Kage Baker has occasionally been taken to task for her portrayal of Britain in her Company novels, especially in the upcoming 300 or so years. People used to ask her what she had against England. This is largely because she saw the Nanny State coming and wrote about it in detail – no one has liked seeing that.
Neither did Kage. She was a devoted Anglophile. She was also a keen observer; and one of the things she observed is that periodically the English throw all their freedoms and human rights in the wheelie bin, and then have to take up arms to get them back. They’ve done it several times. They are pretty deeply into the process of doing it again right now.
Surveillance is everywhere; the British are the most watched people in the entire world, voluntarily. And for every cat-tossing old lady caught in the act, there are a thousand innocent people trying to take photos of Buckingham Palace or their own kids on a playset, and getting arrested. A town council cites a man for displaying a pirate flag at his 5-year old’s birthday party: condoning violence, and possibly cultist. Another town council forbids Christmas lights for fear someone will fall off the ladder putting them up; the Fire Department is willing but forbidden to try. Another, in fear of “real” Christmas trees, puts up a 20-foot tall cone of green carpet: to prevent the deco from falling on a shopper or causing allergies. A housing estate outlaws kids’ inflatable pools in case emergency personnel come running in and fall over them – the Fire Brigade thinks full pools of water are a great idea, but are over-ridden.
CCTV. ASBOS. Shortening the hours of pubs. Curfews in city centers. Court-ordered social isolation. Council-run ghettos on order. Children removed from their homes because they are overweight, or get bad grades, or don’t look enough like their parents, or were observed being embraced in public: all reasons cited as potential child abuse.
These things have all happened; they are happening every day. Anyone who thought Kage’s future society was an exaggeration needs only to follow BBC Nightly News. What she postulated was, at most, a trend projection; in many cases, it was reality. She took isolated incidents and turned them into law and custom, but the incidents are happening. And they are happening more all the time.
John Bull has been neutered. The British Empire has become the Nanny State.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced when he took the post that he intended to cut back on all this neo-Puritan hysteria. One assumes he is trying. But there is a huge proportion of the British populace that evidently likes being followed from the cradle to the grave; they especially like knowing everyone else is being so followed. Something is being prevented all the time, and that is fine with them. And they have all gotten government jobs …
Kage invented the Little Stupid People to explain that certain kind of paranoid bureaucrat. In some lingering sense of faith in human nature, she elected to make them an unknown branch of humanity: Homo sapiens sapiens was left off the hook. But many of the insanities she postulated are happening anyway, and so far her Little Stupid People are still only science fiction. So one must assume we are doing it ourselves.
Her dystopic vision for the US was even worse, and (so far) just as likely. Growing up in Los Angeles undoubtedly contributed – the City of Our Lady Queen of the Angels has been on the skids lately, and is getting weirder all the time. But Kage might be excused for thinking the worst of a city that has paved over and lost track of most of its rivers, seasonally sets itself on fire and regards riots as urban renewal.
Nonetheless … she has so far been proven frighteningly accurate in her predictions. Come on, folks, she meant them as science fiction! That she was right about the amount of water on Mars is grand and glorious; if she turns out to be right about Beast Liberation and illegal cream, I think we are probably in deep shit.
And when chocolate becomes a Schedule 1 drug, I am filling my car with Cadbury’s and heading for the hills.
Tomorrow: some more specific scary prophecies