After my mammoth task of reading Atlas Shrugged a couple of months ago, I needed a little light relief -maybe not the best description- and decided to re-read my collection of Philip K. Dick. I started with The Man In The High Castle and Do Androids Dream… and then ended up at Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.
For those who have not read it, the book is (another) dystopian fantasy set in a possible future (from when it was written) where the USA has become a police state. I say a possible future, as the subtext of the book is that the unrest following the university uprisings led to the assertion of authority, and indeed the university campuses are still under siege from the Pols (police) and the Nats (national guard). Otherwise, it is a pretty prophetic book of where the USA and indeed most of the rest of the West is heading.
Last night, as I took my bath, I realised that it is also a book of hope. The protagonist of the book is a TV star along the lines of David Letterman or similar hosts, who one day wakes up to find all memory of him has disappeared, including all his files in the National Identity Register. The bloated and inefficient police state apparatus (and could we believe it will be any different in reality?) is so poorly-run that when he gets taken into custody on suspicion of being an escaped student (with fake papers) a spelling mistake on the part of the arresting officer lets him off scott-free (when they find somebody else’s file on the database) and issue him with with a bone-fide police pass while they hold his fake papers for investigation.
This is where the hope comes in. Although we are definitely heading for authoritarianism and dictatorship (whether overt Soviet Union-style or pseudo-democracy DDR-style, some may say we are already in this last) it is going to be the same inept bunch of monkeys running it. Not the guys at the top, who merely pretend at ineptness but have worked out their agenda to a tee, but the guys in the front line. Public servants (ie those who cannot find a job in the private sector) on public money, like Haringey social workers or road traffic planners. Officious jobsworths for sure, but not Great Men, by any means.
So don’t lose heart. Even if (or when) the worst comes to the worst, those of us who can take a calculated risk and have a decent head on our shoulders will run rings around them. You just need an insight into how large institutions work, and I think everyone reading this has that.