WHAT I (WAS) READING
Some sad tale that starts on the ground floor of this squat 34-storey building where:
- people get cloned in quantities and of qualities that suit 'social stability';
- they're conditioned to consume what contemporary industry produces, to fear reading and to refrain from pausing to smell the roses; and
- they're given narrow educations that stress the technical and elide the contextual, on grounds that particulars make for virtue and happiness whilst generalities are intellectually necessary evils.
And this all occurs in a world where:
- quantified 'utility' is the be-all and end-all of public policy;
- English is doing away with all other languages;
- human sexuality is confined to soul-deadening, thought-avoiding, electronically-mediated and generally commercial recreation; and
- huge electric fences have been erected so as to make of civilised society a gated community, safe from the savages without;
Well, a bloke can only take so much and I've slammed the tome shut for the last time. Dismarrhoea of this order even I can do without. I can find it in my heart to forgive the author his bleak disposition, though, as I remember seeing on the jacket that he'd written the thing in 1931.
I mean, a generation of blue-sky technoboosting Wall St hacks had just got their latest orgy of utopian predictions sadly wrong and there'd been a stock market crash that had left the economy stagnating in a depressing sink of excess capacity, corporate and residential debt and bankruptcy, and unemployment, poverty and scapegoating were stalking the world. All the certitudes of economic wisdom had disappeared in a puff of empirical refutation, but so sacred a technocratic guild had economists become that we made a depression of a recession by imposing the austerity measures their liturgies demanded. Huge transport and communications mergers had exacerbated debt levels without doing a thing for profit levels. Technocrats in Moscow had induced famine on grounds that short-term pain was the price of long-term gain, whilst technocrats at the Bank of England lectured on the evils of public works, welfarism and unions. As economic desperation mounted, interest rates fell to their lowest level for 22 years. The world's reserve currency looked set to lose 30% of its value.
The siren-call of totalitarian demagogues was drawing crowds amongst the desperate, the marginalised, the abused and the expropriated.
The lesson of the Great War, that technological advance is not all beer and skittles had been forgotten by the major military powers, who were repudiating arms limitation agreements and presiding over proliferation. The RAF was even dropping bombs on Iraq.
So lets's not be hard on the author, eh? I mean, living in a world like that would make anyone fear for the future.