By Jay - Ottawa
Stiff fingers tap out the first sentence on my keyboard, but the spell checker redlines the word 'dystopia.' Hmm…it IS a word and I DID spell it correctly. Was the Microsoft programmer who worked on this feature clueless about Orwell's "1984," or was the programmer directed to send unpleasant concepts and their exemplars down the memory hole?
Cormac McCarthy is the next to get redlined. Well, OK. His first name is rare this side of Dublin. Despite the laurels placed on McCarthy's brow late in life, few people other than English majors read his troubling novels "Blood Meridian" and "The Road."
Actually, "The Road" is not dystopian literature. It is more often categorized as post-apocalyptic realism, a giant step beyond dystopia to where the entire globe has been despoiled. You might, if you behave, be allowed an ice-cream sundae in a dystopia. The best you can hope for in a post-apocalyptic world is rancid ice cream under stale whipped cream and a rotting cherry on top.
Chris Hedges, a very serious man, also writes about dystopias but under the category of nonfiction. He describes realities so dismal and hopeless you wish they were fiction.
As if we didn't have enough gloom from the Dark School of fiction and nonfiction, we now discover their disciples multiplying like bats out of a cave. The newest dystopian writers obtain better material just by looking around. The latest dark spirit to connect the available dots of politics, economics, climate change and human nature is a French philosopher, Bruno Latour.
Latour writes as though he was able to plumb the minds of the super rich. Forget their supposed attraction to capitalism and avarice. Something else is afoot, a plot, an altruistic conspiracy. It goes like this. Billions of people are accustomed to a standard of living the globe cannot support. Recycling and cutbacks in carbon use are absurdist diversions for the masses. The Greens are kidding themselves, not to mention the rest of us, with their solar panels and low-flush toilets. The Paris Agreement of last year, signed by 195 nations, is an empty gesture to assure their populations that something is being done to push climate change out of sight. However, the elites know better; the globe is long past the tipping point of climate apocalypse.
Something several orders more severe than alternate energy development is needed, and immediately, to pull back hard from the Sixth Extinction. The elites are fully aware of the stakes. They also know that the billions of people who make up the modern world cannot be encouraged, or even forced, to scale down sharply to a lifestyle from the Middle Ages.
What's the alternative for elites who appreciate these facts and exercise power? It is twofold: to become billionaires and to head for the hills after amassing everything needed for survival. Big money––not asceticism, virtue and fairness for all––will buy the few tickets available for survival of the few. Here's Latour explaining why we must have deregulation, welfare cutbacks, climate denial and income disparity:
"If this plausible fiction is correct, it enables us to grasp the 'deregulation' and the 'dismantling of the welfare state' of the 1980s, the 'climate change denial' of the 2000s, and, above all, the dizzying increase in inequality over the past forty years. All these things are part of the same phenomenon: the elites were so thoroughly enlightened that they realized there would be no future for the world and that they needed to get rid of all the burdens of solidarity as fast as possible …; to construct a kind of golden fortress for the tiny percent of people who would manage to get on in life …; and, to hide the crass selfishness of this flight from the common world, to completely deny the existence of the threat [of] climate change."
It is we, the billions of nobodies, who are the grasshoppers in Aesop's fable. We plague the earth with our great numbers and boundless appetites. The monied elites are the farsighted ants. There is a noble purpose behind the surface chaos over which they preside. For the sake of the human gene pool, lifeboat ethics must prevail. The elites are laboring to cull our species as efficiently as possible. They must act fast and remain steadfast in their purpose. Ultimately, the preservation of humanity depends on the billionaires, "the tiny percent," in their "golden fortresses." Think of that next time you are tempted by selfishness to protest against their deconstruction of society as we know it.
* Those of you under 70 years of age are advised not to read this essay.