Dystopia

No one’s quite sure when it started. Was it ten years ago, when the iPhone (those concentrations of alienation) came out? Or was it a year later, when the economy collapsed? Or was it when Obama sent his first unmanned predator drone off to take out his first target? Some maintain it was earlier. Many, for instance, pin it to 9 – 11. That’s when our dystopia began, they argue. Others date it from the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the recount in Florida, installing George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Others, still, maintain that no singular event created our dystopia. Growing for hundreds of years, it’s indistinct from that melange of nationalism, religion, scientism, and capitalism that comprises hegemonic culture (a culture inseparable from barbarism, as its weaponized drones and nuclear bombs amply demonstrate). Stalled at some points, even pushed back in places, our dystopia’s been accelerating for decades. The root of the ongoing sixth great extinction (in which not only whales and tigers but even bees are now an endangered species), it’s inseparable from the ecological desecration, global warming, and oceanic dead zones it produces – spreading poverty, slums, disease, desertification, drought, famine… One might be tempted to add war to this list. But war is not a result of these calamities so much as its cause (a cause as well as an effect in the autocatalytic advance of dystopia), not just the classic hot war, but cold war, class war, civil war, and multiple combinations of these. War’s ubiquitous. Not just in newspapers, movies, tv, and fashion, but in our daily lives. It’s why we work as much as we do. It’s why we pay rent – to those sedentary warlords: landlords. We live it – to varying degrees. Class war at work. Class war on the streets. Cold civil war turning hot in fits and starts. Just look at the cops, the militarized police.

To be sure, it is a mark of the depth of our dystopia that we regard war and work as not only distinct but as necessary and inevitable. And peace, when we think of it at all, is thought of as either the conditions necessary for the smoother, more efficient pursuit of war, or entirely utopian – just as justice is conceived of as utopian, when it’s not regarded as retribution, as opposed to the radical transformation of the dystopia that reproduces injustice itself.

Like work, workdays and schooldays are thought of as inevitable, too – as inevitable as the planets’ orbits – operating like so many conveyor belts… leading each of us to our personal deaths (where, the doxa from Nike apprises us, we will finally be allowed to rest).

This dystopia will hardly begin on Friday, when Trump is sworn in as president. His ascension, however, does illustrate an intensification.

As such, resistance to Trump mustn’t simply aim to recover an earlier dystopianism. In the fog of (class) war, we mustn’t mistake our enemy’s enemy for a friend. Rather, we must advance beyond our dystopia, toward a classless society. Or the fog of class war, even more toxic than the carcinogenic air we all breathe, will asphyxiate us all.

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Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber

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