This is not Meki. From what I can ascertain with my kaio-level Google-fu, this is actually Ruka Oshida from Girls und Panzer. But she looks so damn close to what I imagined an anime-ized Meki would look like that it still works.
The Elder Aryan Aristocrat
Meki was born on 15 March, 2037, making her the oldest Aryan on Earth. Dr. Kaspar Ziegler is a year younger than her, and most are between 14 and 20 by the time Babylon Today begins.
I've already been asked about the class aspect of the story and other forms of marginalization that affects Meki. I can work this into short story and flash fiction format, which can allow me to do more with it interestingly since I don't necessarily have to keep every chapter focused onto a single arc— so when it comes to marginalization, I can play with multiple topics without really forcing it. GMPs— genetically modified persons— are a group that I can see as suffering high levels of discrimination right off the bat, especially for the lower classes in non-revolutionary and traditionalist regions.
In Meki's case, she mainly deals with revolutionary law. In Red Eurasia, GMPs and artilects are protected groups just as PoC and non-het sexual groups. France is an ergatocracy, so the proletariat has political and economic precedence. However, Meki hails from a socially alien class and is a "former person". As a result, she is completely disenfranchised in politics and is not allowed a share in economic matters (i.e. she has no say, ownership, or power in whatever labor project she joins). West Eurasia is still recovering from loads of chaos, so there is a rationing system in place. Meki receives the fewest rations and what she gets is also questionable: the infamous "nutraloaf", usually with horsebread as a side. She is also barred from public housing and has weekly labor check-ups to make sure she has worked for a minimum of 60 hours. Though not legal, she can be denied health care. And for just about everything she purchases, there is a very substantial mark-up in sales tax.
Then there's also the case of surveillance. Meki herself is hooked up to LoveNet, which was originally meant for the lower classes in the Seville regime as a means to monitor and control thought. However, being hooked up to LoveNet does also give you cyberkinetic capabilities. It's not ideal compared to other BCIs, but it gets the job done. She doesn't have access to her neural data, however.
Given that she grew up so incredibly privileged and spoiled, Meki and her siblings had a very difficult time getting accustomed to poverty. Meki had it the worst because she was so totally sheltered and hidden from the world, and yet she's also the one who makes the most effort to fit into the revolutionary system and proletarian society.
Meki and her sister, Marie-Joséphine, remain in Toulouse. As Meki is Madame Royale, she is the one who takes the brunt of abuse. But they are all stateless, no longer citizens of France. Most aristocrats and plutocrats from the old regime are stateless, in fact, and those who survived the civil war and purges of the late '40s and early '50s work in service roles that are fast becoming automated. Considering these are types who were part of the upper class— many going back generations whether through banking roles or landed gentry estates— being thrust into poverty in a society actively set up against them was harsh. Marie-Joséphine is sort of like the Anti-Meki. They both come from the same background, but Marie-Joséphine was very much a vain socialite. Losing it all hit her much harder than it did her Aryan sister. And she is deeply regretful about the revolution, refusing to apologize for the abuses of the upper classes and increasingly nostalgic for the corporatocratic order that turned Western Europe into a cyberpunk dystopia. She never really adapted into a life of labor, always maintaining a snobbish sense that she's above it all. As a result, Marie-Joséphine is considered an Enemy of the People and is heavily surveilled, including by Meki.
Meki herself lives under a bridge in a place known as "Blind Spot", where she assists other vagrants in trusting the National Technate enough to receive neurotherapy and join in on the syndicate. You see, since these homeless people are part of the protected classes, they can't be forced to undergo neurotherapy even though they obviously need help. And these stragglers are of the mind that the National Technate is some Illuminati concentration camp and neurotherapy is going to chain them to LoveNet. They can't really get jobs to escape their poverty— even if there were any low-skill jobs left for them, they wouldn't be able to hold them down.
For some who have been in the gutters since the Seville days, they just don't trust any government or corporation. Back under the autocracy, they were actively warred upon and there was constant fear that the elite would purge the nation of undesirables starting with the homeless and impoverished. Under both eras of communism— the dictatorship and the ergatocracy— there was much too much geopolitical and climate chaos to focus on uplifting the poorest when they were still just trying to maintain a stable society. So vagrants got used to being ignored in what was supposed to be a system for them. But the Toulousain Soviet genuinely does want to help them. Meki just found that they were more willing to trust one of their own than some bureaucrats and computers. Even if that person was the former empress, they'd see she was humbled enough anyway. And invariably, once the nanites cleared up their disorders and neurodegeneration, they saw things much more clearly and rationally and their lives became much better off for it.
