It was reading Sarah Kendzior's tweet about her book View from Flyover County that sparked this post. In the extract she included she talked about the 'low-key autocracy' of her home state of Missouri.
She illustrated some of the appalling legislation that exists there: women who use birth control can lose their jobs, they lowered the minimum wage below that of the national. Most concerning perhaps, Missouri is the first state in the US where black people are officially advised not to travel. All horrific features of a dystopian society in my view. Features driven by narrow-minded, reactionary right-wing values.
It got me thinking that the values in my dystopian world in The Bastard from Fairyland may not be quite so fantastical as you'd imagine. The attitudes of law makers in Missouri explain to non-Americans how Trump became President, why his 'America First' policy is so popular. It represents the first step towards dystopia - where the individual places their needs above everyone else's, and is prepared to make others suffer in the process.
I used mass migration as the lever in my novel and since its inception, the news is full of these 'first steps'. Trump placing travel bans on all people from specific nations, a protectionist measure designed to stop people from seeking a better, more secure, life. (Precisely how America came to be 200 years ago!)
The deluge of refugees fleeing Syria and war-torn nations in Africa led to a domino-effect backlash across Europe. In Britain it fed the fear that resulted in Brexit. Hungary, despite EU protestations about free travel, erected fences along their national boundaries. With his third election victory, a landslide, Viktor Orban gleefully pronounced the country to be an 'illiberal democracy' - disregarding its definition as an oxymoron. Poland and Austria have followed in its wake, electing ultra right-wing governments on the basis of anti-immigration rhetoric. Other nations, like France and Germany, have fought off this reaction at the ballot box but the undercurrent is visible and gaining power. Even more extreme policies are visible in Russia and China.
Which leaves me to believe that any society which is prepared to sacrifice the survival of another human being for purely selfish reasons, is on the first step of the dystopian ladder. The next step is when legislation compels this inequality to exist and allows authorities to act in whatever way they see fit. This leads to step 3, where vigilante behaviour is a reflection of a society that cannot contain its own paranoia.
History illustrates these steps sadly. Sure, you can go back to Nazi Germany, but more recently look at regimes like the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia, the genocide in Rwanda and in Bosnia just 20 years ago.
Paranoia drives this behaviour and begins by targeting outsiders because they are seen as a threat - to a perceived 'golden age' and status quo. It is followed by the persecution of minority groups and any dissenting voices (as is happening in Hungary). Eventually it includes the dismantling of a free media and open attacks on any dissenting voices until it becomes safer to remain quiet and allow the the rupturing of society to continue unchallenged and unabated.
This is the world I created in The Bastard of Fairyland, it was driven by sudden environmental catastrophe. But I can't help but wonder if this is what we can expect when world leaders turn blind eyes to so much social upheaval. Unless the world recognises its responsibility to other human beings, mass migration might be the factor that generates a dystopia that could be worse than any author, George Orwell included, ever imagined.