Future Views Magazine
University Fees and Debt
Who is the main beneficiary of university education, the student, the employer or the nation?
Units of measurement and the end of space.
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part One: "Flowers In The City"
brighten our cities with many tiny garden?
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part Two: "The Transformation of Waste"
Instead of landfill, waste could be a valuable resource.
Hidden blueprints for the new cities of the sea.
Arabian Mights & Maybes
Plans for the future carefully copied by Brenda.
Arabian Might May Raise The Sea
Desalinated reverse rivers powered by nature
The Unpublished Manuscript
A hint as to what may lie in the future.
A curious twist to the laws of perception.
The Slop House
an alternative to the traditional public house
You Are A Winner
A willing victim is the best victim.
Maybe our prisons are not as wonderful as all that.
The Bright New Pants Manifesto
The hilarious solution to invevitable change
A raging argument is discovered
You Are A Winner
Maybe the perfect crime is the one where the victims are willing participants in their own downfall.
We were in a suburb of Moscow holed up in a quaint hotel called 'The Kremlin'. It sort of looked the part with its faded onion turrets and shiny tiles but admittedly it was on a rather smaller scale than the real thing, I mean, much smaller. Nevertheless, the rooms were cheap, clean and comfortable while the staff were friendly, funny, and at times a little mischievous.
By the way, as a special once-only gesture, everyone who reads this entire article right through to the end will receive a cash prize of one hundred and fifty pounds, enough money to enable you to take someone special out for a celebration meal, treat the family to an entertaining day out or buy yourself that dress, gadget or accessory you have been denying yourself.
Euan and I were in the garret, exactly where we wanted to to be - by special request. From 'the Gods' we had a beautiful view across the municipal park all the way to the Hilton where our dear egalitarian friends, Sir Keith, Saleh al Moharbi and their conniving colleagues had rooms in line of sight of our own.
Actually, money was not what separated us, the difference in cost was neither here nor there, the real divide, as I saw it, was to be away from prying ears. Euan and I still had reason to believe they were using the film we were making to conceal their true, malevolent, murderous purpose: wipe out most of the human race in order to grant themselves and their families wide open beaches and beautiful clear motorways.
Euan, Brenda and I sat huddled up at the window under the eaves with our two parabolic microphones and a pair of Russian binoculars.
"Not much good," Euan said, "this stuff isn't really designed for listening through glass, let alone walls."
"You're right," said Brenda with a glint in her eye, "didn't you pick up a job-lot of surveillance-gear like, er, earlier today?"
Euan and I laughed, "of course, fancy forgetting our new box of tricks!" I said.
We went over to the bags on the bed and pulled out the boxes. Sure enough, laser listeners were among the latest toys. One of the devices measured vibrations in the glass caused by speech and could produce remarkably clear recordings even from a great distance.
"We're off," Euan gasped as Martha's voice came through crystal clear.
We were grinning like nitwits who had just swept the stands clean at a coconut shy.
"Record!" Euan pronounced emphatically flicking the Nagra into action. The reels turned, slowly, taking down every piece of inconsequential chatter for posterity - or could that be, prosecution?
The machines did the work, we could relax.
We chatted about the last few days and what was coming up, our conversation drifting from topic to topic as is often the case.
By the way, the editor has interrupted me as I write, do you remember that cash prize of one hundred and fifty pounds? He has doubled it to three hundred pounds. Imagine what you could do with three hundred pounds tax free cash in your hand right now. Three hundred pounds is enough to buy yourself a new multi-format DVD player-recorder, a small laptop or an excellent desktop printer.
"What," Brenda asked, "do you suppose might be, 'The Perfect Crime'? Is this it?" she jerked her thumb in the direction the microphone was pointing.
We looked at it, we looked across the park, we looked at each other.
"Nah," we said, shaking our heads. We laughed.
"These characters could get caught you know," said Euan.
"And we might be the ones who catch them," I added.
"If caught, they'll be locked up - or hanged," Brenda said, "if we're right, their names will rank alongside the most notorious criminals in history."
Euan took a deep breath and said, "I know a better one, more audacious, less risk."
