If This Goes On, It Still Won't Be The Handmaid's Tale
I’ve been waiting for someone to accuse me of hypocrisy for liking Heinlein’s Revolt in 2100 ("If this goes on...") and hating Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Mind you, I’m a libertarian which means being accused of hypocrisy is my bread and butter, and if it doesn’t happen at least twice a day I start feeling a little off.
The left, for instance, is fond of accusing me of hypocrisy for the stuff I write, since my moral and religious standing should not allow me to do that. Not that I have a moral or religious stand (or rather I do, but often in a different direction from every other human being). In other words, I’m often enough accused of hypocrisy for not matching their strawman of me, so that I expect to be accused of hypocrisy at the drop of a hat.
But there are substantive reasons why "If this goes on..."/Revolt in 2100 is a worthy contribution to speculative literature, while Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tail survives only by being mercilessly inflicted on school children by their progressive elders. And the reasons go way beyond the fact that the blinkered Atwood refuses to be considered “speculative fiction” under the impression that science fiction is bug-eyed monsters ravishing beauties. (Yeah, she said that. No, seriously.) They even go beyond the fact that Robert A. Heinlein could spin a tale, while Margaret Atwood has the writing skills of a bad porn writer, easily matched by any of a dozen newbie erotica writers on Amazon Lending Library who at least, most of the time, manage to make their porn titillating while she only manages to make hers stultifying.
But writing styles are like opinions: everyone has one and everyone has a different taste in them.
The reasons are more substantive when you get to world-building and the nature of fiction.
To the extent one writes science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, it’s because we think or expect our world-building even to hew closer to plausibility than fantasy.
Not that fantasy is exempt from plausibility or from having characters who act like people (unless, of course, they are something else). But in science fiction, we might concede one or two impossible things (faster than light, artificial gravity) but on the whole, we expect the world/events to be something that could happen, given one or two major developments.
Which is where The Handmaid’s Tale deserves all the vile things that can possibly be said about it and a chamberpot of insults besides, because it’s easier to believe in elves, gnomes, and magic that works than in its contorted world-building.
The book might have been all right, at that, if placed in another world far away and with a religion no one ever heard of.
Which is the primary problem with it. Atwood, having spent some time in New England, viewed it as a hub of Christian fundamentalism. And having spent no time at all with sincere Christian believers, views the faith as a mirror image of Islam.
Which means the world she proceeds to build has anyone who knows the region or the religion throwing the book against the wall. Then there are the constant violations of “people don’t act that way.”
Given all this, it would be a miracle that the left – particularly the feminut left – has attached to this book as a just-so tale for the Trump presidency. If I don’t ever see another landwhale in a red cape it will be too soon.
However, it makes perfect sense. You see, the left has read The Handmaid’s Tale, or at least the CliffsNotes, and has been told by their teachers at school that the book is relevant and a tale for our times.
Being the extreme incurious conformists they are, it stands to reason they grab onto this any time they think their droit du vagina (rule by the magic of having been born with one) is threatened.
Besides, they would melt into a puddle of crying goo if they read and understood Revolt in 2100 (which I’m still convinced Atwood read and tried to crib in a supremely hamfisted way).
Sure, Heinlein said the American people were always in danger of succumbing to theocracy. And he wasn’t wrong. You see, he might have thought it was the theocracy of a religion (this being an artifact of his very religious and insular upbringing, though perhaps not insular for the early 20th century), but as the cult and election of the One True Leader Obama showed us, there are religions that have nothing to do with the hope of an afterlife or the existence of God.
In the blinkered certainty that Marxism is the future of history and that the U.S. must do penance so the world can rise, Obama showed a fundamental faith so deep that given just a little more charisma he could have been Nehemiah Scudder.
And the fun part of this – besides the fact that Heinlein pointed out several times this religion wasn’t Christianity (in fact in Stranger he makes an off-handed comment about Jesus of Nazareth being almost forgotten) — is that Heinlein nailed the repressive mechanisms and blinkered faith that allow tyranny to exist and flourish.
I doubted some of these mechanisms when I was young. Things like sexual repression. But of course, Heinlein had seen several tyrannies arise.
I know that the left seems to insist on free-for-all everything but that’s just an attempt at hammering functioning society down. Once in power, every leftist regime is sexually repressive to a point that it would make medieval priests cringe.
We're seeing this horror of sex or even flirting arise in today's left. Sure, they encourage you to identify as whatever of a million “genders” you wish to, but when push comes to shove, even if you managed to find your counterpart in a system that seems more complicated than million-piece puzzles, if you even try anything, you can find yourself accused of rape, which these days means “I had sex and didn’t like it.” This, despite the constant drumbeat for exotic sexuality that is already creating a chilling effect in the eternal dance between male and female.
Well, honestly, if I were a young male today I’d keep it in my pants unless I was 100 percent sure of the girl. And maybe even then, until she gave me a contract signed in blood consenting to sex.
So, the sexual repression is already setting in.
As is the “this you cannot read, this you cannot know, this you cannot think” that is the true prison in Revolt in 2100.
Listening to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, granted, might be a dim bulb, but is a dim bulb with a degree (in economics!) from a prestigious university, one can’t help but see that in action.
People should revile her for being an ignorant millennial, but no. Yeah. Millenials are “ignorant” of anything resembling the truth because they’ve been stuffed full of “truths” that just ain’t so. Stuff like how redistribution brings about prosperity (heard some adult just yesterday claiming we’re just continuing the Obama recovery. What a bill of counterfactuals to sell people. They should be writing fiction). Or that guaranteed everything from education to housing spurs the economy. (It does at that, Venezuela-ward.)
It’s obvious this woman never read a book that wasn’t sanctioned and never had a thought that wasn't pre-digested and given to her in small, easy-to-swallow bits.
All of which, beyond Ocasio-Cortez, applies to a majority of the millennials on the left. (No, not all are. But those who aren’t, as several undercover readers of my blog inform me, take great care not to be caught out. Because if they are, it’s the end of everything from educational to work opportunities. They’ll be branded as heretics and cast out of the body.)
If this goes on… we might end up in something very similar to Heinlein’s Revolt in 2100 only perhaps looking more like Venezuela. Because the fundamental faith that is taking over this country is – for at least half the country – a fundamental faith in socialism, which is as unfounded and divorced from reality as any religious faith, but without the saving grace of believing that humans were made in the shape of God and not to be trifled with.
This is why Revolt in 2100 remains relevant: it shows the mechanisms of twisting the human mind, of channeling human interest into allegiance to a totalitarian regime, while The Handmaid’s Tale is only relevant for allowing a bunch of neurotics to wear red capes and cosplay relevance.