So, 2015, We Finally Meet
Well, THAT’s a combination you don’t see every day… conversational Scott, RPG Scott, and Political Scott… oh, right. It’s almost 2015.
And when I say almost 2015, I mean that, as I write this, we are in the very last hours of 2014 AD. At midnight, the world becomes the Earth of 2015, which I’ve been writing about since 2007 when we published Hot Chicks: The Roleplaying Game. I figured it was time to look at the dystopian future that I envisioned with my partner Victor Gipson and see how it compares to the world that I’m about to set foot into.
It’s an interesting comparison, as it turns out.
First of all, the elephant in the room; I don’t think there are actual aliens or demons wandering the surface of the Earth. That’s kind of nice, actually… those guys suck. There aren’t robots and ninjas jumping out of the shadows to abduct valuable humans and use them as products and food in off-world markets…well, not that I’ve noticed.
I don’t seem to have developed any magical powers, Martial Artists still need actual wires to perform “Wire-Fu,” and we’re not yet transferring human intellects into computers and using them to drive android bodies. I kind of hope that last one happens pretty soon, though. At the very least, I’d like to be able to go to a clinic and get a Kevlar-laminated Titanium Spine.
Hot Chicks: The Roleplaying Game describes a fantasy world, after all. An urban fantasy world, to be sure, but a work of fiction. An envisioning of an alternate world where these things are all a real and tangible possibility. I never expected demons and aliens to step out of the shadows and into mankind’s attention in 2015; that would be ridiculous.
That’s about two-thirds of the foes of mankind that I envisioned seven or eight years ago, though. The third one?
I totally undershot the mark on the third one. The third one is way worse than I could have pictured.
Along with abducting aliens and rampaging demons, I envisioned a world where human corporations were the biggest defilers of human dignity. Megalithic organizations which cared little or nothing for human life, insinuating themselves into our governments and making them one in the same.
From Hot Chicks: The Roleplaying Game (electronic edition, page 26):
“Regardless of the form of government, whether it be a Democracy, a Monarchy, a dictatorship, or what have you, all governments have a single critical flaw. They are all made up of people. Eventually, no matter how pure the intention in the formation of the government, power corrupts, and governments come to be run for the sake of the government itself, rather than its people.
Even if the governments goes through all the paces of appearing to be a representative government that puts the safety of its citizens first, they will conceal the most dangerous elements of the world from their populace to ‘prevent a public panic,’ ‘protect people from dangerous information,’ or to ‘keep the suckers in the dark so we can control them more effectively.’
The governments and political structures of 2015 are very similar to those of 2008, but they have dropped a lot of pretense. Democracies are controlled by special interest groups (mostly corporate) who offer financial compensation to government officials in exchange for votes and legislation that favors them over the public good. It never appears in the news (as the media is simply another group of corporations), but everyone knows it happens.
Elections are still held, but there is no longer any pretense that the majority actually chooses their leadership. The elections are huge media circuses where the outcome can be seen months in advance, but people still watch them to see the verbal blood and gore.”
When I wrote that, I was reaching for a feeling of a dystopian “Cyberpunk” style near-future. There were elements of the current (at the time) political climate in that vision, but also a deliberately cynical world-view used to paint a grim picture. It wasn’t the world that I actually saw, nor the world that I wanted to see. It was a world I wanted to run around in with super-powered characters, having running gun battles and kung-fu fights in malls and factories.
Let’s break it down into its component elements.
- Obviously corrupt individuals forming government.
- Repression of information.
- Overt influence by special interest groups and corporations.
- Elections are little more than overblown media circuses.
I kind of thought that I’d be doing something like this at this point in time, a few years ago. I never thought it would turn out quite the way it’s going to. I kind of knew things weren’t going to go well in these areas, but I was also kind of hopeful that wiser heads would prevail. This is what happens when an optimist designs a dystopia.
Obviously Corrupt Individuals Forming Government
Check. (Sigh). It may not be all of them, but the corruption is so easy to see that it’s painful. One need only ask the question “why” often enough when looking at legislation and other government action. As we enter 2015, big money in politics isn’t just a problem, it’s been institutionalized. With the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United, it has been declared that money equals speech and that corporations are, effectively, people, with the right to have their concerns addressed and to influence the political process through the expenditure of cash on campaigns. It’s totally out in the open; you want to have your way in America? Form a Political Action Committee (or better yet, your own Super PAC), gather financial resources with virtually no limit, and throw money at campaigns. There is little or no oversight, no accountability, and no transparency. Politicians can openly be purchased. Can we still really call it corruption if it’s the law, I wonder? Then again, can we still really call it a Democracy?
