A fork in the road.

Henry Wismayer
3 min readDec 2, 2019

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A storm on the horizon.

Both forks lead you into the storm, but the destinations are not the same.

You take the right fork, below the sign labelled FEAR.

The road ahead is cracked and cruel. But you trust the people who coaxed you this way, because you are scared and you are biddable, and those leaders seem like clowns not monsters so how bad can the future be?

Soon, external circumstances begin to bite. The prophesies of environmental chaos that you chose to ignore become real. The country’s access to resources dwindles. Scarcity — both real and perceived — turns the country’s heart to stone.

New, more callous opportunists step into the breach vacated by the last. The dark money industries and plutocrats that bankrolled their rise to power cash their chips. You acquiesce, because at first the only people suffering are the people you have been taught to blame, people you don’t know. But the quest for scapegoats grows.

They build a wall.

They build a camp.

It’s twenty years later, and you are growing old in a world of war, government surveillance, fascism.

Your children are militiamen, camp-guards, engineers of apocalyptic weaponry. They are emphysemic miners quarrying the last minerals from the toxic ground. They man the walls, guns trained on the horizon, where desperate, starving people in dinghies hold their arms out pleading, because their homelands have turned to dust. When they drift close, your children greet them with a bullet.

If your children are lucky, they will be members of the elite, eating the last of the fish, living in hermetic, oxygenated palaces on the hill.

But they will have had to sell their souls to get there.

Two decades back, when the old Gods like democracy and society still reigned, you reached that fork in the road.

This time, you take the left fork, below a sign labelled HOPE.

This road isn’t smooth either (by the time you reach the junction, the smooth road is a hundred miles behind you).

Your leaders are fallible, the national mood still febrile. The vested interests which profited from the old, broken…

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Henry Wismayer

Essays, features and assorted ramblings for over 80 publications, inc. NYT Magazine, WaPo, NYT, The Atlantic, WSJ, Nat Geo, and TIME: www.henry-wismayer.com.