The last person in Blind Spot that Meki convinced to leave was actually a devout monarchist— and also a second-generation Eritrean immigrant. Considering Africans and West Asians were extremely marginalized in the Seville regime and it was in reaction to their arrival that Eurasia went so far to the right, Meki is perpetually bemused by this man. It took a lot of effort to get him to leave her alone and join the Technate because he had completely bought in to ideas like natural aristocracy, monarchism, European nationalism, and white supremacy despite the fact he himself was a black East African who was part of the underclass. Statistically, it's inevitable some of these "kapo" types will exist.
Meki occupies Blind Spot alone for some time before eventually getting "adopted" by a "handsome Bolshevik" (her words) named Zdravko Kokinos. Even afterwards, however, Meki is never free from her noble stigma and it's joked by others that Meki has gone from "empress" to "out-caste."
Because Greater Eurasia (everything from the Urals to the Atlantic) has a unified program to protect marginalized classes, Meki doesn't face discrimination based on her genetics and she doesn't often see anti-synth sentiment (though she knows it exists). The only thing she really faces in terms of her being genetically modified is some lingering suspicion over her species name, and it's well known that Aryans constantly mock the term.
Pandora, on the other hand, lives with Konstantin in the Deep South of the USA. As a result, she does often encounter bigotry and fearmongering. "Genetically modified" is a term that is the target of fear-mongering on all sides of the political spectrum. GMOs were initially feared because they weren't fully tested and their effects were unknown— plus, singular large corporations dominated the market and who knew how they'd proceed with the technology. Over time, however, GMOs became ingrained in conspiracist canon as one of those Illuminati-backed plots— anything genetically modified is unsafe, and if anyone says anything to the contrary, they're part of the conspiracy.
So just imagine the prospect of genetically modified persons trying to get along in such a fearful society. There may be laws dictating that GMPs have to identify themselves for certain events or announce themselves to a community. They could be placed in separate spaces and given separate treatment. At the very least, there will be loads of talk claiming that they cannot be trusted in some way. That they're a stock of humans who may introduce some sort of terrible genetic disorder or lack of disease resistance if you breed with them. Or, more irrationally, that certain things they do could "infect" you— like their spit is poisonous or having sex with them will give you STDs regardless of what protection you use. More critical types won't believe it, but certain parts of the population are very willing to find something new to fear. Especially considering genetic modification tech allows for some extreme biodiversity— for example, "transsexual" in the 2050s and '60s means something different from what it means in the 2000s and 2010s. Transsexuals are those who genetically alter their sexual characteristics on a molecular level. You can't say "you're a man, stop calling yourself a woman" when that person is genetically, biologically, psychologically, physiologically, and neurologically a woman. Reactionaries often have to fall back on "birth sex" and when such a fleeting characteristic has to be used, you know who won the culture wars. But transsexuality goes much further, as you find people who can create entirely new sexes and identities to match them with relative ease. To those who don't understand the transgender movement today, it can seem silly that people with obviously male sexual characteristics can call themselves "genderfluid" or "demisexual". But when people actually do have genderfluid or demisexual sexual characteristics and neurology, you can't fall back on that confusion.
I can already imagine some religious groups beings so anti-GMP that they'll claim that their members shouldn't be around GMPs for religious reasons. Maybe they won't think it's haram or some nonsense.
Religious groups often protest GMPs— particularly the technology itself more than the people affected. As she followed Konstantin to a university (where Konstantin simply gets some real world socialization and spends his time), she came across a "protest" by a church group on campus. They held up signs that read "BURN IN HELL, SINNER" alongside Bible quotes. The people doing this looked positively old fashioned, as if they came from the 1950s. They even had kids with them, holding these signs. And while they mostly evangelized (through shock, albeit) to get people to believe in God, they did have a few choice words for GMPs and synths. Some words she heard were "Satanic" and "man's arrogance" and "the traditional ways."
Pandora has experienced anti-synth bigotry. For the most part, it's just meanspirited trolling. But she is aware that there are some "sun-down towns" in the USA that outright ban humanoids from walking the streets. Many businesses also refuse to sell to robots.
