What’s the future of society in a world where ideologies create facts, billionaires run countries and isolationism invites global war?

The previous entry was about the future of a post-capitalist world, and contains lots of sources to facts for further reading.

This topic is deeper. It’s about a future where facts themselves come second to ideologies, and where ideologies include large-scale war as a viable option.

We have two widely accepted versions of reality on offer now, bolstered by social networks and mass media.

1. Mainstream mass media, which adheres to a journalistic standard while reporting some facts and under-reporting or ignoring others.

2. Non-mainstream mass media across the political spectrum. The non-mainstream media is based on pushing a polarized, identity-based set of talking points that require the audience to pick a “team”. Once you support one ideology, the other becomes the “enemy”. Ideas become personal possessions and are instantly accepted or rejected based on ideology.

Solipsism Becomes Dogma

The tribalistic “non-mainstream” media is, at core, based on the principle of solipsism — that if you can’t physically verify a fact, it could be false and is therefore suspect. Ideology then defines what is and is not a fact. And ideologies are, at core, tools to inform (and manipulate) large numbers of people. Religions offer metaphysical ideologies. Economic theories become religion-like dogma (capitalism vs. Marxism, for example).

In a functioning society, citizens first accept that facts exist independently from ideology. If citizens prioritize ideology over acceptance of facts, facts become tools for ideological manipulation. This is true regardless of your particular ideological preferences.

Third War

We now have regressive tendencies on display across the planet, for example in France, Germany, the U.K. and the United States.

Nativism, protectionism, xenophobia, isolationism, racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia are all rising. Even Naziism — an ideology explicitly based on calls for genocide — is being normalized as “free speech”. These are the same dynamics that gave rise to the second world war.

Dictatorship

In the United States, the president’s administration — based on constant, blatant lies — is now gutting institutions like health care and environmental protection. Tapping into citizens’ mistrust of globalisation, the American president champions a “strongman” approach that promises to crush dissent in the press and across society. These are the first steps toward dictatorship, and they are accelerating by the day.

Pretences and Guarantees

The American president has literally ushered Wall Street into the White House, under the proven false pretence that rich people will help common citizens become rich, too. Gullible working-class Americans immersed in an alternative media bubble have apparently forgotten what happened to them as recently as 2008 (i.e. the Great Recession). Revocation of trade deals with China and support of the fossil fuel industry virtually guarantee that the United States will fall far behind in four years.

Overall, it seems like the world is headed for pre-World War II conditions. Now, though, several nations have nuclear capabilities. The world’s largest economies have forgotten what made them great — cooperation rather than antagonism. And billionaires seem to be trying to take what they can before global corporate capitalism based on oil and American Empire finally destroys itself.

What’s next?

– Will people keep pretending that dismantlement of social services, glorification of militarism, and destruction of the environment will somehow yield social mobility and opportunity instead of terrorism, poverty, war and chaos?

– Will people wake up in sufficient numbers before it’s too late?

And if they do wake up, what kind of government will take the place of the current corrupt and dysfunctional one? Clinton was an opportunistic politician who took money from Wall Street. Trump is an egomaniacal billionaire who embodies the concept of vulture capitalism.

It all begins from how we define and accept the meaning of a fact.

Apocalyptic visions aside, if this isn’t the end of democracy in the U.S. and across the world, how does global civilization repair itself?

Now may be the perfect time to start a new story — almost definitely a story that includes less talk and more action.

Dystopia and Donald Trump: How Many New Adolf Hitler Clones Lurk in the Future of Realistic Science Fiction?

You’ve set about penning your polemical dystopian Y.A. masterpiece set in alt-2017. The main protagonist is probably a woman, but could also be a man. She may be transgender or a genetic female. She is probably Latina, but could be Black, Asian or biracial.

The head villain, cast as the ideological opposite of the main protagonist, is a thoroughly original, fictional monstrosity: an egomaniacal tyrant whose skin is tinted radioactive orange and hair is a garish fake yellow, accompanied by his gorgeously dim-witted mail-order bride. Lesser villains include a vice president who tacitly supports the systematic, sadistic psychological torture of LGBT children ¹, and a trashy motormouthed ex-beauty queen henchwoman with extensive familial reality TV credentials.

