Putting the life back in science fiction


Dystopias in the time of Bannon
February 13, 2017, 12:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just a quick thought and update.  There are two reasons I’m not writing much here.  One is that I’m swamped with environmental work.  With the combination of a wet spring (good for botanizing), four separate EIRs to comment on and more coming in every week, and two botanical papers to write, I haven’t been concentrating so much on climate change.  Then there’s the current political climate, which has me reading about non-violent conflict.  Yes, I’m a scholar at heart, and I respond to slow-motion crises by hitting the library first.  This second leads to my quick thought for the day:  given that we in the US have a capitol infested with wingnuts, the leader of which seems to believe in a (expletive deleted) theory of cycles of history that regenerate in cataclysms, how does one talk about the process and aftermath of severe climate change without feeding into the wingnut narrative?

It’s not that I believe that climate change is a manifestation of our collective hallucinatory angst.  Rather, I’m concerned about how the (alt) right is dealing with the idea that things are going to get much worse.  For some (cf  various members of the alt-right), their solution is to kill all their competitors (usually defined by skin color and/or religion), so as to be the metaphorical last cock standing on the manure pile, there to sire the new order on any surviving hens (or some such).  Some are back into doomsday prepping, including the super-rich.

While I agree we are in hot water climate wise and the news keeps getting worse, what I worry about is feeding the problem, rather than trying to help people cope and adapt.  As some have noted (see the New Yorker article linked to above), if you’re one of the 0.0001% and worried that the mobs are coming for you with their pitchforks, probably it makes more sense investing in homeless shelters, affordable housing, and generally redistributing some chunk of your hoard, rather than using the exact same amount of money to build your supervillianous secret base on an island somewhere (like, say, New Zealand).   That way you’re a hero with a lot of friends, instead of part of the problem.  That, and no secret lair can survive billions of migrating climate refugees looking for a new home.

So what to say, what to do?  Right now, I figure that the biggest threat is Washington, the best way to deal with it is non-violent resistance, and the best thing I can do is to get educated in that as fast as possible so that I can do useful things.  I’ll share what I’m learning when I can do more than regurgitate what I’ve been reading,* but one thing I have learned, that many have said, is that for non-violent methods to work well, you’ve got to have a positive vision to organize people around.  If you’ve chosen a strategy of not killing, wounding, maiming or vandalizing the enemy,  it works far better to be for something rather than against it, because nonviolence works better with a cause to fight for.  In this regard, talking about how the world’s probably going to hell in a hothouse might be, well, a suboptimal strategy.  It’s still a likely future, but there are so many things we can do to ameliorate it that scaring people with it is more likely to persuade them to buy guns and build walls, rather than reaching out to help the refugees keep their homes.  Perhaps these ameliorative measures need to be the focus for now, and not the collapse of civilization?  What do you think.

*If you want to see what I’m reading, go to the Albert Einstein Institution and start reading.  And supporting them.  And telling others, if this is your kind of thing, or if you want to find out what the alt-right and Tea Party have been doing to us for the last few years.  And if you happen to think that non-violence is for pacifistic wimps, and you’ve got to be Gandhi to make it work, then the key question is, why do workers demanding better conditions do better with strikes (non-violence) than with sabotaging their plant (violence)?  Non-violent resistance is such a pervasive part of our landscape, from denials of service to protest letters, that we seldom think about how pervasive it is and how effective it can be.  The problem right now is that, to be successful against a superpower, it’s got to be really, really organized, and that’s why everyone who is getting involved needs to scramble up that learning curve.  Disorganized protests are kind of useful, but they also waste a lot of energy, and we’re in for at least four years of conflict, whether we’re directly involved or not.

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2 Comments so far
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Yes, reading, learning, are my instincts. too. But there comes a time, a circumstance, that Chris Hedges describes (maybe quoting H. Arendt?) as “I can’t”.

Comment by petra gallert

Maybe the uber rich haven’t been told that if they kill off everyone else there will be no one around to actually, y’know, make stuff for them. And if the uber rich then decide that they’ll spare some trusted/favored serfs, they should also need to make sure that these spared servants are intelligent enough to run complex equipment. Interesting dilemma: make sure tech/toys work vs. brain-dead toadie.

Canada’s PM is visiting DT in DC today. From what I’ve read, JT is DT’s polar opposite – more into working with than against folk. (He even apologizes, heartfully!) Their relationship will provide insight into what works and what doesn’t. The other power levers are DT’s family – unfortunately there’s no reliable info on that dynamic and we know that whatever DT initially says that a complete 180 may be forthcoming.

Comment by SFreader




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