More and more people every day are waking up, as if from a long sleep, to see that the nation we grew up in has somehow morphed into something unrecognizable to us. The surreal events occurring in our news have been prompting what seems to be at least one column a week noting the similarities between modern-day America and a fiction novel. But we reassure ourselves that we are smarter than the characters in a book. We have seen history and know what to avoid. It could never happen here, right? Wrong. Anything can happen here.
Probably the most common comparison I see is that something is “Orwellian”. Over 50 years ago, George Orwell wrote his classic novel, 1984. Winston Smith, the protagonist of the novel, finds himself in a society where government, “Big Brother”, now wields total power over the people, for their own sake, of course. The politicians in the book have now perverted language to such as extent that words have lost their meaning. The Ministry of Truth’s main purpose is to spread lies and propaganda. Forced labor camps are renamed “joycamps”. The ruling party’s slogans are WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH and so on. Smith rebels against this nightmarish world and clings to his sanity, reassuring himself in the truth of certain facts. Even when he is captured to be reeducated, he mentally resists as long as possible. Finally, Winston Smith, his spirit broken in the end, traces “2+2=5” on a table.
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, is another book I see mentioned quite a bit. In fact, earlier this year I read that sales of the book had tripled what they were last year, and that the Ayn Rand Center attributed the rise to the uncanny similarities between the plot-line of the book and events of our day. There was an article a couple of months ago in the Wall Street Journal that stated:
“With each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ parodied in 1957 … .”
The journalist then gave a small synopsis of the novel: “Politicians invariably respond to crises – that in most cases they themselves created – by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs … and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.”
While Orwell and Rand may seem eerily prescient, the fact is, they wrote from experience. Their “fiction” was based strongly in fact. Rand warned of the dangers of socialism because she had personally witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution. She was also an avid reader of history and knew that collectivism in its various forms was nothing new and had always failed.
The frightening state of affairs we find ourselves in today is all too real. We are all authors of this book now. Can we change our plotline or will America’s story continue to mirror The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire? Will we choose to affect change or will we be the sheep in Animal Farm? Do you believe that ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS? I didn’t think so.