Monday, January 01, 1990

The Ark--The Numbered

Even though the Ark has now opened, life continues in the ancient manner. A tradition of survival and communalism has kept the Ark alive, and there are few who wish to threaten their own survival.

No one in the Ark is born with a name. Names are considered to be dangerous. Names are a symbol of the individual, and the individual is dangerous to the community. So there are no longer any names. Instead, a person is given a duty number. This represents his current assignment, his section number, and his birth crèche, as well as reflecting previous successful assignments. Therefore, the inhabitants of the Ark are sometimes called the Numbered. They are interchangeable, performing their duties with quiet efficiency.

No one in the Ark may have a face. Faces are signs of the individual and are to be shunned. Instead, each adult wears a mask that reflects his current duties, as well as a long hooded robe that is colored to match the mask. A gardener might have a mask carved like ivy and a robe of brown and gold. A warrior might wear a mask carved like a hideous beast and a robe of black and red. One of the Choosers might have a set of scales carved across his mask and wear a robe of white. Whenever a person is given a duty assignment, he receives his new mask in a special ceremony called the Masking. A person’s first Masking is his rite of passage into adult life in the Ark. Before this, he is only a child, being cared for by the crèche parents appointed to him. The only place where a Numbered may remove his mask is in his private meditation chamber where he sleeps. Only here may he remove the mask and robe of his office and look upon his own face. But no one else may do so. All they may see are the mask and the robe.

No one in the Ark may be married. There is no concept of “family” in the Ark at all. Rather, some Numbered are given the duty assignment of reproduction. These are interbred as directed by the Eugenics Council, and their offspring are placed in crèches that are parented by other Numbered who have received that duty assignment. While the Ark was sealed, the population was strictly controlled, and many pregnancies were aborted to prevent overcrowding. Now that the Ark has opened, the Eugenics Council has ceased this unfortunate policy, especially as colonists are needed to man the outlying colonies. In order to prevent undesirable pregnancies, certain of the Numbered are sterilized and are assigned to physical pleasure duty. Any other sort of sexual activity is strictly forbidden.

All this sounds like a nightmare existence. Yet it is what the Numbered choose.

The Ark is not an oppressive dictatorship. It is a democracy. Each member of the Eugenics Council or the Duty Council is chosen by his section. Anyone of the Numbered may call a section meeting or call for a referendum on an issue. No one is forced to live this life. Indeed, if the Numbered wished, they could destroy their way of life with a simple vote. Instead, every day, the Numbered awaken and choose to continue to live this life. They choose to wear the mask every day, of their own free will.


Post a Comment

<< Home