It’s a Small Price to Pay for Your Safety

In dystopian societies, those twisted versions of perfection, people are often treated as slaves or children. They are kept from reaching their full potential by the rules and regulations designed to curtail their freedoms in the name of safety.

We’ve seen it all unfold before us in 2020. Common sense seems to have gone out the window. Remember back just a few months?

We saw people beating each other up over a package of toilet paper. We saw college kids in open rebellion…I mean spring break…on the beaches.

Events like proms, spring musicals, sports tournaments, and graduations have been canceled–though I’m pleased to say I’ll be attending my niece Jules’s high school graduation on Friday.

It’s not just the kids exhibiting “bad” behavior–there are plenty of adults acting like they’ve lost their minds, too.

That got me thinking—what does it really mean to grow up? How do young people determine what’s being responsible and what’s being selfish? How do they know when to protect themselves, or to stand up and reclaim their inalienable rights? How was that learning process curtailed for my protagonists, Tommy and Careen, the world of COUNTERACT?

Tommy, Careen, and their peers live by the mantra, “It’s a small price to pay for your safety.”

In today’s society, kids who looked forward to the typical teenager’s rites of passage—going places without their parents, dating, getting a driver’s license, suddenly found themselves in quarantine.

I believe there’s an end in sight, and things will get back to something very close to what we remember as normal.

But what if they don’t? What if next time the government wants to lock down the population, fewer people protest? What if spending our lives pigeonholed in our homes becomes the new normal?

That scenario is a lot like the imaginary, future version of the United States Tommy and Careen inhabit in my YA series.

In the world of COUNTERACT, food is packaged and distributed weekly by the government’s Essential Services department. The very few remaining restaurants are patronized only by the wealthy, because most people can barely afford the cost of their weekly food delivery.

“Let me buy you breakfast” is an extravagant gesture, and a pizza date would be completely out of the question. Shopping malls and cinemas have been closed in the name of safety, because large, open places where groups of people gather are easy marks for terrorist attacks. Professional sporting events and concerts are televised, but safety dictates the athletes and artists perform to empty arenas. No one but government officials are allowed to drive cars, because it’s irresponsible to allow just anyone access to something that can be used as a weapon.

Growing up is more than just enjoying the privileges of a certain age. In a society where freedoms are curtailed, how would the young people learn to take care of themselves?

The teens I asked (before the pandemic) said that growing up means, in part,

-taking responsibility for one’s actions

-solving your own problems, not expecting someone else to drop everything and come to your rescue

-not going along with the crowd

-being yourself

-standing up for what is right

I maintain that those values haven’t changed.

Tommy and Careen, the protagonists in COUNTERACT, are among the first generation to grow up with these restrictions in their society. They are lucky to have parents who’ve taught them some of the skills they’ll need to take care of themselves when the need arises. But what of the younger children? And those yet to be born?

How long before the individual’s survival skills are completely lost, and the only way to live is at the mercy of the guiding hand that promises safety–and distributes the toilet paper?

When I wrote the Resistance Series books, I never dreamed toilet paper would be such a sought-after commodity in a crisis situation, but I did expose the pitfalls of a government-run food delivery program in RESIST, the second book in the series. Learn more here!

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