I cocked an eyebrow, Brenda raised both.
"Killing for cash," he continued.
Brenda scoffed, "that's not new."
"No no," he continued, "international assassins who murder their victims for cash, striking any time of the day or night, from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. To all intents and purposes they operate above, or beyond, the law."
"Sounds good, where do I join?" I asked.
"Really, Rick, how could you?" Brenda laughed with mock incredulity.
"Seriously," Euan continued, "they buy no weapons, fire no bullets, leave no fingerprints and disclaim any involvement when their victims die. The coroners' verdicts are, 'Death by misadventure, natural causes, old age, suicide' or whatever."
Brenda and I looked askance.
"No crime has been committed," he continued, "yet the cash keeps rolling in." Euan watched our reactions; "anywhere in the world," he was almost whispering.
We let him continue, intrigued.
By the way, the editor has announced that due to soaring circulation the prize money for those of you who read to the very end of the article will receive not one hundred and fifty pounds, nor three hundred pounds but six hundred pounds. Think what six hundred pounds can buy today, you will have enough cash to buy an airline ticket and visit distant relatives, six hundred pounds will afford you an unexpected holiday in the sun, by the sea or up in the mountains. Six hundred pounds is enough to buy a mountain bike or other first class sports equipment. You can buy something to cherish and to use for years to come.
"The police local to where the criminals operate have nothing to go on, those near the victims are helpless to deal with criminals who live abroad." He punctuated his words with gestures. "Their victims, 'have only themselves to blame'; they are, 'stupid' - a condition defined by an assortment of pseudo-medical terms." He was growing quite animated; "they may sometimes be described as 'addicted'."
We were still unclear as to what exactly it was he was talking about.
"It is easy to be an armchair authority on the misfortunes of others," he continued, "passing judgement, formulating sophisticated diagnoses - "
"And doing nothing about it," Brenda cut in.
"Quite," said Euan, "often the answers are incredibly simple."
I smirked, to his annoyance. He asked me to explain with that intense look of his.
"Nothing, sorry," I remarked, "the thought just crossed my mind that right here, right now, the three of us are, 'Armchair Authorities'! No?"
Brenda laughed, Euan shrugged and dismissed my objection.
"The point is," he continued, getting back on track, "human beings are not bio-mechanical machines operating in accordance with strict rational or logical criteria at all times. What happens in our heads during times of repose is entirely different from what goes on when under the pressures of everyday reality."
"True," I said. Brenda nodded.
By the way, the editor has proudly declared that the prize money for anyone who reads this article through to the end has been doubled. Instead of six hundred pounds in cash, you will receive twelve hundred pounds tax-free cash, delivered to your door or deposited into your bank account by wire transfer, depending upon your preference. Twelve hundred pounds will buy you a leather settee, a plasma television, the latest Apple iMac, a superb, all-singing, all-dancing miniature computer complete with advanced software. Twelve hundred pounds could buy you a break from your day job and enable you to spend one or two months working on that unfinished novel, invention, campaign or personal project. To continue:
"People who smoke," said Euan, "buy scratch cards, play the National Lottery, bet on the horses, visit casinos or join friends for an evening of inebriation are not categorised as 'mentally impaired', quite the contrary: successive governments world-wide enthusiastically promote gambling, alcohol and other addictive habits."
'So there, ya boo,' I thought but decided against letting it out.
"Gambling is pro-active, smokers seek out supplies of tobacco products and the ever more menacing warnings about the adverse consequences of their habit appears to have little effect. No one comes to your door insisting you buy alcohol at a special discounted rate or saying it will transform your life for the better," Euan was in top form.
"With, 'The Perfect Crime,' it is as if the manager of the local casino has come into your living room and says, 'you have won, your life is about to be transformed forever, never again will you want for money, you can realise your dreams and help your loved ones as well.'" Euan looked from me to Brenda to see if we understood; we did not. Both of us were still waiting for him to reveal what exactly it was that he was describing.
"Erm," said Brenda, "what is it exactly that you're talking about? I pick up the phone, dial a number in France or New York or somewhere, ask them to send me money and, er, that's it?"
