“This is a horror story for atheists.”
I loved this book. I haven’t seen the new series the book is based on, but the trailer already has me prickling for reasons other than it’s chilling narrative. It was the anti-Trump comments and the insinuation that this is an anti-Trump series (not that I worry about anti-Trump leanings, I just loathe current political situations compared to books that weren’t talking about the same thing, and I’ll explain in this that the Handmaids Tale and the current Trump presidency are related, but not the way the more liberal thinkers…think. By forcing a current political narrative they are actually doing themselves a disservice). It's not really anti-Trump since they started filming HMT before the elections.
When I read the novel over fifteen years ago I noticed a stark and possibly unintended motive of the author. Atwood, while overtly trying to criticize Christianity (and to a lesser effect fundamentalism) uses misapplied quotes from the Old Testament. But the methods of the theocracy resembled the actions of another culture that I was teaching myself about. The fallacy of the premise falls in its belief that Christian religious belief will lead to the Handmaids future. Yet Atwood has stripped all the Christianity OUT of the religion itself and left something resembling more of Sharia Law. When in reality our current democratic rights and freedoms were planned out by religious people that felt that religious freedom and freedom from religion were fundamental to belief. This also paved the way for the moving away from slavery, sexism, and other beliefs that current western religious people hold to be inviolable, as well as the separation of Church and State, something every good atheist should be thankful for.
We can sum up the books actions like this: The story is told by Offred, a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a society in which women of a lower caste are the concubines for the ruling caste and provide babies for the women. In this society, sexual intercourse is considered degrading to women so only the lower class women have it. Men and women are very strictly segregated, according to their gender as well as to their class.
(Sound like a certain ideology today? Segregated swimming pools, victims of rape are accused of seducing men, etc)
The book takes its biblical references from Genesis, Job, and Enoch, which actually have their similarities with another religious tome. The Qur’an and Bible have over 50 people in common, typically in the same narratives. The Qur’an identifies the prophets Job, Enoch, Imram, and Ishmael, but they are never given a story. In the Bible, all these men are identified as righteous people but not prophets — except Ishmael who is not written of favorably.
Now, I want to correlate certain real life situations that have happened that happen in the beginning of the story, since the trailer of the tv series does imply a current political correlation:
In the novel, after a military coup (Rosie O'Donnell supporting Martial Law to take down Trump) and the assassination of the President (Madonna and other celebs calling for assassination), a group of right-wing fundamentalists takes over and establishes the Republic of Gilead, a theocratic state of absolute control…
The Right Wingers are already in power, sorry, and so far they have not paved the way for a theocracy (I say "so far" because while I don't believe it could happen, nothing is impossible), and with the dismantling of many government branches seems to be introducing LESS government, not more. Whereas the Bernie Sanders supporters encourage MORE government (meaning more LAW), censorship of language and ideas, as well as the issue of the Liberal support of radical Islam (See a nice Muslim Woman explain this here). The trailer makes it seem like terrorism is the cause of the beginning of the story and the lead to the theocracy. It would actually be more believable for the left to assassinate the current President under the belief that they are protecting a religious minority that has a set of laws that it feels are superior to the U.S. constitution. This is evident in such situations as the Democrats in Montana reportedly voting against a bill that would ban the use of foreign law in state courts, claiming such legislation targets Muslims. The ban was to prevent a two tiered legal system from developing such as is happening in Germany currently: If you get married to a 9 year old in an Islamic country, that marriage will be recognized by the German government even though it goes against its own pedophile laws.
Whether Atwood was aware of it at the time or not, Afghanistan was emulating the western world in its progression during the 1960’s and up into the 80’s. What Atwood could not have known at the writing of her novel(1984 at the time of writing) was that a mere twelve years AFTER her warning of the Christian/Right Wing dystopia, Afghanistan became a theocracy with the Taliban seizing control and Sharia Law being put into place.
