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There is a place, not too distant from here, where smiles are forbidden. A land which needs no happiness, only the iron rod.
The people there follow it. There is no reward for impassiveness, only punishment for joy. It is a miserable experience, perhaps, yet because they do not understand happiness, they do not understand anything but despair.
To compare, an outsider’s sadness is their norm.
A child in its infantile stages is incredibly malleable. With no hippocampus complete, its explicit memories cannot truly be formed - unless, of course, the amygdala and frontal lobes step in. It is aided in memory making with the basal ganglia, where the implicit memories, that of which it intuitively follows, are capable of being formed.
From day one, the children know only the sternness of their mothers, the scorn of their fathers, the indifference of their caretakers. They no know joy because the giggles they form are burst with the force of the iron rod.
Once the infant reaches age three, the conditioned responses are in full effect, and they know wisely not to tilt their mouths in even the most mocking of smirks. There is no chance to feel better, they understand. There is no greater happiness for them.
Mindless schooldays, drilling unuseable information that goes from one ear through the next. Flavorless lunches that do not even give the sensation of bitterness to the children. Technology that which does not work and never will work, toys that which do not exist and never will exist, it is as though ennui is the only law that applies.
Books filled with meaningless letters, teachers with immutable glares, parents working in jobs that they cannot leave nor advance from, bosses who cannot, simply cannot, buy joy with the money they earn. They would not desire to meet, once more, the iron rod.
There is no entertainment, as creativity has long been extinct. There is no transportation, as the will of the city is to remain isolated. There are no crimes, as nothing of value can be obtained. There is no intimacy in sex, merely creating a new generation.
The taboo of smiling is not only ubiquitous, it is revered. Ironic as it may be, it is the only source of unity that the people have - after all, groups or friends are irrelevant. There is no point in liberation of the mind, only castigation of emotions and evisceration of mirth. There is no imagination, only bondage of wills.
Endless work, endless work. That is how the land was when people first arrived, and that is how it will be for generations to come. No toddler may smile with impunity, no adult may chuckle without punishment. Leaves none untouched, does the iron rod.
There are no things to praise, no things to scorn - nothing but the hatred of smiles, for the knowledge of happiness would make them dread their existence. The knowledge of something better than what have would distract them from their necessary duties - to work, to provide, to live as a member of society.
Do you understand, my child? The idea of happiness is a dangerous thing. That land is not alone in its alienation of joy. There are many more out there, those who refuse it willingly, and those who are forced to shun it. All fear that such thoughts of amusement might cause one to waste their lives attempting to attain the unattainable.
For that, they seek work only. With the influx of mindless workers, the standards rose, as did debt. More and more time was spent on education. Whatever iota of time was spent for self-relaxation, whatever it may be in such a damned land, disappeared completely. No conversations at the dinner table were allowed, announced parents. Children who dared to meet with others their age were faced with the iron rod.
Those that seek happiness are dangerous creatures, my child. Those who choose to go further are terrifying, because they have so much to lose. Their parents unknowingly love their children, and it pains them to see their children veer towards a path of uncertainty, of one where rewards are unsure of and pay is uncertain. They force their children to comply because deep within their hearts they want their children to live a life where they do not fear unemployment
Even if it means giving up their freedom and happiness.
Do you understand now, my child? Why I must do this? I do not enjoy this anymore than you do, but I cannot bear the pain of seeing you pursue such fallacies, such an uncertain pathway. I hope the iron rod will help you understand as well.