"Prize winning notifications," he replied, "those letters that drop through your letterbox telling you that you have won ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred thousand pounds."
Brenda burst out laughing, I tried not to laugh too.
"You're not serious, are you?" She laughed some more, "that's just 'Junk Mail,' surely no one is stew-upid enough to fall for it?" Brenda could hardly control herself.
Euan was unmoved, "the first time you may react rationally and dismiss the persuasive rhetoric as a cheap gimmick but, with repetition, questions begin to arise, 'what if it's true?' 'What if I am being unduly cynical?' 'What have I to lose just to find out?'" Euan watched Brenda's reactions, she was taking his words on board.
"Such thinking," he continued, "can gradually evolve from curiosity to self-conviction, the bold proclamations made over the telephone and on glossy brochures become more and more real: "You Have Won £50,000" "You Are A Winner," all with your name clearly printed alongside. When confronted, the companies shrug their shoulders, point to the small print in pale blue type and explain that they are acting perfectly within the law."
Brenda and I looked at one another, unconvinced but intrigued.
"The catch is," Euan added, "that in order to receive the prize money a payment should be made - often it is not even compulsory but the reader feels that unless twenty, thirty or seventy pounds is sent off as soon as possible the grand prize winnings will pass them by and be awarded to someone else."
Brenda I nodded, he was starting to get through.
"As the years go by the volume of false promises grows dramatically and with it, the unconscious expectation."
Euan strode across the room mimicking the tone and impact of the headlines. "'You Are A Winner,' '£10,000 Is Yours,' 'Here is the cheque you are about to receive,'" he looked earnestly at each of us, "the powerful, direct and vivid messages do their work, backed up with long letters designed to fire your imagination." He resumed his seat.
By the way, the editor's personal assistant has come over to tell me circulation figures have come in, they are so good the prize money award is to be increased. Everyone who reads this article through to the end will receive not one hundred and fifty pounds in cash, not three hundred, six hundred or even twelve hundred pounds but an incredible twelve thousand pounds in a spend-now tax-free cash prize. All you need to do is read the article right to the end. Can you imagine what you can do and have with twelve thousand pounds cash, in your hands, right now? Twelve thousand pounds is enough money to buy a round the world airline ticket, it will buy a cruise of a lifetime for two with pocket money for souvenirs, you can fly to the Andes, the Himalayas and Mongolia and still have enough cash left over for a trip from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Orient Express. Please remember this as you read on, let your mind soar.
"When someone telephones to say that you have been selected as the winner of two and a half million pounds, to be delivered in the next few days, the unconscious response is, 'and about time too!'" He slammed his fist into his hand. "All that is needed is a small administration charge of sixty pounds to cover customs, duty, transfer fees, authorisation and any other kind of bilge the caller cares to invent. Sixty pounds is a small price to pay for such a life-transforming win."
Euan knew his stuff, we let him enlighten us further without comment.
"Once a single payment has been made the expectation of fulfilment is inflamed," Euan said, "the callers escalate both their promises and their demands."
Euan looked at Brenda, before she could say anything he continued, "unlike scratch cards or betting, here the inducements pro-actively persuade continued involvement."
"I don't do scratch cards," said Brenda defensively.
Euan, momentarily thrown off track, smiled, "I know - sorry, didn't mean it like that. Anyway, the point is, the callers are themselves addicts. They phone long distance and receive envelopes packed with cash, all day every day."
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Really?" Brenda challenged.
Euan nodded, "those whom they call are not, 'people,' they are merely sources of the stream of cash which they themselves crave."
Euan was very serious.
"They can not be reasoned with, their terms are non-negotiable, there is no predetermined point at which their demands end - " he looked from me to Brenda to see if we knew what he was hinting at, "- apart from the death of their, 'supplier'."
Brenda and I exchanged glances, we were neither smiling nor laughing.
"Pleading, begging, reasoning - all are futile," Euan continued, "'Send the money,' 'go to the post office and send two hundred pounds by Moneygram,' 'I want you to go to Western Union and send me four hundred pounds tomorrow morning or you won't get the package, now, will you do that for me?' Relentlessly the instructions are repeated. Calm, friendly, authoritative."
