The Utopia of the Progressive is a Dystopia for the rest of us. Armed with his theories about how we all ought to live, the Progressive is the man behind the terror, murder, privation, and misery of one revolution and one absolutist regime after another. The Progressive is O'Brien. We are Winston and Julia.
I recently read a good deal of truth in a lowly form, the television tie-in novel. The novel is The Prisoner #2: Number Two by David McDaniel (Ace, 1969). (To tie things together nicely, I found the book at PulpFest.) Here is a quote:
Number Six: Most people who want to run other people's lives for them are theoreticians. (p. 54)
The Progressive is a theoretician, a systematizer, a purveyor of truth, reason, and rationality, an author of weighty tomes and fiery manifestos. Dissatisfied with himself and with his fellow human beings, he wishes to remake us in the image of his theory and system. Many millions may have to die in the process, but that is as it should be. As for the rest of us--not the theoretician himself, of course, but the rest of us--we are consigned to Dystopia.
A theoretician and practitioner of Dystopia is in the news today (Sat., Aug. 22, 2015). Ieng Thirith, eighty-three years old and onetime leader in the Khmer Rouge, has died. She and her fellow theoreticians were murderers and their victims numbered in the millions. Mrs. Ieng came from the middle class as murderous theoreticians tend to come. Educated in the West, she was a scholar of Shakespeare and a teacher of literature. She was also a Marxist, and as Marxists do, she turned against her own middle class. If you wore eyeglasses or were a teacher in Cambodia in the 1970s, you were as good as dead. And then you were dead, with your skull and your eyeglasses piled up as in a midden outside a monster's cave.
Intended or not, the endpoint of progressivism is Dystopia, and because human beings are and shall be free, Dystopia, if it is ever brought about, eventually decays, dissolves, or is overthrown, only for the cycle to begin again. One difference now over past theories and projections of Dystopia is that technology may allow for more perfect control over human beings. The test of our humanity will be whether we submit or rebel, the same choice faced by Number Six in his seaside prison, The Village, and the same choice faced by every one of us every day.
In addition to writing about the need to overthrow the dead, cannibalistic past, Jeff VanderMeer has written about Dystopia and related topics. His essay is called "Redefining Utopia and Dystopia or Post-Apoc," it's dated July 15, 2015, and you can read it by clicking here. If you are skeptical of the connection between progressivism and a yearning for Utopia/Dystopia, you might find something to help turn your opinion in Mr. VanderMeer's essay.
First I should say that "Redefining Utopia and Dystopia or Post-Apoc" seems to me a loose and unfocused bit of writing. It isn't exactly clear to me what Mr. VanderMeer is trying to say. I'll just offer some quotes:
In referring to a term, "hyperobjects," the author writes:
. . . any term we do use had better be complex enough to really help us make a paradigm shift in our thinking, because the very problems we face have occurred because we’re too simplistic in our thinking.
His words remind me of words spoken by Christiana Figueres, a robot-creature of the United Nations and a fellow theoretician:
This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.
To translate: "paradigm shift" = "intentionally transform" = forced change = progress.
That's just the warmup. Here's the kicker from Jeff VanderMeer:
What may be required is that we redefine Dystopia and Utopia, perhaps not so much along the lines of "do we have things or do we not have things"--less about a middle-class idea of happiness--and more along the lines of what do we need to do to be less intrusive on the landscape and to be more adaptive to it. If that lessening is "dystopia" then maybe dystopia isn't a bad place to be.
Desolate is not depressing. Empty is not depressing. These are human constructs, values we apply to the diminishment of human beings or the thought of the diminishment of human beings.
The subject of "Redefining Utopia and Dystopia or Post-Apoc," like Ms. Figueres' speech, is global warming, but I think there is a larger idea at work here. Global warming is not primarily a scientific issue. Global warming is politics masquerading as science. And as we know, politics contaminates anything with which it is mixed. That's a minor point. The larger point is that progressives like O'Brien, Number 2, Ieng Thirith, Christiana Figueres, and apparently Jeff VanderMeer, instead of living and allowing other people to live, have developed complex and abstruse theories about living; have decided that we all must change how we think and live to meet their theories; are prepared to deprive us of our rights and freedom for that purpose; and wish to usher in a Utopia/Dystopia through which they plan on having us all more fully under their control. In his essay, Jeff VanderMeer appears to be doing some softening up: "maybe dystopia isn't a bad place to be." He also seems open or welcoming to the possibility of a "diminishment of human beings." By what method? Ieng Thirith had one. Maybe that's too extreme for him.
My question for anyone who would like to see human beings diminished is this: Why don't you diminish yourself? Or if you believe in global warming, this: Why are continuing to pollute the atmosphere--our atmosphere--with your exhalations? Or if you believe there are too many people in the world, this: Who exactly do you think should be eliminated? Or better yet: Why are you still here? Be the change you wish to see in the world, as Gandhi said, and remove yourself from the equation. Or do you lack the courage of your own convictions?
Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley