Last week I finally started watching The Handmaid’s Tale, after reading the book a few years ago. I was blown away by the series, it’s one of the best series I have seen in recent years, both in terms of camera work and the story line. The drama series shows an alternate reality, in which a totalitarian regime based on fundamental religious views takes over the US. The story takes place around 2016, a few years after faked terrorist attacks allowed the government to radically change its laws and create a new country (Gilead) in which women are second-class citizens, who are not allowed to work or even read. A public security system with spies (‘Eyes’) was set up and people can get arrested for minor things and get publicly executed. The story goes much deeper, but this is the basic structure of society.
One reason the series is so good, is because I realize this is not just fiction but something that could happen in reality. In a way Gilead is an exaggerated version of Trump’s America. What Trump is doing with fake news is done in Gilead at a much bigger scale (season 2 makes that clear when June is hiding in the now closed offices of The Boston Globe). It’s not unthinkable that Trump and his GOP enablers would try to turn America into a kind of Gilead, the signs are there if you look for them (polarizing and dividing society (“us against them”), creating fear among the masses, mass surveillance). It has been done before, even in recent history: look at East Germany after WWII, China during the Cultural Revolution, North Korea right now (and Trump admires Kim Jong Un!), or what ISIS is trying to create in the name of religion.
The thing is, it seems most people don’t want to see. They live their lives as if it’s business as usual, just as in the Handmaid’s Tale. The series shows flashbacks in which you learn how the US changed within a short period from a normal society to a dystopian one. Just like frogs don’t realize they are slowly dying when you put them in water and slowly turn up the temperature, people in the Handmaid’s Tale don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. When they still had time to prepare (=flee) they did not do it. Women were suddenly not allowed to work anymore, but people still stayed around. The signs were all there but most people just lived live as if this would blow over. People were not prepared for what was going to happen.
Guess what? The same is happening right now in the world. To me it has been clear for years that the financial system is not sustainable. Fiat currencies are being debased by printing money and interest rates have dropped below zero in parts of the world so governments can finance their huge debts. We are living in a huge bubble, a bubble that pushes up stock prices (the printed money has to be invested somewhere) and that allows us to live our lives in luxury just a little bit longer.
But it won’t last, the bubble will eventually burst. And then we are in big trouble. People will lose their jobs, pensions and investments, and we will get into a huge recession. Governments could in theory stop this by going back to some kind of gold standard, but they are not doing that because they are addicted to printing money to finance their deficits. So you have to be prepared yourself, get out of fiat currency as much as possible and buy assets that will go up in value when the markets start to crash (gold, silver, and if you are smart of course cryptocurrency). Most people won’t do it, they don’t see that the water around them is starting to boil until they are caught in it and can’t get out anymore.
The climate crisis is another example where people keep on living life as if we are not heading for the end of a cliff. Over the past couple of months I have become much more pessimistic about how this is going to end (just like Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker…). The world does not seem to wake up even though it is probably too late already. Yes, there will be a climate strike and yes there will be new IPCC goals, but it feels like too little too late. Maybe carbon sequestration or other new technologies can still save us, but time is running out fast. Most people don’t seem to be preparing for this while there is still time. Look at Grand Bahama, people are actually starting to rebuild there… Next year it will probably be business as usual there again – until the next big hurricane hits.
History repeats itself. Even though people know rationally that something bad will happen they will not be prepared for the consequences. People know it but don’t want to see it. Because their friends and neighbours are not doing anything they don’t do anything either. Until it’s too late.