Brenda's mouth was open, "you're joking, you're having us on," she said.
Euan was perfectly solemn.
"Hypnotised, afraid, controlled; driven by those same strange forces that cause people to go on playing the tables when all their money has been spent. The victims of the, 'Perfect Crime' continue, borrowing from friends, missing meals, running into unauthorised overdraft, re-mortgaging their homes."
"Re-mortgaging?" Brenda practically squealed.
Euan nodded, "doctors, architects, unemployed, disabled, accountants, civil servants, young, old, educated or titled, anyone can succumb."
"Pah," I said, "I chuck that stuff in the bin and if I get a phone call they get short shrift. Doctors? Architects? They know better than that."
Euan shrugged, "they smoke, they gamble, drink, have sex and take risks same as the rest of us. No one is invulnerable."
Brenda took a huge intake of breath and frowned, contemplating.
By the way, the editor, in a state of great excitement, has come running up to me waving a piece of paper. He has announced that the proprietor is so delighted with his prize money award that it is to be increased dramatically. Everyone who reads this article through to the end will receive not one hundred and fifty pounds in cash, not three hundred, six hundred, twelve hundred pounds or even twelve thousand pounds in tax-free cash but, and you may not at first believe this, your prize money has just been sky-rocketed to an incredible two hundred and fifty thousand pounds tax-free cash prize. All you need to do is read the article right to very the end. Can you imagine the things you can have with two hundred and fifty thousand pounds cash, in your hands, right here, right now? two hundred and fifty thousand pounds is enough money to buy your own yacht, a farm steading in the Italian Riveria, your own team of Sherpas to carry you and your luggage to the most remote and exotic parts of the world, you could buy yourself a gold-topped palace in Azerbaijan. As you read on let your imagination take you places you've never dreamed of before.
"I was once in a pub at lunchtime," Euan continued, "a teenager at the next table was in tears, his friends paid him little attention."
I wondered whether this was relevant.
"It transpired," he continued, "he was in distress because he could not stop playing the fruit machines."
"Really?" Brenda laughed, she had expected something bigger, something a bit deeper.
"Gambling," I muttered, "takes many forms."
"Websites have been set up by people who tackle the '419 fraud' or, 'Nigerian Scam,'" Euan continued, "they explain that these are very dangerous criminals who are not to be trifled with."
"Hang on," Brenda interrupted, "'Nigerian Scam', isn't that when they want to borrow the use of your bank account to transfer fifty million pounds of unclaimed money or something?"
"Well, yes," Euan conceded, "but in the end it all comes down to pretty much the same idea, using a ruse to part you from your cash, from a distance, with impunity."
"The, 'Perfect Crime'," Brenda and I said simultaneously.
"Those who try to entrap them," Euan continued, "are extremely careful to disguise their own identities, knowing they are dealing with people who will kill for fifty pounds."
"Kill?" Brenda shook her head, "wait a minute, you've lost me there. I thought we were talking about handfuls of cash sent off in envelopes? Not killing."
"These are extortionists," Euan continued, "they will watch, or listen over the phone, as your mother or grandmother, pleading and begging, dies of desperation. One more payment, the package is coming, it will be here tomorrow, only a few hours more. No threats, only promises. 'You are a prize winner,' 'Millions of pounds in cash and cheques.' They are 'friends,' they are 'helping you,' they bring 'salvation' but they know nothing else, they are cash junkies, they follow the formula monotonously, ruthlessly."
"How do you know all this?" Brenda asked.
I stifled a rather uncalled for laugh, before I could say, 'because he got diddled,' Euan cut me short, "I stumbled into it, someone close and no I am not talking about myself." He gave me a dirty look.
"How do they get onto you?" Brenda asked, "if they're in Africa or somewhere, how do they get the number?"
"They buy and sell lists. Prize draw companies, fake astrologers and psychics, junk mail businesses all sell on the names of people who respond. When one scammer finds a payer, the number is sold on and within a matter of weeks a single caller has multiplied into a dozen."
"Makes sense," I observed.