Konstantin has a very close friend (possibly best-friend) named Curtis Wright, and Curtis is also a writer who distinctly remembers his grandfather's life in this same town a hundred years before the present. As a black man, Curtis is racially aware of who he is, but he notes that he never actually feared he'd be lynched or denied service as his grandfather had. Racial politics in '50s America are wholly different from the way they were from the Old '50s— while PoC aren't perfectly level with whites and some racist events still unfold, it's borderline utopic compared to earlier decades. But if you want to know what colored people faced in the past, look at how we treat synths.
It's true that it's so much different with synths than it is with actual people— and there he goes. "Actual people." He sounds like the oppressors of his grandfather. But you do have to ask, are synths people? All synths? Or just artilects? The most technophobic don't believe any artificial person is actually a person. Just like the ethnophobes* of past centuries.
The reason why synths sometimes can't purchase things from stores is because the owners refuse to sell goods or simply hand over previously-purchased goods to non-human persons. It started as a protest against drones and autonomous vehicles in the 2020s as people accused those technologies of taking delivery jobs from humans. It didn't help that it also creeped people out. It actually became a source of patriotism in some places to be able to turn away robots, use solely human labor, and be "proudly technophobic." It was a form of bigotry that crossed racial boundaries so that even marginalized groups could engage in it shamelessly. If you wanted to buy a candy bar from the convenience store— whether owned by John, Juan, or Sadiq— you'd better come in yourself and not send in your drone. It is from this that we got the larger Antemillennialist movement.
Then there's the sexbots. Konstantin has gotten messages from certain types who accuse him of everything from being socially retarded all the way to being a race traitor— yes, a race traitor— for having a synthetic lover in the form of Pandora. There are billions of humans out there, many of whom are romantically challenged... and here come these technosexuals who would rather bang machines than real people.
And you also have cultural and religious reasons. The USA is, of course, part of the West. The West is fundamentally rooted in a Judeo-Christian tradition. Abrahamic religions all teach that only humans have souls and that anything that takes the form of a human is evil. This is why Westerners (which includes the Middle East and Africa) are so freaked out about humanoid robots while Easterners seem to love and accept robots that look like us. Eastern religions teach that everything has a soul.
As a result, you have people actively attacking robots. Robots that are property, of course. But people still don't care; they just don't trust robots. The reasons why are studied on a wide level and is a major sociological topic. The issue of "SJWs" still persists in these times and they often have to stick up for synths, and yet even they have trouble deciding where to draw the line. Where does consciousness and personhood begin?
"How fascinating is it that robot rights is an actual social issue!" Konstantin tells Curtis one day as they marvel over the times.
From Pandora's perspective, Greater Eurasia has become a slightly chaotic worker's paradise. Socialism hasn't worked out perfectly, but it's certainly more stable than it usually has been. And it is highly interesting to follow the effects of the revolution as they're happening. Pandora meets Meki in New Orleans in 2059, but before they meet in person for the first time, she hears that Konstantin is fascinated by her story. Konstantin is an extremely reclusive fellow, but he does have friends and contacts— like Antoni Patschelli, a great contemporary literary writer. Patschelli actually goes to France to find La Fantôme de Toulouse, and the very first thing he finds her doing is fervently studying Marxist literature alongside a robot. He does a little report on what life is like in the classless worker's paradise, and his assessment is that it's not as progressed as Iceland (which I'll explain at a later date but in simple terms has perfected communism) and while they've overcome the once dystopic and corporatocratic imperial autocracy from the 2030s and 2040s without extensive class struggle, western Europe in general is having some growing pains dealing with synthetic persons and automation that they'd rather not directly address.
Meki is more interested in the effects of the revolution on the masses and formerly marginalized groups. Patschelli still follows her around and wants to get her life story and opinions on things. However, Meki weasels out of it and introduces him to her commissary, Maria Genovese, so she doesn't have to stick around. It's not until Meki heads to New Orleans and meets Pandora that she actually talks about it as a sort of exchange for hearing more about the status of synthetic persons in America.
Pandora remarks that, in a nation that's still as religious as the United States, synthetic persons like herself still attract a lot of suspicion and hostility. America has the largest number of Antemillennialists for a reason! But there's not been any major civil rights movement for synthetic persons. Pandora can understand the hesitation. Not only is government becoming more automated, but just imagine how dangerous it is to freely give the right to vote to persons whose brains can be so easily rewired and altered. But that doesn't mean there isn't a debate on it. The Constitution was written in an era where the USA was an unindustrialized agrarian society. Many of the amendments were not written to deal with developments in technology. Like the 4th in particular— the 4th amendment is dead, de facto repealed despite still existing. And what about the right to vote being extended to women— the right to vote only includes men and women. Nonbinary people were just grandfathered into it because society didn't truly accept that there are others besides men and women. So now imagine the utter rainbow of genders and sexes that exist today— many of which did not exist even twenty years ago. Some tried saying that men who transitioned into women were still men and vice versa, so there was no reason to say men, women, and others since you could always root it back to those two. Genetic engineering kinda messed that up.
