“Reality 101”

[Note: cross-posted on the news and commentary site NewsWithViews.com as https://newswithviews.com/reality-101/ with a few minor changes.]

Time for something different. I’ve written a novel. As I write this, it’s 98% finished (all but massaging and embellishing). It will be marketed as the “first novel of the Trump era.” Well, one can hope. I’d been planning to try my hand at fiction if Hillary Clinton had won last year. Even though she didn’t, the idea had taken root, and since I needed no precognitive abilities to know how the Establishment would react to the Trump victory, I decided to run with it anyway.

I’ve been directing my own effort to raise money for an international promotion effort. So far, the effort hasn’t met with as much success as I would prefer. Without promotion there is little point, though. So whether this will actually be published if it does not find its way into the hands of a major publisher is iffy. I am not a wealthy person.

Why write fiction?

The late philosopher of science and historian of ideas Paul Feyerabend (discussed briefly in my last article) once penned a short essay entitled “Let’s Make More Movies!” (1975). Despite the playful title it isn’t light reading. The basic idea: there are ways of getting a point across other than didactic argument. Authors, playwrights, and writers for cinema have all used them. So — and these are the cases that interested Feyerabend — have scientific geniuses such as Galileo who presented his ideas in dialogues (as did the philosopher Plato well over 1,500 years before). Feyerabend actually studied theater briefly during his youth under the tutelage of German playwright and theater director Berthold Brecht.

Storytelling involves showing and not merely telling: presenting how things might look, or events play out given a situation, instead of arguing for this or that abstract point. Instead of an author arguing a thesis, characters speak, act, and interact. Properly drawn characters have histories of their own including crucial events which shaped them, just as our backgrounds and events in our lives shaped us. An author wants to create a kind of movie in the reader’s mind. He or she sets the conditions, then gets out of the way as the characters assume center stage. Often, they turn out to have experienced things the author did not anticipate, have complicated and sometimes conflicted motives, and do things he/she did not plan for—all required by the story’s own dynamic. This is how creativity sometimes works.

So without wanting to give away the whole thing….

Imagine a convinced globalist — convinced, that is, of the necessity of a global state given the globalization of the economy, because his education and line of work brought him into continuous contact with globalist actors and instruments, year after year — has decided that it is time to tell the truth, or at least as much of it as he knows. He believes a world state is inevitable, and is the next stage in the evolution of modernity. All we peons can do is prepare for it, “retooling” ourselves to be innovative and competitive in the coming global mass-consumption marketplace. Retired and with plenty of money, our globalist has written a tell-all book of his own and gone on tour to promote it. His tour brings him into our story’s purview.

There are such people in the actual world, of course. Georgetown University School of Foreign Relations macrohistorian Carroll Quigley wrote such a work, but his Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (orig. 1966) is an intimidating tome of over 1,300 pages, and while he discusses globalism and its emergence in international finance and central banking, his revelations are more part of the backdrop of his sweeping modern history of civilization. Only here and there do they assume a central place in his discussion.

Quigley’s is just the first major work I became aware of that writes history with this idea as background that the most important directions modern civilization has taken were not accidents. My fictional globalist shares with Quigley the idea, contrary to those he will call “conspiracy writers,” that the emerging world state will be a good thing. He regards those he calls the global oligarchy as “benign philosopher-kings” who invented capitalism by originally investing in, i.e., putting up the money for, capitalist endeavors (e.g., factories in England, Germany, and eventually in the U.S.). Capitalism’s early apologists, in their private correspondence (my fictional globalist observes) encouraged, in their private correspondence, forcing independent farmers from their land and into the new factories in the cities because, in those days, capitalists needed laborers. And then, Adam Smith in particular wrote about laissez-faire, hiding the truth (whether intentionally or not).

In other words, my fictional globalist has written a poor man’s Tragedy & Hope. He is  appearing by invitation at the local university in a county ravaged by the effects of globalization, and proclaiming something major business publications are no longer even bothering to hide, but placing it in a larger context.

Now imagine him stating that the most dangerous result of the modernist capitalist consensus was its building up a financially independent middle class in the 1950s and 1960s, so that too much leisure and time on their hands allowed the children of that class to begin to challenge elements of the system in the 1960s. And how it was decided, within the oligarchy, that the American middle class was dangerous to their goals for the world and so had to be destroyed. Imagine him laying out, step by step, exactly how this was accomplished.

