I wonder: Do we get the dystopia we deserve? Or are we just too plain lazy (or ill-informed) in our reading matter. Can’t we look further than Facebook or Wikipedia for our reading matter? YES YES YES by all means read ‘1984’. It is definitely ONE of the many dsytopian books one should have read. Will it help you make sense of the situation we are in today? Maybe. But there are plenty of other works that will.
Personally my response to the election of Donald Trump was to read ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand, a book I’ve put off reading for a very long time. And it’s a very long book. Very challenging. Very ‘tempting’ at times but also sugar coating a very dangerous philosophy.
I fear that people read like snacking, or browsing. It’s all too easy for us just to go ‘oh, 1984, totalitarian state’ and then move on to the next new crisis. If you really want to being to understand where we are and how we got here, you’re going to have to engage on a deeper level and that means going to some dark places. ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is one of those. For a bit of light relief once I’d finished it I read John Steinbeck’s ‘In Dubious Battle’. It was a much slighter book – and not a patch on ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ but it is complex too – you do have to think about exactly what viewpoint Steinbeck is expressing (and exploring). It’s a book for people who think. I suspect by contrast that the many books (and no, I haven’t read any) by Donald Trump on how to be a billionaire capitalist success don’t require as much intellectual rigour. But yet they are so much more appealing to people – at least if the sales figures are to be believed.
Be afraid, be very afraid. I ask again - how come that people are so astonished by what Trump is doing? He said it on TV, he published it in bestselling books… what did we think he was going to do? Wake up and smell the coffee people, stop sleepwalking your way through life. Brexit is the same. After more than 30 years of telling people Europe is just a pain and a drain to us in the UK, is it really surprising people voted to leave? No more surprising than that enough Scots (or people living in Scotland) were convinced that we are indeed too wee, too poor and too stupid to be an independent country. I’m beginning to think we’re too selfish, too greedy and too capitalist aspirational to ever gain our freedom as a country. You see I learned something from 1984 ( and I’ve read it many times over the last 40 years) When you’re doomed, you’re doomed. But I still hold out, believing that even when I’m beaten, I won’t love Big Brother. I don’t have hope. Just a strength of will to survive as long as possible.
What can I do? Well, precious little of course. But I do what I can and it’s not signing petitions or going on protests because in my opinion those things are completely worthless – and perhaps counter-productive, encouraging people to think they’ve ticked off the ‘made my views heard’ list which expiates their sense of injustice and leaves them free to move on with their lives, never really getting under the surface of exactly where we are now and what (if anything) can be done about it. And what, if nothing can be done, we then do. How we manage to live our lives – especially if we have to live our lives without hope. If we don’t believe that words like Democracy or even Social Justice will save us.
I think we need to be re-evaluating the very nature of words like Democracy and Social Justice rather than waving banners. I think we need to start educating ourselves rather than letting ourselves be educated by the gatekeepers.
However, why should anyone listen to me rather than The Donald? Let’s set us up one against the other:
Here is Donald J. Trumps Amazon Author page
Donald J. Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, sports, and entertainment. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance. An accomplished author, Mr. Trump has authored over fifteen bestsellers and his first book, The Art of the Deal, is considered a business classic and one of the most successful business books of all time. Mr. Trump has over eight million followers on social media and is a frequent guest across a variety of media platforms.
Here is mine: (which I will admit I have just re-written. It took me long enough to find the password and remember how to use Amazon’s system because these days I tend to hang out at www.unco.scot rather than Amazon. But in order to give The Donald a scare (ha ha) I thought I’d pit myself against his amazing author profile! I will not love Big Brother and I refuse to accept that creativity is an industry.
Cally Phillips has published stageplays, screenplays, short stories (in English and Scots) and novels. None of them have won awards or been bestsellers which is just as well because as a graduate in Moral Philosophy from St Andrews University, it’s not an accolade she looks for.
When you don’t play by the rules you can’t expect to win the prizes.
It has been said that Cally 'thinks her way through life' and certainly her writing reflects this characteristic. It is idioscyncratic, challenging, open and revealing, exploring difficult concepts such as identity and the nature of reality, employing a range of literary styles but engaging the reader through compellingly believable characters and stories that keep you thinking long after the final page.
Cally also edits and publishes books by ‘forgotten’ and ‘under the radar’ Scottish authors past and present.
Well folks, you pays your money and you takes your choice. While I was reminding myself of how Amazon worked I thought I’d look at the ratings for my own ‘modern’ or perhaps ‘post-modern’ dystopic novel Brand Loyalty first dreamed up in the 1990’s as a drama series for Channel 4 who didn’t commission it because it was ‘too dark a view of modern society.’ It was first published in 2010. There have been times (I know how to play the algorithms I just generally choose not to) when it has been #1 in Political Fiction on Amazon (okay, only when I give it away but still #1 – does that scare The Donald?)
Here are the stats folks. As of Feb 1st 2017. I’ll update them on Feb 14 and Feb 22 for your entertainment!
Brand Loyalty: Cally Phillips
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #773,525 Paid in Kindle Store
#1398 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Political
#2609 in Books > Fiction > Political
#17132 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Literary
1984: George Orwell
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #147 Paid in Kindle Store
#1 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Political
#2 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics > Literary
#2 in Kindle Store > Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Dystopian
Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,409 Paid in Kindle Store
#9 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics > American
#18 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics > Romance
#33 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Political
And here is The Donald's Crippled America
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #17,134 Paid in Kindle Store
#41 in Kindle Store > Books > Biography & True Accounts > Leaders & Notable People > Political
#70 in Books > Biography > Political > United States
#101 in Books > Biography > Historical > United States
From these stats you can make the obvious and simple assumption that they are more popular than me, and that may lead you to believe they are better writers than me. Or is there perhaps something less obvious at play? That’s for you to find out.
Here’s my plan. Or challenge. Depends on how you look at it. I’m going to put Brand Loyalty Kindle out for free on 14th Feb (my birthday gift to the world) and then again Feb 18-22nd (when we’re all suffering our 1 month Presidential anniversary) What can you do? Download it. Tell other people about it. Get them to download it. That’s the way it shoots up the Amazon charts.
Of course if you feel really radical you could also buy it, then it would go up the PAID charts too. (It certainly won’t ever make me a Trump Billionaire of course, thank goodness) However, it could be an act of dystopic resistance - that’s bound to send The Donald running scared, eh?
And I’d like to think that you might READ it too. Read 1984 first if you like. The read Brand Loyalty. And ask yourself, is The Donald one of the 100 men? Do you even believe in the 100 men? Reality, after all, is what we choose to believe. Go on. I dare you. Put down your banners and petitions for a couple of days. Like and share on social media if that’s your thing. Be daring. Step away from the award winning best-sellers and see what it’s like UNDER THE RADAR. You might be surprised.
Of course the smart money is that you simply do nothing. Ignore me. Keep on ignoring me. Like I said, we get the dystopia we deserve. I don’t live in hope that my writing will find more readers, open to the ‘story’. I have no expectations (great or otherwise) on that score because I know from 1984 that we have been lost since the clock struck 13. It’s your choice what you choose to do next.
Bur why not do something different this February? Step away from the Award winning best-sellers and slum it with the rest of us! It’s an act of resistance worthy of Winston Smith.