Fighting Fascism in Fiction
In the last year, we have been faced with very different definitions of fascism. We have had our world turned upside down and some of us have not been able to cope. This has opened an opportunity for many 'non-conformists' and other such groups of people to rebel against what we know as the lockdown, believing it to be a form of governmental control over the general public. The majority of us have just got through it - found ways to cope with isolation, found new hobbies, new jobs, and even redecorated our living rooms. However, others have spread inconceivable rumours, abusing social medias power to terrorise people with false information. It has even got to the point where the government have stepped in themselves and provided myth-busters to resolve matters before they get worse.
The worst example I can think of is when the President himself, Mr Trump, actually encouraged the people of his country to drink chemicals in order to kill Covid-19 - and social media platforms took it on themselves to prevent his message from being taken seriously. This just shows how easily influenced we, as the public, as an audience are - and the danger we face by being swayed by a political opinion.
We have seen (and known) people to riot against the lockdown restrictions, even though they have been for our own good, and have heard them reiterate the right to freedom, accusing authoritative figures of fascism and totalitarianism. Unsurprisingly, these groups that have come together have been met with criticism from the rest of world and some have been arrested for their dangerous and misconstrued protest against the higher power.
This shows just how severe a political belief can be. And it isn't just the epidemic that we have witnessed this type of thing happening. Three other notable events that are of importance in this context are the BLM protests following the death of George Floyd, the attack on the US Capitol after the election results on Jan 6th 2021, and the Women's Safety Movement after the death of Sarah Everard.
These three events have evolved from what started out as a news headline - and they have all (whether for the better purpose or the worse - I'm going to try and stay as unbiased as I can on these subjects) grown after a certain post/opinion has been made viral.
The reason I am talking about this is because I am trying to figure out just how political an author can be without causing conflict. I mean, it goes without saying that fictional novels are just fiction, and when something controversial is discussed, it usually remains in the book. However, I can think of a few authors that have stirred a political opinion and received a grave amount of backlash for it.
The first and most obvious is George Orwell. Particularly the novels 1984 and Animal Farm. While reading these books are perhaps essential in the school curriculum, they have also reflected such controversial issues that Orwell's made up language has worked its way into the real world. Admittedly, I have only read these two books of Orwell's, but the combination of the two directly attack and satirise governmental control.
The fact that we discuss an 'Orwellian' future or government or set of rules shows that while we regard George Orwell as perhaps a little bit of a pessimist, he has truly made an impact on our relationship with a higher authority.
Another author is Jonathan Swift. While I had never thought of Swift as a political writer until I read A Modest Proposal (please don't judge me), I can not help but read or watch any of his written or adapted works with the same innocence I had when I first read Gulliver's Travels. Similar to Orwell, Jonathan Swift has influenced literary fiction at such length that his name has been incorporated into its own genre, 'Swiftian', describing the deadpan, irony of both fictional and nonfictional works. Swift's writing reflected his middle-ground political beliefs, as he satirises both left wing and right wing extremists.
The final author that I'd like to point out as a particularly prominent figure in the literary world is Charles Dickens. Most famously known for Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol, he is deemed as a multi-talented author. His characters, plots and writing style lands you in different worlds, which mainly explore the treatment of the poor and working class people of his generation. While Dickens has been criticised for his lack of depth and overuse of sentimentality, he is remembered for his social criticism and his subtle, yet realistic portrayal of society.
As Creative Writing students, there is a section on our marking processes underlining ethics, which is something I have thought about often. It makes me think, to what extent would you have to push an opinion so far that you are failed based on your political beliefs? Would you have write in support of a certain party in a certain genre with a certain tone? Or would it purely be based on subject matter?
As an individual, I feel that I do not fit in with any particular political parties, but it is fun to challenge social conventions. It is evident that, in our current day, that there are very few people that sit in the middle ground. In fact, it seems to me that many people live by their set of political beliefs, some taking it to the extreme in ways. And it's this extremism that makes a lot of politics interesting - it is why there is so much opposition and drama. Because the general public pick up on the juiciest morsel of information and gorge on it. We are crazy for the arguments, the tension in opposition. We make a political spectacle into entertainment and while I feel that we, as both readers and writers, do not feel that we are involved in any way, we still seize the opportunity to explore these events. But is it safe? Are we able to comprehend the wider scope of just how dangerous it is to share and spread these opinions and information? At what point is pushing a certain agenda considered too far? And what is the correct way to highlight a social/political issue without receiving backlash?