The young man who narrates this story, of millennial age and native to the county, has suffered directly from the results, and again without giving away too many details, he does not take kindly to being told all this. I did not set out, initially, to create a central character whose father committed suicide following the loss of his career with the county’s largest employer when it shuttered and went south of the border, followed by a string of professional and business failures; it just happened (that’s that creativity thing I mentioned, with characters taking on lives of their own). I can do this both because studies have shown that suicide in such communities has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years or so, and I have known people who have tragically lost a parent to suicide, in one case seeing the emotional devastation up close. It isn’t pretty! The point in this context: few ordinary people can simply “reinvent themselves for the New Economy.” That’s more a fantasy than anything in a novel.

By the way, lest I forget: my globalist character has no use for Donald Trump. Well, surprise, surprise.

He comes under verbal attack. A complex character and not a sociopath, he stands his ground — not out of a desire to be cruel and indifferent but out of a sense that the truth must be faced. He does not believe that the “global marketplace” can regulate itself, and does not think “free trade” deals are enough. Not to mention the dangers of war in a world of peoples who are very different from one another, some with nuclear weapons; and, of course, there is human-caused climate change which he endorses as real based on the authority of science: a problem calling for a top-down coordinated global solution.

Is such a character credible? For some time now, some writers have been declaring the nation state outdated and arguing for some kind of global federation if not an out-and-out global state. Some such statements are quite eloquent (one current example here).

The location of this story is an imaginary Oklahoma county not too far from where I lived for a time, so I know the history and lay of the land at least somewhat. This place has its own political economy, stemming originally from the actions of its own aristocratic family who build the county, but could not keep one scion from helping to destroy it. Invented long ago to tell a different story which did not pan out, this imaginary county (town, university, their histories) just sat in my mind for a long, long time. It seemed logical to use it now for this different purpose.

Incidentally, this being Oklahoma, an indigenous population lives there. Through them, we become conscious of the possibility of a localist alternative based on separation, with a touch of something non-Western to give us a perspective on the possibility of economic arrangements absent an obsession with growth and change.

In other words, anyone thinking this novel will somehow defend “white supremacy,” assuming this means anything these days other than disagreement with the cultural hard left, is mistaken. I am not “alt-right” (I explain why not here). And although I’ve barely written on the subject as I’ve never been able to make it a priority, I’ve long believed the minority group with the greatest claim to have been harmed by the “white man” and his modernity is the one that has been the most silent: Native Americans, whose land was taken from them, every treaty made with them by the U.S. federal government broken, many dying from diseases brought from Europe to which they had no natural resistance, with those who survived the wars and attempts at extermination typically sinking into poverty even when not herded onto “reservations.” Although many Europeans dismissed them as savages, some Native Americans built civilizations on a par with those of the ancient Mediterranean world (the Toltecs, the Maya, the Inca, are examples). A few invented writing, and one group (the Iroquois, with their League or Confederacy) actually had a form of representative government.

Not being an anthropologist I don’t know, but I have often wondered what we could still learn from the remnants of cultures which modernity has largely erased. These cultures surely merit attention and study. In addition to physical architecture including pyramids, they developed rich mythological narratives designed to do what worldviews always do: give them a sense of place in the universe, something modernity has taken from us all.

Returning to my story line, which draws on such a narrative when the time is right, the Christian Gospel puts in a strategic appearance. So does the Austrian school of economics, which portrays free market capitalism as the “unknown ideal” — a self-regulating system able to operate completely free of government interference, whether through regulation or subsidy. Also appearing, as I was unable to resist, is a Marxist-style critique of globalized capitalism in its current globalized form, whose defender contends that the “pure” capitalism of the Austrians is an impossible fiction, that the “crony capitalism” they criticize just is capitalism; there is no other. Incidentally, while not opposing it, this character has little to say about cultural Marxism (otherwise known as the identity politics that has swept through academia over the past three decades).

My speaker is not a Christian, not an Austrian, not a Marxist. He considers himself a realist, a rare animal in today’s world. Hence the title. He’s also a transhumanist, who believes we will eventually use technology to transform not just the world but ourselves. So he’s an optimist who believes we can save ourselves by trusting in the benign nature of our betters, the philosopher-kings of modernity, the movers and shakers who make things happen behind the scene, who will deal with problems like war and climate change in their own way. This despite how the county his visiting to promote his own book has become a wasteland since NAFTA, and even more so since the Meltdown of 2008. Like many such places.

