I just finished watching Season 1 of Hulu’s series The Handmaid’s Tale (yes, I’m a bit late to the game here, but that’s the beauty of streaming services), based on the classic dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. The story, set in a near-future mostly indistinguishable from present-day, explores, as all good science fiction does, the potential consequences of a core societal change. In this case, something has happened that has greatly reduced women’s fertility. As portrayed in the television series (I haven’t read the book), one response, that takes place in America, is the rise of a particular form of Christian fundamentalism, the subsequent overthrow of the US government (via an attack that kills the President and most of Congress), and the restructuring of society in a way that strips women of most of their rights and subjugates them to a theocratic government. The tale centers on one woman, whose fertility results in her being made a “handmaid” (a class of women used as breeding stock), but also reviews broader societal changes instituted by this particular theocracy, named Gilead.

As television entertainment, I quite enjoyed Season One. It was well scripted, staged, and acted, and it ably explored the spectrum of human actions and reactions within the confines of its premise. I did not, however, find anything that would make me agree with a basketful of tub-thumping articles that emanated from the liberal press about how America, and especially conservative women, should see it as a cautionary tale of conservatism run amok. Were we not living in times awash in absurd dramatics, the absurdity of thinking that Trump’s victory might be the first visible marker of a rising theocracy would embarrass anyone who dared voice it publicly. But, we are, and many did.

If such folks were honest, they’d draw the far more apt conclusion – that the rise of fundamentalism in the story is a warning against sharia and the virulent form of Islam advanced by ISIS and its clones, not against fundamentalist or evangelical Christianity. But, sharia isn’t going to take hold in America either, despite the Left’s best efforts to portray it and other illiberal belief/cultural sets as morally equivalent to the West’s.

People seem to love a good dystopian story, as evinced by the many television and movie offerings in recent years, and by the barrowful of science fiction tales in that genre. I suspect there are psychological elements rooted in competitiveness and tribalism that drive this love, as in people want to be ahead of the curve in recognizing danger, especially that born of others’ philosophies.

I don’t think I’m quite the doomsayer that many of my societal peers are, especially in the Trump era, but I’m not a starry-eyed optimist either. There are things we should worry about, there are cautionary tales we should heed, and indeed this blog is based on one of those: George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Throw in his other novel of totalitarian dystopia, 1984, and you have a powerful one-two punch. Sadly, it’s a common refrain that these books are supposed to be warnings, not instruction manuals, as we see more and more of what’s in them appear in our society.

Orwell’s an easy caution, but we have an even apter one to look at and learn from, and this week’s surprise Democratic primary upset in New York serves as yet another reminder to look and be warned: Venezuela.

A once-wealthy nation, awash in (the world’s largest reserves of) petroleum, has become a totalitarian hellhole and humanitarian disaster, thanks to the virulent destructiveness of socialism. Ably proving Margaret Thatcher’s caution that “the trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money,” Venezuela couldn’t generate enough revenue to run the nation under socialist principles, even by nationalizing (aka stealing) companies in sector after sector. Today’s Venezuela suffers from hyperinflation, starvation, lack of medicine and the most basic supplies, and rampant looting, crime, and violence. Venezuela is a nation in the throes of collapse, and if the abundant on socialism from the 20th century aren’t enough to turn any sane person away from it, Venezuela should be.

Alas, the press coverage is scant and muted, and since it’s generally found in right-of-center media, there’s a huge swath of the country that is either head-in-the-sand ignorant of yet another spectacular failure of socialism, or has a grotesquely distorted and tendentious understanding of what’s happening there.

Why?

As Bret Stephens writes in the New York Times, probably because Venezuela was held up by the Left as a “cause celebre,” a shining example of how a society should be made more fair for its citizens. To be loud about the failure and crisis in Venezuela today would require repudiating past advocacy and cheerleading, and most people don’t have the intestinal fortitude to admit such error (especially when they’ve lived an entire life extolling an -ism that’s at the root of this disaster). So, they clam up, caterwaul about how we need to worry that we’re teetering on the brink of becoming Gilead, and tell women who are “antichoice” that not only can they not call themselves feminists, they are solidly on the path to becoming the “bad” women of Gilead. Those that comment at all often dismiss Venezuela with “it wasn’t done right.”

Meanwhile, socialism in America is experiencing a renaissance, carefully rehabilitated, softened, and rebranded, with young, miseducated idealists pushing the Democratic Party harder and harder in that direction. All the hollow and undeliverable promises of socialism are being trotted out again as campaign positions for upcoming elections. Meanwhile, both parties continue to close their eyes and shove their heads in the sand when it comes to both the national debt and the unfunded entitlements liabilities that dwarf it.

If we really want to latch onto a dystopian caution, and hold it aloft as a warning against continuing on a particular path, we best serve ourselves and our fellows by looking at Venezuela, rather than Gilead.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

0

Like this post?