Beware Clichés and Caricatures

There’s only one problem with the evil characters sketched above: despite an element of truth, they’re obvious caricatures. Caricatures can be amusing at first, but their apparent lack of depth can quickly wear thin.

It may be tempting to imitate Hollywood with a high-concept plot along the lines of “The Future Versus Adolf Hitler” ² or “Billionaire President Versus The People”.

Donald Trump may be a hyper-narcissistic, cocaine-addicted buffoon, but he’s nothing next to Adolf Hitler. Hitler was politically smarter and more popular with the German people, among other key distinctions.

Here’s a bit of basic research on historical differences between the rise of Hitler and the rise of Trump, to help you avoid a few pitfalls from the start in writing your next story.

Trump Has the Sniffles — Hitler Was The Real High-Roller

To start, Hitler was more creative in his choice of recreational drugs. By the end of World War II, Hitler injected a daily stream of hardcore pharmaceuticals administered by his faithful doctor, Theodor Morell³:

– Pervitin (methamphetamine)
– Eukodal (oxycodone)
– high grade cocaine

…among others.

Although Donald Trump may simply have a persistently runny nose, his alleged cocaine habit (and unhinged 3 a.m. Twitter diatribe tendency ) pales by the sight of Hitler’s needle-punctured, collapsing veins and erratic junkie-in-withdrawals behavior during his last days in the Führerbunker.

Trump Lost the Popularity Contest, Hitler Won The Reality Show

Adolf Hitler had far more popular support at the start of his reign in 1934 than Donald Trump has in 2016. Ironically, Hitler’s popularity grew more to the level of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin than Trump. It’s also noteworthy that many Germans seemed to support Hitler himself more than the Nazi party ¹⁴, whereas the Republican Party in general is hated far less than Donald Trump.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton indisputably won the popular vote ¹⁵ to become 45th president of the United States of America.

Trump lost the popular vote, instead obtaining the position of president through the electoral college. In other words, Donald Trump is a failed populist before his time in office even begins. Trump may inspire Hitler-level fawning adoration in some of his supporters, but in no way can he legitimately claim to be the American people’s president.

Is the 2017 American Economy Comparable to Hitler’s Germany?

The socioeconomic environment that precipitated Hitler’s rise was far more dire than modern-day America . In 1933, the German people were suffering catastrophically due to:

– crippling financial reparations demanded by the treaty of Versailles after World War I ;

– the aftermath of the Great Depression of 1929 and disastrous efforts by a pre-Hitler government to reverse the damage.

In July 1930 Chancellor Brüning cut government expenditure, wages and unemployment pay – the worst thing to do during a depression.

How does that set of events compare to the modern day and possible future?

In 2016, the efforts of President Obama’s government — to repair the damage done during President Bush’s Great Recession of 2007 — have failed to completely restore the economy . This is why many people below retirement age feel trapped in financial uncertainty.

American wages are still nearly stagnant (this is a corporate capitalist problem, not a presidential problem). Although unemployment has fallen, personal debt is rising and employment increasingly centers on low-wage service industry jobs ¹⁰.

Lower-wage industries accounted for 22% of recession job losses, but are responsible for 44% of the hiring in the recovery.

High-wage jobs accounted for 41% of job losses but have only grown 30% since the recession, and mid-wage jobs made up 37% of job losses but only 26% of recent employment growth. That means there are almost two million fewer high- and mid-wage jobs than there were before the 2008 collapse, according to the report.

The economic situation in the United States circa 2017 isn’t anywhere near that of 1934 Germany. The Great Recession of 2008 was caused by financial deregulation rather than world war. Deregulation enabled lenders to offer housing loans to those who couldn’t afford them (“subprime” loans ¹¹). Those loans were reconstituted into “good” financial instruments that were actually junk (“securitization”), leading to a housing bubble that soon popped and destroyed the American economy ¹²:

After the Asian financial crisis in 1997, investors were looking for safe havens to park their money. What they wanted were AAA-rated bonds. What they got were mortgage-backed securities that were rated AAA but turned out to be junk. As we all now know—but most of us didn’t know at the time—Wall Street firms in the early 2000s began slicing and dicing and then reassembling mortgage debt into more and more exotic and risky mortgage-backed securities in ways that made them look risk-free.

