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Dystopian Prophecy: Can fiction become reality?

By Award Winning Author and Publisher Melissa Roen

At first glance, the idea that dystopian fiction can be a form of prophecy may seem preposterous--or at best, presumptuous.

However, if one takes into account that throughout mankind’s history there’s existed a tradition of storytelling to illustrate and illuminate, this statement may begin to have merit. Indeed, since the dawn of time, our ancestors turned to shamans and prophets for guidance: persons who could translate and explain the mysteries of the unknown. And predict what our future held in store for us.

Before written language came into existence, this expressed itself in an oral form of fables and allegory: stories filled with hidden messages, to teach a moral lesson of a social or political nature.

It may be an author’s fallacy—here’s where the presumptuous, in my hypothesis, is up for debate—to claim that dystopian fiction can be prophetic, but in light of Trump’s ascension to power, it’s not farfetched to maintain that many of his new administration’s actions bear an uncanny resemblance to the dystopian classic 1984, by George Orwell (published on June 8, 1949.)

Since the novel was published scant years after the end of Second World War, most likely, Orwell’s dystopian future was influenced by authoritarian regimes such as Stalin and Hitler’s.

Is Team Trump taking a page from 1984’s handbook? Or is there a case to make that Orwell was a seer, able to predict the rise to power of a demagogue such as Trump, and the real danger his ambition to turn America into a totalitarian-style regime poses to the world?

What purpose does Dystopian fiction serve in literature or film?

In simple terms, dystopia is the polarized mirror image of an idealized utopia. Dystopia is the bad place: a wasteland that comes into existence in the aftermath of a world altering, apocalyptic event. This post-cataclysmic world is written to deliberately frighten readers with dire warnings of what could happen in the future, if they don’t turn way from a certain path. The more plausible the world-building that goes into creating the story, the more effective it can be in driving home the moral lesson. To achieve this, an author needs to lay a foundation of intelligent, thought-provoking themes, so readers heed the subliminal warning and question: Could this possibly happen if we don’t change?

Dystopian themes in fiction can warn of various future dangers. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, humans are mass produced using a factory production line to underscore fear of industrial advances.

In Ridley Scotts’ Blade Runner, replicant androids are created to serve as menial slaves for the benefit of humans. They mutiny and turn on their creators, highlighting the risk of computers and artificial intelligence, eventually, becoming too advanced and more intelligent than us.

Other dystopian-themed storylines may be set in a future where the world becomes a polluted cesspool due to corporate and governmental greed: barely able to support life, while the richest live in luxurious, artificially-created, green environments as the masses choke to death amongst the filth of a dying world.

Frightening fiction? Yes! But, the underlying message can be one of redemption for humanity. If we learn from our mistakes and turn back before we go too far, we can avoid our mutual destruction…

Is our present-day world poised on the brink of a dystopian future?

A dystopian world comes into being after a cataclysmic event. The tipping point to such event may start slowly, like a contagious, microscopic organism that exponentially spreads outward until it infects the world. It can be as earthshattering as a meteor strike, or nuclear war and the resulting breakdown of civilized society. Or the catalyst can be as simple as the election of the “right” man…

The great political shifts of 2016—Brexit and the election of an impulsive, ruthless and autocratic U.S. president, contemptuous of, and intent on circumventing constitutional democracy to increase his power--have left us in unchartered waters. In a matter of less than a year we find ourselves facing a far more dangerous future, fueled by the ascendance of xenophobia, intolerance and the real specter of global war.

Since Trump’s election, the famed Doomsday Clock has been advanced thirty seconds. It’s now at two and a half minutes to midnight in warning that the end of humanity may be near. The keepers of the Doomsday Clock, the Atomic Scientist’s Science and Security Board cited the following in advancing the symbolic clock: “The global landscape darkened as the international community failed to come to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change.”

The organization also referenced the election of Trump for their decision. Trump ticks all the boxes. A climate change denier, Trump said he won’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first response, and emphasized the importance of being “unpredictable about using them” to keep enemies off-balance. He even said, he wouldn’t take off the table using nuclear weapons in Europe--as Europe is, and I quote: “A big place.” Huh?!?!

Could a dark dystopian wasteland be coming soon to a country near you? If the wrong choices are made; the wrong path taken. Or the wrong tiny finger presses the launch button.

Current politics as a plot for fiction:

If an author is inspired to write a dystopian novel based on present times—he, or she, need not look far--many of the key elements and characters are already in place:

Cast of Characters:

Supreme Leader: In developing the character of an evil antagonist, a malignant narcissist--the clinical definition of which is a combination of narcissism, anti-social personality disorder, aggression and sadism--would be the perfect choice. Did I mention that Trump wants to bring back torture and much worse?

Unfortunately, the Un-United States’ newly elected president exhibits the requisite traits. Add into the mix: delusions of personal grandeur and a charismatic personality; fiction begins to approach reality. To give the devil his due, even though one may find his policies abhorrent and his personality repulsive, Trump’s a master showman. Even while one’s head spins from the daily onslaught of scandals and outrageous lies, it’s hard to look away.

