A course I’m taking at the University received the dubious distinction of being voted “least popular” last semester. The results were based on an algorithm formulated by a group of thoughtless students. I happened to be in Dr. Phillips’ presence when the unwelcome news appeared in front of him on his Feed. I immediately signed up; I felt bad for him. “Que sera sera,” he’d said, a phrase I’d found soothing. I didn’t know what it meant, of course, but it sounded lovely. I’d pulled the definition up on my Feed and it didn’t disappoint. The class, by the way, is called “Say What?: Speeches and Turns of Phrases from the 20th and 21st Centuries.”
I like Dr. Philips’ retro vibe. He appreciates my appreciation, so he hired me as a teaching assistant in his other class. He’s one of the rare people who prefers to talk face-to-face. A lot.
“You know that people didn’t always have these Feeds popping up in front of them.”
“No, I didn’t know.” I actually did know. He ranted about Feeds at least once a week, spurred on by the ‘least popular class’ thing.
“They had “devices”, little thin boxes that you held in your hand.”
“Hmmm,” I say, as if this is a new, interesting fact.
“And you didn’t have to keep this rotten Personhood Profile thing. ‘PP.’ It’s bullshit. In civilized times, you could choose whether to post things about yourself or not. Now it’s a damn citizenship requirement.”
He’s right. The indoctrination begins early on. Our littlest ones learn phonics, simple numerical functions, and the basics of crafting one’s Personhood image. My neighbor’s little boy is constantly bugging me with the PP his small, dimpled hands have crafted. “I was picked for the Green Reading Group For Advanced Learners! See?” “Here I am building a tower of blocks!”
I try to dismiss Mr. Phillip’s disparaging comments. I’d always excelled in the PP aspect of my schooling, if nothing else. Take a look at my PP and it will appear that I’ve traveled the globe to meet with influential public figures, solving pressing humanitarian issues, all while sexily preparing elaborate meals. You’ll also note my deep devotion to caring for my blind grandmother and her cat. Having a Personhood Profile is mandated by the government, but there’s no quality control regarding the stuff you put up. One could say I do a lot of cutting and pasting.
I recently found one of those vintage devices Mr. Phillips was talking about. It was in a dusty custodial closet in the basement of my residential unit. I got it working and now I carry it around with me, although I can only use it for the calendar. I posted a picture of it on my PP and made up a sappy, labyrinthine story of how it was passed down in my family over many generations. People loved this. It made me seem sentimental, quirky. As I said, I’m good at this.
I adore PP, but many have grown tired of it. They’re peeved that we must rely on it for every detail of life, even though it’s not really reliable. It’s an invasion, they say. They’ve formed a group; a leader is needed. There’s a rally this afternoon, a student says, all pumped up, looking over to me with a hopeful, expectant expression. Now I understand it: I’ve been approached because of my “experience.” Maybe this is my chance to actually have one.
“Say What?: Speeches and Turns of Phrases from the 20th and 21st Centuries”
Dr. Vega Phillips
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Question 4. “He’s put her on a pedestal.” Explain and discuss.
Answer: This declaration, circa 1905-2025, was generally spoken in a disparaging manner, as if to say that the person on the pedestal had been undeservedly elevated. We surmise that the person doing the elevating has been duped. For the one on the pedestal, it’s pure bliss.
I beg to differ.
I stand in the middle of the university’s main courtyard, surrounded by no less than 523 students, according to my Feed. I’d passed Mr. Phillips on the way. He’d taken a long, sad glance at me, then said, “Haven’t you learned what happens to people who get up on soapboxes?” I’d ignored him and pressed on.
I survey the crowd as I stand before it, trying to pinpoint a few open, affable faces that my eyes can rest on as I speak. I haven’t prepared any remarks, so I mentally reach for something that was prepared by others. Hadn’t someone said something uplifting about having a dream? Well, yes, but it wouldn’t be wise to use that. I haven’t posted any fabricated content to the DreamScape portion of my PP as of late, and the opposition would definitely try to authenticate my words.
I need to go with something that’s more abstract, with more breadth. I look down at my ancient handheld thingy, then peer out at the crowd, my eyes narrowing. I take in a deep, dramatic breath, then exhale.
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
The crowd swells.
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