Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Lights Keep Going On and Off

Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States, and we now know what it feels like to be in the Upside Down.

I'm referring to the alternate universe in the Netflix series Stranger Things into which the boy Will Byers is transported. Named to describe the underside of the board for the fantasy role-playing game Will and his friends play in his basement, the Upside Down is also a parallel dimension embedded within his own home and hometown of Hawkins, Indiana. After being abducted by an otherworldly creature set loose by the insidious experiments conducted by the scientists and bureaucrats who work at the Department of Energy compound in Hawkins, Will sends messages from the Upside Down to his mother through the electrical system of their tract house, through lights that flash on and off.

Why electricity? And why--of all possible government agencies on which to pin evil--the seemingly benign Department of Energy? My answer to these questions is that the neoliberal present we inhabit--whose own catastrophic end we may now be experiencing--began in many ways with the energy crisis of the 1970s, an era whose dimmed lights helped propel the political rise of Ronald Reagan and the economic rise of Donald Trump.