20 December 2021

Special Guest Post by Boshra Rasti, Author of Surrogate Colony

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In MicroScrep, a post-pandemic world, one politician, Arthur Mills, brings all scientists and engineers together to create a vaccine and rebuild a world where harmony ensues.

Dystopian Education

I wrote Surrogate Colony because I am in the business of education. I hate that phrase “business of education”, but believe me, after 15 years teaching, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, there is a definite point when the fog clears and you see it for what it is - a capitalist venture. People think capitalism is about money - it isn’t; it’s about capital, a game of monopoly.

Monopolizing the way you think isn’t the most concerning consequence in this day and age, the most worrying is the way leadership is carved and molded, how human resources are divided, how something as human as learning is broken down, branded, and lorded over vast numbers of vulnerable children. The datafication (which is equal to exploitation - just ask Facebook) of the most basic human yearning, to know and be known, is terrifying.

Even if the bottom line isn’t physical money, there are other currencies at play my dear reader. That’s the thing about systems. Go figure that out for yourselves. I am not trying to convert you. I just want you to question. Actually, the only way to truly be a teacher is to demand that students question. That’s until they ask teachers to stop teaching critical thinking. 

And that’s the exact moment when teachers all over the world, in classrooms or not, should start creating music, art, novels, poems, whatever. Let creation resist the forces of monopoly in the world and clarify that you can datafy, track and control all sorts of nonsense at schools, but you cannot break human wonder, curiosity and creativity.

Adriana, the main character in Surrogate Colony, at a very early age notices this deficiency in education. She remembers early on in the novel:

Mother’s voice rings in my ear, “curiosity killed the cat.” But my favorite teacher, the late Ms. Bonito, said something to me on the eve of her untimely death that I won’t ever forget. “Adriana, it is true that curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” Her eyes twitched with emotion as she said that to me. On her way home from school, she was killed in a car crash.

Writing that Pierces

Writing must pierce. Being a writer is like sitting on the table for your first tattoo, or earring, or nose ring. The searing needle burning into your skin, the drop of blood a symbol of what you’ve done. Your body is forever altered.

And the way the world sees you has also changed. You’ve made an impression on it; on every passerby that briefly or profoundly stares at you. The gaze depends on the beholder. For some it’s the spectacle of a freak. For others, an attractive impression burned into their mind. It doesn’t matter what the reader sees; it matters that the writer has become vulnerable to the gaze of others.

That’s what scares me about a world without creative spectacle; without a needle and body. That world may very well be dystopian. Ruled by seemingly harmonious rules and order, but that cut the body’s nose in spite of its face.

Writing and art push the boundaries, creating the I am and You are that is so essential to the disgusting or adoring gaze of the other. It is from that place that society can learn tolerance, understanding, and progress.

Without creativity we are doomed to our own banality and flattening. In my novel, Surrogate Colony, people are given X-ray vision to protect themselves from viruses and bacteria. However, X-ray vision in Microscrep isn’t meant to create the piercing reality that society needs to be vulnerable, or creative. It is used to collectively control chaos. However, as the main character, Adriana learns, without chaos we cannot have creativity or desire.

Ties that Bind

“Just because our world is wrong doesn’t mean people don’t enjoy the binds which are holding them in. At least their binds are safe.”

― Rebecca Crunden, A Touch of Death

There is a sickening dysfunction in complacency and silence. That’s why writer’s write, artist’s paint or draw, musicians sing loudly; crescendoing the music despite the complicity and collusion of our tuned out world. They thrive on the edge of normalcy.

It’s scary stuff being different. Having a story to tell; a muse that won’t leave you alone. Maybe that’s why Charles Buckowski’s advice to young writers was to “Drink, f*** and smoke plenty of cigarettes.” I don’t think he was trying to be crass, (okay maybe he was, but I am trying to make a point), he was explaining that writers need to experience life and this might mean that they will not be bound. This means that they must be given space to explore.

In my novel, Surrogate Colony, the problem with society, Microscrep, is when there is no freedom to explore. The majority in Microscrep are the kind of people that “enjoy the binds which are holding them in,” because, “at least their binds are safe”.

The moral of Surrogate Colony is that we should never collectively get to that stage where we are so riddled with fear that we are happier with absolute control. We should never barter our freedom for a prison cell of seeming safety.

Boshra Rasti

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About the Author

Boshra Rasti is an Iranian-Canadian expatriate, writer and educator. She currently lives in Qatar as a teacher. She is the author of several published poems, “Connection in the City”, a poem about the city of Surrey, BC, Canada, as well as the author of “In the Chrysalis”, a poem about the COVID-19 pandemic, published in Together...Apart, an anthology of creative works published by HBKU Press. Her short stories have been published by Grattan Street Press, Literally Stories, and South Florida Poetry Journal.
Boshra draws inspiration from the teenage mind, one she may not have fully outgrown. She also is an avid runner who enjoys the self-torture of running in Qatar. She has other eclectic interests such as making vegan ice-cream. She may or may not use a pen name in the future to prevent a life-long tendency that people have of butchering her name. She hopes to someday make her home somewhere that doesn’t include burning up due to the consequences of global warming. You can find her works on her website: www.boshrawrites.com 

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