It's early 1961. Eisenhowser gave his farewell speech that warned about the millitary-industrial complex and Kennedy, after the closest Presidential race in U. S. History, is turning the White House into Camelot. The horrors of the Cold War have yet to come. Vietnam is still back page news in the papers, McCarthyism is, if not completely dead, mostly over. The mood of the nation is optimistic.
And into this idyll place a novel is given to some random 20something to read. It's not a novel in the conventional sense but more of a collection of vignettes about the future. Nothing exciting, nothing overly grand. Just normal life as it would appear to someone in the future. Some fourty years into the future.
About our now.
Notes from my poor attempt at a novel, 20 Minutes Into The Future
My intent was to write a series of loosely coupled stories taking place in the near indeterminate future, some fourty, maybe fifty years down the road. Just take current trends as I see them, and extend them down; maybe toss in a few outrageous things that can't possibly happen (who could foresee the fall of Communism or terrorists piloting a plane (a commercial plane!) into the Pentagon? Or two of the tallest buildings in the U. S.?) and let it stand at that.
Only I'm getting rather depessed the more I contemplate the near future. And not just over Pax Americana either. The abolishment of anonymous money (unless of course, you are already filthy rich in which case there are plenty of tax havens for you to shuffle your funds towards), the abolishment of ownership (and not by a Communistic government fiat but by the relentless shift of ownership from personal to corporations and foundations), creation of corporate fiefdoms (which are worse than the fiefdoms of Europe—at least there you gave your fielty to your local barron and he protected you—now you still have to give your fielty to your local corporate masters but they don't have to protect you, or even keep you employed), errosion of privacy (data mining of cross indexed corporate and government databases, ubiquitous cameras watching our every move, and every citizen being fingerprinted and chipped from childhood) and excuse me whilst I slit my wrists right now …
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Excerpt from my poor attempt at a novel, 20 Minutes Into The Future
I thought it best to rethink my strategy, and it's then when I turned to The Hero Of A Thousand Faces. Joseph Campbell did extensive research into the myths from around the world and noticed certain themes coming up time and time again. These he outlined and explained in his book, The Hero Of A Thousand Faces, notes of which I made into entries (mostly for myself but hey, someone else could find a use for them). So if George Lucas can apply the monomyth to a crappy script (“You can type this XXXX, George, but you can't say it.” –Harrison Ford), bad acting (Need I mention a whiny Mark Hamill? Or Carrie Fisher's faux British accent through half the film?) and a derivative plot (taken from Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, right down to the two peasents rendered as A2-D2 and C-3P0) and have one of the top grossing films ever, then it couldn't hurt me, right?
But I have a problem with the Hero's Arc. Not that I don't think it's valid (it is) but more for what it represents—that the Hero is extraordinary in some sense; that he's of divine birth (or noble birth, but really, there is no difference as the early kings and emperors of our history were thought to be of divine birth anyway) and has a higher destiny; a calling to greatness. Joe Serf need not apply. And that doesn't sit well with me. Even Luke Skywalker turned out to be the spawn of a knight and a queen …
The other problem I'm having is that I've yet to write fiction. Okay, sure, I have a few comedy sketches I did (Monty Python phase) and my humor columns towards the end might be considered mostly fictional but they did derive from actual events (however exaggerated they became—perhaps this was my Hunter S. Thompson phase, unbeknownst to me) and there was the one college paper on Gothic Cathedrals was largly fabricated on the spot (I was in my Dave Barry phase at that point) but overall, most of my writing has been non-fictional in nature. This fictional stuff is quite different for me, so there's difficulty there.
So right now, I'm at a loss of where to go …
The second document, the gigantic Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, outlined teaching reforms to be forced on the country after 1967. If you ever want to hunt this thing down, it bears the U.S. Office of Education Contract Number OEC-0-9-320424-4042 (B10). The document sets out clearly the intentions of its creators—nothing less than “impersonal manipulation” through schooling of a future America in which “few will be able to maintain control over their opinions,” an America in which “each individual receives at birth a multi-purpose identification number” which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of underlings and to expose them to direct or subliminal influence when necessary. Readers learned that “chemical experimentation” on minors would be normal procedure in this post-1967 world, a pointed foreshadowing of the massive Ritalin interventions which now accompany the practice of forced schooling.
I came across this link not as research for my poor attempt at a novel, but because I have an interest in just how bad our educational system is, but I didn't realize just blatently manipulative it is. And it's just one more depressing data point to add to the every growing list of depressing trends in society.
[from orders given on Mr. Gatto's first day of teaching:] Good morning, Mr. Gatto. You have typing. Here is your program. Remember, THEY MUST NOT TYPE! Under no circumstances are they allowed to type. I will come around unannounced to see that you comply. DO NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING THEY TELL YOU about an exception. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.
Not a letter, not a numeral, not a punctuation mark from those keys or you will never be hired here again. Go now.
When I asked what I should do instead with the class of seventy-five, he replied, “Fall back on your resources. Remember, you have no typing license!”
Words fail me.
I wish I could say this was satire; a damning critique of the U. S. educational system and unions or guilds but no, this isn't satire, it's real life. It's the New York City school system (in Harlem) circa 1961.
I'm so glad I'm out of that system. But I feel for Spring's children …