preferred to have simply punched the guy in the face with no mercy right then and there. He belonged to that dangerous class of human being that seems to preach good to cover their more nefarious intentions.
Being angry is a weird state of mind. I didn’t express it often, but it festered in my chest and left little space for anything else. It made me irrational, and I lost the clarity with which to keep up the fight.
In truth, I suffered in confrontational situations even though I had to handle them every day. My 6-steps-diplomacy™ would have clearly recommended avoiding highly emotional situations. And I repeated
to myself, ‘If you are involved in a discussion that’s already emotionally charged or argumentative, your attempts to be diplomatic will go unheard.’ But I had no clue or any further tips on how to handle it.
I was lost. I was totally worn out.
About the author:
As a political geographer, Giuseppe Porcaro has been interested in how the intersection between technology and politics is moving towards uncharted territories in the future. He has recently published a series of scientific articles about how the internet of things and algorithms will change policymaking. He also focused on narrative-building and political representations in the European Union
Disco Sour is his first experiment with fiction and was inspired by a mission to Chile he had in 2013. Back then, he was Secretary General of the European Youth Forum, the platform for youth organisations advocating for youth rights. And on his way to Santiago, he missed three connecting flights across two continents within the span of 72 hours.
Giuseppe now works as the head of communications for Bruegel, an international think tank specialising in economic policy. During the rest of the time, he DJs, reads, dreams, writes.