The following words are quoted from the link below:
Fashionable educators and publishers of “English literature” would leave you blind to “anti-woke science fiction.” I have coined the term as an update to a long tradition. Think of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), Ayn Rand’s Anthem (1938), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and Evelyn Waugh’s Love Among the Ruins (1953). These works were anti-Marxist, before the failed Marxists recast themselves as “woke” by replacing economic justice with social justice.
The literary elite doesn’t like to admit anti-Marxism as a motivation for great literature. Indeed, the elite shoves uninspiring writers down our throats just because they were Marxist—such as the ever overrated Ernest Hemingway.
Anti-woke science fiction tends to get shadow-canceled. If it survives, it gets conflated in the “dystopian” category. As it becomes widely read, it gets spun as consistent with woke politics. The elite spins Brave New World, for instance, as anti-consumerist, anti-industrialist, and anti-American. In fact, Aldous Huxley was disaffected with Britain’s Bohemian, libertine circle when he penned Brave New World.
George Orwell had fled Communist infighting during the Spanish Civil War, and subsequently fled British metropolitan Communism, before slowly realizing his lessons as Animal Farm (1945).
Ayn Rand fled the nascent Soviet Union before imagining in Anthem a global future in which the collective bans names, singular pronouns, families, history, and science.
Evelyn Waugh lamented Britain’s slide into authoritarian socialism during World War II, with several real-time war novels (including Brideshead Revisited in 1945), before writing his one and only science fiction novel. In Love Among the Ruins (1953), some “near future” British government keeps criminals in such luxury that they choose crime in order to return to prison, while “welfare weary” citizens seek official euthanasia.
Joseph MacKinnon’s Lethe combines the quest to escape state-prescribed happiness in Brave New World, the quest to escape surveillance and misinformation in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the quest to rediscover past knowledge in Anthem, and the quest to pair up and burn down in Love Among the Ruins. Further, Lethe reminds me of the quest to escape bureaucracy in Terry Gilliam’s film, “Brazil” (1985), and the quest to escape cyber mind-control in “The Matrix” (1999).
Like “The Matrix,” Lethe reminds me of Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (1974). One of the political philosophical questions that Nozick explored in a hypothetical world was: If you were plugged into a machine that simulated happiness and denied pain, would you reject it? His answer was yes, because you’d still want choice (even before we consider the advisability of admitting pain in order to appreciate happiness).
Most of the population in Brave New World, Anthem, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Love Among the Ruins, “The Matrix” and Lethe do not develop the self-awareness to reject their prescribed artificial worlds. Some even re-embrace the machine having tasted the ambiguities of freedom.
In Lethe, a few in the authoritarian elite develop the self-awareness to seek what is forbidden, then seek the help of specialists in wiping their memories before cybernetic implants upload the evidence to the central regime’s servers.
The hero specializes in wiping those memories. The “resistance” nickname him “the Lethe” (an ancient Greek word for “forgetfulness”). The rulers are the “English Democratic Socialists,” who had won a majority democratically, but traded “a minimum income” in return for supplication to “advanced linguistic policing and centrally-planned mobility.” They now control their population through implants that stupefy and monitor. The resistance survives …
Communist China is the key enabler: the implant technology, the foreign electrical power that makes England’s virtual rule possible, and the nuclear strikes that forced the Americans to retreat into the stratosphere. England’s democratic socialists are not anti-Marxists. As one of their luminaries says: “The world can only be healed through ceaseless revolution.”
English Democratic Socialism is woke. One of its banners reads: “From each according to their guilt, to each according to their oppression.” Anyone with natural advantage is especially stupefied or denied nutrition in order to promote equity. Everyone is scored with a “trust value”: non-compliance lowers the score, while “intersectionality” raises the score. Meanwhile, the regime’s enforcers wear visors “to prevent guardians from being recognized as individuals with privileges.” The Lethe enters the story struggling with newly inserted “mental dampeners.” Walking unsteadily home, he gains enough self-awareness to worry, ironically, whether the “guardians” are asking themselves if “his physical strength [is] a subliminal assault on the emotional security of his comrades?”
About Bruce Oliver Newsome
Bruce Oliver Newsome, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas, Permian Basin. He is also the author of the anti-woke satire “The Dark Side of Sunshine” (Perseublishing, 2020).
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