Our DM (who is so old-fashioned he doesn’ t even have a blog) is drip-feeding us information about the Feng Shui world, so I can’t say too much about where we are or what we are doing, but our characters have ended up in 2056 in a strange future “dystopia” controlled by a bunch of transdimensional lunatics called the Architects of the Flesh. I suggested to the other players last night that this dystopia’s properties say a lot more about the politcs and insecurities of the authors than it does about the evils of the Architects of the Flesh. I originally thought that the properties of the 2056 dystopia marked out the writers as a bunch of libertarians, but now I’m not sure if they are right-wing or moderate liberal Americans. Here’s a list of the properties of the world in 2056 which are supposedly different from the world of 1996, and what political leanings I think they point to:

  • There are no cars: In 2056, cars have been banned “for environmental and health reasons”, which is a classic fear of libertarians and small govt right-wingers everywhere. First they imposed speed limits, then they took your cars, etc. Margaret Thatcher once made a beautiful comment about how every new car on the road was a new conservative voter, and followed it up with some nice observations about how the Tory party were trying to change peoples’ minds as well as the economy (look it up in Prospect magazine ). So this is a tick for “writers are crazed libertarians”. Even East Germany had private cars!
  • First they came for our guns…: In 2056, the Architects are trying to abolish the study of martial arts, having already banned all guns. This is a classic fear of libertarians everywhere, and the American right generally. Compare this dystopia with the classic cyberpunk dystopia, where everyone has access to guns. Obviously a choice was made in this regard. And the slippery slope logic that since they banned guns, now they’re going to ban martial arts, is just classic unmarked-helicopter stuff.
  • There is a minimum wage!: Obviously most societies have a minimum wage now. Making a point about this when describing your vision of a dystopia as if it’s a bad thing is like a big neon sign saying “I’m a libertarian fuckstick”.
  • You can’t earn more than £1 million!!!: The guidelines state explicitly that there is an upper limit to the amount a person can earn, which is 40 times the minimum wage. It’s also pretty clear from the text that there is no tax in this dystopia (bit weird, that, we’ll get onto it…). In London today the minimum wage is £5.73 before tax, which means that this dystopia would have a maximum wage of about £240 an hour before tax. That’s about £500,000 a year. Of course, on the minimum wage you don’t pay much tax – to get an after-tax income 40 times the after tax income of the minimum wage, you would need to be earning close to £1 million in London. The text states that this wage can only be earned by 60 categories of person. Doesn’t sound so bad to me! And in these straitened times, it’s hard to imagine many people getting up in arms over the fact that they can only earn a million a year. This seems like a classic libertarian fear – that people will be banned from earning more money than they will ever actually get a chance to earn.
  • Rent is 30% of your after-tax income: this is presented as if it were a bad thing. For the last 10 years of the housing bubble, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find someone who paid this low a proportion of their after tax income in rent or mortgage. In fact, it’s below most definitions of housing distress. But in the text it’s presented as if it’s a catastrophe. (Admittedly in the tax-free dystopia (?!) this also means you pay 30% of your before-tax income on rent. But I know people in London working full time who pay 70% or more of their  before-tax income on rent – on a room). I’m not sure what political streak this shows, except perhaps “trustifarian” (I live in mummy’s house, and the thought of paying more than nominal rent frightens me) or council estate bludger (ditto, but replace “mummy” with “govt”) or, I suppose, cheeto eating wingnut who lives in mummy’s basement and doesn’t know the price of eggs
  • There are no taxes: This is a big hint at socialist writers. Only socialists would imagine that you don’t pay taxes in dystopia.
  • Everything is pay-per-use: even the slidewalks! This suggests the writers aren’t libertarians, since libertarians would have this property in their utopia. But maybe it just means they’re stupid? Or socialists? Imagine a pay-per-use NHS…

On balance this suggests to me that the writers are naive or libertarians or both (the two go together don’t they?) They could be just trying to make an original dystopia, but a dystopia which suits feng shui would be cyberpunk, not this weird version of socialism.

A few other small points would be in order about how futuristic and dystopic their vision of 1996 is. In this dystopia:

  • the food is tasteless
  • the clothes are grey and everyone wears the same style
  • the cops kill people by pushing them over until they die
  • there are CCTV cameras everywhere
  • all the products are sold by one shop

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but a society where everyone wears the same clothes, eats tasteless food, lives under the gaze of cctv cameras, pays for everything as they use it, and doesn’t have any guns, buys everything from one shop , and lives in terror of the police sounds an awful lot like London now. They just need to ban cars and put a limit on how much you can earn (a popular suggestion at present, due to the credit crunch) and they can rebrand the government as the Architects. If the wage limit is more than most people ever have a chance of earning (say, a million pounds) and one works inside the congestion zone, one pretty much wouldn’t notice the difference…