Now imagine what might happen during the presidency of a real estate mogul billionaire — who was cheering for the housing crisis so that he could make easy money¹³?

“I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy,” Trump said in a 2006 audiobook from Trump University, answering a question about “gloomy predictions that the real estate market is heading for a spectacular crash.”

“If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you can make a lot of money,” Trump said in the 2006 audio book, “How to Build a Fortune.”

The United States has already had a “pro-business” president (George W. Bush) whose deregulatory policies led directly to a massive recession that hasn’t ended yet. Now the U.S. has somehow elected a real estate speculator who cheered for the failure of the American housing market.

In relation to the economy, Trump isn’t Hitler. Trump is an opportunistic vulture asked to safeguard and nurture America’s already-ailing fiscal health. Still, the U.S. isn’t in the realm of 1934 Germany yet. If you want to write a dystopian plotline, aim for the socioeconomic landscape post-2020, after the new despot has grabbed the American consumer by the pocketbook and had his way with her.

War-Mongers at the Gates of Power?

The German people largely approved of Hitler’s use of war to annex territory. Indeed, much of the German peoples’ support for Hitler arose because of his regime’s military success ¹⁴.

After the abject failure ¹⁶ of George W. Bush’s oil-seeking adventurism in Iraq ¹⁷ based on lies — no, the lesser sin of “misinformation” — about “weapons of mass destruction” ¹⁸, most Americans abhor the idea of prolonged ground war ¹⁹.

The current worldwide drone and special operations deployments began precisely because “boots on the ground” are extremely unpopular in the prevailing American sentiment. Trump simply cannot wage war wholesale while waving a United States flag and crowing on about “making America great again”, the way that Adolf Hitler did for Germany in the years leading up to Word War II. George W. Bush already tried that game with disastrous results that led directly to the rise of ISIS. In the current climate, the American people would never commit long-term support to flattening Iran or further maiming the already-crippled North Korea.

If your sci-fi plot requires large-scale global war, focus on the details of a “what if…” scenario that renders conflict as inevitable — not as the unilateral decision of Dictator Trump. Of course, that’s quite likely what Trump himself would do.

Mass Surveillance

We find our hero seeking truth. She’s skulking around the city, smoothly avoiding security cameras and narrowly escaping capture by the Gestapo of the Future. And of course she’s some kind of hacker, because hackers are cool and computers are magical MacGuffins that can do anything.

How close could Trump’s surveillance machine match that of Adolf Hitler ²⁰?

Unfortunately, from Donald Rumsfeld to President Obama, civil liberties and information privacy have been eroded continuously. ²¹

Guantanamo Bay is still operational. Drone wars are ongoing. Special operators slit throats of third-world adversaries in the dark. FBI informants spy on mosques and activists. The NSA is vast and practically unaccountable. Trump advocates increased deportations and endorses torture far beyond waterboarding.

The only thing preventing President Obama from ruling with an iron fist was the President himself. Now Americans have Trump, who promises no similar restraint.

In terms of surveillance, Trump certainly has the tools to be a dream in the remotest fantasies of Hitler. Your best fodder for realistic near-future science fiction may begin here — just be sure to get the details right. People need ongoing reminders that the extent of what’s possible is just as mind-bending as anything imagined by Philip K. Dick.

Near-Future Civil Strife

A great backdrop for dystopian fiction is the image of protestors marching in the streets, throwing Molotov cocktails at robotically faceless oppressors and demanding the end of an evil regime.

Hitler’s platform, as you’ve read above, pertained to the outcome of World War I and the Great Depression.

Today’s populism tends to focus on jobs, but often leaves out important details. Those details can help your story feel more real.

Who took all the jobs? Was it “Obama”, the machines or “the Mexicans”?

The Second Machine Age

President Obama didn’t “steal” American jobs that Trump can magnanimously “give back” to the people ²². Manufacturing jobs are gone due to globalisation ²³ and the automation of factories ²⁴. Working-class occupational categories will continue to disappear. None of this has anything to do with who happens to be president of the United States of America.

