A wave of early evening tiredness overcame me, and I began to dream. . .
* * *
Squid Game. The Hunger Games. The Most Dangerous Game. The Lottery. 1984. Animal Farm. Brave New World. Blah blah blah.
One thousand dystopias. I get it.
There are also endless interpretations of how we got here and how things used to be. Life before COVID. The pre-9/11 world. The 90s. The 80s. The 50s before the Baby Boomers—life’s eternal scapegoats—ruined everything, pissing away their patrimony for free love, easy credit, and homes whose value would increase until the end of all time.
Not that it’s not completely true, but it ignores the fact that plenty of people in plenty of generations before and after have a hand in the deplorable situation we find ourselves in.
A fundamental failure of too many of us dissatisfied with how things are is that we have no imagination, about how things could be. That’s a vision, or a strategy. There’s also a deadly dearth of how we get there—the tactics used. Yes, everything is ruined and we are living in the early stages of a serious dystopia. But what next?
I’m sick of hearing how things were. I want to know what comes next.
I suppose utopian fiction doesn’t sell. Ever read Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy? Don’t; it’s awful. But it provides an example of a brighter future for those true believers in the powers of reason and logic and socialistic forms of government.
That it’s as pie-in-the-sky as a world where men and women can shapeshifter into women and men in the all-holy name of science is beside the point. What it and stories like it did is plant the seed. It was possible. All throughout the hard times, times when it seemed like such a vision was doomed to failure, its adherents still held on to the belief that it would work. The Bolsheviks were similarly motivated. Why aren’t you?
My Greek ancestors relied on God to carry them through the Ottoman oppression, and they secured their independence after 400 years of slavery.
The Chinese relied on the belief in their culture to help sustain their spirits through centuries of humiliation at the hands of foreign occupiers, and they’re a power on the ascent.
The Jewish people held fast to their millennia of perseverance to help them weather the brutality of the Second World War, and they survived.
The Taliban held on to the belief that Islam would prevail over the Great Satan. It was an unwavering faith, and they won.
Why don’t we have a similar faith in our cause? Do we not want to win? Is there more power and prestige in being the eternal underdog? Do we even know what we’d do if we won?
I am not a conservative, but I know that conservatives enjoy thinking that someone, somewhere, will come riding in on a white horse and in a single decisive battle sweep their enemies away and make things right.
My question is, how? Magic?
I know the evil of my ancestors because I am those people. The balance is delicate in the extreme. I know that few of you who read my words have ever thought about your ancestors this way. It has not occurred to you that your ancestors were survivors and that the survival itself sometimes involved savage decisions, a kind of wanton brutality which civilized humankind works very hard to suppress. What price will you pay for that suppression? Will you accept your own extinction?Frank Herbert
New worlds are not created by wishing. There is a lot of hard work to be done. Brutal work, at times, but the operative word is work. Yet you cannot get from point A to point B without knowing where point B is. And we’ve had more than our fill of point A.
So what then? What would a better future look like; and not a utopia. While dystopias are painfully real, utopia is a dangerous pipe-dream that produces naught but bodies in mass graves.
What do I see? I see a world where . . .
. . . the righteous are not chased to the jail cell or the gallows . . .
. . . our buildings and physical spaces reflect the pursuit of beauty, harmony, and truth . . .
. . . our promise of laws equally applied is upheld.
. . . power rests with those who have proven worthy of it . . .
. . . respect is reserved for those who deserve it . . .
. . . loyalty and faith are no longer dirty words . . .
. . . men of strength and action take their rightful places . . .
. . . there is a place, a reason to exist, for those who are not powerful . . .
. . . we are ready to fight those who would do us harm; not our own citizens . . .
. . . those who had nearly brought us to the brink of damnation are hunted for sport . . .
. . . the poor and the weak are not someone else’s problem . . .
. . . the natural world is allowed to thrive under careful stewardship . . .
. . . we find new frontiers to explore . . .
. . . people can gather as they see fit, save that which is inimical to thriving is not allowed to thrive . . .
. . . a man or woman can truly own what they possess . . .
. . . the decision to reproduce is not made by purely economic considerations . . .
. . . that which is right takes precedence over that which is profitable . . .
. . . corruption is ruthlessly hunted down and excised like the cancer it is . . .
. . . the church bells ring out in towns and cities, unafraid, as unafraid as the people who live there, able to walk and talk and do and live without the constant threat of crime . . .
. . . we no longer give the devil his due . . .
Stories can help us paint the picture. Imagination can help set us free. I don’t know how we will get there. Not yet. But I at least know what I would like to see.