The campaign for this year’s midterm elections has me thinking a lot of America in 2048, Evan Quinn’s America, and how it got that way. Democracy is loud, messy, rowdy, rude, hilarious, annoying, frustrating, and sometimes very scary. But the important element in democracy is the freedom of choice, buttressed by the freedoms of speech, press and assembly. In order for a democracy to function as a democracy, the people need choices and the freedom to pick among them without fear.
Another element is information. The people need access to information, the good, the bad and the ugly, in order to make informed choices. We rely heavily on the media to provide that information. So what happens when the media focuses on infotainment instead of information in order to sell copies or secure ratings? The quality and completeness of the information suffer as well as the famed objectivity of journalists, who can never be completely objective because they are citizens, also. The people either don’t realize that their information sources aren’t as reliable as they used to be and accept whatever they provide as fact, or they do realize and seek out better sources of information, and fortunately, they are out there.
What do Americans look for in a leader? Do they want someone leading them who can provide instant or near-instant security and solutions to the country’s issues? Or do they want a leader who not only looks at the conditions in the present, but thinks about how his/her actions now will not only resolve present issues but affect the country in the future? Promises, promises, promises. Sad but true, we’re all fairly used to politicians making promises they do not fulfill, whether they intended, when they made them, to fulfill them or not. What I think I’m seeing in America right now, especially in the campaigning, is a movement toward what I call the instant-gratification leader rather than someone who thinks and plans for the long term. What we need is a long-term thinker and planner, and for the American people to understand what that means for them and their future. And patience.
Why are Americans so impatient? This is a characteristic that doesn’t usually come to mind when I think of Americans. But this year, impatience reigns. For example, it took 30 years for the conditions to build up until they produced our recent economic problems — Congress passing laws, ending deregulation on banks, the financial institutions of Wall Street growing in power and influence not to mention wealth and size, and for the American Dream of everyone owning a house to finally hit a wall and drop thousands of people in deep holes. It didn’t really happen in a day, and it won’t be fixed in a day (or month or year). A lot of the legislation passed in the last 2 years has reversed some of those conditions, especially reinstating the regulations that had been put in place back in the 1930’s to prevent another Great Depression like separating banks and brokerages, and requiring banks to have capital to cover their liabilities. And yet, the hue and cry in the country is that the economy hasn’t rebounded fast enough! The information is out there for people to access, but it’s not necessarily on the cable networks or network evening news. It takes time to turn around an economic ship and time for people to inform themselves well.
So, how does all this relate to Evan Quinn and Perceval? What I observe daily affects my writing. In my future-world-building work, I had to figure out how America could end up as an anti-utopia. It’s scary to realize that I was thinking of similar conditions to what I’ve been observing this year in our politics. I call it “The Change.” Again, conditions — social, economic, political and cultural — build up to the moment in 2018 when the New Economic Party has consolidated its power at the national, state, county and city levels. It all began in 1980. The New Economic Party splintered off from one or both of the major political parties in the early 2000’s. The NEP wanted America to be the world economic leader, secure from terrorists of all stripes, and a stable society under the rule of law (their law). They promised it all fast. But the NEP and its leaders were not long-term thinkers or planners as much as responding to American impatience.
In 2010, America is neither utopia nor dystopia, but too often suffers from myopia….