At this moment in time, he’s the most powerful man in the world. However, only a month into his presidency, hints of mental instability--including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality—begs one to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities and rigor of office.

And the question that begs to be answered: How much longer will someone who controls the power to destroy the world be able to control himself?

His Henchmen:

Remember, Trump is not acting alone in a vacuum. His limited attention span, preening ego and inability to grasp complex issues leaves him malleable for manipulation.

Shadow President: Enter Steve Bannon, political strategist, white supremacist and apocalyptic-visionary extraordinaire, who’s spent years honing his frightening world view and has the unique opportunity to put his rhetoric and vision into practice.

Bannon is obsessed with the idea that America’s destiny lies in a dark-world-history-theory described in the book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, written by Willian Strauss and Neil Howe. The authors hypothesize that history moves in eighty to one hundred year cycles, each one climaxing in a violent cataclysm that destroys the old order and replaces it with a new order, forged through a trial of fire. In the short history of America, the authors claim that there’ve been three such societal upheavals: the revolutionary war, the civil war and the second world war.

Bannon claims present-day America is ripe for the “Fourth Turning” and aspires to be the architect of a totalitarian new order, which will mastermind America’s new destiny. But first, there will be a massive reckoning of dread, decay and conflict, where many lives are lost, before the building of the new order can begin. He’s never been secretive about using Trump to achieve his vision. He told Vanity Fair last summer: “Trump is a blunt instrument for us…I don’t know whether he really gets that or not.”

Bannon’s vision can only be brought about by propagating total chaos and social upheaval. Old alliances, existing institutes and the foundation of constitutional democracy must be eradicated. In his own words: “I want to bring it all crashing down and destroy today’s establishment.”

The chaos has already begun. The seemingly rough and disorganized start to Trump’s administration, amid a blitzkrieg of executive orders, may be deliberately orchestrated to disrupt, disorient and divide. Besieging your targets until nothing makes any sense--giving them no time to absorb or recover from attacks--is a time-tested strategy of war and authoritarian takeovers. It’s especially effective when the leader is vulnerable to possible investigations or blackmail, and has a finite window to consolidate his power. Trump’s first month in office has been a whirlwind of distract, deflect and deny. With all the fireworks going off, who’s investigating Trump's tax returns, his conflicts of interest, or digging deeper into his Russian ties?

If one still has doubts this is intentional, his special counselor Kellyanne Conway gleefully tweeted: “Get used to it. @POTUS is a man of action and impact ... Shock to the system. And he's just getting started.” Don’t say we haven’t been warned.

However, Bannon's vision of American destiny is even more frightening than at first glance. It appears his lust for bloodshed will only be satiated by igniting a global conflict of epic proportions: pitting Western culture versus Eastern for world dominance. He longs to incite World War Three: a blood-drenched, savage war that will kill millions--out of whose ashes will rise a cleansed and more dominant America.

It’s a terrifying vision. I don’t know about you, but when madmen relish the coming of global conflagration and don’t discount the nuclear option to achieve it—granted, I haven’t seen angels blowing trumpets and brandishing swords, yet— but doesn’t it seems like things are getting just a teensy-bit apocalyptic around here?

Evil sidekick: There’s a new face making the rounds as spokesperson on Sunday talk shows. The previously low-profile, but equally-fanatic-white-supremacist presidential policy advisor Stephen Miller has slithered out of the shadows. An outspoken opponent of multi-culturalism and diversity, he allegedly displayed intense hatred towards people of color and gay students during his high-school days at Santa Monica High.

Little Steve cut his chops as former communication director for high-profile racist and newly-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A conservative media darling, Miller found his spiritual home at Breitbart News and was brought into the fold by Steve Bannon to be a co-architect of Trump administration’s malevolent policies. A speechwriter, he helped Bannon write the cheerful “American Carnage” inauguration speech. And co-drafted Trump’s controversial Muslim travel ban.

An acolyte of Bannon’s violent, totalitarian plot, Miller is not in the least disheartened by the protests against, and judicial opposition to, Team Trump’s Muslim travel ban. The most telling exchange came when John Dickerson of CBS’s Face the Nation asked him, “What has the White House--you all--learned from this experience with executive orders?”

Ominously, Steve Miller promised: “Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned…” Holy moly! Will not be questioned? Looks to me like the regime is doubling down.

High Priestess of Propaganda: War is Peace! Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Oh, Kellyanne Conway--only you could convince us that the Ministry of Love is a great name for a prison. Or that we should honor the fallen of the Bowling Green Massacre.

Previously, there was only one way to look at the truth: either the truth is based on facts, or it’s--without equivocation--a lie. With the advent of Kellyanne, now there’s a new way: the “Con” Way. As spokesperson for the new dictatorship, her lies are legion and becoming legendary. Alas, the list is too long to detail in such a short article.

Suffice to say, listening to Kellyanne shapeshift the truth--with such smug, blonde confidence and that little smile of disdain, which tells us she thinks we’re all rubes--feels like being slipped a tab of LSD and falling down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe: where up is down and the sky is green.

