Part One is the first chapter which introduces us to Harold Haggins, a middle aged socialist living in Honolulu during the pandemic of 2020. We learn a little bit about how Harold sees his hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii and what he wishes the world could be. He doesn't know he is about to take a trip to the future.
2020 was a terrible year to be a socialist. It started well enough with a string of leftist candidates on the docket to be Democratic Candidates for President of the United States but it quickly went downhill. First there was the pandemic, then there were the capitulations by all the socialist leaning candidates to the iconic Neo-liberal former Vice President, then the Black Lives Matter protests happened, then the rich started getting even richer as the government loaded $6 trillion dollars into the equities markets to 'save capitalism'. Finally, there was the election itself and during all of this, the pandemic hadn't gone away.
Harold Haggins was one of those who survived, but he wasn't happy about it. Prior to the pandemic he had seen a big influx of youth and energy into the Democratic Socialists of America. It was a heady and wonderful time. Once a month in Honolulu, he would kiss his wife goodbye and head out to a Korean karaoke bar where he and three dozen other socialists would drink, talk, and 'Sing with Socialists'. It was wonderful. Over the previous two years, the 'sing with socialists' group had grown from five dedicated (and rather dusty) comrades to nearly two score.
Being a socialist in the USA had never been easy, but as 2020 dawned, it felt like it was getting easier. Harold worked in a far from socialist career. He worked for a venture capitalist firm. To be fair, the firm he worked for was focused on funding sustainable, transformative, and community-centric startups with founders who wanted to create a better version of the world. So, in one sense, it was the perfect place for him. Still, he was a socialist who put on a button down shirt every morning and often had to wear a tie and coat - though, one of the advantages of living in Hawaii was that he could wear a crisply pressed 'aloha' shirt most days. Formal business attire in the islands.
The pandemic had put an end to the 'Sing with Socialists' meetups but unfortunately it had not put an end to having meetings with bankers and 'angel' investors in order to convince them to invest in young entrepreneurs who wanted a better world instead of a place on the Forbes billionaire list. These meetings usually happened on Zoom group calls and they were far more exhausting than the sit downs they used to have in plush offices with complimentary coffee and fresh tropical fruit. Harold still had coffee and fruit, but it wasn't as nice when he had to provide it for himself - even if he didn't need to change out of his pajama bottoms for most calls.
The exhaustion that set in after the election hit everyone hard. The much desired certain outcome never came - it would, but the court cases and arguments just seemed to drag on forever. There was no winner. The fascist leaning billionaire president remained in charge, everyone still had to hear him, and with the election 'complete but not decided' there were no hopeful messages being propagated on the internet or the airwaves in order to inspire voters to give their support to change. More than exhaustion - it was like a toxic sludge had settled over everyone.
Looking at his iPhone, Harold saw that he had a message in his Signal app. Even though he was a socialist and in general didn't want to contribute to capitalist society, there was no way to avoid having a phone, a laptop, or to avoid using the apps and programs his life required. Harold used an iPhone because Apple was one of the only tech behemoths that put an emphasis on respecting privacy and personal data. In fact, he used many Apple products. He even owned stock in the company (which wasn't a very socialist thing to do) because he had decided early on in his life as a socialist that supporting companies that did good was just as important as fighting against those that did not. His work would have been impossible without this cognitive peace accord.
Signal was built on open source and funded by grants and donations. It allowed messaging and texting without being tracked. It was fully encrypted and not owned by any of the tech giants or government entities. This was the kind of technology and company that Harold made it his life's work to find and help secure funding for. It was also a very popular app within the socialist community. He opened the app - which was one of the only apps he allowed to give him notifications.
Socialist Group Chat:
"Come sing with socialists. If you're tired and need a boost it's time to violate the lockdown order and come sing with your comrades. We know that the social distancing orders are still in place. We know that singing is one of the ways the virus spreads. We know that and much more ... but we also feel that this year has eroded the social out of socialism. So, if you are symptom free, haven't been diagnosed with Covid-19, and want to take a break from all the commercial Christmas promotions - join us for a special Sing with Socialists event at Karaoke King on the Solstice. We've rented out the whole place. Feel free to bring your favorite drinks and bring your singing voices. Also, wear a mask, don't come if you feel or have felt any symptoms in the past seven days, and let's be social. -- note-- this gathering is potentially larger than the City and County of Honolulu allows so please don't share outside of known socialist circles. We will have new member meetings in 2021 after treatment and vaccines are better developed - this is a gathering for known friends only."
The City and County of Honolulu only allowed for gatherings of ten or less - so it was most likely going to be a violation - plus the fact that bars, taverns, and karaoke joints were all still closed under the lockdown orders. Still, Harold decided he would go. He wasn't alone. Quite a few members were already responding to the group text - not very good security practice, but most of them were too young to remember a time when socialists were considered in the same vein with pornographers, terrorists, and cult fanatics. Harold would go, but he didn't see any reason to RSVP.
Harold's biggest reservation was telling his wife - he thought she would berate him for being an idiot, but, as frequently happened in his marriage, he had completely misjudged this woman he thought he knew so well from twenty years of marriage. She squeezed his hand and said 'Good, I think it will be good for you to spend some time with your socialist friends.' She'd never had any interest in politics or economics - but she consistently surprised him by encouraging him to push for a world that could only exist by completely re-tooling the society she was so comfortable in.
They lived slightly better than paycheck to paycheck. She was the daytime executive chef in a resort hotel - or had been prior to the pandemic destroying tourism. Her job had been to make all the tropical themed food that tourists dreamed about when they went back to dreary lives in Iowa. Since the pandemic, Harold had been eating far too much of her delicious food. He had become middle aged with a rotund belly and a round face. She had retained her girlish figure, but her face had begun to show the cares of age. At forty-four she was still young but at fifty-two, Harold was no longer able to make that claim. Middle aged was the best he could do.
Their son was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was nineteen and wanted nothing to do with his father's socialism. They both shared a passion for startups but Harold's boy was more interested in becoming the next Elon Musk than in finding a way to create a better world. Harold had just as hard a time understanding his son's willingness to get on a rocket and leave Earth (or get on a plane and leave Hawaii) rather than working on ways to make Earth (or Hawaii) better for everyone. Still, they loved each other despite their differences and Harold was looking forward to the family being together over holidays again - something that they had opted to not do this year due to quarantines and finances.
They lived in a nice apartment in a nice building in a nice neighborhood. Nice but not luxurious. It was enough. Both Harold and his wife were guilty of sometimes wanting more - a better view, a bigger bedroom, a place closer to the ocean - but they were both equally good at reminding themselves that they lived in paradise - and most of the rest of humanity did not. They were fortunate.