Monday, 13 March 2017

Consensual fantasies: The City & the City by China Miéville

China Miéville asks us to believe that two separate and disparate populations, comprising distinctive cities, languages, histories, politics and economies, could share the same urban environment, but remain divided. Well, right there and then, you see the problem; how could such a situation possibly arise? How could two unique worlds coexist in the same space without a wall or river (or aliens, or whatever) separating them? 

It all makes sense, though, because the author wants you to arrive at the thought yourself, that that's exactly how life really is. You know, all of us living on top of one another but ‘seeing and unseeing’ each other (as characters in the book do). Or as a professional reviewer puts it: “the real world is composed of consensual fantasies of varying degrees of power.” You see, it’s a metaphor about how we're taught to see, to interpret, the world.

But wait a minute, I hear all you racists from places like Rotterdam cry, this is exactly what my city is like today; thousands of Muslim Turks in Rotterdam live a completely separate life to the Dutch. What’s so transgressive about this Miéville guy? Ah, well, there’s the rub. He’s not.

In The City & the City, inhabitants of overlapping urban environments are taught from birth to ‘unsee’ the other, and thus live in socially constructed separate city states (with borders, passport control, punishment for ‘breaching’ the border, and so on). This concept is actually pretty interesting, but there’s a much more powerful and compelling story than the one he told, which to be fair isn’t as bad as I’m making out. The problem is Miéville’s ‘socialist blindness’, the kind brought on by tears of sympathy for cultures that want to destroy Western civilisation. 

There’s a tremendous novel out there waiting to be written based around this concept, but with a story, a plot, involving vibrants living in the West who want to destroy it. Don’t ask Miéville to see this reality, though, because he can’t (or won’t admit to it if he does). In fact, it's extraordinary that his book is not about refugee invaders slowly colonising their 'adopted homeland'. But what do you expect from leftist plonkers who think we can all live together peacefully, and won’t wake up until they’re having their heads lopped off by Muslims?

How's that for a consensual fantasy?

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