Day #64: Stigma

The facility had been designed by one of the world’s top architects. With welcoming doors, a low-profile and an overt attempt not to make any statements it was boring in the extreme. It was the first of many such facilities – to be positioned as regularly as post offices, in every city and county in the country.

And today, the facility is ready for its first visitor.

The cameras and reporters have gathered from all around the country. Local bloggers are on hand. Even a couple of radio personalities have shown up.

The initial visitor is none other than Congresswoman  Peters. She is a petite and powerful woman with cutting blue eyes, dark brown hair and a gift for sharing the challenges of her constituents.

She is also the architect of the newest and largest program in Federal Government history.

As her limousine pulls up to the door of the clinic, it is mobbed by the press. She steps out gracefully, basking in this halcyon achievement in her life. She is proud.

She walks to the door, ignoring all questions, and then turns and speaks briefly.

“Gentlemen of the press,” she  says, “I have arranged for a cameraman to follow me through the processing. I will explain every step of the way. I am just so thankful to God that we have reached this moment.”

There aren’t cheers, the assembled reporters are trying to maintain their impartiality. But more than a few hearts well up, and more than a few eyes let tears fall. It is a beautiful moment, a moment of promise.

A cameraman, carrying a small digital camera, follows Congresswoman Peters as she steps into the building.

They are welcomed by a perky young greeter. “Your name?” she asks politely.

Congresswoman Peters answers, “Congresswoman Joan Peters.” She then turns to the camera. “Even if they know you,” she explains, “They are required to ask you your name and confirm it in order to eliminate bias and fully verify your identity.”

The greeter checks the invitation on her terminal and then instructs the Congresswoman – “Through the double doors.”

The Congresswoman is in a talkative mood. Turning towards the camera, she launches into part I of her prepared speech. “America had a problem,” she explained, “As in other countries, it was discovered that ugly people were at a severe disadvantage. Their salaries  were lower for the same jobs, they had low self-esteem, and they were less likely to be hired due to their physical appearance. in other words, they were disadvantaged due to nothing other than their genetics or, perhaps, their inability to pay for decent dental work. When the spotlight was shone on this problem, the country realized what a moral failing it represented. We had a dark history of discrimination on the basis of genetics. Slavery, segregation and higher insurance costs for those genetically predisposed to disease being only a few of the most egregious cases of this. To redress those inequities, we had sporadicly implemented affirmative action of various sorts. But our efforts were never comprehensive and scientific in their approach.

“Ugliness, with the clear correlation between perceived beauty and future earnings and relationship success, was a natural opportunity to try a new way. A 3rd path forward. We could make the equality of opportunity mean something.”

The Congresswoman passes through the double doors, cameraman close behind.

A waiting attendant politely instructs her to strip and pose for a camera. The Congresswoman asks the camera to turn away. As she undresses, she continues to explain. “The goal was to determine how much money or other support would be required to compensate for a given individual’s ugliness. Of course, the potential for fraud was significant. In addition, those who did a poor job of presenting themselves would naturally appear to be more ugly, whether or not that was due to their underlying genetic disability. So we developed a computer that, looking at the unadorned human body, can present a score for physical attractiveness. A score distinct from any influence due to that individual’s behavior. Of course, images are kept entirely private.”

There is a flash and the Congresswoman can be heard reassembling her clothes. In a minute, she is back on camera – a bright smile plastered across her face.

“The system not only assesses ugliness, it can assign racial scores. Instead of simply being Caucasian or African-American or Hispanic and individual can be rated for built-in racial victimhood on a continual curve.”

The attendant directs her into the next room.

“Of course,” she explains, “That was only stage one. With this new methodology, there were so many areas of born inequality that could be addressed. We have developed a battery of tests to judge people’s performance in each area. In every case, we have opted for scientific and not subjective results.”

A third attendant appears and directs her to lay on a bed that is in the center of the room. She is ordered to react.

The camera catches her peaceful smile as the room’s lights dim. Then, above her, lights flash and patterns form. Smells enter the air, then noises. Her toe is pricked. The entire time, data is collected. After three minutes, she is asked to get up from the bed.

She does so.

“During that test,” she explains, “My brain was being continually scanned. It was designed to assess core physical and mental acuity. Am I wired properly for smell? How quickly do I recognize patterns? How many inputs can I handle at one time? All put together it gives an excellent of my mental and physical birthright.”

The attendant directs her into the next room. There, yet another attendant is sitting behind a desk. She has a list of questions in front of her.

One by one, she reads them off and the Congresswoman answers. The attendant’s delivery is intentionally flat. After seven minutes of questioning, the attendant gestures her towards the next room.

“That may have seemed odd,” she explains to the camera, “But that was a psychological examination. The computers were analyzing not only my verbal responses to the questions but also my physiological responses. They were determining whether I have any underlying mental issues. If not, course, I can be eligible for additional government support.”

They enter the next room.

“I want to stress,” she adds, as they are about to step into the next room, “That centralizing all these functions is not only a boon for the moral fabric of our society. It is also a tremendous cost savings. Your entire predisposed But the Congresswoman’s responses are carefully monitored

The next room is empty. Congresswoman Peters explains, “There are a number of new and exciting areas we are looking to assess. These would include physical condition, for example. However, we are currently unable to distinguish nature from nurture in these areas. It is possible a genetic test might be run to determine what portion of a person’s obesity is due to genetics, what portion is due to an inborn lack of willpower and what portion is due to that individual’s own decision-making. For now, we have simply left room for the tests of the future.”

With a gesture, Congresswoman Peters pulls the camera towards the next room.

“Results!” she says gleefully.

In the final room, a new attendant is waiting, a print out in her hands.

“Name and ID,” she asks.

The Congresswoman confidently presents them.

The attendant cross checks the paper and the ID she’s been handed.

“Thank you,” she says, handing the ID back. “Ms. Peters,” she says, “I have some excellent news. In the ugliness test you scored a 53%. This will require your employer to raise your pay by 15%. In addition, your brain score was only 12% above normal. This will enable you to receive hiring preference and cash paycheck supplements when competing against smarter individuals.  When combined with your ugliness factor, it should also make finding work significant easier. On the psychological exam you demonstrated a definite inability to delay gratification. It has been determined that this is overwhelmingly caused by genetics or factors outside of your control. For this reason, your employers will be require to give an additional 5% of your income towards your retirement planning packages.  All in all, you are eligible for a 20% raise and an array of hiring and other preferences.”

The attendant hands Peters a printout of the report.

The senator looks crestfallen. “I look beautiful,” she tells the attendant.

“Ma’am,” says the attendant, “It’s possible that you simply dress well.”

As she stumbles from the building, a particularly aggressive reporter steps into her path.

“What do you think about the new system?” he asks, shoving a microphone in her face.

Her answer is short, “Clearly, it has a few kinks.”