Either the U.S. keeps up with global trends — that result in increased productivity and skyrocketing income inequality, the end of social mobility, etc. — or the entire national economy will quickly fall behind as business moves overseas.

Anyone who has graduated beyond a high-school mentality knows that it would be ludicrous to build an impossibly giant wall to keep out the imaginary hordes of Mexican rapists and job-stealing taco vendors. The first question for working-class people is “who’s to blame?

“If you’re under economic stress and you can’t provide for your family, the easiest answer is to find someone to blame,” said Dr. Griffith. “Mexicans, illegal immigrants, Obama.” ²³

The sad part about those who voted for Trump is that many of them are legitimately afraid that their simple way of life is under threat. It’s true: capitalism sees labor as a cost and strives to eliminate it whenever possible. ²⁵

“You don’t have to train machines,” Mr. Mishek observes.

“If you’re doing something that can be written down in a programmatic, algorithmic manner, you’re going to be substituted for quickly,” said Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard.

That’s the corporate capitalist way. That doctrine has usurped and supplanted any regard for workers that existed before the rise of Walmart, Starbucks, Google, Amazon, Apple and Uber. Today’s middle class is sliding to become working class; the working class faces a descent into poverty. Those who are poor face debt and homelessness. The only thing more amazing than the phenomenon itself is that those a step higher on the ladder sneer at the survivors one step below, thereby making room for themselves to fall and be spat upon when their turn comes. Positive thinking is little more than a thinly veiled prayer that misfortune will “never happen to me”, enacted by controlling an uncertain universe through thought alone. That way, if you fail, it’s all your fault. Society is for winners, and the lower 99% are on their own.

Dystopia is a great choice for fiction writing in terms of realism right now. The main challenge is to tell people — especially young people — fresh stories that we aren’t already living day-to-day.

Blame the Mexicans…?

Working-class Trump supporters express legitimate concerns about their economic status and social well-being. The only part they consistently get wrong is the idea that their enemies are other working-class people who happen to have a different skin color or country of origin. Even if you could get rid of the Mexicans, have police murder all the working-age black men and women, and build empty factories devoid of all automation, the rest of the world (translation: China ²⁶) will simply pick up the slack. To fight globalisation by using racial and gendered hatred as an excuse for xenophobic protectionism/isolationism will only hasten the inevitable.

The socioeconomic landscape is changing. Within a generation, the blatant racism and sexism of Donald Trump will become a punchline about the backward ways of a long-gone era in the United States.

After Hitler, After Trump

When you write your dystopian tour de force, have a laugh by brainstorming with a fictional graphic that Trump tried in vain to pass off as fact, published by the nonexistent “San Francisco Crime Statistics Bureau.” ²⁷ Donald Trump has done a brilliant job of dumbing-down his own public persona in order to the gain the favor of frightened, vulnerable, gullible, racist voters.

When Trump inevitably fails to materialize new working-class jobs and “make America great again”, the national temperament will probably swing just as extremely to the left in 2020 as it did to the right four years prior. The country will still exist (provided humanity avoids Armageddon). Will the United States adapt to the world’s tempo or become increasingly obsolete? This is a question of trajectory that the American electoral college may have already set in motion on November 9th, 2016.

Donald J. Trump may be an unnaturally orange-faced buffoon but, similar to Adolf Hitler, he can also be quite shrewd, socially if not politically. Make sure that your Trump-based characters don’t fall too far into caricature, as tempting as the many opportunities certainly are.

Now you have a set of real-life facts to guide the construction of your Trump/Hitler fiction stories for the next four years of dystopian oddity on Spaceship Earth. Hopefully a few of those hyper-realistic Y.A. yarns have happy endings, or at the very least, open-ended and ambiguous ones.

P.S. You could also take a totally different approach, and imagine a world in which Bernie Sanders won the presidency. Until his successor emerges in 2020, you’ll have to divine that scenario for yourself. Enjoy. ;)

Learn More

1. Newsom, Gavin. (20 Jul 2016). Mike Pence—Conversion Therapy True Believer—Adds More Hate to Donald Trump’s GOP Fire. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/20/mike-pence-conversion-therapy-true-believes-up-the-hate-for-donald-trump-s-gop.html.

