It’s time to think about holiday presents, and there is no better gift for a fellow deplorable than a conservative book, and no more enjoyable choice than a novel about a left-wing dystopia. Paula T. Weiss’s The Antifan Girlfriend fits the bill. (Full disclosure: I admit to some bias as the author is a friend.) This 600 page novel imagines a dystopian world in which, after a civil war, the east and west coasts of the United States have formed a new state called the Diversity Justice Republic, a society designed on the woke principles so beloved to the left today. Amalia, the heroine, is young woman working at the False Knowledge Depository managing the extensive collection of forbidden books, dipping into Hayek and de Tocqueville as her duties permit. She becomes the love interest of David, a handsome commander in the Antifan Forces, the secret police force that has evolved from the Antifa troops who fought to establish the Diversity Justice Republic.
The novel provides a healthy balance between the politics of a dictatorial left-wing state and the painful social distortions caused by its identity-driven policies. The DVR is governed by an unelected president and four towers: Antifan, Economic, Knowledge, and Social. As the president’s mental capacities wane, the protagonists are caught up in the towers’ ruthless struggle for dominance. Ms. Weiss shows a keen understanding of the bureaucratic infighting that occurs within and between government agencies, in both democracies and dictatorships.
While the inter-agency struggles make the novel a high-stakes thriller, it is the social impact of the left-wing policies that provide the emotional impact. Amalia’s life is dominated by the social credit system, her every action driven by a desire to earn more points and thus acquire more privileges. Oh, to be able to ride in a self-driving car! At the same time, her resentment against a system that has ravaged her personal life grows daily. David, high up in the social credit system, is torn between his enjoyment of perks and power and his residual morality as the child of a “Plore” family, the deplorables who are allowed to live greatly constrained lives outside of the social credit system and who provide much of the manual labor for the system.
The lives of the “Social Crediteers” are morally and emotionally empty, marked by the endless pursuit of additional privilege and ritual recitation of empty diversity cant. Actual faith has been replaced by participation in the rituals of the Mother Earth Diversity Church, leaving citizens without a moral foundation other than that issued by the state. Women are particularly harmed by this, finding it difficult to form stable and satisfying marriages in society that permits but does not encourage monogamy. They are sexually exploited by the moral powerful, and their longings for children often thwarted. A state that celebrates women’s rights ends up degrading them. In an ironic twist, Amalia’s lifetime of submission ends up providing the perfect preparation for her role in undermining the system.
The limited success of the Diversity-Justice Republic is due to its economic and political ties to China. It receives some of its better quality goods from there, and its politicians are in bed with the Chinese leadership – both metaphorically and sometimes literally. The republic’s citizens pay a terrible price for this dependency.
My only quibble is that the Diversity-Justice Republic may not be dystopian enough. Unlike the Soviet Union, this woke state actually has working technology. Their televisions do not spontaneously catch fire, and it’s safe to ride on their elevators. This may be due to the labors of the semi-free Plores, but again, watching the screaming, hate-filled faces of Antifa in American streets today, it’s hard to imagine that they would allow any segment of society to avoid the full weight of state control. Still, there are many variations on dystopia – we’ve probably all imagined one of our own.
Most important, however, the novel is a gripping read. This is the kind of book you read guiltily under the covers when everyone in the house thinks you are asleep. The kind of book you can’t put down because you want to read “just one more chapter” even though you need to go to work tomorrow. It’s the ideal book for a long plane trip, or a week at the beach. Assuming, that is, that our betters allow us to go to the beach this summer and that we have sufficient Social Credit points to do so.