Storm Troopers: Trump’s base are loyal, red-blooded Americans: gleefully vindictive and willingly blind. Their beloved leader won. Maybe not fair and square, but whose splitting Russian hairs? No matter what facts you wave under their noses, no matter what scandals erupt, or blatant lies are told by him, they believe in their messiah. No logic can persuade them otherwise. They drank the Kool-aide and there ain’t no coming back.

During the heady days of Trump’s rallies—bashing minorities, Sieg Heil! salutes and threatening Mexicans and adherents of the Islamic faith--his base was locked and loaded; ready to re-fight the Civil War, with a Confederate victory this time around. One would think, what with their man’s unexpected trouncing of those fragile snowflake-liberal-crybabies, they would become more emboldened.

But since Trump’s sparsely attended inauguration they’ve become strangely subdued…Of course, his more rancorous supporters can still be counted on to crawl out of the woodworks online for the Mandatory Two Minute Hate circa 1984.

From his more mainstream supporters, one senses bewilderment in regards to the motivation and resolve behind the massive protests, following Trump’s inauguration and in opposition to his Muslim travel ban. There’s a plaintive quality in the more reasonable supporters’ voices as they plead for unity: “Come on, Trump’s our elected president. We should all get behind him …He’s gonna make America Great again. Can’t you give the guy a chance?”

It’s almost as if their feelings are hurt that those damn snowflakes aren’t playing fair, by not getting with the program! And have the gall to stand up in protest, instead of melting into a puddle of quivering libtard goo.

Seriously, what are Trump supporters smoking? The stakes are not the same as a Friday night high school football game, where the best team wins. Then, we all hug after the match and sing the school fight song around a bonfire.

Let’s not equivocate, his policies are racially and religiously targeted, besides being unconstitutional. Forget about this unity B.S.--all his policies are going to do is make America hate again. Bottom line, turning back the clock to restore white privilege by discriminating against minorities; destroying the environment; violating treaties and defiling Native American sovereign lands to further enrich the fossil fuel industry, or install a Christian theocracy, while suppressing civil rights—too name just a few--aren’t representative of the values, which more than half the country holds dear.

Yes, Trump may have been marginally-elected on a platform of scapegoats to focus the anger of his base. But not every American looks at a Muslim and sees a terrorist. Not every American looks at a Mexican and thinks rapist or drug dealer. Not every American sees a refugee and feels their way of life will be threatened if one holds out a helping hand to, and welcomes, those in dire need. Many look beyond the sordid, racial-profiling rhetoric and see a fellow human being, the same as you and I…

Trump supporters may be better armed with assault rifles and handguns than their anti-Trump fellow Americans. The Republicans hold the majority in the legislative branch to enact his agenda. But, there’s one thing they didn’t count on. In spite of Trump’s best effort to sow divisiveness, fear and hatred, he’s brought a significant portion of the country together under one banner; one cause. Thanks to him, there has been born…

The Resistance:

In the first full month of his presidency, Trump’s incipient tyranny is gathering force. With a Republican majority in Congress unwilling to cross him, the job of containing Trump’s disregard for the constitution and his abuse of power falls to three groups: the nation’s judges, its independent press and the state governments, whom have made a public stand in opposition to his policies.

Indeed, the wealthiest—with 2015 nominal GPD of $2.46 trillion; ranked as the 6th largest economy in the world; thirty percent of its population Hispanic or immigrant—and most progressive state in the nation has set its path on a collision course with Trump’s regime. Governor Jerry Brown drew a line in the sand by declaring California a sanctuary state that will not enforce deportations, nor accede to Trump’s controversial ban, unconstitutional executive orders, or environmentally-destructive policies.

As in any sci fi novel or film, worth its salt--cue to Star Wars--while the dark force spreads its deadly power, a flame of resistance is born to stand against the coming storm. Just maybe, hopefully, the Golden State, through its resistance to Trump’s cruel policies, will become a beacon of hope and a symbol of sanctuary in the bleak days ahead.

Indeed, with Washington State’s attorney general leading the fight against Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban, it appears that the whole West Coast—and not just Cali—might be ready to Exit.

However, the real power and the deciding factor in the fight for America’s soul and destiny lies with a giant who has recently awoken…the people of America, and their allies around the world. There’s been a quickening in the aftermath of Trump’s shocking electoral victory. A flicker of awareness has grown and spread. The paralysis and dark despair that gripped the hearts and minds of so many in November, has ceded to a renewal of hope and civic activism as ordinary people are awakening to the power they wield.

Their message is one of hatred and intolerance, whose sole purpose is to divide us.

We have the tools at our disposal to peacefully oppose them. Our strength is our numbers. We don’t need to go quietly into the night. We can stand up and resist. Make our voices heard to bring about positive change. We must keep our hearts and minds open. Continue to strive towards creating a just and enlightened society.

They want the country—the world--to be angry and fearful, because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow…

We want a different America. An America, whose heart is compassionate enough, whose arms are strong enough to embrace and shelter all.

The stage is set. Now, we’ll have to see how the story unfolds…


Melissa Roen has published two novels and in two languages, her native English and also in French: 'Last Call for Caviar' and 'Maya Rising'.

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017    Section: General Articles
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