When it comes to synthetic persons, Americans are much more willing to give humanoids like Pandora equal rights. But that tolerance drops the less humanlike machines become— a generally intelligent smart speaker won't win many fans, for example, even if people rely on them. Humans trust humans, which includes those that resemble humans. Just as how we aren't kind to animals too different from ourselves, we aren't willing to believe industrial robots, giant arms, detached shapes, and disembodied programs deserve rights regardless of if they have AGI set up. Besides, not all AGI is the same— some AGI is purely academic and lacks sapience, while others (i.e. "True Artificial Intelligence") are sapient artilects. Does anything with general intelligence get human rights? Or just sapient intelligences?
Oh, and what about other human species? The Constitution was written by white men, for white men. Then women and people of color were represented. But even then, only Sapiens were represented— the Constitution writers never fathomed we'd resurrect other human species and even quasi-human genera (they didn't know such creatures ever existed). Does Homo habilis get the right to vote? What about Neanderthals? What about post-humans? The bigger question might be "why are they still voting when there's machines to rule," but America is schizophrenic like that.
As for Meki, Pandora does want to say that she's noticed a general attitude among Americans that can best be described as sympathy combined with general disbelief with her fate and the Eurasian aristocracy and plutocracy. Meki already knows that Americans don't really talk about degracement much outside celebrities and lottery winners whose spending drives them to bankruptcy. There isn't much literature written with that theme. Even stories set during revolutions avoid the topic of degracement when they can help it. Americans regard wealth as a form of grace; hence the term "degracement". Losing it is apparently such a tragic happening that the American psyche would rather pretend it only happens to those who deserve it. But Pandora also says that it's part to do with the American character— Americans always believe themselves to be the everyman, the individualist cowboy rebel who is apart from the slobs and the snobs alike. You're self-made even if you aren't. Meanwhile, Meki is obsessed with her own degracement, loving how it played out. But there isn't much known or written about it that isn't stored on some server somewhere. Being that Meki is also from a society where old classes were restored for quite a while, it makes sense that she's more class-conscious than Americans, who'd rather believe there are no classes (just the successful, the temporarily embarrassed, and the lazy).
In fact, Meki looked at American media in depth and noticed a trend involving any "revolution narrative"— the mainstream stories always treat injustice as an issue between individuals, never a systemic problem. There is no system of exploitation and repression, only corrupt evil billionaires and government officials. Thus, a revolution is merely a matter of taking out the right tyrants & goons and letting freedom "wash through the land". A revolution is a million angry people united against the corrupt elite, but never anything more than that. In fact, those who believe it should be anything more than that are often written as being unreasonable extremists no different than the tyrants they seek to overthrow.
This has crippled Americans' ability to even understand what happened in Eurasia and why Meki doesn't consider herself entirely innocent in her family's regime despite never being an active part in it and being sadistically victimized by her immediate family (especially her father). On some level, there are individual stories. But a social revolution is more than just the poor fighting and killing some evil rich folk for the sake of justice. It's the wholesale destruction of the system that the rich have created and many of the poor themselves support.
This perversion of revolution & injustice narratives extends to everything involving injustice, which is one reason why there exists such a bizarre state of hostility towards GMPs and synths. Injustice narratives treat this as the moral failings of individuals, not systemic bias and institutionalized repression. Whenever systemic issues are mentioned or addressed, it's done so in passing so as to not bring up the question of solutions. Media in every society is all about maintaining the status quo. Upsetting the status quo can't be tolerated.
That's what makes this era so frightening to so many. For many, the "status quo" is the world as it was when they were younger, a world before radical technological changes started happening. All of this change is just happening too quickly and they want it to stop. But it won't stop. It can't stop. Not anymore.
*Ethnophobe is a term popularized by the alt-right in the 2020s in response to the word "racist" becoming co-opted by social-progressives. Whereas "racism" became defined to mean race-based bigotry from a place of institutionalized power, "ethnophobic" simply means race-based bigotry from any position. It also draws upon some connotations connecting it to "homophobe" and "transphobe", making it a serious-sounding allegation.