The thing about dystopias is, they’re only fun to consider if you’re not actually living in one. My guess is a real dystopia is not very interesting, and what is interesting is probably scary.
That said, I was intrigued by President Obama a week or so back, responding to Donald Trump’s latest invocation of fear and loathing. (You’re not safe! You don’t have a job! You have no hope!) The president said something like ‘America is not a dystopia.’ He’s right of course, as you’d expect the adult in the room to be. But did I hear just a little of “he’s trying to convince us” mixed in?
So of course we’re not a dystopia, but one would imagine a dystopia doesn’t happen all at once; you don’t wake up to a blighted landscape, martial law and neighbors from Neuromancer. With that in mind, I note the following from the New York Times front page Saturday:
- “It’s official: America now has a failed state within its borders, just the way Europe has Greece.” Puerto Rico, having stopped paying its debts, becomes “a surreal life on the precipice.”
- “It increasingly looks as if something fundamental is broken in the global growth machine…” from a Neil Irwin piece called “We’re In a Low-Growth World: How Did We Get Here?”
- Self-help guru James Altucher re-defines what self-help means. Money quote: ” “The No. 1 search phrase on Google that takes people to my blog is ‘I want to die,’” Mr. Altucher said.”
Bonus reference: from NPR (and a bunch of other places) “Anthrax Outbreak in Russia Thought to Be Result Of Thawing Permafrost.”
Money quote: “That means anthrax outbreaks in Siberia could occur every summer, she says. And it’s not just anthrax that could be a problem.
“People and animals have been buried in permafrost for centuries. There could be bodies infected with all kinds of viruses and bacteria, frozen in time. She says scientists are just starting look for it.
“So we really don’t know what’s buried up there,” she says. “This is Pandora’s box.” ”
Yes, I know you could cherry pick examples like this every day. Yes, I know you could push back with other, optimistic examples. It’s just that sometimes, it feels like we’re roaring headlong for the 11th century, complete with iPhones.