Continuing musings from the conclusion of Fahrenheit 451 …
Post-apocalyptic literature assumes that a cataclysm of some kind is the inevitable climax to dystopia — but catastrophe is always avoidable, until it isn’t. A series of choices makes the situation worse and worse until Big Brother micromanages lives (Nineteen Eighty-Four) or the populace lives in a drugged stupor (Brave New World) or people demand books be banned or even burned (Fahrenheit 451), or all of the above (2020).
But it doesn’t have to end with scorched earth, until, of course, the landscape is scorched. At any time before that, the disaster can be avoided.
In Fahrenheit 451, the earth is scorched, but there’s a sense that we will rebuild. This is scant consolation to those who must do the work of rebuilding, of moving from scorched earth to Eden, but it is better than inconsolable.
The challenge is finding a way to avoid the cataclysm, to stop short of Ragnarok and move straight to Eden, ending the dystopia without the devastation.
In the context of the upcoming election, there is little hope of emerging from dystopia anytime in the short term. Both major parties intend to maintain the surveillance culture, continue the restrictions on freedom that have been building for more than a generation, and wield the power of Leviathan against individuals who don’t toe the line.
But those who remember freedom need not abandon hope. Support exists for a culture where alternative views may be voiced and heard openly and in peace. Many are weary of the military industrial complex’s grip on the tiller. Many more, who want nothing more than to live at peace with their neighbors, are weary of being micromanaged by so-called leaders who think they know better. As The Powers That Be attempt to tighten the stranglehold, people still wish to come and go and they please, and to live their own lives.
We may or may not avoid the apocalypse, but many people yearn for something other than dystopia. Big Brother is an unsustainable concept. At some point totalitarianism must crumble, because its grip can never be total. The State cannot control millions and billions of individual lives against their free will. The Soviet Union collapsed. The Third Reich was a blip on history, a horrid abominable blip but gone in hardly a decade.
People get tired of living in fear. At some point they look the fear in the eye and say, “Shut up. Enough. We’re going to live our lives. Try and stop us if you want, but you’ll fail. Fear is not the boss of me.”