Dystopia through the Looking Glass


The redoubtable Christian Science Monitor has become less and less relevant lately, less frequently touching important issues in objective ways in the manner that made those of us familiar with it respect it so.  Still, from time to time it touches important issues.  One was published on October 19 of this calamitous 2018.  “Risk of a new civil war? Today ‘us and them’ differs from 1850s”, an interesting article by staff writer Peter Grier.

The article posits that despite contextual similarities we share with the pre-United States Civil War era, a new civil war will not occur in the United States for a number of reasons. I sincerely hope Mr. Grier is correct but I am not quite as optimistic, although I too, for different reasons, agree with his conclusion.

As is not unusual with the Christian Science Monitor, it seems a bit too concerned with being even handed and optimistic to reflect naked and vicious realities, but it is still useful.  The article lacks international context, the manner in which our real and metaphoric wars have ripped the veneer of civility from our domestic political extremes, how the way Eisenhower’s prescient warnings concerning the military industrial complex and Orwell’s prescience concerning how the media would become the source of disinformation rather than the accurate and complete information necessary to make real democracy function have become realities rather than warnings.  The confluence of the Law of Unexpected Consequences on technological innovation which has made the world a less and less equal place and seems headed towards making much of human labor obsolete with disastrous socioeconomic consequences as technology’s benefits are hoarded by the very few, the most powerful and least egalitarian.  Our masters.

The truth, I fear, is that civil conflict is closer than the author’s optimistic perspective makes it seem.  Lack of civility and calls to violence from Clinton – Obama faux liberals misrepresented as representing the collectivist left are creating an environment to which the well-armed individualist right may react with unfortunate consequences; foreseeable consequences but ignored who knows why, either through stupidity or malevolence.  Whether such consequences would be enough to ignite a conflagration rather than mere scattered wildfires seems to be the issue, one I do not perceive as likely in the police state the United States has become.  Not necessarily a good thing as insecurity breeds demands for more security, and the security state more and more rapidly reduces liberty and diversity, self-fulfilling prophecies run amuck.

Of course, the current hyperbolic polarization would be greatly diminished if the duopolous power that rules the United States were fragmented into a real multiparty system and if the monopolistic control of the corporate media were fragmented through open social media, each of us responsible for deciding what is accurate and what is fake news, rather than having that decision made for us by self-declared moral corporate and political elites whose strings are pulled by economic interests.  However, mirage-like, those options seem to fade every year, temporal distances imitating spatial anomalies, as, like Lucy pulling the football away as Charley Brown who futilely seeks to kick it for the thousandth time, we are convinced to vote for the same lesser evils, against the illusion of created threats rather than for those things in which we believe, victory for causes not our own made more important than success in what we know to be right.

Things for us to ponder as the future increasingly slips from our grasp.  Things to think about as November creeps closer and elections again confront us.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2018; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen).  Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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