Doldrums and Depression

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As some readers have noted, the weather conditions depicted in Reintroduction represent more than a desire to make a statement on the inevitable consequences of unchecked climate change. Certainly, the ecological disaster into which we drift like a herd of somnambulists is of the utmost importance. As the recent Cop26 debacle clearly demonstrated, we do not have the necessary level of government or corporation sponsorship to enable the change required to avoid disaster. The impending cataclysm that we collectively view as if we’re powerless passengers in a slow-motion multicar pileup has a direct impact on our own ecosystems. Our physical and mental wellbeing is crushed beneath the weight of this looming dread and in many instances, it stops some of us doing more because we feel helpless and subsequently hopeless because we believe ourselves to be ultimately powerless.

The weather pattern settled over the UK and most of Europe as Reintroduction opens is described as the doldrums. I had a disagreement with my editor about using the term as it felt like an out of place antique. I wanted to use the word for its old-world feel. This mirrored the rundown Victorian flat Corrigan chooses to live in and the things he surrounds himself with. He’s more at ease with the grandfather clock and his collection of old books than he is with B4 his Mecha-Butler. I was also drawn to the word as a nautical term relating to the equatorial calms that sailing vessels once found themselves trapped in. It was a real danger for a sailing crew onboard a ship caught in the doldrums. Dying of thirst or hunger was a threat and it loomed heavier the longer it persisted.

This felt like a perfect term to describe not only the climate but the state of the human condition as it nears extinction. The political and ecological challenges faced by Corrigan’s world are more absolute than those we are facing now. Human civilisation is in decline and decades of rampant consumerism have drawn the world of Reintroduction to the edge of the precipice. Humanity is suffering the consequences of their actions and inaction. Addressing the problems will not positively impact corporate bottom lines and nothing will be spared for the sake of profit. This flaw in human beings, this overeager competitive streak manifests as a willingness to sacrifice the world for status and position, for material wealth and comforts. These luxuries can even numb the finer qualities of those with an actual moral compass.

The doldrums that weigh down on Corrigan’s London are also known as a depression. This is the correct term for the weather pattern. It also refers to the collective state of mind that most of humanity is suffering throughout the novel. The species is in stasis, and the worst off among them—the Non-Workers and the Transients—further numb themselves with state sanctioned hits of heroin. Even people considered valueless by governments and employers remain consumers. The people who live in this world are subjugated and monitored closely. They have no real power to improve their stagnant lives and the majority have been categorised as worthless by the one percent and their colluders, the small number of Workers needed to maintain profit growth.

Behind the scenes Caspar Ulmer, the CEO of the powerful DRT Corporation is suffering from a degenerative condition. By his own admission, his “personal prognosis suffers an uncanny parallel” with mankind’s decline. Ulmer is not depressed because he considers himself better. He believes he represents an evolutionary leap forward and he has a plan for his own continuance. He will exploit the doldrums which the population has succumbed to and offer them hope. Before he can do that, he must manufacture a crisis, something so awful and compelling it will stir his Workers into delivering what is needed. The deliverable demanded by the CEO in this instance is nothing less than his own preservation regardless of expense or consequences.

In the book, the weather is a metaphor for clinical depression. The world has succumbed to the doldrums or a state of inactivity and stagnation. The energy required to resist or to make plans is undermined when we’re depressed. The people who inhabit Corrigan’s world have lost interest in almost everything, numbed as they are by state sanctioned heroin or a complete lack of resources or opportunities. This state of poverty and the impact it has on those forced to live under these conditions remains a blot on human civilisation internationally. Although Corrigan’s world presents extremes, it does not offer up a scenario we aren’t already facing, it’s simply more chronic in the world of Reintroduction.

The android Gregor summarises the situation: “The world is in the grip of a depression. The impact on humanity would inevitably have led to your downfall. Such pitiful, frightened creatures, so docile and compliant. The onset of the doldrums sapped the resilience of your species.”

The assessment of this emerging intelligence is that humankind is suffering a depression created by the competitive nature of its design. What can be a positive drive in human beings, sometimes lead us to do whatever is necessary to succeed. This desire to achieve a goal regardless of collateral damage or waste is not reserved for the one percent. We all have a stake in this either for ourselves or future generations. My hope—when I can summon the required energy—is that we will one day finally realise the value of a healthy planet, a fair and equitable distribution of resources and the need for systems of governance driven by justice. Reintroduction is as much a comment on current affairs as it is a warning. The doldrums physically experienced by the majority living in Corrigan’s world are already weighing on us and we must find the strength to resist while we still can.

We are not powerless.