Even the most ardent Right Wing supporters do not support the basic tenants of Sharia, and you would think neither do the Left Wing. One would think that a rational Westerner would balk at child brides, gays being thrown off of rooftops, death sentences for defecting from the ideology, regardless of being left or right wing.
Here is where I see the greatest failing of adapting the book into a tv show: One of the plot catalysts in the book is caused by a sterility virus severely reducing the population....
I want this point to be made clear; the fear that induced the rise of the republic was caused by existential fear or threat. An existential fear is really an unanswered question that leaves the asker with anxiety such as “If we can’t breed, how will the human race survive?”
The construction is strange because "existential threat" means ‘threat to existence’, rather than ‘threat that exists’. And it’s the threat of ceasing to be that worries people now. I don't really understand why, since from an atheistic perspective you will never remember anything that happened in your life after death. Or to put it the way the internet mocked Michael Moore recently in his tweet of:
"Historians in the near future will mark today, March 28, 2017, as the day the extinction of human life on earth began, thanks 2 Donald Trump".
I don't know how historians are going to document or research this, unless historians are free from extinction....
That is another point I want you to remember.
This kind of thinking leads to a kind of form of marxism*, where the fear of loss of continuance leads to the severe curtailing of personal rights and liberties under the rubric of giving meaning to the meaningless in a circular logic of "we exist to continue our own existence". And if you do not support a particular theory of continued existing and the "Destiny of Humanity", then you are the enemy.
This existential "threat" that people keep talking about is really about forcing others to clamp down on resources by distribution controls (socialism/marxism) due to fear of...dying. Therefore, every resource and occupation MUST be in service to everyone else, at personal cost, for the perpetuation of the species.
And there is something inherently wrong with that kind of thinking, because it leads to a life of existing, and not to a life worth living.
Part of the problem with the premise of Handmaids Tale, and I'll spoil the ending for you, is the historians speaking at the end of the novel talk of the Gilead regime faltering and failing. Yet the goals of the theocracy are the perpetuation of the race, something that might not have happened if the theocracy hadn’t turned women into breeding factories...(I don't condone or support this, but it is an outcome of the novel).
And that brings about the conclusion that was entirely missed by Atwood: that it isn’t religious fundamentalism that will bring about a theocracy such as hers portrayed in The Handmaids Tale; it is that in a purely biological way it is effective, and therefore the ends justify the means.
I’ve said before in other posts that evolution does not care about your rights and freedoms. If it could be anthropomorphized, at best it could be summed up as : whatever yields offspring in a continuance of genetic material is “good”. This is further exemplified in Richard Dawkins the Selfish Gene.
That means if chaining down women and raping them produced offspring, this would be genetically advantageous and “good” as opposed to extinction which would be “bad”.
The result is that it is very easy to see how a religious theocracy can take hold of a country, as we are seeing in places like Sweden, England and France. Western left wing culture is one of biological control, such as birth control and abortion and reproductive rights.
Dogmatically religious people breed more, less rule based religious people don’t; think of the Meaning of Life by Monty Python and the Protestants vs. the Catholics. The Pro’s can use any number of contraceptives, the Catholics can’t.
As the historian in the novel says: our aim is "not to censure but to understand."
So what we have here is an easy calculation:
Existential fear leads to a thinly veiled theocracy that’s actually a Marxist ideology of the people committing to the “greater good”, with religion as a means of control and not the control itself.
Historians would not be around to “understand” anything if the actions of the theocracy hadn’t happened. They are benefiting from the biological results of the theocracy.
If you ignore the narrative and pay attention to the details, the Handmaids Tale is more representative of the fall of Afghanistan under Sharia Law than of the religious fundamentalists of Western culture taking over America, and about the biological imperative to continue and that it will use any means necessary to accomplish this.
This show is about the Left taking over by using the Right.
But maybe that’s just me.
I’m open to discussing it politely.
*(I left it uncapitalized)