After a great deal of debate and disruption, the elections went ahead, and were once again inconclusive. The militia accepted amendments to their proposal, and the committee was not dissolved. It will, instead, be expanded to include delegates from each workplace, and the pre-existing members are now responsible for and answerable to neighbourhood committees rather than political interest groups. I’ve managed to end up elected to represent the hospital, and Sarah tells me that the militia are OK with this, provided the role is rotated periodically, which is fine by me. The sooner the better. Those meetings are interminable.
With all the work on re-organisation and safeguards and recallability procedures, there’s been very little time for the major administrative functions we’re supposed to be here for. I sometimes think the only thing the committee really organises is itself, and that not too efficiently. And yet, whether by general consensus or individuals getting on with what’s necessary without waiting for sanction, life goes on. I take a much more optimistic view of our situation now. Houses enough for all comers have been cleared and sanitised and re-furnished, water’s going through the system, power’s getting into the grid – albeit sporadically – from the off-shore wind farms. There’s a programme to keep food coming in from various allotments within the city and surrounding farms (and we even have our own chickens). Several schools are running. The militia guards the borders and the fuel depot, and even manages to send a few buses round the city twice a day. Most importantly (and the real cause for my change of mood) Sarah promises to stick to the transport and stay out of the higher-risk militia duties – for a while, at least. It was Khalil who persuaded her and their militia comrades that her skills are too important to risk, and she should teach engine maintenance for a couple of years before taking on border patrols. Merely a reprieve for Sue and me, but cause for celebration nonetheless.
And speaking of celebration, Sarah announced this plan to us on her eighteenth birthday. We made a cake and had a small party with Khalil and his family, before he and Sarah left us for more stimulating company and wilder activities that I’m not allowed to ask about. It was good to have a quiet evening with Maira and Rafel, anyhow. They are amongst the few people here who call on us without any agenda, and they feel like old friends already. Sarah has many more friends, of course. It seems almost every night she has a meeting or a duty or a party to go to. There’s plenty of partying among the youth here, and among the not so young, too: bonfires in the street and vegetable vodka and mushrooms and garden-grown cannabis. I’m not sure whether we’re celebrating our survival or trying to forget our anxieties. After so long cooped up with Sue and Sarah in cars and caravans, it feels strange to have separate rooms to go to and separate lives to lead again. It makes me a little sad, to be honest. I’d just got my family back, in so many ways, and I fear losing them again. But we must all go to work – not for money or to meet quotas, but because our work is essential, and appreciated, all the more so for the lack of anything to pay us with.
No credit system has passed the pragmatism test here. Without all those complex variables in the way, inequalities and disadvantages are easier to spot, and systems easier to overturn. Why should doctors have more food than fruit-pickers? And how would we take it from them? That’s the real reason no election has been successful. With an independent militia and no currency, there’s no way to control distribution, and so no way to make promises to any particular sector or organise us against one another. It’s working out of necessity rather than consensus at the moment, but the longer it works, the more the consensus tends towards the way things are. If we can fend off the raiders long enough to achieve stability… who knows, we may even have a future here.