My narrator is a damaged soul, a seeker still trying to find his way. He knows he wants nothing to do with any of the above! What he comes to realize is that modernity in its current form offers him (us) no future. Not really.

There’s no sex or violence; readers interested only in cheap entertainment had best look elsewhere. There is, however, a unique love interest, between my narrator and his girlfriend, as one cannot have compelling characters without that. She is a member of the indigenous population. This opens some interesting doors. Through the narratives of her people there are intimations of the world beyond our familiar one, perhaps in light of Hamlet’s ever-intriguing remark that “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Marcellus, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Some of these suggest that in the long run, evil indeed meets with an appropriate fate.

What matters most is the warning, about a view of the world and our place in it: an economics-über-alles view of human beings as infinitely malleable, like lumps of clay; of common people as little more than cattle to be used to enrich their self-anointed betters, and then discarded when they are no longer of use; and especially of our arrogant belief that we can save ourselves from our own many follies. Where can this view lead, except to technocratic de facto totalitarianism where not just freedom but privacy are things of the past, not even missed if generations grow up without them. Present-day globalism is not the end, just the most important stepping stone. (Incidentally, you don’t have to be a Christian to believe all this — but it helps!)

Is such a warning credible?

I submit that slightly over 25 years ago, I began warning anyone who would listen what political correctness would do to the body politic if allowed to spread from the universities through the rest of society’s institutions almost unimpeded, defended with brain-paralyzing phrases like social justice. Guys like me weren’t listened to, and just look at campuses today, with their “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings,” and now the open assault by students themselves on Constitutionally protected free speech (they’ve grown up with the cults of diversity and social justice).

Twenty-two years ago I merely lost a teaching job from having spoken against race and gender preferences (“affirmative action”). Today I would fear for my safety.

This book is another warning. Will it, too, be ignored? Will it even be published? Assuming it is, the questions readers are invited to confront: how much of what my speaker says of the near future is absolutely true? Biblical and other prophesies speak of a coming totalitarian world state, or an equivalent, in which you will be forced to adopt “the mark of the beast” to be able to buy or sell (Rev. 13:16-17). Not just global geopolitics but technology itself are opening such doors. If you’re ordered to go through them — or, what is more likely, find your life becoming increasingly inconvenient if you avoid going through them — what will be your Plan B?

Author’s Note: if you believe this article and others like it were worth your time, please consider making a $5/mo. pledge on my Patreon site. If the first 100 people who read this all donate, my goal of just $500/mo. would be reached in no time! And if we’re honest about it, we all waste that much money every day.

Telling the truth can have negative consequences. Last year my computer was hacked — it wasn’t the Russians, either! Repeated attempted repairs of the OS failed, the device became unusable, and I had to replace it off-budget.

This is also an attempt to raise money to publish and promote a novel, Reality 101, 99% finished as of this writing. In it, a globalist technocrat speaks in a voice filled with irony and dripping with cynicism — contrasted with the possibility of freedom outside the world as he sees it.

Promoting a book means, in my case, the necessity of international travel which is not cheap.

I do not write for an audience of one. I write for you, readers of this site. If you believe this work makes a worthwhile contribution to the world of political-economic ideas, please consider supporting it financially. I am not a wealthy person, and unlike the leftist groups I criticize, I do not have a George Soros funneling a bottomless well of cash my way.

If I reach the above goal of $500/mo., I may be able to speak at an event in your area (contact info below). On the other hand, if this effort fails, I am considering taking an indefinite “leave of absence” beginning later this year to pursue other goals. EDIT: thus far this effort has garnered just $62/mo. If it does not reach $250/mo. by the end of this month, it will be time to write my farewell-and-good-luck piece.

To sum up, these are your articles (and books). I don’t write to please myself. No one is forcing me to do it, as sometimes it brings me grief instead of satisfaction. So if others do not value the results enough to support them, I might as well go into retirement while I am still able to enjoy it.


About Steven Yates

I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia and teach Critical Thinking (mostly in English) at Universidad Nacionale Andrés Bello in Santiago, Chile. I moved here in 2012 from South Carolina. My most recent book is entitled Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (2011). I am the author of an earlier book, around two dozen articles & reviews, & still more articles on commentary sites on the Web. I live in Santiago with my wife Gisela & two spoiled cats, Bo & Princesa.
This entry was posted in Books, Election 2016 and Aftermath, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to “Reality 101”

  1. Thanks for wriiting this

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