The society that couldn't see itself
The society was based on some very basic, easy to understand principles. Life goals and lifestyles were pretty much standardized. A job, a family and a career were all laid on, and everyone was the same. This society was so successful that it effectively enforced itself.
Children would lecture each other about “the real world”, and old people would basically confirm all these principles, endlessly upholding the values of the past like witch doctors. Women would yearn to marry the boss, and men would yearn to be the boss, so they could marry attractive women and buy more booze, the incarnate form of manhood. Children were taught these things from the cradle. It was idyllic.
Change was something that happened in supermarkets. New packaging was so unusual that it was the topic of conversations for weeks. People invariably preferred the old packet. Fashions were “salutes to recycling”, as were television, politics and chat shows where people were literally hired to disagree with each other, and received counseling as part of the deal.
There were no controversies. Nothing was ever wrong. When a city destroyed itself through faulty wiring, it was obviously an accident. When banks collapsed, it was just bad luck. Epidemics, plagues and the odd famine were no reason to question the society’s basic values, either. They were simply ignored. Buildings and generations of people were simply replaced. This was called the Smart Way, an ideology which predictably conformed to all known values of the society, with a smattering of semi-literate social Darwinism thrown in if they needed a certain number of words.
Had this society existed in a goldfish bowl, this could have gone on forever. Like a goldfish bowl, the basic motif was that everything was good and everything else could simply be cleaned. The society, which had removed the world “literacy” from the dictionary because it didn’t want to cause a panic, was insular to a degree no goldfish would have ever considered worthwhile.
After 50 years of idealized insularity, any society may encounter the odd hiccup. The response to financial crises, excessive prices, rampaging crime, economic obsolescence and wars was to demand the return of the ideals, not to deal with the problems. The society still considered its basic model perfection incarnate, even among the ruins.
After three generations in which the social model kept running despite the fact that the society itself had long since collapsed, the rich and poor alike insisted on a return to the infallible past. Children lectured each other on politics, and old people babbled endlessly about the economics of a world long gone.
The society still exists, in theory. The lifestyle has vanished, the prosperity is now available to very few, and there are now more guns and psychoses than people. The irony is that this society is at war with another society, in which spouting dogma in deserts is the main entertainment. Apparently nobody’s seen the parallel.
More by this Author
Jerome K Jerome is famous for the classic Three Men in a Boat and the play/movie Passing of the Third Floor Back. What’s not generally recognized is that his style clearly influenced a lot of later writers. Jerome...
Paul Wallis Goodbye To All That is a biographical novel detailing experiences of Robert Graves from childhood through the First World War and the post-war years of the 1920s. This book is particularly famous for its...
From my book, The Good Manager, published on lulu.com Paul Wallis The Good Manager Who do you think you are? The management culture, and how to avoid it Respect is a verb Business intelligence networks Ad hoc...