The Douglas County Department of Enlightenment and Coercion paid me a visit the other day, along with the Lawrence Office of Environmental and Social Supervision. Also in attendance were representatives of the Free State Bureau of Restrictions and the Pioneer Office of Entitlements. I counted 42 cars and trucks, each driven by a single individual. (Separate vehicles give individuals quiet time to dream up new regulations and growth prevention initiatives, I learned.)
A forklift was required to unload Vision 5050, the manual which the county has compiled to determine its future for the next 3,000 years. The purpose of the visit was to designate “viewsheds” on my property. I was informed of this by Officer of Visions, Walter Utopia, whose degree in Apolcalyptic Ecology qualified him to identify natural beauty and to fine tune the interactions of human beings with the environment.
I observed that for every worker, there were three supervisors. The first thing they did was to go on break. Within moments, the hillside was filled with sonorous snores. An hour later, a bell tinkled and the crew went to work, some carrying stopwatches to time their movements. (Union rules require that they make no more than 15 movements in a 60 second period, including yawns, blinks and scratches.)
The workers peered through V’s formed by their index and middle fingers, crying out, “Viewshed!” from time to time. After what seemed like an eternity, they had identified 17 vistas on my hilltop which qualified for protection. There was a small problem, Utopia said.
“Whereas, your house is blocking some of the views, it will have to be moved.”
“This all seems a bit subjective,” I said.
“That’s a demerit,” Utopia barked.
“But…but,” I sputtered.
“And that’s another one,” cried Utopia. Fifteen demerits would earn me a day in the pillory, where citizens would pelt me with rotten organic, locally grown, sustainable produce, he said.
“It may surprise you to learn that we know what’s best for you,” he said. “People like you don’t make our job any easier. By the way, the county’s Happiness Index has shot up since we’ve taken charge of everyone’s life. So shut up and don’t ask questions.”
After the scenic view search, the workers confiscated my weed eater, chain saw and tiller.
“According to the provisions of the county’s energy independence ordinance, use of the gasoline engine has been prohibited,” Utopia declared. “We must prepare right now for the day when the world runs out of oil. So get acquainted with your shovel and hoe. It will improve the air quality and your own health.”
Someone spotted the spray tank mounted on my four-wheeler. I was water-boarded on the spot and blurted out a confession: I had been spraying noxious weeds.
“But the county will fine me if I don’t,” I said.
“You can no longer spray without supervision and a license,” he said. “You might kill an endangered plant. And even noxious weeds are entitled to a humane and dignified death. The approved method is gentle removal from the soil by hand, along with a non-denominational funeral service.” Not a stone may be moved, nor a blade of grass disturbed without a hearing, a permit, a wildlife impact statement and a waiting period of 18 years, he said. I got another demerit for asking if “wildlife” included the feral cats that prey upon my songbirds and the carpenter bees that are turning my barn into sawdust.
Just then cries went up from within my house: “Shame! Scandalous!” Utopia’s inspectors had opened my refrigerator. Out went the bacon, the cheesecake and the baby back ribs.
“Your meat eating days are over,” said Utopia. “No more high fructose corn syrup for you. You can subsist on nuts, roots and berries. Nightcrawlers and grasshoppers are a plentiful source of protein.”
Utopia wrote up his report. My infestation of thorny hedge trees had been designated a “woodland.” A puddle of water had become a “wetland.” Before parting, Utopia delivered a brief oration. Polluting industries were to be replaced with crafts such as knitting and wood carving. The demand for hunters and gatherers would reduce the ranks of the unemployed. To address over-population, the county was going to introduce a cap and trade program to discourage people from having babies. A new law would require lights out at sunset to conserve electricity.
“We must plan ahead for the day the sun burns out,” Utopia said. “And please stop referring to this piece of land as ‘my’ property,” he said. He invited me to take the new oath of allegiance to the county. Then he ordered me to practice self-criticism and to report to the pillory the following day.