Monday, February 13, 2017

Let's Talk About Dystopian Novels

In recent weeks liberals have shown a sudden interest in dystopian novels, and NPR has been interviewing Margaret Atwood, of The Handmaid's Tale. What's next in dystopia, asks NPR?
People have been devouring The Handmaid's Tale, 1984, Brave New World, It Can't Happen Here and The Plot Against America — so what's the next book we'll be reporting on?
Atwood thinks that things are moving too fast for book publishing. She looks for some newspaper serialization, week by week.

Now it happens that I went to Paris last week, and therefore endured a couple of 3-movie flights. That's how I measure long-distance flights. The important number is not the number of hours, but the number of movies you can watch in between meals and snack breaks.

So I watched Divergent, the movie adaptation of the dystopian Young Adult novel by Veronica Roth about a post-Armageddon Chicago where society is organized into five Factions and ne'er the five shall meet. It's the resolution of a blame game. Those that blame aggression for the sins of the world belong to Amity, those that blame ignorance belong to Erudite, those that blame duplicity belong to Candor, those that blame selfishness belong to Abnegation, and those that blame cowardice belong to Dauntless. Then there is the underclass; they are the rejected factionless.

Of course, the old dystopian novels were teaching us about mid-century totalitarianism in 1984, Animal Farm. And before that there was Brave New World that satirized the benevolent rule of the educated administrative expert. And they were peculiarly attractive to adolescents. "Everyone" read them as teenagers, and I would have read the SF juvenilia like Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Space Cadet as well if I had known about them.

Now, I have read Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, about a North America ruled by fundamentalist Christians that use handmaids to slake their sexual thirst when their wives become too old to be rogered. And I think it fundamentally misunderstands the world view of fundamentalist Christians, who are not that interested in power and would probably not imagine that they could create a fundamentalist Christian state. But what would Margaret Atwood know about real Christians, as opposed to the liberal bad dream about them?

What fascinates me is the new genre of dystopian novels, like J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series, and Veronica Roth's  Divergent series, all of which have been made into blockbuster movies, and all written by women. What is going on?

I interpret Harry Potter as the simple angst of the creative artist in a world of ordinaries, wizards eternally bothered by muggles: the toils of the People of the Creative Self condemned to live in a world of the People of the Responsible (and dull) Self.

But The Hunger Games and Divergent seem to me to be darker, and satirizing the world that liberals have given us. What are we to think of the Capitol of corrupt superficial overlords and the miserable Districts dying of despair, forced to fight to the death in a humiliating reality show hosted by the awful Caesar Flickerman every year? Is that not today's liberal dystopia to a T?

What most affects me is that the heroes of these novels are teenage girls. Maybe this is just because the prime readership is teenage girls since the boys are all playing Minecraft. But why are the girls having to fight to the death? Is this just the feminism of the authors giving us diversity or is it something deeper?

See I think that the big untold story of society today is that young women are subjected to a cruel sexual predation, consequent upon the sexual revolution, for which young women everywhere are ill prepared and always were. The fact is that young women are helpless before the first man that comes to them whispering sweet words of love. I interpret the hysterical campus sexual assault movement as a reaction to the impossible position in which young women are placed by the campus hook-up culture which, with the sexual revolution, has removed romance from the dance of the sexes. The whole point of fathers protecting their daughters was not patriarchal oppression but experience protecting naiveté.

What is a young woman to do and how is she to live when male protection from sexual predation is removed? We see this in a limit case in the harrowing A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in a Conquered City by Anonymous. When women are left unprotected in a conquered city they try to protect themselves by prostituting themselves to the officers, the more senior the better. And they hide the teenage girls in the attic.

So what about today's scene in which you read about the ubiquity of sex before the first date? What have we done when we have stripped sex of its romance and its drama?

Maybe the great liberal contribution to the world is to drag the teenage girls out of the attic and make them into campus sex slaves. The result is Mattress Girl, a young woman enraged by the disappointments of hook-up sex.

I feel also for the rage and the humiliation that our liberal friends are feeling with the presidency of Donald Trump, I really do. I can see how they think that the election of Trump is equivalent to a rape and that it really could happen here and that 1984 proves it.

But I also think that liberals should get out a bit more. And see How the Other Half Lives.

To me it all comes down to the verdict of Charles Murray's Coming Apart. Life is good for liberals in today's America. Of course it is, they made it so.

But for the bottom 30 percent, the men don't work much, and the women don't marry much. I would call that dystopia, and I suspect that The Hunger Games and Divergent are telling us something about the world that liberals made.

As Colonel Pickering sang to Henry Higgins: You Did It!

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