By Victor Schwartzman
October 12, 2015
Mark Watney had multiple physical challenges. The morning after the federal election he woke to find he had been deserted, just as if he had been an astronaut abandoned on Mars. However, Mark had not been deserted by his crew on a distant planet. He was on Earth and had been deserted by his society. This is because a person with disabilities in Canada can often feel like an abandoned astronaut on Mars, left alone to survive.
When Mark woke he got into his wheelchair, went to his computer and was shocked–special software which had been installed to make his computer usable was gone. With his sight impairment it was impossible to read the small text. He tried to call an aide for help but couldn’t find his cell phone. Without computer or phone Mark was cut off from the outside world!
Worried, he decided to seek answers. Leaving his apartment was difficult because the power opener on the front door was missing. Only with difficulty did he get outside. Fortunately, the elevator still worked, but when he reached the ground floor and wheeled into the lobby the front door’s power opener was gone. Mark could not open the heavy door by himself. Worse, the building now had stairs leading up to it–the ramp he used yesterday had vanished. Even if Mark could open the door, he could not leave the building.
Unable to communicate with the rest of the world or even get outside his building, Mark was trapped!
Frightened, he returned to his apartment. All of the improvements which made it possible to have a fulfilling life had mysteriously vanished. Why? And how would be survive? Just as he began planning to grow potatoes in his apartment for food, Mark heard three loud deliberate knocks on his front door–even though there was a doorbell.
Mark went to the door and said “It’s unlocked.”
The door opened to reveal a tall sour man wearing a dark suit. “You should never have been able to leave your apartment.” He was annoyed. “I trust you learned your lesson. As a courtesy I have been sent to explain. I’ll come inside and tell you all about it, so get out of my way.”
Mark wheeled back and the man stepped into the apartment and closed the door firmly. “The federal election was a disaster,” he began abruptly. “No party won a majority nor would any party agree to cooperate with the others. Forming a lasting Government was impossible. Therefore, the current Government implemented the Election Doomsday Device.”
“I don’t understand,” Mark told him.
“Why should you?” he replied. “Civilians did not need to know. The Device was created several years ago by the current Government, which believes in very strong leaders. If the Government is not re-elected and no other party forms a Government, the Device is automatically triggered. It is a portal to another Dimension: the Self-involved Dimension. Our name speaks for itself and I’m too busy to explain.
“When the Device allowed us to enter your Dimension, we implemented a multi-level reality warp. We did that because we could and we thought it would fun to give Canadians what they really want. Your society pretends otherwise, but believes as we do that people with disabilities take up everyone’s time, patience and, worst of all, money. We have stopped the pretense and eliminated all supports which enable a person with disabilities to go outside or contact people and annoy anyone.”
“That’s awful,” Mark told him. “You can’t do that.”
“Why would you do this terrible thing?”
“Ramps and special busses and crosswalks are expensive, and the money could be spent elsewhere. Also, it is unpleasant to look at people with disabilities. Often they are not pretty. And their presence reminds us we might develop a disability ourselves! Who needs that? So what if they have skills society needs?
“That is why you can’t leave your building. That is why you don’t have a phone. That is why you can’t use your computer to communicate. However, you can use it to play games.”
“The supports aren’t a convenience,” Mark insisted, angry. “It isn’t even that I won’t be able to do my work. Without the supports, I could die.”
“You people are always so dramatic. Not to worry, you will continue to receive basic food and medicines and other supports. Not as much as before, but you’ll find ways to manage. You need to see the bigger picture. We created what Canadians really want. You have seen only some of the changes. The environment will be polluted even more for short term jobs. Montreal can dump all the raw sewage it wants into the St. Lawrence. Volkswagen diesels? Great! Jobs lost so companies can make international deals? Wonderful! Houses affordable only if you are rich? Buddy, if you’re poor there’s a good reason for it!”
Big moral in case you missed it: Mark wished he and his friends had voted!
The election is one week away! I just voted. Have you? Will your vote (or non-vote) bring in the Self-involved Dimension?
Next: Election Results: Why Does This Keep Happening?
Victor Schwartzman has contributed this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance since May 13, 2013. Check out of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for free on Facebook. The unpolished first nine chapters got a “4 out of 5 star” review! He is currently polishing the novel. His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He has poetry and short fiction published, and has edited novels. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.