10 am EST, Saturday 27th September 2130, Ferdinand's suite at the Plaza Hotel, New York City,
Ferdinand is meeting the head of the ex-Assembly's permanent administrative corps, an Englishman named Sir James Compton. Although the existing Assembly itself had been dissolved, and would now be re-elected, with fresh members, there still had to be an administration which carried on the day-to-day business of world government, a civil service if you like. The Assembly's administrative corps was largely seconded from the ranks of what would once have been United Nations staffers, but the top posts were normally filled by career diplomats, appointed under an international process which remains just as obscure in 2130 as it always had been.
"You've been nominated for Austria, I take it?" asked Sir James.
"Yes," said Ferdinand. "And as far as I know, the only other candidate is going to be someone from a regional administration no-one has ever heard of. So I guess I'll get elected."
Under the impeachment law which had led to the abolition of the old Assembly, the election process for the new Assembly remains a national affair. The voters in each country select from one of the candidates put in front of them in a national electoral RCC. The result is known instantaneously, of course.
"How do you see the new assembly working out?" enquired Ferdinand. "In terms of parties, factions, and policies, I mean?"
"Oof," said Sir James. "Now you're asking. The main problem I see is that we can ban the ancien membres from standing, but we can't ban them from putting up their friends and colleagues for election. How much genuine discussion do you think there will be this week in the national electoral RCCs or in the media about overall policy? They're bound to get bogged down in national priorities. It's such a long time since there were any real issues at the Assembly, so it's thirty years since there was anything you could call a political party at global level. Everything works well, the masses have got their bread and circuses, and that's the way the Assembly wanted to keep it. This issue, if you want to call it that, with the youngsters, is something real, but it's already been batted into the covers by the research project. There's hardly any awareness among grown-ups about it; personally I'm sympathetic, I've got kids that age who've been on at me all week about it. But I can't say I see it as something vitally important. Probably I'm typical - so I don't see how it will become the focus of a major political debate.
"So I'm afraid I think that the new assembly will look very much like the old one. Perhaps ten years younger on average. And I suppose that they'll pretty much replicate the existing Committee structure. They'll have no incentive to do anything complicated. It's worked quite well ever since the EU was set up in 1950. 180 years ago, imagine!"
He paused, looking sideways at Ferdinand, as if considering whether to go further. And went on.
"You know, your name is up in lights here in New York at the moment. You will surely be up for Chairperson of the Education Committee; I wouldn't even rule it out that you could have the leadership. People have been talking to me. Would you want it?"
"If you're right about the general attitude of the new assembly, then maybe not. I mean, they may or may not know it, but I really am on the side of the kids in this. I'm agnostic about the group games they're playing, but they have every right to play them, and I wouldn't want to be in charge of the assembly if three-quarters of the members are simply against it. The Education Committee is a different matter; I'm comfortable there, we can use the Panel system to creep forward even against opposition. It's more that the members are ignorant than rigidly opposed."
"Perhaps you'd be too comfortable?" offered Sir James. "I don't know who's going to get elected, obviously, but I don't see any prominent figures who are likely to take on a dossier like the kids and push it forward. They'll put some placeman into the leadership, and things will drag on in the same way. If you really want to make a difference, you need to be the leader."
"But it's not logical they should want me," said Ferdinand. "If I'm against them. If they're against me."
"It's more complicated than that," explained Sir James, patiently. "There's a sense in which new people will want a new momentum. It's a moment at which change is possible. They don't come too often in politics, well, that's the wrong word, in government. Your advantage is that you're seen as fair-minded. Nobody thinks that you would suborn the process to get the outcome you want."
"Well, perhaps I do," he laughed, "but I'm just a cynical old diplomat. And this is the moment. You don't have to do anything, just give me the nod, and I'll put it about that you're open to offers. That would quite probably be enough to head off anyone else. What do you think?"
"I'm not saying no," said Ferdinand at length. "And I'm not saying yes. I still think it might be a poisoned chalice. I guess it would depend on who the Committee Chairpersons would be; whether I thought I could work with them or not."
"That's good enough for now," said Sir James. "We'll need to get together a couple of times during the week when we see who the candidates are for the key countries, but really nothing much can happen until after the election. Are you going to stay here?"
"I want to get back to my family for a few days," said Ferdinand. "You can imagine they're in a bit of a state, especially my daughter Jocelyn. But I'll be back here for the election and then I'll stay until I need to."
"Where is Jocelyn? I saw that she was at the tribunal. She must be really shaken up."
"Michael carried Jocelyn and some of the others off to Georgetown. The rest are staying here. I think he wants to get some of them involved with a foundation to make a public display of what can be done in different types of RCC. They're having a meeting about it this morning. Then she'll go back home. I should see her there tomorrow."
"OK," said Sir James. "We know where to find each other."
After he left, Ferdinand sat reflecting. It did seem amazing somehow that after RCCs had come into common use, and all the problems of back-up had been solved in the last quarter of the 21st century, apart from tinkering with the operation of RCCs to make the education and research process more efficient, there had been almost no major technical innovation, or for that matter any societal innovation for almost 30 years.
On the other hand, the kids' expectations from group experiences in RCCs might be inflated. There are plenty of emotional group manifestations already, he thought to himself, and they're far from being entirely a good thing. OK, there are families, string quartets, choirs, sports teams, 'team spirit' generally in the departments of companies; but then there are lynching mobs, gangs of teenage hooligans and rioting football fans. All those display group emotional behaviour which transcends or blanks out the individual's own emotional balance. But then again, he thought, those are spontaneous, unconscious if you like. A grown-up individual controls her spontaneous rage as a result of the socialization process. Why shouldn't there be a comparable process among groups? A grown-up group, with access to the well-springs of its emotional character, should be able to control unacceptable manifestations while making use of good ones. But what then is a 'good' collective group emotional manifestation? Well, that's to find out!
Now he had to focus on his own future, and had lined up a full day of meetings in the hotel with colleagues in the Educational Committee and the Assembly administration, of which Sir James had been just the first. Finally in the evening he would be able to go home: like most UN and Assembly senior officials, he had his fizz body stored locally, under Bear Mountain in New York State, so he'd be back in time for dinner with Aloysia, worrying her cyber head off as she was.
The phone rang. Here was his next meeting. It was Frans, who had hurried across the Atlantic after the tribunal session to join in the fun.
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