‘Faithless New World: Two Thousand Thirty-Five’

Portrait of Michel de Nostredame painted circa 1614 by his son, César de Nostredame. 

I’m not a social psychologist but I venture to say America is suffering from a dystopia complex that’s manifesting itself in national malaise.

People don’t use the word despair anymore but America is suffering from despair as well that manifests itself in anger. The cocktail of malaise and anger has people reaching for guns when they feel wronged.

A number of folks told me they like shows like the “Handmaid’s Tale” and other depictions of a fascist society, which the late great sociologist Erving Goffman called a “total institution” and Hannah Arendt totalitarian society.

I do not know if young people today, or people of any age, read Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” stories of societies where people’s choices are made for them: by the State, corporate entities, or some zealous prelate — the nightmarish life of an automaton.

And when I meet people who relish such darkness, I ask why, and they never have an answer.

Nevertheless, I’ll offer a few Nostrodamic predictions from my dystopian “Faithless New World: Two Thousand Thirty-Five.”

My Number One prediction is: Within the next decade or so, the American experiment called The Democratic Republic of the United States will be done for. It’s already gasping for air with social arrangements that divide more than heal.

It’d be worthwhile for the U.S. government to fund a study on how the Italians became a fascistic nation under Mussolini — they sure were Julius Caesar’s kin.

Number Two: There’ll be great migrations of people from the western part of the country and down south, ousted from their homes by drought or fire or overwhelming heat; when California goes dry, millions and millions of Americans will head east like pioneers in a wagon train.

Number Three: When it comes to governmental elections — at all levels — illusion-based factionalists will reach for their guns to pick a winner. A few weeks ago, Lee Zeldin, New York Republican candidate for governor, was attacked on stage by a guy with a blade, letting Americans know democracy is a no-go.

In some areas there won’t be elections at all.

Number Four: The great migrations from drought-ridden states and those torched by unquenchable fire — multitudes on the run — will aggravate the ethical divide that exists in the country, further mocking “America the Beautiful.”

That is, Americans who reject — even scorn — involvement in “community-making” will more boldly declare: This is mine and will stay mine, and that Second Amendment you see hanging from my hip says so too.

And, because we’ve stopped making community for so long, we’ve lost the competencies that come with it — the methods, techniques, strategies that facilitate accommodating difference without resorting to violence. Becoming involved in a community group like the Kiwanis is a thing of the past.

Thus, Americans know more about Maury Povich than what families, countries, individuals, local communities need to do to flourish. On July 20, Bloomberg News posted a bulletin saying Americans are migrating to Europe because they can’t afford to live here anymore.

Another study that needs doing therefore is: What’s the cause of America’s worries, and what’s the relationship between those worries and despair? We can easily develop a Happiness Quotient Inventory (HQI) to assess the depth of America’s neurosis and her willingness to change.

That is, if I brought in 10 judges right now — noted for their no-horse-in-the-race Solomonic wisdom — and asked each to size up the health of America’s institutions — rate them from 1 to 10 — and come up with a composite of how good Americans feel about being alive, how much family, church, workplace, school, even national pride affect their well-being, and how confident they are that — when things go wrong — the guy next door and people down the street will come running like a fire brigade.

That’s what Robert Putnam was talking about in “Bowling Alone” whose subtitle reads: “The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” Putnam said America was breeding isolates, a condition for mass-shootings.

Dystopians know all about the collapse part and, while continuing to whine, refuse to administer the mouth-to-mouth America needs to resuscitate.

I won’t say boning up on these matters is summer reading, though it’d work for some — the ideas need a quiet place for pondering and study groups to discuss the conditions of a happy society, the feeling of being connected and looked after, of believing one’s dependencies (needs) will not be greeted with grudge-filled resentment.

Which is to say that, when Utah is asked to take in 11 million Californians arriving like dust-bowl Oakies, and Mississippi two million, how will Utah respond? What will Mississippi say? A sharp-mouthed cynic would say: Them down-home folk don’t even spend on their own.

I looked at what Mississippi spends on educating its young; they’re fifth from the bottom in how much states encourage kids to expand their vision beyond the kitchen door; Utah is last.

The DODS, the Diaspora of Displaced Souls, will need jobs, a place to live, a school for the kids (that’s somewhat culturally sensitive), a feeling of being at home because the guy next door and neighbors down the street helped heal the pain of a trip that started from nowhere.

We must never forget that the Diaspora did not cause the drought, the wildfires, or killing heat — we all cause them. We cannot treat them like some do rape-victims: Hey, lady, you asked for it!

Number Five: There’ll be a mass shooting every week — we may be there already — the non-stoppable collapse of a dying body-politic, the way a body disintegrates, afflicted with muscular dystrophy.

Never mind red states and blue states, the new criterion will be just states and unjust states, just communities and unjust communities, the same for families, schools, places of work — even intimate personal relationships.

Over the years I’ve been involved in discussion groups on justice at all levels and, when appropriate, have asked someone in the group: Well, do you consider yourself a just person?

It always brought puzzlement; the thought of being just versus unjust, or being a stooge for Mussolini, is not part of America’s patois.

In school, kids do not collaborate so they lose out on the practice of community: I’m talking about two of them — even a group — working together all semester, doing exams together, the same homework, getting the same grade. One for all, all for one.

Years ago I taught a course at the State University of New York at Albany — twice — called “Utopia,” in the once-exalted School of Criminal Justice. We looked at societies opposite that of the handmaidens’ Gilead.

A few people asked what a course like that was doing in a School of Criminal Justice.

I said: If a person is interested in ridding society of crime, and harms that tear a society apart, he, she, they need to find examples of social life where everybody gets along, where the needs of all are met, where no one feels compelled to shower a neighbor with bullets because they feel cheated by life.

As the great American poet, Williams Carlos Williams — a revered physician by day — used to say: People can’t speak about these things because they do not have the words. The beginning of his great epic “Paterson” goes:

The language, the language

                    fails them

They do not know the words

                    or have not

the courage to use them . . .

they say: the language!

                   — the language

is divorced from their minds,

the language … the language!