Dystopia … are we closer than you think?

Back in April, about five months ago, I wrote series of four pieces called “The People Have the Power.” The series focused on the dysfunction and virtual abandonment of our traditional institutions and the requirement for us to take control of our own futures. Because if we don’t, well … we might very well be on the road to replicate that blockbuster movie that came out earlier this year. You which one I’m talking about too.

The second piece in the series was titled, “I never thought it would happen.” The piece was meant to be prophetic fiction, kind of a narrative warning call.

In four days, starting Monday, the GOP is beginning their presidential nomination convention in Tampa Florida. Later in the week, Thursday I think, the convention delegates will inevitably choose Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate and Paul Ryan as the v.p. candidate. Romney won the primary, but the delegates can technically break rank and vote for who they want … even though they never do.

This has been an odd campaign though. Throughout the race the most unlikely cast of characters periodically rose to the top because of the influence of far right extremism. Romney has been far from the ideal candidate, especially those ultra-conservative factions.

It’s because of this, and Romney’s decision of running mate, Paul Ryan, that I decided to rerun the post, “I never thought it would happen.” It appears exactly as it was written on April 11, 2012

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Damn, is it already 5:00 am? I’ll never get used to that train. That reminds me though, I have to get that logistics report for our joint venture with Halliburton done today. I can’t believe I’d ever be working with a company that partners with Halliburton. But I guess there’s the upside. I get to go back up to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota  … my old stomping grounds when I was a kid. God, I still can’t believe Dick Cheney’s still alive, especially after his second heart transplant last year. Doesn’t say much for the integrity of our transplant system.

“What’s the temperature out there today? Where’s my iPhone? Maybe if it’s not raining I can get out there for walk before the “Gestapo” hits the streets. I can’t believe that one post “The People Have the Power,” stirred up so much crap. And that was six years ago and I’m still on the radar. Thank God Alex “jail-broke” my phone so my real number is hidden when I use it. At least I can get my stuff out. I just hope it just keeps working, it’s seven years old.  I just hope.

It started six years ago during the summer of 2012, when it happened … when everything changed. The Trayvon Martin shooting and the resulting acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman, sparked an uprising not seen in this country since the Civil War. Violent clashes in virtually every metro area pitted the black community and the Occupy Movement against local police forces and the National Guard. After three weeks of bloodshed, the rebellion was beaten down. And then martial law was imposed. The United States had become a police state, with racism, bigotry and homophobia reigning front and center. There was no middle ground. Either you were with the government – or against it, and a target.

The 2012 presidential race was turned upside down. Mitt Romney, the assumed Republican nominee was depicted as being not conservative or strong enough and turned on. Through the unprecedented conservative financial support of the Koch Brothers and Carl Rove Super PACs, previously committed delegates flipped at the convention and nominated Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the author of the “Hunger Games budget.” Then it was “Game On!” In a close election, Ryan defeated Barak Obama and became the 45th president of the United States.

Over the next four years, Draconian civil and social policies were put in place. First it was privacy, or should I say the abolishment of it. Next was full-on censorship.  Twitter and Facebook no longer exist. In the name Homeland Security, anything you did or said was fair game for the government to act on. You thought SOPA or CISPA were bad … you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Even the smart phone manufacturers, Apple and the Android group were put under wrap. Starting in 2014, as a condition of their corporate existence, surveillance firmware was added to each phone manufactured. Fortunately a group of hackers and ex-Apple employees, my daughter Alex included, squirreled away a bunch of old iPhone 4s that still had the open architecture. These phones were smuggled to the “resistance,” as we so like to call ourselves. Most had their numbers altered, like mine – so we could operate in stealth. Getting caught plotting, or even vocalizing government discontent, didn’t work out well for you – especially with dramatic rise and influence of the “prison for hire” industry financed by Wells Fargo. Fortunately a group of American techno-nerds, along with Jack Dorsey (former founder of Twitter) moved to Sweden to assist in putting together an underground Twitter-like network. RISE was our social media outlet and the means to spread our message.

