Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, August 14, 2014

report from the Luddite kingdom

What world does Michael Solana live in? Apparently, a world where Luddites have taken power and have driven our kind and benevolent technologists into some pitiful hole-and-corner existence, where no one dares to suggest that technology can solve our problems. "Luddites have challenged progress at every crux point in human history. The only thing new is now they’re in vogue, and all our icons are iconoclasts. So it follows here that optimism is the new subversion. It’s daring to care. The time is fit for us to dream again.” 

Yes! Dare to dream! But take great care — do you realize what those Luddites will do to you if you as much as hint that technology can solve our problems? 

I have to say, it’s pretty cool to get a report from such a peculiar land. Where you and I live, of course, technology companies are among the largest and most powerful in the world, our media are utterly saturated with the prophetic utterances of their high priests, and people continually seek high-tech solutions to every imaginable problem, from obesity to road rage to poor reading scores in our schools. So, you know, comparative anthropology FTW. 

And now, two serious points:

1) To quote Freddie deBoer, Victory is yours. It has already been accomplished.” Is it really necessary for you to extinguish every last breath of dissent — even what comes to us in fiction? Relatedly:

2) Here again we see the relentless cultural policing of the pink police state. Stop reading young adult fiction! Stop writing dystopian fiction! Stop imagining what we do not wish you to imagine! 

In T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, here’s what happens when the Wart is turned into an ant: 

The place where he was seemed like a great field of boulders, with a flattened fortress at one end of it — between the glass plates. The fortress was entered by tunnels in the rock, and, over the entrance to each tunnel, there was a notice which said:


He read the notice with dislike, though he did not understand its meaning.

Welcome to the ant’s little world, where of course the converse is necessarily true: Everything that is not compulsory is forbidden. In the pink police state there are no adiaphora


  • But I think Solana does have a point: there is a free-floating paranoia, an assumption that darkness-and-horrible-things-is-Realism!, that is stronger in YA and SF and comix than it used to be in the TechnoLiberalOptimism of the Past, as it is most everywhere. An assumption that V for Vendetta is the reality, not a nightmare. (Which belief Alan Moore may have shared in; but let us ignore the author for the present moment.) Maybe TechnoLiberalOptimism is not the preferred solution; but WeAllLiveInADarwinianConcentrationCamp does have real flaws as well.

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