Science Fiction -or- Fear and Loathing in the Global Village
Science Fiction: Global Utopian Dream or Dystopian Nightmare?
The communication devices of the historical stage, (such as mise en scène and mise en abyme), organizes the spectacle of sociey into a gestalt of paradigmatic frames of mind that circulates through our conversations. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backwards: 2000-1887 is a utopian Dream Vision that attempts to allegorize the story of hope in a socialist future to a disillusioned American audience. As a response to Bellamy, William Morris' Dream Vision News from Nowhere critiques Bellamy's socialist vision.
To the modern mindset, Franz Kafka's work signals the nightmare of cruelties within the family, the stigmatizing and alienating force of bureaucracies, and the sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, estrangement, and isolation felt by urban dwellers. The Kafkaesque points to the existential nightmare in which the character is bewildered by the workings of the mind and social reality and has trouble charting a course of action, even if only to escape the nightmarish cityscape. In the first sentence of Kafka's The Metamorphosis: "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect." The incomprehensible oneiric forces at work that transformed Samsa remain a mystery. In Samsa's tale, only the mysterious terrible sense of the nightmare are assured.
For Ernst Bloch in The Principle of Hope, the work of the utopian imagination is propelled by the polarities of light and darkness, of hope and despair, of dream and nightmare. Dream Vision provides the mind with a light meter for hope. If light is a metaphor for hope, and if science fiction is the genre that speculates about the future, is the Earth metamorphosing into a Kafkaesque place of darkness and despair, such as that mindscape of the neo-noir cyberpunk SF film classic Blade Runner (based on Phillip K. Dick's Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?)?
Dystopias belong to the theatre of grotesque. Such examples of dystopias as Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four and Animal Farm, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon express the fear of totalitarian dictatorship, visions of societies in the throes of a collective nightmare. Underworld, the dystopian postmodern novel by Don DeLillo, presents a world of international capital, transnational media, hostile takeovers and electronic sex. Individuals and communities are unprotected amidst a high-tech bombardment more sinister than the nuclear threat. Skin and mind have become flayed, exposing the insides to penetrating and manipulating electronic signals leaving the individual feeling excoriated, invaded and violated.
Dreams received at the IIDR speak of a multitude of such dystopian landscapes, a recent film Children of Men (view video) warns us as most dystopias do, of the dream of life turning into a nightmare.
Cultural Imperialism: Mind Control and the Politics of Fear
Aldous Huxley had already warned us of the political use of mind control techniques. Hypnopaedia, sleep learning, was a device that, for Huxley in his dystopian novel Brave New World, represented the ultimate form of mind control. In the book, infant hypnopaedia is used to condition consciousness and ensure the compliance with the ideological order. Throughout the novel, characters spout what they were made to believe through hypnopaedia. Even those who are conscious of such mind control cannot fully escape its power.
Mind Control (see video) and psychological warfare (view video) was investigated by the CIA . The 2004 film The Manchurian Candidate (see film trailer) based on the novel by Richard Condon, features a brainwashed American soldier whose dreams hold the keys to the truth of a political conspiracy.
In The Crisis of the Self in the Age of Information: Computers, Dolfins and Dreams, Raymond Barglow argues that computers and information technologies have colonized the mind. Informed by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Barglow believes that, instead of the old organic metaphor of the body, a new technological equation has gained ascendancy: mind = machine, undermining and rewriting the sense of an autonomous self. Barglow sees a crisis of individualism. Is he telling us that we are in danger of becoming the mythological techno-character of the Star Trek series known as The Borg (see video)? Will resistance in this tribal hive mind become futile?
Although the computer is the ruling metaphor of our age, Barglow does not take account of one of its practical effects. Dreams received at the IIDR bear out U.S. cultural dominance in the Global Village, influencing the planet to accept its rituals. Of special concern is the U.S. military's and the CIA's neo-colonial surveillance of national theatres. In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin, anticipates the means by which the United States has politicized communication with a mass-produced art, mind, consciousness and economic message system.
Cultural imperialism (see video) has been critiqued by the likes of Edward Said and Noam Chomsky (view video). The German band Rammstein Amerika (watch music video) has graphically parodied the perceived American cultural imperialism. The most radical form of this trend of cultural imperialism is the threat of American militarism. In President Eisenhauer's farewell address to the nation, he warned of the influences of the Military Industrial Complex (see video), while President Reagan Star Wars (view video) vision fueled it and the Cold War film Dr Strangelove (see film trailer)parodied it.
Power of Nightmares -or- Fear and Loathing in the Global Village
To clearly understand such social evils as mind control, war, violence, rape, abuse, hate crimes, prejudice, and censorship we must restore the dreams communal communication frame by re-embodying visions and voices that have been suppressed and relegated to the unconscious. The communication problem, however, looms large, since most people remain fixated on their personal problems without realizing that their victimization or alienation is linked to negative communal or global factors. Nor are most of those who shatter others' dreams aware of how much harm they inflict. Most likely they wouldn't care, unless they resembled Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, whose Dream Visions transformed him. The wars, genocides, and crimes against humanity in the 20th century alone echo as nightmares, and resonate among those who survived. Even more horrific is the thought of the voices and visions that were muted or erased from history by death squads, in gulags and in killing fields or other even more recent horrors, such as the Rwandan genocide or the Iraq War.
These You Tube video documentaries provide visions of a planet faced with a variety of perils.
- Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands with the Devil (see video) documents a first hand narrative and account of the Rwandan genocide.
- Former American Vice-President Al Gore's An Inconvienient Truth (view video) documents what he believes is a planet in ecological peril.
- The controversial BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares by Adam Curtis provides a perspective of our present global situation; Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 .