2. Sandberg, David. (2015 May 28). KUNG FURY Official Movie [HD]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS5P_LAqiVg.

3. Cooke, Rachel. (2016 Sep 25). High Hitler: how Nazi drug abuse steered the course of history. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/25/blitzed-norman-ohler-adolf-hitler-nazi-drug-abuse-interview.

4. Diamond, Jeremy. (1 Oct 2016). Donald Trump quintuples down. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/30/politics/trump-overnight-media-tweets/index.html.

5. Parfitt, Tom. (27 Nov 2014). Seven reasons to explain Vladimir Putin’s popularity cult. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/11257362/Seven-reasons-to-explain-Vladimir-Putins-popularity-cult.html.

6. Hitler’s rise to power. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/mwh/germany/hitlerpowerrev_print.shtml.

7. Lang, Olivia. (2 Oct 2010). Why has Germany taken so long to pay off its WWI debt? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11442892.

8. Long, Heather. (6 Feb 2016). Why doesn’t 4.9% unemployment feel great? Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/06/news/economy/obama-us-jobs/index.html.

9. Frizell, Sam. (19 Feb 2014). Americans Are Taking on Debt at Scary High Rates. Retrieved from http://time.com/8740/federal-reserve-debt-bankrate-consumers-credit-card/.

10. Alter, Charlotte. (28 Apr 2014). Report: Low-Pay Jobs Replace High-Pay Jobs Since Recession. Retrieved from http://time.com/79061/report-low-pay-jobs-replace-high-pay-jobs-since-recession/.

11. Grossman, Richard S. (14 Oct 2013). Greed destroyed us all: George W. Bush and the real story of the Great Recession. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2013/10/14/greed_destroyed_us_all_george_w_bush_and_the_real_story_of_the_great_recession/.

12. Boushey, Heather. (21 May 2014). It Wasn’t Household Debt That Caused the Great Recession. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/house-of-debt/371282/.

13. Diamond, Jeremy. (20 May 2016). Donald Trump in 2006: I ‘sort of hope’ real estate market tanks. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/19/politics/donald-trump-2006-hopes-real-estate-market-crashes/.

14. Kershaw, Ian. (30 Jan 2008). How Hitler Won Over the German People. Retrieved from http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-fuehrer-myth-how-hitler-won-over-the-german-people-a-531909.html.

15. 12 Nov 2016. Live Presidential Forecast. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/elections/forecast/president.

16. Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus. (23 Jun 2014). Most Americans say Iraq war wasn’t worth the costs: Poll. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-say-iraq-war-wasnt-worth-the-costs-poll/.

17. Sisi Wei, Jeremy Bowers and Wilson Andrews. 4486 U.S. service members have died in Iraq. Retrieved from http://apps.washingtonpost.com/national/fallen/theaters/iraq/.

18. Schwarz, Jon. (10 Apr 2015). Twelve Years Later, US Media Still Can’t Get Iraqi WMD Story Right. Retrieved from https://theintercept.com/2015/04/10/twelve-years-later-u-s-media-still-cant-get-iraqi-wmd-story-right/.

19. Drake, Bruce. (12 Jun 2014). More Americans say U.S. failed to achieve its goals in Iraq. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/12/more-americans-say-us-failed-to-achieve-its-goals-in-iraq/.

20. Greenslade, Roy. (4 Dec 2013). How Hitler suspended the right to mail and telephone privacy. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2013/dec/04/surveillance-adolf-hitler.

21. Alex Emmons. (11 Nov 2016). Commander-In-Chief Donald Trump Will Have Terrifying Powers. Thanks, Obama. Retrieved from https://theintercept.com/2016/11/11/commander-in-chief-donald-trump-will-have-terrifying-powers-thanks-obama/.

22. Diamond, Jeremy. (28 Jun 2016). Trump slams globalization, promises to upend economic status quo. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/28/politics/donald-trump-speech-pennsylvania-economy/index.html.

