Science fiction predicted wokeness half a century ago


And racism is gone because every single human on the planet is now light gray.

That is one of the scenarios posited in Ursula K. LeGuin's now 52-year-old masterpiece, The Lathe of Heaven.

The book — set in the early 21st century, or technically a few years ago — tells us the story of one George Orr, a Portland (ironically) resident who can literally change the world simply by dreaming. 

It's called "effective dreaming" in the book, which is presciently ironic as the latest fashion among the fabulous oligarchs is something called "effective altruism," which is a way to give away money (remember Sam Bankman-Fried?) to change the world in your own image and to continue to hold on to power now and even after your death.

Orr has known about his abilities for years but has literally been drowning them in alcohol so the dreams don't occur.  Finally — in his dystopian world ravaged by climate change, over-population, and bureaucrats — he decides to seek help from a Dr. William Haber.

Haber quickly learns that Orr's dreams do change reality but that, at first, it is only Orr who can remember "the past," or, more accurately, the former reality now gone.

Using a type of bio-feedback machine (remember, this was written in the seventies,) Haber becomes able to "guide" Orr's dreams by hooking him up to the machine, hypnotizing him, and then saying the code word "Antwerp!" to initiate an "effective dream" concept Haber suggests.

At first, the dreams make minor changes, but as the novel progresses (and Haber starts remembering the past worlds as well), the guided dreams become more overarching, more foundational to society, and that's when things go very wrong.

Haber asks Orr to dream of a world with no war; Orr creates the threat of alien invasion to unite all earthlings.

Haber asks Orr to dream of solving over-population; Orr creates a reality in which six billion people have been killed by plague.

And, as noted above, Haber asks Orr to dream of a world without racism.  Orr turns everyone gray.

No matter the reality, one thing remains constant: only Haber and Orr can remember the previous worlds, and every change benefits Haber personally.

When Orr first meets the doctor, it is in Haber's dingy government shrink office.  After multiple reality shifts, Haber is the omnipotent head of the world-renowned Haber Institute.

And this is why The Lathe of Heaven is a funhouse mirror metaphor for our current society and how the wokeing class's change by decree strategy is destined to destroy the nation as we know it if it is not stopped.

Racism, overpopulation, the climate, world peace — each of these issues features in the book, and each features prominently in the progressive agenda.  In the book, the wishing away of problems goes horribly wrong — right now in Brooklyn and Seattle and on every college campus and in every government building and every boardroom of every corporation pushing ESG and every "non-governmental organization" office, there are people who dream of being Haber, who dream of the possibility to change everyone else's world with a single word — Antwerp.

Acquiring control, power, personal wealth, and fame, and having the incredibly lovely if horribly misguided knowledge that you are getting these things by "doing good," by trying to better society, by trying to "help" people and are therefore exempt from challenges, let alone consequences, is irresistible.

While the changes being foisted upon our world have not been instant, they have been occurring with tremendous speed and an intense ferocity.  Think back only ten years — barely the blink of a sleeping eye in historical terms — and remember what the "big" cultural issues were.  Did they involve words like trans or pronoun or privilege or misinformation or people with uteruses or Deep State or government censorship or safe space or even just woke itself?

They were not even a gleam in the eye of a daydreaming insufferable sipping his chai tea.  The changes might as well have occurred instantly.

Unlike the book, though, the rest of world — the everyday, the people who care about other people as individuals,  the uncouth, the unclean, the unconvinced, the discerning, the deplorables, the people who will never stop building the American dream — are noticing the changes as they are being made and are now awake to, aware of, and — hopefully — accepting of the challenge of proving that better individuals make a better society and not the other way round and that the dream will not descend into a nightmare.

You can buy the book pretty much anywhere or check it out of your local library.  Or you can watch this actually pretty good dramatization of the book, done by PBS of all things.

Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore, Calif. and a former newspaper reporter.  He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at  You can read more of his work at

Image via Pixabay.

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