I cannot understand why anyone would think it would be necessary anymore, for either entertainment or enlightenment, to read a novel about a dystopian future. That future is here now. The zombie apocalypse can be experienced for yourself and not simply watched on a small or large screen.
George Orwell, in his novel 1984, envisioned a daily ritual called “two minutes hate” during which the citizens (if you can call them that) of Oceania, the dystopian society, are shown images on a screen in their homes of party enemies. These images elicit a pre-dictated response of screams of hatred from the party faithful and thus serve to remove a person’s individuality, because they all engage in the same response at the same time. No, we don’t currently engage in “two minutes hate. However, we have entire television and talk-radio networks devoted to this kind of thing 24 hours a day!
The government of Oceania monitors its subjects through the use of two-way telescreens, hidden microphones and informants. Orwell wrote this in 1949 when television was in its infancy. He was very prescient but could not foresee how extensive this surveillance would become. He couldn’t know that in so-called democracies, not totalitarian dictatorships, large telecom companies would become willing, no, eager participants in such spying. He wouldn’t understand that citizens of a “free” country would be lulled into a false sense of security and then encouraged to bare their very souls via email and internet searches only to be betrayed by large scale warrant-less search and seizure of said soul-baring.
At least in 1984 the protagonist Winston Smith has an interesting white collar job, even if it did involve rewriting history to suit the narrative that glorifies the party. In 2015 (the reality) White collar high tech professions have become subject to the kind of ham-fisted control and scrutiny once reserved for the most menial of blue collar jobs. It is indeed a teachable moment when Facebook co founder Dustin Moskovitz has to remind us of the wisdom of that great progressive thinker (actually, nativist and anti-Semite) Henry Ford, who realized that by reducing hours worked to a reasonable 40-50 hours per week he could increase productivity. Ford was also smart enough to realize that paying a middle-class wage to his workers actually increased his company’s customer base and benefited his business.
A recent New York Times expose’ of Amazon reveals a corporate culture that seems to encourage bullying. It is a culture that uses high tech tools to enable employees to report negatively on co-workers to their bosses anonymously. Hmm … I wonder how unpopular minorities fare in such an environment? Sounds a bit like 1984, doesn’t it?
At least these workers fare better than those reported on in this story from Allentown, PA newspaper The Morning Call: “This time last year, online retailer Amazon.com had ambulances parked outside its Breinigsville warehouse complex on hot days, with emergency medical personnel ready to take workers suffering from heat injuries to nearby hospitals.” This was due to Amazon’s reluctance to install air conditioning in the 615,000-square-foot warehouse. According to the book Mindless by Simon Head (pg. 43) the company even refused to open loading doors at either end of the warehouse to let air circulate. In temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, a temporary worker in his fifties was made to walk 13 to 15 miles a day, picking 1 item every 30 seconds while getting down on his hands and knees 250 – 300 times a day (Ibid. pg. 42). Oh yes, he was fired for not working fast enough.
Do you see what I mean when I speak of the zombie apocalypse? We are out for blood, aren’t we? And we are indeed eating our young. I don’t even need to cite a source to say that our children, the so-called millennial generation have been screwed royally. I was born at the tail end of the baby boom and I thought that I got the short end of the stick, but, I had no idea what was to come.
Without getting into how privileged my older siblings were, I will only speak of my own experience. I was able to fritter away my youth, abusing drugs and alcohol, while failing at job after job with little consequence. When I finally decided to repent of my foolishness and get serious I was able to return to school, work my way up from lower level jobs into management and live the American dream of a nice home, marriage, kids, two cars, an annual vacation, etc..
Meanwhile, my children who did not indulge in the same indiscretions as I did are being punished for not gaining entry into the right internships or co-ops, or for graduating into the Great Recession. As one recent article put it, Millennials are the best educated, yet, worst paid generation. Like Gil Scott Heron said, they are “Like the forest buried beneath the highway, never had a chance to grow.”
So, the next time you are tempted to indulge in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian fantasy, just look outside your door or better yet turn on the news or go to work. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.