Equal parts amusing and alarming, John Feffer’s dystopian novel, Splinterlands, begins with Hurricane Donald, which floods Washington DC only five years from now. You may deny climate change, Feffer suggests, but Mother Nature will have the last word. She will unleash catastrophes and chaos that, combined with political fragmentation driven by hyper-aggressive capitalism and myopic nationalism, lead to a truly New World (Dis)order, characterized by confessional wars, resource shortfalls, and, within two generations, the end of the world as we know it.
Can “prophets of disintegration” like Donald Trump, driven by “market authoritarianism” and their own hubris, remake the world in their own chaotic image? Feffer makes a persuasive case that they can. Instead of seeing “the end of history” as a triumph of liberal democracy and a beneficial global marketplace driven by efficiency and technology, Feffer sees the possibility of factionalism of all sorts, a rejection of tolerance and diversity and the embrace of intolerance, identity politics, and similar exclusionary constructs.
Coincidentally, a cautionary letter from the Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film just crossed my desk; its words encapsulate what Feffer is warning us about. The film directors denounced “the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the US and so many other countries.” The letter goes on to say that:
“The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colors, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on – not only as artists but as humans: the diversity of cultures, the chance to be enriched by something seemingly ‘foreign’ and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better. These divisive walls prevent people from experiencing something simple but fundamental: from discovering that we are all not so different.”
The problem, of course, is that many people prefer divisive walls, while finding meaning in fanaticism, nationalism, and the politics of difference. We are now, Feffer writes, in a period of Great Polarization. His book is about what will happen if that polarization wins out. He writes:
“The middle dropped out of the world. Extremes of wealth and ideology flourished. Political moderates became an endangered species and ‘compromise’ just another word for ‘appeasement.’ First came the disagreements over regulatory policy, then sharper political divides. Finally, as the world quick-marched itself back through history, came the return of the war of all against all. The EU, committed to the golden mean, had no way of surviving in such an environment without itself going to extremes.”
The result? By the 2020s, the EU “evaporated like so much steam.” With Brexit ongoing, with the EU under increasing stress daily, Feffer’s scenario of an evaporating EU seems more than plausible.
Meanwhile, another breaking news item just crossed my desk: President Trump is seeking a $54 billion increase to America’s defense budget, to be funded by deep cuts to other federal agencies such as the EPA and Education. Trump and his team see the world as a dangerous place, and the military as the best and only means to “protect” America, as in “America first.” But by its nature the U.S. military is a global force, and more money for it means more military adventurism, driving further warfare, fragmentation, and chaos, consistent with Feffer’s vision of a future “splinterlands.”
As one of Feffer’s characters says, “There’s always been enormous profits in large-scale suffering.” Feffer’s dystopic novel — like our real world today — features plenty of that. People suffer because of climate change. Energy shortages. Wars. Water shortages. Even technology serves to divide rather than to unite people, as many increasingly retreat into virtual “realities” that are far more pleasant than the real world that surrounds them.
Feffer’s book, in short, is provocative in the best sense. But will it provoke us to make wiser, more inclusive, more compassionate, more humane choices? That may be too much to ask of any book, but it’s not too much to ask of ourselves and our leaders. The dystopic alternative, illustrated so powerfully in Feffer’s Splinterlands, provides us with powerful motivation to shape a better, less splintered, future.
3 thoughts on “Splinterlands: A Dystopic Novel for Our Trumpian Age”
Speaking of dystopias, real and imagined, I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears — thank goodness I didn’t have to smell this steaming pile of crap — when Al-Qaeda’s propaganda franchise in Syria, the so-called “white helmets,” won an Academy Award for Best Work in a Fake Documentary. As Moon of Alabama puts it:
One of this years prizes went to a fake “documentary” about a fake “rescuer” group which makes and distributes fake videos, staged photos and fake victims of the war on Syria. These al-Qaeda propaganda sidekicks, the White Helmets, are a British disinformation operation that is financed by more than $100 million of U.S. and UK taxpayer money. Its general task is to convince the “western” public that the war on Syria is justified because of the “cruelty of the Syrian government” which the fakes intend to establish in the mind of its consumers.
Hollywood never was shy of taking government money to promote war on this or that country or “enemy”. The Pentagon’s liaison office in Hollywood finances many movies. If there are some tanks needed and military heroes in a script the Pentagon will organize the props, real tanks and soldiers, at no cost – provided of course that it can read and “correct” the script the way it sees fit. The makers of “Top Gun” need planes, air craft carriers and lots of explosions? No problem at all and at no costs to the producers. In exchange military recruitment staff will wait to trap moviegoers when they leave the theaters. Congress will happily pass the money for more useless planes.
An Academy Award reinforces the message a production carries and gives the people behind the message additional value. The marketing companies that create and run the “White Helmets” will surely receive a few extra millions for yesterday’s Oscar promotion.
Hollywood is all fake. The wrong winner is announced and al-Qaeda gets an Oscar. “No harm done,” the promoters of such fakes might say.
Except to the people of Syria. For them the destruction and death promoted by the fancy people in Los Angeles is all too real.
Forget about that ostensible dystopian future. Hollywood has just assured us that our own dystopia exists right now, as George Orwell predicted halfway through the last century.
The formation and funding of the White Helmets as an act of such deliberate deceit is bad enough. But Netflix and Hollywood have to promote and glorify it too. My God how awful. Of course Netflix promotes another trash “documentary” called “Winter on Fire,” which may as well have been produced by the CIA, while a real documentary, “Ukraine on Fire” gets buried.
“Except to the people of Syria. For them the destruction and death promoted by the fancy people in Los Angeles is all too real.”
Should we shout…should we scream?
October 23, 2016 at 5:32 pm
The fake “citizen rescuer” White Helmets are a pro-terrorist propaganda project, created by the UK and US and “fact-checked” by the fake “citizen investigative journalists” at Bellingcat.
Propaganda launderers like Bellingcat, the White Helmets, and the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights are employed as deception conduits by the more aggressive factions in Western governments, which seek to sabotage peace efforts in Ukraine, Syria and other parts of the world.
NGOs: Grassroots Empowerment or Tool of Information Warfare?
Eliot Higgins’ “confirmation” of the 2013 Ghouta gas attack was debunked. In fact, the Ghouta attack was perpetrated by the same Al-Nusra forces the US currently is struggling to defend.
Numerous Higgins and Bellingcat “confirmations” of terrorist groups’ allegations against Syria and Russia have been debunked. But the allegations were never meant to be proven. The propaganda was and is meant to be inserted into the “news cycle” for political leverage.
Syria (since 2011), including Aleppo (since 2012) has been under siege by terrorist armies backed by multiple US allies, including Israel and NATO member state Turkey.
US proxies are nearing defeat in Aleppo, forcing the US to risk direct armed conflict with Syria and Russia.
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