Riverview, Again Series 1 - Episode 01 - Emotions

In a world where emotions are not expressed and where every action is executed to further the community, humanity was suffocating.

You are observing me in the town of Riverview. Here, society is robotic. People come and go in our neighbourhood, yet nobody asks of what was experienced in between. The community acts only to obey one entity, and that entity is the State. The nation. Society itself. Every aspect of our lives is controlled and manipulated in an obsessive manner. An enemy to a neighbour was seen as an enemy to the State. All were one and one was all.

But nothing was ever how the State told us it should be.

Every attitude we adopted and every hour that we worked were to benefit society; but instead of a fluid, dynamic society, we have developed into a static, emotionless one.

You now join me in my home, with Brother Mikhail whom I reside with. The surroundings are plain and minimally embellished. The State guidelines tell us that we should not decorate our houses with unnecessary clutter. Plants are regarded as tolerable, as they represent a thriving state spirit. But ornaments and fancy minutiae are very much frowned upon. The bleak aura merely mirrors the monotony of our everyday lives.

Emotions aren't openly expressed in this world. People can still feel a sense of right and wrong, and thus everybody recognises moral feelings. People can experience regret. People can suffer embarrassment. Everybody knows what is socially acceptable and what is publically denied. Yet treacherous emotions, such as happiness or sadness, lust and yearning, are not acknowledged by people; those feelings that might colour one's personality are amiss. Emotions were the fuel to evil and dishonesty. Emotions were universally repressed in ancient times, and now nobody speaks of moods or sensations. They can only exhibit bland and impassive opinions, which reflect not what they really feel, but what the State has taught them to feel.

The State decides what haircuts are appropriate, and what attire is acceptable to society. As with everything the State imposes, there were always some people who don't follow. Such lapses in attitudes give rise to shaggy-looking Comrades and inappropriate dress. These are the give-away signs of treachery that Comrades are taught to diligently look out for.

I glanced a sly look at Brother Mikhail's stubbly beard.

Only dulcet tones or bland colours were allowed to be worn. Clothes with vibrant or boisterous colours were strictly forbidden, as they suggested rebellion against conformity. Nothing was ever bright, nor colourful. There was no middle ground or numerous alternatives. Everything was black or white. Right or wrong. Yet ironically, grey was the most commonly worn colour outdoors.

Brother Mikhail always had suspicious traits about him. I feared that he was building up negative feelings that may culminate in a desire to rebel, but the chances of such an occurrence were incredibly slim. The State had suppressed mutiny too successfully. Nevertheless, I still felt compelled to confront him on his fault.

"Brother Mikhail, why haven't you shaved?" I began. "What will people think if you turn up to work in such a mess?"

"Stubble is natural, Sister Racquel," he replied, defending his suspicious lapse in attitude. "Why can't I wear what is natural upon my face?"

"The State is natural, Brother, and we must obey what the State says," I said in retaliation. "It has existed longer than nature itself."

"Do nothing that will taint our name, Brother Mikhail," I pleaded.

Of course I was tempted to believe that he had a fair argument, but nothing was more natural than the State's word.

"You cannot blame me for wanting to feel different. Nothing ever changes around our neighbourhood. The State extracts all the excitement from life with each new set of rules it churns out every week. I just want to savour some independence," said Brother Mikhail, revealing disappointment in the glint of his eyes.
"A need for independence is not a necessity we recognise, Brother."

"We must demonstrate our obedience to the State, not give Comrades reason to suspect any dissent," I cried. For somebody just yearning for independence, my words would seem heartbreaking. But in this world, there was no metaphorical 'heart' to refer to. "We must conform!"

Just look at Brother Mikhail's eyes. Was this disappointment or sadness? I strongly hoped it was neither, and that it was just boredom from the monotony of strict conformity.

I was suspicious that Brother Mikhail was harbouring malicious feelings. Nevertheless, we confirmed our companionship with a bonding hug. This was not romantic, but instead resembled the bonding a mother would express to comfort their young in the wild. Romance didn't exist. Love didn't exist.

Brother Mikhail is not a blood relative. He is a companion for reproduction, similar to a husband; yet women are still compelled by the State to refer to them as Brothers, and vice versa.

