This post (“Grocers of Despair”) at According to Hoyt, along with recent discussions of the Human Wave movement in science fiction, got me to thinking.
I had read a glowing review of Black Mirror, a British Twilight-Zone-like TV series, and a list of the best episodes. I fired up Netflix and watched the supposedly best episode, “The Entire History of You,” about a troubled couple using the technology of life-recording to break up in the ugliest possible way. Now I’ve counselled couples who break into each other’s phones and this was much the same, but more horrific than even that could be.
It was well-written, powerful, and depressing. Let’s focus on awful people and show how technology can enable them to be *even* *more* *awful*!
Long-suffering partner threatened to take away my future votes for what to watch. He still blames me for “The Constant Gardener.” So I watched one more last night, “White Bear.” Again, awful people doing creepy things. Humans! Who would want to be like them?
There’s no denying these are really great — artful, like the best short stories. But minus any Human Wave sense of struggling to beat back the darkness.
Because being fully human has a *purpose*, if you are well-adjusted. It might be religious, it might be building Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere and reaching the Omega Point with as much knowledge as possible, it might be building the best world for your children’s children’s children. But there are positive goals to strive for, not just surviving and contending with other humans for a shrinking share of a shrinking world. Raising children is a risky exercise, and you do it when you have some faith in the future. Malthusian dread and belief in ever-darker futures kills off the will to fight and to win against those who would tear it all down.
Grimdark art has its place as leavening for the “uplifting” stories that keep us going; maybe 10% of our stories might be grim, to remind us of the power of despair. “1984” is to remind us of how to avoid that fate, not a prediction. As “liberal” changed meaning (in the US) to become the opposite of free, “progressive” has become a belief in limits and controlling others. Academia, freed of the need to satisfy an audience by government support, now promotes arts that discourage accomplishment and exploration of expanding frontiers. We are to be afraid, to cluster for safety, to see other humans as threatening and in need of control. And to look to our academic and government betters for guidance, to deliver us from evil.
It’s easy to despair when you are looking for a job or to publish your book and no one — literally no one — responds to your resume or submission. That’s when you get up and start your own business or self-publish. And regulators will try to stop you, legacy publishers will pretend you don’t exist, but customers will take a small chance on you, and if you listen to them, you can make it.