Reissued book a look into the future?
By Jack Markowitz
Published: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Those idle coal barges often seen rusting along the riverbanks of Pittsburgh — don't dismiss them as eyesores. In some future “world order” they could be where you're living.
Watch out for a time, too, when products don't have to be sold anymore, but “allocated.” When job performance won't count nearly as much as political correctness. And when volunteering won't be voluntary. Workers might have to “volunteer” to bring out 98 percent votes on election days.
Such prospects impart a chill in “The Journal of David Q. Little,” a novel that skirted obsolescence when the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union's collapse 21 Christmases ago.
Author R. Daniel McMichael, now 87, might have written more novels if he hadn't had a day job all this time. He was secretary of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, supporting conservative public policy approaches. His own personal emphasis has been on national security, particularly anti-missile defenses for the U.S. homeland. They've been feasible for a long time now, he says, yet still haven't been deployed. Even after all these years.
McMichael had aimed his 1967 novel against a familiar defeatism of the past, “better Red than dead.” If we didn't scrap our nuclear weapons, no matter what Soviets did, all of life might go up in smoke, mushroom cloud-shaped. “Little” was a powerfully imagined tale of just how deadening American life might be under Marxism.
Then history pulled a fast one.
Even while doing the victory lap for capitalism, free societies led by the United States took a wrong turn towards the welfare state.
And now we've got super-sized, regulation-bound, bankruptcy-inclined government, trillions in debt and with disquieting likenesses to Dan McMichael's dystopia.
Hence the reissue of “The Journal of David Q. Little,” this time in paperback (National Institute Press, Fairfax, Va., 561 pages, $26).
The book's hero is the proverbial “little guy,” citizen, husband and father of ordinary ability and decency. He's a salesman for a Pittsburgh steel company. Caught up in the bullying demands of a new “world order,” he tries hard to do the right thing. Not to denounce the head of his company as a threat to world peace, for example. But how can he risk his own shaky career, family and mortgage? Community ”activists” keep pushing him around to advance some larger “cause.” How he'd love to escape to Canada.
Not much funny here.
Still, it's hard not to smile at the socialist bonbon Little is offered when thrown out of work. It's because he's a superior worker. No trouble at all finding a new job, see. “I have to let 26 men go,” a bureaucrat tells him. “If I part with the best ones, then at least I've let guys go who have the guts to land on their feet okay. Otherwise, I couldn't sleep nights. ...”
The gloves are off, though, when he's forced out of another job, purely on politics. He insists on being fired; at least that will be a black mark on his tyrannical boss. The man obviously can't manage a happy staff. But fired, Little would leave without a cent. “Resigning,” he gets two months' severance. He takes the check, hating himself.
All this makes a better read than a life to live. Let's hope Americans of the Obama-and-after economy can avert it.
Jack Markowitz is a columnist Thursdays for Trib Total Media. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Samsung introduces free streaming radio service
- Web of surveillance videos helps ensnare suspect in East Liberty slayings
- Minorities crucial to filling Marcellus shale gas drilling jobs
- Greensburg woman accused of assaulting nurse in Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital
- TJ boys hang on despite foul trouble
- Unity woman loses appeal of DUI conviction
- Jeannette to use grant to secure Monsour
- Monessen teen in court for drug charges
- 4 Donora men to stand trial for Rostraver hotel incident
- Donor name to be stripped from Penn Hills library
- National expert tells Pittsburgh providers to expect a cost crisis in cancer care