A Novelist’s Invitation Down the Road to Tyranny

Back in 2000, when I wrote FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS, I often received comments that the dystopian future America I described in that novel, with its corrective labor camps, Department of State Security and President-for-Life, was too remote a possibility to be believed. Those comments stopped coming years ago.

Today, my readers sometimes ask: “How far do you think we’ve come on the road to Kamas?” The broad outline of my answer remains the same since 2000, except that we’ve come further and faster than I ever expected.

The road to Kamas is another name for a nation’s descent into tyranny. In my analysis, the descent passes through five stages, from the concentration of power through the abuse of power through polarization through crisis to conflict. I think most everybody reading this post will likely agree that we’ve already come through the first two stages and have landed either at polarization or crisis, but still short of open conflict.

Lest you find that encouraging, I would point out that crises generally arrive swiftly and without notice, and can erupt into conflict at any time. So here are five milestones by which to measure our progress on the road to Kamas over the next couple of years:

–When one-party domination of the central government’s organs of control, its selective enforcement of the laws, and its intimidation of political and class opponents provoke demonstrations, strikes and street battles, we will have moved into crisis.

–When government mishandling of the currency, the financial system, natural resources, commerce and private property leads to a collapse of the currency and of financial markets, foreign trade, private employment and general economic activity, we will have moved into crisis.

–When state interference with news media, communications channels, education, free expression and free association induces people to stop voicing frank opinions on controversial political, social and cultural issues, we will have moved into crisis.

–When fear of civil unrest, economic hardship, political oppression and impending controls on the outward flow of capital and people across our borders cause Americans to flee the country with their families and their money, we will have moved into crisis.

–When a major unforeseen (“Black Swan”) event like a war, natural disaster, epidemic, famine, or pestilence strikes an already weakened America, we will have moved into crisis.

So what’s to fear about a crisis, except fear itself? America has faced crises before, haven’t we? Surely we will come out of it stronger, no?

Not necessarily. Today’s America has changed: it’s no longer united; it’s polarized. And not every bitterly divided country has overcome its crisis. Weimar Germany, Tsarist Russia, and Nationalist China come to mind in the twentieth century alone. As does the Roman Empire, long ago.

Though history does not repeat itself, it often rhymes. And once we’re in conflict, it’s a brutal winner-take-all game. I lived in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. Believe me, when something like that hits, you either pack your bags or take up arms. There’s no middle way.

My purpose in writing this post is not to tell you exactly where we are on the road to Kamas. It’s to urge you to figure it out for yourself and act responsibly on your decision, wherever it might lead you. You’re smart, you’ll figure it out. © Preston Fleming, 2015

Preston Fleming was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He left home at age fourteen to accept a scholarship at a New England boarding school and went on to a liberal arts college in the Midwest. After earning an MBA, he managed a non-profit organization in New York before joining the U.S. Foreign Service and serving in U.S. Embassies around the Middle East for nearly a decade. Later he studied at an Ivy League law school and since then pursued a career in law and business. He has written five novels. Read More at: http://www.prestonfleming.com/index.html

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