Dystopians In High Castles

by Thomas O’Dwyer

A fallen statue of Nazi American leader John Smith.
A fallen statue of the American Nazi leader, John Smith.

It could have been that simple — the Nazis nuke Washington D.C. and it’s all over. Capitulation follows, resistance is futile. There are plenty of right-wingers in high places — political, military, even cultural, who see this not as a conquest but an opportunity. French Marshal Philippe Pétain and Norway’s Vidkun Quisling had been such people. So too is Obergruppenführer John Smith, their fictional American counterpart in Philip K. Dick’s classic novel The Man in the High Castle. The conquering Nazis offer formerly patriotic American officers light temptations and they casually fall, and then rise. The war is lost, collaboration is inevitable. It’s better to be at the front of the queue, showing some willingness to proclaim (by some small actions) that you accept the times as they are a-changing.

Dick’s novel differs in many aspects from the recently completed Amazon TV series based on it. But in both, the Nazis secure the east side of the country, setting up their capital in New York. The West Coast is messier, but wasn’t it always? On that side of the continent, the Japanese have won. Unlike the stiff-necked and murderously pure Nazis, the Japanese are unabashedly nationalist. They are ruthless occupiers too, but ration their resources to inflict their cruelties on identifiable enemies and resisters. Read more »

Why you can’t buy a first class ticket to Utopia

by Emrys Westacott

ScreenHunter_411 Nov. 23 14.03Just about every high school would like more money and harder working students. I have a modest proposal to address both problems. In every high school cafeteria let there be two groups—call them, say, “premier” and “regular.” To be in the premier group, students must either pay an additional fifty percent on top of the normal price for a school lunch or be ranked academically in the top five percent of their class. Those in the premier group would enjoy a number of privileges: they queue in their own line, which gives them priority over “regulars” for receiving service; they sit in a separate section at special tables adorned with tablecloths and floral centerpieces; their chairs have padded seats; and they have more choice at the food counter. In addition to the options available to the regular group, they can avail themselves of a complimentary hors d'oeuvre, sparkling water instead of tap water, and an after-lunch coffee or cappuccino (with complimentary chocolate mint). Best of all, perhaps, they enjoy unfiltered internet access.

The benefits of the system should be obvious. The extra revenue generated by the premier group will (among other things) enable the school to offer better food to all while lowering prices for those in the standard group. And students will be inspired to work harder so that they can enjoy premier group privileges, or at least ensure that one day their own kids will do so.

Objections anyone? I can't think of any apart from the thought that the whole scheme is utterly pernicious, likely to breed arrogance on the one side, resentment on the other, and to foster social divisions that subtly fracture the community spirit that ideally would unite all members of the school.

My modest proposal occurred to me the other day when, for the first time, by some inexplicable fluke, I found myself assigned to a first class seat on a jumbo jet flying from Denver to Washington.

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