“It may be 40 degrees, but with this wind it feels like North Dakota in December, but it’s worth it. I had to get out and get the blood going. It’s my only day off this week and I have to get my next piece out. I remember when Steve and I used to go for these morning walks. For Steve it was his hangover cure. Oh, and he definitely needed something most days. I haven’t seen him in six months, though. I hope he made to the “generation camp” up north in the Sierras. Steve’s tough … I’m sure he made it.”

“Generation camps” first came into existence during the summer in 2016. I believe the first one was outside of Bend, Oregon. As a result of the Ryan “Hunger Games budget,” the social safety net was ripped to shreds, and nobody was there to sew it up. Unemployment insurance was reduced nationally to four weeks. Welfare benefits were limited to one year and Social Security and Medicare were privatized resulting in drastic reductions. 2015 welcomed in the era of “Social Darwinism!”

By 2018 the United States had formally become a two class society. The “haves” lived in gentrified suburbs not unlike the neighborhoods depicted in the Tim Burton, Johnny Depp movie “Edward Scissorshands.” Everything, everywhere was the same … and perfect. The “have-nots” were banished to the urban cores which were left to decay as a reminder of them being the preference of the young, the creative – or the in the minds of the of the “haves,” the impedance to their lives of opulence. Creativity and entrepreneurship had been replaced by mega-corporate supremacy and control.

In 2016, communicating with hacked iPhones, a group of young people decided to escape the ruins of the inner city to set up communal encampments in the American outback. And with the ascendancy of Monsanto as largest corporation in the world, commercially purchased food was virtually guaranteed to be genetically altered. And with these GMOs came unexplained diseases. Staying in the inner core was the equivalent to a fall into “Dante’s Seven Levels of Hell.” Which level you had fallen to – determined your likelihood of making it out. The sooner you get out the better.

The young brought with them the “old-timers,” the down and out elderly who had the same limited opportunity and distaste for the status quo as they did. Thus came the name “generation camps.” By 2018 there were some 150 of these encampments scattered though out the country, randomly set up in the hills, the mountains, the forests and the deserts. Holdovers from the National Forest Service, now part of Homeland Security, fortunately turned a blind eye to these nomads and let them exist. Some say these “generation camps” are the seedlings of a country reborn. Maybe they will be.

“Finally, a text from Alex. I’ve been trying to get hold of her for two days. |I’m all right Dad. I’ve been over at Natalie’s. She threatened to kill herself because of the baby. I’ll call you tomorrow. Stay safe. Love you.|

My daughter lives in Los Angeles, one of the last strongholds of somewhat liberal thought. The police, not far-removed from decades of bad publicity and scrutinizing reform, have been sympathetic. Alex living down there puts me  somewhat at ease, because she is a renegade and doesn’t put up with anything, from anyone. Other areas of the country wouldn’t work out so well for her. Her old Twitter name used to be “Katana Girl.” It kind of says it all.

Her friend Natalie is twenty-three, and pregnant. The father of the baby is abusive and she’s been trying get away from him for a year, but to no avail. The last thing she wants is to have a baby with him, forever enjoining their futures. In 2012 this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. She could have had an abortion. Not the case in 2018. Abortion is the equivalent of a capital crime.

The conservatives’ War on Women peaked in 2014 with Roe vs. Wade being overturned in return for the support of the Catholic church and other evangelicals. Performing an abortion was escalated to a charge of 1st degree murder. Natalie feels her only option is to put an end to her life. Fortunately she has Alex there with her. But what her next step is … they don’t know. Maybe they can find a “generation camp” that has a doctor who can help.

 ~

What you just read was fiction. Or was it reality, not yet realized.

If we don’t act – it could very well be the latter. If we continue to shop at Wal-Mart rather than our neighbor’s grocery store, hardware store, or pet store … it will. If we continue to harbor our money at Bank of America rather than take the hour or two it’ll take to move it to a community-friendy local back … it will. If we decide to skip that local election, because; “what difference does a school board member or county commissioner make anyway” … it will. And if we assume “that everyone knows what could happen and we need not worry because someone will step up” and we don’t get out there spread the word … it will!

If we think there’s no way it could happen here, after all it’s the United States of America – and we’re free … it will.

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You find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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