Brenda was thoughtful, "a man was interviewed on television," she said, "who described how ever since he was a small boy he wanted to have his leg removed. He said that if he were sitting opposite himself, he would say was crazy, yet he could find no cure. He had spent much of his life visiting specialists, hypnotists, therapists and consultants, still he lived with an ever-present desire to have his leg removed."
"The mystery of the human condition," I observed.
By the way, the prize money has been increased. You are in for the surprise of your life. How have you planned to spend your money? Have you already made decisions about the best use of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds? Imagine if it were increased to seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds, that is, three quarters of a million, tax-free cash to spend as you please. Seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds is enough to buy a mansion-house in the English countryside and still have money over for renovations and a holiday. Three quarters of a million pounds could buy a vineyard with a beautiful rambling old castle in Eastern Europe. If you read this article to the very end you will be eligible to enter our prize draw and, as explained in the beginning, everyone who enters is a winner. Keep reading and let those juices flow as your new life beckons.
Euan resumed his story, "I have listened to a well educated eighty four year old lady from a wealthy and respected background who had ample income to meet all her living needs pleading in desperation that she be given an advance of just a hundred and fifty pounds against the millions that would be arriving the next day. Even when she reached the very end of her tether the cold response was, 'send two hundred and fifty pounds.'"
Euan looked for our reactions, Brenda was wide eyed. "They'll listen to your granny dying of desperation," she breathed.
Euan nodded, "these payments are, 'necessary,' they are, 'administrative,' the extortionists are 'friends' bringing 'salvation' - unless death strikes first."
"How can they be stopped?" I asked.
"If caught, how can a prosecutor, far less a jury, be convinced of the seriousness of their activities?" Brenda asked.
"No crime has been committed," said Euan, "it is no crime to send someone money. Buyer beware, there is no case to answer."
"Gottcha!" Brenda pulled an imaginary gun.
"Where were they phoning from, these crooks calling the eighty four year old?" I asked.
"I'm not sure, they always used Jamaican numbers to be contacted on but not one of them had a Jamaican accent."
"'Not one' - how many were there?" Brenda asked.
"About a dozen, like I said, they share numbers," Euan said.
"They could be in Britain," I said, "personal telephone numbers can follow you wherever you are in the world."
"Phone from America pretending to be in Jamaica and use the cash to fund bigger rackets," said Brenda.
"Organised crime? Gangs?" I asked.
Euan shrugged and raised his hands, it was certainly possible.
By the way, as we are nearing the point of no return, the time of truth and therefore it is my duty to inform you that, if you read this paragraph carefully, you will notice that the three quarters of a million pounds was merely suggested, not promised. Did you presume that it was promised? Think again, please, and remember the subject of this article. Take a look at your own thoughts and expectations, are you imagining how you are going to spend money, dreaming of things you could buy? The honest truth of the matter is that this prize draw reward has been included as a real-time live demonstration of the power of persuasion. How many people can read promises and convince themselves that they are empty words? How many people convince themselves that it must be true? Does it make you angry to learn that you have been tricked, that there is no prize money, no reward, no cash of any kind, just a piece of text? Next, imagine how you would look if you took this document to a complaints authority and demanded recompense, do you believe you might win your case? If you read this article to the end you will come away with the knowledge that all these promises were for demonstration purposes only. In the case of prize money notifications, the small print says that the award notification is for marketing purposes only, except they use more artwork. Feel free to write in.
Someone was shouting, we all turned to the Nagra, I impulsively put on the headphones and turned up the volume. It was Martha, "I'm not sending anyone money! Stop asking me these horrid questions. They are my friends, I write to them. Letters. That's all. I never send money."
I took off the headphones.
"They've got her," Euan said, "that's a clear sign, denial."
"Addicted?" Brenda asked.
Euan nodded, "could be."
"Like gambling," I said.
"Smoking, drinking, scratch cards," Brenda added.
We were in agreement about the problem but none of us knew the solution.
The tape came to an end and the reel spun, the white leader flicking against the heads.
I turned off the power.
"Let's go out for a spot of fresh air," said Brenda.
No sooner said than done, we were across the park, up the road and sitting outside the pseudo-German 'Brauerei'.