Of course, members of the State had a duty to expand society in every way they could. This particularly involved fornication.

"Brother..." I started.
"What is it, Sister Racquel?" he asked.
"I have a need," I stated, blandly.

The State taught us that our body was everyone's, yet intercourse tainted it for every purpose other than reproduction. For similar reasons, no woman can ever be seen to mask their face with makeup. Real beauty wasn't on the outside. Nor the inside. Real beauty was with the State.

"Yargh! Sister, would I be correct in recalling that you once said you weren't ready for such commitment?" Brother Mikhail enquired.
"This doesn't have to be a commitment," I retorted.
"Sister! Is this a duty to the government, or are you attempting to violate my body?" asked Brother, with discerning disapproval in his tone of voice.

Along with our daily contributions to society, such as work and socialising with other Comrades, it was a Sister's responsibility to reproduce offspring for the State. In fact, it was an obligation. Even infertility was not an excuse. Everybody had to raise a child at some point, whether their own or one from a surrogate. Casual intercourse, however, was unheard of.

"Would either answer not result in you reporting me to the Correctors anyway?" I said, not seeing any winning outcome in this situation. I was contravening the State by not wishing to reproduce, and by attempting to have casual relations with Brother.

The Correctors were the police. They fought the rebellion through any means possible: usually via abduction, torture and re-release into society. Or death. They weren't an emergency service, so to speak. There were no emergency services. If your residency was on fire, society believed it was on fire for an ultimate reason. (Rather unoriginally, that reason was usually nonconformity...) They would passively let all rebellion burn to cinders, even if it risked the lived of law-abiding Comrades.

"Why aren't you committed to reproduction yet, Sister Racquel? The neighbours are suspicious of your virginity," Brother said in angst. If he were to feel an emotion then, it would surely be sadness in me.

I wasn't committed because I resented the idea of bringing a child into this oppressive world. It was I who was the true rebel. These deeply concealed emotions were quickly bubbling to the surface, and they were distorting my perception.

After years of suppressing scepticisms about my own attitudes, I was only to beginning to realise that my own beliefs did not comply with the State; with the majority. I wasn't rebelling. I was merely coming to appreciate my own surfacing emotions...

Brother Mikhail is a firm follower of the State, yet he is prone to an occasional falter - such as today's issue with his facial appearance - probably because he becomes bored easily. He wouldn't hesitate to hand me over to the Correctors, however, if it promised him a reward of a bigger house and a more compliant Sister.

Life was safest indoors. Outside, Comrades inspect your every move and analyse every word you speak. Outdoors, suspicion is continually rife.

Conversations with Comrades outside of your own family were best engaged with a bystander to witness what had been said. This was now a social requirement, to catch out any rebels or nonconformists. On the other hand, it was also to stop false accusations of betrayal. Paranoia was widespread in the neighbourhood. This is why Comrade Breyon was accompanied by Comrade Gada during our exchange of words.

"How has today's Overseeing at the Factory been, Comrade Breyon? Full conformity today?" I asked, making small-talk to humour my compulsion to fitting in.
"Full conformity indeed. We're making record progress this season, with supplies coming in fast," he replied.

I didn't know what went on in the Factory, or what these 'supplies' were, but it was only normal for me to pretend to take an interest.

"How are your conception prospects?" he asked me, as if the issue was a public matter. "Has Comrade Mikhail fulfilled his duty and impregnated you yet?"
"No, not yet. We're trying rigorously, however," I lied, just to satisfy his curiosity.

I lied. I lied because I was experiencing guilt for being such a disappointment to Brother. Guilt was not a rational feeling, and hence it was an emotion that seldom surfaced. Yet in my guilt, I felt so overwhelmed that I had to abort the conversation.

"I have business to attend to in town," I lied again, desperate to escape further interactions, "hence I must depart abruptly. Farewell."

In a world that had rarely experienced emotion, this morsel of guilt was overpowering. Yet this was one tiny crack in a dam about to burst. Why was something that had been repressed for generations just resurfacing now? And why in me?

Riverview was not merely part of a socialist state, or just an unforgiving suppression, but was undergoing the self-destruction of humanity itself. And I was about to be another victim.