23. Nelson D. Schwartz and Quoctrung Bui. (25 Apr 2016). Where Jobs Are Squeezed by Chinese Trade, Voters Seek Extremes. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/26/business/economy/where-jobs-are-squeezed-by-chinese-trade-voters-seek-extremes.html.

24. Rotman, David. (12 Jun 2013). How Technology Is Destroying Jobs. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/.

25. Rampell, Catherine. (9 Jun 2011). Companies Spend on Equipment, Not Workers. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/business/10capital.html.

26. Smith, Noah. (26 Jan 2016). Free Trade With China Wasn’t Such a Great Idea for the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-01-26/free-trade-with-china-wasn-t-such-a-great-idea.

27. Farley, Robert. (23 Nov 2015). Trump Retweets Bogus Crime Graphic. Retrieved from http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-retweets-bogus-crime-graphic/.

The New Dark Age of Demagogues

Keiner Soll Hungern! Keiner Soll Frieren! Nazi propaganda poster, promising and end to cold and hunger.

“Keiner Soll Hungern! Keiner Soll Frieren!” Nazi propaganda poster, promising and end to cold and hunger.

Future dystopian story world: beginning in the year 2026, emergency elections in Greece and Spain become dominated by demagogues promising to “make their countries great again”. Their platform slogans promise ironfisted national security and mythically boundless personal prosperity. Anti-refugee propaganda is bolstered by struggling European Union economies and terrorist incidents, creating flashpoints of unrest amid widespread financial hardship and discontent. Italy is soon drawn in, as is the U.K. All of Europe is eventually consumed by nationalist whirlwinds that spread to allies and enemies alike as all are forced to take sides.

Violence intensifies due to terrorist attacks by both foreign opportunists and domestic reactionaries. Mass expulsions begin. Borders close. Discrimination becomes an acceptable aspect of political narrative, actively promulgated by extremists and tacitly accepted by mass media channels.

Polarisation of opinion hardens into the willingness to take up arms. Scapegoats are fashioned from popular demonologies that rely on skin tone, ethnicity and concomitant jingoistic marketing demographics. Stones thrown become bullets fired. Bullets become bombs. Bombs become guided missiles fired across continents as allies take sides and offer arms to their strategic partners.

Humanity seems once again to have undone its hard-won learning: lessons written in blood flowing in rivers, bone meal sewn into the soil of Europe after two World Wars. The last great war ended as nuclear blast waves incinerating cities full of human beings, leaving shadows of dreams, shattering families and emasculating once-proud nations.

The time has come for the blood tide to rise once again, for a fresh coat of ashen snow to fall on already-weary shoulders. Nuclear technology has become the rule rather than the exception for both rogue agents and first-world states. Rhetorical dehumanization has left a hollowness in the eyes that now stare emptily to an oblivion that seems inevitable. We make a game of anticipating the second hand of our antique analog watchfaces, creeping closer to atomic zero hour. This is a game of the gallows in a worldwide party of the damned, shadows lengthening as the clock counts down. The Reaper’s accelerating drumbeat echoes in the footsteps of soldiers on the march across the globe. Beautiful flowering mushroom clouds may now grow to encompass us all. The end will begin in a blinding flash of light.

. . .

The Witches’ Sabbath

If vast portions of the United States’ population are swayed in 2016 by media-fueled rhetorical frenzy, imagine a time when deeper financial hardship grips the world. If a new Great Recession were to occur within the next decade, the appeal of demagoguery may be too strong to resist. This is why the prevalent mood in post-Word War I Germany bears revisiting.

After four disastrous years Germany had lost the war… prices doubled between 1914 and 1919. Why did the German government not act to halt the inflation? More than inflation, the Germans feared unemployment.

So the printing presses ran, and once they began to run, they were hard to stop. Price increases began to be dizzying.

Berlin had a “witches’ Sabbath” atmosphere. Prostitutes of both sexes roamed the streets. Cocaine was the fashionable drug. In the cabarets the newly rich and their foreign friends could dance and spend money. Other reports noted that not all the young people had a bad time. Their parents had taught them to work and save, and that was clearly wrong, so they could spend money, enjoy themselves, and flout the old.

