Monday, August 4, 2008

VIII: The Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies

Some may consider it an abomination to even mention Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the same breath as The OC. However, it is in the same way that we owe Kafka the psychological referent for the nightmare of the bureaucratic state that we owe Solzhenitsyn for the visceral emotional referents of the autocratic regime. In America, we thankfully live far from the Soviet reign of terror, but The Gulag Archipelago is rife with reminders that the distance has been growing narrower at an alarming rate. The lack of recourse to the rule of law, the coercive interrogation techniques, the use of the legal system for political ends, the uncertainty.

When Episode 8 finds Julie Cooper attempting to relegate Marissa to an institution, without the consent of her father, we find her in a situation that is physically entirely dissimilar from that of Ivan Denisovich. For one thing, Southern California is much warmer. But for another, when we are supposed to assume adolescence for everything and we are supposed to accept Julie Cooper as a scheming dictator, we can see something closer. Solzhenitsyn's lessons may have been meant for his people, and may even have been meant as specific warnings against the dangers of the Soviet state, but their significance goes much further. In his writings under threat of destruction, imprisonment, and death, Solzhenitsyn's stories of the terror and absurdity and incoherence and danger of a totalitarian state bent on the preservation of power for its own sake stand as a warning against all malfeasance and corruption within the status quo. It is naive folly to say that either power or government is intrinsically malevolent, but it is thanks to writers like Solzhenitsyn that we will always have the memory of just how far astray either can go such that we may stay far from such paths.

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