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Eve's Review

Dystopia Is Here

"The Orwellian Empire"

Gilbert Mercier

New Junkie Post Press, 278 pages



Eve Ottenberg

Americans have not lived in a democracy for some time. We live in a dictatorship by plutocrats. Billionaires control the media and the two main political parties. They deploy this control to grab more money for themselves, while half the nation is officially poor. Low income minority youth can choose between incarceration and killing or being killed in endless wars, which slog on solely to enrich military contractors and to stifle any hint of another country's independence from Washington. Meanwhile the life expectancy of low-income whites declines, as this group succumbs to suicide and an opiod epidemic engineered by pharmaceutical corporations' greed. America has entered a dystopia. To understand how we got there, it helps to look back, to the 28 years under Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama, before the empire's political malaise morphed into the diseased fever that is the Trump administration.


Gilbert Mercier's "The Orwellian Empire" was published right before Trump's ascent, and it is a crie de coeur. Starting off with Mark Twain's quote, "if voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it," Mercier argues that American democracy has collapsed, thanks to the same power players ruling from one administration to the next, players who vacation from government occasionally in the defense or finance industries. The quote from Gore Vidal is apt: "There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party, and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat."


The bipartisan war party has clutched power in the U. S. for decades. It spreads chaos and destruction abroad, then enriches its backers with phony rebuilding projects that rebuild nothing – as in the failed state of Libya with its open-air slave markets, Yemen destroyed by U.S. bombs, and the rubble of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. It should not surprise anyone that the current white house resident threatens Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua and Cuba with bloody regime change for no reason other than grabbing their resources and showing who's boss. Our current emperor does what his predecessors did, but they mouthed platitudes about humanitarian missions and American exceptionalism, while he rudely tells "shithole" countries to do what the U. S. says or suffer the gory consequences.


"By 2013, only seven percent of the wealth was left to the bottom 80 percent," of the U.S. population, Mercier writes. "The middle class had become poor, and the poor had grown destitute." His book covers this impoverishment as well as the U.S. illusion of democracy, the triumph of money here over everything, the bloated military industrial complex, the new cold war, the U.S. as leader of global corporate imperialism, American military misadventures in the Middle East, xenophobia, human trafficking, the rise of the police state since 9/11 and more. It is not an easy or happy read. "The Orwellian Empire" gives its reader the very depressing sense of the Trump administration's continuity with its predecessors. But though a lot stayed the same, some parts got much, much worse.


Since Mercier's book was published, Trump slashed taxes for Republican donor billionaires – a huge transfer of wealth from those below to those above. The only candidate for president in 2020 who takes this catastrophe as seriously as it deserves is Bernie Sanders, with his nonstop critique of inequality, his struggle for a $15 per hour minimum wage, his program for Medicare for all and free college tuition. If he wins, he will have to step unequivocally into  FDR's shoes to make the U.S. more egalitarian. And to do so, he will face the military, with its obscene budget maintaining the American empire's grip on vast swaths of the planet.


"Most Americans have refused to connect the dots between the two wars [Iraq and Afghanistan] charged on the national credit card and the financial crash," Mercier writes. The American empire spent trillions on those wars, and now is trillions in debt. Meanwhile, over many years, the Pentagon lost track of $21 trillion. The Trump and Bush tax cuts only exacerbated this. From Mercier's book one easily concludes that only by ending those tax cuts and all foreign wars, peacefully and diplomatically co-existing with other powers like Russia and China, and radically defunding the Pentagon and the security state can this country hope to regain any semblance of equality in prosperity. But that would nearly require a revolution.  

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