Tag Archives: democracy

The American Election 2016 and the “Perceval” Future

President Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989

President Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989

When I first began working on the first novel in the Perceval series, Ronald Reagan was president and I thought he was the scariest person on earth.  He wanted to shrink the federal government in many ways but not curtail the executive power of the President. It took a long time for me to create Evan Quinn’s future world, but it grew out of watching what was happening in the world in the 1980’s and how America responded to it.  What was I seeing?

First of all, the supremacy of the military, especially in terms of the national budget and their influence on the civilian part of our government.  This has not changed.  If anything, it has increased.

Second, the rise of corporate power.  At first, this didn’t bother me, but the more I was seeing how corporations focused their priorities, the more alarmed I was.  Their power through lobbying in Washington, D. C. was growing also as politicians’ need for money to fund their re-election campaigns grew. This has not changed.  Corporations are now global, “transnational,” and some banks are “too big to fail.” Money has become a weapon of power. Campaign finance reform has become a joke.

As the years passed through successive presidencies and Congresses with different majorities, these first two points really did not change.  Several more were added, also.  For example:

A media more focused on ratings or entertainment value rather than reporting real world news.  This focus has only worsened over the years.  Now, I have stopped watching some “news outlets” because they are doing such a poor job of reporting real world news (except disasters or terrorism to foment fear) and have begun using British and Canadian news outlets.  Some friends are doing the same thing.  It’s very interesting to get a more objective perspective on my country, especially the American government and politics.

President George W. Bush delivering his second inaugural speech

President George W. Bush delivering his second inaugural speech

There’s been a growing obsession with national security because of terrorism (the terrorists won a long time ago because of our fear which is what terrorism is all about), as well as with law enforcement in terms of cracking down on crime and cracking down on police misconduct. We stop supporting and protecting human rights at our peril as a society and country, but there have been violations of human rights in the name of security and fear of terrorism. Isn’t it only short steps away from allowing a police state to occur within America’s borders?  We must continue, as individuals, to speak out against these developments.

We also now have a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who does not have a background in democratic leadership, i.e. in local or state government, and has not established that he is a staunch supporter of democracy and its processes.  He is a businessman, accustomed to leading in an authoritarian way and having the final say.  Listening to his demagogic speeches is a scary experience not only because of his egocentric view of the world, but also because of his threatening nationalist words, racist words, sexist attitudes, lack of knowledge or experience in diplomacy, and his violent words.  When I was working back in the 1980’s on the novel, I envisioned just such a candidate winning a presidential election because he pandered to fears of terrorism, of “invasion” from the south, of economic failure.  He closed both our northern and southern borders, increased the powers of law enforcement on local, state, and national levels, and with the help of those in Congress who agreed with him, managed to re-structure the American government to suit is authoritarian needs.

Donald Trump (Photo: Inside Edition)

Donald Trump (Photo: Inside Edition)

I think it would be a good idea for all of us to remind ourselves of the characteristics of fascism (Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism from Rense.com) and realize that we are already living some of them today.  I think it’s also important to research the presidential candidates and their experience and knowledge of democratic leadership.  It’s a good idea to seek out alternate news sources, trusted sources, especially outside the country, that can provide a more objective view to help us to take a step back, or out of, what is happening in order to give it a hard examination with calm minds, not fearful minds.

In the Perceval series, because of the presidential election of 2016, America ends up an authoritarian dictatorship that pays lip service to such democratic institutions as the Supreme Court, the Congress, elections, and the Constitution with its essential Bill of Rights.  Of course, the government in 2048 has perverted the rule of law to suit its own needs and Americans live in a police state.  America has split into regional factions, and a civil war is in progress. Corporate America controls much of the government in Washington. The rich are now overtly in control of American life, and the other 98% work for them just to survive.  As a result, America looks very much as the USSR did in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  It pains me deeply that we are quite possibly at the same political crossroads in 2016 I had imagined years ago.   At least I’m not the only one noticing what’s happening.  And I sincerely hope I’m wrong about the result.

For more reading about Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential campaign, I suggest the following links:

I find The Weekly Sift especially helpful in finding a more objective view of what’s happening this year in America.

Politics in 2048 — An American Dystopia?

With the shocking and sad news of NBC political journalist and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert’s death, my mind has been on politics today, specifically American politics and the future.  This year’s presidential election will simply not be the same without Tim Russert, especially on election night, with his astute observations and conclusions.  And he seemed like a genuine Mensch.  My condolences to his family on their loss.  He will be missed.

America’s politics continues down the road to November and the elections.  We have a flawed democracy (Electoral College, length of primary season) but the system has worked fairly well since the country’s founding.  No coups, not even after JFK was assassinated, which would have been a prime moment (and some conspiracy theorists believe that it might have been a “failed coup”).  However, even elections can produce non-democratic results, e.g. the German election that brought Adolf Hitler to power. 

Which started me thinking when I began writing Perceval.  If the novel is set in the future, what kind of a future did I imagine and what would American politics be like?  What would the rest of the world be like?

First of all, in 2048, I saw the European Union as democratic and including Russia.  China would lead a coalition of nations called the Asia-Pacific Coalition.  America would continue to dominate North America and play an important economic role in the world.  The rest of the world, for narrative purposes, would not be as clearly defined as these three, and much of the definition would depend on Evan’s perceptions. 

When Evan was about three, the American population voted in a government led by the New Economic Party which had campaigned on the issues of insuring national security and strengthening the economy.  The NEP had formed out of two groups: one had split from the Republican Party, the other from the Democratic Party (I’m an equal opportunity splitter).  After that first election, the NEP consolidated its power at both state and federal levels, creating a “permanent majority” or dictatorship.  The context of democracy framed this dictatorship, i.e. elections occurred regularly, the three branches of government continued to operate, the opposition was token, and a certain level of representation existed in Congress.  The NEP believes it’s the best political party for America, that it can preserve and protect the country and its institutions.  Its methods, however, resemble the Kremlin’s during the 1930’s — social oppression and control, purges, and a secret police.

Oppressive social control and an authoritarian or totalitarian government characterizes a dystopia.  Those in power in a dystopia don’t care about doing or being good.  All they care about is their power and control.  The NEP believes it is doing good, however.  They believe that their social and economic policies are the best for America and the world.  So, America in Perceval is not a dystopia. 

America in Perceval is an anti-utopia , i.e. a society intended to be good but a fatal flaw or other factor (the NEP) destroyed or twisted the end result.  Americans believe their system of government is basically good and beneficial for their society and people in general, including the democratic process that elects an NEP president and majority in Congress.  The NEP continues to call America a democracy.  Resistance to the NEP government began early, triggering a civil war and an active Underground of “freedom fighters” that the NEP calls “domestic terrorists.”

Perceval is set primarily in Europe, in Vienna, so America remains in the background, an essential part of Evan’s life.  Unlike most dystopian/anti-utopian future fiction, the action does not occur within the dystopian/anti-utopian society but outside of it.  Evan arrives in Europe an outsider as an American and America is his psychological home so the dystopia/anti-utopia exists within him.  I wanted to explore how Evan (an individual) would respond to European society, what effect it would have on him as he forges a new life in Vienna, not focus on the American anti-utopian society itself. 

The futuristic element of the Perceval novels is anti-utopian, not dystopian, which I suppose technically makes the series social science fiction: the cultural and psychological clash between American and European societies as experienced through a musician and conductor….