It's Independence Day, 2024. A monstrous Category 5 hurricane is ripping the Caribbean islands apart. America's summer will likely be the hottest on record. The Supreme Court runs the US. All of this is connected. The SCOTUS's present domination of federal institutions is not unrelated to the escalating disasters of capitalogenic global warming. One only has to read this recent NYT headline to see what's really going on in 2024: "A String of Supreme Court Decisions Hits Hard at Environmental Rules." The story behind this headline, "Climate Change Will Cost U.S. More in Economic Damage Than Any Other Country But One [India]," almost gets the present situation right, but like so many economic and environmental stories, it catastrophically undervalues the real cost of capitalism.

What the Supreme Court understands, and why it's aggressively (and even shamelessly) increasing its power, is that the price of capitalism's low costs will not survive a democracy, no matter how imperfect (and the US's has been very imperfect from the get-go). And so we find in the first novel of Octavia Butler's Parable duology, Parable of the Sower, which was published in 1993, that consumer prices in 2024 are soaring like never before. And so we read in a June 27, 2024 Clean Air Task Force post: “The Supreme Court today acted in haste, completely disregarding the public health benefits for communities that are impacted by smog from highly polluting upwind states." Someone has to pay dearly for the capitalocene, and it's not going to be the rich. 

What Butler could already see at the end of the 20th century was the end of the road for the direction the US had taken after the election of Ronald Reagan, the point of birth of the  SCOTUS of our time—a SCOTUS whose consolidation was accelerated by the 2000 presidential election debacle, a SCOTUS that owes its current constitution to the overrepresentation of states dominated by the white vote, a SCOTUS that legalized the bribery of government officials and is gutting environmental/consumer protections with no eruption of alarm in the mainstream media.

But how did Butler extract this nearly pristine crystal of the near future from the tenebrous clouds of her times? She did not separate capitalism's vaunted powers of adaptability from fiction. Butler knew then, as you should know now, that the market system will not adapt to a radically different climate in the way it seemingly adapted to the radically different political order, democracy, that emerged with renewed force after the Second World War.

In Butler's novel, the ordinary people of 2024 can barely afford the most basic commodities in the consumer basket because the true cost of the system that produces, values, and markets such goods can't be repressed or displaced to another and poorer location. As a result, those tasked with maintaining capital's social power attack civil institutions in two ways: economic deregulation and religious fascism. Today, the Supreme Court is the primary belligerent in the first line of attack, and MAGA in the second.

Octavia Butler wrapped the two (the Supreme Court and MAGA) into one—just MAGA. In the first novel of the Parable series, Parable of the Sower, MAGA is represented by a president, Christopher Charles Morpeth Donner, who promises to return the US to "the good old days" days by basically asset-stripping the whole nation for the benefit of global corporations and suspending "'overly restrictive' minimum wage, environmental, and worker protection laws." This economic agenda corresponds with the Supreme Court's present determination to maintain capitalism at all costs. Instead of addressing climate change, which would place an intolerably high price on the extraction of surplus value from the environment and labor, SCOTUS is pushing the US in the opposite direction: a pre-EPA regime of low-cost (or unregulated) value extraction that transfers real costs from private enterprise to an increasingly powerless public. This is how capitalism makes life more expensive.        

But Donner plays a minor role in Parable of the Sower. And he fizzles to nothing by the start of the second novel, Parable of the Talents. In this work, capitalism turns to Christofascism for its survival. This is the second MAGA, the Jesus and guns MAGA, the "Church of Christian America" MAGA. The cultural attack on American democracy is represented by a man, Andrew Steele Jarret, who defeats Donner in the presidential election of 2032. Butler gives President Jarret far more attention than Donner. He is all over the novel, and he sounds just like Donald Trump.

Jarret insists on being a throwback to some earlier, “simpler” time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. The current state of the country does not suit him. He wants to take us all back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshipped him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who was different There was never such a time in this country. But these days when more than half the people in the country can’t read at all, history is just one more vast unknown to them.


And “cultist” is a great catchall term for anyone who fits into no other large category, and yet doesn’t quite match Jarret’s version of Christianity. Jarret’s people have been known to beat or drive out Unitarians, for goodness’ sake. Jarret condemns the burnings, but does so in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear. As for the beatings, the tarring and feathering, and the destruction of “heathen houses of devil-worship,” he has a simple answer: “Join us! Our doors are open to every nationality, every race! Leave your sinful past behind, and become one of us. Help us to make America great again.” 

Not only do witch burnings return ("Jarret supporters have been known, now and then, to form mobs and burn people at the stake for being witches. Witches! In 2032!"), but also slavery, the real but hidden function of Christofacism. Capitalism continues. Surplus value extraction from land and labor is only accelerated. The US goes to war with Canada, which is allied with Alaska, the first state to "seceded from the United States... since the Civil War." (Alaska closed its borders and declared independence because it could no longer handle the influx of climate refugees from the mainland.)

And there you have it. After SCOTUS destroys what remains of the environment (our environment—life will go on after we are gone), the escalation of violence against women and "the rest," the raw exploitation of the poor and homeless, and war. This is the future of Jarret's/Trump's MAGA: 

We all voted—all of us who were old enough—and most of us voted for Vice President Edward Jay Smith. None of us wanted an empty man like Smith in the White House, but even a man without an idea in his head is better than a man who means to lash us all back to his particular God the way Jesus lashed the money changers out of the temple. He used that analogy more than once.