Repression of Information
Check. Granted, we’ve seen some pretty dark stuff released for public consumption; the senate report on CIA intelligence gathering post 9/11 comes to mind. On the other hand, if one was to try to find out, say, how many people were killed by police officers between 2008 and 2012, complete and uncontested data seems difficult to aggregate. Trade agreements (such as the Trans Pacific) are signed without much in the way of public perusal and comment, and legislation which can damage the function of our free information networks (like the one you’re using to read this) such as SOPA, while they are defeated by considerable public outcry, are then re-introduced quietly as portions of other bills and passed without comment.
Every promise of government transparency has been broken. The public receives a steady diet of terror and celebrities from the corporate news outlets, while a desperate few comedians try their hardest to show the world the truth. Even the release of information which is ruinous to the honor of our country and its former leadership can only provoke us to ask “if they’re showing us this, what are they hiding?”
Overt Influence by Special Interest Groups and Corporations
Check. I’ve covered this a little bit above, but this one is so significant and so damning that it deserves a little more attention. From the top levels of our government to its roots, the influence of Wall Street financial institutions can be seen. Many of the individuals within our government who are involved with policing the regulations on financial institutions worked for those financial institutions before they entered government, and will leave government to re-enter positions in financial institutions. Let me say that again another way for emphasis; the people in charge of the regulation of financial institutions are the people who most profit from the lack of regulation on financial institutions. I could not have imagined the magnitude of this “revolving door” in 2008, and I shouldn’t be able to see it so damn clearly now.
People who are involved with corporations that profit by damaging the environment have purchased representatives in our government who are ostensibly responsible for protecting the environment. People who make money by selling hardware to our military have purchased people within our government who are responsible for buying hardware for our military, which our military has flat-out stated it neither needs nor wants.
Scientific facts about the state of our world are routinely ignored where they might conflict with corporate profit; in fact, the people most qualified to speak to those scientific facts are effectively barred from sharing data with government agencies that most need to hear it. Global Warming? Why, it’s a hoax, don’t you know? Evolution? Get thee behind me, Satan!
Elections Are Little More than Overblown Media Circuses
I want to say “Check,” and I also really don’t. There are a lot of political indicators for how an election is going to go; one can determine, with high probability, the outcome some time in advance of an election. Do the votes count?
That’s the one that gets me. “Predicted” isn’t the same as “Predetermined.” There’s still a contest, there, and for some reason, they still seem to need votes. Or rather, they need the right votes. Voter suppression seems to be a huge issue these days, and it is. One wouldn’t need to engage in voter suppression if the votes didn’t matter, though, would they? Some people in power are afraid of large voter turnout.
Campaigns are purchased by the amount of money that is pumped into campaign advertising, and the side that spends more often gets more votes. That’s advertising, though. They still need to win hearts and minds on election day; otherwise, if there was a way to just drop the money down and purchase a block of votes, they wouldn’t spend so much on the ads.
The United States may be turning into an Oligarchy (and, in fact, may argue that it already has), but the government still seems to need votes. Elections matter.
Even in these days where the government and its agents (whether agents of the intelligence agencies or even the police) seem to be engaged in an all-out conflict with the American people, the people and their votes appear to matter.
There ARE hundreds of millions of us, after all.
I know, I know… all of this is far more complicated than the light coverage I’m giving it, there are hundreds of factors I haven’t addressed, and “you’re a liberal hippie, Scott.” (Actually, I’m a moderate progressive, which makes all of this kind of more frightening).
In many ways, the government/corporate influences that I described as the background of the Earth in 2015 are a lot lighter and friendlier than 2015 is actually looking like. On the other hand, there’s still that spark of optimism in me. People can and do make a difference. Regardless of anyone’s political leanings, everyone does make a difference.
This year, we advance the timeline of Hot Chicks to our new setting for the Victory System, “Destiny 2025.” The modern political climate will obviously color my view of that world as I write it into its own dystopian nightmare, and in ten years, I hope to do a similar retrospective comparison.
In the meantime, my hopes for the next year and the years to follow, for myself and for all of us. Let us keep our eyes open; let us question everything with a consistent and objective world-view. Let us stay informed by using the sources of information that we like and more importantly, those we don’t. Let us ask ourselves if we are researching the facts or confirming our bias. Let us make our decisions with wisdom, compassion, and a brutal insistence that tomorrow belongs to our children.
And I totally need to hit the gym on a more regular basis. Have a Happy 2015, everyone, and let’s aim for a happier 2016.