All money is a matter of belief. Credit derives from Latin, credere, “to believe.” Belief was there, the factories functioned, the farmers delivered their produce. The Central Bank kept the belief alive when it would not let even the government borrow further.

But although the country functioned again, the savings were never restored, nor were the values of hard work and decency that had accompanied the savings. There was a different temper in the country, a temper that Hitler would later exploit with diabolical talent. Thomas Mann wrote: “The market woman who without batting an eyelash demanded 100 million for an egg lost the capacity for surprise. And nothing that has happened since has been insane or cruel enough to surprise her.” [1]

Keep It Simple, Even When It’s Not: High-Concept Dehumanization

Realistic dystopian plotlines merely need to chart the confluence between factual history, present rhetoric and plausible future outcomes.

Believable fictional villains aren’t “high concept” monstrous caricatures or cartoonish exaggerations. Dehumanization allows a group to delegitimize the existence of a person, and thereby destroy the lessons to be learned from that person’s example. Adolf Hitler wasn’t a monster. Neither were the German people bloodthirsty zombies after World War I. Hitler was a shrewd-yet-deluded megalomaniac, and the people were badly downtrodden, partly resulting from enthusiastic French enforcement of reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles.

Even today, generations later, much of it sounds pretty incredible.

Few could laugh at “the macabre joke of inflation,” as writer Klaus Mann termed it. “What breathtaking fun it is to watch the world coming off the rails,” he wrote in undisguised fascination. Germany was now witnessing “the complete depreciation of the only truly credible value in this godforsaken era: that of money.”

People lived in a strange kind of tension. On the one hand there was the daily fight for survival, for food, and for heating fuel.

On the other hand it was also a time of phenomenal wastefulness. The people were gripped by the urge to panic-buy. They squandered their money, and lived from one day to the next. “We’re drinking away Grandma’s house” proclaimed one popular tune of the day.

Never before had Germany witnessed such a fundamental redistribution of wealth, and many of the winners were those who had previously been wealthy. [2]

Mass discontent and the tendency toward dehumanization of the “other” becomes the urge to find a simple enemy and a simple solution. A final solution. Salvation for the true believer, extracted from the DNA of the dead.

“The enemy is among us,” wrote the Hildesheimer Allgemeine newspaper… “He has crept into the heart of the German economy to suck out our life-blood and destroy our very existence as a nation.” A 10,000-mark note issued the year before was nicknamed the “vampire bill” because it depicted a man who appeared to have a bite-mark on his neck.

It’s no coincidence that Adolf Hitler’s inexorable rise to power began in November 1923, the highpoint of Germany’s inflation, when he organized the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich.

Catalan Germany correspondent Eugeni Xammar witnessed the spectacle at close quarters, having recently conducted an interview with “the future ex-dictator of Germany.” In this interview Hitler claimed the high cost of living was Germany’s biggest problem, promising “We intend to make life cheaper.” To this end he demanded that shops — many of which were in Jewish hands — be brought under state control. And he stressed, “We expect all kinds of miracles of these national stores.”

The journalist from Barcelona wasn’t shy about stating what he thought of his interviewee. Hitler was, Xammar wrote, “the stupidest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

Tragically, most Germans were soon to have a very different opinion of him. [2]

Notice how patterns of historical precedence tend to repeat themselves. Future scenarios can serve as timely, entertaining signposts, even if only a few take heed before it’s too late. The rest can laugh, be amused and continue forward on the ceaseless march of progress to the end of human history.

We will make our nation great again, and we will gleefully watch the world burn. Has there ever been any other way?

Take the opportunity to write your own ending to the story, before the second hand reaches midnight. The next bright flash of light we see may not be the sun.

Read More

1. Goodman, George J.W. (1981). Paper Money, pp. 57-62. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/minitext/ess_germanhyperinflation.html.

2. Jung, Alexander (2009, August 14). Millions, Billions, Trillions: Germany in the Era of Hyperinflation. Retrieved from http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/millions-billions-trillions-germany-in-the-era-of-hyperinflation-a-641758.html.