I am reading the novel, We, by the Russian author (yes, I know there seems to be a lot of Russian these days) by Yevgeny Zamyatin. If you haven’t heard or read this novel, I highly recommend it. It is a dystopian work and the Russian authors are very good at this genre. Hell, they are basically the gods of existentialism and dystopian literature for good reason: one just has to look at the history of that region and it becomes clear.
Anyway, We, really is a foundational novel for the concept of authoritarian dystopias and the internal struggle for the populace for individualism and a better life. 1984 may be a cornerstone of American dystopian literature, but Orwell owes Zamyatin a tip of the hat for paving the way.
What does this have to do with the trump and our struggles? Well, for starters, you can’t help but notice the similarities in how the One State and our Big Brother in the White House and his sycophantic coterie of Brown Shirts have trampled our hopes beneath their pseudo-religious (recently, I heard the term for trumplidites referred to as Cult 45, which I love!) and xenophobic pandering to our country’s morlocks in the hate group communities. By any measure, two steps backward for our country and very reminiscent of this work. Also, I liked the connection between the Russian author and the putinency of trump.
Also, I have been giving thought to the connection between utopias and dystopias and our recent President, who claimed hope as his catch phrase. They are really very closely related regarding themes of hope and individualism. Don’t get me wrong, I liked President Obama, but I am not a believer in utopias.
What both utopias and dystopias have in common is hope. Hope, you say!? How so? Well, first of all, both utopias and dystopias (with exceptions) have a commonality in that they exhibit polyculturalism, such as Thomas More’s work Utopia or even H.G. Well’s A Modern Utopia: Compare these to dystopias such as We or in more modern literature the Mockingjay series. You may say, well, utopias are amazing places of egalitarianism and dystopias are places where there is no hope. In actuality, both utopias and dystopias are more in common than at first blush: Both have an apoplexy of social movement for the broad spectrum of the society. One may believe utopias as better places to live because they give the perception of the ideal, but just because your prison has a window, doesn’t make it any less a prison.
Where am I going with this? I believe that we need this conflict between the current evolution of One State/Big Brother and progressive thought to move us forward. Struggle is a catalyst for growth and as Darwin showed, struggle brings about evolutionary change, which always a system to maintain homeostasis. Radical or revolutionary change provides too great an upheaval, which alters a system too far from the norm. However, such revolutionary change or Black Swan events in terms of the system do test the resiliency of that system. Perhaps, trump is that Black Swan event? Perhaps, Obama was? Time will tell, I guess.
Needless to say, we have been afforded the opportunity to compare two examples of hope and greatness under President Obama and now under the putinency of trump. While hope under Obama was more positive to our brand, our enemies in Cult 45 see trump as their hope. You can’t deny that both have offered us visions of the way ahead and we should be thankful for that. Ask yourself if you could truly know joy if you did not know sorry?
So, at this junction of time and space, we have been afforded two visions of the future, presented by two differing factions. I hate to simplify it to such a binomial, but a third way has not really been tendered or proffered for consideration.
Honestly, for the time being, I’d rather have windows in my prison because I believe in the power of the American people. I believe in the ideals set down on hemp paper by a bunch of idealists back in the 18th Century. I’d rather work hand-in-hand with the multi-colored fabric of our society. In sum, and to paraphrase, I’d rather laugh with the sinners of diversity than cry with the homogenous self-proclaimed saints and saviors of America.
I said that utopias and dystopias are more similar than different for a very good reason. While I thought that President Obama and Clinton before him offered a seemingly better future than does the current iteration of alt-right wingers, I don’t believe that their path is the only one to be blindly followed. In the case of both, the society that they offered led to stagnation.
We need to stop following the path presented to us and create the path that politicians need to follow. For too long now, we have been tethered to men and women, who have their own agendas. They have become in turn, untethered to the social contract that once bound their actions. We have allowed this to happen because, like in a utopia or dystopia, we didn’t see much use in trying to struggle: Our lives weren’t too bad and most of the problems of the world didn’t affect us directly. We had our personal struggles and they were more than enough a load for one to bear.
Yet, history has shown that a society, a culture, does not move forward on the efforts of one person. I hate to coin the phrase, but it does take a village.
Earlier, I stated that you can’t know a quality of something without having experienced its polar opposite. I have lived for years in Africa and spent a good deal of time in Afghanistan and Iraq and can state with experience and sincerity that we can be better as a nation and a species. It is our responsibility to be better. The world looks to us still to lead and almost in the same way that Alexis de Tocqueville once declared of a nascent America’s light that had diffused its warmth (of social theory and democracy) around and tinged the distant horizon with its glow.
Are we the generation that will lapse into dystopia because of our fears, our neglect, our inhumanity, our acceptance of the status quo, to extinguish that light, and permit authoritarianism to reign unchecked in the world?